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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  Agency Profile: Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam

Agency Profile: Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam

Posted on November 29, 2011 and read 11,131 times

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brianna Agency Profile: Wieden+Kennedy AmsterdamBrianna Graves

Simultaneously bawling and laughing is one way to introduce oneself to an agency. But the circumstances under which I met my hosts at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam were extraordinary. Being the morning after the Tomorrow Awards Conference and Ceremony (and after-party), I was in such a haze I did not realize until I went to reach for it to pay for a coffee that my wallet- with my passport, credit cards, bank account information, checkbooks, license and cash- was missing from my bag. That was 30 seconds before the Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam PR team walked in the door. Adding panic and worry to my existing Tomorrow Awards-induced daze, I said hello and introduced myself to the team, explaining the situation. Fast-forward five hours, two trips to the Dutch Politie (Police), an appointment with the U.S. Embassy and a kind cabbie later, I received the best email to date in 2011 with a subject line that read: “PASSPORT & WALLET FOUND.” Sitting in the center of the Amsterdam office of one of the largest independent agency networks in the world, I burst into hysterical tears of relief. W+K’ers from Spain, Britain and Portland, Oregon all gave me a kind hug, made me hot tea with fresh mint, and calmed me with the reassurance that they’d all been there and experienced that. After all, the trials and tribulations of life on the road are no surprise to the international melee of nomads that populate the Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam office. Their international flair is what makes them who they are.

More than 20 different nationalities work within the walls of Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, representing a blend of cultures, experience and language, even though linguistic individuality is only discernable by the accent in which a person’s English is spoken. This community of creativity-loving ex-pats produces some of the best work in the world for international clients such as Heineken, Nike, Coca-Cola, ESPN, Levi’s, Delta Airlines and Electronic Arts.

The Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam office sits facing a canal on Herengracht, a combination of two buildings and four floors of staff, separated by responsibility but not by wall, with some job functions mixed together by client. A courtyard behind the building houses a lawn with picnic tables, a bike shed, art studio, a small black neighborhood cat and plenty of peace and quiet. The interior of the building is filled with color, giant glass walls, exposed infrastructure, funny doctored staff photos and scads of visual inspiration.

Because they hail from every corner of the Earth, the people that comprise the staff at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam are a noticeably close and tight-knit bunch. It is clear that they are not forced friends, but mates by choice who not only spend a considerable amount of their time within the office, but also spend their free time together, exploring the city they’ve independently, yet collectively, chosen to make their home away from home. After the camaraderie of hours spent over beers, and weekends spent celebrating birthdays, comings, goings or local artistic discoveries, everyone I met claimed that their colleagues at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam were nothing if not family.

A special brand of quirk and dedication is embraced at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam. Described by some as creative insanity but by all as brilliance, both descriptions were expressed with equal reverence and appreciation for peers, mentors and friends around the office, as well as for the work these minds produce. The staff has come from across the world to work at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, so the work is happily somewhere between a large percentage of, or the majority of, their lives. Exploring the city of Amsterdam fills in the blanks. The culture at the office had no perceived hierarchy, a value borrowed from the Dutch, and all seemed to possess a deep desire to work hard, with an understanding that they were free to do so under autonomous direction. The office was late to rise and late to tuck it in, but clearly the work is done well above average.

Take, for instance, the widely celebrated Nike “Write the Future” campaign, which took home the top award of the Cannes Grand Prix at the 2011 International Festival of Creativity. Jam-packed with athletic celebrity, from Kobe Bryant, to Ronaldo to Roger Federer, the spot intertwines storylines in a beautifully directed and shot film to illustrate that the future of sports is decided during the pivotal moments of the game. The film, along with social media, outdoor and print, drove viewers to to write their own futures.

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In fact, the Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam office is like an Easter egg hunt for awards, with Lions, D&AD’s and Clios sitting not only in obvious places like on bookshelves and desks, but also hiding in unexpected locales like the ladies bathroom. That must be what happens when your work is continually recognized on a global scale; you have more trophies than you know what to do with.

More recent campaigns such as the Heineken “Legendary Football” campaign have a well-integrated television presence with interactive components. Heineken presented the artistry of some of the greatest players in some of the most legendary moments of the UEFA Champions League through the eyes of a Heineken drinker. Heineken’s YouTube channel hosts an interactive film with the TV commercials and digital spoofs. Additional digital content, including three ‘making of’ films, featuring exclusive interviews with Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Vieira will be released in 2012. “Legendary Football” also incorporated Heineken’s new interactive digital game, StarPlayer (created by AKQA), which offers users the chance to further enhance their UEFA Champions League live viewing experience by trying to anticipate what will happen next in the game in order to score points.

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Experimentation is widely encouraged at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam. Two separate endeavors- the Dam Armada and the Kennedys – live within the walls of the agency, supported by W+K, but run under independent business models.

The Dam Armada, a digital product development company run by Jordi Martinez, was founded to produce technically innovative new products and ideas. Not only for W+K clients, though they are most welcome to tap into the resource, but for Dam Armada-specific clients, as well. The team, made up of creative developers and designers, developed “Ferry,” a product that quickly turns PSD files into production-ready assets so that developers don’t have to reconstruct designs exported by designers into a new target platform. A dream product for digital designers and developers. The Dam Armada also created the W+K Black Book, a corporate interactive employee directory app, which has real-time search, comprehensive contact information, a coverflow model for face search, a department filter option, and even a 3-D interactive map to show the location of each employee’s desk within the building. What new employee wouldn’t want a map app to find and be in contact with their new colleagues?

The Kennedys, run by the father of the Kennedys Judd Caraway, and mentor to the Kennedys, Creative Director Alvaro Sotomeyer, is the agency’s apprenticeship program. Named for artistic agency founder David Kennedy, the 6-month program also operates from within the W+K Herengracht headquarters. Six young creatives from all walks of life-a writer from Paris, a cinematographer/director/editor from Switzerland, a stand-up comic from Australia, multi-disciplinary designer from Sweden, Portuguese drum & bass DJ and producer, and an art director from Italy- comprise the current roster. They are an agency within the agency, working on real briefs for their own small, local clients, and weighing in on select smaller W+K briefs and projects as well. The Kennedys live together and work together; the only thing they don’t have is their lives taped. But they do broadcast their goings-on through the Kennedys’ blog, Facebook and Twitter feed.

group shot with david kennedy Agency Profile: Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam

It’s not surprising that such a program would be named for one of the agency founders, as there is a great deal of respect for Dan Wieden and David Kennedy among the network. This is perhaps best demonstrated annually on April 1st, which marks “Founders Day” at every Wieden+Kennedy office across the world (those offices being Portland, London, New York, Shanghai, Delhi, Sao Paulo, Tokyo and Amsterdam). The staff in each office shows up to work on Founder’s Day but the office shuts down and a surprise quest awaits. The exact adventure changes from year to year but always gives the teams a chance to step away from their desks and phones to enjoy food, drink and an escapade (and perhaps a bit of debauchery if things go well). One year in Amsterdam it was a trip to the beach, another a sail. Either way, it’s always a break to connect and relax.

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A well deserved recess and gesture of appreciation for an innovative, hard-working, award-winning(-and-stashing) office like Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam. They say that challenges bring you closer, and after the wallet debacle 2011, I will be forever grateful that Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam welcomed me into their international, canal-side, creatively insane and brilliant family.




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