How 72andSunny is jazzing up the advertising industry

“We often refer to ourselves as jazz. Because I think jazz is something that can be really flexible and evolves in the moment. You can add different instruments and different people bring different things to it.” Ruminations on jazz might not be the way you’d expect a chat with one of Amsterdam’s leading advertising agencies to start, but here we are. And, actually, this answer from 72andSunny Amsterdam’s Managing Director Lauren Portelli about what best represents her firm weirdly makes perfect sense.

You see, 72andSunny has spent the last decade and a half riffing on excellence to establish itself as one of the world’s most in-demand creative agencies. Its client list is a roll call of some of the world’s biggest brands – YouTube, Google, Coca-Cola – and it boasts offices in Los Angeles, New York, Singapore and Sydney. Founded in 2004, its trophy cabinet is already overflowing, and includes “Agency of the Year” gongs from both Advertising Age and Adweek.

Lauren Portelli from 72 and Sunny

Lauren Portelli from 72andSunny Amsterdam

So, what’s in the secret sauce that drives its success? “We’re not an agency that is stuck in our ways,” Portelli explains, “Google was actually one of our first and is still one of our clients. Learning to work with a brand like Google requires you to be fast and it takes a huge amount of collaboration to pivot in different ways. That really helps us have a model that is flexible. Also, our values help to give us a really strong foundation.”

That strong foundation is helping the agency constantly evolve, and Portelli says the work they do has never been more diverse. “The work that we're doing isn’t always advertising in the traditional sense,” she explains. “We’re also doing deep strategic thinking. And that influences everything that we do, from the smaller projects we have to the huge global Coca-Cola campaign that we launched this summer. Our work is more diverse and relevant than ever before, and we will keep pushing what it is and what it looks like.”

In fact, Portelli says the whole notion of what a brand is and what its responsibilities are is shifting. And 72andSunny is there to help companies realise just who they are and what they can do to be their best selves. “Nowadays brands have a responsibility,” she explains, “and I think that responsibility is thinking of their consumers as citizens and their responsibility to the community around them. We want to help brands understand what their value can be in the world. I think now more than ever we’re exploring advertising, or even redefining what that can actually mean.”

How Amsterdam has helped power 72andSunny’s success

With 135 members of staff from 26 nationalities, its Amsterdam office is one of the biggest in the company’s network. And, according to Portelli, it’s also a key driver of its success in Europe and around the world. “The Amsterdam office is very much the European house for 72andSunny in a global sense,” she says. “The city serves us so well. Being based here means that we’re very much able to scale and operate in a European sense. There is an incredible talent pool here and talent from so many different countries. Amsterdam is so diverse; I've never worked and lived in a place where the output of diversity is so true. The playground becomes much more interesting when you have that and we’re always looking to be as inclusive as possible in everything that we do.”

Now more than ever diversity is important in the creative sector, as is reinvesting in the community around you. And on that front 72andSunny is working hard to make sure that it’s meeting its responsibilities as an industry leader. “We run a programme called 72U which is an internship program to try and get a young and diverse creative class and give them access to our industry. We have seen our clients asking us for advice about how to launch their own programmes like it as well which is brilliant. We also have Bizzkids for schoolchildren, which gives them a brief to launch their own business and is run in the school holidays. That's often done in partnership with an Amsterdam-based brand.”

Why 72andSunny is a key player in the creative sector

Professionally, living in the Netherlands has helped Portelli learn to be more direct, a quality that is often associated with the Dutch. “I think the power of being direct and being more Dutch in saying things straight and candidly is something that has served both myself and the agency really well” she explains. “I think there's a strength to being direct, regardless of who we're working with. So, I think that's really a superpower and a tool that I wish I learned earlier.”

After living all over the world, Portelli says that she feels so at home in Amsterdam. “I love the city’s real village vibe. I can get on my bike and be at any friend's house or any place in just 15 minutes. That is such a luxury that you don't get in many cities in the world. Whether you're going to a great restaurant, whether you're meeting someone at their house or whether you're cycling to the countryside and a national park.”

Of course, now there isn’t much opportunity to travel anywhere safely. What other effects is the coronavirus crisis having on 72andSunny? “We are in an industry that relies on relationships,” Portelli says, “whether it’s going to the coffee machine and having a good chat or collaborating on a piece of creative work, working side by side with directors and editors. I think some of that exists, but it's no longer in person. So, motivation is tough. But keeping our collection of brilliant, talented people, inspired and motivated remains our top priority. It’s made us think about how different roles work together in different ways and how we stay connected. It’s a huge challenge but equally a huge opportunity.”

For Portelli, it’s this team that helps inspire her every day. “When the collective of people we have here create things and accomplish things it really inspires me. I find it really humbling because it reminds me of the talent that we have in the building and the power of what's possible. That is what motivates me and inspires me to keep doing this job.”

Read more about Amsterdam's creative sector.