I’m about to meet Clay Mills, managing director for the independent advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam.
Since arriving in Amsterdam in 2010, Clay has prioritised building a business at W+K Amsterdam where creativity equals effectiveness. And in 2013, the agency won the prestigious ‘Grand Prix Creative Effectiveness Lion’ award at Cannes for Heineken.
Clay, it seems, is not only building brands but also growing business. I meet up with him against a backdrop of 17th-century canals and gentrified warehouses in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam – the most authentic and creative part of the city.
While I order a coffee at one of the many cafés, I take a look at my notes on Clay. From what I read, I can tell that Clay has been around. He started his career in advertising in New York and then moved to London. From there he made a short move to Shanghai and is now based here in Amsterdam. Having international experience and knowledge of different cultures is obviously a big advantage when leading an international agency, working for global brands.
[Creating an environment where creative people can do amazing work]
“So, what’s your secret formula at W+K Amsterdam?”
“Creating an environment where creative people can do amazing work. After all creativity is our output. Managing a creative agency is always quite challenging, however. It’s a very specific skill and it requires the ability to lead a non-linear process – creativity – and manage a diverse group of personalities.”
I ask Clay about his international experience.
“I have travelled quite a bit,” says Clay, “from the USA to Europe, to China, and back to Europe. I’ve tried to surpass my own
boundaries by throwing myself in different situations, different countries, and different cultures. This has been rewarding on both
a professional and a personal level.”
“I saw you won a ‘Creative Effectiveness Lion’ in Cannes. What did that mean to you?” I ask.
“Winning a ‘Grand Prix’ is already quite something… but winning a ‘Creative Effectiveness Lion’ proves that creativity builds
[Advertising should add to popular culture]
After we finish our coffees we walk towards the W+K office.
“What gets you out of bed in the morning?” I ask him.
“I still have a lot to learn and to prove to myself. Plus, I want to add something to society, which isn’t always easy in the field I work in. Advertising is such a pervasive part of our lives: the average individual in Western society is bombarded with hundreds of adverts a day – billboards, TV commercials, internet ads, mobile ads, magazine ads… But advertising is also part of popular culture; a mode of socialization, telling us how to think and feel, what’s hip, what’s sexy. And it’s how you tap into that. In the creative industry, we’re able to tell stories that become part of popular culture. That’s why it’s essential we add to that culture rather than pollute it.”
© 2014 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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