Master Thesis Topic (update)

Posted in academia,Brands and Business,communications,media, culture and society by thomas on the November 20th, 2010

After getting a lot of useful comments (thank you!) on my initial brainstorming on possible topics for my master thesis I cut them down to three and handed in a description of three very broad topics, all with some more concrete research questions: (1) ‚Post-Postmodern‘ Uses of Brands and Media?, (2) ‚Continuities from Propaganda Theory to Planning:‘ and (3) Reception and Usage of ‚Transmedia‘ Narratives.

So here’s my translated description of topic (1), that I handed in before leaving and which has got a strong endorsement from the prof while I was in Tanzania.

‚Post-Postmodern‘ Uses of Brands and Media?

According to Holt (2002) there are two relevant branding paradigms in the 20th century. The first is called „Modern Branding“ and was based on a domineering, cultural engineering approach. It was dominant until the 60s, when the ‚creative revolution‘ around people like Bill Bernbach appeared.

Marketers made no pretense about their intentions in these branding efforts. They directed consumers as to how they should live and why their brand should be a central part of this kind of life. Advertisements shared a paternal voice that is particular to this era. By contemporary standards, these ads appear naive and didactic in their approach. This paternalism reveals that, at the time, consumer culture allowed companies to act as cultural authorities. Their advice was not only accepted but sought out. (Holt 2002: 80)

This modell – now being popularized by the TV series Mad Men – was inspired both by Freudian psychoanalysis and the scientific approach to advertising and persuasion at the time, provoked rising resistance in the 60s, with books like The Hidden Persuaders and other critical analysis appearing on bookshelves. With the increasing professionalization of the industry and knowledge about the branding paradigm more and more entering the public sphere, the public opinion was increasingly directed against the supposed manipulation of the individual.

Branding could no longer prescribe tastes in a way that was perceived as domineering. People had to be able to experience consumption as a volitional site of personal development, achievement, and self-creation. Increasingly, they could not tolerate the idea that they were to live in accord with a company-generated template. (Holt 2002: 82)

In reaction to the creative and anti-commercial countercultures of the 60s – and with that at the time when interpretative approaches started to challenge the predominant stimulus response thinking – a new branding paradigm emerged. Holt calls this paradigm „Postmodern Branding“. In a postmodern consumer culture, the role of branding would emerge from the supplier of a cultural blueprint – „How should I live?“ – to supposedly authentic, cultural ressources to be used for the identity projects of consumers who strive for independence from paternalistic and authoritarian corporations.

Postmodern consumer culture has adopted a particular notion of authenticity that has proved particularly challenging to marketers. To be authentic, brands must be disinterested; they must be perceived as invented and disseminated by parties without an instrumental economic agenda, by people who are intrinsically motivated by their inherent value. Postmodern consumers perceive modern branding efforts to be inauthentic because they ooze with the commercial intent of their sponsors. (Holt 2002: 84)

To produce these ressources in a distanced and commercially disinterested way, five branding techniques – also made public by Klein 1999 and Frank 1998) have emerged over time: (Holt 2002: 83ff)

  • Authentic Cultural Resources
  • Ironic, Reflexive Brand Persona
  • Coattailing on Cultural Epicenters
  • Life World Emplacement
  • Stealth Branding

All of these techniques however, are confronted with substantial contradictions. Ironic distance has been imitated without end and is now outdated, stealth marketing is getting more and more aggressive and reaching its limits, marketers are running out of counterculture content to tap for their campaigns as the authenticity market heats up, consumers are increasingly peeling away the brand veneer and „collectively, postmodern branding floods social life with evangelical calls to pursue personal sovereignty through brands“ (ibid.).

For Holt these phenomena (published in 2002 – before ’social media‘ even existed) pointed to an expiration of the postmodern branding paradigm. Whereas brands in the future would still have to offer authentic and relevant resources, authenticity won’t not be conveyed distance the brand from a profit motive, but through a role that Hold calls ‚citizen artist‘.

So brands will become another of expressive culture, no different in principle from films or television programs or rock bands (which, in turn, are increasingly treated and perceived as brands). […] Postmodern brands have little value in this new consumer culture. Because they rely so much on the cultural work of disinterested others and work so hard to deny that the brand itself stands for anything by itself (for fear of being tagged as cultural engineers), postmodern brands lack an original point of view that they can claim as their own. Rather than take a free ride on the backs of pop stars, indie films, and social viruses, brands will be valued to the extent that they deliver creatively, similar to other cultural products.

The citizen part on the other hand is concerned with the socially responsable behavior of corporations and their brands, basically answering the question of what is behind the brand veneer.


