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Dept: the success formula unravelled

Digital experts and brothers Paul and Bart Manuel, founders of TamTam, are spreading their wings with the new ‘Dept’ brand. Ambition and an international focus are suitable incentives towards growth and change for these ‘men with a mission’.

Fonk spoke with Paul Manuel, founder of TamTam and Dept, and Dimi Albers, managing director of TamTam. They gave an update of their international growth plans and the position of TamTam within the new, international family of specialised agencies.


Manuel fires away: ‘From the very start it has been our drive to think of solutions for our clients which can improve a company or its ways of conducting business. This often results in websites and smart, digital applications. The basis of the company ‘helping clients to achieve better business results’ is still the basis of our operations, twenty years later. I really believe in this basis. It has obviously been adapted sometimes because times change or because of the size of our own company. Our company is not the same agency anymore as twenty years ago, but our drive has remained.’

‘What I want to add is that we have applying this solid basis to a greater whole since last year. TamTam is now part of this whole. It is part of a family. All affiliated agencies, TamTam, a friend of mine, Building Blocks, Second Degree and Expand Online, reinforce each other’s disciplines. ‘The connecting force is the digital heart of these companies.’, according to Albers.


‘When we started Bart and I stated that our company should experience change and growth. Not because bigger is better, but because we are of the opinion that if you do not change swiftly enough, the market or your client will do this for you. You cannot remain the same for a very long period. We are entrepreneurs and wanted to build a company from the very start. We did not want to create fantastic items only with the two of us, but with a real team. Innovation has become part of our culture. We have a team around us who love to innovate. In all those years we sometimes also messed around a bit. Manuel laughs: “Things did not always work out as we wanted.’


He states: ‘A few years ago we took the first steps to grow internationally. By recruiting persons who do not come from the Netherlands, by working for foreign clients and by communicating everything in English. It’s a good start, but it was not enough. Then Bart and I decided to further focus on that target. At present Dimi Albers and Frank Schmid are charged with the daily management of TamTam. They have made TamTam better and more future-proof.’

Albers: ‘I have been working at TamTam for ten years. Five years ago I started TamTam in Amsterdam. Last year Bart and Paul deliberately took some distance from their operational activities. Frank and I became responsible. I focus on the business, on clients and on the positioning of TamTam. What do we tell, what do we do and what do we create? The scale has increased since last year. There are slightly more people with whom we can talk things over. My aim is to focus on the overall picture and not to stay trapped in details.  Nevertheless, I also love to discuss substantive matters involving clients. It’s the core of our work.


Manuel: ’Last year Waterland (prominent private equity party) came to help us with realising our growth plans. That was spot-on. It was exactly in line with our ambitions and the plans we had in mind. In the past year everything was placed in the “fast motion” mode according to the ‘buy and build’ strategy.’

Albers: With Dept we have the most important disciplines under one roof: creativity, technology and data. All these disciplines can be used for all digital questions of clients. This makes it quite unique. Bringing people together from different blood groups without creating uniformity. We bring very pleasant and smart persons together from home and abroad.


Strategy, energy and expertise are three characteristic qualities for the growth of TamTam and the launch of Dept. Manuel: ‘We did not plan all aspects. I hesitate to say that we owe everything to ourselves because of our strategic policy and expertise. I am very cautious in this respect. Because it sometimes also was a matter of ‘trial and error’. We must create the right energy. We must ensure that we meet the right people and that the timing is good. All things must be viewed in relation to the other. The plan is not completely final. When you have brought enough good people together, you know that there also will be moments when they will be doing smart things. The team is very confident and many good decisions are taken there. Some people focus on figures and data and some people focus on opportunities on the basis of their gut feelings. I am a bit more of the latter category, but I always try to keep the right balance by involving several people with different perspectives.’


Albers: ‘I think this should be done as swiftly as possible. Preferably tomorrow, but for Paul the day after tomorrow is also OK. On a client level and for Dept. Questions such as ‘What are our strong points?’, ‘Which services are included in our portfolio and do we do this on an executive or on a strategic level?’ always play a role. It’s great to contribute to the positioning of Dept together with a group of people with whom I can also have some good laughs.

Innovating all the time? “That is not always possible, of course, but it’s a fantastic aim for TamTam and Dept. We work for clients who think the digital world is very important. They dare to take risks. That is what we love. And that’s where our success lies.’

This interview was published in Fonk 188