The Golden Dudes is a select group of independent agencies working together on international projects. Award-winning author Royce Leville becomes a Dude-for-a-day in order to figure out just what this cool and creative community is all about.

We’ve gathered in a meeting room at the agency Animal Farm Amsterdam. It’s a historic occasion, this gathering of Dudes. I resist the urge to make Stonehenge jokes. There are nine Dudes present, all from different countries. The meeting room’s walls are white-washed. Everything feels new and fresh. No one is wearing a tie. I’m stuck in the chair behind the projector, drinking delicious apple juice and trying to hide. Because these people intimidate me. In a way, I sort of hate them. At least, I would if they weren’t so charming and likeable. They’re clever, eloquent and funny. They’re well-dressed, in that enviable way that makes it look like they don’t even try. They’ve got style and panache, and importantly, they’ve got humility.

These Dudes, there’s nothing that’s passive about them. They have energy and drive. They like to stand up and walk around. Several of them – keeping in mind they are the founders and managing directors of leading independent agencies – already have their sleeves rolled up and are looking to get involved. Each Dude seems to have a great idea about every 30 seconds. When they bounce these ideas off each other, everyone listens intently, and the creative energy in the room goes up a few more notches. It’s an energy they all seem to feed off and benefit from. There’s never any interrupting. There’s a lot of respect and good humor. I’ve decided that for this temporary Dude, it’s silence that will be golden. So I keep my mouth shut and think about the name, about California surfers and Mott the Hoople and Jeffrey Lebowski. Hah. “The Dude abides.” The name is cool, laid-back and it makes me smile. But unlike the Big Lebowski, these Dudes are not slackers. They’re people who make things happen. These Dudes are worth their weight in gold.

The creative minds behind The Golden Dudes are Marcel Loko and Julian Scholl from Zum goldenen Hirschen. During a break in the meeting, I follow them outside. As we stand in the spring sunshine, I quiz them about this new network they’ve established. “It’s not like a traditional network”, Julian says, politely waggling a finger at me. I get a flash of memory: My high school English teacher admonishing me for starting sentences with because.

“We’re a dinner party. It’s intimate and enjoyable. And at that dinner party are interesting people with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and creative ambition. The relationships are really close.”

Marcel takes a seat on the picnic table, languidly rests his elbows on his knees and says, “It’s a new philosophy of business. Feel good, work well and love what you’re doing. We want to work with like-minded people, with empathy and emotion and fun. We’re creatively driven, not financially driven.” “That’s right. It’s not just about making money”, Julian adds. “It’s about finding the right solution. It’s a bunch of smart and cool people working together to develop tailor-made solutions. If anything, it’s about saving money for our clients.”
“We’ve got Dudes in all the right places. It’s an all-star team that covers all the international bases.”, Marcel says.

As Marcel heads back inside, Julian goes into more detail and I scrabble to get all the information down. He explains that The Golden Dudes is coordinated by a small team based in Hamburg and London. The team is responsible for business development, making connections and selectively seeking out new partnerships. There are two or three specially-chosen Dudes in each key market, to offer a diversity of competencies and to avoid potential conflicts of interest. These Dudes are integrated creative agencies, independent and entrepreneurial, usually with a minimum of 30 employees. “This lets us work internationally and create structures on demand”, Julian says as we walk back into the Animal Farm office, “when and where they are really needed. It’s not complex. There’s a lot of give and take. Clients get to work with the agencies, and this is great for developing close relationships.”

A chorus of laughter greets us as we enter the meeting room. Animal Farm’s Arjen de Jong, who looks like he won gold in downhill at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, has pulled my chair out from behind the projector. He offers me a broad grin and refills my glass of apple juice. Swiss Dude Benno Maggi, who ran ten kilometers this morning and is bubbling with humor and vivacity, also gives me a smile as I sit down. I’m now feeling very much part of the group, this circle of Dudes. The meeting continues and the creative energy is electric, contagious. Look what happens when you put nine of the smartest Dudes in a room. Look at what they come up with. Look at the fun they’re having. And this strikes me as the greatest thing about The Golden Dudes: The people. They like eachother, really enjoy working together, and it’s amazing to watch them in action. Their synergy is genuine, their output impressive, their reach global.
All I can think is that being a Dude-for-a-day is not nearly enough.