CLOSE-UP: GLOBAL BRIEF; Germany gears up for sell-off

Richard Cook reviews the ins and outs of launchinga privatisation campaign

Richard Cook reviews the ins and outs of launchinga privatisation


We all know what it’s like because we’ve all suffered through it. The

sheer bludgeoning repetition of the appeal; the ubiquity; the slipshod

slogan shoe-horned into our collective consciousness - in short, the

privatisation campaign. And now it is Germany’s turn.

Last week, Deutsche Telekom announced the world’s largest privatisation

programme with the first stage a pounds 7 billion sell-off, starting in

November. The Dusseldorf-based agency, SEA Spiess, will be handling the

campaign - a long-time partner of the telecommunications giant, it

picked up the work without a pitch as an extension of the image-building

work it has long been carrying out for the company. It’s the kind of

extension most agencies could only dream of. The campaign broke last

week on TV and in the press and will run until November.

‘We can’t say how much the campaign will cost overall, because that

depends on a number of factors,’ Udo Martini, the agency’s managing

director, says. ‘But this is the biggest privatisation in German history

and we are trying to reach existing private shareholders, which isn’t a

huge group of people in Germany, and persuade others to become private

shareholders. It’s crucial we reach as many people as possible.’

In fact the ad assignment is a particularly difficult one - not only

does Deutsche Telekom have a reputation for a most untypical

inefficiency but only 5 per cent of the German population currently

invests in the stock market, compared with a pan-European average of

around 20 per cent. Most of the non-shareholding majority will at least

get to see the new ads - the TV work will play on Germany’s eight

largest stations, there will be saturation coverage in financial

magazines, spots in newspapers and on posters, and a vast direct

marketing campaign.

The TV work uses the tune of the Cole Porter song Who Wants to be a

Millionaire? but adds the words ‘Who wants to be an investor?’ Non

German speakers will just have to accept Martini’s assertion that the

pun works better in German than it does in translation.

Overall, the campaign was received with some warmth at its launch -

scepticism was reserved for the privatisation itself - but as any

hardened privatisation watcher knows, with these heavyweight campaigns

what matters is not how they start, it’s how irritating they are at the

end. Just ask Sid.