TAXI Europe is the rebirth of Dutch digital agency Ottonico, the 22-person strong creative shop founded in 2008 by Eric Verhage and Maarten van Huijstee. Doing everything from gaming, to mobile to 'traditional' ads for clients such as Heineken, KPN Royal Dutch Telecom, TNT Post, Footlocker, ING and telecommunications brands Hi and Telefort, they had the little thing that made TAXI want them to join the TAXI family in 2009.
What is that little thing? It's the fundamental understanding that idea comes before media, and all great ideas can be executed in all media (as long as it's right for the target). Add a big dollop of nice on top, and you've got an agency culture that people come back to, not just that they're hired back after working in other networks, they want to come back.
What is the TAXI culture? Paul Lavoie has explained to me that " Each work team should be able to fit in a taxi, four people." and while this makes obvious sense, the resulting feeling permeates everyone at TAXI. Meeting inside the Majestic at Cannes (thank god, air conditioner!), Ron Smrczek the Executive Creative Director, Christopher Andrews the International Group Account Director and Eric Verhage the Managing Director strike me as friendly people in a cab, rather than hierarchy sticklers. We start talking about hair - my daughter is my hairdresser (long story) so I have never seen the recent brand win of TAXI: Unilever’s TIGI professional haircare masterbrand and sub-brands including Bed Head, Catwalk, and S:Factor.
"That'll be our job" says Ron Smrczek , "bring the brand out of the salons to you."
"TIGI represents a very cool range of brands. The company was looking for a creative agency to work with which also displayed proven strategic insight. They were impressed with our creative credentials, along with the integrated thinking we brought to the table during the pitch process."
Eric Verhage chips in: "TIGI made it clear that they are only interested in creative excellence, and we can do that in all media."
There's something about Canadians that can be summed up only with the word nice, the Dutch have a similar relaxed gezellig mentality, it strikes me as an obvious match made in heaven between the Dutch agency formerly known as Ottonico and Canadian TAXI, both by their national and agency cultures. TAXI was founded on the philosophy: " doubt the conventional create the exceptional."
Ron Smrczek says: "It informs everything we do." and he adds "Doubting convention forces us to solve problems in new and exciting ways."
Christopher Andrews continues: There’s a real culture of curiosity at TAXI. We’ve always attracted people with an inquisitive nature. You’ll find people from all sorts of working backgrounds here and I think that ultimately informs the work we do."
They all nod in agreement in the type of silent communication you see between siblings. Perhaps that's why TAXI 'hires back' people who have left, and worked for other companies for a few years. You always come back to family.