Reinventing the advertising industry

In the early 2000s, Amsterdam Worldwide began taking shape when Brian Elliott and his partners found themselves at a crossroads, with their advertising agency in urgent need of reinvention. Driving this realisation was – and is – their conviction that the traditional ad agency business model has its lost currency in today’s world. 

“At the time, the emergence of digital forms of communication meant that advertising agencies no longer need to maintain a physical presence in all the key markets,” says Canadian Dutchman Elliot during our conversation in a modern minimalist-styled room in a 17th century house along one of Amsterdam’s canals.

“With economic relationships changing drastically as a result, national borders were becoming steadily less important, cultural differences were taking on new dimensions and it had become relatively easy to work from a remote location. This also means you could put together creative teams of talented people from all over the world, working together in a fully online environment.” 

Creating Amsterdam Worldwide anew

Clients’ demands, too, are keeping pace with the changing digital economy. “Just five or ten years ago they would have called in a single agency with a similar scale and global network of offices to orchestrate a worldwide campaign,” says Eliot. “Now, however, they prefer to co-ordinate marketing publicity themselves and choose agencies based on their creative ideas and capacity to translate those ideas into multimedia communications.”

It was against this backdrop of ground-breaking market developments that the agency Amsterdam Worldwide was remoulded from the former Strawberry Frog. “We had already jointly come up with the plan to separate the Amsterdam branch from the head office in New York. We considered all the options – even, for example, of relocating to London or Barcelona and directing operations from there.”

How to connect to international markets

“But we quickly realised that it is precisely our location in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area that is one of this agency’s most valuable assets. The crucial factors determining the success of a business like ours is being ‘wired’ to the international community on all fronts,” says Eliot. 

“We have to identify emerging trends and developments before and better than anyone else, we have to be connected with every media platform and network through which to feed brand perceptions and, most importantly, we have to appeal to the independent-thinking, creative types whom we want to have working for us or with us. Ultimately, it became clear to us that our current location offers more value in terms of all these key requirements.”

Post-it notes by Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash

“What did need changing, however, was our own organisational structure – only then would we be able to profit fully from our location. Having taken that step, we now offer a rock-solid business proposition,” says Elliot.

“We also changed our name to Amsterdam Worldwide, with the idea of tapping into the international appeal and dynamic of this metropolis. Plus, we feel we truly reflect the characteristics that define Amsterdam.”

Using diversity to create something unique

No wonder, then, that Amsterdam Worldwide was the agency selected by the French mother company (Pernod-Ricard) of an Armenian brandy producer (Ararat) with the assignment to inject this once-famous brand with fresh, international appeal. 

“Our client indicated that they saw us as a culturally neutral party due to our Dutch background. They feel that we, as an Amsterdam-based agency employing 20 different nationalities, are better poised to rediscover the brand’s authenticity and to give it an affective charge that will appeal to cognac drinkers all over the world.” 

Ararat is only one of an impressive client portfolio that features such big names as German beer giant Warsteiner and automobile manufacturers such as Mitsubishi and the iconic Pininfarina. Joining these clients is an expanding number from China, including legendary sneaker brand Warrior Shanghai

Amsterdam is a perfect recruitment tool

But the most important development – according to Brian Elliott – is the one he has seen in himself and those around him. “One major additional factor in our decision to keep Amsterdam Worldwide operating from its current location is that it gives us an edge in recruiting the best creative minds in the business,” says Elliot.

“Everyone is keen to live and work here, and this aspect is only weighing heavier as we enter an age in which people are feeling a deeper need for engagement and placing greater demands on their work-life balance.”

“I suppose I would be a prime example of this: I live five minutes away, take our kids to school by carrier bike before heading to the office, have given up my car, and if I need to visit a client abroad I can be at Schiphol in under half an hour,” says Elliot.

“Just recently I had to be in central London, and I later calculated that my travel time from Amsterdam was less than when I still lived and worked in a London suburb. In this sense, too, we’re at the heart of the action here.”

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