180 Kingsday creative discusses her journalism career, a moment of clarity in Australia and working on her first international campaign
Brenda Waegemaekers has worked at Dutch creative agency 180 Kingsday for the past two-and-a-half years and next week marks the launch of her first international campaign for a German fashion brand. What’s more, it’s a fascinating, striking project (watch this space).
Originally from The Netherlands, it took several years of trying things out and living on the other side of the world in Sydney for her to discover her calling as an advertising creative back in Holland and end up at 180 Kingsday.
LBB’s Alex Reeves sat down with Brenda to hear her story so far.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what were you like as a kid? Any clues that you had a particular creative spark?
BW> I grew up in Nijmegen, a city in the east of The Netherlands. My childhood years were very carefree, but I remember being quite serious for a kid. I once wrote a letter to the minister for agriculture because I was so upset that caged eggs were still allowed in our country. Half a year later I got a letter back. That was pretty cool.
From an early age, I felt the urge to be ‘creative’, but it was still a bit all over the place. I was determined to become a singer, dancer or actress, then realised that I didn’t excel in either. Luckily, I found my match in writing. Although I have to say, my dance skills are actually not that bad.
LBB> You were first interested in becoming a journalist, right? How did you find that?
BW> My background is maybe different from fellow creatives in the industry, as I didn’t study anything advertising or design. I have a bachelor’s in social psychology and a master’s in journalism. But as much as I enjoyed studying it, journalism was a little too factual for me. I wanted more room for imagination. During that time, I also wrote for cultural magazines, where I could be freer in my writing style, which suited me much better.
Today, both of my studies still come in handy in my job though, so no regrets whatsoever.
LBB> Then you upped sticks and moved to the other side of the world to study advertising in Sydney. What was that like and how did it affect or change you?
BW> After I graduated, I wanted a break so I moved to Sydney. It was a year filled with sunshine and freedom, but it also gave me a lot of time to reflect and grow a stronger sense of self. I mean, I was on my own on the other side of the world, so I guess that’s what I was supposed to be doing.
I sort of stumbled into copywriting when I moved into a house with two Australian guys. One of them happened to be an art director. Before, I didn’t think too positively about advertising to be honest, but his stories about the creative side of it sounded fascinating and triggered my curiosity. So instead of developing my surf skills, I signed up for a copywriting course at AdSchool. And when I finished I was like, “yeah let’s do this”.
LBB> And what has your time at Kingsday / 180 Kingsday been like?
BW> It’s been a great ride so far. As soon as I came back from Australia, I basically knocked on the door of every Dutch agency. Thankfully Kingsday took me on, and gave me six months to prove myself. I remember asking if it was an internship or a traineeship. And they were like, “no, it’s a job”.
The merger with 180 last summer has been great for me. I’ve been given the chance to work on very exciting projects already, and I’m fortunate to work with a bunch of talented people from all over the world. There’s just a really good vibe in our office at the moment, which keeps me going for it to the fullest.
LBB> What projects that you've worked on are you most proud of?
BW> In the first year at Kingsday, I was involved in the concept phase of a campaign for the Dutch Heart Foundation. We created a mantra that helped people recognise the signals of a stroke faster. It was great to see it really made an impact. I’m very much drawn to advertising for a good cause.
LBB> What's your opinion on the current state of Dutch advertising?
BW> I think there’s tons of great work that has been made here in the last years. But I think we can push for the edge a bit more. Or as Kalle Hellzen, our executive creative director, would advise us, “make some trouble!”
LBB> Last year you worked on a project called Recipe for Change. Could you tell us a bit about that? What provoked it and what did you learn from the experience?
BW> Last October, Michael Bien and I were shortlisted for The Climate Action Challenge of What Design Can Do with our concept ‘Recipe for Change’. It was thrilling to have our idea being selected out of 384 entries and see it being featured at Dutch Design Week.
As climate change is such an extensive issue, it was important to choose one focus topic early in the process. For us that was beef consumption. To fight this climate threat, people need to drastically change their beef-eating behaviour. However, people don’t like being told what to do. That’s how we came up with ‘Recipe for Change’, a silent strategy that influences people’s beef-eating habits.
The idea was to subconsciously lower the amount of beef in the recipes people cook, with help from chefs, bloggers and cooking magazines. Let’s say the normal amount was 500g, it would now be changed to 300g. The goal was to make sure people didn’t notice they were consuming less beef, to later prove to them how easy it is to reduce, simply because they were already doing it.
We’re now in the process of turning our concept into reality.
I’m very interested in what creativity can do to solve bigger issues than a product that doesn’t sell. I think it’s such a powerful tool, and we need more creativity to solve more serious problems. I want to keep striving to create work that is both meaningful and beautiful.
LBB> What do you do outside of work to relax?
BW> Yoga, daydreaming, and dancing till dawn.
LBB> Do you have any advice for younger, budding creatives who want to work professionally in advertising?
BW> My advice would be: dare to ask for the things you want. Don’t wait for that job opening, don’t wait for your portfolio to be perfect and don’t wait for the right time because that time is now. Just make sure you ask politely.
And it might be cliché, but I think it’s especially important in this field to stay true to yourself. Our industry is filled with big mouths and even bigger opinions, so the most powerful thing to do is to speak your honest mind. Develop your own style and trust your gut. If you don’t feel it’s right, then don’t do or make it.
LBB> Do you have any soon to be released projects or plans for future that you would like people to know about?
BW> Next week my first international campaign launches, so I’m super excited. We’re rebranding a German fashion brand that’s gotten a bit of a dusty reputation. In the campaign, we take the misconceptions people have about the brand and middle-aged women in general, and flip them on their head. We playfully undermine them by showing how there’s much more to the brand and its consumers than meets the eye. It’s bold, fun and puts a group in the spotlight that’s been pretty underrepresented in ads. Rachel Kennedy and I had a lot of fun making it, and I hope that shines through.
Keep your eyes peeled for the new campaign next week!
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