Worldwide Advertising: The Dutchmaster advertising - Dutch advertising has traditionally been a bit of a mixed bag, but recent upheavals across the industry and one runaway success, are changing all this. By Janiten Anderiesen

How does one judge the quality of Dutch advertising? These days, everyone in the Netherlands points to the 1996 international Cannes advertising festival. There, for the first time, a Dutch commercial won a Grand Prix, with an ad for Nestle’s Rolo chocolates - a feat that will probably not be repeated for many years. Previously, Dutch ads that won international acclaim were often produced by the art/commercials director, Paul Meijer, the former creative director of PMSVw/Y&R. However, his work wasn’t always appreciated by clients because the ads didn’t necessarily put on sales.

How does one judge the quality of Dutch advertising? These days,

everyone in the Netherlands points to the 1996 international Cannes

advertising festival. There, for the first time, a Dutch commercial won

a Grand Prix, with an ad for Nestle’s Rolo chocolates - a feat that will

probably not be repeated for many years. Previously, Dutch ads that won

international acclaim were often produced by the art/commercials

director, Paul Meijer, the former creative director of PMSVw/Y&R.

However, his work wasn’t always appreciated by clients because the ads

didn’t necessarily put on sales.

Aad Muntz, a former communications director at the insurer, Centraal

Beheer, described it as the era of ’art sponsored by clients’. Since

then, clients have become more demanding. The Rolo ad proved effective

for Nestle and the likes of Paul Meijer are no longer active in the


Much of the international success at festivals such as Cannes, Eurobest

and Epica is notched up by agencies whose clients have a tradition of

producing outstanding work. Commercials for Centraal Beheer and

Volkswagen have won many Cannes lions. Several Dutch film directors -

Allan van Rhijn, Theo Lenssen and Will van der Vlugt, for example - now

earn more money directing commercials outside the Netherlands than

inside, working in the UK and the US. Diederick Koopal, the creative

director of Ammirati Puris Lintas in Amsterdam, who was responsible for

the Rolo Grand Prix, says: ’It has been proven once more that good ideas

travel, and good ideas can be developed here, too.’ The Rolo ad was also

shown in the UK, where Nestle’s agency is J. Walter Thompson, he


The past 12 months have been unusual not only because of the Dutch

advertising industry’s success at Cannes. By the end of 1996, the last

purely Dutch agency in the top ten, Result, was purchased by DDB

Worldwide. The biggest Dutch group is now Hollandse Communicatie

Maatschap (formerly called Catchline Groep) which, thanks to a couple of

acquisitions, now occupies the 11th position on the league table of top

Dutch advertising agencies. It was an unusual year, too, because for the

first time in many years, a French group ousted an American one from

second place. Publicis FCB Nederland surpassed the Young and Rubicam

group by consolidating the income of FCA!.

A newcomer in the communication groups top ten is Benjamens Van

Doorn-Euro RSCG, which moved from 15th to tenth position by purchasing

an agency in Eindhoven - Two’s Company - to help service the

international Philips account.

It also consolidated the income of a media shop, MediaMaatwerk.

There’s never a debate about the number one position, which has been

held by BBDO Nederland for more than a decade. The group includes the ad

agency, FHV/BBDO, and some successful, independently run specialist

agencies, such as BBDO Business Communications, Bartels/Verdonk Impuls

(direct marketing and sales promotion) and Bennis Porter Novelli (public

relations). BBDO Nederland managed to push up its gross income by 16 per

cent without the help of acquisitions. The jewel in the crown, FHV/BBDO,

saw its income rise 11 per cent. Its chairman, Jeroen Hunfeld, puts much

of his agency’s success down to being able to handle what he describes

as ’marketing projects that do not require creative input’. FHV/BBDO

became the European lead agency for Mars’s M&Ms account last year and

then bagged the huge Rabobank account, worth Fl10 million.

FHV’s chief competitor is PPGH/JWT, which is maturing well and recently

landed the Dutch Railways account in a pitch against FHV, TBWA/Campaign,

and others. It was described as the ’competition of the year’ by the

trade press in 1996, not just because of the budget involved, but also

because of the quality of the three agencies chasing the account.

PPGH/JWT was also voted agency of the year 1996. In the Netherlands,

almost all advertising agencies are part of a ’commercial communications

group’. The advertising agencies are difficult to compare in size as

some groups, such as Grey Communications Group and Ogilvy and Mather

Group don’t specify the income of individual group members, such as ad


O&M used to indicate the income of its ad agency, but stopped doing so

when its own income dropped sharply as a result of the loss of several

clients and management upheavals. It now releases the gross income of

all its subsidiaries together - the group’s growth is solely

attributable to the success of its direct marketing shops.

Last year’s takeover of the Dutch agency, Result, by DDB was spectacular

by any reckoning. DDB was regarded as one of the most creative agencies

in the Netherlands. Its creative directors, Lode Schaeffer and Erik

Wunsch, were generally accepted to be the country’s hottest team. But

its new business and profit records were poor. Result, meanwhile, was a

successful account-dominated agency which has McDonald’s as a key

client, and DDB was keen to take this on. The merger became effective on

1 January 1997 and, consequently, the creative directors left to set up

their own agencies.

