Advertising women on the warpath for equality.


‘Women? You’re better off keeping chickens.’ Our teenage boys are talking about their girlfriends at the dinner table. But as a manager you can’t even think about saying something like that at the office, unless you’re wanting to have a lot of free time on your hands. Kevin Roberts, the well-respected CEO of international advertising group Saatchi&Saatchi, recently said in an interview in reference to gender diversity that ‘the fucking debate is all over.’ And that women don’t mind one bit not making it to the top because they don’t have the ambition for it. The supervisory directors gave him his walking papers the very next day.

Roberts’ comments are now all the buzz in the advertising world. Trade journals went in search of hard facts and interviewed advertising women who have reached the top. There’s nothing wrong with the actual number of women in the advertising industry. But most of them do work in support positions, while not enough work on the creative floor. You’ll run into them in the boardroom, but they’re usually pushing a coffee trolley. A heated debate has now erupted on internet forums between women with short tempers and men with short dicks.

Men are simplistic and think the offering of female talent and ambition is lacking. Women are divided. The women’s libbers are disgusted by the old boys’ network and their tasteless guy jokes. They get each other riled up in a private Facebook group where they can swap sexist comments. The Stockholm complex group sympathises with the oppressor and refers to a macho culture that must bother some men as well. The Realists are self-critical and say they don’t run into a glass ceiling at the office, but at home instead. The path to the top takes a lot of time and energy. So ambitious women have to choose both the right course of study and the right partner who’ll be willing to do half the parenting if kids come along.

It’s remarkable that there are plenty of advertising men who make campaigns in which the woman wears the trousers and the men are the anti-hero in their role as super wuss or ex-millionaire. But when it comes to hiring key employees, they suddenly suffer from the clone complex and choose a non-threatening copy of themselves. Until last week in Rio that is, because there couldn’t be any better advertising for girl power than the Dutch female athletes’ performance at this year’s Olympics. Only the Dutch female horse riders weren’t in the winner’s seat. But, then again, they were riding on stallions. Or – as the women’s libbers prefer it – a castrated gelding. 

Sisters are doing it for themselves

Sisters are doing it for themselves


Unsportsmanlike advertisers sent home.

‘What are you doing Jan?’ We’re in a meeting room just before a major presentation to an important client. ‘Oh, I’m just jotting down some spontaneous comments.’ Colleague Jan always wants to do everything exceptionally well. And perfectionism is also king when it comes to tie-in advertising. Advertisers want to make a spontaneous and up-to-the-minute impression, but they actually make painstaking preparations beforehand.

While the result is often already certain, the timing isn’t. The tie-in advertising for an approaching Eleven City Ice Skating Race or Queen Maxima’s delivery of a baby will have been ready and on the shelf for months if not years. In other cases the timing is certain, but the result isn’t. That’s the way it is with the final of The Voice, the UEFA European Championship and the Olympics. So advertisers come up with different versions and agree with the media that they’ll place the version that goes the best with the result. Once in a blue moon there is suddenly tie-in news that nobody had anticipated. That’s when the fuses in Jan’s brain blow. And that’s apparently what happened to Grolsch beer and Chocomel chocolatemilk. They ran incredibly vicious tie-ins with Dutch gymnast Yuri van Gelder, who was sent home simultaneously with Brazilian President Rousseff.

Isn’t it odd that these large professional advertisers – where everything is laid down in detail in organograms, protocols, codes of conduct and brand books – overstepped the bounds? What could possess advertisers that invest millions in corporate social responsibility to throw their own corporate image to the wind? Isn’t it remarkable that large A-brands suddenly drop their role as sympathetic supporter? A ‘take a bite out of life’ tie-in with Suarez could have been funny, but don’t take the mickey out of our national heroes.

Were the responsible marketers lazing in their hammock by the pool and were the social media juniors left to do whatever they liked? Or did the marketers want to feel young again and get caught up in their Facebook friends’ lame humour? In any event it’s strange. Because marketers know better than anyone that the images of brands and top athletes are vulnerable. They’re built over years and broken in a day. But social media are self-cleaning. After a super short trial, the jury of public opinion gave them such a merciless spanking that they won’t be able to sit down again until Christmas. Just in time to receive the Lead Lion 2016 award for the worst advertising

Grolsch Radler’s tie-in. 

Grolsch Radler’s tie-in. 


Amsterdam holds the trumps to become creative capital of Europe.


