SUPPLEMENT: GERMANY; Are agencies making the most of alternative media?

Conservative by nature, German planners are slowly waking up to the potential of using alternative media, Nicole Dickenson reports

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

and MTV.

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

Mediateam, admits.

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

Germany, says.

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.