'De Opportunisten' (Reclamewereld blog, 6 May 2016).

Frank Pels is a retired Dutch advertising copywriter, and co-founder of the PPGH advertising agency. With clients like Heineken, PTT-Telecom, De Postbank, Melkunie and Omo, he was responsible for a great many well-remembered advertising slogans in his home country. Besides his accomplishments within the industry - he was named "Advertising Man of the Year" in 1995 - Pels was mostly known for the sharp and critical commentary he gave on his profession through his comic strip 'De Opportunisten' (1984-2016, 2019).

Active since the second half of the 1960s, Rotterdam-born Frank Pels saw the focus of the advertising industry shift from print media to TV commercials. In 1981, he founded the PPGH/Moussault advertising firm in Amsterdam with his partners Frans Hettinga, Ton Ploegmakers and Roel Glasbeek. With clients like BMW, Bols, Canon, Douwe Egberts, Grolsch, De Postbank, De Volkskrant and Ouwehands Dierenpark, the company quickly rose to the top agencies in the Netherlands. When in 1988 PPGH was acquired by the British WPP Group, it merged with the Dutch branch of J. Walter Thomspon - also owned by WPP - and continued as PPGH/JWT. In 2007, this fusion in turn merged with Ubachs Wisbrun, continuing as UbachsWisbrun/JWT before in 2011 each of the partners went their separate ways again. By then, Frank Pels was already long-gone from the firm, running his own De Frank Pels Company since the early 2000s.

The driving force behind several high profile campaigns, Frank Pels was responsible for famous Dutch advertising slogans for Gamma ("Dat zeg ik, Gamma"), KitKat ("Waar zijn wij nou helemaal mee bezig?"), Rivella Light ("Een beetje vreemd, maar wel lekker"), Autodrop ("Zo lekker, het zou verboden moeten worden"), De Hypotheker ("Jazeker, De Hypotheker") and Fisherman's Friend ("Sterk spul, hè?"). Working with the producers duo Fluitsma & Van Tijn, Frank Pels has also been a songwriter for Dutch acts like Reniet Vrieze, Ruth Jacott, Bert Heerink and Linda, Roos & Jessica. Some of the songs they produced for advertising spots have become hits too, most notably the Top 40 staple '15 Miljoen Mensen' (1996), a song celebrating the Dutch national character, written by Pels and performed by Fluitsma & Van Tijn for a Postbank campaign.

'De Bolletjes', advertising strip for Bolletje, drawn by Jan van Haasteren (1985).

De Bolletjes
For a 1985 campaign for the Bolletje biscuit brand, Frank Pels scripted a comic strip series starring mascot creatures for the brand. Replacing the earlier mascot created by Wim Boost, Pels's 'De Bolletjes' initially appeared in the women's weekly Libelle and also in a series of landscape-format booklets. The first two drawn by Jan van Haasteren, the rest by Bart Slijp.

De Opportunisten
Also a cartoonist himself, Frank Pels is perhaps best known among his peers for the sharp commentary he gives on the advertising industry through his own comic strip, 'De Opportunisten' ("The Opportunists"). Starting in late 1984 in Adformatie - a weekly for advertising professionals - the feature is a cynical satire of the advertising world, starring director Willy Broertjes of the fictional advertising bureau Broertjes, Blij en Dijkstra (BBD). Broertjes is a sleazy executive more interested in cash than reliability of his products. Many episodes are inspired by Pels' own lifelong experiences when dealing with customers, employees and executives. Even though he used parody names, his colleagues noticed the references to real-life people and brands, making 'De Opportunisten' both praised and feared.

'De Opportunisten' (Reclamewereld blog, 8 july 2014).

For many years, Pels used his strip to express his aversion to complacency in the advertising world. Pels saw his colleagues tag along with trends and hypes, and always hiring the exact same people to make their ads simple copies of pre-existing ideas. In his opinion, this makes the ads forgettable, as consumers can't tell one brand from the other. Pels was equally critical of companies that want to advertise their products in an uninspired manner, losing touch with what customers really want. Originality should be essential in his profession.

'De Opportunisten' ran uninterrupted for two decades until Adformatie changed its editorial mix in the spring of 2009. Pels then continued his strip as a webcomic, first on his own website, and from February 2011 on the Adformatie website. In June 2014, 'De Opportunisten' transferred to the Reclamewereld blog by Michael van Os, where it appeared until August 2016. Since 1985, over twenty 'De Opportunisten' books have been published as promotional gifts for relations of Adformatie and Samsom. In 2019, Pels revived his Broertjes character for a new self-published comic book, 'Nog Eén Keer Vlammen'. In later years, Pels has mostly used his Opportunisten.nl website for posting critical articles and columns.

"The Truth About The Rabbit" (Wordt Vervolgd #1, October 1980).

Other cartoon work
Besides creating 'De Opportunisten', Frank Pels has also done other cartooning work. In 1980 and 1981, Pels was present in the first twelve issues of Wordt Vervolgd magazine - the Dutch version of the French À Suivre - creating the satirical cartoon page 'Het Moet Maar Eens Gezegd Worden', that claims to tell the truth about all sorts of subjects. With Willem Pijffers, he created humorous self-help booklets like 'Wat Te Doen Na Je Pensioen' ("What To Do After Retirement", 2007), 'Wat Te Doen Na Je Veertigste' ("What To Do After Forty", 2007), 'Wat Te Doen Na Je Vijftigste' ("What To Do After Fifty", 2007) and 'Vrouwen, Was Ik Er Maar Nooit Aan Begonnen' ("Women, I Wish I Never Started", 2009). With wine connaisseur Harold Hamersma, he created 'Niet Lullen Maar Drinken' (H. Hamersma, 2008), a cartoon wine book.

Paper placemat for restaurants, with cartoons by Frank Pels.

For his innovating contributions to Dutch advertising, and especially for his sharp observations from within the industry, Frank Pels was made Advertising Man of the Year 1995 by SAN foundation. In 2009, the industry association of advertising agencies named him VEA Legend, the fifth advertising professional to receive this annual prize.

Paper cutlery holders for restaurants with cartoons by Frank Pels.

Series and books by Frank Pels in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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