Think about it. If magician Hans Klok has lost the plot after the triple disappearing act of Cameron, Johnson and Farage. If Grexit scores 5 million search results on Google and Brexit 155 million. If Standard & Poors strips the UK of its triple A rating and sustains the Netherlands’ rating. If Deloitte’s Bart Verschoor says Brexit is the best thing that ever happened to the Netherlands as a trading nation. If Asia, with a total population six times that of Europe, has a penchant for gambling, but steers way clear of political and economic uncertainty when doing business. If you no longer have to sit in a stinky underground to trudge to the office, but can gleefully cycle to work above ground. If you can trade in your hypocritical stiff upper lips for straight-talking bridge-builders. If we’ve got more universities than we know what to do with here in the Netherlands and our students can still speak fluent Cambridge English after guzzling thirty beers. If Hamburg is too boring for multinationals and Paris is a socialist morass of misery. If London sounds glamorous, but in reality you’ve usually got to live in deprived and dismal suburbs like Slought, where The Office with Ricky Gervais was incidentally filmed. If AkzoNobel moves its head office from London to Amsterdam’s Zuidas business district to save an astronomical amount of tax. If the FedEx European head office is located in Hoofddorp on the outskirts of Amsterdam. If Amsterdam is declared the European Capital of Innovation 2016. If Netherlands-based ING and their Amsterdam agency J. Walter Thompson are the big winners at the international advertising festival in Cannes. If Willem Sijthoff and Cor van Zadelhoff convert the old Diamond Exchange into Capital C, a stunning head office of the creative industry. If that sector in the UK is good for 121 billion dollars and if we can cut out twenty or so slices from the pie without being noticed, just as a starter of course. Then creative Netherlands would have to really muck things up not to make Amsterdam the Creative Capital of Europe in short order. Or like the English say: Strike while the iron is hot. So no more handing out honours for Amsterdam Mayor Van der Laan, no more going to Toppers concerts for Prime Minister Rutte and no more appearing on game shows for Amsterdam Deputy Mayor Ollengren. You heard me right. The summer recess has been cancelled with immediate effect. Because the cards are never going to be stacked more in favour of the Netherlands than they are right now.

Diamond Exchange is being converted into the head office of Amsterdam’s creative industry.

Diamond Exchange is being converted into the head office of Amsterdam’s creative industry.



AXE EFFECT WEARS OFF [Digital Market Asia]


In recent months we’ve seen a number of remarkable hellos and goodbyes of advertising icons. Coca-Cola was no longer as happy as it once was with its campaign. So after 7 years of prosaic advertising, it said goodbye to the ‘Open happiness’ theme. Coca-Cola will now focus on life’s little pleasures. And Axe deodorant stopped being a chick magnet. The Axe man must dare to believe in himself, without any help from the outside, and definitely not from a can of deodorant. The leading character’s large nose doesn’t stop him from being lucky with the ladies, on the contrary. If only I’d known that 40 years ago. The members of the goodbye club have a lot in common. They’re giving up advertising fairytales and turning their focus more to real life. And the new Axe man works for the same company as the equally imperfect but not unattractive Dove woman. Unilever’s happy couple. 

It’s hard to say goodbye. But we’re fortunately getting familiar and trusted advertising heroes in return. Michael J Fox is back from the future in a commercial for Toyota. Thanks to Star Wars, Chewbacca is making a comeback in a campaign for Verizon, Walmart and Vans. And last but not least, Dutch fish finger company Iglo is looking for a new captain. So this all goes to show that we’re wrapping up in the fuzzy warm blankets of old and familiar faces. The only thing that puts a damper on this is that Iglo’s job description says the captain doesn’t necessarily have to have a beard. It seems to me this will cause confusion, particularly among younger viewers. How much change can those little minds take after the transformation of Black Pete into Purple Pete last St. Nicholas Day? Please don't give our Captain Iglo a modern makeover. He and the Gillette man do work for different companies, right? 


ABN AMRO hired a biologist a couple of crises ago. A nice enough guy in his early thirties who had one sole responsibility: to ask the question why. They were particularly scared to death of him in the marketing department. Not a single statement, argument or decision could slip by without the biologist asking the dreaded question: Why? The ensuing answer was always something along the lines of ‘that’s just how it works at The bank’ or ‘that’s the way we’ve been doing it for a hundred years’. But our biologist wouldn’t be put off that easily. So he’d immediately fire another question: ‘Why does it work that way at The bank?’ The answer he’d get to this question never satisfied him, so he’d ask another why question and another and so on. The biologist was a thorn in the side of apathetic bankers. His colleagues thought he was an overpaid pushpin, but he was probably worth his weight in gold.

