A strategically weak and parasitic form…’? Reflections on the history of corporate and other useful media in the Netherlands

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A strategically weak and parasitic form…’? Reflections on the history of corporate and other useful media in the Netherlands

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A strategically weak and parasitic form…’?

Reflections on the history of corporate and other useful media in the Netherlands

Rector, ladies and gentlemen,

In July of this year NRC Q, an online extra of the Dutch quality newspaper NRC Handelsblad, published an article with the headline ‘Make your own corporate video with a tea towel and a selfie stick’.1 Two female journalists Bo & Caro reported on a workshop that they had attended on how to make a video and to edit it with your smartphone. This workshop had been given by a company called Broerz, which is Dutch for Brotherz, but spelled with a z at the end. The message of the workshop – and the article – was that there was no need for an expensive and imposing video camera to make a successful corporate video. Instead of a tripod you can use a selfie stick. And because sound rather than image is the crucial factor in the success of a corporate video your best appliance is a tea towel, which you need to hang over the mike and over the head of the person that is being interviewed. That may be unpleasant for the person concerned, but it results in a ‘quiet and dull sound’ that can be easily improved to one’s satisfaction.

The workshop organisers themselves – John and Richard van Rooijen, indeed brothers – are earning a living by producing corporate videos. One cannot imagine that they are trading the income generated by these videos for the limited proceeds of workshops such as the one reported on by NRC Q. So one can wonder whether the selfie stick and the tea towel are a real threat to the hundreds of companies and freelancers active in this sector. Suffice to say that there has not been a huge rise in the demand for tea towels. At least my local Zeeman textile shop had plenty in stock, when I checked shortly after the NRC Q article was published.

What is more, there is a long tradition of articles and books about how to make an industrial film or corporate video, following the typical American tradition of the self-improvement or self-help book. Even in this era when the book trade is hit by a serious crisis they continue to be published.2 This allowed the Dutch to catch up, for the first Dutch-language guide on the production of what the author calls ‘bedrijfsfilms’ (company films) was published only earlier this year.3 On the other hand a lot of practical information could be gathered from the manuals and periodicals for amateur film-makers which as far as the ones in the Dutch language were concerned were available from the 1920s onwards. This dissemination of know-how was complemented by periodical outbursts of frustration by professional film-makers, complaining that non-professionals are spoiling the market and bringing the good name of the sector into disrepute.4 The epitome of these moonlighters or bunglers are the wedding photographers who, because they happen to own a film or video camera, have the audacity to make a film for a corporate client.

I would like to add two remarks. Firstly, the obsession with moonlighters seems to be a problem that is haunting this branch of audio-visual production in particular. One does not hear complaints about moonlighting in, for example, the world of commercials, deploring that the maligned wedding photographer has shot an advert. Secondly, a recent American article blamed the ‘producers of corporate video, especially large operations,’ of being ‘more secretive about their best practices than wedding and event videographers, who share willingly on forums, at conventions, and in magazines’.5


In this short introduction I have already proposed a number of elements that I shall elaborate on in this lecture: they are the industrial or corporate film or video and I shall come back on the problem of naming and defining this form. The second element are the filmmakers and the companies producing these films and videos, the context in which they have been and are operating. The third element is what one might call History with a capital H, the developments in society and the changes in technology that these individuals and companies had to deal with over the last forty years and what that meant for their films and videos. There are good reasons for concentrating on this period. The research that historians have carried out so far, has almost exclusively concentrated on the film stock era before 1975.6 Moreover, important social and economic changes – keyword: post-industrial society – and technological changes – video and digital production – have taken place during the last four decades.

Let me start with the name and definition of what Hediger and Vonderau in their pioneering anthology Films that Work have characterised as ‘a strategically weak and parasitic form’.7 We are dealing with audio-visual productions that have been commissioned by government bodies, companies or organisations for a wide range of purposes, such as promotion, information, education, instruction and motivation. These productions are aimed at the employees of the commissioning body, at specifically targeted external audiences, for example potential buyers, or at the general public. They are the descendants of the celebrated avant-garde films made in the 1920s and 1930s for companies like HAPAG, Philips or Bata and the equally famous documentaries produced by the British Documentary Movement founded by John Grierson. Today virtually all established cinematographic modes – fiction, documentary, animation and/or experimental, to name but the broadest categories – are being used and in that sense these productions can be called ‘parasitic’. However, this adjective has an outspoken negative connotation: parasites are supposed to harm their hosts. I do not think that this is the case. One might even argue that we are dealing with the opposite and that therefore the word ‘mutualistic’ is more appropriate, implying a relationship that is beneficial to both parties.

