Monday, March 30, 2009

Just do it

This weekend I was back in Holland and I've met a lot of past boardmembers of the Young Dogs again. The sad thing was that it was at a funeral of Sander Gaarenstroom. It seemed that a lot of former Young Dogs haven't seen each other for a while. We all agreed on getting together for a drink on a more happy occasion (this is the second Young Dogs-reunion at a funeral).

It kind of set me to think. If you're working a lot, you rarely have time for things on the side. On Sunday, still with a half hangover from the night before, I promised myself I'm going to do a lot of projects which I postponed or which I forgot to do.

Today I did one of these things. I finally printed out a book, which is a paper version with all the best articles from this blog. Half a year ago, I made the selection, checked the spelling and put all the stories in a nice layout in InDesign. But somehow I forgot about the most fun part: finally printing it out. This 'project' took me 15 minutes in total and for half a year I was unable to do it! I'm also going to look for an apartment in Antwerp. There's no real need for it, but the intention to buy something within now and a year is there. And that's tricky. Because the lack of direct importance makes you postpone things like this. And before you know it, you live in the same house for the next ten years.

In the habit of everyday life we tend to forget the long-term projects. Or the little things, like giving an old friend a phonecall. If you plan in to think of one forgotten project every week, and just finally start it again, imagine how much richer your life could be... Sometimes you need to be a bit restless in order to move on.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

475 and counting

The good thing about sad news in the beginning of the week is that the rest of the week can only get better. About Hamburg: my long weekend in the German city learned me that it still rocks and it never fails to leave a big impression on me. I truly miss the city. Nevertheless, I'm glad I went to Duval Guillaume because instinctively I knew from the start that the agency would be good for my career.

And even without a teampartner things are going pretty well. I'm working on the execution of 2 outdoor campaigns for big clients and a print/online campaign is coming up. In the meantime my desk is full of new briefings. In order not to stay behind in this agency, you have to give 1000%, especially if you don't want to work day and night. And you constantly have to set your standards higher and higher. 

For example, at the moment I'm mainly thinking of headlines for a liquor brand. Of course you can think of 10 good ones and let the creative director pick a few. Instead, I decided to go for 1000 headlines before tomorrow. I might not reach that amount, but even if I'm getting close to that number, I'll end up with a selection of excellent headlines. Mass production always pays off. Right now I'm at 475.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In memoriam: Sander Gaarenstroom

I was going to write about the fun I've had in Hamburg; about how I met a lot of people from the Miami Ad School again; about visiting my good friends Salvatore and Andres at Jung von Matt.
But yesterday bad news came barging in. The Dutch advertising world is shocked by the sudden death of Sander Gaarenstroom. He was one of my fellow boardmembers at the Young Dogs when I first started there in 2003. In that time he played a vital role in pushing the organisation for young creatives through the crisis. For this achievement he will always be remembered. My deepest sympathy to his former colleagues, friends and family for the unfortunate loss of an inspiring and truly unique person.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Going to Hamburg today

In a few hours, I'll be on the plane to Germany, the country of T.Raumschmiere, Deichkind and Lady Bitch Ray. As always I couldn't e-mail everybody personally about it, but that's why I'm writing it on my blog: this weekend I'll be back in good old Hamburg :-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Computer games, ringbinders and other threats to the world

A couple of weeks ago, Tim Kretschmer killed 15 students in his former school in the German village Winnenden. Tim was dressed in black, listened to metal music and played violent computer games (one of them the first-person shooter Counterstrike). Not even a week after that, a discussion started about forbidding violent computer games.

In my opinion computer games don't kill people. People kill people. And how can you prevent people from killing people? Abolishing computer games won't solve the problem. In the advertising business we know how to convinces people. And I don't know any medium that can convince people to start a massacre in schools. It's hard enough to make advertising for political issues, let alone make people do something they don't want in the first place. If the computer games are the main reason, I'd suggest we should make computer games that makes people peaceful. The fact that there's no demand for that, proves that violent behavior must come from a different source. Besides, millions of youngsters all over the world play violent games and they don't blow each others brains out for no reason.

