The story of Wim Ubachs

The story of Wim Ubachs

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Wim Ubachs - creative director 

The second episode of a series of personal blogs in which quirky and self-confident men together with author Onno Aerden go in search of the soul of style. This time we proudly present Wim Ubachs, art and creative director with a passion for sprezzatura.

“On my daily ride to school, I always composed a melody. On my way back home another one. All my life, music has been my driving force, but not until recently I can combine my love for music with my passion for advertising. And if it’s up to me in the near future also with moviemaking.”

“As a teenager, I saw a wonderful production of Orkater. An impressive performance combining orchestra and theatre. I thought: that’s what I want to do, music theatre!

“At the Academy of Theatre in Amsterdam, they thought I was too much of a director. On stage I acted with a so-called third eye, always overlooking the entire scene. A talent more rare than acting, they said - but I didn’t want to switch to the director’s course, because of its bad reputation. I then tried the drama course, but too much cabaret to my taste. And I forgot my ballet steps all the time, too.”

“Next, to have something at hand, I became apprentice journalist for local Amsterdam newspaper De Echo. Check-in at five in the morning to report on the shipment of two rhinos from Artis Zoo to Kuala Lumpur. Or an interview with someone who had won the soccer toto five times. I became a little cynical about that and my six-month contract wasn't renewed.”

“When I joined one of the advertising salesmen of De Echo on his daily tour visiting small Amsterdam retailers, something changed. On the spot, I convinced the owner of the famous local sock selling kiosk Stemm in Southeast Amsterdam to advertise in our paper, by coming up with the slogan: ’Stemm. Kousen voor haar. Sokken voor hem' (Stemm. Stockings for her. Socks for him). He immediately signed up for advertisement with that slogan. And so I discovered my talent for copywriting and advertising.”


“And so I enrolled advertising as a junior copywriter at the end of the seventies, an indecent profession those days. To my luck, I quickly won a big pitch together with an also very young art director to learn that advertising is not a job, but a profession. Or even a lifestyle I would say.”

“Since then I have been able to make a lot of big award-winning campaigns in the Netherlands, like ’Even Apeldoorn Bellen’ for Centraal Beheer, ‘Volkswagen. Wie anders?’, the ‘Jochem de Bruin’-campaign for Rabobank. ‘Geen fratsen. Dat scheelt.’, for C1000 and many more.”

“The advertising agency Ubachs Wisbrun, which I co-founded in 1997, was very successful. In 2007 it merged with agency PPGH JWT: UbachsWisbrun/JWT. For me, that brought such a big cultural change that I left in 2009. Since then I have been operating from my own strategic advertising agency Ubach’s Egg (‘het Ei van Ubachs’), modest in size and with beautiful client portfolio, such as the current campaign for the big educational institute NCOI ‘De stok dat zijn wij, de lat die bepaal jij’.”

“Advertising does not define the style, but advertisers are quick followers. We have got a nose for what is ‘hot or not’. At the beginning of my career, we were still dressing like in the seventies: wide denim suits, long hair. In the eighties, our suits became tight with silk ties. Nowadays the hipster scene reigns, or well, that one is also over again. By the way, it is true that art directors - image creators - are more style conscious than copywriters."

“Back in the eighties and nineties, I spend fortunes on outfits at renowned fashion store Reflections on PC Hooftstraat. I always paid attention to my outfits and looks: important for one's self-esteem and respectful towards your surroundings. About us in the creative industry, people often said ‘for you, it’s okay to be messy and careless; that’s part of your identity’, but in my opinion that’s nonsense. I would be on my best going to a client in a cut-to-the-bone burgundy suit. Well, thought and just a little different. That’s my style”.

“One could describe my style as ‘loosely, but not careless’. Seemingly effortless. In Italy there is this fantastic and untranslatable word 'sprezzatura' – that’s me! Rembrandt painted the first Jan Six from the Amsterdam merchant family in 1654. With a rider's coat loosely draped over the left shoulder, a symbol of the grand voyage he made to Italy for his upbringing, a privilege for the elite. He pulls down his glove nonchalantly to show his cuff. Sprezzatura. Both by Six and by Rembrandt, who also painted that seemingly careless, but significant moment. And all that in a deceptively loose style - brilliant. All to be read in that beautiful book by Geert Mak, the Lifes of Jan Six’. So, sprezzatura and colour. I love to wear colour!”

“After I left the agency in 2009, I was not allowed to work in advertising for a while. It felt like some forced early retirement. It was awful. I then decided to never stop and always work as a creative free agent. To me, it is not working or a hobby – it is my soul of style.

The style of Wim:

  • Restaurant:

    "After all these years still Toscanini. Because of the food, obviously, but also because I love the style of this fantastic place."

  • Country:

    "Italy, by far. Children eat at the table, respect for the elderly, care for detail in everything."

  • Music:

    "I live music. From Beatles to Bach. Recently I saw Brian Wilson perform in Carré here in Amsterdam."

  • Scent:

    “That’s actually a secret ... Lalique's Encre Noire for the day and Givenchy's Gentleman for the night.”

  • Car:

    "Dream for advertisers. I've worked on a lot of brands. Drive Volvo yourself now, but in terms of style? At BMW they think of everything, but Audi radiates that - yes, Audi also has sprezzatura."

  • Clothing:

    Get a sneak peek of my Possen collection. Click Here


Photo By Reinier RVDA