This topic and Holt’s only superficially covered hypotheses give rise to a lot of questions that might be covered in a master thesis. (Not all in one of course …)

  • What – to people – is authenticity in advertising and marketing communication? How is it operationalized? What are expectations?
  • How does authenticity translate in regards to aesthetics – from user-generated content to brands using a documentary style?
  • How does the use of digital, social networks (’social media‘) have affect the ‚corporate cool machine‘ as described by Holt in the postmodern branding paradigm. Is his hypothesis regarding brands being used in the role of citizen artists true? Or, more concrete: which range of uses of original, authentic and creative brand content can be shown? And in regards to the ‚citizen‘ part of the hypothesis: do people really look behind the brand veneer and if so, how?
Frank, T., 1998. The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, University of Chicago Press.
Holt, D.B., 2002. Why do brands cause trouble? A dialectical theory of consumer culture and branding. Journal of Consumer Research, 29(1), S.70–90.
Klein, N., 1999. No Logo: no space, no choice, no jobs ; taking aim at the brand bullies, New York, NY: Picador.
Mad Men – AMC. Mad Men. Available at:

The Trouble with “Cultural Mapping”

Posted in Brands and Business,communications,media, culture and society by thomas on the Oktober 9th, 2010

I recently read an article at contagious (hat tip to Sebastian Garn for sharing) about Amsterdam Worldwide claiming to create better global campaigns because they are using a scientific method of analyzing cultures – which they call Cultural Mapping. That tool they cite is Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, which basically says people – or cultures – are different in the dimensions Power Distance; Individualism; Masculinity and Uncertainty Avoidance.

While I certainly agree that being culturally relevant is important, if not the most important aspect of brand management and communication, I do find a bunch of things interesting in that story.

First of all, it’s not like Amsterdam Worldwide has uncovered an academic secret. This is one of the most cited theories ever. According to Google Scholar he’s been cited 8810 times and from what I’ve been told at the university, even ahead of guys such as Jesus or Karl Marx. I think I heard it alone 5 to 10 times in my bachelor. Of course, it’s not like they are saying they use this model exclusively, but I still find it strange that an agency runs an article about something everybody who ever did an intercultural training has heard of before.

Then of course, using this model – just as any other model – doesn’t guarantee anything. It’s a model to not forget cultural dimensions but I think it’s not that good of an idea to base roundhouse-kick-like generalizations upon it or to expect ground-breaking “insights” from using it. I just think that focusing on a smaller group of people and finding out something interesting about them is more important than matching communication with a top-level insight about what is modeled as mainstream culture. (I always try to keep in mind that there might be bigger differences between Austrian IT-ers and “blue collar” workers than between IT-ers from Austria and Slovakia. And let’s not forget gender issues, age and other stuff.)

Last but not least, the research Hofstede has build his theory upon has been heavily criticized. It’s pretty old and it was done only with IBM employees at the beginning – IT people not exactly being the most representative sample group. Also, for example for Austria it concluded that we have among the lowest power distance score worldwide, meaning

“[…] people expect and accept power relations that are more consultative or democratic. People relate to one another more as equals regardless of formal positions. Subordinates are more comfortable with and demand the right to contribute to and critique the decisions of those in power”.

Power Distance

Now the intersting thing is that this is totally against what Austrian common sense would tell you and what researchers at my university found out, and it can only be interpreted and understood if you spend some time thinking about Austrian history and culture. What this dimension doesn’t tell you is that “Austrians” do like to complain about their bosses, don’t respect them too much and do think that their politicians, doctors, intellectuals and whoever else aren’t any smarter or deserving than “we” are. This, however, is only true if said people aren’t in the room. Once they are present the generalized “we” very much focuses on academic titles and job titles, hierarchies and power. So “Austrias” have a pretty much schizophrenic relationship with authority which my prof reasoned is because of some 1000 years of monarchy and bureaucratic state. “Cultural Mapping” won’t tell you this. And neither will it tell you how second-generation immigrants have appropriated this into their lives.

I like theories and models, I just think one has to be careful using them.

A look at Nokia on the long road back to glory

Posted in Brands and Business,communications,planning by thomas on the September 24th, 2010

(This post contains a bunch of personal stuff, post-rationalization and opinions – typical planning bollocks -, just so you know. If you make it through the text there’ll be some nice videos though.)

First, some background. I always liked Nokia. When I was a teen, as far as I remember Nokia was a synonym for modern times and a cosmopolitan view of the world. They were not exactly on the cutting edge of everything but compared to the likes of Ericsson, Siemens and others, they were symbols of a connected global world. I got my first phone when I was 14, a blue Motorola that somehow looked like an egg, and then a pretty flashy panasonic that my dad wouldn’t use anymore. But my first real mobile was a Nokia 6210. It was the phone I used to text my girlfriend back then – first love and all. I think it was able to store a bunch-load of texts, which was obviously a plus, considering all the important teen texts that were not to be deleted.

