SUPPLEMENT: GERMANY; Germany’s creative hotshops

German agencies are at home dealing with both domestic and international advertisers - and they are in demand by many clients. Nicole Dickenson reports on four successful shops

German agencies are at home dealing with both domestic and international

advertisers - and they are in demand by many clients. Nicole Dickenson

reports on four successful shops

BBDO Dusseldorf

BBDO Dusseldorf, the largest agency group in Germany, is very clear

about its edge over the competition. Anton Hildmann, the vice-chairman

of the group and managing director of its headquarters BBDO Dusseldorf,

says: ‘We believe in excellent mass advertising. It’s our job to market

big brands in a successful and respectable way. Our clients entrust a

lot of money to us so we have to attract great masses of consumers.

Anything else would be a misuse of our clients’ money.’

Rival agencies are not so appreciative. BBDO has a reputation within the

industry as a purveyor of solid, but not particularly inspiring,

advertising for big-brand clients. ‘BBDO’s strength is emotional,

middle-of-the-road advertising that tugs at the heart-strings,’ one

rival says.

While there may be an element of sour grapes behind this damning with

faint praise, Ursula Fuhrhop, an account director at BBDO Dusseldorf,

admits the agency is good at emotional advertising, but stresses that it

is only part of its repertoire. ‘We make very creative and emotionally

appealing advertising, but that’s just one of our approaches. We have a

wide range of clients and markets and a wide range of creative styles.

We don’t have one particular BBDO style that you see in each ad - unlike

some agencies,’ she counters.

Fuhrhop is clear that BBDO’s strategic thinking and creativity sets it

apart from other German agencies. ‘Sometimes the German press tries to

divide agencies into strategic or creative agencies. Ours is a very

integrated process,’ she says.

The BBDO Germany chairman, Vilim Vasata, one of the founders of Team,

the agency set up in 1956 which became Team BBDO in 1972 and simply BBDO

in 1991, has a reputation for creativity, and Anton Hildmann is renowned

for strategic skills.

Michael Hausberg, the chairman and executive creative director of BBDO

Dusseldorf, says of its creative success: ‘If there is a philosophy, it

is simplicity, combined with strong emotions.’

These days, BBDO is equally at home creating international work as

domestic advertising. Seventeen of its 45 accounts are international

assignments, including Gillette, Henkel, Delta Airlines, Wella, Pepsi

Cola and Mars. Fuhrhop says: ‘The level of uniformity depends on the

product category. For Wella we make ads which can be adapted for other

cultures, but for food brands we focus on national characteristics. Even

if we have different messages for different countries there is a common

brand style.’

Heye and partners

Heye and Partners has spent 20 of its 35 years ensconced with the BMP

DDB Needham network. Its strong international links are reflected in its

client list - four of its biggest clients are multinationals:

McDonald’s, Johnson and Johnson, Blockbuster Video and Compuserve - but

it also has an ample German account base including the hi-fi giant,


The Munich agency can boast enduring relationships with clients. It has

held on to most of its accounts for between ten and 20 years, compared

with an average German client-agency relationship of five years, and

this year it celebrates 25 years with McDonald’s. Heye and Partners is

synonymous with McDonald’s and some rivals say it would be severely

weakened if it lost this key client.

Its creative work for McDonald’s, the second largest individual

advertiser in Germany according to Nielsen, has won numerous plaudits,

from the prestigious Art Directors Club of Berlin to the Houston

International Film Festival, and has helped Heye and Partners to feature

consistently in Germany’s top ten rankings by creativity.

The McDonald’s work is one of the few Heye ads that runs outside Germany

- in Austria and the Benelux countries. Apart from creating pan-European

ads as lead agency for Grundig, most of its advertising is created for

the German market.

Creativity is a key focus for the agency. The deputy managing director,

Wolfgang Muggenthaler, says: ‘We see ourselves as a creative agency, but

also one which is responsible for brands and brand building.’ He adds

that the agency has two aims: to grow and make a decent profit and to

produce good advertising. The first goal was achieved last year; the

agency increased billings by 19 per cent to DM275 million in an

otherwise uninspiring ad market, and it has managed to resist clients’

demands for lower fees.

