LONDON: HarrimanSteel, an independent creative agency, is to shut its London office after 19 years and move its operations to Amsterdam, citing the “dramatically shifting political scene” in the UK since the vote to leave the EU*.

The agency, which has produced work for Converse, Nike, and Patagonia, explained to The Drum that it would follow some of its clients across the English Channel to set up a new HQ in Amsterdam, a city “better positioned to further its scope”.

Though it says the UK remains a strong region, “with an eye to the dramatically shifting political and creative scene, we believe it makes total sense for us to focus our efforts on expanding our Central European agency in Amsterdam”, said co-founder Julian Harriman-Dickinson.

According to the report, one founder, Nick Steel, has already relocated to Amsterdam, while Harriman-Dickinson will remain in London to manage the agency’s freelance network. Despite the move, HarrimanSteel is continuing to work in the UK, as it launches a new campaign for shoe brand TOMS this week.

At LEAD 2018 last month, James Murphy, founder and CEO of adam&eveDDB, reported that a major European client had requested that its work be moved from London to continental Europe, which he said would require restructuring the business.

And at a recent Debating Group evening in the House of Commons, Murphy noted Brexit’s potential to affect the country’s brand as a good place to do business. “How long before Unilever is enticed to become more Dutch?” he asked.

Other practitioners at the evening suggested otherwise. Ogilvy & Mather’s Vice Chairman Rory Sutherland noted that the debate is often framed as if leaving the EU is a risky option, while remaining is no-risk. “That’s a bias,” he said.

In the face of economic turbulence, Sutherland remained confident: “If things are harder to sell then there’s more money to be made in selling,” he said.

HarrimanSteel suggested, meanwhile, that the departure of European agencies from London – the banking and medicines authorities have left for Paris and Amsterdam respectively – was an indicator of where the market is headed.

The Advertising Association, an industry trade body that has lobbied for maintaining an open immigration system in order to continue the industry’s supply of talent post-Brexit, has warned of the need to maintain a strong voice for the industry.

* since this story was published it has been brought to our attention that HarrimanSteel Ltd had in January appointed a liquidator as part of a voluntary winding-up process.

Sourced from The Drum, Advertising Association; additional content by WARC staff