There was no doubt that my next phone would also be a Nokia, though I’m not even exactly sure which one it was, with all the number combinations they used. I only remember that it was one of the first ones with a color screen – that unfortunately also didn’t last very long. Then however, I became unfaithful and jumped on board with Motorola when the 3G version of the Motorola Razr came out. It was the smallest 3G phone available, the RAZR was the coolest shit around and I gave in (contrary to what most people think of themselves, advertising works fine with me). Over in Vancouver I picked the cheapest phone available, which coincidently also was a Motorola with the same crappy software.

Then back home in Vienna, after quite a bit of pondering and looking at what Nokia had done in the meantime, I decided against the N95 and for the iPhone. It was a hard decision (not real-life hard, but in the realm of products), not because I had anything against Apps or the product, but because already back then I hated the way that a bunch of idiots who had no idea of what Apple used to stand for, of technology or of the creative industries, were wearing their white headphones like a badge of honor, proudly showcasing their iBooks/Macbooks, bashing Windows and Linux and in general pray at the altar of Jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I always loved their OS and hardware but already then “The Great Product Claim” and the way that Apple’s smug “brand behavior” rubbed off to a lot of their now mainstream customers got on my nerves big time. The “I’m a Mac” campaign, while obviously catchy, made Apple look like a bunch of arrogant idiots.

I still bought it because back then, there was no comparable product experience in terms of touchscreen and applications. It just wasn’t there. But I do have the feeling that Apple, while building their ecosystem-empire and growing bigger and bigger, were constantly withdrawing from their “brand equity”, from the symbolic resources that shaped their public perception. Sure, that’s not going to bother them in the short term, because they can still sell this one device in all kinds of different sizes, but their success came – no matter how often Amir Kassaei repeats it – never only from the design and simplicity of “the perfect product” (that it isn’t and that doesn’t exist), but also from the symbolic resources it provided. Symbolic resources that went into the common knowledge about Apple because a bunch of nerds and hipsters from the creative industries were Apple, loved the OS, had the G4s, made their flyers on it and used it to DJ once they became to lazy to mix with vinyl. Think different and all.

Now, not so much anymore.

And so, while Nokia’s software was and is apparently crap for the last years and couldn’t remotely keep up with Android and Apple, and while they also neglected the symbolic parts for ages – I haven’t experienced anything that would make me feel a Nokia brand in Canada and also nothing in Austria for a while – they at least seem to have woken up. If Apple is moving away from their old heritage and Android is working on becoming the new mobile Windows, Nokia is in the strange position of being the challenger brand, while still being market leader.

This means that they simultaneously have to work on fixing their OS/App-store issues, but also work the edges of culture and their developers, the ones that Apple doesn’t give too much of a damn about anymore. And they have to continuously throw out millions of phones to defend their market share in the meantime. They have a chance to build what Apple built on one device and what Android is trying to do with all the different bloated brand versions of their OS, on a base of hundreds of millions of users of one brand who will trade up for smart-phones at some point. Think about it: if all the others are joining Android, and Palm and Microsoft more or less take themselves out of the game, why would you not be the third big guy in the market. (BB will always be business niche.)

Judging from what has come out of Nokia since the Nokia World, it seems like they at least get the symbolic part right and they’re working with different communities and developers to get their vision out there into reality.

Typical W+K brilliance, this is just lovely and puts different communities of do-ers and makers in the spotlight. DIY is a rich territory right now and you can break out every single project for different length features.

Sounds a heck of a lot like a hungry challenger brand. And that is a good sign.

Every effort to change the world starts with people asking questions

Posted in communications,media, culture and society,planning by thomas on the September 7th, 2010

So I’ve been to the Ars Electronica in Linz today, to get exposed to some new thoughts, experiments and visions about what is going on in this world today and I must say I came away pretty impressed. Not only because the venue is spectacular in its own right or because I met Lauren, but because I think there were some projects that were seriously inspiring.

(Now I have to admit – and I somehow can’t help it – that when I say that about art it is in a way „instrumental“. With that I don’t mean a pure sense of functionality, but rather the fact that I can feel some sort of „purpose“ in how it relates to my life or issues that I think are relevant. So this doesn’t mean the other stuff is shite, obviously, I’m just officially not well-versed in arts, probably have a biased approach to it anyways and wanted to state this as an intro here.)

That said, one project that I found particularly interesting is „Dropping Knowledge“ or the documentary that developed out of it: „PROBLEMA – sometimes the worst enemy is our own perception“.

