By Abdalla Yousef, Senior Account Manager, Serviceplan Experience

In the age of constant communication, brands are no longer expected to remain silent on issues outside of their perceived scope of expertise. Many of today’s most successful brands take a stand on topics ranging from global warming to political conflicts. 

Look at Nike’s “Dream Crazy” advert featuring Colin Kaepernick, which took an unwavering stance on racial justice, or P&G’s commitment to establishing gender equality. How about Ben & Jerry’s clear public position on voting rights, climate justice, and more? 

Even though these brands’ products have little to do with the issues they are advocating for, they still choose to use their platform to highlight their brand identity in a way that is grounded in real-world issues. This not only helps raise awareness about these issues, but it also shows their customers who exactly they are and what statement they want their products to be making. 

Thinking in the same vein, brands can also use their platform to raise awareness about life-threatening diseases and other important healthcare topics. Any brand, regardless of whether or not they are directly related to the medical field, can choose to raise awareness about or advocate for a particular healthcare concern that they feel passionately about. 

How can a brand find the right strategic approach to stepping into healthcare marketing even if their product focus is not in the medical field? A number of brands already use their voice to raise awareness about healthcare issues – showing their customers that they truly care about their wellbeing. There are two key approaches that brands take to healthcare communication. 

First, they create their very own healthcare-related campaign, and include experts on the topic to convey accurate information to their target group. 

Let’s look at MINI Middle East’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign as a masterclass in how brands, regardless of their products, can help save lives through this first approach. For two weeks during the month of October, MINI Middle East partnered with Dubai-based breast cancer survivor, Dina Aman and invited women to a special test drive with Dina. The women would drive the official test drive car, an unmissable pink MINI with the words ‘Circle around. Look for unusual bumps’ written on the side, around different roundabouts in Dubai. This clever campaign not only reminded women of the life-saving task of checking for early signs of breast cancer, but it also gave them the opportunity to learn about Dina’s experience and how she remained strong in the face of unimaginable adversity. Although on the surface cars have little to do with breast cancer, MINI Middle East exemplified their ethos of Big Love by finding a creative way to keep their audience safe while also promoting their products. 

Second, brands collaborate with diverse entities, from business communities to mental health centers, to address pertinent issues their audiences are struggling with.

A perfect illustration of this technique is Dubai Science Park’s ‘Hostages of Depression’ campaign. Serviceplan Middle East collaborated with Dubai Science Park and Thrive Wellbeing, a leading mental health clinic in the U.A.E., to raise awareness about the symptoms of depression and encourage those who are suffering to seek help. With the intention of tackling the stigma against mental illness in the Middle East, the key message of this campaign was that depression is not the fault of the person struggling. For example, oversleeping is one of the clearest signs of chronic depression, and yet over 66% of cases of depression go undiagnosed. As a result, the depressed individual falls further into self-doubt and away from recovery. ‘Hostages of Depression’ aimed to show people that what they may be mistaking for personal flaws could actually be symptoms of a debilitating mental illness and emphasize the importance of seeking help. Though Dubai Science Park, a community for healthcare and business professionals, does not explicitly work on mental health related issues, this campaign aligned with the company commitment to creating lasting, positive change in people’s lives.    

The campaigns of MINI Middle East and Dubai Science Park illustrate just two of the many ways your brand can help save lives by supporting the awareness of serious illnesses; by creating your very own healthcare-related campaign or by collaborating with diverse entities to address pertinent issues These campaigns also showcase how brands can go about saving lives: by running an awareness campaign about a specific illness, more people will become aware of the disease, which may in turn lead to patients getting diagnosed and treated more quickly and accurately. 

Both approaches clearly demonstrate that brands don’t have to be limited to the confines of their products and how their goods can add value to people’s lives; there are a myriad of opportunities for brands to showcase that they truly care about their customers’ wellbeing, beyond sales and profits. Nevertheless, a campaign that focuses on something else other than the brand’s profitability can simultaneously increase your customer loyalty, the positive reputation of your brand amongst both your target group and potential new audiences, and support from the general public for your brand. 

We encourage your brand to seize these opportunities and either start or continue spreading awareness about healthcare topics that will change the course of people’s lives for the better. 