In the case of commercials such ‘mutualism’ has been recognised by both journalists and film scholars. No one would for example dare to ignore his commercials when analysing the work of Blade Runner director Ridley Scott. Which brings me to the relevant question whether commercials are part of the corpus that I am discussing in this lecture? Looking at the definition one could say that they are. After all commercials are being commissioned by companies for the promotion of their products. The main difference is that they are shorter in length. Commercials have been and are made by audio-visual production companies that also make industrial or corporate films. Nevertheless commercials are seen as a different category, to be shown within a well-defined framework, that of the supporting programme of the cinema or the advertising slot on television. Commercials have their own festivals and their own awards. There is however one arena where corporate videos and commercials are coming together, that is as virals competing for the attention of the users of the Internet.


From the start different names have been used for the audio-visual productions that I am discussing here. In the celluloid era they were all derived from the word film: bedrijfsfilm or opdrachtfilm in Dutch, industrial, business, sponsored or commissioned film in English, Industriefilm, Unternehmensfilm or Film im Auftrag in German and film de commande, film d’entreprise or film industriel in French. In the 1970s other media entered the stage: the slide-tape presentation, video and a bit later the laser disk. In the 1990s websites and online audio-visuals followed. Although the number that is shot on film stock is dropping, the generic notion of ‘film’ is holding on, as the examples of the Dutch event ‘Ontdek de Infofilm’ (Discover the Informational Film), the German ‘Wirtschaftsfilmtage’ and the French Festival with the un-French name ‘Films and Companies’ prove.8 But there have also been attempts to introduce terms that express the range of media being used. Taking once more the examples from the festivals: the ‘Cannes Corporate & TV Awards’, the ‘WorldMediaFestival’ in Hamburg and perhaps the one with the most expressive name, the ‘Keying into the Brain Festival’ in the Netherlands.9 There is, by the way, also an anti-corporate film festival, named ‘CounterCorp’ and held in San Francisco. Its slogan is ‘putting an end to business as usual’.10 Since industries in the classic sense have been replaced by other commissioning bodies such as banks, insurance companies and retailers, the word industrial film is increasingly restricted to films that were actually commissioned in the past by industries, shot on film stock and are now being held in archival collections.

During the recent years the adjective ‘corporate’ has become commonplace, even for audio-visual products commissioned by entities that are strictly speaking not corporations, as they have no stockholders and are non-profit. The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, for example, is proudly speaking of its own ‘corporate film’ on its website.11 The same goes for the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision which released its ‘corporate video’ earlier this year.12 Incidentally, this shows that the words film and video have become interchangeable for this type of audio-visual production.

Still, the use of the adjective ‘corporate’ as an all-purpose word for films and videos made in commission makes me feel uncomfortable. After all, is it correct to call educational films or videos ‘corporate’? And what about audio-visual presentations used by museums? In 2011 the Canadian scholars Charles R. Acland and Haidee Wasson published an anthology that was entitled Useful Cinema. It contained essays that were ‘exploring the use of film in mid-twentieth-century institutions, including libraries, museums, classrooms, and professional organizations.’ Adapting this notion of ‘useful cinema’ to the 21st century I would therefore like to call the corpus that I am discussing in this lecture as ‘corporate and other useful media’.


Now I would like to turn to the development of the corporate and other useful media in the Netherlands during the last forty years. Who were the producers, what was their philosophy and how did they defend their interests? What kind of productions were made and how do we judge them? Can anything be said about their reception? Who were the commissioning bodies? In 1973 the manifestation ‘Opdrachtfilm 1973’ was held in the town of Eindhoven. It certainly was not the first event of this kind but what was new was that the organising committee, which called itself committee for Audio-visual Manifestations, was not only made up of representatives of film trade organisations but also of the Council of the Dutch Employers Organisations and the Amsterdam Industrial Association. Next the committee obtained the legal status of stichting (foundation). Using the acronym SAM, it was to become the organiser of the annual festival of commissioned films and videos for more than twenty-five years.

During the first years the SAM’s relationship with the employers organisations was very close. The 1975 manifestation for example was opened by the chairman of the Council of Dutch Employers Organisations, the former minister for Education mr. C. van Veen. This kind of collaboration between this particular branch of the audio-visual sector and the employers organisations was not a typical Dutch phenomenon. The German equivalent of the SAM manifestation, the Deutsche Industrie- und Wirtschaftsfilmforum, was co-organised by the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie and the Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände. In France it was the Conseil National du Patronat Français that helped organise the Festival National du Film d’Entreprise in Biarritz. These three manifestations have in common that the ties with the employers organisations got looser over time. In case of the SAM this occurred already in the late 1980s. Whether there is a causality or not, but all three manifestations got into organisational and financial difficulties around the turn of the century and had to reinvent themselves and the relationship with their patrons and sponsors. The umbilical cord between these manifestations and the employers associations however, seems to have been severed permanently.

