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.

Against all odds and the challenges posed by mounting a ÜberCreative Summit in real life in Munich, after a year and a half of virtual meetings during the Covid-19 lockdown, myself and our Global CCO Alexander Schill introduced a full programme of ÜberCreativity at our House of Communication in Munich, our first IRL since Zurich in 2020, when the world was on the cusp of a pandemic unprecedented in our lifetime.

What is ÜberCreativity?

ÜberCreativity is a higher form of innovation and a key asset to overcome the natural limitations of marketing as we know it. ÜberCreativity happens when different communicative disciplines combine their specific strengths to lift a creative idea up to a level nobody had ever expected to be reachable. 

The magic of ÜberCreativity lives in each of our Houses of Communication where creative & content, media & data and experience & technology collaborate and interplay. 

What is the ÜberCreative Summit?

Leaders and upcoming talent from Serviceplan Group’s Houses of Communication around the globe attended the summit in Munich, with representatives from; Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, Belgium, Italy, Japan, the Middle East, UK and USA in attendance in person, and China and Moscow represented via robot. On the first day we had some hi-tech visitors in the form of robots moving through the conference rooms, connecting us with ECDs in the Shanghai and Moscow agencies. 

As the host city was Munich, the original headquarters of Serviceplan when it started back in 1970 as a 2-man show, Matthias Harbeck introduced our German agencies, who presented some of their most exciting new work. And who were also in charge of creating this brilliant design for the summit – thanks again, Matthäus Frost! I love it!

What do I mean by ‘Big Game Hunting’?

I came up with the theme of ‘Big Game Hunting’ for the ÜberCreative Summit, not because I’m a fan of stalking wild animals as trophies, far from it, although Alex Schill and I liked the analogy of winning big clients and creating big, global campaigns.

When I talk about ‘Big Game Hunting’, I am taking metaphors and applying them to the mission of the Houses of Communication globally.

We hunt elusive clients. Only things we make visible will change the world. We don’t work for free. We create work that is a world first. And we create this ÜberCreative work with a goal of winning awards that rank us in the top tier of WARC.

What is the role of Creatives at the House of Communication?

To kick off the first day of the summit, Alex and I introduced the concept of ‘Big Game Hunting’ to our guests before we enjoyed a virtual talk by our CEO Florian Haller, recorded in New York where we was visiting our US partners Pereira O’Dell.

Florian Haller talked about what a central role creatives have within the Serviceplan Group, saying: “Creativity is from my point of view at the centre of an agency group. Creativity is the core. We have in our agency group through the ‘House of Communication’ model, the ability to create different silos and different disciplines. What we call ‘ÜberCreativity’. It’s a creative question to integrate ideas. I’m proud to be head of an agency group that’s so strong on tech and data. Tech, data and algorithm are tools we use to address our real job of connecting to human beings. We need to create more international cases that cross boundaries. In other words ‘Big Game Hunting’.”

Inspiration from our US partner

Pereira O’Dell co-founder PJ Pereira flew in especially from New York to Munich to join day 2 and 3 of the summit, where his presentation was a high point and gave insights into some of Pereira O’Dell’s world-changing new work, including a campaign for the Ad Council to encourage US citizens to get vaccinated against Covid-19, which featured 5 former US presidents and even the Pope – PJ actually wrote copy for the Pope, which he says was a career highlight!

Who were the most motivational speakers?

Friday’s sessions kicked off with a talk on ‘What’s blocking You’ and ended with a motivational speech about inclusion by Saatchi & Saatchi’s Worldwide CCO and D&AD President and my long-term friend  Kate Stanners.

Kate is a true beacon of creativity, a trailblazing female leader and a perfect example of our mantra that ÜberCreativity is inclusion. My feeling is that if we’re all homogenous we won’t get innovation. We need diversity. So Kate Stanners was an ideal guest speaker who has demonstrated with her stellar career that women can embody the pillars of ÜberCreativity on an equal footing with men. As a trailblazer for women creatives, she has proven that diversity in creativity is essential. Kate talked about the fact that she didn’t have a plan, but that left her open to opportunity. She has always ‘lived in the now’, not looking backward or forward.   