Will the blockchain enhance the digital media landscape and if so, what are the barriers?

By looking at the fundamentals of the blockchain technology and projecting them onto the principles of the digital media landscape, we begin to notice a common ground but with different terminology that creates a range of opportunities for those of wants.

In this article, we will project the blockchain infrastructure onto programmatic advertising, click fraud, and metrics reporting.

I assume by now, most of you are familiar with what the blockchain is, but for those who are still confused by this fancy term, I will try to explain it using a simple comparison:

IS BLOCKCHAIN A DATABASE (DB)?

Quick answer, no. Although they have a lot in common, they are completely different, and I will cover the why and how in this section.

From an architectural standpoint, DB is based on a client server methodology, where the client is the node or the user accessing the DB, and the server is the centralized node that, for simplicity’s sake, we are going to say is where the DB is hosted. On the other hand, blockchain is based on a distributed network that is interconnected through a node-to-node or peer-to-peer methodology. When a transaction occurs, Blockchain uses a consensus algorithm, which is called proof-of-work, to validate and then store or transfer through read and write operations only.DB is completely centralized, which means that a DB manager or operator has full control over the DB, and one user with access can create, read, update, and delete data. So, in one word, blockchain ensures transparency, which leads us into the next section of this article.

TRANSPARENCY

With the rise of click fraud, chaotic targeting, and limited budgets, advertisers are seeking various ways to protect their media spend and to maximize efficiency. Transparency is what they need to ensure all of the above.

Imagine company X is launching an awareness campaign where the media plan includes Display ads, Video Ads, Audio Ads, Native Ads, Proximity Ads, and many more.

In a traditional ecosystem, reporting will take place manually or in real-time (a fancy term), but the data is published manually or through data parsing from a third-party supplier.

How can company X ensure that their campaign reached the right audience, at the right time, in the right location and that the report in hand reflects the right views and right clicks actioned by the right audience and not by bots?

Blockchain technology ensures transparency in the whole digital landscape through multiple applications from click fraud detection, fake traffic, and domain spoofing to precise tracking and ad buying.

Thanks to the Proof-of-View and the likes of PoV technology that are sitting on the blockchain, advertisers can now ensure that the result in hand reflects what their content and pages really got, which will lead to efficiency. It can also track where and how their ads have been placed, which will enhance the reporting process and offer an accurate optimization.

Similarly, blockchain is offering an evolution in the media supply-chain – a chain that is interconnected by a middleman throughout. 

Agencies, DSPs, Ad Exchanges, SSPs and publishers are all running their own ledgers and this is only because data is the main product in media, and every entity wants to keep the accessibility and the processing of this data within closed doors, which is centralization at its best.

Obviously, the main loser in this is the advertiser. However, from an effectiveness point of view, the healthy media supply chain should be backed by the blockchain where advertisers, agencies, DSPs, Ad-exchanges, SSPs, and publishers are forming this network and working on a shared ledger to authenticate, validate, and exchange.

This will provide all entities the ability to agree on every single transaction, to know where the metrics are coming from and how they are changing over time, and finally, to approve and validate the authenticity of the delivery, which can trigger the automated payments, and all will be governed by smart contracts.

The opportunities are limitless, but like any tech-evolution, obstacles will pop up – creating adoption barriers where some are systematic and others are technical. Here are a few just for clarity:

  • Speed of transaction and validation (that is why it is recommended to not transform the whole supply-chain, but rather transform the crucial parts that require validation and authentication).
  • Data is the product and once it becomes decentralized, companies fear losing control and IP.
  • Conflict of interest: blockchain imposes a necessity for different players, even competitors, to collaborate.
  • Competition within the one industry: the fact that all parties are being exposed in a decentralized system creates a challenge, especially between the competitors whose main goal is to own the bigger share of that pie (Advertiser).
  • And much more… 

Blockchain will create an evolution in the media world by forcing transparency, accuracy, and authenticity, but the main question remains: when will we see a mass adoption within the industry? In my opinion, we’re still far from it, but for most of you who are struggling with the “How?” my advice is to forget about the how and to focus on the why and the what.

