For decades, a group of smart agency rebels repeatedly managed to win customers and accounts from the so-called “big players”. In the meantime they became so good that now they too are one of the big players themselves. Does this mean that they have lost their raison d’être? No. In fact quite the opposite is true; this is where things really start to happen, just as in the past with the Rolling Stones, the green movement and Apple. When breaking into the big time, it is important to identify which of the attitudes that paved the way into the elite are still useful, and which should be sacrificed lest they prove a hindrance in the future. The charm still needs to be there, even if the sense of sympathy that David enjoyed in his battle against Goliath, is not. It is important that a sense of community still exists, even if more than a thousand people from multiple continents can hardly gather around a campfire every week. Corporate objectives need to be embedded and embraced in equal measure by colleagues from Munich to Zurich and from Milan to Dubai. And it is important to remain completely and unequivocally independent.
The culture at the “Haus der Kommunikation” is like a blanket of cloud, spreading out across all physical boundaries and binding us all together. It contains experiences and success stories, values and goals, ideas and agreements. The cloud is never bigger than those who act in the name and on behalf of the agency, as they too are entrusted to act completely independently. We are strong when strong people identify with us as an agency, when they see an element of themselves reflected in us. Conversely, the cloud is never smaller than the individual, otherwise a colleague from our Hello Kitty brand could end up selling mobile phones or yoga courses while strategic fields lie fallow. The essence of the “Haus der Kommunikation” does not restrict, it is neither its ceiling nor its walls. It is the life that surrounds and permeates through all things. Our culture is therefore not a set of rigid guidelines that have been codified in a handbook, app or PowerPoint presentation. Our culture is the very spirit between the words.
We breathe this cloud, it nourishes us and we in return feed it with our experiences. No nonsense, no fancy talk; our cloud is full of nutritional susbstance. For example, our values:
Sustainability of relationships with customers, partners and staff.
This requires a further value: fairness.
Openness is a significant issue, as how otherwise can one use every trick in the book to break rules in the name of progress?
Multiculturalism may as well be dead if one subscribes to the infantile stereotype of Muslims in headscarves crying out “Allahu Akbar” at the sight of a miniskirt as evidence of the irreconcilability of different ethnic groups with their cultural distinctiveness. Our agency, however, is so naturally and inconspicuously multicultural that every now and then we find ourselves having to consciously publicise this fact. Even in Munich, the ability to speak German is no longer an essential requirement for an applicant. A Sikh’s turban could be seen at the last agency party. A Japanese colleague sits at her desk in a manga bear cub costume without attracting even so much as a raised eyebrow. A Muslim and a Jew debate whether the cafeteria is serving halal, kosher or both for lunch.
Creativity is a value that spreads far beyond the mere designing of brand communication.
Everyone should feel encouraged to share their ideas. The idea then brings both the respect and the courage to submit it for discussion.
Learning from each other, providing mutual support and respecting other areas can be summarised in a single word: synergy.
Our visions as a driving force for innovation and as a permanent invitation to our customers to share our ethos as we move forward together.
We stand together as a group, large and strong. But we are never a bully. We see every one of our relationships as a pairing of equal partners.
A strong culture that is internalised by all proves its resilience by surviving internal conflicts, such as when financial goals and agency values collide. We are proud of keeping our composure when such a conflict demands that we show unwavering cultural discipline. Not always, not in every scenario, but we always strive to remain true and loyal to ourselves.
Ah yes, loyalty: so where are those rebels from yesteryear? The year was 1970: Germany is a divided nation, confessed homosexuals are made prisoners, not foreign ministers, PCs and the Internet still lie many years in the future – and Serviceplan was founded. The founders have left a lasting legacy in the form of the agency’s cultural successes that invigorate our cloud with the tools to build a promising future.