Blaming computer games is avoiding the real problem: what really drove Tim Kreschmer to his violent acts? Maybe our prestige-based society, which excludes misfits, is one of the reasons. Maybe his teachers, who ignored his problems, had something to do with it. Maybe the fact that Tim's father had a weapon collection big enough for an army in the cellar had something to do with it. I don't know. I think forbidding your son to practice shooting would be more effective than banning computer games. Now there's even a school in Antwerp that forbids gothic clothes. What's next: forbidding blue ringbinders to prevent pedophilism? It's sick how the people responsible for doing something about the problems of today's youth -teachers, parents, the government- always try to put the blame on the youth itself.

And I think Pope Benedictus XVI is the biggest cunt in the world for saying the distribution of condoms in Africa only make the aids problem worse. I'm not against religion. I don't care if people believe in Allah, God or in Santa Claus. I just think that religion should be an individual spiritual engagement and that any religion should stay the fuck away from politics, public health and science. Recently, the Vatican excommunicated a 9-year old girl for getting an abortion after being raped. What message do you give your followers by doing that? That you should let a 9-year old rape victim die? The catholic church is sticking their noses in things they should stay out of and is getting dangerous.

By making statements against the only thing that can prevent a world threatening virus, the Pope will be responsible for more deaths than Tim Kretschmer, Josef Fritz, and Counterstrike at the same time. The real danger is not the youth. The only thing they want is party, drink beer, play computer games and practice safe sex. Please keep them that way as long as possible, because when they grow old some of them will start a war or teach people that Aids is a punishment of God.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Goodbye Yigit

An old picture of Yigit and I partying at The Fuse, Brussels

There's never a good moment to say goodbye. This was especially the case when saying goodbye to my former art-director Yigit. On Friday evening me and a group of Yigit's Turkish friends went to a movie festival in Brussels. When they left, I seemed to lack words for a proper goodbye. And afterwards, when I went back into the bar, there was this feeling of emptiness that I've experienced so much these last few years when saying goodbye to friends/family/colleagues/schoolmates.

Working together as a creative team is tough. If you work together you see each other more than anyone else. Even more than your friends, girlfriend or family. Besides that, there's a lot at stake when working as a team, so it creates a lot of tension. If you only manage to get along with each other a little bit, it's already a great achievement. The unique thing with Yigit is that besides being a great colleague, he was also a good friend. And we managed to stay friends during the course of the year even though we had our inevitable differences every once in a while. We shared the same weird taste of music and moves and on a regular basis we went out together in either Antwerp or Brussels to go to a movie or a concert.

There's a lot of things that made an ever lasting impression on me. Like the time we were dressed up as Hunter Thompson and Dr. Gonzo from Fear and loathing in Las Vegas during the Duval skitrip. Or that our teamwork resulted in good campaigns for Bongo, Hyundai, De Lijn, Bazooka and the Donor Foundation. Or the time when we were sitting in front of Yigit's laptop to check if we've won a Eurobest or not. How we cheered when we checked the very last page of the Bronze-section and saw that our ad actually won. I'll never forget when he made electropunk DJ T. Raumschmiere laugh by telling him -while standing on the stage- that the audience of that evening is lame and that his music deserves the more enthusiastic crowd in Germany. Yigit is somebody who makes no compromises in both making creative ads and in partying. And this combination worked for me.

Right now he's in Istanbul to arrange his visa papers. For Yigit a new adventure starts soon in Warshaw, Poland. His new teampartner is a young copywriter called Anna Gadecka. I was amazed by the creative level of Anna's portfolio when I saw it for the first time and I'm sure that these two will be a successful team together. An agency called Brain was lucky enough to discover these two mega talents and was smart enough not to wait until the recession is over and to hire them immediately. Goodbye Yigster! And thanks for all the good work that made my first year at Duval a successful one.

Friday, March 13, 2009


The most fun job you can do with your pants on, is a common joke about the popularity of working in advertising. In a way it's true. Advertising is fun. A lot of people know that and that's why so many people want to be a creative. The disadvantage of that is that there's also a lot of competition. If you think you can get into an agency because of all your awards? There's always somebody who won more awards. Your sense of humor? There was just a guy in front of you who made the creative directors rolling on the floor laughing.

And the recession makes it even worse. I know a lot of promising, talented young creatives who are on the street right now. Some of them already for more than half a year. It really makes me sad, because it reminded my of my own desperate situation where I was in during the recession before (about 6 years ago).

