It’s easy for the big names in advertising to attract attention, but when I began The Stable a local agency called 180 Amsterdam was one of the agencies attracted mine. It was doing some kickass work and seemed to manage this tricky juxtaposition of creativity and marketing with remarkable finesse.
The agency was originally founded as a break-away from Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam. It began in a kitchen in 1998. The founding partners, Alex Melvin, Guy Hayward, Chris Mendola and Larry Frey left Wieden+Kennedy suddenly, to start an agency to work on an initial brief for adidas. As you can imagine, this was not without controversy.
Founder Alex Melvin (RIP) decided on the name – 180 – based on a quote from Francis Ford Coppola, “To keep going in a crisis, do a 180-degree turn. Turn the situation halfway around. Don’t look for the secure solution. Don’t pull back from the passion. Turn it on full force.”
180 Amsterdam is now called 180 Kingsday. It’s still doing kickass work. And it still seems to be managing this tricky juxtaposition of creativity and marketing (one might even say, trickier now juxtaposition…) with remarkable finesse.
180 Kingsday has just turned twenty. It gave itself the joy of letting the adworld know about that at Amsterdam’s Adnight festival on October 5, opening its doors to reveal 20 years of its big ideas, 180 thinking and history of campaigns by presenting a creative retrospective and a panel discussion between some of the agency’s most well-known names from the last two decades discussing the impact of 20 years of 180 Thinking.
This is a little of that story, illustrated by some of those campaigns:
After opening 180, its founders spent the following decade creating a raft of campaigns for adidas. They broke rules and won awards. The work included the Impossible Is Nothing platform, with Laila Ali boxing her father Muhammad Ali:
World Cup campaigns including 2006’s +10
and the Beckham and Wilkinson spot.
After splitting with adidas in 2010, the agency began to service a range of multi-market clients including PlayStation, Asics, Benetton, DHL, Replay, HP, Heineken, BMW and Under Armour.
And the Agency grew. It’s now 100 people strong and has adapted to environmental changes internally and externally, several times over.
“We built 180 upon the concept of 180 Thinking, which is breaking away from the tired status quo of how brands are often built and how they are taken to market,” explained Chris Mendola, founder of 180.
“Advertising and marketing is constantly evolving as technology and culture move forward, yet it can be all too easy to slip into the trap of conventional marketing and advertising thinking. Proud brands deserve better. 180 has always been centred on creativity. Creativity is not just about content creation, but also about the consumer journey that a brand creates. My partners and I are proud of the 180 we set-up in 1998. It was a smart agency model then, and it’s proven to be an even better one today.”
In 2017, the 180 Amsterdam office announced a surprise merger with Kingsday to boost its data, social and digital expertise. The move raised eyebrows at the time, but has already reaped rewards not only through increased capabilities, but also financially, with major account wins for Lays UEFA Champions League sponsorship, BMW and the bonprix brand, which is part of online retail giant, the Otto Group.
“180 is a boutique creative agency with international DNA,” noted Kalle Hellzen, executive creative director at 180 Kingsday. “And its model is as relevant now as it was at its inception 20 years ago. In an industry marked by consolidation and consultancies, the world needs agencies like 180 more than ever. We put the continued success of 180 down not only to creativity, but also to resilience. The strength of its founding principles, its culture and the wonderfully diverse and talented people within this building throughout the decades.”
“Increasingly clients are looking for maximum impact with minimal fuss,” added Sander Volten, chief executive officer of 180 Kingsday. “They don’t want to go through several layers and multiple teams for their high impact activities – rather they are looking for one small group of seasoned and very smart people who can cut through the problem or opportunity at hand. They are looking for a creative and strategic solution that can break flesh, like an arrow. This is exactly the impact that we offer.”
To visualise the anniversary, a series of murals have been produced to capture the iimagery and moments from the last 20 years in a graphic collage style. These images, installed throughout the building, are also reproduced on T-shirts and in social media. As a final touch a special 180 font has been developed in-house to commemorate the date and to celebrate the studio’s borderline obsession with type fonts.
The agency itself will celebrate by heading to Dublin for a day and night of revelry.
Al Moseley, president 180LA, commented, “We’re commemorating this moment in time by looking back at our achievements, but also by looking forward to our future. And we’re celebrating the wealth of talent that has been part of 180’s story. To all 180 people, past present and future, we salute you!”
180’s 20 Year anniversary reel: