Pol Hoenderboom: ‘It often isn’t glamorous at all’
Posted on July 04, 2019 | By Nils Adriaans & Gijs de Swarte

Dutchy Pol Hoenderboom, VP Creative Director at BBDO New York, is responsible for multiple Golden Lion winning campaigns, including the mind-bending ‘Live Looper’ music video that helped the agency take number one position on the WARC ranking, and become Agency of the Year at the D&AD, One Show and Webby’s.

1) What was your biggest fear when you just started?

Pol Hoenderboom: ‘I wouldn’t call it fear, but I wondered if I was good enough to land a job in advertising. I admired the award-winning work that came out of the big agencies and bought all the art-directors club annuals to learn from the best. But always realized I had a lot to learn. Years later when I landed a job as a junior creative I finally realized that being a junior is actually the sweet spot in an agency. If you want, you can work on all the briefs, while at the same time nobody really expects you to crack or own the brief. If it’s good, you’re making a name for yourself, if it’s bad, there’s always a senior team that delivers.’

2) Please describe your key-career break moment…

‘December 2009, I was suddenly made redundant because of the loss of our biggest client at Grey Amsterdam. At that point I wasn’t sure my book was good enough to comfortably reach out to the big agencies - even though I just got my first Cannes Shortlist a few months earlier. I was checking out small local agencies, when I heard Tribal DDB Amsterdam was looking for a copywriter. A few weeks later I had a coffee with an art director called Bart Mol (now also CD BBDO New York). January 2010 we worked on our first brief together. It didn’t take long before we became Agency of the Year in the Netherlands. And just when you think things can’t get any better, we got the chance to work in New York, play a part in making BBDO New York Agency of the Year at multiple award shows.’

3) What was the lesson learned from your most loved mistake?

‘Thinking advertising is glamorous. It often isn’t. In my first month of advertising we sold a campaign to Giant bicycles and I had to fly to Cape Town for a shoot. I thought I was living the dream and that this would be the case with every campaign… Looking back there are so many things that I took for granted. Presenting your work to the client face to face for instance. Selling your idea in the first round and having enough budget to shoot it the way you want. I’ve worked on campaigns where I only presented through a spider phone. I’ve worked on a brief for a year, actually made the work and had it killed by the client because of internal politics. I’ve… If only it was as easy as my first campaign…’

4) Where do you get your inspiration?

‘I think 99% of all the creatives will give you the same answer - Life. I know it is super vague but it’s just true. Most of the time when working on a brief and coming up with an insight you refer to things that you experienced in the past. To give an example; when Bart and I created “Obsessed with Sound” for Philips, we could both really relate to the brief because we both play an instrument. When we created “The Beauty in Motion”, the visual design was inspired by a marble table, we saw years and years ago during the Dutch Design week. What else? I love reading comments; Youtube, Reddit, Twitter you name it. There are so many hilarious people out there with a very funny view on life.’

5) If you want to get ahead in advertising these days, please, please do not ever…

‘Don’t be an asshole. I have come across a few people in my career who think they’ve got the ‘right’ to be an asshole. Arrogant, disrespectful, thinking they can be rude just because they’re superior or just won a few awards. When we started talking with BBDO New York, the interesting thing was that our portfolio hardly came up. They had obviously seen our work, and just wanted to see what kind of team we were. It became very clear that they had a strict ‘no asshole policy’.‘

6) If I was a millennial and wanted to start in advertising now, I would…

‘Just remember to keep doing what you love and give yourself time to get where you want to be. I knew I wanted to work in advertising, but the studies I applied for all rejected me several times. Finally, after 3 years, there was one school where I got in. When I graduated 4 years later and wanted to study advertising on a higher level I was rejected again at the school of my choice. Sometimes you just need a bit of luck. When I was a junior at one point they didn’t renew my contract after half a year. My Creative Director back then said, ‘it didn’t work out’. A few years later I found myself in a situation where I had to review his work. Keep in mind that everything can chance very fast in our business.’

6,5) Also, I'd like to state that…

‘I was fortunate enough to be in a position where my career also boosted my private life. The moment I got the offer to move to New York we - as a family - became closer. We moved when my daughter was 1.5 years old and our son was born in New York some time later. Suddenly we find ourselves strolling through Central Park on a weekend or taking road trips and spending Christmas in the Grand Canyon.’