My first year as the founder of A.D. new world? The first year when I no longer serve harmful brands. The first year when I resigned from charging mark-ups and fugazi fees. The first year I help mighty zebras and social brands. Time for a balance sheet.
Ever since I was 22, my life was about serving the agency. I dedicated my entire adulthood to climbing the ladders of the creative industry. For almost half of my life, I have been delivering, exceeding and excelling for the A-brands in the corporate champions league. I was in, I was there, I was part of it: living in Amsterdam, in the beating heart of Dutch Design.
Halfway through my career, I stumbled upon a photo from archives of the legendary Dutch Design house. Five big names, all men, in the middle of a tough creative meeting: a session heavy with monumental ideas and strong opinions, dripping with power, executive energy and grand visions doodled from cigarette smoke.
As I looked around, I realized that the creative world has not changed that much since 1961.
And then I asked myself: why am I into this army-like culture of monumental egos? Why am I growing businesses that are a testament to the old ways? Why am I brushing over the exploitative character of the brands that I serve? Why do I think it is normal to work with a faceless ‘corporate’? Why do I help sell things we do not need? Why do I help generate unimaginable profits for people who think they need jaguars & jets? Why am I right in the middle of it: inside the sleek and shiny mark-up pyramid?
You’d think that would be a really good reason to leave. Almost: it took me yet another contract to be someone’s hired gun, a burn-out and a good old therapy session to finally wake up.
Here I was, aged thirty-seven, right in the middle of the corona lockdown, in the country and culture that hosts me, yet is not mine. I made up my mind.
When I said that my new company will not work for harmful brands with the imperial business model, I heard: but surely, you can do that on the side while you freelance for some good paying agency?
When I said that my new business will not be charging mark-ups to attract brands that pave the way for conscious capitalism, I was told: oh, so you are now into doing the pro-bono thing?
When I said that I will work solely for social enterprises, zebra start-ups and brands with impact at heart, they said: it is so great, but there is no money there and you can’t do that at scale.
Well, I scale deep, I scale within. The only thing I am losing? An over-blown profit from imaginary fugazi fees. Instead, I invest in a knowledge & value rich network connecting independent, impact-oriented brand talent with social entrepreneurs. I want my work to be rich in synergy and win-win partnerships. I want to make my work better through quality, not quantity.
Time for a balance sheet. My first year as the founder of A.D. new world, my first year in the new world of creativity?
I do have less on my bank account, yet: it is enough. I no longer live from weekend to weekend — I wake up excited about my clients and work. I don’t chase well-paying gigs: instead, I choose to help the impact sector and social entrepreneurship. I’m not in it to milk a cow, I’m in it to build trust-based partnerships. I teach zebra start-ups how to fly and be proud of how humane they are. I am no longer a hired gun. I no longer use my skills to win, I use them to create and build. I create new branding tools and build new strategies to help social brands stay clear of fast branding and unicorn DIYs. I make time for things that drive positive change in the creative industry. I launched the Female Heroes series to address the painful lack of women in the pantheon of creative leaders and design stars.
All of that pays off in great satisfaction and even greater business relationships: socially driven, value-based and sparkling with purposeful energy. I look forward to another year like that. Yet another one where we’ll start within, we’ll start from the trust, we’ll start from ‘the why’.
About the author: I’m a brand strategist and the founder of A.D. new world — brand design consultancy for social enterprises, B-corps, Zebra start-ups and impact brands. I am co-creating a freelance based network of conscious brands makers, brand owners and brand artists. Through my work, I want to contribute not only to building the purposeful brand army and a better creative industry. Happy to connect via LinkedIn & Instagram.