The ÜberCreative Summit in Munich took place in conjunction with Creative Week, which consisted of several days of talks by thought influencers and creative geniuses from within the Serviceplan Group, and kicked off on Monday with our SPARKS Creative Experience program for young talents on a junior to mid-level. Presentations during Creative Week included; ‘Thinking Inside the Box’ (creating ideas that work in a mobile age) with Serviceplan Berlin MD Myles Lord;

How to get PR buzz for your creative idea’ with Lee Sharrock & Birgit Koch, PR & Communications, Serviceplan Group; ‘Passiontainment: How live content is transforming digital entertainment’ with Alex Turtschan, Director Digital Accelerator Mediaplus; or ‘The Interface is NOT the brand’ with Christian Waitzinger, Chief Experience Officer, Plan.Net, amongst others. You can get some deeper insights via our Instagram Stories highlight where we featured a selection of our inspiring talks.

What a great week with inspiring people and people who were inspired!

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.

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 …

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.

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 

Serviceplan New York slowly begins reopening its House of Communication to allow for a mix of remote and office work.

In the wake of a global pandemic that is showing no signs of slowing, companies are forced with difficult decisions around their work from home policies. While offices are permitted to open in many regions, companies are fearful of the risks still posed to employees during long commutes on public transit and in close office quarters. With this in mind, mixed office and remote work will be the new normal for the foreseeable future.

Productivity hasn’t suffered – yet

In a survey conducted by YouGov in partnership with USA Today and LinkedIn, 54% of respondents reported that working from home created a positive effect on their productivity, mainly due to fewer meetings and no commute. However, 51% of employees reported feeling lonely at home. While productivity may remain stable in the short-term, it is difficult to say how long this will last.

Employees are working off the knowledge and intrapersonal relationships that were built in the office and growing these relationships while isolated at home is a significant challenge. While video conferencing can make up for some lack of physical connection, true innovation, collaboration, and fulfillment that vibrant office culture provides will be difficult to replicate virtually on a permanent basis.

Employers should be aware of the mental health toll

The associated mental health toll will also begin to take an effect on employees, regardless of their living situation. For those who are working in their homes alone, feelings of loneliness and isolation are surely increasing. The same study reported that, to combat loneliness, 49% of respondents are reaching out to friends and family via phone during the day or spending more time on social media – measures that are generally considered counterproductive.

On the flip side, those with children who are no longer able to attend day care or school are presented with constant distractions during the day, making deep focus difficult to achieve. 23% of survey respondents are sharing workspace with a spouse or partner, and 14% are sharing it with children engaged in online learning, which requires near constant parental engagement.

People are empowered by choice

Work from home policies are incredibly valuable in normal times. When you empower a hardworking employee with the choice to create a flexible work schedule that suits their needs, the benefits are clear. However, the operative word is choice – which has been removed in the current setting. Without choice, the benefits of empowerment and independence achieved through flexible work are not quite the same.

The House of Communication

The US House of Communication office space on 102 Madison Avenue, New York, New York

For Serviceplan Group, the House of Communication setting has always been central to the way we work and communicate. Integration and innovation are core to our company culture, and to the services we provide. While we have found ways to utilize technology and foster communication and teamwork in this remote setting, we are excited to begin a slow, safe reopening of our House of Communication to be with our colleagues again.

The benefits derived from a vibrant and encouraging workplace cannot be understated. We are human beings first and employees second, requiring human connection to be satisfied in anything we do. Going forward, we will be armed with new experiences from both the physical and virtual working world, better preparing us to tackle any project, anywhere in the world, with any team. Being flexible and responsive to our employees and clients remains at the heart of what we do, no matter where we sit.

by Madison Rhyner, US House of Communication, New York

Three leading industry talents gathered for our recent seminar in Cannes, France to share their insights on the human condition through the lens of their creative work: Kentaro Kimura of Hakuhodo from Tokyo, Cristina de Balanzó of Walnut Unlimited (part of the Unlimited Group) from London and Alexander Schill of Serviceplan Group from Munich. The session was moderated by Ayami Nakao from Hakuhodo Inc.

In January this year Serviceplan Group announced the forming of partnerships with the Unlimited Group and Hakuhodo Inc., and the Cannes event was an ideal chance for representatives from each firm to showcase their combined synergy.

In opening the discussion, moderator Ayami commented that, depending on which media you are reading or who you are talking to, “We can either be super-proud or super-depressed over how we’re doing as humans today.” This set the scene for the session, with each panelist offering their take on human emotions, behavior and tendencies through their stories.

