With more than 14 years of experience in media, advertising and at FMCG brands, Carsten Meijer is responsible for the commercial operation of VICE in the European region. Having started his career at Nestlé, and developed through social media pioneer HYVES, Boomerang, IMA and Icemedia, he landed at VICE eight years ago. There, he’s helping international brands and agencies in being both impactful and successful in targeting and being part of the culture of young people. Managing the commercial teams in the region by building and maintaining a culture of pride and winning is what drives him.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with him to find out more.
LBB> Where did you grow up, and what sort of kid were you? Were there any clues back then as to the career path you’d take?
Carsten> I grew up in a small town in the Netherlands near the border with Germany called Millingen aan de Rijn. I had a beautiful childhood with my brother and the rest of my family. We lived in nature, so we were outside all the time. Playing football was a big part of my upbringing. To this day, I am still an avid Ajax fan. I was very close with my granddad and loved going for long walks in nature with him and his dog.
When I became a bit older, I started to go to middle school in Nijmegen and discovered that there was more to life than football and long walks. I started finding my love for electronic music and made new friends.
LBB> How did you get into advertising? Was it a purposeful decision or more of an accident?
Carsten> When I was younger, I always wanted to become an architect or work in advertising. Creativity is what attracted me to those domains.
Nonetheless, I started my career in fast-moving consumer goods working for Nestle. After that, I landed a job at one of the first social media sites out there called HYVES. I had a fantastic experience there with creativity at the helm of everything we did and a tremendous team. I’ve continued working in creative companies ever since.
LBB> In the early days of your career, what were some projects/clients that particularly helped you to grow and understand the business?
Carsten> Central in everything I do is my team. I am a passionate person and the teams early on in my career truly shaped my enthusiasm and spirit to work in this industry. I learned so much from working with them and still carry that with me in my daily job. I am keen on bringing teams into a winning flow and a big believer in teamwork.
A special client that springs to mind is Tabasco because it was the first big client outside of the Netherlands that I worked with. Tabasco is a great brand because it has heritage, and it is still a family-owned business. Over the years we have built such a strong relationship with the team over there and worked on many amazing projects together. I still enjoy the ‘The Home of Hot Sauce’ documentary we launched on our food platform Munchies with Matty Matheson since it is a beautiful plunge into Southern American food culture.
LBB> Are there any lessons that you wish you'd learned earlier?
Carsten> Being hyper-aware and super switched on is important in my role. It took me a while to get there. I am still practising the art of listening every day. And by that, I mean truly listening to my teams and clients to understand what's going on and how we can improve our work.
Another thing I am working on is taking the time to take a step back and think about how to strategise for the time ahead. Think about the workstreams, the people and new initiatives. Allowing yourself to do this is sometimes challenging in the fast-paced advertising and media industry. But doing this will bring rest and oversight, I've learnt it will make you a better leader with a clear vision.
LBB> When you joined VICE Media in 2014, what was the business like? What do you remember about your first impressions?
Carsten> To me, it felt like coming home. So many talented people and so much opportunity. What I loved most about working at VICE and actually still love about it is to step into a boardroom full of senior marketing leaders together with my young team. The first response is often to be a bit sceptical. ‘Is this young team really going to tell me what to do?’ Converting that scepticism to enthusiasm two weeks later when presenting our proposal and seeing the brilliance and creativity coming from them is honestly what motivates me every day. Unexpected connections often originate between senior marketing execs and my team members. They mutually benefit from it and our people become advisors on how brand work can culturally resonate with the young target demographic. That is what I loved about VICE in 2014, and what I still love about it today.
LBB> In eight years the business has changed almost beyond all recognition. What's the most exciting change since then?
Carsten> It is the continuous change itself. New social platforms originate that we need to understand. Web3 is on the horizon and we need to adjust and understand the opportunities. New generations with totally different ways of working become new leaders, and everyone needs to adapt.
Culturally, brands need to stay up to date and as a professional, you need to educate yourself every day. I munch the insights reports that our brilliant insights team publishes and try to stay up to date by accomplishing mandatory blocks of reading.
LBB> What are you recently most proud of and why?
Carsten> The work that my colleague Morten Grubak and his team within VIRTUE, the creative agency by VICE, are doing is something to be proud of. He is using technology and his creativity to do good for the world. Specifically, our new initiative ‘Backup Ukraine
’, is a recent example of work that makes me proud.
The app that VIRTUE developed is repurposing Polycam, a powerful prosumer app that allows you to use an iPhone or iPad to 3D scan any physical object and distribute it to create a means for anyone in Ukraine to quickly and easily scan and upload digital renderings of important landmarks.
This way these landmarks are preserved and possibly even will be rebuilt later.
LBB> What are your most exciting plans for VICE right now?
Carsten> There is a groundbreaking new documentary coming out that I, unfortunately, am not allowed to talk about. Expect something as level-setting as the stuff we did in the past by bringing Dennis Rodman to North Korea
We are working on some exciting partnerships with industry-leading brands on a European level.
LBB> What trends in the industry do you find yourself ranting about the most and why?
Carsten> I am not the type of person that rants that much. But the overall tendency of our industry is to all be chasing the same hypes and saying the same things. I like it when companies and people choose their own paths and have a distinct POV.
LBB> Outside of work, what's inspiring you right now?
Carsten> As you probably know I am an Amsterdammer and I recently fell back in love with my city. It is so good to see it come back to life and see culture thriving.
There are many great concerts happening in the city and it’s as vibrant and as “gezellig” (as we say in Dutch) as ever before.
It is inspiring to be here and I recommend everybody to pay us a visit. You may reach out to me for tips on what to do!