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‘No Ego, No Bullshit’ Mentality

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Niels Straatsma, Creative Director at SuperHeroes Amsterdam, reflects on the creative and business differences between the American and European west coast.

 

Dutch creative director Niels Straatsma recently returned to The Netherlands from R/GA Hustle in Los Angeles and joined international agency SuperHeroes Amsterdam, who also have offices in New York (formerly known as New Amsterdam, of course) and Singapore.

 

What’s the biggest difference between working on the west coast of the United States and being a creative on the ‘west coast’ of Europe? Nils Adriaans caught up with him to find out how he’s found the shift.

 

Q> Before joining SuperHeroes, you worked in Los Angeles. What was it like to work there compared to Amsterdam?

Niels> Los Angeles is a crazy, beautiful place. Almost everyone is a “transplant” who’s there to make it big one way or another. You can really feel the American dream. Everywhere around you, there are people succeeding, but also a lot of people struggling. But everyone seems to enjoy the hustle. This competitiveness shows in the ad industry too. It’s much more competitive than Amsterdam. Probably a cultural thing, or maybe because there’s a lot more hierarchy. And it is well respected. That took some getting used to for sure.

It was also interesting to be in a city that’s so close to pop culture. A lot of trends start on the west coast, in term of music, food, and fitness for example. And devices like Alexa already have a serious audience. Or for example Bird, the e-scooters, that are coming to Amsterdam soon, have been around for quite a while in LA. That culture opens opportunities for our industry.

And of course, budgets. They’re big, huge. That definitely opens opportunities. I remember making a shortlist of DOP’s and everyone in the room started naming these super famous Hollywood guys without even blinking. It felt so unreal at the moment. At the same time, everything costs a lot more as well. It’s an enormous market, so there are lots of layers, people and testing involved. Which makes everything take a lot longer, and gives ideas a lot of time to potentially die. So all that budget doesn’t necessarily make it easier to make great work.

 

Q> Going away for a longer period of time often gives you a clear view of where you were. What did you learn about Amsterdam, being one of Europe’s leading creative industries, while enjoying the Californian sun?

Niels> Amsterdam is great too!

I think a lot of creatives here tend to look at the work we see from the US and think “if only we had those budgets”. But we only see the very best work. And there’s so much we don’t see. Including all the work that doesn’t get made. Besides, working with smaller budgets isn’t so bad. It forces you to be resourceful, creative. And there’s a beauty in that too. Instead of big epic films full of celebrities, we have to find other, more original ways to stand out.

It’s in our nature to be a little more pragmatic. We want to be competing with the best in the world, we just have to do it in a relatively tiny town (with a lot of international companies) where everything is within a 15-minute bike ride.

 

Q> Given your international scope, what is the biggest shift in the advertising industry right now, in your humble opinion?

Niels> When I started in advertising 10 years ago, it was all about these new digital spaces where we could target audiences in exciting, smart and disruptive ways. What once was a smart alternative to a 30-second ad has now become a formula. It’s not the disrupting thing to do, it’s the standard. There are business models for influencer campaigns, viral factories, social whatever.

Just look at all the Alexa jokes that came during the Super Bowl this year. I think in the quest for innovation, we’ve all moved into the same direction. Which is kind of ironic. I don’t mean to be cynical, technology offers great opportunities to reinvent ourselves and stand out, but we shouldn’t use tech for the sake of just standing out; it should always make sense for the consumer, it should make his or her life seamlessly better or easier.

 

Q> I’m sure you could have joined other international agencies as well – why did you choose SuperHeroes?

Niels> After I returned to Amsterdam I started freelancing for a while. I figured that would be the best way to find the next agency I wanted to stay. It gives the opportunity to get to know the company and the team. I wasn’t necessarily chasing international agencies, I was rather looking for the right dynamics and vision I would feel comfortable with.

SuperHeroes felt right from the get-go. Although we operate internationally, the team is very lean and mean. I love the “No ego, no bullshit” mentality, with very little hierarchy. It keeps everything moving fast. And at SuperHeroes, you can do that for a very broad range of brands, big and small.

As I joined they were in the middle of rethinking their positioning as an agency. “What is the agency for a world post-advertising?” It sounds exciting and it’s even more exciting to think along and turn it into something concrete.

 

Q> Finally, if you could give brands one piece of advice in this day and age, what would that be?

Niels> I guess purpose is the big thing now. And that’s great. People don’t care about purpose because they were told to. It’s a product of today’s culture. I would highly recommend anyone who’s thinking about starting a company to think about their purpose first!

Already established brands that haven’t thought about their purpose before however, please don’t. You can’t force purpose into a brand.

 

Niels previously worked for Achtung! mcgarrybowen, where he made this wonderful work, before heading off to California:

 

And this is one of SuperHeroes, on a mission to save the world from boring advertising, recent gems.

 

 

Originally published on LBB Online.