112 persons from 56 countries convened at the Table of Free Voices in Berlin in 2006 to provide answers to global questions about such things as the economy, ethics, war and nation-states. Now, director Ralf Schmerberg (DE) has made a film out of the resulting 11,200 statements interwoven with footage of some of the defining images of our time. The result is major intellectual marathon.

There are different reasons why I find this very interesting. The first one is obviously the content. Don’t have to discuss this I guess. Another reason is scale. It’s a massive marathon of perspectives, intellectual data points from all kinds of different people from all over the world, answering questions about all kinds of things. This is fascinating and mind-bending on its own.

What really does it for me though is the use of questions. I once had a professor who at the end of a session about cognitive media effects asked students a simple question: if they knew some tool or event or person – I’m not quite sure what it was. Then he counted raised hands. At the beginning of the next session he asked again who knew the the person/tool/event. Percentage raised. „Damage“ done. (This is of course simplifying matters as it isn’t persuasion in the strictest sense but only this thing called awareness (recognition, to be strict), but it shows how questions, as a special form of message, can lead to action and investigation into a matter without telling anybody to do anything.)

Now I’m obviously not an expert in socratic philosophy but I’m fascinated by the sheer power questions bring with them (plus I have to be because I need this as an excuse to get on people’s nerves constantly …). They frame issues in a certain way, shifting the perspective and focus. They have a higher chance of „change“ or „persuasion“ if you wish by the simple fact that we can hardly not think about an answer to it.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going here but it seems to be something as banal as: Well-framed open questions can lead to thinking and discussion which can lead to insight on the side of the one who answers. And an insight one gets on his or her own, instead of having it told from somebody else, is something one doesn’t let go of easily.

Every effort to change the world starts with people asking questions. I like that.

73 years.

Posted in academia,communications,media, culture and society,planning by thomas on the Juli 19th, 2010

As another little confirmation that most of what is being written about „models“, „theories“ and „new thinking“ in communication, management and all those other funky disciplines has been more or less eloquently written before, a quote from the research for a paper I am supposed to be writing instead of this …

It has been found that a properly recruited, properly educated staff whose loyalty has been adequately ensured will work not only eight or more hours a day keeping up the Bell System’s public relations, but further, even in personal contacts and friendships, on company time and off, will serve as an efficient agent in spreading the Bell ideology and securing the sympathies and allegiance of groups and individuals to the Bell System.

Bell System, Public Opinion Quarterly 1937 vs. Twelpforce, Cannes 2010.

What did we really do in the 73 years between, except for changing some words?

Speaking of models, there’s a rather innovative one that TheKaiserII was kind enough to share with us:

This – too – Is Advertising.

Now I haven’t posted an ad here in a while.

I have to admit that I’ve been a little fed up with advertising recently. Not because I’m surfing on the „advertising is the price that you pay for a bad product“ wave. I don’t. Or because I’ve been preaching „social media“ on a daily basis only to see people now abandoning their former golden calf. I don’t do that a lot either. Not even because I’ve typed myself silly about the „new customer„, agency models or how innovation is the new black. I think I’ve kept all that to a reasonable minimum.

Rather, it’s been precisely those debates and discussions that have made me a little tired of the bulk of the advertising discourse. Looking at twitter, blogs and AdAge It seems like everybody who’s holding at least a senior planning position in agencies big or small is busy hopping from conference to conference talking about the demise of the industry. Of course, not every stream of that discussion is dull and I’ve learned a lot from reading people who are incredibly smart and generous with their knowledge and experience. I’ll attend a planning barcamp myself this summer. And anyways it’s probably more an outsider perspective than an informed insider view. But still, my impression is: a lot, a lot of talk.

(Disclaimer: The next sentences may come across as a little bit of ass-kissing. And I agree. But then again, credit where credit is due.)

When I talk about exceptions, one of the agencies that has always been impressive in my eyes is – of course – W+K. Yes, they blog. Yes they retweet when their work is mentioned. Yes, they even have an opinion and voice it from time to time. But in general, their planners seem to be more busy (unsuccessfully) helping Labour to win elections than further contributing to the echochamber. Or repeatedly doing awesome stuff. And this is, in my humble opinion, a very good thing.

Now that was a very long prelude for a video. Here it is: Nike „Write The Future“.

This fully integrated campaign, spanning TV, cinema, print, digital, out-of-home and non-traditional executions is the culmination of an 18-month long collaborative effort led by W+K Amsterdam with support from W+K London and W+K Portland. While digital teasers were released on May 15th to build buzz ahead of the campaign, the official unveil is this epic 3-minute film called “Write the Future,” launching online tonight. The global broadcast will debut during the May 22nd European Club Final, a feat that required seven versions and 30 cut-downs to accommodate distribution to major networks in 32 countries.

