Adland in Hamburg: It's Germany, but not as we know it

Hamburg's emerging agency scene embodies a nation ripe for reappraisal

There’s something really interesting going on in Germany at the moment.

No, not the Laughter Yoga Congress in Detmold, but something potentially as surprising a find.

It’s an assuredness about the value of its creative work – particularly to international clients. In fact, almost more to international clients than to domestic German marketers.

Even more interesting is that this creative assuredness is laced with a self-deprecating modesty and sense of humour that wouldn’t be out of place in an English comedy of manners.

When we visited Hamburg and met agencies for lunch, it was the jolliest of affairs, full of laughter, fun and the sort of hand-waving and tumbling conversation you might expect to find around an Italian family table.

Indeed, none of it seemed very German at all. At least, not as determined by the national stereotype.

And, yet, there was much made by the agencies there of the German character: attractive in business; not so much at parties (their suggestion). The first part of that must surely still hold. But the second notion was as far from reality as was possible.

"We don’t know how to deal with certain things, especially our German-ness itself," Percy Smend, the chief international officer at Scholz & Friends, noted. "But this is changing and it’s probably what is making us an interesting hub for creativity."

There is definitely a shift in external perceptions of German creativity, propelled partly by strong showings at Cannes in recent years and the viral success of provocative work such as Jung von Matt/Neckar’s "supergeil" ad for the supermarket Edeka (look it up on if you’ve never seen it).

There has also been a shift in the centre of economic power eastwards from London in an expanded European Union, which puts Germany in a good geographical position for international briefs.

The confluence of these two things has created a fertile environment from which German agencies are growing outwards and reaching into international marketing budgets and sometimes territories.

As part of Campaign’s strategy to broaden our own international coverage, we have extended our "Adland in…" series to turn the spotlight on Hamburg across the following pages and with films at Here, you’ll find a flavour of the personalities, work and ambitions of some of the agencies that are putting Germany on international pitchlists and may be looking to work with you.

Suzanne Bidlake is the managing editor, content solutions, at Campaign