Wieden+Kennedy's diversity is a game-changer
Global creative agency Wieden+Kennedy is known for eye-catching and thought-provoking campaigns that have secured its place as a leader in the industry. We spoke to Blake Harrop, the Managing Director in the Netherlands, to find out more about the firm's success.
3 little words that helped change the game
If you ever needed evidence that words have power, then the advertising industry is a good place to look. At their best, campaigns have the power to change the world. For Wieden+Kennedy (W+K), it was three little words which powered the firm’s journey from a single space in Portland, Oregon, to becoming one of the world’s leading agencies with offices in New York, London, Tokyo, Delhi, São Paulo, Shanghai and Amsterdam. Those words? ‘Just Do It’. It was this slogan which W+K used to help Nike establish itself as arguably the world’s biggest sports brand. Three words that are now part of everyday life: a motto for people who want to challenge themselves or overcome obstacles.
It’s this commitment to creating eye-catching creative which Blake Harrop, the managing director of W+K’s Amsterdam office, thinks has helped the firm remain a leader in its field. “We, as an agency, are very strong at creative. So, we create great TV commercials, great video content and campaigns. That’s something we’re known for.”
Why diverse talent is key to W+K’s success
Harrop says that behind W+K's success is the diverse range of talent. Amsterdam's multi-nationalism reflects the companies own values.
“If we don't hire great talent to work on the business we can't grow and we can't succeed. I’m so proud of the people here. Our business is built on people and talent and we have a group of people here that represent 35 different nationalities and backgrounds. That’s amazing. I love the fact that our company has the appetite to evolve and ask difficult questions of ourselves. And I love that we support each other. There are many nationalities represented in [Amsterdam] itself, so it's easier here to hire people from diverse national backgrounds than it is in many other cities.
We always challenge ourselves to try and look beyond the obvious places and try to bring people in who are going to add to our culture. We like working with people who are from different backgrounds, that way our team can learn different ways of advertising and brand building.”
With that statement, Harrop acknowledges the importance of diversity not simply from a perspective of social justice, as general discourse sometimes reduces it to. It also makes perfect sense from a business perspective. Brands are finding inclusion more and more important, because consumers are, too. So as an agency, it’s simply not enough to tell your potential clients you understand them and their respective target audiences: you need to be able to prove this to win business and to create the desired outcome as well. Simply put: not being inclusive is just not an option.
Getting involved in the local ecosystem
W+K is regularly involved with initiatives to help reinvest in its home. Personally, Harrop sits on the diversity inclusion committee at Amsterdam’s Chamber of Commerce and mentors local startups. The list of W+K’s business activities in the community is long and substantial and includes talking to students at schools and universities, supporting the non-profit youth organisation JINC Amsterdam, reach-out programmes, working with the Dutch NGO Klabu and promoting local businesses during the coronavirus crisis. W+K is also involved with Amsterdam Diverse and Inclusive (ADI), a City of Amsterdam-led scheme which aims to stimulate diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
How being based in Amsterdam has helped W+K excel
As someone who has lived all over the world, Harrop is equally as positive about his personal experiences of life in the Dutch capital. “I absolutely love living here. It's a friendly city and small enough that people will talk to each other. In big cities that's often less the case. The Dutch culture is very friendly and welcoming, as well as being representative of so many different nationalities. Also, I like to work hard but I also like that the city has a good work-life balance.”
Of course, the ease of doing business in Amsterdam is another reason that W+K continues to go from strength to strength here, Harrop says. “If we'd have tried to set up our first office outside of the US anywhere except Amsterdam we would have given up, because the other offices we’ve established have been really hard to get off the ground. But in Amsterdam that was not the case. I think there’s an open-mindedness and friendliness about the city and I think it extends to the business scene as well. We were welcomed by clients and were welcomed by the city. It was much easier to set up a business here than anywhere else. ”