In fact, almost all of DDB’s key personnel have left the merged agency

while all the clients have remained on board. One agency director, who

refused to be named, comments: ’It looked like an ideal merger or

rather, a reverse takeover. Result, the bigger of the two agencies, has

taken all of DDB’s clients, but not its staff. If the clients stay put,

the merger must have been conceived in heaven.’

Schaeffer Wunsch Has is one of the new agencies aiming to make an impact

on the Dutch advertising scene over the next few years. At the beginning

of 1997, two more advertising agencies were set up. Wim Ubachs, a former

creative director with Saatchi and Saatchi, started Ubachs Wisbrun with

Ralph Wisbrun who, until recently, was the managing director of


Finally, Straad was set up by three of the four managers, including the

creative director, of O&M Amsterdam. The creative director of Straad,

Reinire Bresser, summing up the climate for new agencies, says: ’The

prospects are good, because the Dutch economy is buoyant. Clients can

afford to take more risks introducing products and services. They can

also afford the risk of experimenting with some of the new agencies that

have been set up in the past few months.’

Bog Steetskamp, president of the BVA, the Dutch advertising association

- and the managing director of a foodstuffs manufacturer - welcomes

these new agencies. ’These shops, set up by eager young advertising

entrepreneurs, play a useful role in our industry. They don’t have the

overhead costs of the big agencies and don’t have to pay dividends to

their parents, so they can concentrate on creative concepts and

strategy, to fulfil an increasing demand. They also serve to keep the

existing big agencies sharp.’

It remains to be seen whether such shops can survive in the long term if

they don’t offer clients additional services. One-stop shopping is still

popular with most Amsterdam-based international agencies. Lowe Kuiper

and Schouten was almost the last to offer it. But when the owners left

the company - particularly the creative directors - Nick Hough, the new

managing director, set up Lowe Direct as a priority. He comments: ’We

owe part of our success to being able to offer direct marketing and

sales promotion as part of our package. In fact, some advertisers in the

past wouldn’t consider Lowe Kuiper and Schouten because of its single

specialism, thanks to which it was, and still is, one of the most highly

regarded agencies in the country.’ Hough believes agencies should follow

clients, whose communication needs are broadening. ’Agencies that

specialise in traditional advertising will not survive,’ he forecasts.

The former creative directors and founders of Lowe Kuiper and Schouten

had resisted adding specialist shops for many years.

Integrated services is the buzz phrase these days. Hans Nieman, the

director general of Vea, the association of communication consultancies,

points out that his organisation recently changed its name to underline

the changes.

’We used to be called the association of advertising agencies. Now we

also have direct marketing, public relations shops and media specialists

as members and many of them are part of large international

communication groups.’ Nieman says agencies should concentrate on

integrated services and points out that most new shops have taken this

route. In practice, this means that they are forced to buy in expertise

they do not possess through strategic alliances with other agencies

until they get bigger.

’Much growth in our industry is generated outside traditional


Some agencies may not like that, but they have no choice. Other types of

organisations will step in if they don’t.’ APL’s Koopal, told the

Nederlander he doesn’t want his agency to be dominated by international

clients. ’If you have too many internationals you have too much politics

and consensus decision-making.’ However, Koopal is fortunate that an

international client such as Nestle allows him to produce films for the

Dutch market.

Advertising expenditure for branded goods and services in print media

grew more substantially than in television for the first time in three

years, according to the research organisation, Het Media Instituut.

Quoting figures compiled by BRS, it said advertising for branded goods

and services in the print media grew 5.5 per cent to Fl1.9 billion last

year, whereas advertising on the main eight television stations was up

only 2 per cent.

Lidy Aldershoff, a research manager at HMI, notes that the increase of

adspend in print of 5.5 per cent appeared to lag behind the 1995 growth,

which was 8 per cent. But the 1995 figure included the expenditure on

recruitment ads. ’Because of the favourable economic climate, spending

on job ads was up 40 per cent last year. If this figure is included, the

spend on print ads was up 9 per cent.’

Among print media, the national daily newspapers performed best.

Advertising expenditure for branded goods and services grew 9 per cent

in 1996 to reach Fl775 million. Including job ads, the increase was even

more substantial, totalling 13 per cent. HMI also published a list of

the biggest advertisers in the national dailies. The top-five list was

led by PTT Telecom, followed by Albert Heyn, the country’s dominant food

retailer; Postbank, the state-owned bank; Nederladse Spoorwegen (Dutch

Railways); and Rabobank. Across all media, Procter and Gamble remains

the biggest spender (Lever and Van den Bergh Foods - two Unilever

subsidiaries - are counted separately.

If they are combined, Unilever is the biggest advertiser). P&G is

followed by PTT Telecom, a former state monopoly now facing


Even though national newspapers did well in 1996, this sector is not

without its problems. The daily newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad,

successfully changed its editorial formula to stem falling sales, and de

Volkstrant also went through changes to make it more attractive to a

younger generation.