Before handing off to the panelists, Ayami explained that the speakers were not simply going to beautify humans, but would also explore our “somehow fickle, superficial and seemingly selfish” aspects.

Connection is the key

First up was Alex, who asked the intriguing question, “How do humans use technology to stay human?”. Noting that we have always been social creatures, he explained that technology means we can reach out to others at any time, and that staying connected is clearly important for brands. However, he then revealed the sobering statistic that 70% of websites are not accessible to the visually impaired, effectively cutting off some 285 million people around the world.

Alex raised the idea that accessibility is a human right, and that being connected is “the strongest currency we have for the future”. He added that even when we disconnect from the digital world, it is to reconnect in another sphere, such as nature, so the basic premise is still actually about connection.

He pointed out that not all advances in technology are necessarily helpful for individuals coping with challenges, citing the example of a friend with impaired vision and her new coffee maker. Although superior in technology to her old one, the new model featured a digital display, effectively rendering it impossible to use.

“We should look at technology as something that can help us overcome our limitations. Connection is our access to everything”, Alex said.

The audience were then shown an example of these concepts in action, in a campaign video for Korean firm Dot Incorporation, which makes innovative products for the visually impaired through “bringing tactile communication to visualization”. The Dot Watch is the world’s first Braille smart watch, transmitting information in real time, while the Dot Mini can access any digital media and translate it into Braille, allowing reading and listening in synergy. The Serviceplan Group has not only been a partner in developing these products, but is also one of Dot Incorporation’s shareholders.

An emotional business

Cristina then took center stage, and shared her insights on how we connect through our emotions. She opened with an interesting observation: While the advertising industry tends to think that we change people’s behavior though positive emotions, “it is actually sometimes negative emotions—sadness, anger, disappointment—that can be quite engaging and very effective at driving behavior”.

The audience were treated to a video from the award-winning “Boys Don’t Cry” campaign for Unilever’s Lynx, a line of men’s grooming products. In the video, young men between the ages of 16 and 25 take viewers on an emotional journey as they talk about men crying and revealing their vulnerable side.

Cristina pointed out that the execution of the emotion in this campaign was “authentic and genuine—even emotionally pornographic”, and added that the climax was when the message and the brand are delivered. She also asked the audience to consider how emotion overrides information in the context of the video.

According to Cristina, it is important to deliver a rational message combined with the right emotion. Drawing on studies of brain science, Cristina noted, “Emotion can be the gatekeeper of rational decisions”.

She urged industry professionals to keep their message simple. “These brains have much better things to do than decode your communications!”, she commented. “Communication is about feelings, and not only information.”

In closing her presentation, Cristina advocated for brands to create a closer relationship with their audience by building empathy.

What’s your desire?

The final speaker was Kentaro, who discussed how human desire drives our actions. “Desires can be positive and negative. On the one hand I can be an angel, and on the other hand, a devil, driven by desires”, he quipped. “And sometimes we are both!”

Using the familiar context of feeling hungry and wanting to go out for dinner, Kentaro pointed out that most people check online sites to find a popular restaurant. Hakuhodo Kettle, however, turned this concept on its head with their Red Restaurants List campaign—a gourmet guide that preserves “endangered restaurants” and local food culture. The work won a Bronze Lion this year.

The audience were shown a video set in Takasaki, a small Japanese city where an aging population and a decline in customers have led to many owner-operated restaurants closing. The Red Restaurants List specifically highlights eateries with aging proprietors, no successor, and most importantly, great food. The highly successful campaign has attracted new customers to Takasaki, and the concept has since spread to other regions in Japan.

Telling it like it is

Kentaro went on to explain how the “the story creates the desire” in this case: People want to play a part in the story of saving a local establishment, whether from a desire to be heroic, out of curiosity to try a new eatery, or even perhaps to “travel back in time” to try nostalgic dishes. “Our role in the age of AI is to create stories that drive people to think and act on positive desires”, he said.

Although people are sometimes considered “pathetic creatures”, who are driven by our desires, Kentaro suggested changing the narrative to “lovable creatures” who are moved by positive stories.

