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London calling: ‘Everything is tested here’

Image from left to right: Annelies Valk, Jan-Willem Brüggenwirth, Maria Isabel Reyes.

After five years as a marketer for Vodafone having worked in the Netherlands, stepped Annelies Valk in 2017 to headquarters in London to lead the brand’s repositioning there. “I must say that I like it; this city is so diverse, energetic, people are open, there is always something going on. Paddington Bear once said: ‘In London everybody is different, and that’s why everyone fits in. ” I agree with him, so there is no reason for me to go back to the Netherlands for the time being. ” Since the outbreak of corona, the advertising spend has deteriorated considerably in England, says Valk. “Here in London we are still in a kind of lockdown: restaurants, hotels, bars and every kind of culture is still closed. Desks are closed. But there is also good news: the industry here has one of the strongest currencies that you can have in times of crisis, namely creativity. We come up with solutions that we never had in mind; we are basically skilled thinkers. That’s worth a lot at a time when almost everything has to be rethought. ”

The big difference in marketing between England and the Netherlands according to Valk: the former is a class society and that influences the marketing tactics. ‘Culture plays a major role here and often forms the guiding insight. Outdoors are much bigger in London than in Amsterdam, for example. ‘ Her favorite English brand is clothing brand Barbour. ‘Ancient and created for the British countryside. I also have to mention Hunter’s rain boots: iconic boots that always go with the times and the brand puts insane collabs to remain culturally relevant. “

When asked about brands that have been hit by the crisis, Valk mentions the British department store Debenhams, which is now bankrupt on paper. “They are now looking at how to make a restart. In addition, as appointed, the catering industry is struggling. For example, The Ledbury, a two-Michelin star restaurant here in Notting Hill, will not open anymore. A hard blow to the entire hospitality industry. ” Which brands are doing well in this context? Falcon: “The Financial Times recently presented a list of the 100 most successful companies in corona time: Amazon is number 1. In addition to an obvious role as an online retailer, it also helps the government with the distribution of corona tests. In addition, catering chain Pret A Manger, which did well despite closing many things: the company gave discounts to healthcare staff and brought sandwiches to the homeless. The brands that are doing well now have their heart in the right place. They not only help the shareholder, but also society. ”

And what about the Black Lives Mattermovement in London? Valk: ‘It is absolutely alive; there are protests, statues are being removed and there is clearly a lot of pain in society. Many brands respond with a corporate statement that they listen, learn and try to improve. Many task forces are also started up on how industry can work on representation in media and advertising; there is still a long way to go. On Juneteenth, the day on which slavery was abolished in the US, I first received a message from a number of advertising agencies that they would spend that day learning about institutionalized racism and would therefore not be available. That is new, and hopefully a first step to action. “

Jan-Willem Brüggenwirth is executive chairman of design agency VBAT, which also has an office in London. He lived there for a few years and more recently he flew up and down the North Sea every week up to corona for meetings and client appointments. When asked about the influence of corona on his London office: ‘First of all, there are colleagues without a job. Customers have started to spend less, so it sucks, but it is also understandable. If no more income comes in, you will have to anticipate. In addition, remote working together has become the most normal thing in the world. “

Brüggenwirth mentions Vodafone (customer of VBAT, ed.) As a brand that copes well with the crisis. ‘This is only getting bigger in these times, where data is used a lot. They benefit from that. ” He also mentions Nespresso. “Pampering yourself – especially at home – is very popular here.” A brand that has caught hits is British Rail. Brüggenwirth: ‘Nobody wants to use public transport now, because of fear of contamination. All airlines, like the rest of the world, are also in a large valley of tears. ‘ The difference between marketing in the Netherlands and England according to Brüggenwirth: the gut feeling. ‘In the Netherlands, many decisions are made by intuition and in England really not. Everything is tested there. ‘ His favorite London brand is Paul Smith. ‘A everlasting lifestyle brand with fashion collections of minimal differences, but also completely contemporary. It’s just a pity it’s so expensive. “

Maria Isabel Reyes is a creative director at advertising agency Admind in Amsterdam and previously worked in London at the Lovecraft House and TrendWatching agencies and as an art director at Facebook. She describes London as a ‘tech-driven city’. “It is full of early adopters and the marketing world has always benefited from that. Corona has ensured that offline activities can now mostly take place online. ‘ Reyes argues that London as the “largest marketing hub in Europe” should do more to fight corona. As an example she takes the gig economy (flex economy, ed.) and meal delivery brands such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo. “The crisis has further exposed their already mediocre behavior. From an ethical point of view, there is nothing good in having people on benefits and who do not have access to health care bring us our food and drinks. ‘ A brand that does well according to Reyes is sneaker brand Vans. ‘That recently launched a social campaign, a good example of how you can help each other. Shops, restaurants and art centers had their own designs designed on Vans sneakers and the sales proceeds went to those things themselves. ‘ She also mentions Lush, which delivers a ’30 seconds’ soap to people’s homes through home delivery services along with food.

Finally, the big difference between England and the Netherlands according to Reyes: language. ‘Obvious, but it has a huge impact. Everything made in the Anglo-Saxon market is picked up much faster in the rest of the world. The speed at which London campaigns are developed and executed is enormous, but it also affects the way people receive and consume all those campaigns. At the same time, the Dutch are lords and masters craft and campaigns are made truly aesthetic and based on careful consideration. “

This article previously appeared in MT20.12.

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