As something of a creative dream team, Sander Oskamp and Danny Brugman complement each other perfectly: Sander as the company’s founder and creative director, and Danny as its business developer. Together, they make up the creative core of Elastique, a digital company specialised in developing business-critical and complex digital solutions.
The two men, who are relaxing in the foyer of Hilversum’s Melkfabriek mixed-use complex when we meet, work closely together in coming up with strategies and concepts for their clients.
The Elastique story reads a bit like an adventure novel. Sander and three of his friends started a business in an old attic room, devoted to creating apps and websites. Fast-forward seven years, and Elastique has become one of the frontrunners in digital transformation and the development of matching digital solutions for brands and businesses worldwide. Or, in their own words: ‘We are what you’d call digital pioneers. A collective of tech wizards, concept gurus and design rock stars dreaming up award-winning digital experiences.’
Three of the four founders are still with the company today, but the attic has been replaced with a modern office on the top floor of Hilversum’s Melkfabriek building. Taking the stairs up to the office is an experience not unlike entering a Star Trek spaceship. There are computer terminals lined up as far as the eye can see, and the office overlooks the Melkfabriek’s main hall. The open-plan office has a modern design, and the motto ‘Get shit done’ is visible on the wall.
‘Elastique is still growing like gangbusters,’ Danny says. He has been with the company for two and a half years, using his knowledge and experience to help it reach maturity. ‘We’re past the stage now of simply goofing around and creating fun apps. Our company is engaged in building business criticals: digital platforms, applications and other digital solutions that are vital to companies and brands. We support clients in their digital transformation, because even though everyone uses the internet and has an online presence, many businesses still have a hard time preparing their organisation for the digital future.
‘Being two creatives, you could say we enjoy a unique position here at Elastique. When you work for a campaign office or marketing company, you’re expected to listen to the needs and opinions of your clients. But we’re not a campaign office: we create solutions for which we know there’s a demand but where the client might be lacking the requisite technical knowledge. That may be part of what makes our work so much fun: we actually deliver something important to our clients,’ Danny says.
‘We are different from our competitors in that we adopt a truly digital approach to projects. In fact, that’s something I’ve done from an early age,’ Sander explains. ‘Any idea we come up with for our clients actually needs to be put into practice. And that’s really what Elastique is all about: everything needs to be feasible and workable. An application or platform is going to be of no value otherwise. After all, who’s going to use it if it doesn’t work properly?’
Sander has always been self-employed. When he was around 18 years old and the internet really began to take off, he became inspired by the opportunities offered by the internet in areas involving marketing, advertising and media, and was interested in the many ways you could potentially interact with users. He considers the cross-media world his playground, and he knows it inside out.
‘Data and technology have become essential to us as creatives, but at the end of the day it’s also about that gut feeling: the surge of excitement you feel whenever you create something new. Any application you create should be so good that it hits you right in the solar plexus. That’s what I try explain that to clients, the fact that a good idea is a good idea – end of; it’s as simple as that. Don’t waste time analysing everything to death, as that gut feeling is still very important in our business,’ Sander says. ‘Wisdom and magic! We have the ability to create something magic, a feeling, and we do it with the technology available to us.’
Danny acts as a liaison between the creatives and the business: the “wisdom,” if you will. As someone who’s very brand-focused, he not only helps out with Elastique’s creative projects, but also supports the client’s business in their digital transformation.
‘We don’t offer short-term solutions: we don’t deal with campaigns that end after six weeks, and so on. A platform used by all your clients and where your business interacts with these users really needs to work, both now and in the long term. We are not in the business of creating gimmicks: everything should add value for clients in some way and contribute to the development and growth of their business. In creative terms, we intend to continue along the same lines in the years to come, by creating added value for our clients, and especially for their clients.
What makes them proud?
‘For me personally, it’s the TV series Feuten (drama focusing on a group of first-year university students trying to join an exclusive student society). We created an entire cross-media experience around that show, including an application that actually allowed you to join the society and interact with other members. What made that project so great was that the lines between fiction and reality became blurred during this production. For example, there were real-life events where actors would show up as their characters on the show. I’d say this was one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever been involved in, but there are also the apps we created for (popular Dutch TV shows)De Slimste Mens and Wie Is De Mol, which helped to really put Elastique on the map.’
Danny mentions another project centred on the digital transformation. ‘I really love the application we created for Eurail Group: a free journey-planning app for people travelling anywhere in Europe. The app not only helped Eurail to transform their current business model into a digital environment, but also makes the journey much easier and more enjoyable for their customers, the passengers.
‘We contributed a fair amount of magic and wisdom of our own, but it especially delivered more added value for the company and its users.’
Lessons from the makers
‘Getting stuff done. You need to get out there and get stuff done,’ Sander says. ‘Don’t just sit there and talk for hours about what you’re going to do, but actually make it happen! I used to be in a band, and we always had all these crazy plans. The only thing was that no label was willing to sign us, so we simply went and released an album independently. When it came to touring internationally, no one wanted to help us out, so we set up our own tour. When I find myself sitting in a bar 50 years from now, I don’t want to be all regretful and say, “I wish I had...” That’s why my motto is “Get shit done!”’
‘I couldn’t agree more,’ Danny says. ‘In fact, it ties in nicely with my own motto, “No nuts, no glory!” I grew up in a small flat in West Amsterdam, and since I always felt I had nothing to lose, I always did exactly what I wanted to do, no matter where I was working at the time, how successful I might have been, and what decisions I might have made. I am where I am today simply because I had the guts to do things. You can be a rebel, you can march to your own beat, and you’re guaranteed to fail at some point, but you should go out there and do it anyway! That’s what ultimately helps you be the best version of you.’
Hilversum and beyond?
‘People do tend to ask us whether we shouldn’t relocate to Amsterdam or Utrecht. Sander: ‘Our roots happen to be in Hilversum, and we’re very happy here.’
‘You know, we’ve got the perfect location, right by the train station,’ Danny adds. ‘Hilversum is a city that’s teeming with creativity. I think Hilversum truly has the potential to become one of the main creative hubs in the Netherlands. It kind of is already, but we’re going to see Hilversum gain even more traction in the years to come.’