Born: Leiden, The Netherlands to a Dutch mother and English father
Worked in: The Netherlands, but always with international clients
Maartje Symons has both an insatiable curiosity and a desire to share what she learns. She also has a huge passion for media. Four years ago, she was one of the partners that founded Wisecrackers, dubbed a “creative Media Agency,” that uses the eminently quotable Albert Einstein as its source of inspiration, but reminds us that business can be both fun and enlightening.
Both Maartje and the agency have adopted a business ethos that incorporates many of the unpretentious, yet “wisecracking” maxims of Einstein. A number can be found on the agency’s website; among the favorites are:
“The important thing is to not stop questioning.”
“Never lose a holy curiosity.”
“It’s not that I’m so smart; I just stay with problems longer.”
“Bureaucracy is the death of any achievement.”
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
It’s uncanny how many of these saying have relevance to the business of marketing.
Name an innovative idea or business solution for which you are most proud. For me this innovation was big, but for someone else, it might seem very small. However I am most proud of my work for the Concertgebouw (the Concert Hall in Amsterdam). It took a year of hard, but enjoyable work to get this old institution out of its comfort zone. We discovered the boundaries of 'new' visitors and invited them to participate in the Dutch cultural environment in a non-traditional way.
Why do people see you as an innovator? I always aim to push boundaries. I ask lots of questions in an effort to find out what the 'real' source of any problem or challenge. With a business brief, for example, it may the desire to find an element that not’s yet stated, or a situation of which a client may not yet be aware. When you discover the real issues why consumers are not identifying with your brand or buying your product, you then have the first opportunity to change the situation.
What role does innovation play in your marketing strategy today? For each of my clients, innovation has a different meaning or can be explained in a different way. Sometimes it is doing something nobody has done before. At other times, it may just a small step (but one that is huge for the client). I try to be innovative with every strategy—even if it just represents a small step forward.
What is the biggest challenge you face in applying innovative thinking to international projects? The biggest challenge is courage. People find it difficult to make decisions that can’t be measured or predicted in advance. I cannot always explain in numbers why an innovative idea is great, so trust is the key… and that takes courage!
Any other interesting aspects to your international background? I really enjoy sharing my knowledge, so in addition to my role at Wisecrackers, I have been teaching Media Planning courses for 6 years to people starting in the media industry. I also teach Business English conversation lessons at media companies.
I am a member of the IAA UK and an active and enthusiastic member of the MWG (a Dutch society for media agencies/media owners/advertisers and advertising agencies)—where I help to organize the yearly Dutch media awards.