CAMPAIGN REPORT IN GERMANY: BMW moves the goalposts. Scholz & Friends is coming to terms with losing Germany’s most prestigious car account to Jung von Matt. Report by Michele Martin and Richard Cook

In Germany, they used to say you could tell a lot about a man by the luxury car he drove. A Mercedes driver was likely to be older, fatter and more powerful than an Audi driver. A BMW driver, on the other hand, was bound to be younger, sportier and more pro-active than either.

In Germany, they used to say you could tell a lot about a man by

the luxury car he drove. A Mercedes driver was likely to be older,

fatter and more powerful than an Audi driver. A BMW driver, on the other

hand, was bound to be younger, sportier and more pro-active than


It was a comforting truism for BMW, and one that allowed the company’s

advertising to concentrate for years on the engineering of its cars,

rather than other elements of its image. However, both Audi and Mercedes

suddenly decided to reclaim the ’younger, sportier’ tag a few years ago.

Audi launched a series of stylish commercials through Jung Von Matt;

Mercedes replied with award-winning work intended to make the marque a

bit more human. The increased competition spurred BMW into action.

BMW had lost its way in terms of its marketing after ending its 12-year

association with Sea Speiss in the mid-80s. After Scholz & Friends’

lacklustre eight-year grip on the account was loosened in 1994, agency

changes came thick and fast. One appointment, BDDP, lasted scant months,

despite the opening of a special Frankfurt office to help service the


But by 1996, BMW was ready to change all that. Out went ads that focused

too coldly on mechanics. In came more emotional advertising, with a

greater emphasis on television, created by the re-appointed agency,

Scholz & Friends.

But the advertising overhaul is only really starting. Two weeks ago, the

car giant approached the Audi agency, Jung von Matt, to replace Scholz &

Friends from the beginning of next year and accelerate the drive towards

more emotive and creative advertising.

’It’s a tremendous pity because I think last year we produced BMW’s best

work for ten years. Our campaigns were winning awards and people were

starting to look upon BMW for the first time as a creative advertiser,’

the Scholz & Friends chief executive officer, Peter Schoning,


’When we first lost the account three years ago, the work we were

producing was only average, not something we could be proud of; now it’s

completely different.’

The current campaign gets to the heart of the car’s supposedly

’unemotional’ German credentials. The TV spot features international

figures - including an English judge and a Japanese manager - talking

about the German characteristics of ’quality’ and ’reliability’. After

the voiceover asks, ’Haven’t you forgotten something?’, the scene cuts

to a BMW under the declaration that it is ’sheer driving pleasure’.

The wry print work echoes the TV ads. One execution, featuring a

grinning woman, asks: ’Your partner wants to know why you’re smiling?’

It suggests that, rather than tell him the truth that the car is the

object of desire, ’tell him it’s because of him’. A second ad shows a

man flying upside down in a fighter plane under the line: ’You don’t fly

just to get Air Miles, so don’t drive just because you need to get


The work has the added benefit of helping to standardise BMW’s brand

message internationally. Despite using a series of local agencies rather

than one global network - ’Our subsidiaries have full responsibility for

their advertising and marketing,’ an international BMW spokesman

explains - the German work locked into a wider trend in key BMW markets

such as the UK and the Americas. Jeremy Hemmings, board account director

on the business at BMW’s UK agency, WCRS, says these recent similarities

in advertising tone and content are the result of consumer research

showing BMW drivers as a consistent breed, whether in Berlin or Boston.

’Synergies across markets come from looking at research groups, not an

international dictat,’ he says.

This added pep in Germany’s creative offering dates from a restructure

in 1996 at BMW that helped to integrate its distribution and marketing

functions and change the way it worked with its advertising


After years of getting work approved through a rigid system of line

managers - often resulting in ideas being watered down - the company

decided it wanted a more open system. Under the new arrangement, agency

and client discussed ideas at every stage. The system moved Germany

closer to the UK model, where WCRS and BMW often work in project teams

which also incorporate direct marketing and sales promotion. The Scholz

& Friends executive planning director, Cary Steinmann, admits that the

degree of co-operation is still relatively unusual for German

advertising, adding: ’BMW has learned the lesson of working in a team

and the process has become more important.

It is still a new idea in Germany.’

This team-based system has now been replaced; one member of BMW staff

has assumed overall responsibility to stop the possibility of ads

drifting into a consensual mediocrity. Holger Jung, a Jung von Matt

partner, says: ’A lot of the problems BMW has had with its agencies in

the past stem from its internal structure. The various parts of the

budget have been spread too widely, with different people responsible

for different bits.

Naturally, in these cases everyone fights with each other trying to get

their own ideas through.

’The other change follows on from the purchase of Rolls Royce: BMW is

going to have different brands for different areas of market, which will

allow more targeted advertising and create a point of difference with

Mercedes. Mercedes has, I think, started to suffer from the fact that

its range is so big. Americans who think of Mercedes as a luxury car

marque are always surprised to find so many taxi drivers in Germany have


Before Jung von Matt gets a chance to show what it can do with the

business, though, there is a vital launch campaign to be engineered by

Scholz & Friends for the 3-Series launch. Although both BMW and the

agency are keeping quiet about what the campaign contains, Steinmann

confirms the change. ’There is a cliche that if you’re sexy, you can’t

be reliable. BMW has always been seen as reliable and, unfortunately,

that image backfired on us a little.

Now we’re changing that.’

Schoning adds: ’And if we can take any heart at all from the ending of

our relationship with BMW, it’s that the creative value of the work

should be widely seen, which is partly why the 3-series launch is so


Any time you lose business it’s very disappointing, but I firmly believe

this is as a result of personal frictions and affinities, rather than of

any lack of creative qualities, which makes it a little easier to bear.’


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