Put simply: it’s an awe-inspiring peace of film. (Read their full background info here.)

From what can be seen in the admitedly media-biased twitter search people are loving it. They talk about it. And they will implement it in their lives. Heck, the whole set-up with different slices and pieces of film for different culture is brilliant. This is probably what Ehrenberg meant when he wrote about „Advertising as Creative Publicity„. This is what Lannon/Cooper meant when they wrote about humanistic advertising and asked the question „What do people do with ads?“ – in 1983. And this – too – is advertising.

A quote from „Organizational Identity, Image and Adaptive Instability“

Posted in academia,Brands and Business,communications,experience by thomas on the Mai 2nd, 2010

[T]he fact that organizations have multiple identities in multiple contexts with multiple audiences not only undermines the idea of a holistic identity but also implies that neither identity nor image changes in a uniform or unified fashion.

Dennis A. Gioia, Majken Schultz, Kevin G. Corley (2000): Organizational Identity, Image, and Adaptive Instability. In: The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 25, No. 1 (Jan., 2000), pp. 63-81.

Not exactly new, but well-written and with some interesting additional nuggets about change and adaption.

Life’s pretty transdisciplinary: my semester

Posted in academia,communications,Off Topic by thomas on the März 19th, 2010

One of my resolutions for this year was to keep a little journal about what I’m doing and what I’m thinking. So far, I have been pretty miserable with my self-chosen media diet. My „journal“ has been what I write on twitter and what I bookmark on delicious. Not exactly what I planned.

People who know me personally are aware of my somewhat nerdy obsession with academia, which means I love it and at the same time hate what is going on inside Austrian universities. That’s why I thought I could put together a little preview of what is waiting for me at the university this term – or what I expect. I’m in the last semester of my International Business bachelor and also do some courses of the Mass Media and Communication Science research master. So I am kind of all over the social sciences, business and arts curricula. Trying to sort things out and not halfway there. So, this is what I’m up to at university this semester:

Business, Economics and Social Sciences

Bachelor Thesis – I’m writing „thesis“ at the institute of Advertising and Brand Management about „The Evolving Role of Creativity in Brand Management“. Yes, I know this topic could evolve into a buzzword-clad piece of writing but I’m trying to avoid that. More on the paper in an upcoming post.

Spanish Business Communication III – Just what it sounds like: a lecture with around 20 people and topics such as „la empresa“. Includes a presentation, a midterm and a final exam. Not much conversation and discussion going on though, so chances are I have to talk with Spaniards at that bodega about inflation and unemployment rates and not about more interesting things. Lame, but my fault.

Spanish Business Communication IV – The title doesn’t really fit this one as it’s more a culture and history class as an actual business course. It’s in lecture format, I’ll have to do an oral exam of about 20 minutes and read an academic Spanish book. I think I’ll chose „La familia en Espana“, a sociological perspective on just that. This is going to be hard, really hard.

Spanish Conversation – A training course dedicated to getting people at a level that doesn’t make the prof who does the oral exam cringes once you open your mouth. So we are talking about „La era de la información“ and things like that. So far it is the most exciting course of the term. And I really don’t know if that’s a good thing.

Applied Microeconomics – Another group lecture. I first thought we’re going to review neoclassical economic theory, do a lot of formalizing just to hear in the end that the models we built are totally not valid in reality and need to be more refined to make sense. However, it seems we’re going to discuss „real“ cases and analyze them from a microeconomic perspective. Game theory and things like that.

Companies from the perspective of social sciences – Can’t go to the lecture but I guess there’s a lot of stakeholder and system theory in that one. Have to read the book and write the exam.

Mass Media and Communication Science

Special Lecture I  – Television and Digital Media: The State of the Art of Media and Audience Research – I was expecting a lot from this lecture, especially as 1) it’s in English 2) the Prof. has been at different Universities including Berkley and 3) runs a movie consulting business. So far I am disappointed beyond belief. The lecture is split in two parts. The first 45 minutes, we are lectured about what can only with a lot of goodwill be described as „the state of the art of media and audience research“ and the other 45 minutes students have some 3 minutes to present „something relevant“ from either TV or the internet. There is no discussion afterwards and the grading depends on the 3 minutes talk and a 1 A4 description of some case. So far it is very, very uninspiring.

Special Lecture II – History and Theory of Propaganda – I was looking very much forward to this lecture, as the prof giving it has written a book I really liked a lot and is a historian, not a communication scientist. So far it’s a quite impressive display of cultural analysis and dissection. It’s the kind of lecture that makes you start thinking about topics differently. It inspired me for around 5 blog posts in the first 2 hours, so I guess I Just have to find the spirit to get them done.

