Just Call Apeldoorn

The small city of Apeldoorn is home to one of the most successful Dutch insurance companies: Centraal Beheer. The company built a reputation creating tv advertisements that prove in 30 to 60-second the importance of being insured. In each ad, some kind of disaster looms (but is rarely shown) and the historical slogan reminds viewers since 1986 to Just Call Apeldoorn – in Dutch “Even Apeldoorn Bellen”.

The ads are remarkable for a number of reasons. If you have about an hour and are remotely interested, just watch them all in this playlist. They are arranged from most recent to oldest.

The number of references and cinematic styles packed in those ads is truly impressive and it’s so much fun to go about and find tropes and references in each one of them.

Paard and Getuige reference Mafia movies ala Goodfellas. Koekoek reminds in theme and music the Horror of Needful Things. While anticipating the joy and pain of self-driving cars, De zelfrijdende auto (2014) uses the Wilhelm Scream a sound engineer in-joke.

There’s even space for sci-fi (UFO and Augurk) and Historical movies with Abilene (Western), Krant and Box.

But probably the peak for an overspecific genre is reached with two ads that have the point of view of an animal Wesp (Wasp) and Muis (Mouse).

There’s very little Dutch-ness in those ads. Except perhaps Caravan and Balletje that show traits and scenes very familiar and typical of that wonderful culture.

But apart from that, the majority of the ads show the quintessential Dutch virtue: they are exquisitely international and welcome with open spirit many languages. Just take a look at Ambulance (in Finnish), Overval (in French), Schoonmaaksters (in Brasilian Portuguese) or Schotland, which is set quite obviously in Scotland.

But of all the nations represented, Americans and the US are by far the most represented. Some of those ads are so American that they could easily be broadcasted on PBS and probably fit right in. See for instance NASA Phoenix Marslander, Birdie or Rebel.

Most of all, the Even Apeldoorn Bellen ads are fantastic at capturing the spirit of a decade. My personal favourite three are representative, either in style or mood, of the 2000s (Acupunctuur), the 90s (Museum) and the 80s (Ski).

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