The Amsterdam-based Het Parool is becoming a regional newspaper, rather

than a national one, with most of its readers living in and around the

city. Of the five national dailies in the Netherlands, four are owned by

Perscombinatie, which acquired Dagbladunie from Elsevier two years ago.

Only De Telegraaf, which has sales of 800,000, is not part of that


So far, there have been no complaints from media agencies about this

concentration of power in the daily newspaper world. ’We were wary and

still are,’ Payl van Niekerk, a director of the Media Partnership,


’But there are also advantages.

It’s efficient to deal with one person to buy space for big clients

instead of people in several offices. Both parties can profit.’ Van

Niekerk’s colleagues agree.

But there is trouble ahead for the dailies, who have so far survived the

onslaught on the advertising market by a succession of new commercial

television channels. Hans Wijers, the cabinet minister for economic

affairs, has pledged that he will disband all cartel agreements in Dutch

commerce and industry. One he is examining closely is in the newspaper

sector, where the publishers have an agreement, set by the National

Newspaper Publishers Association, on cover prices at newsstands and on

subscription terms. Dutch households traditionally receive four out of

five Dutch newspapers through home-delivered subscriptions. Pim de

Pagter, chairman of the NDP, the association of Dutch newspaper

publishers, is fiercely opposed to the Government’s plan. ’We have an

agreement not to hold prices at an artificially high level to bolster

profits, but to remain healthy in the press market. We don’t want titles

to disappear from the market as a result of the price wars.

None of the publishers used to agree on percentage advertising rates

rises.’ This percentage took inflation levels into consideration. The

BVA has made much fuss about it. Now, publishers have to carry out

individual negotiations. Thanks to the improved economic situation,

there have been no complaints about the end of the agreement. Bob

Steetskamp, the chairman of BVA, says: ’We have the power to influence

decisions in the industry.’

The magazine publishing industry recorded limited growth in 1996. The

BVA is keen to get more up-to-date sale figures from magazine

publishers. Plans have been mooted to set up an organisation similar to

the UK’s Audit Bureau of Circulations.’ No major titles have been

launched in the past year. VNU, which is linked with RTL television

stations, is introducing magazines on TV formats. And so is De

Telegraaf, which has a share in the commercial channel, SBS6. Media

specialists such as Jaap van Huis, a director of Media Exposure, say it

is still too early to ascertain whether the ’synergy’ desired by

publishers will work.

With television development, interest is now focusing on new regional

television stations. In some places across the country, commercial

stations co-operate with public broadcasting companies; in others they

compete. Rotterdam and Amsterdam both boast well-developed local

television and The Hague and Utrecht are following suit. Talks are under

way to create one sales office for all regional broadcasters to service

national advertisers only, which would be a unique public/private

partnership. It awaits government approval.

The most spectacular event last year was the demise, after only a few

months, of the country’s commercial sports channel - Sport7, which was

backed by giants such as Philips, KPN (the parent company of PTT Telecom

and PTT Post) and ING Bank. Endermol, the production company behind

Sport7, flopped because its programmes and audiences were well below

expectations. The channel, which had managed to attract KNVB, the Royal

Dutch soccer association, as a minor non-risk taking shareholder, had

first wanted to show Dutch soccer games exclusively.

Sport7 intended to become a pay television station when it had built up

sufficient viewers. However, the government intervened to prevent

international matches being monopolised by a commercial pay television

channel, and Sport7 was forced to sell sub-licences to the public

channel that traditionally showed football matches. This was the final

straw. Most viewers switched to the channel they had traditionally

watched. Observers put net losses during Sport 7’s few months of

operation at between Fl50 to 75 million.

Media agency directors feel the Dutch market is too small for such a

specialist channel. They add that the market for pay television is not

developed enough in the Netherlands where the burghers are used to

paying nothing to watch advertising-supported commercial channels and

relatively little to watch the public broadcasting channels. ’It was a

very expensive lesson,’ Van Huis says. ’But I’m still not convinced

there would not be room for such a channel. The trouble is that so many

mistakes had been made during the start-up, its chances of success were


Top Ten Communication Groups in the Netherlands

Rank  Group                        Gross        Gross    Percentage

                              income ’96   income ’95        change

                                      Fl           Fl

                               (million)    (million)

1     BBDO Nederland                86.6         74.9         + 16%

2     Publicis FCB Ned              75.2         52.3       + 43.8%

3     Y&R Group Nederland           70.1         65.4        + 7.2%

4     Result DDB                    52.9         52.1        + 1.0%

5     O&M Groep                     50.1         46.6        + 7.5%

6     PPGH/JWT Groep                45.4         42.8        + 6.1%

7     A.P. Lintas Groep Ned         37.7         38.0        - 0.8%

8     Company Group                 35.5         33.1        + 7.3%

9     Grey Communications           29.9         28.8        + 3.8%

10    BVD-Euro RSCG                 27.1         16.0       + 69.4%

Source: Adformatie Fl: 3.08 to the pound