I have already referred a couple of times to the idea of a particular branch of the audio-visual sector as an entity. Let me explore this. In the early 1960s the Dutch film and cinema trade organisation NBB counted 33 production companies among its members.13 Not all were actively producing commissioned films and there were a few sleeping companies too, but taking into account the companies that were active in this field but had not joined the NBB we can consider the figure of 30 to 35 as accurate. In 1981 the number of production companies had increased to 80, as a survey by the monthly magazine AudioVisueel demonstrated.14 Again, not all were active in the area of corporate and other useful media, although the survey had included audio-visual products on Super 8, slide-tape shows and video. Ten years later the total number had risen to no less 425!15 Among them were a handful of larger companies with a staff of a dozen or more and a respectable annual turnover but the lion’s share consisted of small businesses. Large or small, the basic problem of all concerned was lack of capital. To remedy this various solutions were tried out: to take on other, related activities, to search additional capital by issuing shares and to look for a financially strong partner that could offer shelter. Let us look at how two companies fared in this respect: the Toonder Studios and Signum.

Toonder Studios was possibly the largest company in the branch of corporate films. Its headquarters was a real castle, Kasteel Nederhorst. It had a staff of 42 and an annual turnover of 9 million guilders. Having been founded by the legendary comic strip creator Marten Toonder during the German occupation, it was renowned for its animation films. In the 1970s Toonder Studios had taken over the equally renowned puppet animation studio of Joop Geesink and Multifilm, a production company of scientific and industrial films with a history that went back as far as the 1920s. When in 1987 a major shareholder departed, taking half a million guilders of the company’s capital with him, Toonder Studios decided on a share issue with a total value of 1.5 million guilders.16 With this it not only wanted to restore its capital but also finance an expansion that would help increase its market share of 15%. Toonder Studios took over Videopress, a production company based in Groningen. This take-over enabled it to enter the video market, a new arena as the Toonder Studios were very much a film company. How important the video market had become was confirmed by a 1989 survey held among the commissioning bodies by the periodical Communicatie techniek & management. The sponsors were using video for 39.0% of their activities, while overhead presentations stood at 21.3% and slide-tape shows at 16.1%. Film production counted for only 2.4%.17 So Toonder bought up further companies in Eindhoven and Rotterdam, but the trading results were disappointing, to say the least.18 Still, the company’s record was good, thanks to the countless international prizes that were awarded to a number of prestige films directed by Pieter-Rim de Kroon.

Unlike Toonder Studios Signum was a new player in the market for corporate and other useful media in the 1980s. Advertising ‘guru’ Giep Franzen of the FHV/BBDO agency approached four colleagues with a different background – graphic design, communication consultancy, television direction and copywriting – with the idea of setting up a company for multimedia ‘information projects’.19 Franzen envisaged three main tasks for it: a video production unit, an agency for informative advertising and a bureau for internal communication.20 Established as a sister organisation of FHV/BBDO, the new company was named Signum Informatieprojecten (Information projects) and was registered in the Spring of 1985. It soon became a trendsetting firm which managed to sign many of the big companies in the Netherlands as its customers, with a staff of twenty and countless freelancers. Signum was known for the video news programmes such as the weekly AH-TV that it made for the supermarket chain Albert Heijn. It also produced short fiction films and documentaries. And it acted as editor of staff magazines and organised big meetings, using multimedia. Signum developed for example the concept of the Business and Breakfast talk show, whereby a real breakfast was presented to a group invited by the sponsor, during which the well-known television talk show host Ivo Niehe presented a theme that had also been proposed by the sponsor.21

In 1991 the organiser of the SAM manifestations Peter Kanters had called for a restructuring of the production branch which was now organised in the VAP (Verenigde Audiovisuele Productiebedrijven – United Audio-visual Production companies).22 It was not until the very end of the 1990s before such attempts were made, resulting in a lot of commotion. There were bankruptcies, mergers and take-overs. But new companies too were established. Toonder Studios had already lost its star director Pieter-Rim de Kroon, who started in 1995 his own company De Kroon, Wissenraet & Associés. Patty Stenger who had written the scripts for many award-winning films, left Signum in 1999 to set up her own company Zee. Although it was reported that in both cases the departures were amicable and not the result of any discord, it seems more than a coincidence that both Toonder Studios and Signum were forced to stop making corporate and other useful media in the first years of the new century.

I have already mentioned the importance of video for the sector. It were outsiders and new players like Signum that took the lead in using this new medium. A good example is the Rabobank, which was the result of a merger in 1972 of two co-operative banks - Boerenleenbank and Raiffeisenbank - that had been established to help farmers in need of capital. In the past both had commissioned a film of their own, but these dated from the late 1940s (!) and so there was hardly a tradition as regards the use of audio-visual media.23 Encouraged by its training division, the bank invested in a complete television studio, including technicians, at its headquarters in Eindhoven. In 1978 the new audiovisual unit, led by Bert Tielemans, started the production of a company video news programme, Bank in Beeld (Bank in the Picture).24 The choice in favour of video was prompted by the fact that it was much easier to target audiences with cassettes than with film prints. At 250 affiliated banks a Sony Umatic player and a TV set were installed. The cassettes were delivered by Rabobank’s own transport service. Bank in the Picture was meant to help the process of integration and transformation, which the Rabobank was undergoing at the time. Exactly 400 issues of Bank in the Picture were produced between 1978 and 1996. In the beginning they appeared every three months and lasted approximately 40 minutes. Later their frequency increased and their running time diminished. In April and May 1990 a test was held of transmitting by satellite live news programme four times per week to banks which had installed a satellite dish.25 After Tonko Tomei had succeeded Tielemans as head of the unit in 1993, the frequency went up to forty issues per year, with a running time of 10 to 12 minutes. It was Tomei who started hiring freelancers for the production of Bank in the Picture, because he felt that they would come up with fresh ideas. From that moment the programme ended with closing credits.

