I’m in Amsterdam with Clay Mills at the W+K offices, one of the more successful creative agencies we know. Over its 32-year existence, it has received wide international recognition: besides numerous awards, the Amsterdam agency recently won an Effectiveness Lion Grand Prix, proving their work impacts their clients’ bottom line.

As we sit down in the agency’s open meeting area with two freshly brewed espressos, I ask Clay about the secret of the agency’s success.

“What makes W+K what it is?”

“There are several things,” says Clay. “For one, we are an independent agency and we believe that independence is everything. It gives us the freedom to make decisions around producing the best work.” When we think about new relationships: “What are the products and who is behind the brand/company? What is their ambition? Who are the people? What is their reputation and their

Clay Mills W+K Amsterdam – Arounf the World in 80 Brands

“A third, related point is our conviction that work comes first. Our aim is to provide an environment that inspires our people to create the best work of their lives. These are some of the ingredients that make us who we are and explain our approach to creation. We pride ourselves on developing enduring brand ideas – not just ads. We found Booking.com’s brand voice”

“Can you give me an example?”

Clay pauses for a second to think, then says: “Booking.com is a good example: we helped the largest accommodation site in the world take on its role as a leader and helped start its transformation from a great product into a great brand, with meaning.”

“How did you do that?”

“We faced two related challenges: first we wanted to define Booking’s brand voice and second we had to launch them into a cluttered and commodity-driven market. We found that the category is bizarrely devoid of real emotion given that vacation time is not only extremely precious, it is enjoyable and fun and accommodation can make or break a trip. So our approach was to bring some emotion and fun to the category and create a brand that resonates with people through demonstrating insight into real, human behaviour.”

Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam - Around the World in 80 Brands
Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam – Around the World in 80 Brands

“And what were the results of your strategy?”

“Since we launched the campaign at the start of 2013, unaided awareness has increased from 1% to 9% and aided awareness from has risen from 14% to 49%. A shared belief: ‘The Work Comes First’

“Can you relate the success of the campaign to the way you work with the client in this case? Based on what you told me earlier about your client selection process?”

Booking.com has a very efficiently run marketing organization with effective decision making. And, most importantly, they have a huge ambition, are willing to take risks. They share the belief that ‘the work comes first’.”


Clay Mills - Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam
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