But sometimes, and it's very rare, one of these young creatives who were jobless for some time, finally get a break. One of them is Sjoerd Verbruggen, a very witty guy from Holland who already showed some real talent a couple of years ago. He had a lot of bad luck during his career but this week the tables have turned: he started at Saatchi & Saatchi in Amsterdam. You can see his portfolio here.

I know that (besides being talented) he's been very lucky to get a chance like that in these difficult times. But it's hopeful to see an example that determination still pays off...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Working hard

I'm on my own now. No art-director to brainstorm with. Nobody to share the workload with when executing or scribbling ideas. I'm a one-man team and I'm getting the same amount of work as a normal team.

I have to say that I'm doing better than expected under the circumstances. Sometimes it's difficult but I manage to get almost all the work done and I'm even able to leave the agency at a reasonable time. I just have to work a bit harder. I do all the work immediately and sometimes I spend my lunchbreak with sandwiches behind my laptop, but at least I have the evenings off. It's going to get really tough when I have to execute a lot of things, but that's for later concern.

Long live the human capacity to adapt really fast to any new situation.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Good old Alkmaar

It's amazing how every time I'm going back in my country of birth, the country still feels like unknown territory. Actually, it feels like a strange mixture between the trusted feeling of being in an environment that you know and the excitement of being on vacation.

It starts already in the train. Every kilometer the train trembles further north, people start to talk different. The soft dialect of the Flemish flows over in the loud, singing/nagging voices of the northern Dutch. Amazing how 200 km further things are so different. And how people are so different.

And then I walk up the stairs of the small trainstation of Alkmaar. It's dark and the lanterns light the humid road in front of me. To the right I can see the small Chinese cabin where I used to eat healthy food for a small price. To the left there's the Burger King where people look through the big windows while they're stuffing a Whopper in their mouths. I walk from the station to my parents house and now I've arrived. My parents aren't there this weekend so after I've finished this article, I'll immediately go into the city. Where I'll meet old friends with whom I'll catch up and drink beer until the early closing times of Alkmaar force me to go home.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Vlaams Belang

A small piggy bank, made possible by the 'Flemish Block'.

One of the most controversial political parties in Belgium is Vlaams Belang (which means something like Flemish Importance). They used to be known as an extreme right party when they were called Flemish Block, but since 2004 they've changed their name and use more diplomatic terms to express their discontent about immigrants and Belgians who happen to live on the French part of the country. Every now and then someone finds out that one of their members is still involved with extreme right circles or spoke at nazi boyscout camps in Germany. In the new and more 'politically correct' Vlaams Belang that person would be excommunicated. It's their way to make sure that nobody in the political party has a reputation that's totally rotten.

A quick look on the internet tells me that this party has 1/4 of the seats of the Flemish Parliament. And 17 seats in the National Government. That means a lot of people voted for Vlaams Belang. They were popular before. At first I thought it might have something to do with the fact that some Belgians have conservatism in their genes. But more and more I begin to understand why they are so popular. I mean, I don't actually approve their political point of view, let's get that straight. But there must be a reason why this party has become so popular. And I think the reason is: their marketing!

What are they doing right if you look at their marketing? On a regular basis I get a newletter from them - on paper. So whether you asked for it or not, every Dutch speaking Belgian gets their propaganda. It's written in a way that only a professional writer can read between the lines and recognize it as racism. And they have give aways. Last year they gave away big yellow flags with a lion on it. And this week I got a small piggy bank in my letterbox (it's almost cute if you didn't know who gave it). And there's interaction with the potential Vlaams Belang-voters. You can send a letter about how you hate immigrants to the party and if you haven't used too explicit wordings your letter will be published. On their website you can read their articles.

Their 'advertising' isn't even a bit creative, but they engage in a dialogue with the people. Therefore people get the impression that they are heard by Vlaams Belang. I think this quality -to give people the impression that you listen to them- is something that a lot of political parties lack. Of course, not everybody has the megabudget to spread complete newspapers among the population of Belgium. But if you want to make a statement, the last thing you should do is go for a me-too strategy. If you don't have the budget, be creative. And nowadays you can use more and more media to reach all the voters you need.