SuperHeroes AMS names Niels Straatsma as Creative Director

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We’ve expanded our Amsterdam creative team with our newest Creative Director, Niels Straatsma! He’s an incredible talent and addition to our team.

 

Niels started his career at 180 Amsterdam and has been active in advertising for more than 10 years. While working at Achtung!, he made many prize-winning campaigns for Vodafone, 3FM, Volkswagen, and Philips, just to name a few. As a creative director, he was also responsible for the ANWB brand campaign.

 

Straatsma then went to Los Angeles to work as Associate Creative Director at Hustle, a hub within the international advertising agency R / GA.
He then returned to the Netherlands to work as a freelancer:
“I wanted to look around and see if I could find an agency where I would feel at home. At SuperHeroes, it felt good. I like the No Ego, No Bullshit mentality here. At the same time, it is an international agency with great ambitions and an innovative vision. I look forward to contributing to making the agency more well-known around the world.”

WANTED: DESIGNER

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SuperHeroes NYC | AMS is an international creative agency that develops highly intelligent, creative and effective campaigns geared towards getting attention in a world where everyone is busy and no one cares. We’re looking for a Designer who can break through the clutter and create delicious eye candy and help us on our mission to save the world from boring advertising.

You’ll be at the heart of our Amsterdam team that spans fourteen different nationalities and are, individually and collectively, specialists in the fields of digital, film, social, design and motion, old school print and even practical jokes. We do this for an amazing international roster of clients, like MTV, ASUS, ING, and Coca-Cola.

 

Your role is to make our creative concepts and campaigns pop from any screen. As a designer, you’re constantly aware your assets will live in a landscape where a thousand visual triggers are screaming for attention. With your design skills, you ensure people choose to watch our experiences and love to share it!

 

What do we ask from a designer like you?

 

  • Within SuperHeroes, you will execute all forms of graphic design (for digital, video as well as print).
  • Your role is to add visual value to our creative campaigns.
  • You will be able to develop your own signature by creating outstanding pieces of design.
  • You’re gifted with an incredible eye for detail.
  • And another eye that keeps a close look at the ever-changing world of innovation, creativity, and design.
  • Together with the design department, you will safeguard our clients’ visual identities.
  • You’ll bring an endless feed of cultural reference points. You are tech and pop culture savvy.
  • To you, Adobe Creative Suite is like a stack of toys.
  • Other soft- and hardware skills are definitely a plus.
  • You have reached a junior to mid-level experience by working at creative agencies, brands or studios.
  • You have a good sense of humour, but more importantly: you can deal with ours ;-).
  • You are fluent in English.
  • You occasionally help an old lady cross the street.

What will you get in return?


Next to dodgy sketches from our copywriters and lovely lunches at our communal table, we have lots to offer:

 

– A full-time job in Amsterdam that gives you a chance to work on global brands.
– You’ll be surrounded by an amazing international team of creatives, strategists, developers, motion graphic designers, and client managers.
– You’ll become a Superhero (isn’t that just awesome?).
– You’ll work in our hideout at the most royal one of all Amsterdam canals.
– You’ll even get a decent salary.

– And if you prefer a mouse over a stylus, we’re OK with that too.

 

Interested?

Send your motivation and portfolio to airmail@hellosuperheroes.com. Let’s fly!

Using Images to Turn Your Brand into a Friendly Neighbour

Ede - 06-02-2017 De Kick Off van de het project 'Gelukkig Winkelen' in het centrum van Ede. Voor Nederland onder het Systeemplafond/@decorrespondent

 

Creative director Niek Eijsbouts on redefining energiedirect.nl’s image bank

 

Whether you’re at an agency or working client-side, your end goal is the same: to help shape the face of a brand. To reach this goal, you should be exploring all means necessary. Then – and only then – you might save the world from boring advertising.

This is the short story of how our agency, SuperHeroes Amsterdam/New York, brought tangible heart and soul to an energy brand that exists 100% online: energiedirect.nl. We didn’t stop at developing their campaigns but also reshaped and redefined their brand’s image bank.

 

A poisonous cocktail

An average person spends no more than 10 minutes a year managing their home’s energy. That’s less than a single episode of Road Runner (meep-meep). Within that time, your brand will be forgotten.

 

With attention spans just a blip on the radar, energy providers have a hard time getting the right attention. Due to price wars and new online movers and shakers, a lot of these brands have moved from low interest to no interest at all. Combine this with a highly competitive landscape with all of the same offers, and what’s left is a poisonous cocktail that will leave you in the graveyard of brands.

 

One of the main problems in the energy industry is customer churn. The term ‘churn’ is a phrase a fancy businessman came up with to express a group of customers leaving to find a better deal elsewhere. And since the selection of an energy supplier is driven almost exclusively by price, this makes churn a real threat to building a successful energy brand and loyal client base. However, SuperHeroes was up to the challenge and decided it was time for us as an agency to make our energy brand energiedirect.nl a little more human again.

