Thursday, April 29, 2010

Always on the move

I like changes, but to change apartments for the second time in one month is a bit odd. A few weeks ago I heard that I had to move out of my apartment already. So I started a search for the holy grail in the city of Amsterdam. Because to find an affordable apartment in the city centre is almost impossible. So I went for the second best option: a not so affordable apartment in the city centre.

That's already a bit easier. Still, you have to be very careful in Amsterdam. Housing is scarce in the capital of Holland. And a lot of conmen know that. So there are various stories of people who had to make a run for the cash machine in order to pay the first month's rent and the deposit. Just to find out later that they're one of the 10 owners of the key to the apartment.

And there are also crooks who claim to be abroad, and therefore they cannot show you the room in advance. But if you put the money in a deposit, he can send you the key and you can take a look at it before you give permission to pay the rent. The e-mails are always written in the same way. They first tell you they're abroad for business. Then they usually tell you that the last owner made a big mess in the apartment, so this time they have to be really careful. And the flat can be yours if you transfer the money using the step-by-step procedure. Of course that's one big scam. Oh, and usually these people have a Scandinavian name like Martin Blirup or Erica Paulsen.

But all the ploughing through the jungle of housing offers paid off. I've finally found my dream apartment. It's in a district called the Jordan, near the central station. It's not exactly cheap, but it's certainly a fair deal. In Amsterdam, if you think twice about an apartment it's already gone. So after viewing the apartment, I immediately said I'm going to take it. If I survive all the wild partying on Queensday, I'm going to move to my new apartment the first of May.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Tonight almost everybody who has anything to do Dutch advertising will be at the award show of the ADCN (Art Directors Club Netherlands). Nobody can't wait to see who won Holland's most prestigious awards, which is in the shape of a lamp. Lemz is nominated twice for a brillant IKEA-campaign. Any award show who wants to be taken seriously should award a campaign like that. And I don't just say that because I work there. As I'm writing this, everybody is standing in line for the ADCN, wearing a tuxedo or an evening dress, the mandatory garment. So you guessed already that I'm not going.

I'm not going there on purpose. It's not, like so many stubborn creatives who are not going, that I have something against the ADCN. On the contrary, I think they're doing a good job to bring Dutch advertising on a higher level. I just feel that there's no point in going there if I have no chance to win an award myself. It felt the same about the local Belgian award show.

Now this is a really personal thing. And if I tell it to my new colleagues they think I'm a bit of a nutter. It's also difficult to explain why I'm not going. For some reason I just don't see the point. To see the winning work is not inspiring to me because it's only a fraction of the good work that is made worldwide. I don't want to go there for the networking because I'm already in the agency that I want to be. So that only leaves the party for me. A party is always good, but why should I watch three hours of people walking on a stage who receive an award of which only Dutch advertising people know it exists, just to go to a party? Then I might as well go to a pub and start drinking immediately. Which happened to be the plan for tonight.

I don't want to win a lamp-award anymore and I think that because of this attitute, I will never make the typical work that will get me one. But still I can't help feeling a bit excited to know whether Lemz won one. They certainly deserve it. And it's always good to see even happier faces in the agency.

UPDATE: as expected, Lemz won a silver lamp in the category Interactive. I'm proud of my agency :-).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Longer copy

It's 0:35 and I'm still working on a long copy for Doctors without Borders. They asked me if I have time to write the copy and I told them: "no, but I will make time". So now I'm stuck with a copy assignment on which I'm working past midnight. In the meantime, due to some weird error, my screen flipped 180 degrees. So I wasted more than half an hour solving that problem. The most difficult part is that there isn't enough input for the copy and I have a strict amount of words that I must stick to.

I've learned by now that the doctors who volunteer for my client have even less means to perform their work properly. And that they're even getting out of their tent in the middle of the night if they're needed for an operation. So I shouldn't complain. Anyway, it's an honour to work for a client like Doctors without Borders and that thought keeps me awake for a long time.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Remains of my life in Antwerp

Since I'm working at Lemz (from the first of April) I haven't worked one entire week yet. That's because my first week lasted only 2 days, it was easter in the second week and this week there was a concert of Grace Jones in Antwerp on Thursday evening. For this I already bought a ticket when I was still living in Belgium and when I still thought I would continue to live there. Luckily it didn't mess up my planning and everything goes really well with my first assignments. Who says working parttime in advertising isn't possible?

Of course I'm very curious to see what the creative outcome is if I work fulltime. So finally this week I'm working five whole days, wow. Besides, I can't help feeling a little guilty for not being in the agency whenever people need me around. I guess that's the workaholic in me talking.

But I did have a great time in Antwerp. The concert of the legendary Grace Jones was a must-see. The soul diva hasn't changed a bit since the eighties. She looked as if she put herself in a time capsule and beamed herself to 2010. I spent the rest the weekend with my girlfriend, hopping from one bar to another in the centre of Antwerp.

