• Amsterdam employs 196,000 people in ‘creative and cultural industries’.
  • It is the fourth-largest creative employer in Europe, by number of staff, behind the much bigger cities of London, Paris and Milan.
  • It is Europe’s second-largest centre for software industry employment, with 48,000 staff, second only to Paris.
  • The Amsterdam ad industry employs 20,000 people. London’s employs 25,000.
  • The Dutch advertising and market-research industries are worth €8 billion.
Sources: European Cluster Observatory; Statista

Why we’re here

Wieden and Kennedy was the first US ad agency to set up in Amsterdam, and when 72andSunny was looking for a European base, it eschewed London for the leafy canals of the Dutch capital. So, why are these renowned international agencies here?
‘It helps that a large number of global brands have their global or European headquarters located in and around Amsterdam,’ says Blake Harrop, MD of W+K Amsterdam. ‘It allows for a healthy ecosystem of competing agencies and production companies to exist. It’s a cosmopolitan city, and agencies are full of international creative people. With young brands growing into new markets, and mature brands consolidating their marketing operations, there are plenty of global marketing issues needing creative solutions from agencies.’

For Nic Owen, MD of 72andSunny, it’s a similar story. ‘It’s a very open culture, and that attracts open-minded people, making it easier to find the right talent. The system here helps us hire good people from around the world, and that mix lets us play around with who works with whom, allowing us to create truly global work. It’s a place that combines evolved thinking with high craft.’

Fashion forward

The advertising industry has brought Amsterdam’s creative industries to global attention, but the city is also a hotbed of fashion and design. Alongside the global high-street success stories of G-Star Raw, Suitsupply, and Scotch & Soda, there are the high-end designers such as Iris van Herpen and Viktor & Rolf, as well as a host of other talents bubbling away just beneath the surface.

Designer Jessica Joyce is a member of the Muze fashion collective. ‘Amsterdam’s creative industry is doing so well because the Dutch are pioneers and embrace new technology and knowledge sharing,’ she says. ‘Being open-minded and not afraid to share or experiment in modern thinking, Amsterdam has become a fertile ground for creative innovation.’ The city has the world’s highest concentration of jeans brands, with the city’s denim industry thought to turn over about €500 billion a year.

The big hits

Amsterdam shops regularly turn out award-winning campaigns. Here are three from recent years.

Campaign: Find Your Magic
Client: Axe
Agency: 72andSunny
When Axe/Lynx decided to move away from laddish humour and suggestions that their deodorant might somehow turn guys into a chick magnet, they came to Amsterdam to get a fresh take on what it means to be a man. This campaign completely flips the brand’s position and has generated positive PR around the world.

Campaign: Sweetie
Client: Terre des Hommes
Agency: Lemz
Reaching beyond the normal boundaries of advertising, this startling campaign (produced by MediaMonks) led to the identification of over 1,000 paedophiles in 71 countries, arrests around the world and praise from the UN. On behalf of children’s-rights group Terre des Hommes, a 3D CGI 10-year-old girl, Sweetie, was created to pose as a sex-camera worker. Operated by a team working in shifts, Sweetie interacted with 20,000 online predators, gathering names, addresses and webcam footage.

Campaign: Write the Future
Client: Nike
Agency: W+K Amsterdam
This is one of the largest campaigns to come out of Amsterdam at a time when it was establishing itself as a global hub for the creative industries. In time for the 2010 World Cup, it saw the fortunes of football stars turn on individual moments of brilliance and despair.