Research Seminar I – Digital Natives and the Future of Information Usage – Same prof as Television and Digital Media: The State of the Art of Media and Audience Research, same high expectations, so far, same results. However, the topic itself is pretty interesting and there are a bunch of interested and interesting colleagues of mine in the class. I guess we’re going to do empirical research, analyzing the myth of the one digital native and his or her usage of information. I’d love to put the good old news factor theory to the test in the interwebs, but I guess that’s as always „beyond the scope of the class“.

Research Seminar II – Organizational Communication – Held by Peter Szyska, a quite renowned prof on the topic of PR and organizational comms. My group of three has to analyze the vast mass of trade and academic literature on internal communications to establish some sort of systematic body of work. Kind of „towards a great theory of internal communications“ without the great. Could be fun. Could be not. We’ll see.

Management Lecture: New Media Management – Had to chose this one and I am not totally happy about it. The lecturer is managing the online part of Austria’s public broadcasting system and is damn proud of it. We’ll see how much reflexion and thorough analysis it’s going to be – or how much self-righteous posing.

That’s it for now. And it’s going to be a heck of a lot.

Replik auf Kassaei, Demner, Kobza und Co: Wo bleibt der Nachwuchs in den Agenturen?

Posted in communications,media, culture and society,Off Topic,planning by thomas on the Februar 1st, 2010

Am vergangenen Donnerstag fand im Redroom am Stubenring eine Diskussion zwischen Amir Kassaei, CCO der DDB Deutschland Gruppe und Mariusz Jan Demner, Chef der größten österreichischen inhabergeführten Agentur Demner, Merlicek & Bergmann zur Zukunft der Werbeagenturen statt. In relativ gemütlicher Runde gab sich dabei die gesamte Führungsriege der österreichischen Werbebranche ein Stelldichein.

Es wurde also viel geredet. über Veränderungen, Verrechnungsmodelle, die rosige oder weniger rosige Zukunft der Werbung, Apple, Obama und Marmeladen. Amir Kassaei wiederholte auch in Wien sein Mantra, wonach Werbeagenturen zu kreativen Unternehmensberatern werden müssten, um nicht in den Geschichtsbüchern zu landen. Demner sieht die Zukunft der Werbeagenturen rosig und weiß nicht von welchen Problemen alle sprechen. (Abgesehen davon, dass weniger verdient wird.)

Die Frage jedenfalls, wie die Werbebranche wieder in eine Position kommt, in der die Kunden auf Augenhöhe mit den Agenturen sprechen und in der auch wieder mehr Geld zu verdienen wäre, wurde an dem Abend mit dem Hinweis auf den „Anspruch“ den die Branche an sich selbst stellen müsste beantwortet.

Wie so oft ist es aber spannender sich anzusehen worüber nicht gesprochen wurde. Im Redroom war dies das Thema „Nachwuchs“. Zwar bemerkte Rudi Kobza dass die guten Jungen fehlen würden und auch Sebastian Loudon fragte Demner und Kassaei explizit welchen Nachwuchs man bräuchte – darauf eingegangen wurde allerdings nicht.


Wo sind also die Jungen, die die Werbebranche wieder dort hinführen könnten wo sie sich in den 60ern wähnte? Die Frage die sich Herr Kobza stellt lässt sich eigentlich sehr einfach beantworten.

Wenn ich mich an den verschiedenen Fakultäten umsehe an denen ich studiere oder studiert habe, egal in welchem Land, dann stelle ich fest, dass die wirklich talentierten Leute die Innovatoren und Leuchttürme in ihrem jeweiligen Feld kennen. WIrklich motivierte Wirtschaftsstudenten kennen McKinsey, Booz, Apple, Microsoft oder junge Unternehmen die sich nie leisten könnten DDB zu engagieren, die IT-Nerds kennen die heißen Web-Start-Ups der jeweiligen Stadt, Google und co, die Designer kennen die „hot shops“ die großartige Dinge für kleine Unternehmen machen oder Game Studios und viele schlaue – als Beispiel für Orchideenfächer – Anthropologen wissen viel über sehr vieles. Aber DDB interessiert sie alle aller Voraussicht nach nicht. Und im Gegensatz zu oben genannten bemüht sich die Branche auch herzlich wenig um sie.