The how starts like any transformation – with requirement gathering – and goes into the normal transformation lifecycle, and there’re plenty of good players who can support on this.

‘Carpenter.’ That was my genuine, enthusiastic answer to the classic question that every elementary school student is asked, but it was always met by laughter from the teacher, as if I was telling a joke. I went home to my mom, who explained how the profession I chose was unsuitable for women, and only men could do such work.

I am fairly certain there are countless stories like mine. Many girls dream of being boxers, rally drivers, electricians, automotive mechanics, and many other ‘untraditional’ professions. But they can’t do more than dream because it’s against society’s norms.

With time and openness to greater possibilities, things improved regarding gender equality in the Arab region. Yet, studies show a gap between female labour force participation rates and that of males in certain professions, and this gender gap leads to many talents and opportunities being lost.

UN WOMEN for gender equality and female empowerment wanted to launch an awareness campaign, encouraging society to break the perception that women can’t work in any profession they choose. 

Thinking of it from a creative design perspective, the insight was how the male form takes over the inclusive speech in the Arabic language, especially in job ads.

For example, the usual form is DOCTOR WANTED- Doctor is used in male form, although the ad is directed at both men and women.  

From here, as a global team from the House of Communication in Munich and Dubai, we wanted to create a symbol and add it to every male-formed job title in job ads. People will then see these teaser ads LinkedIn to certain platforms where we have our full campaign communication.

To promote women’s economic empowerment in the Arab states, UN Women organized a webinar on the role of media and advertising. Together with my colleague Natalie Shardan, MD of Serviceplan, I had the chance to talk about the ALL-GENDER campaign, discuss the situation of gender equality at work, and state our take on gender inequalities:

“Jobs have no gender, so why should job advertisements address only half of the population? With our latest campaign, we want to highlight that inclusiveness should be promoted in the workplace from the recruitment phase.”

UN Women Arabic | Twitter

The discussed topics and information were up-and-coming in terms of supporting women at work by many media entities in the Arab region. And obviously, there is a massive interest in highlighting inclusivity as much as possible. The campaign is still in its first phase. The next challenge is to get as many entities as possible to adopt this symbol and use it in their job ads. To make this process even easier for everyone, we created an All-Gender font that can be easily downloaded and used. Seeing the emblem online will prove that this initiative succeeded in revealing that jobs like truck driver, carpenter, firefighter, or even CEO are not male-exclusive anymore.

Natalie Shardan and Rana Ahmad taking part at the UN WOMEN webinar | March 2022

This is just the beginning of something big. Together with UN WOMEN, more milestones can be expected, such as the release of a powerful manifesto and the collaboration with influencers for targeted editorials. With all of that, we want to encourage girls and boys alike to actually start their professional lives in whatever direction they are dreaming of.

While still pursuing the carpentry profession on a smaller scale with starting my own handiwork projects at home, I am more than grateful to contribute, as part of the Serviceplan Group team, to the global issue of diversity and inclusion. Through our work, every day we see how bringing together diverging mindsets, skills, and cultural imprints in one common project is by far the most effective way of fostering true creativity and enabling major breakthroughs. We want to share this spirit of “Strength by Diversity“, with our clients, as we strongly believe that respecting every human-being, overcoming all forms of systematic exclusion, and unlocking the full potential of every talent gives companies and individuals the inner strength, resilience, and innovative energy it takes to overcome the challenges of highly globalized, rapidly changing markets and local issues.

Together with UN WOMEN and the ALL-GENDER-SIGN, we are fighting for our shared mission of making this world we live in an equal, diversified one – starting with a girl’s dream profession and her teacher’s encouraging reaction to it.

Author: Rana Ahmad, Senior Copywriter Serviceplan Experience

Jobtitel Bingo | Kai Martin Ruck

Developing creative concepts is teamwork!

In our new round of Jobtitles Bingo, Kai Martin Ruck explains to us in detail how he, as Client Service Director Asset Production, ensures that things run smoothly in the production of assets, what a typical day at work looks like for him, and why his job can be compared to an energy drink.

