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Chris Sahota 

The Netherlands: Learning from the hub of convergence

The Netherlands: Learning from the hub of convergence

The Netherlands has fostered a marketing utopia, writes Chris Sahota - here's how we can replicate it

The Netherlands is hailed as a barometer of what’s next for the global media and marketing space for one key reason. The region has become a hub of convergence, with 16 mergers and acquisitions in 2015 and 22 deals struck in 2016, including; Dentsu Aegis Network’s procurement of Achtung and Nielsen’s purchase of Pointlogic Development.

As a result, the Netherlands is home to a range of hybrid agencies; formidable media Titans built from multiple smaller players. By combining the best in creative ingenuity and smart technology, these agencies are not only able to boost their overall capability, but also deliver higher quality user experiences - which in turn makes for better relationships between brands and consumers.

Last year, for example, the forward-thinking J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam was crowned Cannes Lions Innovation Agency of the Year after the sensation of its ‘Next Rembrandt’ campaign for the ING bank, which used facial recognition technology and 3D-printing to create a new masterpiece.

So how can other regions replicate the success of this marketing utopia? To answer this question, let’s take a look at the latest major union Ciesco advised on - communications behemoth Havas Group’s acquisition of edgy agency Lemz - and what such deals can teach us about the future of the industry.

Bringing more meaning to marketing

Meaningfulness is emerging as a powerful brand driver, underlined by a growing need in consumers to live a responsible life.

People want brands to improve their lives and those of the people they care about: in a recent study exploring ‘responsible consumption’, IRI and Boston Consulting Group found that responsible products can command a 58% higher price tag and according to a survey from Globescan, 40% of today’s aspirational consumers want purchases to do social good.

Yet The Havas Meaningful Brand Index, one of the largest annual studies of meaningful brands, reveals there is a huge disconnect between people and brands. Most people would not care if 74% of all brands disappeared for good, with only 40% of consumers believing brands help improve their life quality and well-being.

And this is where Havas-Lemz sets a new path for other brands to follow. Havas is committed to building meaningful connections between people and brands, and with the pro-social, creative firepower of Lemz it will have greater ability to do so.

Lemz has a talent for raising awareness of social causes with highly engaging content - in 2014 its globally acclaimed campaign ‘Sweetie’, which focused on reducing online child abuse, won the Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Festival of Creativity.

The acquisition makes sense for Lemz too, as in Havas it has not only found a “strong meeting of minds”, according to CEO Willem van der Schoot, but also the opportunity to achieve larger scale by tapping into the strategic advantages offered by Havas’ extensive international services, and reach.

In short, the agency is due to become the “most meaningful agency in the Netherlands” because it will unite the strengths of its core components to stand for something more than advertising. And this is the lesson other markets need to learn: blending abilities to provide meaningful marketing.

A shift towards horizontal integration

Secondly, with the boundaries between advertising and content - not to mention branding, media and technology - rapidly diminishing, demand for integrated, multi-purpose solutions is rising.

As a result, a new breed of marketing technology is evolving that puts ‘integrated horizontality’ at it’s centre; an idea that promotes the sharing of ideas and innovations to boost internal efficiency, and capacity, as well as the range and quality of services available to clients.

And Havas-Lemz is one of the leading Netherlands-based agencies spearheading this movement. Effective integration is one of the key future goals for the agency and an important part of the union, with Christian de la Villehuchet, Chief Integration Officer at Havas, describing it as the ideal way to “accelerate the process of building a hub where talent and ideas can flourish and deliver impactful integrated creativity.”

This refers to a project that aims to eradicate silos across the group, the Havas Village, which is intended to connect previously separate agencies and disciplines, such as strategy, creative, digital, media and PR, to enable better understanding and effective workflow.

After launching four years ago, the project is already active in 46 cities worldwide and has laid the foundations for new acquisitions, such as Lemz, to seamlessly link up to the Havas machine with minimal disruption to services, and efficacy.

For global markets, the Havas Village has also shown that it is possible to build a borderless super-network that enables multiple branches of a business to work as one and successfully meet every marketing need. And now we’ve seen it can be done, it’s a safe bet that such networks will become more common, which means organisations must start streamlining now to retain their competitive edge.

The Havas-Lemz partnership is the perfect example of why the Netherlands is a marketing utopia. By unifying not just their values, vision and purpose, but also their complementary expertise and technological ability, Havas and Lemz have enhanced their capacity to deliver the meaningful marketing consumers want and keep operations running smoothly at scale.

In an increasingly complex ecosystem, such simplistic efficiency is something we could all do with replicating.

Chris Sahota is founder and chief executive of Ciesco

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