In each issue of Bank in the Picture producer and anchor-man Bert Tielemans, assisted by a female presenter (among whom were such well-known radio and television presenters as Anne van Egmond and Dieuwertje Blok), introduced the topics from behind an especially designed news desk. They were also responsible for the interviews. Dealing with matters pertaining to the Rabobank only, Bank in the Picture was clearly inspired by the news and current affairs formats on television. Only during the first years the training aspect was noticeable, with Tielemans and his then co-presenter Anne van Egmond performing rather amateurish looking role-playing games, while in later years the programme became more professional.26

The example of Bank in the Picture was followed in 1982 by the Dutch branch of IBM. Like Bank in the Picture, the bi-monthly issues of IBM-Videojournaal (IBM Video News) were produced in-house.27 The Apeldoorn based insurance company Centraal Beheer also produced its video news in-house, screening it on monitors spread over its headquarters which had been designed by the famous architect Herman Herzberger.28 In 1987 the Nederlandse Middenstandsbank (NMB – Netherlands Tradespeople Bank) started with NMB-TV, a news programme that was produced in-house on the professional Betacam standard and then distributed in the form of VHS-cassettes to all the branches of the bank.29 The Postbank, like Rabobank the result of a merger of two banking institutions in 1986, started its own news programme in 1987. Unlike the afore-mentioned programmes however the Postbank Journaal (Postbank News) was not produced in-house, but by the Nijmegen-based company Image Productions.30 The video news programme of the ABN-Amro Bank, entitled Amro-Visie (Amro-Vision), was also produced externally, by Imaco.31

The news programmes on video were not limited to the banking and insurance sectors. I did already mention the supermarket chain Albert Heijn, with its AH-TV, produced by Signum. I have been told that the cassettes arrived each Monday morning early at the shops, together with the week’s fresh vegetables, so that the programme could be seen and discussed by the staff before the store would open its doors. It is hard to believe now, but in those days supermarkets were closed for the best part of Monday morning. Transport giant Nedlloyd had its own Nedscope, produced by Talmon AV Communicatie. This company also produced Intratuin TV, for a chain of garden centres. And there were more, such as AMEV Huisbuis (AMEV Home Box) for the insurance company AMEV and Modescoop (Fashionscope) for the fashion chain M & S Mode, both produced by Signum.

After the heydays of this kind of in-house television in the second half of the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s its sponsors gradually decided to pull the plug.32 Because of the extension of opening hours and flexible and reduced working hours, it turned out increasingly difficult to reach the intended audiences as a group. Obviously, the collective viewing experience was considered an indispensable asset of these video programmes. Once this could no longer be achieved, the programmes lost their meaning and were one after the other discontinued.


On the other end of the spectrum were the prestige films – ‘real’ films, shot and projected on film stock, preferably 35mm – that were awarded prizes at foreign festivals and therefore got a mention in the Dutch newspapers. A few names did pop up regularly: Pieter-Rim de Kroon, Henk van Mierlo and Pim Korver. Korver was specialised in films about ship salvage operations, carried out by the Rotterdam company of Smit-Tak, which paid for these documentaries. His most famous film was March 6 1987 on the salvage operation of the ferry Herald of Free Enterprise that had capsized off the Belgian coast, resulting in the death of 193 people.33 Van Mierlo was best known for his glamour films produced for among others national air carrier KLM and electronics giant Philips. De Kroon’s biggest success was Cadans, a film made in 1989 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the National Railways. The films which he produced over the years for the Nolet distillery were also showered with awards.

It is interesting how the press – in particular De Telegraaf, the newspaper with the highest circulation in the Netherlands – was trying to make sense of these makers and their work, not on the film pages but in the media columns. One way was to compare them with well-known international film directors. Of a documentary on the salvage operation of the ship Mont Louis by Pim Korver it was said that it was like ‘a Hitchcock thriller’.34 The Englishman was popular, for De Telegraaf coined Henk van Mierlo the ‘Hitchcock of Ootmarsum’.35 Ootmarsum is a village in the East of the Netherlands where Van Mierlo was based at the time. Another film-maker in the sector of corporate and other useful media, Albert Gols, had already in the 1970s been nicknamed the ‘Fellini of the Wadden Sea’.36 To say that Pieter-Rim de Kroon was ‘following in the footsteps of Haanstra and Ivens’ was historically correct, as both had made industrial films, but probably not very helpful to the readers of the Telegraaf newspaper. To them soccer was a form of comparison that made much more sense. So when Pieter-Rim de Kroon was called the ‘Ruud Gullitt of the national audio-visual industry’, they knew what that meant.37 Praising the countless awards that Van Mierlo and De Kroon had won, De Telegraaf pointed out that ‘Ajax would be jealous of their trophy cabinets with Dutch and international awards.’38