In the still fuzzy reality of the metaverse, a confluence of many constructs like social, gaming, and crypto, there’s an opportunity for brands and consumers not only to co-create but to co-own content, tokens, and assets.

Co-Creation is the New Connection

We’d love to call the current state of the metaverse a co-verse. No, it’s not a covert operation to sabotage the biggest buzzword trolling the halls of industries these days. On the contrary, it’s a recognition that the metaverse has become an open space where co-creation is perhaps the only “tangible” means for brands to connect with an audience living for the thrill of thriving as mere “embodied presence” on the internet.

With Roblox, brands like Gucci have started selling virtual branded products, essentially inspiring a whole new generation of avatars in luxurious garbs. And while Nike has created a Roblox virtual world called Nikeland, brands embracing the co-verse can choose to push the boundaries farther, not for their own sake, but for the contentment of its virtually-insatiable consumers. Instead of simply rendering actual physical products as virtual replicas on the metaverse, allow consumers to develop, design, and patent their branded virtual creations. Give them free reign and see how far consumers’ imaginations can shape or re-shape your brand’s own product development and design possibilities.

Non-fungible has Become Tangible

The digital collectible space has finally invaded brands. Yep, with the advent of NFTs, or your so-called non-fungible tokens, the words digital and collectible can now co-exist in the same space. That’s because non-fungible tokens are digital assets that can go beyond bitcoin to include any real-world object like a drawing, artwork or music that are now primarily rendered in AI. They’re non-fungible because they’re unique and irreplaceable, and much like trading cards, these are one-of-a kind virtual cards that if traded with another card, you’d own something completely different.

Budweiser has been on this space since late 2021. This January 21st, 2022, it aims to take this momentum into a purposeful cause as it seeks to support emerging musicians with an impressive drop of 11,000 NFTs based on 22 artists featuring 500 NFTs a piece. Sometime this year, BMW in the Middle East will seek to immortalize the iconic sound of an M engine, among others, as it takes its Museum of Sounds to the NFT arena. Museum of Sounds is BMW’s ambitious effort to preserve the melodious roars of its petrol engines before e-vehicles can render them forever obsolete. Soon, petrol heads can own a piece of their BMW icon in non-fungible terms as a tangible nostalgic memento.

Gamification Isn’t Dead in the Age of Gaming

Gaming, over and above social and AI, is currently touted as the next big leap for brands wanting to jump into the proverbial virtual band wagon. More and more brands are looking at e-sports sponsorships, game development opportunities, in-game presence, and even gamers as new-age influencers as revolutionary means to enter the growing world of gaming. Well, these brands are in for what we’d like to call a gentle wake-up call.

Gaming, in all its glory, can be broken down into its simplest form to serve the best possible entry-point for most brands seeking to test the waters. Especially for brands not as endemic to gaming as tech brands are, gamification – used and overused as it is, and even rendered old-school in this day and age, can still be a tool for potent co-creation. Think customization, for instance.  For retail brands already running solid e-commerce platforms, giving customers the possibility to create shopping avatars over mere buyer profiles can spawn gaming possibilities. If developing on-site gamification is a far stretch, think cooperations with gaming developers where cross-overs can happen between shopping avatars and gaming avatars.

A significant media presence is more important than ever! As a PR Consultant, Robert Koria takes care of precisely that.

In our new episode Jobtitles Bingo, he gives us insights into the day-to-day work of a PR Consultant, tells us what the best thing about his job is, and describes what his work has to do with an enjoyable glass of wine. And how does somebody become a PR Consultant? He also tells us that!   

So, get excited and have fun watching the new episode!

Let’s get up and start a new round of #JobtitlesBingo!
“Platform Advertising Consultant” – what rolls off the tongue so smoothly can sometimes be as exciting as a roller coaster ride in everyday life. Our colleague Nina Altmann tells us what she finds so exciting about her job, how she imagines the perfect client and what makes her everyday life so beautifully diverse.

Check out our new episode Jobtitles Bingo and learn more about how diverse the everyday life of a Platform Advertising Consultant at Mediaplus is.

Our Worldwide Executive Creative Director Jason Romeyko sums up a week of ÜberCreativity, inspiration and motivational speeches at Serviceplan Group’s headquarters – the House of Communication in Munich.

