Berlin agencies head new wave

Berlin is leading the resurgence of the communications industry in Central and Eastern Europe. John Shannon looks at how the unique history of the city influences its ad agencies.

For the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the challenge of establishing an effective communications industry to support economic renewal has proved enormous.

Inevitably there remains some way to go before the region’s agencies are able to match those of the West in terms of structure and sophistication. Yet there are increasing signs that the extraordinary cultural and political changes that mark the recent history of Middle Europe are providing an exciting background for creativity in commercial communications.

The emergence of powerful, well-produced creative work with a unique local flavour is becoming particularly evident in Berlin. Having, for over 40 years, lain at the heart of a divided Europe, the city is beginning to produce a style of advertising which many within the industry say is rooted in its unique past and present.

Such has been the impact of this new wave of advertising, that in a recent interview with the German advertising magazine W&V, a number of the city’s leading advertising practitioners argued that Berlin could soon join Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Hamburg as a centre of national advertising excellence.

Stefan Hansen, managing partner of the Berlin agency Dorland, told W&V that he believes there are clear signs of a new creative style emerging – one that is not seen anywhere else in Germany.

Hansen is convinced that the work coming out of the best Berlin agencies is much fresher and more offbeat than anything to be found in other parts of the country. It is both aggressive and raw, while avoiding the temptations of crude, hard selling.

There are a number of reasons for this energy and dynamism. Melle Pufe, another Berlin agency chief, believes that the social gulfs of every day Berlin life make it impossible for agencies to reproduce the glossy lifestyle advertising that is common in other parts of the world. He also points out that everybody who lives and works in the city of Berlin wakes up in an environment that is raw and unfinished. It is inevitable, he believes, that such an environment influences and inspires advertising creatives in a unique way.

A similar story of conditions and environment leading to powerful creativity is emerging in other parts of the region too. One key difference between a market such as Poland and those of the West is that Polish creative people tend to come to the business from a pure art background. Typically they are painters or sculptors with no training or experience of commercial communications. But one advantage of this is that they frequently conceive highly original and unconventional work which is founded in their experience of everyday life.

It is becoming increasingly clear that standards are rising fast in these new and emerging mar kets. By drawing on their own experiences and by approaching the task of creating their own style of distinctive commercial communications, the best agencies of Middle Europe are today achieving a level of effectiveness and maturity fully consistent with the needs of their respective markets.

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