‘A lot of clients are trying to get more for less, but our clients

accept that they are getting a quality service which gives them a

competitive edge so they are willing to pay more,’

Muggenthaler explains. He adds that the agency is selective about

clients. ‘We wouldn’t take on any job. We only work with clients that we

know we’ll be able to work with.’


The founders of the Munich agency,.start, are proud of the close

relationships they have developed with many of their clients. The joint

chief executive officer, Claudia Langer, says: ‘We don’t have regular

agency client relationships - we see ourselves as partners in crime. We

don’t just get a brief, we start much earlier and develop strategy with

our clients. We’re more like a brand or corporate consultancy than an ad

agency at times. All agencies will say the same thing, but it’s actually

hard to develop the mind-set to do it. A lot of German agencies are more

concerned with making profits or just putting out creative campaigns. We

take pride in being great consultants first, and producing highly

creative ads that work second.’

Being a partner for other brands was one of three key aims identified by

Langer and Gregor Woltje when they founded.start in 1992. The others

were to create a brand and to launch it with a real communication

strategy. The agency’s strategy was to start slowly. In the first

year.start was content to work with six clients and keep itself to


But all that changed when it was approached in 1993 by the music

network, MTV, to come up with an awareness campaign. The MTV advertising

has been highly acclaimed and focused attention on the agency,

catapulting it into the bigger time (.start now has 19 clients and

billings of DM30 million).

Its work for MTV continues to win awards and in 1995 .start was ranked

second in the Art Directors Club of Berlin after winning one gold and

two silvers for the MTV campaign. There is now some pressure on the

agency to repeat its success with another client.

.start is essentially a virtual agency. It doesn’t house a creative

team; instead the creative director, Woltje, oversees the work of 16

satellite creative teams, made up of an art director and copywriter, ten

of which aren’t based in Germany.

The teams work exclusively for.start clients, but not the agency. ‘We

put together a custom-made set of people for each client. The creative

teams work very closely with us - they’re not just hired for five days.

If they come up with a great idea they follow it through and have full

control,’ Langer explains.

It is ironic that such a small agency (it has a staff of 27) which is

not part of an international network, should have three quintessentially

international companies - MTV Europe, Levi Strauss and Mercedes-Benz -

as clients. Langer is fiercely proud of the agency’s independence. ‘I

don’t believe in networks at all, I believe in partnerships. We’re part

of a network of intelligence,’ she says.

Rempen and partners

Rempen and Partners is the German advertising success story of the 90s.

Founded by Thomas Rempen and three other colleagues from his previous

start-up, Hildmann Simon Rempen and Schmitz, in January 1994, the agency

now boasts billings of DM90 million and an impressive client list which

includes Mazda, Siemens, Microsoft, Dresdner Bank and Deutsche Post, the

German post office. In addition, the agency was voted newcomer of the

year by the ad industry last year.

Rempen, the energetic and charismatic art director, is highly regarded

and credited within the industry as being the driving force behind the

fast-growing agency. Thomas Rempen is Rempen and Partners, others say.

Rempen himself puts the agency’s success down to its expertise in the

whole range of the communications mix. ‘The key challenge for an agency

is to find the best investment mix between TV, online, direct marketing

and so on for the client. We’re trained in everything from online

communication to direct marketing, event marketing, packaging and

corporate design,’ he says.

The agency’s main aim is to get the most out of the client’s budget. ‘We

aim to find the right balance between the two goals of selling the

product and building brand image,’ Rempen says.

Rempen and Partners is generally acknowledged within the industry to be

an exciting agency that stands out among the dinosaurs in Dusseldorf and

is very good at advertising. ‘It is way above average in terms of

advertising, but it has yet to make a single campaign that stands out as

Microsoft did at HSRS,’ one admiring rival says.

The next phase of Rempen and Partners’ development involves expanding on

to the European stage. At the end of last year, Rempen founded a

fledgling international network named Campus, in which Euro RSCG

agencies in France, Italy and Spain have bought stakes.

Ever since Rempen and Partners started, clients such as Microsoft, Mazda

and Siemens have demanded a Europe-wide capability and the Campus

network will enable Rempen to attract other German clients that need to

be serviced across Europe.

And, in any case, as Rempen himself points out: ‘It is about time a

German agency founded an international network.’