The Netherlands is no stranger to creative hotshop start-ups, with outfits such as Kessels-Kramer, StrawberryFrog and 180 Amsterdam registering high on the international radar. But the launch of Selmore, which teams up two of Amsterdam's most decorated creative teams with one of The Netherlands' most talented suits and the UK planning outfit Naked, is altogether bigger news.
Selmore's launch took the advertising industry in The Netherlands by surprise, dominating the pages of the Dutch trade press in recent weeks.
The excitement the story has generated is owing largely to the calibre of the figures involved.
Michael Jansen and Bas Korsten left their jobs as creative directors at DDB Amsterdam in June, with a view to launching a start-up. When the TBWA\Campaign Company creative heads Poppe van Pelt and Diederick Hillenius let it be known they were looking to do the same, the four decided to go into business together. Otto van der Harst, the managing director of JWT Amsterdam from a planning background,completed the line-up.
Between them, Selmore's creative quartet are responsible for many of the best Dutch campaigns of the past few years, and have netted a total of 23 Cannes Lions.
Quite what four creative directors will do to occupy their time in the agency's early days is unclear. However, Jansen is adamant that each member will bring something unique to the table.
With this much creative experience, it's not surprising that Selmore plans to position itself as a hotshop. "We're not going to be successful because we're cheaper or faster than anyone else," Jansen explains. "We're hopefully going to be successful because of the quality. People will know we'll do the best we can and they'll know they won't have to sit over us to see if things are going right."
In addition to its obvious creative clout, Selmore has a second ace up its sleeve in the shape of its affiliation with both the Dutch and the UK offices of the media planning specialist Naked.
The partnership will see representatives from the relevant Naked office sit in on early client meetings, helping to ensure that Selmore's ideas are developed for a broader canvas than merely the TV screen or the billboard.
"At the moment, it's really informal," Jason Dawes of Naked Am-sterdam explains. "There is no financial relationship. When they get briefs coming into Selmore, we will be seen almost like an internal department for the agency."
"We want to offer clients good media advice," Jansen adds. "If we're putting all our efforts into big ideas, we want to know those ideas are expressed in the right medium. There's no point having a great idea if you can't get at your target market. We'd rather put our energy into something that will get seen."
"We want to get media thinking back into the creative process, rather than having it tacked on to the end," van der Harst continues. "More and more, we find ourselves getting briefs that only allow for 30-second ads or print campaigns. Nobody is thinking about the bigger picture."
Both Jansen and van der Harst admit that this is not the first time a start-up - be it British or Dutch - has professed to be media neutral, but having Naked on board certainly adds credibility to the claim.
Of course, media neutrality only works if the client believes in it, and many do not. Is the agency not worried that its positioning will leave it a dangerously narrow field of new- business opportunities?
Jansen admits he is seeking a specific type of clientele, but is unapologetic. "We want clients that are interesting to work with, so that we can enjoy our jobs and enjoy coming in every day," he explains. "If you start snipping away at that by working with people who don't understand, who don't want the best work, who are only worried about selling enough to cover themselves and whose only concern is not making mistakes, then that's no fun. That's like driving a car with the handbrake on." He declares that he and his partners are not prepared to sacrifice their reputations by going all-out for the type of huge account that would dominate the agency's early life, yielding poor work.
This approach may scare off some big advertisers, but neither Jansen nor van der Harst seem pre-occupied with getting big quickly. Besides which, outfits such as Mother provide Selmore with a comforting precedent of how a small, highly creative agency can get large international clients to buy into its approach.
Next week, Selmore's first work breaks: a pan-European campaign for the broadband internet supplier Chello, consisting of two ads, "seven seconds in Tibet" and "nine-and-a-half minutes". And the agency claims it already has several other clients signed up, including one pan-European account, but is reluctant to reveal names at this early stage.
Like Mother, Selmore has international ambitions. Once the agency has built its reputation in The Netherlands, it will attempt to convince clients that it can service their pan-European needs from its Amsterdam office.
It is also on the verge of hiring an office manager. However, Jansen claims staff will be kept to a minimum. "We will offer a full service for the clients," he explains, "but we don't need all those below-the-line people or retail specialists permanently in the agency. We'd rather go and get them when we need them."
For now, though, there are more pressing matters to attend to. Selmore's new premises need their walls painted. With four creative directors on hand, the job should be done in no time, provided they can all agree on a colour.
SELMORE - WHO'S WHO?
After working at Lowe Kuiper & Schouten and Saatchi & Saatchi, Hillenius became a TBWA\Campaign Company creative director in 1995.
Poppe van Pelt
Like Hillenius, van Pelt also rose to become a creative director at TBWA\Campaign Company.
The former DDB Amsterdam creative director and board member started his career ten years ago at HVR.
The most experience of the Selmore team, Jansen came to Amsterdam from Australia (Y&R Adelaide, BBDO Sydney) via London and New York.
Otto van der Harst
Selmore's suit, van der Harst spent his career at JWT Amsterdam before joining his four new creative directors.