Dutch advertising is much like Britain's about 20 or 30 years ago. And I mean that in a positive way. It's entertaining. It's product-based. It's respected enough that you can still go to a party here and say you work in advertising - and people won't head straight to the toilets.
Commercial breaks here are long. Really long. So there's a general acceptance that ads need to entertain to keep the consumer watching.
And the Dutch idea of entertainment is being funny. They do like the mildly amusing. And who says that's a bad thing? An acknowledgement that if we're interrupting we need to entertain or offer some kind of value exchange.
This expectation to be entertained trickles down through the rest of the media.
Budgets here are much smaller than in the UK. And that means that the agency can be the purveyor of all selling solutions. Be they digital, mobile, events or PR stunts. Call it integrated, 360-degree, or whatever buzzword takes your fancy, but it's what agencies here have always done.
OK, they may not get off on babbling on about the Twitterati - the Dutch are too Calvinist for that sort of distraction - but they don't think any less of doing an in-store promotion. They don't feel it's beneath them and still view it as an opportunity. We're still in the Mad Men era here with clients more open to taking suggestions for the name of their new product, or listening to thoughts about distribution. And, though the digital battle for hearts and minds is being fought as strongly here as any-where else, it seems more rooted in consumer insight and brand understanding than technology.
The Dutch have a very honest relationship with brands and with marketing in general. They get it. They are an intelligent audience surrounded by a history of great art, architecture and design. On top of this, they are internationalists, influenced by the best of what the rest of the world has to offer.
The challenge for agencies in such a creatively strong culture is to take global ideas that need mass understanding and to reinvent them to work at this local level. To not underestimate and, therefore, patronise this sophisticated consumer by engaging them with Euro-twaddle. They may regularly be lumped together with the Belgians but interestingly there are no two countries in the world (that share a common border) which are more culturally dissimilar than the Dutch and their friends in Flanders. The Netherlands belongs more with Scandinavia. The Belgians more with Austria. Not appreciating this chasm is common. Developing work that works in both countries is a real challenge but is a simple test of being able to do truly international work.
- Seyoan Vela is the joint executive creative director at Grey Amsterdam.