Nicole Dickenson looks at a selection of Europe’s most celebrated ad
campaigns and asks the clients and the agencies, what makes them so
When the creative hotshop, Jung von Matt, won the Audi account a year
ago, the client hadn’t advertised on German TV for ten years. According
to the agency’s creative director, Deneke von Weltzien, Audi was quick
to get back into the swing of making commercials. ‘Audi is a great
client to work with. It’s not like a lot of German clients, who tend to
see creativity as a hindrance rather than a major opportunity and who
are reluctant to try new ideas,’ he says.
Jung von Matt’s ads for the diesel TDI, the A4 model, the convertible
and the Quattro have been well received. ‘Research has shown that Audi
is top of mind and consumers like the under-lying humour and the
understated approach of the ads,’ von Weltzien says.
The brief from the client was to elicit more of an emotional response
from the consumer. ‘The Audi was highly regarded from a technological
point of view, but there was no emotional attachment like there is to,
say, BMW,’ von Weltzien explains.
For the TDI, Jung von Matt created a series of three follow-up ads. The
first shows a secretary driving her boss to the airport in his TDI and,
as he rushes to catch his plane, she asks for instructions and finally
asks where the petrol tank is.
Half of the 30-second commercial is spent with the boss scratching his
head wondering where the petrol tank is. The next ad shows him still at
the airport wondering. In the third ad the man is in the empty airport
lounge, surrounded by cleaning staff, still scratching his head. The
message is: when you only have to fill the petrol tank every 700 miles,
it’s easy to forget where it is.
The commercial for the A4 model is a similar departure from the usual
shots of a speeding car accompanied by a sober voice-over extolling the
technical merits of the particular model. To illustrate the road-
handling qualities of the A4 and how much fun you can have with it, a
well-known German racing driver is driving around like a lunatic with
his mother happily knitting beside him in the passenger seat. The
endline is: ‘driving has never been so much fun. The new Audi A4 is
Von Weltzien expects the ads to run for some time, technical innovation
permitting. ‘Audi is so technically minded - it’s continually improving
the product - so we will be constantly creating new ads,’ he says.
The success of the Jung von Matt campaign - Audi sales have reached
record levels - could signal more stable agency relationships for Audi.
In the past few years it has had two other agencies: DDB Vienna and SEA
National adspend: DM 50 million (pounds 23 million)
The Italian food company, Barilla, is closely involved in the creative
process from start to finish - perhaps not unusual for a family-owned
and run company. Fortunately, it is a position that the family-owned
Armando Testa, the agency that has handled Barilla’s 20-year-old Mulino
Bianco biscuit brand since 1989, understands.
Barilla likes its advertising to be contemporary and to reflect social
change, so in 1993 it decided that the four-year-old ‘rural mill’
campaign was in need of a revamp. The campaign was replaced by a series
of ads portraying nature in a very urban setting. They are primarily
intended to promote Barilla as a company that produces natural products.
The first ads, which featured a number of Italian cities, came out in
1994 and were directed by Tarsem. ‘Tarsem stamped his imprint on the new
campaign. He improved the aesthetic of the ads,’ Alberto Baccari, the
Armando Testa creative director, says.
It took two months to complete the post-production work for the three
commercials set in Rome, Florence and Venice, and the visual effects
have been widely praised.
The Rome ad for Tarallucci biscuits opens with a beautifully laid tea-
table and then moves to a square in Rome. Using motion control the
traffic jams in the square have been replaced by a bucolic scene of
cows, sheep and grass, but the architecture remains intact.
Similarly, an ad for Fette Biscottate starts with a family breakfast and
then follows two brothers around the bridges of Venice on the way to
school. The waterways in Venice have been replaced by wheat fields,
farmers with scythes are harvesting wheat near the Bridge of Sighs and
gondoliers float on rivers of wheat. The ‘mill in the city - Venice’
commercial has won more awards than any other commercial in Italy.
Not only do the ads emphasise the natural ingredients of Mulino Bianco
cookies, but also Barilla’s social conscience. The company has long been
involved in good causes, ranging from green issues to education. ‘We
tried to establish a relationship between the company and the consumer
and to give a bigger message: that if you eat natural products, live in
a more natural way and take care of the environment, then nature comes
back to you,’ Baccari says.
No of major awards: 30 Adspend: dollars 50 million
‘Four or five years ago ZVSM was thought of as a company that made
boring advertising,’ Cornelia Harder, ZVSM’s former marketing director,
says. She is the woman responsible for hiring Advico Young and Rubicam
four years ago to put a bit of oomph into ZVSM ads.
Harder is more than happy with the results of Advico’s campaign for
ZVSM, the Swiss equivalent of the Milk Marketing Board. ‘Normally an
agency comes up with a new ad that works well but then, two years later,
the next ads do not have the same success. The ZVSM ads win prizes every
Harder chose Advico because she was confident the agency would come up
with a strong message and well-produced commercials. ‘Advico is well-
known for commercials production - Hansjorg Zurcher [the creative
director] is recognised for his storyboard ideas and he has good
connections with film producers in the UK.’
