Aspiring actor, businessman and polyglot Eric Van Loon heads the Vineri Media Group, colouring up taxis of the archipelago. Words: Tony Stanton. Photo: Lucky 8.
Eric, where are you from and how did you arrive in Bali?
I am from Holland, born in Nijmege, the oldest city in the Netherlands. I came to Bali in 2009 when the jeweler Rodrigo Otazu offered me a job at his company here. Rodrigo is still running his business with success in New York – he was an amazing and inspiring man to work with. Although he was difficult at times, he wholeheartedly embodied his brand with passion and energy. I learned a lot from him. After that I worked as General Manager at John Hardy in Mambal. The great thing with John Hardy was that I found the same passion and energy with Guy Bedarida and Damien Dernoncourt. These people were just very inspiring individuals to work with. There I also met Pak Werner, a German technician, who was responsible for development and production of all the amazing jewelry. Werner brought the technique and the quality to the John Hardy brand. The best quality I have ever seen. None of these people were easy to work with, but they earned my respect for the way they worked and talked with passion. That is what I like in people.
How did you grow up?
I grew up in Nijmegen with a sister and a brother; I was the eldest. I started horse riding when I was seven years old. We had our own horses. We lived in the suburbs of Nijmegen close to the woods, and the horses were kept in stables about 30 minutes away by bicycle. I was good at dressage and jumping. I even got a job working on a big ranch in Hanford, California. The people needed somebody to work with the horses, mostly Dutch and European horses, for riding shows and breeding. I was working with them daily. I also taught them dressage. It’s all about training, day in day out. It’s about balance and patience. You are never the boss of the horse; you can only be his friend. This was a great learning experience for me. Later I studied in Amsterdam at a technical school for the fashion industry, then I travelled the world for my job as a production and buying manager.
What did your parents do when you were a kid?
My father was a great sales man. He could sell oil to the Arabs. He was a very likeable person and he was always smiling. Inside he struggled a lot with himself, but he was an amazing father – always there for me. My father was an orphan, and he had a bad childhood. He joined the army when he was 18 years old and served six years. My mother was a hairdresser. She worked at home cutting hair for the neighborhood children. She was a strong person. When my father had a heart attack and had bypass surgery, he was not allowed to work anymore. So my mother found a job while my father stayed home. We had a great childhood.
What gets you out of bed in the mornings these days?
For as long as I can remember I have woken at 5.30am each morning. When I was younger I used to start work immediately. These days I run every morning for 30 to 50 minutes, it depends on my mood. This keeps me healthy and positive. It’s a great feeling to come home after the run. I feel so much energy and my best ideas come when I’m running. I love it.
Tell us about the Vineri Media Group.
Vineri Media Group is the first company to sell taxi advertising throughout the whole of Indonesia. We offer our services in 14 cities on the islands of Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali and Lombok. We started the company at the end of 2010 and had our first cars on the road in May 2011 in Bali. We have recently made a deal with a company in Singapore to sell taxi advertising for our clients in Indonesia. That means their products and services from here are now being seen on taxis in Singapore and Hong Kong. Compared to all other advertising formats, we offer the cheapest and also the most cost effective way to advertise. I see taxi advertising as a catalyst for all the other media in a company’s media mix. Our strength lies in the fact that we are selling throughout the archipelago. You can book your advertising in all of our offices for any city and as many cities you want. You can order 200 taxis for six months and divide it over more than one city with the quantities per city as you please. Or you can buy advertising on just two cars for three months, so we serve the smaller clients too. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing your favourite restaurant, bar or spa on the side of the taxi. It creates a connection with your brand. That’s what we want from advertising.
Does advertising work?
Henry Ford once said: “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” I believe that advertising is key to success. Advertising in any form and/or combined will make people remember you and make people aware that you are still out there. You have to be in their minds, you have to be remembered as soon as they need your product or your service. Of course you need a good product or a good service to start with. Like Brain Koslow said: “There’s no advertising as powerful as a positive reputation traveling fast.” But for that you need to reach people, a lot of people. To reach these people you need to start to advertise your great brand, your great service. More and more people need to get that positive experience.
What’s the best piece of advertising you have ever seen?
The walk-in fridge ad from Heineken. They have an amazing team with very creative people. Also, Axe deodorant, unbelievable what they have created all over the world. Here in Asia, I think AirAsia is the best example that advertising is important, as they are everywhere. They are not the best or the cheapest, yet they are a brand that is in everybody’s mind.
What do you do when you’re not coloring the streets of Indonesia?
I need my friends, I need the positive energy of people. Luckily I have some great friends all over the world. Meeting people is the best way to get your mind off the stress that you have on a daily basis.
OK last one: you’re driving along a canyon road at night. There’s a large wounded beast blocking the road. It’s four hours back to the nearest town. You can’t get past. What do you do?
Keep in mind that when I was young I lived and worked on a ranch with more than 40 horses and more than 3,000 cows. See, injured animals can be dangerous, but they are also in pain. You don’t want them to suffer any longer than needed. I would take a look and then call it in to the sheriff’s department. If it’s wounded and blocking the road, it means it is badly wounded. Otherwise it would find shelter and hide. That is what wounded wild animals do. If it is wounded badly, best thing to do is take its life. Don’t get me wrong, I hate people that hunt for pleasure. But I grew up with the fact that if your horse or a cow breaks a leg, the vet will come and take its life away. The cowboys were taking care of that during my time on the ranch.
Eric, many thanks for your time.