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ARMLife Interview with General Manager Gerrit Nagel

In this month’s ARMLife we spoke with our General Manager who heads up the Amsterdam Office, Gerrit Nagel. We explore his 35 years’ experience within the media industry, his growing ambitions for the Amsterdam office. We also discover his love for vinyls!

Arianna Ross: Tell us a bit about yourself…

Gerrit Nagel: I am Dutch born and originally from the east of the Netherlands. However, I grew up in a foresty area in the centre of the country called Baarn. I now live in Beverwijk with my family, which is quite near to the sea, actually just a half an hour run away, which I try to do once a week to stay fit. I’ve got two sons, one fanatic baseball player of 14 and one 18 year old with whom I go to the gym regularly.

AR: You have quite the diverse range media experience. How has your career evolved over time?

GN: With over 35 years of experience in the advertising world, I have worked at both large and small full service ad agencies and media agencies, across a number of roles.

I chose not to attend university because at that time when I left school, companies were already willing to recruit you. I had taken classes about economical administrative education, but realised I was not interested in moving in the direction of becoming an accountant. Looking for a new direction, I met with a mentor at my school who helped me start my career as a media executive at Ogilvy and Mather, where I stayed for 8 years and learned about marketing and media planning strategy. From there I worked my way up across various advertising and media agencies. The height of my career at that time was when Starcom asked me to be their CEO in the Netherlands.

It’s strange, because although I started my advertising career with the end goal of being the CEO or Managing Director, when I became CEO I didn’t enjoy it. I was no longer an integral part of the creative or strategic discussions, and that is what I truly enjoyed. At that time, it felt right to take 6 months off to pursue personal endeavours and spend time with family. After having the time to myself, I worked for a local Dutch agency before embarking on an entirely new challenge by starting my own company around all things media. I have always been motivated by the chance to get stuck in and start a new challenge, and I believe that hunger for more led me to All Response Media.

AR: What is the main difference between other agencies and ARM?

GN: When I worked at big network media agencies, the focus was on more vague metrics such as increasing brand awareness, buying or purchase intention. ARM is different because we pursue the actual buying and conversion metrics. This way of thinking was very new to me and even now I still am learning on the job and relying on my colleague Jess for her expertise too (Jess Viles joined ARM in London 7 years ago and moved to Amsterdam when the new office opened there). I love this aspect of the work as it gives me energy experiencing new things despite having been in the industry for so long.

AR: When did you start at ARM and what does your current role entail?

GN: When I heard ARM were looking for someone to help get the Amsterdam office up and running, I was definitely interested. And after I met with CEO, Andy Sloan, and he showed me our in-house response analysis suite, ARMalytics. I was immediately impressed by the USP and I was convinced they could carve their own space in the Dutch market. I officially started at ARM in April 2016 and I haven’t felt sorrow since!

As the General Manager here in Amsterdam, I manage the team’s workload across our clients. I try to involve myself as much as possible in creating client plans and I act as the first line of contact as well. For me, I get more enjoyment in getting my hands dirty rather than just managing from a higher level. Additionally, I spend a lot of time working to acquire new business leads to share our story with. Our proprietary technology doesn’t exist in the Dutch market, so these demos usually trigger prospects to consider meeting with us or start campaigns.

AR: What do you love most about your job?

GN: Funnily enough, I just spoke to my 18-year-old son about that topic. He just finished his first internship with a media owner and having experienced working life for the first time, he couldn’t help but feel a lack of excitement. I told him that for me, work is not boring at all. I step into my car whistling because I love working with these people and providing such good service to the clients. That’s what I love about my job…working with people, changing opinions and making a difference.

AR: You have truly grown from the bottom to the top in the industry. What advice would you give to people looking to do the same?

GN: I believe you should always go for your own best and try to push yourself further than you think you can. Though it may feel comfortable to be in the warm arms of familiarity, starting from scratch with a new challenge is the best way to grow. This mentality has helped get me to where I am today and I am still always leaning into challenges rather than away from them.

AR: What is the biggest challenge you have faced while building ARM in Amsterdam? What are you most proud of?

GN: The biggest challenge, though it is a positive one, is moving beyond our borders to provide our services. Though we see similarities of marketplaces with sales houses and media owners, we still have to navigate a lot of nuances. That being said, the international experience of the team is very complimentary to that endeavour. We know we can make a difference in many international markets because they do not have something that can compete with ARMalytics.

Overall, We definitely feel the momentum around getting advertisers to think of conversion more than just brand building and we have had some big wins to prove it. Regardless of the outcome of our new business meetings, we always feel that we make a difference. Even if we aren’t getting their business immediately, we are shaping people’s opinions on DRTV.

I am most proud of our team’s chemistry and the way we all work together. Though we started with just myself and Jess, once we added Andy Brown from the London office and hired our Dutch colleagues Sara Vermani and Suzanne van de Weijer, I really saw a bond forming. It has been great to experience working with them and building this office.

AR: What would you like to achieve in the future?

GN: Beyond just growing on a local level in various countries, I would like to launch our own TV Star competition to build awareness around DRTV and ARM’s offering. It has been so successful in the UK for the last three years, and I would like to bring it here too.

AR: What is your main hobby?

GN: Naturally, listening to music is a big hobby of mine. I have a room full of nearly 2000 vinyl records and I love spinning them. I don’t have specific taste, more broad interest, but I really love music in general and go to live gigs when I can! For Father’s Day, I got a new design turntable, which made me really happy.

AR: Any hidden talents we are not aware of?

GN: I used to be a DJ at a radio station a very long time ago when DJs were still talking into intros of records, which is very different to how it is now.

AR: I heard you were dancing all night at our company away day in Dublin. What’s your favourite dance move?

GN: My favourite dance move is definitely the ones we did during the ‘ska’ music ‘mania’ in the seventies to the music of the Specials, the Beat and Madness…In fact I am going to a concert in Amsterdam soon with the Beat and the Selecter so will definitely try my moves again.

AR: What word best describes you?

GN: Though it is difficult to pick, I would say social. I love to be around people, attend events, and go out to dinner. It is what makes me happy!