More serious was an attempt by the trade journal AV Prof at the peer reviewing of films and videos produced by members of the VAP. The reviewers included a specialist in non-linear editing, an interim management consultant, an international film sales agent and a media producer working for the Rabobank. Helped by a journalist who conducted the interviews and was responsible for the reporting, each offered his or her reflections on three or four titles in one go. The results were interesting but uneven, largely determined by the specialism of the person concerned. The editor for example looked mainly at the use of the AVID technology in the films that he had to review, while the sales agent was particularly interested in their international sales potential.39


The crisis during the first years of the new millennium that was partly the result of and partly coincided with the collapse of the so-called dot-com bubble, did not only result in the disappearance of the SAM manifestation (the last one was held in 2001), of established production companies like Toonder Studios and Signum, but eventually also of specialised trade magazine like AV Prof and AV Magazine.40 Was the sector becoming a victim of the ‘strategic weakness’ for which Hediger and Vonderau had warned? But there were also signs of survival or even a renaissance. New companies came to the fore, among them a handful whose core business was interactive media rather than linear storytelling, and existing companies managed to survive the crisis, albeit in a slimmed-down form and/or under a new name.

Insiders were worried that the budgets that were made available since the year 2000 were lower than previously. It has been a precious tradition for the SAM to make public the budgets of the audio-visual programmes that were screened at its manifestations. Between in the late 1980s and 1990s the average price per programme or film dropped from 141,000 in 1988, to 136,000 in 1993 and 116,000 guilders in 1999.41 In Euro that would be approximately 64,000, 62,000 and 53,000. Such figures are not available for this century. But I have been able to calculate them myself. Examining the budgets listed in the catalogues of Keying into the Brain, the successor to the SAM manifestations, for three different years, i.e. 2003, 2008 and 2012, I come to the following averages in Euro: 99,600, 80,700 and 149,600.42 They must be taken as an indication, for there was a substantial number of submissions for which no specification of the budget was given. Whereas in the past the mega budgets had been made available for glamorous 35mm film productions, they were now being used for interactive programmes in museums.

As I said, the SAM manifestation was rebaptised into Keying into the Brain. That was not a Dutch name but it certainly was one that was keyed into one’s brain. Its organisation was taken over by a group of people led by Leontine van de Stadt. The first edition of Keying into the Brain took place in 2003, advertising itself rather awkwardly as an event for ‘target group communication with screen media’. In 2008 the last reminder of its predecessor SAM disappeared, when the awards given at Keying into the Brain received the name of Golden Herons. Apart from this annual festival and award ceremony, Keying into the Brain was also responsible for the organisation of the Day of the Commissioned Film (Opdrachtfilm) during the annual Netherlands Film Festival. It is now called ‘Discover the Info Film’ and the last and very successful edition was held five weeks ago. Unfortunately it is now a few years since the last Keying into the Brain award event took place, in Hilversum at the Institute for Sound and Vision.


Now that I am mentioning the institute, I must point out how relevant it is that audiovisual archives are preserving at least a selection of the corporate and other useful media that have been produced over the last four decades. Some of the carriers on which they were made may offer preservation problems, such as obsolete video formats or laser disks, not to mention slide-tape shows, but they do offer historical evidence of what I would like to call an ‘undiluted kind’. In most films and television programmes that we see, the message is deliberately conceiled, whereas in the corporate and other useful media it is glaringly in the open and almost literally jumps from the screen.

Let me return to the quote from the Hediger and Vonderau article: can we speak of a ‘strategically weak and parasitic form’? I have already argued that the word ‘parasitic’ is incorrect, even if one argues from a film studies angle, as Hediger and Vonderau do. Let me give some examples of the ‘mutualist’ instead of the ‘parasitic’ form. Six weeks ago a typical ‘art house’ film about a father – son conflict in the former coal mining region of Limburg, entitled Glückauf, won no less than four Golden Calf awards at the Netherlands Film Festival. The film’s producer was Piet-Harm Sterk whose track record is that of the production of corporate and other useful media. Pieter-Rim de Kroon, the former ‘Ruud Gullitt of the national audio-visual industry’, has now made a name as a documentary film-maker with his Hollands Licht (Dutch Light, 2003) and V.I.S.S.E.N. (Fishing, 2012). Documentary film-maker and cameraman Frans Bromet on the other hand has occasionally made videos for corporate sponsors such as the ABN-Amro Bank, without renouncing his unique style. Lastly feature film director Paula van der Oest has been collaborating for many years with Patty Stenger, owner of the company Zee. This has resulted in some wonderful, prize-winning short fiction films, scripted by Stenger and directed by Van der Oest. When the Netherlands Film Festival made Van der Oest ‘guest of the year’ in 2013, all her films were screened during the festival. That is to say all her films, except the corporate ones produced by Zee.43

Remains the notion ‘strategically weak’. Again, Hediger and Vonderau are arguing from a film studies context. They point out that an industrial film ‘can assume the appearance of other, more stable genres and formats and pass as a scientific film, an educational film, or a documentary for specific strategic reasons.’44 From another perspective, for example that of finding sponsors, one might just as well say that this is a strength – and not a weakness. So may we conclude that we are talking of a ‘strategically strong and mutualist’ form instead? It is up to scholars elswhere to establish whether we are dealing with a typical Dutch phenomenon or an international one.