 

The no-frills look

When you’re a straightforward, 100% online energy provider who likes to keep things simple, you need a strong yet no-frills way to express your brand. For new customers, we wanted to quickly establish an image that would make them feel at home. For existing customers, we wanted to make them feel confident in their choice and confirm that they are still on the better side of the deal. So instead of a distant, cold, corporate and happy-go-lucky stock image style photography, we introduced a visual tone-of-voice close to its consumers.

 

Holland’s ‘National’ Photographer: Jan Dirk van der Burg

We decided to instill a unique and creative touch to the brand’s image bank by choosing a documentary-style photographer. The man for the job was Jan Dirk van der Burg. He is the ‘Fotograaf des Vaderlands’, which roughly translates to ‘The Country’s National Photographer’; a title given to the photographer chosen as the national ambassador of Dutch photography for the year. We selected Van der Burg because he has mastered the art of capturing the unfiltered essence of Dutch people in all their realness. Van der Burg’s straightforward style, not unlike the brand itself, was the perfect fit to show how energiedirect.nl as a brand was equal to its customers.

 

Nederland, 02-03-2015 Betondorp is een van de weinige wijken in Amsterdam waar de gentrificatie nog niet heeft toegeslagen. Een serie van een uniek stukje hoofddstad met een roemruchte geschiedenis. Hier kijkt een reperateur van Douwe Egberts naar de motor van de Canta van een vriendin: 'Lijkt eigenlijk precies op die van de motor van een koffiemachine.'

Earlier work by Jan Dirk van der Burg with the series “Betondorp” (2015)

 

Documentary-style photography lends itself to open-ended narratives where anything is possible – but we still had to keep in mind that the image bank’s commercial goals were just as important as its creative ones. Consumers in mind. Product-focused.

That’s why together with energiedirect.nl, we described 50 different scenarios depicting various day-to-day moments with different people in and around their house. They would all match with the topics of the energy provider’s communication channels like newsletters, social media, website product pages, and the brand’s own app.

 

We gave Jan Dirk complete artistic freedom to cast the talent and choose the settings in which they would be captured. This ‘carte blanche’ way of working is the only way for a photographer like Jan Dirk to guarantee authenticity and his particular style. The candid nature of each narrative is seen and felt in each and every photo.

 

Oudenbosch - 20-02-2018 De Italië-avond van reisburo Sombrero in Oudenbosch Voor Nederland onder het Systeemplafond/@decorrespondent

The documentary-style photography of Jan Dirk for energiedirect.nl keeps it miles away from a corporate image bank

 

Jan Dirk also shoots a series for national newspaper De Volkskrant. For this series, he captures people and the particular ways they like to enjoy their weekend. Dog competitions, LARP festivals, or computer fairs are amongst the mix of events he loves to showcase. Trying to keep things real, Jan Dirk would often approach people at these events and ask to feature them and tell their unique story in their own homes. A great method that street casting just can’t beat.

 

Selecting imperfect moments

When the photographer was finished, he had amassed over 500 photos captured in 50 different situations. So how did we select the perfect shots from this plethora of content? By choosing that moment of perfect imperfection. Someone blinks. A person looking away. An uncharacteristic pose. A crooked smile. Or even a pancake in front of someone’s face.

 

Ede - 06-02-2017 De Kick Off van de het project 'Gelukkig Winkelen' in het centrum van Ede. Voor Nederland onder het Systeemplafond/@decorrespondent

Would you have selected the photo if the main character was hidden behind a pancake?

 

The result? Character in every little piece

It was immediately evident that energiedirect.nl had upped their identity. Now, every little online corner is filled with a meaningful, authentic, brand-related image. However, the facelift didn’t stop at just the website and social media: newsletters have become more visually appealing and the app is one you’ll love to scroll through, filled with relatable custom-content. Combine all this with competitive pricing and great service and customer churn has plummeted in response.

 

Similar to defining the tone-of-voice in writing, we have rewritten the image of an online brand, bringing it alive with whimsy and authenticity. What the brand lacked in physical stores, packaging – let alone a physical product – it made up for in character and impact. Although they had only a few short moments of contact a year with their customers, the numbers showed that the new, relatable, documentary-style photography was a hit. Less wallpaper, more human.

 

Welcome home with energiedirect.nl.

 

Oudenbosch - 30-40-2018 Afscheid van Jorgos van restaurant Delphi. Voor Nederland onder het Systeemplafond/@decorrespondent

Solar panels aren’t the most photogenic items, however, Jan Dirk has found beauty in its symmetry

 

Ede - 06-02-2017 De Kick Off van de het project 'Gelukkig Winkelen' in het centrum van Ede. Voor Nederland onder het Systeemplafond/@decorrespondent

When visiting a Commodore fan event, Jan Dirk asked one of the people to capture him in his own home for energiedirect.nl

 

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Sustainability and a greener environment is one of the key goals of energiedirect.nl

 

 

This article was published on Little Black Book.

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