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Mad Men - those crazy Dutch

I was catching up on the ad scene (advertising industry) news in Amsterdam recently and read a comment by a managing director on how bewildered they were as to the  divide here in the advertising community. It's a world of two sides, one being the international global advertising agencies (three of which I have worked for in the past) and the second being the 'just Dutch' ad agencies. The director comment on how the two communities don't really mix, socially or professionally, and was at a loss as to why that is.

To digress I once met a young Englishman here who lived here for much of his life, his parents where English and he spoke perfect Dutch. One would think that a fluency in the language and a longevity of stay would mean a fuller degree of integration. Not so I was informed, he commented that there were 3 separate communities in Amsterdam, the Dutch, the ex-pat and the international community and essentially the 3 don't mix. I inquired what was the difference between the international community and the ex-pat community, he responded that the ex-pat stayed for a limited number of years while the international community stayed here for the long term.

I was slightly shocked by this as the Dutch very much herald the secret to integration is a good mastering of the language and culture. Twelve years on I have a good understanding of the language albeit not fully fluent, but if anything my increased understanding of the society alienates me even further. I now know what they're saying as well as thinking. I have good relations with many Dutch people, but the best relationships are with those who have lived abroad or are very broad mined, something I could also say applies to the Irish people I have good relations with.

So one might expect that a creative industry would be full of such broad minded individuals. Indeed it is. But repeatedly I find the Dutch need to retreat into a provincial state of mind the more they expand their horizons, it's as if they get scared, afraid that the ground is becoming too shaky, so back they go, clinging.

And. It is this very peculiar behavior that means the Dutch need Dutch creatives to art direct Dutch advertising campaigns and why the many international HQ's that are based here truly need international people to develop their international ad campaigns. My only regret is that too few Dutch colleagues understand this and do too little to address it. It is their loss.


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