Worauf will ich hinaus? Viele der smartesten Leute die ich in den letzten Jahren persönlich oder durch das Lesen ihrer Blogs kennen gelernt habe arbeiten bei Google, bei Microsoft, bei Nokia oder bei McKinsey. Andere, bis oben hin mit Fähigkeiten die für die Branche nützlich wären, arbeiten lieber auf ihrem Institut für die ESA, streben Firmen wie AdaptivePath an oder machen gleich etwas ganz anderes – von Gedenkdienst, über Lehrer bis zu Entwicklungshilfe. Die, die in der Branche sind oder sich für sie interessieren schauen zu Unternehmen wie Anomaly, Droga5, RGA oder AKQA, wechseln in die PR oder bauen Innovatives auf. Was sie alle gemeinsam haben ist, dass sie ihr Hirn dafür einzusetzen wollen um etwas verändern, nicht um „nur“ Werbeideen zu generieren, in einer Branche die wenig bewegen kann und die – wie auch Tibor Barci erwähnt hat – noch dazu auf einer verstaubten Theorie aufgebaut ist.

Warum ist das so? Von den 60er Jahren bis in die 90er mag Werbung eine der treibenden kulturelle Kräfte gewesen sein. Definitionsmacht über Bedeutungen, conquest of cool, Rock&Roll und Mad Men. Heute hat die Spieleindustrie die Filmindustrie eingeholt, jeder kann immer kommunizieren („Really simple stuff with objects looks like magic. Really hard stuff with screens still just looks like media.“ – Russel Davies) und die Werbung ist nur noch ein kleiner, bei der Gesellschaft unbeliebter und für die meisten irrelevanter Teil der Creative Industries. Eine Branche die glaubt immer noch wahnsinnig interessant zu sein, der sich auf eine Werbeakademie als Nachwuchsschmiede verlässt wo viel mehr notwendig wäre und die – auch das sei gesagt – vergleichsweise miserabel entlohnt.

Klar, es ist immer noch ein unbeschreibliches Gefühl, wenn man mit seiner Arbeit ein Millionenpublikum beeinflussen kann. Aber muss man dazu heute in die Werbung gehen? Wie viel von dem was die Werbung macht ist denn wirklich gesellschaftlich relevant? Bei wie viel von dem was da an „Kommunikation“ entsteht hat man das Gefühl an etwas großen beteiligt zu sein? Die Wahrheit ist: bei herzlich wenig. Darum, lieber Herr Kobza, interessieren sich die meisten meiner Kolleginnen und Kollegen nicht für „Werbung“ an sich. Und darum fehlt Ihnen guter Nachwuchs in den Agenturen.

Update 1: Rudi Kobza war so freundlich mir auf Twitter zu antworten. Adaptiert zur besseren Lesbarkeit.


„mach dieselbe beobachtung. agenturen werden wieder interessanter werden. erlebs bei pr, strategy und digital. der einstieg in die agenturen wird aber auch von anderen bereichen als bisher kommen…“

Ich: Die Zukunft nicht im eierlegenden Wollmilchschwein, sondern in kleineren Spezialunternehmen? Wo sitzen dann die Strategen?


Sowohl als auch. Ich sehe 1. Spezialisten: machen Strategie und begleiten. Execution von Agentur oder Kundeninhouse, a la markenstern . Reines Consulting mit hoher Wertschaetzung. Gilt auch für Spezialisten rein digital, pr etc. Dann 2. Agenturen die im Kern Strategie, Big Idea Conception, Execution 360 und tägliche Idea Generation haben. Das die neuen Agenturen wo sich in meinen Augen noch eine große Konzentration abspielen wird. Und Kulturchange in den Agenturen. Dieser Agenturtypus hat sicher auch eine starke Agenturbrand, ist angesehen und wertgeschätzt weil top people. Auch durch laufendes proof of concept – große Kampagnen, Momentum, Innovation, Strategie, Performance etc. daily proofed. Ja und dann seh ich 3. die klassischen Kampagnenmacher die sich auf den Kern der Idee reduzieren. Da fallen mir jetzt schon manche Agenturen ein, die sich plötzlich im Wettbewerb mit freien Teams befinden. Meiner Ansicht zu eng. Die Kategorie der Executoren hab ich bewusst weggelassen weil die können vom Studio bis zum Kunden überall sitzen.

Fazit: 1. und 2. Find Ich persönlich interessant 1. Soll Markenstern, kobza integra abdecken. ad 2. wird sich Lowe GGK als eine der stärksten Agenturen hinentwickeln inkl digital.

Update 2: Die Antwort von Amir Kassaei

Das mit dem Nachwuchs stimmt. Ist aber wieder eine Bestätigung meiner These. Weil wir nichts mehr zu bieten haben, kommen auch nicht mehr die talentierten Leute.

Ich: Ich stimme der These ja zu. Aber für mich muss das auch mit einer Änderung im Recruiting einher gehen. Und das tut es nicht.