The campaign is strong on execution and post production. The first TV
commercial,‘tap dancer’, featured a man tap dancing energetically beside
a cow nonchalantly chewing grass. The cow initially ignores the tap
dancer’s efforts to get her involved but then eventually breaks into a
better tap dance than the dancer. ‘Milk - the natural high’ is the
simple message of the campaign.
In the second commercial, ‘football’, the tap dancer is replaced by a
The timing of the commercials was important. The ‘football’ commercial
was timed to coincide with the 1994 World Cup in which the Swiss team
qualified for the first time in 20 years.
Zurcher puts the campaign’s success down to the ‘simplicity of the
humour and the emotional side of it - the interaction between the cow
and the man’. The director, Bill Marshall, of Voyager Films, played a
key role. ‘Before we present ideas to the client we go to Marshall,’
Zurcher says. ‘If he says an idea won’t work, it won’t work.’
The campaign has won plaudits from around the world. The ‘football’
commercial was bought by the German television station, Sat 1, to use in
the trailer for its Round One football programme, and the ads have
featured in shows about advertising all around the world. The campaign
made Harder famous and she is now the managing director of BEP Publicis
No of major awards: 29
Four years ago, commercials for the Norwegian soft drink, Solo, were the
same as ads for Coke and Pepsi. The implicit message was that if you
drank Solo you would be popular and successful. But in 1992, Solo Ltd,
the marketing company set up by the seven breweries that own the brand,
decided that they wanted to pursue a radically different approach and
hired JBR/McCann to replace Backer Spielvogel Bates. The end result was
a campaign that is a spoof on soft drinks commercials in that the
drinkers of Solo are poor unfortunates who are anything but popular or
In one of the first campaigns, a cyclist with all the riding gear - and
drinking Solo rather than an isotonic drink - is seen cycling hell for
leather. First one cyclist overtakes him, then another one and finally
an old lady goes by. The ad has the endline: ‘Solo - probably the only
soft drink that cures nothing but thirst.’
The latest commercial, ‘cafe’, features a young woman in a cafe drinking
Solo and trying to catch the eye of a hunk at another table...who is
then joined by his boyfriend.
The creative execution of the eight or so commercials that have run so
far varies a lot - the client is keen to come up with something new and
different each time.
Since it started in 1993, the campaign has enjoyed considerable
publicity. The first commercial sparked a huge debate in Norway about
brand building and the merits of knocking rivals’ advertising. Jonn arne
Horpen, marketing manager of Solo, says that the debate calmed down once
the campaign was shown to result in increased sales. The ads are the
most popular in Norway. ‘As well as the humour, Norwegian consumers like
the honesty,’ Horpen says.
All the ads have appeared on the primetime news on the public
broadcaster, NRK, and the controversial ‘cafe’ commercial has received
particularly widespread media coverage - much to the delight of the
advertiser. ‘It was part of our strategy to produce commercials the
media might be interested in,’ Tormod Evant, account director at JBR,
Not only have the ads won several international and national awards, the
campaign has arrested the downward trend in sales and market share that
began in the late 80s.
No of major awards: 11
National budget: 10 million Kroner (pounds 1 million)
Creatives at DDB Needham Amsterdam describe their eight years with
Centraal Beheer as special. It is, by all accounts, the ideal client-
agency relationship. ‘Centraal has such faith in the campaign and in us
as an agency,’ Lode Schaeffer, one of the two creative directors on the
account, says. ‘There are no internal politics - the whole company is
behind the campaign.’
It is not unusual for the Centraal board to see a commercial just days
before it goes on air. ‘We only show the client one ad, so it’s always
the best,’ Don Kouwenhoven, the account director, says.
Aad Muntz, Centraal’s director of public relations and advertising,
hints at a less hands-off approach. ‘I’m constantly communicating the
ideas for the advertising and the philosophy of our company to make sure
the agency has understood them.’ Muntz identifies two qualities that
attracted him to DDB. ‘First, I wanted a creative director who would
allow the creatives an opportunity to use their creativity. Second, the
DDB creative team gets on well together, has a sense of humour and is
open and sympathetic.’
A sympathetic image is important to Muntz. It is the quality the client
wanted the advertising to reflect - along with professionalism. The
campaign, which has been running for eight years and keeps winning
awards, features more off-beat accidents than in the usual insurance
In the ‘hedgehog’ ad, a Rasta driving a car swerves to avoid a hedgehog
and ends up with his car hanging perilously off a cliff. The camera pans
back to reveal that the Rasta is a road-line painter and ends with the
message: ‘Just call Apeldoorn,’ (the insurance company’s headquarters).
Another film features a young sailor visiting a tattoo artist and asking
for the smallest tattoo available. The tattooist is interrupted by a
phone call but carries on tattooing absent-mindedly.
The ads have achieved national celebrity and if you have an accident in
the Netherlands some witty bystander is likely to advise: ‘Just call
Apeldoorn.’ The campaign has won more international awards than any
other Dutch campaign.
Schaeffer says that the relatively small budget means that they have to
come up with a strong idea. ‘We don’t have a lot of money to spend on
post production and special effects so the idea has to be strong to
create a good film and to attract the top directors.’
No of major awards: 50
National adspend: pounds 2 million