During a marketing training weekend, the same biologist surprised everybody with a story about the lemming – an ugly, mouse-like rodent. He told how scientists had always been mystified by the mass lemming migration. The entire population of these creatures march in a line across huge distances, regardless of the obstacles and barriers. Rivers, steep cliffs - it doesn’t matter – these animals will go through hell and high water. Hundreds of thousands lose their lives. But the biologist told them scientists had only just discovered that lemmings aren’t as crazy as they seem. You see, species usually move in a circular manner. So when the grass is finished in one place, they move to the next patch and consequently expand their territory in circular movements making it bigger and bigger. The point is that if you were to roll out this circle, it would cover a much greater distance than the straight line of the lemmings. A bit of quick statistical math reveals that the lemming population has a spectacularly better chance of survival. After all, there is a considerable risk that a population that moves via the long circular motion will run out of fertile fields and die. So while the lemming population might be thinned, with maybe three-quarters of it drowning, these fatalities literally form a bridge for a small group of strong survivors – even if it’s just a male and a female – who can get back to munching away and reproducing in a brand new green world.

The story left us slightly emotional and it was now our turn to ask the biologist a why question. Why did he tell us this story? He saw it as a metaphor for the marketing world in which everything always moves ‘circularly’. One step left, one step right. If we make tomato soup, we let ourselves go and concoct a Chinese version while we’re at it. And besides regular spaghetti, we’ve now got wholegrain spaghetti too. We get all exotic by adding aloe vera to shampoo. We innovate in mouse steps. So the moral of the biologist’s story is don’t keep muddling along. Don’t stack SKUs, but seek out new deltas. Hire a biologist that will pry open the rusted processes and arguments using a can of WD40. A guy who will massage the marketers’ tensed-up shoulders and let them get back to daring to make a real difference. En route to greenfields with fresh potential. Growing towards the light and moving like a stripe towards the Effie Awards podium. The lemming, it’s ugly but it gets you there!


Dick van der Lecq, CEO/ DDB Etcetera.

Studied biology for one year at the University of Utrecht in 1982. 

IBM&ISIS (Digital Market Asia)


When my best friend’s mother, Mrs Ammeraal, found out I was going into advertising, she shook her head in commiseration. In her view, admen are one step above used-car salesmen in the professional ethics stakes – and even then she was being generous. Of course, it’s no secret that advertisers are nothing less than professional seducers, using their wiles to coax people into buying anything from hot dogs to Hummers. But sometimes they also use their wicked talents to raiseawareness of some of the Big Issues of our time. 

Case in point: many of the awareness-raising campaigns created in the Netherlands over the past 50-odd years by non-profit organisation SIRE – including campaigns to warn young people of the danger of fireworks and to protest violence against first responders such as policemen and firemen – have become part of the national consciousness. The Dutch public is also well familiar with other, similar campaigns initiated by the likes of the Kidney Foundation and Wakker Dier, an animal welfare group. And now, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove is looking to take this even further by hiring advertising professionals to launch a counterattack against jihadism. From IBM to ISIS, so to speak. 

De Kerchove wants to create a campaign depicting ISISas a band of sex-crazed rapists. 
Of course, this would only be adding oil to the flames,and besides, that campaign is already there – courtesy of ISIS themselves. Judging by their propaganda videos, the Caliphate is giving professional advertisers everywhere a run for their money. They came up with a strong concept, which they’ve managed to execute successfully and have efficiently distributed across the world. Sure enough, if they promised to behave, we’d have hired them yesterday. So we can’t help but wonder just how well our creative brains stack up against these seasoned pros. You certainly don’t want to mess with any of the big boys, whether you’re talking the Bible Belt, the Vatican, the Kremlin or the government of North Korea. There’s no point in trying to sway the true believers – that is their job, after all.
But that’s where the ancient art of aikido comes in: the Asian martial art where the key is not to attack your opponent from the front, but rather to throw them off balance by channelling their movements. And we feel that’s precisely what De Kerchove should be doing: instead of creating videos against the jihadists, he should do as they do/take his cue from them/get in sync with them/move in sync with them/‘sync up’ with them.He needs to understand that young Muslims who feel alienated from society and have no prospects are susceptible to joining ISIS. The only way to break through your opponent’s radical lines of defence is by putting yourself in their position. Those embracing the principles of aikido in this sense would do well to take a leaf from the Quran, which preaches the same commandments as the Bible, and from Islam, which condemns terrorism as a crime against humanity. Aikidoka also understand that any campaign cannot be imposed from the outside but must come from within, by giving a voice to respected imams, disillusioned defectors, or dissidents such as Tunahan Kuzu and Selçuk Öztürk, two Dutch citizens of Turkish descent who recently launched their own political party.

In making his appeal, De Kerchove has paid advertising professionals the biggest compliment of all. Let’s all vow not to let him – or Mrs Ammeraal – down.