Ja, wobei ich sogar so weit gehe zu sagen dass think tank der modernen Prägung ohne Erbe aus der Kommunikationsbranche durchstarten müssen. Heißt auch ganz andere Jobprofile und Menschen. DDB ist und bleibt ein Kommunikationsdientleister das was ich meine hat aber nichts mit DDB zu tun. Auch nicht mit dem Berufsbild des Kommunikationsprofis.

Ich: Davon rede ich ja. Für „back to the roots“, ob als „Think Tank“, als „kreative Unternehmensberatung“ oder in einem Modell wo man Joint Ventures eingeht braucht man andere Leute als die Kommunikationsbranche. Und Wandel aus dem Inneren ist unmöglich?

Ja, weil KFZ Mechaniker dich nicht verstehen wenn du zum Mond willst. 😉

Virale Werbung: Ausblick am Ende der Bakkalaureatsarbiet (Sommer 2008 – Letzter Teil der Serie zu viraler Werbung)

Posted in academia,Bachelor Thesis,communications by thomas on the Dezember 30th, 2009

Die vorliegende Arbeit sollte das Konzept Virale Werbung beleuchten und die Erwartungen an ihre Nutzung und Wirkung anhand theoretischer und praktischer Ressourcen herausarbeiten. Während im ersten Teil gelungen ist das Konzept entsprechend abzugrenzen, beziehungsweise zu erweitern und auch auf die zweite und dritte Forschungsfragen einige Antworten gegeben wurden, stehen am Ende dieser Arbeit wie erwartet mehr Fragen als Antworten. Dies liegt vielleicht daran, dass Antworten in Form von Erwartungen erst recht wieder Fragen an die Realität eröffnen.

Im Bereich der Reichweitengewinne durch Virale Werbung zeigt sich weitgehende Einigkeit zwischen den herangezogenen theoretischen Ansätzen und den Annahmen der Praxis. Auch im Bereich der Nutzung gibt es – abgesehen vom Widerspruch für die Klassik relativ simple EmpfängerInnen und für das Virale kritische, kreative, vernetzte RezipientInnen zu sehen – einige Überschneidungen.

Die Antworten auf die Fragen zur Wirkung können allerdings nicht sonderlich befriedigend sein. Zum einen, weil die Forschungsergebnisse der 2-Step-Flow-Kommunikation – der heutigen Netzwerkforschung – mit jenen der Agenda-Setting-Forschung – die sich heute sehr wohl auch mit der Frage danach wie man über etwas denkt beschäftigt – kombiniert werden müssten, um eine bessere Antwort auf die Kommunikationsprozesse bei viraler Werbung geben zu können. Die Forschungsdesigns der Agenda-Setting und Netzwerkforschung könnten der Praxis hier vor allem ermöglichen, das Problem der Werbewirkungsmessung bei viraler Werbung zu lösen.

Zum anderen stellt sich bezüglich der Werbewirkung auch das Problem, dass es sowohl in Agenturen als auch in der Wissenschaft unterschiedliche Ansätze darüber gibt, wie denn Werbung nun funktioniert. Die Ansätze unterscheiden sich vor allem hinsichtlich der Bedeutung der Aufmerksamkeit bei der Rezeption, den Hierarchien der Verarbeitung und vor allem der grundlegenden Bedeutung von Kognition und Emotion (Vakratsas/Ambler 1999, Heath/Feldwick 2008). Auf dieser Ebene der individuellen Rezeption braucht es deshalb andere Ansätze als die hier vorgestellten.

Die explizite wissenschaftliche und implizite praktische Theorie gibt jedenfalls viele Fragen nach der Rezeption, Nutzung und Wirkung viraler Werbung auf. Einige davon:

  • Wie wird Virale Werbung rezipiert?
  • Wie unterscheidet sich die Rezeption von viraler Werbung und TV-Werbung hinsichtlich der Zuwendung?
  • Welche Nutzen ziehen Menschen aus der Rezeption von Werbung?
  • Welchen Nutzen ziehen Menschen aus der Weiterleitung von Werbung?
  • Welche Auswirkung hat die persönliche Empfehlung einer Werbung auf die Werbewirkung?
  • Welche Auswirkung hat die Rezeption einer Werbung über Angebote wie YouTube auf die Wirkung, wenn die Werbung selbst gefunden wurde?
  • Bestehen Unterschiede in der Werbewirkung zwischen EmpfehlerInnen und EmpfängerInnen?

Wie immer folgen auf einige Antworten also viele weitere Fragen.

Vakratsas, Demetrios /Ambler, Tim (1999): How Advertising Works: What Do We Really Know? In: The Journal of Marketing, 63. Jg., Heft 1/1999, 26-43.
Heath, Robert/Feldwick, Paul (2008): Fifty years using the wrong model of advertising. In: International Journal of Market Research, 50. Jg., Heft 1/2008: 29-59.