Feature

The World's Leading Independent Agencies: Kolle Rebbe

At the heart of Kolle Rebbe is an independent streak, which, the founders say, will never change.

When we were asked to write this, it made us pause for a moment. We had to think about ourselves, and who we are, before we could write anything that would enlighten others.

THE SOUNDTRACK TO THIS FEATURE ...

'If you don't get what you want' - deus

We'd like to ask you a question. What are the advantages of small independent bands, who've been around for ages and only play in small clubs, where sweat drips from the ceiling, in comparison to large bands who have been completely wrung out by the media?

When we say "wrung out", we mean bands that have been cast in TV shows, which may be able to fill stadia with herds of 40,000 consumption-happy and acne-faced teens, but who are physically incapable of uttering a single sound without their 30-strong management teams.

'Pissing in the Wind' - Badly Drawn Boy

Do you have one of those songs that hardly anybody else has ever heard of, apart from you, which covers you in goose bumps from head to toe every time you hear it? Or a favourite band that has become inseparable from some of the greatest moments in your life, a band that has accompanied you for years, and has contributed a few songs to the soundtrack of your life? A proper band that has grown and matured over the years.

If you can answer "yes" to any of the above, and if the above rings a bell, you obviously understand what we mean.

We are one of those independent bands. And we like being just that. You may not know us. That doesn't matter. We exist, regardless; and we prove it every day, with every sound we make.

And we know how to play well, because we know exactly what we're doing. We can do everything, we have the heart to do anything; and if things sound a little off-key, we try again. Until it sounds good. We can try ourselves out. And we can also be positive. Even when we create dissonances.

We can hit some pretty oblique notes, and we can do mainstream as well: we mix way-out freestyle jazz, which almost rips your brain apart, shredded-up punk rock and ever-so-effervescent pop music with smoky whiskey blues, seasoned with electronic dance beats. Why? Because we can. And, most importantly, because we can afford to.

'Hold on to Your Genre' - Les Savy Fav

When the telephone rings, and a 212 code blinks in the display, we stay calm. We don't get weekly control calls from headquarters in New York. We aren't under any pressure to fulfil our monthly record sales quotas; there are no departments with operational targets watching over us, with some controller who has never set foot in our agency in his life, let alone in our country.

We don't have to justify ourselves in front of hordes of shareholders, who were promised the impossible by the clueless. And we don't have to adapt weak ideas for the German and Czech markets, just because an idea was lucky enough to work for the Vietnamese market. We don't have to play every gig. We can do what we please.

Of course, we do make some mistakes. But we're the ones making them. And we learn from them. Each of our mistakes, and every one of our successes, takes us forward. Us and only us. No chief executive in London or New York or Hong Kong.

'Free' - Cat Power

Our recording studio is our agency, Kolle Rebbe; the stages we perform on are every communication channel that you can imagine.

Our only office in the world is right here in Hamburg, and it's all under one roof. Each job is done by one team. Our routes are short, architecturally and hierarchically. Despite quite impressive growth, we have remained small, and we like it like that.

Currently, we have around 140 band members, and, of course, we have our differences occasionally, sometimes even a squabble or two. We're people, after all, not machines. And we know why we do what we do: for the results. We work together. Not against each other. There is no marked, purposely positioned competitive thinking between individual departments, there is no rat race fired up from the outside.

And there are no internal company meetings you have to reach by plane.

We're very happy this is how it is.

'On Our Way' - Double

KOREFE is our band room, where we experiment professionally; our special department for design and brand innovation. It stands for Kolle Rebbe Form und Entwicklung (Kolle Rebbe Form and Development).

KOREFE is free jazz, punk rock and experimentalism all rolled into one, and all are based on our traditional and classically trained skills.

Since the market always needs new approaches, we like to meet those demands. And we do it to be successful, not just to polish any old numbers put forward by any old bosses in the US.

Our main job is, and always will be, to find the best solution for a client. And to think ahead, obviously.

Currently, 65 per cent of our work is traditional advertising, 30 per cent is new ideas, and the remaining 5 per cent is completely new approaches: free-jazz-punk-rock-pop-blues with classical strings and a piano.

That's the sort of stuff we get prizes for, and how we set new standards.

"Time Changes Technique" - North of America

Whatever we do, we do it from the heart and with all of our energy.

Several supposedly small independent bands have also shown that if you're authentic and true to yourself, you can still be successful. These are the bands which excelled at what they do, and who were unknown until they caused a revolution ... and all without the help of a 30-strong management team.

'Come As You Are' - Nirvana

Stefan Kolle and Stephan F. Rebbe are the founders of Kolle Rebbe.

AT A GLANCE

Name: Kolle Rebbe

Founded: 1994

Principals: Stefan Kolle, Stephan F. Rebbe, Olaf Oldigs, Andreas Winter-Buerke, Dominic Veken

Staff: 140

Location: Hamburg

What's the future for independent agencies? As long as there are advertising agencies, there will be independent advertising agencies

How will you be part of it? As an independent advertising agency.

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