There’s a new ad brand in town, called the Account Planners Group (APG) Netherlands, an organization that brings account planners – or strategists, if you will – together. APG is an existing brand that was first coined in London and which now exists in several other countries than the UK, among which Germany, Sweden, and Australia. Gerald Hensel, German, planner at Blast Radius, blogger, and fanatic tweeter, is the initiator and the co-founder of the Dutch APG. In November, the first open invitation meeting kicked off at Strawberry Frog – hosting the event. We were there and judging by the amount of planners that attended, it was a success. We took Gerald out for lunch at Stanislavski to ask him a few questions about his initiative.
First of all, please tell us a little about yourself
I’ve lived in Amsterdam for a little over 18 months. I work as Strategist for Blast Radius – an international agency for digital marketing. I consider myself undoubtedly a well-connected digital guy, so I was already interacting with Amsterdam agency peeps before my arrival here. This definitely facilitated me to quickly get to know a lot of people and also become part of the scene.
Though I try not to be stereotypical German myself – if such a thing exists – there is one thing Germans like; clubs and associations. When I came here, I was simply astonished that no formal or informal frame existed for the planners in town. So I decided to create one, together with two planners, Heather LeFevre, who I knew through Twitter, and Wouter Boon, who I knew through Amsterdam Ad Blog. We managed to assemble the first couple of strategists for a Stammtisch – as we call it in Germany – which is a regular pub meet & greet. Nothing more, nothing less.
[Gerald orders a fresh orange juice and salade Niçoise]
Though I try not to be stereotypical German myself – if such a thing exists – there is one thing Germans like; clubs and associations
Why did you find it necessary to establish an APG Netherlands?
Because planners are an endangered, diverse species, yet they are more important than ever as they carry the lion’s share of the change in our industry. Other job profiles are much more standardized; there are countless trainings and guilds for design, but hardly any for strategists. Plus, most of them have very exotic backgrounds; I studied Political Sciences and Literature for instance, and used to work as a copywriter for seven years. That’s not even extreme. Each person in this informal professional group can work better as part of a group of likeminded people. But the actual day job of a planner is very different depending on whether he calls himself a Brand Strategist, a Media Strategist, a Connection Planner or whatsoever. Additionally, differences can be found in a Dutch and Non-Dutch background. So we can learn a lot from each other.
Planners are an endangered, diverse species, yet they are more important than ever as they carry the lion’s share of the change in our industry
The idea behind the APG Netherlands is to create a forum for everyone that considers him or herself Planner. Hopefully it will become something that helps us to network as well as learn from one another. We should appreciate the fact that our job is about learning and about generating insights. Since strategists are a curious bunch by nature, I cannot imagine any strategist that wouldn’t be interested. In fact, a strategist that is not eager to learn something is not a strategist at all!
Who are the founders of APG Netherlands?
We are a group of seven people now that bring all the facets of planning together; media, integrated, and digital. We are also a wide range of nationalities; Dutch, American, English, and German. It was certainly not intentional to create such a balanced mix, but I guess this proves my earlier point about the diversity of backgrounds. So far, we get along very well and every now and then we even make decisions in between our discussions… [Hensel laughs out loud]
Since strategists are a curious bunch by nature, I cannot imagine any strategist that wouldn’t be interested. In fact, a strategist that is not eager to learn something is not a strategist at all
Apart from me there is: Heather LeFevre, former SD at Strawberry Frog and since very recently freelancing; Wouter Boon, also freelancing as Boon Strategy; my colleague Simon Neate-Stidson from Blast Radius; Laurence Parkes from AKQA; Boris Nihom from They; and Laura van den Boom from FHV BBDO.
What was the theme of the first meeting at Strawberry Frog?
This was about one of the core elements of any Strategist’s job: where, as individuals, do we get our insights from – or at least, where do we pretend to get them from? [Hensel smiles] In other words, what has inspired us to write certain creative briefs.
How did it go?
I think it went extremely well. Thanks again to our friends from Strawberry Frog who provided just the perfect location for such an event. All of us were a bit anxious if there would be enough people interested. But it turned out to be busy with about 80 Strategists attending. We viewed some great presentations. The feedback supported my perception that the first event was a success.
And the key thing for me was; it didn’t feel like a professional club. It felt like hanging out with a lot of smart people with many things to talk about, and that’s great, isn’t it?
When is the next APG event and what will the theme be?
The next APG event is coming soon – it will be on the 2nd of February. The title is: ‘Success by Failure’. It’s about the mistakes we make and what we learn from them.