As any marketing manager will readily confirm, your brand needs to create – through its specific characteristics relating to history, market, target groups, distribution channels, competitors and objectives – an operational marketing ecosystem of its own that, from a strategic, creative and media perspective, is faster and smoother than before. The aim here is to facilitate a consistent, compelling and high-performing brand experience along the purchase decision processes.


In order to meet these challenges, visionary marketers from both client and agency sides are now coming together in a collaborative process to ask the C-question: how do we configure a marketing system partnership that does away with the tedious, coordination-heavy back and forth between special agencies, lead agencies and marketing departments? Which systemic configuration is more capable of addressing the direct challenges of the market and the specificities of the brand and company? Which functions from strategy, consulting, creation, digital, data and media should be integrated and to what degree? On which shared basis relating to content, processes and technology? And how can a new ecosystem start quickly, be kept flexible in its timing and evolve and scale new requirements?
One thing was clear to everyone involved in this forward-looking project from the outset: no run-of-the-mill creative pitch can give a valid response to such a strategic question. After all, how can a creative blind date, held quickly with usually a minimum of interaction, provide any lasting answers? Instead, the job requires scrutiny of the objectives together, mapping out the ways and means of achieving them and, of course, complete transparency and mutual trust. Which is exactly the approach taken by the players in four phases within a period of around three months. Here, it’s all about coming together, moving forwards and getting to the heart of the matter.

The process starts off with an initial workshop where a vision is outlined together. Projective techniques help to synchronise ideas and visions and define success criteria in precise terms. And the day is rounded off with a step back into today’s reality and its deficits, a first draft of the central core function of the new ecosystem and a few initial thoughts about the business model.


The next step after this first draft is to design the processes between the now weighted and precisely defined roles and responsibilities. Accordingly, a barrier-free, flexible, synchronous and highly efficient end-to-end configuration is the result of the second workshop.
The HR and IT requirements are still being determined at this point, so that the technological collaboration infrastructure can be implemented and the recruitment of the team started in the third phase. The business model, including any corporate law parameters, is discussed and finalised with the utmost transparency, together with the change management plan.
The fourth phase – the ramp-up – begins with an inception workshop for the entire team and focuses on an initial representative project. This endurance test offers a wealth of experience and improvement opportunities that can be addressed together in a way that is open, professional and entirely devoid of ego.

This is how strategic partnerships are formed – strategic partnerships that result in living and breathing customised marketing ecosystems that work quickly, efficiently and powerfully. It is said that this is the best configuration for developing, retaining and managing a winning, holistic brand experience.

We spoke to three C-level brand managers who decided to transfer at least part of their marketing activities to such an integrated configuration. Here are their experiences and recommendations.


NEW CONNECTION TO THE FUTURE
10 questions for Michael Falkensteiner, Head of Brand O2/Telefónica Deutschland, about the individually designed marketing ecosystem “Bubble”


1. You made the decision to bundle parts of your marketing activities in an integrated agency set-up. Which functions did you ask to be integrated in the model?
Michael Falkensteiner: If you have big and long-term goals, you need a set-up that can respond to any market contingencies quickly and with pinpoint accuracy. That’s why our new ecosystem consists of a core team combining three fundamental skills: strategy, consulting and creation. This core is the nerve centre and acts like a bubble. In other words, it is always moving and draws on additional specialists from other skill areas whenever needed, whether for a short time or an extended period. Either internally from its own ecosystem or externally by working with others on a partnership basis.

2. What were and still are your reasons for doing this?
Michael Falkensteiner: Past experience has shown that models that restrict themselves to a conventional lead agency tend to fall short of the mark – the “closed shop” principle. After all, agility and cross-functionality are more significant than ever these days. It was particularly important for us to have a customised model in which not only the lead level was guaranteed to work perfectly, but the interfaces between the individual specialist areas as well.

3. What is the geographical scope of your branding activities?
Michael Falkensteiner: We are focusing on German-speaking markets to begin with.

