On the Blaak in Rotterdam — dwarfed by modern offices — stands an old bank building. The brick walls carry a red tile roof, under which an art academy nests. In its front two plane trees stand, and there’s a quote above the door that reads: “I have to change to stay the same.”
Four years I went through that door, not understanding the quote. I thought semesters would bring me to bloom, not change, and that I just needed the time, that I’d grow the way a flower grows. I didn’t yet understand that time and change are exactly the same thing.
Before graduating, I arrived at Vandebron, like a first day at school, where there wasn’t much apart from a few desks, binders full of prints and five guys. There was a plan, and a name that had just changed.
But you just start, try your best and everything works. Suddenly, in the perceived length of a movie, there’s a company with so many colleagues that you cannot remember all the names. You feel older as you see the insecurity you once had in others.
Sometimes I wonder whether Vandebron is a success, or whether the moment on which we can call it that is yet to come. These two-and-a-half years have been equally good as though. I have this inner-voice that haunts me like Bundini: “That wasn’t good enough”, “you should change that”, and “you could do better there”. But despite how infinite and annoying it is, I also love that voice.
I know I’ve done things alright, but was it good or luck? Maybe it doesn’t matter and maybe we’re not supposed to understand everything.
Although you love them, eventually you outgrow the very things that shaped you. What you don’t want to see is like the small patch of water between the harbour and a departing ship. And if time is indeed the synonym of change, it’s not so weird how we want different things at different moments in our lives.
Leaving Vandebron for KesselsKramer has taught me that you can only have half the things you desperately want from life. It’s tragic, but on a brighter note it’s nice that at least we get to choose which half.
All of the universe’s infinite beauty, is created from only three primary colours on the palette, from only twelve notes on the musical scale, from only twenty-six letters in the alphabet, and from only one-hundred-and-eighteen chemical elements.
The point is that creativity doesn’t stifle from basic structures: it thrives from a set of parameters in which it can function.
If the tools aren’t there, ideas can’t develop, and without a purpose, there’s no measurement. And so ideas remain what they are: ideas.
People want to unleash their creativity and add to all the universe’s beauty.
Give them a palette, and more importantly: a canvas.
From what rises ambition? Or love? Why can’t some of us be content with the lives we’ve been given? Why do some yearn for so much more? Tom Pryce wanted to drive cars, fast, and couldn’t be stopped by the perils of the sport. He was on a seemingly impossible quest for greatness, yet by no fault of his own, he lost his life in the attempt.
Read my 11th driver spotlight on BadgerGP, here.
Not doing what everyone would do, not taking what everybody would take. That’s strategy at heart, and there’s a Chinese tale that tells with surprising truth about a Mandarin who spent years fishing on the riverbanks, using a straight needle instead of a hook. People looked and wondered, and told everyone about that remarkable way of fishing. The story spread through the country, eventually reaching the emperor, who came to look for the fisherman himself. “What do you expect to catch with this hook?”, the emperor asked. The answer came serenely: “You, my emperor”, said the man.
Working in the ad industry can be weird, at times. It struck me when our first television campaign went live on national television, for Supradyn, those vitamin supplements. Instead of feeling proud, I felt confused: “Are this pills even working?”, and “Who am I helping here?”.
From then on, I saw the ad industry in a different light, and suddenly it seemed so weird to work on promoting supermarkets one week, to campaign against foodwaste the other week. It felt so trivial to sell new flavours of toothpaste, or new fragments of shampoo. It’s not per se that I felt better than that, but I did feel the world could do fine without all that nonsense. Maybe the disinterest that people have against advertising, I started to feel while working in the ad industry.
Luckily I got the change to get on board at Vandebron just when it started, and I worked really hard, but also spirited, to create media with meaning. We’re creating a better world, like so many other companies. But few of them, really, are ad agencies.
I wrote longer on this for OneWorld, a Dutch magazine, the full article which you can read here.
Some days ago, Vandebron won the Launch of the Year award, from the Dutch Marketing Award. Especially for the marketing team, it’s great — because after all the awards Vandebron received for social and renewable impact, this is also a nod that our marketing is sound. Also, it’s special because what we do, doesn’t per se feel like marketing: We show where your energy comes from, with pictures, text and video. If you do that well, does it become marketing?
André Oerlemans wrote afterwards:
“The most endearing moment of the evening was the presentation of the Launch of the Year award, which went to Vandebron. According to jury chairman and former winner Erik van Engelen, the company didn’t fall into the typical tree-hugger approach, but opted for a fresh and bold marketing strategy. Marketers Jaap and Pieter stood somewhat confused on stage to receive the award:”This is our first job. We are fresh out of school, without any marketing experience. We basically just do what we think is right.”
Dutch marketing & advertising websites Adformatie & Pim Online interviewed me about Vandebron, about our lack of experience in the energy market and the way we do marketing. You can read the interview (in Dutch) here:
Vandebron profiteert van gebrek aan ervaring in energiemarkt