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Strategy Rocks

Advertising Agency
Amsterdam, Netherlands
INFLUENCER: Music and strategy are closer than you think, says DDB & Tribal Amsterdam strategy director Ralf Hesen

Advertising strategists shouldn’t just be a one-trick pony. I'm Ralf, and I work as a strategy director at DDB & Tribal Amsterdam.  But I also compose music and perform with my band Lemon. Worlds apart, but also similar - and I strongly feel that all strategy people should play music. Let me tell you why.


Emotion in motion

Strategy focuses on the rational. That makes total sense, since the creatives will strongly focus on the emotional piece. However, when performing on stage, emotion is everything. Emotion is the heart of good communication. I believe this experience helps me in writing briefs, in creative reviews, developing strategy, and working with people. In just about every aspect of my work.  


Everything needs to come together

It’s not just the bass line, not just the solos, not just the lyrics. To make it work, every piece needs to fit, everything needs to come together for the audience. The same goes for strategy, creative, production and how we present to our clients.  At the request of one of our business directors, I presented the same story to different audiences over and over again, but had to tweak it to fit the agenda and profile of each audience. If she had not played things right, our award winning creative work would never have seen the light of day.


It is not about perfection, it is about the energy

My stage performance is not immaculate. I sing, I play the guitar, I talk to the audience, I jump around. Sometimes I miss a note. Too bad, but that's not what it's about. Looking for a perfect execution? Listen to one of our albums (there is a reason why our latest is titled: Perfect It Will Never Be). If you want to connect, want to really reach people, it’s about energy. That is what I look for in the work we create for our clients. I dare to confess not all the work we created for KLM was perfect, but because of its energy it still scored big time. Check out our Bonding Buffet work, that reached over 100 million people end of last year, of which 80% was organic reach!


Bob Marley

Legend Bob Marley sang: “One good thing about music: when it hits you feel no pain” Well, developing a great strategy or a great brief is a left brain/right brain thing. You research, you carefully consider the options and create a piece that you can defend with all of your heart. But to be able to do this, I need to believe in my story. Just like I need to believe in the songs I sing. My work does not just need to be right, it needs to feel right. I know it is, when it hits. When it hits. I. Feel. No. Pain.  


And the name of the band…

I could go on and on about the value of playing music to my work, but I hope you get the picture. Still reading? I bet you love music like I do. By the way: Lemon, rings a bell? The band name is inspired by the headline of a legendary Volkswagen ad from Bill Bernbach’s hand. Groovy baby.

Work from DDB Amsterdam
Centraal Beheer Achmea
The Infamous
Hans Brinker Hotel
Volkswagen - Impressed Dog