“The Eurovision Song Contest’s strategy comes to life!”

In 2019 the Netherlands finally did it, Duncan Lawrence won the Eurovision Song Contest. Time to party! This year it is up to the Netherlands to host the biggest music event in the world. In collaboration with Fronteer, a strategy was designed to make this edition in Rotterdam unforgettable and unique. We spoke with Hein van Es, partner at Fronteer, about the collaboration, the special group of the Magic 100 and the journey towards the final on May 22.

Hein, in 2019 Fronteer and the Eurovision Song Contest collaborated. What did you do together?

When Duncan won, the Netherlands had already begun preparations. If victory was to come, the Song Contest had to be built within a year. We were then approached by the Song Contest team with the following questions:  What will be the creative principles? And how do we ensure that this edition will be the guiding light for the coming years Eurovision Song Contest? 

Well, we are Fronteer, and we believe in involving different perspectives on a challenge; so we proposed to invite 100 diverse people to think about this challenge. That became the Magic 100, a diverse group including Emma Wortelboer, Alexander Klöpping, the Minister of Disabled Affairs Rick Brink, and several festival organizers; a mix of both celebrities, and non-celebrities. 

What was the goal of the project?

In the sessions with the ‘Magic 100’ we walked through all facets of the festival, it is a huge event with 180 million viewers. Sietse Bakker, the executive producer event of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021, himself said this about it:

“We want to create a Song Contest in which the Netherlands recognizes itself and that surprises Europe. We didn’t want to come up with the way in a meeting room in Hilversum, so we started listening from day one after Duncan’s win. Through co-creation workshops with the creative industry and street conversations with a diverse group of Dutch people, we developed a theme that fits the Netherlands and the times we live in.”

In the sessions it became clear that as the Netherlands we want to be open to other cultures; we also want to show that there are many people from other countries walking around in the Netherlands. In short: it has to be an open, inventive, diverse, and authentic event.

This greater authenticity also had to be visible in the program; it has to be much less scripted. The stereotype of scripted interviews, little spontaneity, and a fixed presentation feel very artificial. It is not sincere. This is what we wanted to work on.

The Magic 100

The Magic 100 is a very large and diverse group. Was it a different co-creation atmosphere than usual? 

We did the sessions with the Magic 100 with the whole company. We all worked on it together, and those were really fun sessions. We were all striving to set a new benchmark for the coming years. By looking at the basic elements with inventiveness and putting the music back on one, we were able to produce a good collective performance. 

What value does co-creation bring to international events like this one?

What is important in a project of this size is involving people that have many different perspectives. A diverse group of people needs to think about this, and by facilitating that conversation in a good way, you can achieve something unique.

A good example is the concept “Backstage is the new frontstage.” The Song Contest also fascinates by showing what happens behind the scenes; there is much more than just the stage. There are the waiting rooms, for example, where delegations do scripted interviews in previous years. Why not make that a festive bar, where the different countries can meet?

What are you looking forward to most?

I’m looking forward to seeing the strategy come to life. We designed the creative principles together, so I’m curious to see how that has become a reality in the stage, outfits, music, artists. We are going to see the connection between the diversity of elements and people. We think that this is the strength of upcoming editions of the Eurovision Song Contest: a combination of different groups that you would never see otherwise.