Today, before I took a train back to the Netherlands, I removed the last little things from my old apartment in Antwerp. Afterwards I cleaned it. I took a last peek out of the windows, seeing the splendid view over the historical buildings in Antwerp. Memories came back of when I first arrived in the apartment, of all the friends that came over for a drink, of the one night stands with unknown girls until I spend the night with the girl whom I'm still in a relationship with. It made me sad to realize that I will probably never see my home in Antwerp again.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Familiar faces

If you've worked for six years in Dutch advertising and if you went to almost every advertising party and you've been active in a young creatives organisation, you can't help meeting a lot of people. So it wasn't a complete surprise that I happened to know the new creative team that walked in the Lemz building this week: Rogier and Matthijs.

And slowly I see more and more people again. Last week I saw a former Young Dogs boardmember at the terrace under my agency and today I met an art-director who was on the ferry back to the central station. Advertising is a small world.

Talking about small worlds, in my hometown Alkmaar there are also people with creative ideas. Some friends of mine at NmTrix, a 3D animation agency, made the nice internet film that you can see above. It's a better than most advertising agencies promote themselves. Or your name must be Grimm Gallun Holtappels.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shit card

Checking in at the public transport with the chipcard

If there's any business that knows how to shake money out of their customers' pockets, it's the public transport business in Amsterdam. Not only did the prices of the fares go up tremendously in the past few years, but they also introduced a new way to prevent people from taking free fares: the chipcard. You have to check in when you enter the bus and afterwards you have to check out.

It's good that there's a system that forces people to pay honestly for their fares. But the problem with this card is that if you forget to check out, you pay the maximum price for a day, which is 4 euro. And it's only human to, despite all the signs and warnings, forget to check out. So of course, it happened to me as well. After a day of hard working I mindlessly walked past the little flipdoors in the tram.

To prove that the public transport company aren't the money hungry wolves that they appear to be, they temporarily give you the opportunity to get your money back. For this you have to send a letter with a receipt and they put 4 euro back on your bank account. Of course even a moron understands that they use this cumbersome procedure to get your shitty little amount of money back is invented to reduce the amount of reimbursements. And this cunning scheme probably works, even with the stingy Dutch people.

And it works for me as well. I'm not going to send a stupid letter. But I do want my money back. Just out of principle. So in order to spare my valuable time and that of the poor fools who need to open the incoming letters of tightwads, I get the money back my own way. While checking in I simply hold the card in front of the check in machine just far enough that it looks like I'm checking in, but not close enough to activate it. This way I travel for free, and the best thing is... I don't have to think about checking out. I will do this for five fares, so that I have exactly the amount of money back that I've lost. After these five times, honest as I am, I'm going to pay again. I've done it four times already and it's amazing how simple it is. Tomorrow I will have one free ride on the tram and then I'm reimbursed. Without anybody knowing it and without filling out stupid forms. Big middle finger to the public transport of Amsterdam and their shitty little chipcard.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

First days at Lemz

It's hard to tell how things are going in an agency from the first days. In the past it happened to me twice that the first briefings went so bad that my teampartner and I were kicked out within 2 weeks. It's what often happens to a team that wins awards in a too early stage of their career. We blamed the creative directors back then. But the expectations were simply too high and we simply couldn't live up to those as a junior team.

At Lemz the expectations are even higher. That's because they teamed me up with a Brazillian art-director with a great portfolio and considerable list of awards on his resume. See his portfolio here. It looks like a perfect match. Which also means the pressure to make outstanding work is even higher. Oh well, as a creative it's good to be a bit uncertain sometimes. Yesterday we had our first review and it went quite good.

The good thing about this agency is that an original insight or a big overall thought is more important than making just one outstanding ad. Also, the strategic planners play an important role in the concept development. They are participating instead of being a small cog in the wheel. I can't tell yet what kind of work this will lead to in the end. It will be good, solid work and I'm sure it will be effective, but will it be outstanding from a creative perspective?

This will remain a question for the time being. But one thing is for sure: it's very refreshing to work like this and I'm already glad that I've joined this little group of advertising professionals in the North of Amsterdam.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


The agency building at the harbour of Amsterdam

I wanted to share my new agency with the world a lot earlier, but I agreed not to until I'm actually working there. But today I started. On April fools' day. My new agency -without joking- is called Lemz. Who? Outside of Holland they're not very known yet, but that's the destiny of an independent agency who predominantly makes very Dutch work. In Dutch advertising they are very well known. They have a reputation of being the agency where all the big clients go to.

I understand why. In my opinion Lemz has always made good and effective cross-media campaigns for their clients. It's one of the reasons why most of their clients haven't left the agency since its foundation and it's one of the reasons why clients are drawn to it in times of crisis. A lot of advertisers are looking for smarter ways to invest their advertising budget and Lemz seems to provide in that need. If you look at you'll get a pretty good idea of the campaigns they make.

Since the Miami Ad School and at Duval Guillaume I've made enough work to prove that I can make good advertising in all media. The next step for me would be to make campaigns that brings all of these media together. After having having learned from top traditional agencies like Saatchi New York and Duval Guillame Brussels, I figured that working at another traditional agency would be a repetition of what I've done before. So I looked on purpose for less traditional and more online driven agencies.

At Lemz I cannot rely on making one funny TV commercial or one good print ad. They only make big campaigns here. So here there's no other way: I have to make the insightful, through the line ideas that I truly believe in. The only way to do that is to forget everything I've learned about advertising so far and to think and work in a different way. It's a big challenge. One that I'm going to face while enjoying the splendid view over the docks of Amsterdam.