Feature

Germany: German creative picks up the pace

Although Germany scooped as many Lions as the UK this year, Germans find it hard to be creative, Jean-Remy von Matt explains.

While some German campaigns have fared well in international competitions in recent years, the majority of German advertising has failed to keep pace with its competitors and has forfeited some of the respect it previously had. In the past five years, in particular, impressive, large-scale campaigns have been very thin on the ground. Here are three possible explanations for this - choose which seems the most plausible.

Explanation 1: Each different nationality - fortunately - has its own typical style. We Germans are sticklers for logic. We want things to fit and to be just right; we appreciate clarity, such as the kind of clarity you get in technology. Which partly explains why we build the best cars in the world. As a result, however, what we - logically - lack in comparison is imagination, romanticism, exaggeration, cockiness and a sense of playfulness. All of which are exactly what it takes to be truly creative.

Explanation 2: If you don't sell yourself in a confident and relaxed manner, you put your ideas across in a tense way. A nation of people needs to feel comfortable with itself to be able to put itself across well to others. When you travel across the US, you can't help but notice all the American flags everywhere - even before 2001. Much the same goes for France, England and Switzerland, too. This is people saying they identify with the symbols of my country; they like the image they convey and are proud to be a part of it all. This is a sentiment that is altogether lacking in Germany. All too often, I hear people complain about German advertising, saying: "I don't like that, it's too German."

Explanation 3: The basic prerequisite for fascinating communication is an industry that is willing to go on the offensive. If all you want to do is cling on to your market share, you'd be as interesting as a football club that just plays defensively to stay exactly where it is. Without emotion and drive, our creativity has nothing to feed off. And there has been no drive in Germany for six years now. A vast proportion of the German economy has been only interested in maintaining the status quo, rather than getting out there to take on the world. Thank God, change is on the horizon. Watch this space - we're on our way!

- Jean-Remy von Matt is the founder and chairman of Jung von Matt, Hamburg, and a teaching professor at the University of Wismar.

CANNES WINNERS 2007

1. EPURON - Power of wind
Agency: Nordpol + Hamburg
Prize: Gold Lion
Category: Film

A staunch riposte to the cliche of Germans' lack of humour, this understated ad personifies the wind as a laconic, misunderstood irritant, lifting women's skirts and kicking boxes, until he eventually meets someone who harnesses his behaviour for good purpose.

2. DAIMLERCHRYSLER - Back seat
Agency: BBDO Germany/Team Smart Dusseldorf
Prize: Silver Lion
Category: Film

This cinema ad plugs straight into its audience, extolling as a main virtue of the Smart car its lack of back seats in which a muderer might lurk. It stitches together famous film clips in which people are more than just bothered by back-seat drivers.

3. LEGO - Builders of tomorrow
Agency: Jung von Matt, Hamburg
Prize: Gold Lion
Category: Outdoor

Pesky realities such as cigarettes and booze had to be removed from this rework of the original "Lunch Atop a Skyscraper", showing New York construction workers in 1932, the year in which Lego was founded.

4. JOBSINTOWN.DE - Wrong working environment
Agency: Scholz & Friends
Prize: Bronze Lion
Category: Outdoor

Designed to provoke a "This is just how I feel" reaction, posters for this internet job site on the front of slot machines depict someone sitting inside, operating the machinery, in what are clearly uncomfortable working conditions.

5. MTV NETWORKS - Hitler
Agency: Kempertrautmann Hamburg
Prize: Silver Lion
Category: Press

World War Two is a rare feature of German humour, but MTV stuck its neck out with this press campaign that ran in just a select number of magazines to promote its Comedy Central channel this summer. The channel positions itself as local, both in terms of production and humour.

6. MISEREOR - Iraq, Somalia, chechnya (WAR ORPHANS)
Agency: Kolle Rebbe Hamburg
Prize: Bronze Lion
Category: Press

Kolle Rebbe works voluntarily for Catholic charity Misereor, whose chief aim is to support children affected by poverty, war and disease across the world. This campaign launched last Christmas.

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