In closing the session, Ayami reiterated the panel’s desire to “take a deep dive beyond stereotypes” while telling their creative stories, and how they have been able to unearth some universal truths in the process. “We were thinking of timeless truths that have stood up throughout history. What is to be trusted, what is real?” she said. No doubt the audience were left pondering these questions after the session. At the end of the day, we are only human.

From left to right: Kentaro Kimura, Cristina de Balanzó, Alex Schill, Ayami Nakao


This article has been published first by Hakuhodo – see the original article here.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

In the past, it was enough to make your purchases in the organic shop around the corner to be considered sustainably minded by most of your acquaintances. Today, an organic lifestyle encompasses much more. Our lives are becoming 360° organic. It is not just our food that is organic or fair trade but our clothing, cosmetics and so much more. Our social thinking is becoming increasingly sustainable after such events as nuclear phase-out, the diesel scandal and Hambacher Forest. Instead of plastic bags, we bring our own cloth bags with us when we go shopping. We use apps that can automatically send emails to brands if their products are too plastic-heavy.

People are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on how sustainable brands are. However, this doesn’t just affect product design and ingredients. We as designers also have to think about sustainable packaging. As communications experts, we should not only take this into consideration in the design of a campaign and the messages we communicate, but also in the selection of locations, influencers, service providers and everything that surrounds them. If we think in this way, 360° organic, it is not only good for our planet, but also for our customers.


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

The established stars of the digital economy Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google have a common problem: they lose their shine. Customers, employees and the stock market alike become disenchanted. Apple’s innovative powers fades. For many years, the latest model was a must-have. Today, the internet is full of posts on topics such as ‘Why I renounce the iPhone X – and reach for the iPhone 8 Plus’. In regard to voice technology, a key area for the future, Apple’s Siri is lagging behind the competition. Today, the Apple brand primarily stands for expensive. It has changed from a love brand to a luxury label.

When it comes to Facebook, we associate it with false positives, fake accounts, data leaks, bad excuses and miserable crisis PR. The platform also has a further problem: it is becoming a senior hot-spot. For example, 70% of the over-60 silversurfer generation are on Facebook. In the 14- to 19-year-old age group, there are far fewer users; Facebook has lost its sexiness.

The streaming pioneer Netflix is also facing hard times: Disney+, Hulu, Twitch and other competitors are quickly making Netflix look old. If the ‘mouse company’ manages to take over media giant Fox Entertainment as planned and even enter the streaming business, the cards of this poker game are set for a shuffle.

Search engine giant Google’s employees are rebelling. Recently, the workforce has resigned in protest against sexism and racism in the workplace. Earlier, more than 1,000 Google employees protested plans to return to China with a censored search engine. This came after employee protests already stopped a project that involved supplying the Pentagon with artificial intelligence for the analysis of military videos. For a company that has the reputation of being one of the best employers in the world, this seemed a lot of trouble over such a small amount of time.

The fact that things have changed has been proven by a software dinosaur from the last millennium: Microsoft. For a long time, it seemed as though the soul of this software company was long gone. Genuine innovations were a scare commodity. However, under Satya Nadella, Microsoft has consistently reinvented itself. He has broken old habits, turned Microsoft around, uploaded the business to the cloud and acquired smart companies such as Skype and LinkedIn. Microsoft boss Nadalla provides a clear definition of courage. At the World Economic Forum in Davos he talked about the third world, recommended that his own government in Washington should imitate the European General Data Protection Regulation and called for international rules regarding the use of artificial intelligence. The call for regulation – a breach of taboo for corporate America.

Thus, for me, the trend of 2019 is learning from Microsoft. Courage to think completely new again; courage to completely rethink ourselves; courage to embrace a clear attitude. I think in the year 2019, Facebook, Apple and co. will follow this path and reinvent themselves.


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

In 2019, brands will look for an occasion to be associated with – an occasion that will accompany their communication activities during the whole year; like social occasions that respond to CSR plans and that their clients and followers are interested in. Social marketing is “in”, but brands shouldn’t risk falling prey to opportunism and being associated with movements just because they are a hot topic like feminism or environmentalism. If the principles of these movements aren’t in the DNA of the brand, they shouldn’t be associated with them.

Brands that represent products which strike a chord with their values will be the ones to triumph in 2019 and technology will consequently play an important role. The consumer has evolved from a simple buyer of a product to a conscious consumer, who stands up for his principles and wants to bring about change as result of his purchases.


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.