A Focus On... Netherlands


Population: 16,683,000
Monetary unit: Euro
Capital city: Amsterdam
Major languages: Dutch
Major religions: Roman Catholic c. 30%; Reformed/Lutheran tradition c. 20%; Muslim c. 6%; nonreligious/atheist c. 40%; other c. 4%
Ethnic composition: Netherlander 79.8%; from EU countries 5.5%; Indonesian 2.3%; Turkish 2.3%; German 2.3%; Surinamese 2.1%; Moroccan 2.1%; Netherlands Antillean/Aruban 0.8%; other 2.8%
Age breakdown: under 15, 17.5%; 15–29, 18.3%; 30–44, 20.5%; 45–59, 21.5%; 60–74, 15.2%; 75–84, 5.2%; 85 and over, 1.8%
Life expectancy: male 78.8 years; female 82.7 years
Education: Percentage of population age 25 and older having: no formal schooling through lower secondary education 34.1%; upper secondary 34.4%; higher vocational 3.5%; university 28.0%
Urban/Rural split: urban 82.9%; rural 17.1%.
Income per household (USD): -
Broadband internet users (%): -

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica


The Netherlands may be a relatively small market with just 16 million people, but it is nonetheless home to several international headquarters such as Shell and Philips, as well as to the European head offices of many US firms including Cisco Systems, Eastman Chemical, Nike, Starbucks Coffee and Office Depot.

The PR industry is therefore, if not a major player compared to neighbours such as the UK, France and Germany, established and credible. It is an industry that has changed markedly over the past few years, largely due to the shift towards social media and the integration of marketing and communications. Marieke van Zuien, director of customer & corporate PR at financial services company BNP Paribas, says: “The focus has moved from social media as a relatively stand-alone idea to a true belief in content as the main driver for integrated PR.”

Tim van der Zanden, director of external relations at Akzo Nobel, the world's largest paints and coatings company, offers examples of how his team has delivered this: “We've put QR codes on milk cartons and links to consumer and brand websites in our annual reports. We ran a very successful Facebook campaign for our customers to win Formula One gear, and the internal video we did in the style of The Office to bid our CEO farewell generated huge attention in both social and traditional media.”

Industry insiders report that this growth of interest in new communications techniques, together with the decline in PR budgets that has taken place over the past four years, has profoundly altered the landscape of the PR industry in the Netherlands. Large generalist agencies have given way to small, specialised and flexible “hot shops” or self-employed consultants.


The leading Dutch dailies are De Telegraaf, De Volkskrant, NRC Handelsblad and Het Financieele Dagblad. For lifestyle and fashion there are Dutch versions of leading international publications such as Vogue, Marie-Claire, Cosmopolitan, and so on.  FD is the Dutch equivalent of the Financial Times. Free newspapers such as Metro are also important.

In terms of broadcast, Dutch public television airs important news programmes Nieuwsuur, and NOS

Journaal, and commercial television has RTL News.

“Generic onlines such as are key to achieve volume and awareness,” says van Zuien at BNP Paribas. “They often turn out to be the hub between the source of the story and many other news outlets, such as radio and TV. At the same time, the national newspapers, especially those who have made a successful entrance into a digital or mobile format, remain of high importance.”

Major Brands

The Netherlands has its fair share of international brands such as KLM, Heineken, Philips and Shell. Indeed KLM has won plaudits for its use of social media – its social seating campaign being just the latest to make headlines – and Heineken gained coverage for its cultural stunt during this season's Real Madrid versus AC Milan game.

Yet many smaller brands have also been making waves. Brewery Bavaria's “Dutchy Dress”

campaign hijacked Heineken’s sponsorship of the 2010 World Cup. The renovated Scheepvaartmuseum (National Maritime Museum) ran a celebrated “No Facebook without the Dutch” campaign. With its “I Amsterdam” campaign the city’s tourist authorities managed to create a new tourist landmark in itself.


Industry observers report that monthly retainers and annual contracts have become a rarity. Pitches for projects with budgets as little as 10,000 euros have become commonplace, and this has put many established agencies under pressure with the result that in 2012 big names such as Euro RSCG PR and Pauw & Van Spaendonck went out of business while many others were forced to reduce headcount.

There are though many remaining. Of the international networks Hill + Knowlton Strategies, MSL, Lewis PR and Weber-Shandwick lead the way, while Cohn & Wolfe, Edelman, Fleishman-Hillard, Grayling and Burson-Marsteller are also present.

Important local players include Winkelman Van Hessen, Bex, Van Hulzen, Bijl PR, and Whizpr.

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