When I started my internship at JWT Amsterdam, early 2013, I saw advertising as a sport (I even wrote an article titled as such, back then). There wasn’t any morale for me, my motivation was just to sell as many products as possible. For the internship, I only had one goal: producing a television commercial. If we, my teammate and I, manage that, I would consider the internship a succes.
Halfway through our internship, we reached that goal. Niek and I produced a storyboard for Supradyn, which was duly turned into a television spot. We were the only ones from our class to do such a thing, and millions in the country would see our work.
I was certain the campaign would sell lots of pills, as a small test on the target audience proved our ad pulled all the right triggers. Yet, instead of pride and satisfaction, I was in doubt. “Do these pills even work?”, I wondered, and “Do people really need this?” Ultimately, I was was left befuddled: “What am I doing?”
That doubt remained, and suddenly I started looking at the advertising industry from a different perspective. One week, I could be creating concepts to raise supermarket sales, the next week I could be busy with a campaign against food waste. All this time, I was wondering what my own principles were.
Disillusioned, I started my graduation at the art academy. I wanted to storm the world, change it, and put my mark on it. Instead, I had been trained to sell new flavours of toothpaste.
Perhaps blighted by the quarter-life crisis, I realised a career in advertising wasn’t going to lead me to a meaningful life. The award shows, the parties, the vibe of agency life, that’s all nice — but without a bigger picture, it’s devoid of any meaning. The world has bigger themes than the latest BMW model.
I did another internship at another ad agency, and was to about to do another one, in the spring of 2014. But the seed had been planted, and it bloomed: I had enough. Instead, I joined a startup called Republiq, which is now called Vandebron. We’re a small company that wants to have a big impact on the world, and to be fair, we’re just one of the many groups of people who are doing something about climate change. And together, we might just do it.
To me, it seems that having some of the world’s best thinkers and writers becoming advertising creatives, much like lawyers, is just a colossal waste of talent. The world has bigger themes.