It takes a client with trust, and some balls, then, to hire an art director like Erik Kessels. Kessels himself would prefer to see it in terms of human relationships — you and your client have to get to know each other, “drink beer and talk about other things”, to really understand each other’s motivations and requirements. Kramer got to know Rob Penris, who founded the hostel in 1970 and managed it until he passed away two years ago, while he was an art director at Ogilvy & Mather. Penris was one of his first clients when he opened KesselsKramer and the two had a very close and creative relationship. “He was, of course, a driving force behind it,” Kessels says of Penris’s input to the advertising campaigns. “We had lots of discussions on which way it should go. When you have two people that enjoy working together and try to take it further and get it to make even more sense, or disrupt it again, that relationship can be something we could almost write a book about.”
Indeed, it did produce a book — The Worst Hotel in The World, published by Booth Clibborn, 2009. When it came to launching the book, Penris took delight in proposing the venue of The Ritz in Paris for the celebration. “Rob said there’s a relationship between the Hans Brinker budget hotel and the Ritz,” Kessels recalls, “because when you type it in to search engines you often also see The Ritz mentioned — people say ‘don't expect The Ritz’ or ‘it's not The Ritz’. So he rented The Ritz tearoom for an afternoon, invited the press and handed over the first copy of the book to the manager of The Ritz. It's nice when people dare to play with things and have those ideas”.