CAMPAIGN REPORT ON GERMANY: German agencies on a world stage - A growing creative reputation is helping to entice a few German advertising agencies out of their cosy nooks in Hamburg and into the international arena. Karen Yates investigates

The Americans have done it, we’ve done it and so have the French. So why is it that German agencies have shown such reluctance to expand outside of their homeland? Or why, at least, do they appear to have started only now?

The Americans have done it, we’ve done it and so have the French.

So why is it that German agencies have shown such reluctance to expand

outside of their homeland? Or why, at least, do they appear to have

started only now?



It’s easy to pin the blame on the fact that Germany has a reputation for

producing dull advertising. But that’s also true of some of the world’s

biggest and most successful networks and it hasn’t stopped them.

Moreover, a few German shops do now have respectable creative - and

international - reputations.



Jung von Matt, Springer & Jacoby and Scholz & Friends have all been

turning out award-winning work in recent years. Yet the New Germany,

brimming with economic confidence and awash with leading international

brands such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Bosch has not yet spawned any

multinational agency groups. Until now, that is.



Over the past three years, two of Germany’s top agencies have opened

offices in London, and one of them, Scholz, has branches in 14 different

countries. Both expansions have been quiet and modest and each has

happened for different reasons.



Germany’s top three creative agencies were all founded in Hamburg, the

relatively outward-facing seaport that still bears the creative heritage

of the country’s most famous agency GGK. Of GGK’s three would-be

successors, only Jung von Matt has built a network throughout Germany

with offices in Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin, although Scholz has a

thriving Berlin bureau. However, until the middle of the last decade,

none of them had ventured overseas. In 1995, things began to change.

Generally it is an agency’s big clients that drive international

expansion - the likes of Ford and Procter & Gamble, for example, forced

the American wave of expansion in the 50s and 60s. And to begin with,

Scholz was no different.



’We did exactly what the Yanks did,’ Kate Robertson, the chief executive

of Scholz & Friends in London, says. In the mid-90s Scholz began setting

up an overseas network at the request of its key tobacco client,

Reemstma. Being judicious, however, there was no gung-ho rush into each

market. Each outpost of Scholz was just that: a man or woman with a

computer and some local media expertise who altered the work for local

markets. Each bureau was carefully planned, each built around the

client, and each was profitable from the outset. ’Between 1995 and 1996

we opened ten offices in Europe, each in the black from day one - it was

very German, very prudent,’ Robertson says.



Then, in 1997, the Scholz chairman Peter Schoning took a risk. He

launched in London with six people and only the hint of some future

Reemstma business to come. It is hard to say why he took this leap of

faith. Perhaps because of confidence in the energetic and charismatic

Robertson whose South African heritage and good London track record was

the right combination to convince a nervous management. Perhaps it was

hubris, since a base in London is de rigeur for credibility on the

international stage.



Despite management level doubts about using local talent, Scholz opened

in London with only one German on the team. Apart from Robertson, the

other staff were British. Two and a half years later, Robertson presides

over 38 staff from six different countries and the agency bills around

pounds 8 million. Scholz has found a niche as a truly multinational team

that attracts the small- to mid-sized clients that don’t fit with one of

the big networks but need to run a pan-European campaign - the likes of

CNBC and Swedish Match.



Opening a London office of Springer & Jacoby also involved a leap of

faith. Stefan Schmidt, the joint creative director of London, admits the

agency came to London ’just because it wanted to’. The move had nothing

to do with buffing up its international credentials ahead of talks with

multinational agency groups.



Discussions about Omnicom taking a 20 per cent stake in Springer had not

even started then. Springer opened here with no business, and no promise

of it, except two clients who didn’t mind their work being created out

of the UK.



’Germany is a bit like Sleepy Hollow,’ Schmidt explains. ’Hamburg is

beautiful and artistic but it’s small. There’s so much more spirit, more

inspiration in London. Our creative thinking is better since we moved

here.’



To the inhabitants of Sleepy Hollow, Schmidt admits, Springer’s move to

London was ’not logical’. The office was seen as a reward for doing well

and a place to gain overseas experience, so it was originally staffed by

Germans. That was a year ago. Since then, although the management is

still German, most of the staff are now drawn from some eight different

countries.



The surprise for Schmidt was what a winning formula this proved to be

for existing clients. They were glad to find an agency they knew and

trusted but with the advantages of a multinational. In the past year,

Mercedes gave Springer London a chunk of its overseas campaigns (not the

UK), and DaimlerChrysler signed over its corporate work to London.

Springer now has, in Mercedes, the all-important client that it needs to

open more international offices. Once the Omnicom deal is sealed it will

also have the cash to do so and there are plans afoot to move into

Spain, Italy, and even the US.





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