When I started this Beeld en Geluid leerstoel in December 2008 I was made very welcome by my colleagues of what has now thanks to various reorganisations become Media, Art, Design and Architecture. At the risk of forgetting someone I still would like to name them: Jos ten Berge, Rieta Bergsma, Ivo Blom, Iris Burgers, Katja Kwastek, Sven Lütticken, Freek Schmidt, Ginette Verstraete and Connie Veugen.

It was a real pleasure to share a room with Agnes Groot and Ivo Blom. Surrounded by countless shelves of specialist literature and Agnes’s wonderful collection of historical painting tools, we freely exchanged information and had sometimes fierce, but always fruitful discussions. I liked the fact that we always managed to put our concerns into perspective. Unfortunately, this academic habitat was destroyed by the disease – following Hediger and Vonderau I feel that this time I may use the word ‘parasitic’ – of the open-plan office that reached the Humanities Faculty of the VU two years ago.

Regrettably our colleague professor Koos Bosma suddenly passed away in September. Working with him was another of the great pleasures during my time at the VU. He was witty and knowledgeable and his interests covered a much broader area than his speciality architectural history. I shall always remember the course Cinematic City, on the representation of Amsterdam in film, that Koos, Ivo and I did for a number of years.

I am extremely grateful for the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and its director Jan Müller for allowing me to spend my Wednesdays at De Boelelaan instead of the Mediapark. And that for a period of seven years!

I would like to thank the members of the curatorium of my chair. Ginette Verstraete and Ivo Blom were present from start to finish, complemented by a seemingly ever changing line-up from Sound and Vision: Pieter van der Heijden, Bas Agterberg, Hans van der Windt, Tom De Smet and Johan Oomen. These colleagues were extremely helpful in making this chair a success, as were many other at Sound and Vision. I must single out one person though, my Hilversum roommate Bas Agterberg, who has helped me far beyond the call of duty. I am extremely grateful to him.

My thanks also go to the Dean of what was first the Arts and later the Humanities Faculty: Douwe Yntema and Michiel ter Hark.

With my colleagues from the History Department Susanne Legêne and Petra van Dam I have done a number of very stimulating courses on film and history. It was a great pleasure to work with them.

Soon after my start at the VU I was able to embark on a three-year research project funded by HERA, which is an acronym for Humanities in the European Research Area. The project was called ‘Technology, Exchange and Flow: Artistic Media Practices & Commercial Applications’. Much of what you have heard in this lecture resulted from my research for this project. I would like to thank the members of the three national teams: Ivo Blom, Rudmer Canjels and Wilbert Schreurs for the VU; Michael Punt and Martha Blassnigg, who unexpectedly passed away a few weeks ago, much too young, at the age of 46, for the University of Plymouth; Margarete Jahrmann and Brigitte Felderer for the Universität für angewandte Kunst in Vienna; and for the two project partners: Bas Agterberg from Sound and Vision and Mark-Paul Meyer from EYE Filmmuseum.

Over the years I have taught several cohorts of VU students about corporate and other useful media. They had to learn Elsaesser’s three A’s (Auftraggeber, Anlass and Adressat) and Hediger and Vonderau’s three R’s (record, rhetoric, rationalization) by heart. Many of them helped to make biographical entries for the Sound and Vision wiki and completed catalogue descriptions of the Rabobank video news magazine Bank in Beeld, which the bank’s archivist Jan van der Meer kindly made available on DVD. It was very helpful too that VU students Lotte Snellenburg and Linda Roos did a traineeship at Sound and Vision related to my research on corporate and other useful media.

Leontine van de Stadt gave me access to all the catalogues of the Keying into the Brain festival. Peter Kanters and Michiel Beishuizen kindly shared their recollections of the SAM manifestation with me.

I really appreciate the presence of my friends and colleagues who have come from abroad to attend the seminar on corporate media that preceded this lecture: Vinzenz Hediger, Paul Hofmann, Paulo Miguel Martins, Rick Prelinger, Patrick Russell, Bjørn Sørenssen and Brian Winston.

My last words of thanks go to my wife Willemke. Being with you is truly the best thing that happened in my life. Together we are going to enjoy the next stage.

1 [make our own company video with a tea towel and a selfie stick], accessed on 15 September 2015.