4. Please tell us how it all began – when did the collaboration start?
Michael Falkensteiner: We interacted with the agency early on – in great depth and taking in all angles of the collaboration. What does a modern agency-client system need to provide? How do we guarantee agility? How can we make sure that partner agencies and special agencies work towards the same targets as resolutely as the lead agency? This, roughly, was the beginning of the “Serviceplan Bubble” agency that Serviceplan went on to set up. And it was the beginning of an enduringly productive dialogue – the basis for a successful collaboration.

5. How have you achieved your preferred agency set-up?
Michael Falkensteiner: A set-up like the Bubble is the result of a thorough, open and, above all, honest analysis. As a basis for a successful and transparent set-up, we have analysed a number of fundamental areas: avoiding errors from the past, challenging the status quo and comparing short- and long-term brand objectives. To achieve this with maximum efficiency, we developed – in the course of several workshops together with the agency – a whole new system that was tailored towards our needs: the Bubble.

6. What was essential to your success?
Michael Falkensteiner: The most crucial aspect was how we went about it. This is because open communication and close cooperation allowed us to overcome the barriers between the client, agency and other partners. We believe that we will only achieve our goals by investing a lot of personal effort, by being radically honest and by resolutely questioning the status quo.

7. Were there any specific hurdles?
Michael Falkensteiner: Anyone who is striving for change will first have to contend with naysayers and doubters. So the question is not whether there are obstacles but rather how we can clear them out of the way. In our experience, it is best to get everyone on board for this journey insofar as possible. Until we achieve our goal: a change for the better.

8. How has the set-up changed since the beginning?
Michael Falkensteiner: Even though we are only at the beginning, one key factor is already proving its worth – the fact that we have a living, breathing, organic system. This means that we are in a constant state of controlled change. If something isn’t quite right, we analyse the problem together with the agency and implement possible solutions directly.

9. What were the challenges or opportunities where the integrated cooperation paid off?
Michael Falkensteiner: As I said, our collaboration is still at the beginning. But we are confident that integrated cooperation doesn’t depend on either crises or opportunities. With the Bubble, we worked with the agency to develop a system that enables us to respond efficiently and effectively to all possible market situations.

10. What are you planning for the future?
Michael Falkensteiner: In the past, the O2 brand has always been good for surprises in the communications market. That will continue to be the case in the future as well. But more than anything, however, we want to make ourselves strong – for our customers. They should get to benefit more than ever before from our brand. Thanks to the Bubble, the way we are now positioned means that you’ll definitely be hearing a lot from us in the future …


METRO x SERVICEPLAN INTEGRATED
10 questions for Gisele Musa, VP Global Branding at Metro AG, about the evolution of its tailor-made marketing ecosystem “Metro own Agency”


1. You made the decision to bundle parts of your marketing activities in an integrated agency set-up. Which functions did you ask to be integrated in the model?
Gisela Musa: In 2018, Serviceplan crafted a tailor-made and dedicated agency perfectly fitting to our vision, structure and needs. With this dedicated agency, Metro own Agency, we are working at eye level in all relevant skills, such as strategy, creative, digital, social media and brand PR.

2. What were and still are your reasons for doing this?
Gisela Musa: I believe in the value of lasting relationships. And I’m convinced that the deeper an agency knows a client – and all the things that happen behind the scenes – the higher the likelihood that the partnership will grow stronger and, along with it, the quality of the work you do together. And this takes time and dedication. Previous years have proven that, due to an increasing complexity for marketeers, a constant, customised and close cooperative branding ecosystem is the right agency model for us to face the challenges ahead. With the objective of further strengthening the brand and driving forward the development of a holistic brand experience for Metro.

3. What is the geographical scope of your branding activities?
Gisela Musa: As the Global Branding department at Metro, we are responsible for the branding agenda for 26 countries and all Metro wholesale sister companies within the group.

4. Please tell us how it all began – when did the collaboration start?
Gisela Musa: In mid-2014, after a multi-step chemistry process with cautiously selected agencies, Metro started working with Serviceplan on a project basis. The type and dimension of projects were very different back then.

5. How have you achieved your preferred agency set-up?
Gisela Musa: Right from the outset we have been constantly monitoring, analysing and optimising our partnership, which is built on transparency, honesty, important conversations and a lot of dedication from both sides. And a fair share of long nights as well. Today’s agency is therefore not only the result or the consequences of the past but also the starting point for the future.

