180 Amsterdam

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Amsterdam might be worth a visit for many things—art, bicycle-friendliness, cannabis-carrying coffee shops, and of most relevance to our readers—arguably—its advertising community. One of the finest examples of the latter is 180. After having made a name for itself as a spitfire independent, the-eight-year-old agency has entered a new phase of growth. In November, the shop teamed with BBDO/N.Y. to win the U.S. Sony Electronics business, and Omnicom announced shortly thereafter that it would acquire a majority stake in the Amsterdam shop, putting an end to its days as an indie player.

But joining the network ranks might just be a next step for a company that has been especially adept at partnering with large agencies—the kind of tag-team approach that may become more in vogue, and more necessary for global brands—while maintaining its unique creative voice and conceiving boundary-spanning work. 180 has collaborated with TBWA on adidas since 2001, and in partnership with Japanese agency Hakuhodo, the agency also won a separate global branding assignment from Sony in December.

As you might expect, the agency's co-ECDs, Andy Fackrell and Richard Bullock, are a pair of globetrotters. Fackrell, a New Zealander, left Wieden + Kennedy/Portland for 180 four years ago, while Bullock, an Aussie, arrived from Cliff Freeman around the same time. "It's a U.N. here," says Fackrell, 44. "In the creative department, we have two of everything – we've got Noah's Ark. We've got two Finns, two South Africans, two Germans, two New Zealanders, two Brits, two Australians, and I think a couple of others."

Meanwhile, the agency has consistently delivered big campaigns for adidas— particularly when it comes to soccer—culminating in last year's "+10" World Cup campaign. Based on the idea that an individual player is nothing without teammates, the global campaign enlisted star players to pick teams of regular people to compete with them in a series exhibition matches. "It was such a big campaign that we had to be the creative hub and the creative directors of the campaign, but we also had to be able to let it go ourselves and utilize 40 or 50 different partner agencies," says Fackrell of the campaign, which required cross-platform execution in markets around the globe. "Our answer has always been to go for a win/win situation," Bullock says of such multi-agency collaborations. "It's been difficult at times, but we've proved it can be done. The collaboration we had with TBWA was very successful for our client and that's all that matters. Both agencies get great work out and we have made good friends, so the experience has been very rewarding."

Surely, this knack for collaboration was one reason Omnicom President/CEO John Wren came calling. In the case of Sony U.S., 180 and BBDO will be working on separate briefs for different pieces of the business, as determined by the client. Most recently, 180 has been doing retail work, while BBDO has been working on branding, although "it's very early days in the relationship," according to Fackrell.

In the meantime, 180 will be doing for its new network what it's been doing all along: offering another option, both for existing accounts and in pursuing new business. "They get to get another, global perspective," Fackrell says. "I just think we've proved with adidas that a small shop can punch above its weight and come up with big, global ideas. It's just about the quality of ideas that get through, I think, and perhaps with the scale of our place, it's easier for that."

180 currently has 150 employees—up from 120 a few months ago—and more will be added in L.A., where the agency is in the process of opening an office to service the Sony account. 180 just signed papers on a 13,000+ square foot space on 2nd Street in Santa Monica, and managing partner Peter Cline—former head of broadcast production in Amsterdam—has relocated to set up the branch, which is being manned by Amsterdam-based creatives working between the offices while the rest of the staff—including a creative director—is named. The agency also just announced that Antero Jokinen and Niklas Lilja, the Finnish team behind the agency's Motorola Pebl spot, shot by David Fincher, and an upcoming campaign for Glenfiddich, will be joining Cline in Southern California.

"Hopefully the L.A. office is going to have the same spontaneity we've had in Amsterdam," Fackrell says. To Bullock, that will mean the branch, like the home office, will—as Fackrell says—"punch above its weight."

"We are a small agency by U.S. standards," Bullock says of the 180 DNA. "Everyone pitches in. We can't afford to fight internally, so we generally find that our creative team includes the IT guy. Which is in fact the truth. He just wrote our MTV Aids campaign." (Jim Hanas)
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