2 Recent publications include Wolfgang Lanzenberger and Michael Müller, Unternehmensfilme drehen. Business Movies im digitalen Zeitalter [How to Make Business Films. Business Movies in the Digital Age], Konstanz: UVK, 2010; Stuart Sweetow, Corporate Video Production. Beyond the Board Room (And Out of the Bored Room), Burlington/Kidlington: Focal Press, 2011.

3 Hay Stevens, Bedrijfsfilms maken [How to make company films], Tegelen: Stevens Audiovisuals, 2015.

4 A few Dutch examples: ‘Beunhazen in actie’ [Moonlighters in action], in: NBF-Bulletin, February 1959, pp. 1-6; ‘Wie een camera kan kopen, is “filmer”’ [The person who can afford to buy a camera, is a “film-maker”], in: NBF-Bulletin, February 1958, pp. 9-10; ‘Textielvertegenwoordiger is tevens Haarlem’s “stadscineast”’ [Textile salesman is also Haarlem’s “municipal filmmaker”], in: NBF-Bulletin, nr. 5, 1962, pp. 19-22; ‘De film van de stadscineast ging in première en het Haarlems Dagblad zei er dit van: “Zuinigheid die wijsheid bedriegt”’ [The film of the municipal filmmaker was premiered and the Haarlems Dagblad concluded: “thrift which deceives wisdom”], in: NBF-Bulletin, nr. 5, 1962, pp. 23-24; ‘Gemiste kans: door zuinigheid werd opdrachtfilm een blamage’ [Lost opportunity: because of thrift commissioned film became a disgrace], in: NBF-Bulletin, nr. 2, 1964, pp. 3-6; ‘Audio-visuele markt strijdt tegen beunhazen’ [Audiovisual market combats moonlighters], in : Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 18 juni 1992.

5 Elizabeth Welsh, ‘Going Corporate’, in: EventDV, 21.6, June 2008, pp. 36-44.

6 The anthology Films that Work. Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media for example contains only one post-celluloid era contribution. Cf. Heide Solbrig, ‘The Personal Is Political. Voice and Citizenship in Affirmative-Action Videos in the Bell System, 1970-1984’, in: Vinzenz Hediger and Patrick Vonderau (eds.), Films that Work. Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009, pp. 259-282.

7 Vinzenz Hediger and Patrick Vonderau, ‘Record, Rhetoric, Rationalization. Industrial Organization and Film’, in: Hediger and Vonderau (eds.), Films that Work, pp. 35-49, here p. 46.

8;;; all accessed on 4 October 2015.

9 and, accessed on 4 October 2015;

10, accessed on 4 October 2015.

11, accessed on 14 October 2015.

12, accessed on 14 October 2015.

13 NBB Jaarverslag 1961, Amsterdam: NBB, 1962, p. 79, cf., accessed on 4 October 2015.

14 AudioVisueel, 81-7, September 1981, pp. 20-24.

15 Peter Kanters, ‘Films met een opdrachtgever’ [Films that have been commissioned], in: Film, 1 september 1991, pp. 45-47, here p. 45.

16 ‘Expanderende Toonder Studio’s naar de beurs’ [Expanding Toonder Studios to the stock market], in: Limburgs Dagblad, 24 June 1987.

17 Niels Eeken, Paul van de Wal, ‘Kansen en mogelijkheden voor groeimarkt’ [Opportunities for growth market], in: Communicatie techniek & management, Vol. 4 nr. 1, March 1990, pp. 32-35.

18 ‘Toonder Studio’s verwachten meer winst’ [Toonder Studios expect higher profit], in: Leeuwarder Courant, 25 September 1989; ‘Toonder Studio’s openen vestiging in Rotterdam’ [Toonder Studios are opening a facility in Rotterdam], in: Het Vrije Volk, 11 January 1990.

19 The four founding fathers of Signum were: Jaap Drupsteen who had made a name as an innovative designer for television, Ad Krechting, a director of educational television programmes, Jan van Lieshout, a journalist and copywriter, and Alan Parfitt, a communication advisor.

20 Memorandum written by Giep Franzen, 5 December 1984, in the personal archive of Ad Krechting, Huizen.

21 Cf. leaflet B and B talkshow, in the personal archive of Ab Krechting, Huizen.

22 Joan Haan, ‘Fusiegolf nodig in audiovisuele industrie’ [Mergers needed in audio-visual industry], in: Het Vrije Volk, 2 January 1991.

23 The Raiffeisenbank had commissioned Het Geld van de Boer [The Farmer’s Money], directed by Rudi Hornecker and Otto van Neijenhoff (1948), while the Boerenleenbank sponsored Boerenkrediet [Agricultural Credit], directed by Jan Hin (1949).

24 Klaas Samplonius, ‘Rabobank, voor geld en goede raad en video’[Rabobank, for money and sound advice and video], in: AudioVisueel, Vol. 1 nr. 3, April 1980, pp. 22-26.