6. What was essential to your success?
Gisela Musa: A milestone in our collaboration was in 2018 when Serviceplan developed the Metro own Agency – the first-ever tailor-made and dedicated agency by Serviceplan.

7. Were there any specific hurdles?
Gisela Musa: One of the major challenges was the launch phase of this newly crafted agency. We jointly focused additional management attention on the phase of bringing the defined vision into performing mode, e.g. finding the right skilled team, defining, and more importantly, establishing the right structure, the relevant tools and easy and efficient ways of working.

8. How has the set-up changed since the beginning?
Gisela Musa: Not everything comes up roses, right? It has been a long journey for us. Over the past six years our relationship has advanced significantly, and we feel encouraged to work with this fully integrated and dedicated agency, with the potential to flexibly embed additional skills and talents when needed.

9. What were the challenges or opportunities where the integrated cooperation paid off?
Gisela Musa: It was during the biggest challenge that our collaboration experienced its strongest success. In early 2020, when COVID-19 reached pandemic level, from one day to the next we had to step up and find totally new ways to support our customers – the independent businesses – to survive the economic, social and health consequences. Almost on a weekly basis we developed and provided ready-to-use communication packages to our national Metro marketeers in order to support their local customers with the most recent information and with additional relevant products and services enabling them to transform and to keep on running their businesses. If we didn’t have such a close collaboration with the accounts and creative teams, that wouldn’t have been possible.

10. What are you planning for the future?
Gisela Musa: I would say that we still have plenty to do. There will always be areas that we need to improve as partners but, more importantly, we need to ensure we keep developing our people while bringing new blood to the teams. Also, the brand has evolved significantly, expanding its scope from talking mainly with our independent professional customers to reaching a broader audience. With the Metro social impact “Nurturing the success of independent business owners fosters a wider variety of choices – for everyone”, we have now entered into a dialogue with the customers of our customers. Crafting such a rich communication programme will require innovative thinking, testing and learning, as well as a strong heart to keep it – and us – all together.


SHAPING OPPORTUNITIES TOGETHER
10 questions for Felix Withöft from stairlift company Lifta about the opportunities and possibilities of the integrated Lifta agency team cooperation

1. You made the decision to bundle parts of your marketing activities in an integrated agency set-up. Which functions did you ask to be integrated in the model?
Felix Withöft: Traditionally, German consumers know us from our ads in ADAC Motorwelt and Prisma. These days, however, the internet is our most important source of leads. The central component for our Lifta agency team is therefore the combination of creation and digital, flanked by strategy and media, both online and offline.

2. What were and still are your reasons for doing this?
Felix Withöft: We used to have a “conventional” agency with a strong focus on print and TV as well as an astonishing number of small agencies specialising in online and digital. It was only a matter of time before the complexity got out of hand. Now everything is bundled in a single team. Which means shorter communication channels, faster decision-making processes and better integration of measures – across all channels.

3. What is the geographical scope of your branding activities?
Felix Withöft: With Lifta and our other brands, we are mainly active in Germany and Austria. In other words, the primary focus of our collaboration is on German-speaking markets. As a Cologne-based family company, it was really important for us to have our supporting team here in the city. The Cologne House of Communication is only a five-minute walk from our marketing unit. Even in these times of the coronavirus pandemic and collaboration tools, personal interaction is still very close to our hearts.

4. Please tell us how it all began – when did the collaboration start?
Felix Withöft: Right at the beginning we had our media strategy and planning audited by the PlanNet team. This team included experts with whom I had already worked very successfully in the past tackling other marketing challenges. This soon led to further interesting points of contact at the House of Communication. And shortly after that, we asked the team to make a pitch for our creative budget as well. And they nailed it!

5. How have you achieved your preferred agency set-up?
Felix Withöft: We started off with a small core team to develop the central components of our new brand campaign: strategy, creation, media and digital. Then we noticed very quickly that we would need a “dedicated team” in future – a team that would work with us on an ongoing basis on our areas of focus and continually develop them, and that would also be able to look after our other brands. But that, at the same time, was always adaptable depending on the situation.

