Conservative by nature, German planners are slowly waking up to the
potential of using alternative media, Nicole Dickenson reports
Few things highlight the stereotypical view of teutonic efficiency and
professionalism better than media planning. A typical German media plan
is characterised by logic and rationale; in addition it must be well
researched and make sense. Forget gut feelings and instincts - numbers
are the be-all and end-all. ‘If it doesn’t have a rating, it ain’t worth
using,’ has been the traditional maxim.
‘Germany is governed by numbers and the main focus of advertising is
mainstream TV and print media [which take a massive 93 per cent of
adspend]. There is a reluctance to take risks, even in terms of using
cinema, which in the UK is regarded as relatively mainstream in
particular for reaching a youth audience, because it doesn’t deliver as
efficient a cost per thousand as TV,’ is how David McMurtrie, the
international media director at MediaCom, sums it up.
Zoja Paskaljevic, the managing director of CIA Medianetwork Germany, and
one of the new breed of more adventurous and instinctive German media
executives, doesn’t dispute McMurtrie’s rather damning portrayal: ‘We
increasingly use big evaluation software systems, and it is true media
that are measurable have more chance of getting on a media plan. But
agencies shouldn’t take the lazy way and feed numbers into the computer
to get their strategy. For our clients we look at other possibilities.’
One of the main reasons for the conservatism of agencies is the demand
of clients for ratings and data to support their choice of media. Not
enough hard evidence of media effectiveness can lead to a veto.
German advertisers’ conservatism has held back the development of
alternative media, but the situation is changing. Newly launched
magazines and new media are starting to find their way on to media
The changing marketplace has also necessitated a re-evaluation of the
media planners’ skills. McMurtrie points out that the fragmentation of
TV and magazine audiences means agencies must move away from planning
purely on grounds of cost efficiency and numbers.
The situation is particularly acute when it comes to handling brands
aimed at young people who do not consume mainstream media. Agencies
realise that unless they are more adventurous they are missing valuable
opportunities. With TV, German agencies know they can rely on the
leading private channels, RTL or Sat 1, when the music channels, MTV and
Viva, don’t offer GfK (Barb-equivalent) ratings. Viva rejected
subscribing to GfK on the grounds that by measuring viewing of only the
main TV set in a household, the audience measurement system would not do
it justice. So, in the absence of an acceptable audience measurement
system, media planners have to rely on data supplied separately by Viva
In Germany, MTV is by no means the automatic choice for a youth brand.
Among the 12- to 19-year-old audience, the indigenous station, Viva1, is
giving it a run for its money. A recent commercial for Tambrands ran
only on Viva. ‘We feel that Viva is very strong with the female
audience. Also, as it’s relatively new, it’s cheap and the Tambrands
budget was limited,’ Uwe Schneider Bollig, the media supervisor of BBDO
New magazines that have sprung up over the last year or so are also
starting to compete with old favourites Max, Tempo, Schnuss and the city
guide, Prinz, as well as the raft of well-established women’s monthlies
and weeklies, such as Tango. Germany’s thriving club scene has spawned a
number of techno and house magazines such as Frontpage, Raveline, Groove
and Beam. The only indicator of their value is the size of print runs -
reassuringly large in the 80,000 - 100,000 range.
‘It’s such a fast-changing marketplace you have to listen to the market
to find out what’s cool,’ Rupert Denny, the media manager at Leagas
Delaney, which planned the German print campaign for its client, Pepe,
says. Despite Denny’s appreciation of the value of techno magazines,
Leagas Delaney used more mainstream titles for Pepe because of budget
restraints, but was more adventurous with cinema and fly-posting, under-
used in Germany relative to the UK.
Clients’ reluctance to use under-researched underground mags can add to
their appeal. CIA recently chose the ‘alternative’ music magazines,
Frontpage, Raveline, Loop and Groove, and the new women’s magazine,
Amica, as well as traditional titles like Cosmopolitan, Elle and Max,
along with cinema and TV for the launch of Calvin Klein’s unisex
fragrance, CK One, aimed at adventurous young people.
‘The underground magazines are a medium where Calvin Klein’s competitors
were absent so CK One was seen as innovative,’ Paskaljevic says.
Although some brands are blazing a trail, the use of alternative media
remains marginal overall. Even with large budgets, perhaps less than 10
per cent will be allocated to alternative media, if that. But when
budgets are tight, alternative media can come into their own...client
‘For certain brands and target groups, it makes sense to use alternative
media. Interactive and online media and sponsorship activities are all
growing in importance,’ Werner Beitz, the managing director of MediaCom
It is hard not to sense a certain frustration at clients’ conservatism
on the part of the more innovative German media agencies. Ideas that
have not seen the light of day include sponsorship of the Berlin Love
Parade by a client in the entertainment business. But in a year or two,
this sort of thing could be the norm.