By Warren Berger
Sure, you know the work that's been coming out of Portland and Miami lately, but how about, Bogota, Warsaw, Mexico City? It may surprise some to learn that these are a few of the global advertising growth areas right now, where fresh creative talent is experimenting with new approaches and attempting to build vital ad communities. For our international issue, one decided to start things off by taking a whirlwind world tour, stopping in at a dozen hot-spots around the world to check out the local highlights and flavor (of the advertising, that is).
First Stop: Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a hotbed of advertising and a good (if not unlikely) place to start our tour. The Amsterdam ad scene began to flourish in the 1990s with Wieden+Kennedy's arrival there, along with the emergence of KresselsKramer and its wacky, irreverent ads for clients such as the Hans Brinker Hotel. KresselsKramer is still a force locally, as is W+K and its Nike work in particular, but in the past couple of years the headlines have been grabbed by the small independent shop 180, whose roots can be traced to W+K (180 agency was opened by former Wieden creatives). For 180, the big breakthrough came when the small shop landed a massive assignment: the global account for adidas (shared with TBWA Worldwide). It didn't take long for 180 to rise to the challenge, as the agency's efforts helped make adidas "Client of the Year" at last year's One Show.
What's perhaps most surprising is the scale of the work coming out of Amsterdam, and in particular 180, ambitious, bold television productions, involving cutting-edge directing and effects, all of it rooted in big ideas and intriguing concepts. 'You'd have to say Amsterdam is now more often noted for the big visual spots than for the offbeat and quirkiness of past year's works,' says Andy Fackrell, Executive Creative Director at 180 Amsterdam. 'Wieden + Kennedy's football epics and hopefully, some of 180's stuff has given Amsterdam quite a TV presence throughout the world. There are less of the crazy little spots for The English Language School, Delta Lloyd and Central Beheer, for example, which were as fresh as Thailand's over-the-top, public service spots seem today.'
Amsterdam is known for its liberal attitudes and that has an impact on the ad community; you won't find people here sitting around fretting about what the FCC will do next. 'We're largely free of censorship, which goes hand in hand with living in Amsterdam,' says Fackrell. 'So there's no reason why there can't be a resurgence of quirky and crazy. The most prominent local director, Matthijs van Heijningen is knocking out great spots for international clients that have some of that flavor, aided by a good-sized budget, I suspect. 180 worked with Matthijs for our local Telecom client, Versatel. My partner, Richard Bullock and our Finnish team, Niklas Lilja and Antero Jokinen, tried something that didn't seem out of place with all those quirky Dutch spots, nor the hack-your-arm off days of New York. The resulting spots are not exactly politically correct, they all pretty much involve death or physical misfortune, but they've garnered huge press here in the Netherlands. We hope to do well at the Luukies, the local Dutch awards.'
The agency's adidas spots, in particular the famous 'Laila' commercial that brought together Muhammad Ali and his daughter in the ring, along with other spots such as 'Kicking It,' and 'Wake-up Call. Feel as if they could have been made by US, London and Asian agencies, respectively,' says Fackrell. 'Our creative department is a hodge-podge of Finns, Americans, English, South Africans, Swedes, an Aussie and a Kiwi' so it would be pretty hard to find any common nationalistic thread. Which is how we kind of like it.'
Graphically, Holland has always been strong, Fackrell notes. 'Great type and photography has meant print and graphic design were in bed with each other earlier than in many other markets. Studio Dunbar seems to have influenced many art directors.' Fackrell also cites the influence of Robert Nakata at W+K and his work for Nike and Microsoft. And he adds that ?KesselsKramer is a very designy shop, and has some of that old-school Dutch humor in their print.'
2nd Stop: Germany
Why Germany? Let's see: German agencies had a surprisingly strong showing at last year's One Show, and at press-time they were poised to do well again at this year's show. It turns out German advertising can be got-damn funny, defying conventional wisdom that Germans lack the humor gene. Also, Oliver Voss from Jung von Matt is from Germany, and he makes a great tour guide.
Speaking of Voss, his agency started 13 years ago with a handful of people and now is thriving with 500 staffers in Hamburg and Berlin (not to mention outposts in Zurich and Vienna). The growth of Jung von Matt has tracked with the rise of creative advertising in Germany. Not that advertising hasn't been big in Germany for decades: The Madison Avenue giants moved into the country early on, with the German market always having been regarded as a critical link in global ad networks. But being part of larger networks (whether American or European-based) didn't necessarily result in producing original, distinctive German advertising. As Voss notes, 'Most of the networks in Germany don't do very interesting work. Interesting work comes from the places that are owned by the people who founded the agency.' While businesslike Frankfurt was the locale of choice for network operations, Hamburg and Berlin have emerged as a particular hotspot for independent agencies, which have tended to tap into the thriving, hip cultures of those cities.
Other stops include London, Prague, Warsaw, Buenos Aires, Bogota, Singapore, Mumbai, Mexico City, Auckland and Johannesberg. To read more about our international tour, subscribe to one. a magazine.