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
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
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
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.
Editor Tracey Taylor
Art Editor Nadia Rooney
Production Editor Michael Porter
Production Manager Emma Shortt
Reports Editor Pippa Considine
174 Hammersmith Road
London W6 7JP
Tel: 0181-267 4656
Fax: 0181-267 4914/4915
For back issues call
(C)Haymarket Management Publications Limited
Andrew Brookes/The Stock Market.