6. What was essential to your success?
Felix Withöft: Well-defined responsibilities for both parties and clearly established interfaces. Right from the very beginning we established an SPOC on both sides with a view to maximising transparency across all workstreams and ensuring fast decision-making channels.

7. Were there any specific hurdles?
Felix Withöft: It isn’t easy to set clear priorities and reduce complexity at the start. To begin with, our new agency team was rather swamped by the sheer number of subject areas, products and priorities. It would be better to plan a suitable familiarisation phase from the outset rather than wanting too much from day one. Otherwise you’ll soon have to face a reality check.   

8. How has the set-up changed since the beginning?
Felix Withöft: Having started with a small core team, we are now gradually expanding additional disciplines such as PR, social media, performance, SEO/SEA, etc. It is also important for us to constantly have new momentum and fresh expertise to draw on but also to ensure continuity within the team at the same time. To have people in our team who know our company, our target groups and our products. People who we can discuss these matters with as equals.

9. What were the challenges or opportunities where the integrated cooperation paid off?
Felix Withöft: We are currently working on a whole new brand campaign. This is the first time that our company has taken an integrated 360° cross-channel approach. Without this networked and close collaboration throughout the various disciplines and skills, I can’t imagine how else we would have launched it in such a short space of time.

10. What are you planning for the future?
Felix Withöft: We have set ourselves a common goal: to take the stigma out of stairlifts so that they are no longer seen by consumers as a last resort. And to convince senior citizens earlier on that stairlifts are “the key to self-determination”. This is something that will be extremely important to the baby boomer generation in particular when they “come of age” in the next few years. People from this generation want to remain in the prime of life.

This article first appeared in TWELVE, the Serviceplan Group’s magazine for brands, media and communication. In the seventh issue, you will find further inspiring articles, essays and interviews by and with prominent guest authors and renowned experts centred around the magazine’s theme “Rethink!”. The e-paper is available here.

Serviceplan New York encourages time off as an essential part of fostering creativity

Hours worked are not an accurate predictor of employee productivity. Across Europe, it’s culturally accepted and even preached that summer months of July and August are reserved for holidays. People across industries and career levels take weeks off at a time to press reset and come back refreshed for the busiest months of the year. This cultural norm exists partly due to policy – paid annual leave is a legal requirement for employers in nearly every country across Europe. Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Belgium offer 30 days per year.

Meanwhile, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not provide this legal guarantee. a quarter of Americans (primarily middle and lower class workers) go without any paid time off all year. Private sector workers average only 16 days of annual leave per year, half that of their European counterparts. Attitudes towards productivity between the two economies also vary greatly. Americans take pride in the idea of hard work, while Europeans place more value on balance as a part of productivity.

So what are the indicators for productivity? 

It’s logical to look for productivity gaps between the two economies, given the significant differences in hours worked annually. However, according to data from the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the most productive countries (as GDP per capita) are Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and Iceland. The United States comes in at number six on the list, with Germany close behind in 11th place.

The data also expressed a negative correlation between hours of work and productivity, meaning the less hours worked produced higher GDP per capita. However, this is mainly a trend in non-Wesetern countries that may be less developed and have less access to technology. What’s interesting is that American workers put in more hours per week – 33.6 – than the European countries at the top of the list.

The above analysis is all to say that hours worked is not a clear and accurate measure of success. Employee trust and satisfaction are important considerations as well. A study conducted by the University of Warwick found that happy employees were 12 percent more productive, while dissatisfied workers proved 10 percent less productive. If employees feel bored or undervalued, it greatly affects their performance. 

Employee satisfaction is the answer

When companies create an environment of trust, productivity comes naturally without the need for rigid policies around hours and time off. The Serviceplan Group House of Communication allows for unlimited vacation days – an unusual but not unheard of policy. We believe that the trust created among our multilayer, integrated teams allows for the seamless completion of work as well as work-life balance. By giving our employees a sense of agency in their working lives, we’ve seen both productivity and creativity flourish.

Sources: Center for Economic Policy and Research, International Monetary Fund, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development