Mad Men Small, Sassy and Successful

Jung von Matt comes out on top in ranking of the most inventive German agencies with ads for Mercedes, Vodafone and retailer Edeka.
A wacky winning formula.

The bizarre advertisement Jung von Matt created for the budget supermarket chain Edeka was not the only reason it has now reclaimed the title as one of Germany's best ad agencies, but it certainly helped. The three-minute web spot – in which eccentric Berlin artist Friedrich Liechtenstein fondles merchandise and dances down Edeka aisles – was clicked more than 12 million times on YouTube alone.

The industry went wild after the campaign started this spring, and now the agency's head Jean-Remy von Matt is complaining that the every company wants a similarly wacky ad. Little wonder as the advertisement has won a host of prizes, including first place in the Art Directors Club (ADC) rankings. Its success also shows the strength of smaller advertising agencies, run by individuals.

“The rankings show that owner-run agencies have a profound impact on the creative industry in Germany,” said ADC president Stephan Vogel, who is also creative director at Ogilvy & Mather Germany. “Unlike other markets, only a few international network agencies are in the top 10: BBDO, Ogilvy and DDB.”

It’s good news for Jung von Matt, which faces fierce competition to keep the contract of its prize client, Mercedes. The Hamburg-based agency scored with a popular commercial that promotes the German automaker’s “Magic Body Control” – featuring a chicken moving to a disco beat. It also demonstrated its creativity in an acclaimed ad campaign for Vodafone.

But other companies are circling. The Munich-based ad agency Serviceplan was second in the unpublished ADC rankings, which Handelsblatt obtained. Another owner-run agency, which used to have a reputation of being down-to-earth, Serviceplan has sharpened its creative claws in the past eight years under creative director Alexander Schill. This year Mr. Schill won acclaim for his work for the supermarket chain Auchan, as well as with spots for the pay broadcaster Sky.

Jung von Matt was able to shake off Heimat in the ADC rankings. But the battle for the prestigious Mercedes account has not yet been decided.

In third place in this year’s ADC ranking is Heimat, the Berlin-based company that many industry observers consider the most interesting ad firm in Germany. In October, the heads of the agency — Matthias von Bechtolsheim, Guido Heffels and Andreas Mengele — were honored with an advertising Oscar, the Effie Gold, and were given a place in the German Advertising Hall of Fame, a group of the most respected names in the industry.

Members are chosen by industry peers and the organization is supported by the WirtschaftsWoche magazine, part of the Holtzbrinck publishing group that also owns Handelsblatt Global Edtion.

At the ceremony welcoming new companies to the Hall of Fame, Mr. von Matt did not conceal his admiration for his competitors. He noted that in employee questionnaires he regularly asks his staff whom they would like to work for if Jung von Matt didn’t exist. “Heimat is by far their top choice,” he told the audience.

Heimat’s key to success is its campaign for the building supplies chain Hornbach, which the agency reinvents time after time, without altering the basic tone. This year, a major role in creative competitions went to its ad for Hornbach hammers – which are shown as being made from the scrapped and melted steel of a Russian tank.

Jung von Matt was able to shake off Heimat in the ADC rankings. But the battle for the prestigious Mercedes advertising account has not yet been decided. Insiders say Jung von Matt, Heimat and BBDO are still in the running for the company’s ad dollars.

The BBDO agency network, a subsidiary of the U.S. ad company, Omnicom, fell to sixth place in the ADC rankings, after finishing first in 2013.

Along with flagships of the advertising industry, a few new, small companies broke into this year’s top-50 rankings, including the multimedia agency Wanda, Cologne-based Denkwerk, and Studio MAYD of Hamburg. Creativity, it seems, is not a monopoly of the big names only.


Catrin Bialek reports on companies and markets for Handelsblatt from Dusseldorf. To contact the author: [email protected].