25 Stefan de Boer, Jan Frankhuizen, Een eigenzinnige reus. Veertig jaar automatisering bij de Rabobank [An opinionated giant. Forty years of computerisation at the Rabobank], Utrecht: Rabobank Nederland, 2004, pp. 55-56.

26 Bert Jongen, ‘Rabobank méér dan alleen Bank in Beeld’, [Rabobank more than just Bank in the Picture], in: Audiovisueel Magazine, Vol. 4 nr. 5, June 1983, pp. 23-24.

27 Bert Jongen, ‘Het IBM video-journaal’ [The IBM Video News], in: Audiovisueel Magazine, Vol. 3 nr. 6 September 1982, pp. 8-11.

28 Joost Hessels, ‘Video populair bij managers’ [Video popular with managers], in: Audiovisueel Magazine, Vol. 6 nr. 9, November 1985, pp. 12-14.

29 Hugo Schrameijer, ‘Bedrijfstelevisie: de NMB doet er ook aan mee’ [Company television: the NMB is also participating], in: AV Prof, Vol. 1 nr. 2, May 1987, pp. 39-41.

30 Wim Kooring, ‘Video helpt Postbank bij communicatie en motivatie’ [Video helps Postbank with communication and motivation], in: Video & Communicatie Management, Vol. 1 nr. 1, September 1987, pp. 4-5.

31 Bert Jongen, ‘Amro Visie: videonet voor medewerkers en klanten’, in: Audiovisueel Magazine, Vol. 5 nr. 8, November 1984, pp. 6-8.

32 ‘Heeft het bedrijfsjournaal nog toekomst? Flexibele werktijden bemoeilijken gezamenlijk kijkmoment’ [Is there a future for the company news programmes? Flexible working hours are hampering collective viewing], in: AV Prof, January/February 1999, pp. 22-23

33 Tjitte de Vries, ‘Het drama van Zeebrugge. Pim Korver maakte aangrijpende film van berging “Herald of Free Enterprise”’ [The Zeebrugge drama. Pim Korver makes moving picture on the salvage operation of the “Herald of Free Enterprise”], in: Het Vrije Volk, 15 October 1987.

34 ‘Berging Mont Louis in spannende film’, in: Het Vrije Volk, 11 April 1985.

35 Rob Hoogland, ‘De Hitchcock van Ootmarsum. Henk van Mierlo razendsnel op weg naar de top’ [The Hitchcock of Ootmarsum. Henk van Mierlo fast and furiously on his way to the top], in: De Telegraaf, 20 February 1988; Jaap Deltenre, ‘Romanov contra Dynasty. “Hitchcock” van Ootmarsum haalt topschrijvers naar Twente’ [Romanov versus Dynasty. “Hitchcock” of Ootmarsum draws top authors to Twente], in: De Telegraaf, 4 November 1989.

36 ‘KRO-documentaire over bedreigde Waddenzee. Aanklacht tegen overheid’ [KRO documentary on endangered Wadden Sea. Indictment against the state], in: De Tijd, 12 February 1972.

37 Jaap Delterne, ‘In het spoor van Haanstra en Ivens’ [Following in the steps of Haanstra and Ivens], in: De Telegraaf, 16 June 1990.

38 Jaap Deltenre, ‘Pieter-Rim gekroond tot koning bedrijfsfilms’ [Pieter-Rim crowned as king of company films], in: De Telegraaf, 20 May 1992.

39 Dick Versteeg, ‘Gastrecensent Peter Buijze: “Waarde AVID eindelijk erkend”’ [Guest reviewer Peter Buijze: ”Value of AVID at long last recognised”], in: AV Prof, nr. 1-2, 1997, pp. 10-11; Dick Versteeg, ‘Gastrecensent Gé van Leeuwen: “Produceren is een moeilijk vak, maar distribueren ook” [Guest reviewer Gé van Leeuwen: “Producing is a difficult job, but distributing too”]’, in: AV Prof, n. 6, 1997, pp. 10-11.

40 AV Prof became TVM: vakblad voor de multimedia industrie [trade journal for the multimedia industry] and stopped being published in 2005. Audiovisueel Magazine became AVM Totaal: audiovisueel magazine voor de evenementen branche [audiovisual magazine for the event branche] and stopped be published in 2004.

41 Jaap Deltenre, ‘Peter Faber’s kritiek op bouwwereld snijdt hout…’ [Actor Peter Faber’s criticism of the construction world makes sense…], in: De Telegraaf, 22 June 1988; ‘Bedrijfsfilms steeds duurder’ [Company films more expensive], in: De Telegraaf, 12 May 1993; ‘SAM Dag 1999’ [SAM Day 1999], in: AV Prof, June 1999, p. 4.

42 The author would like to thank Leontine van de Stadt for making all the Keying into the Brain catalogues (2003-2012) available.

43 At the time this text was written these short films were not even included in Paul van der Oest’s filmography, published by the Netherlands Film Festival. See, accessed on 14 October 2015.

44 Hediger and Vonderau, ‘Record, Rhetoric, Rationalization’, p. 46.

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