Memes are part of the Internet in the same way as food pictures are part of Instagram. Success Kid, Bad Luck Brian, That’d be great or Grumpy Cat are some of the best known memes out there and have had countless users laughing. At first glance, memes seem like trivial forms of modern online culture. But if you look again, many memes are really creative, pick up on current events and convey political opinions. So, it’s also time to take memes seriously in online marketing. You can discover the different types of memes and how to use them for communicative purposes here.

Memes are now an integral part of social media

My grandmother and older generations are probably shrugging their shoulders when it comes to the question of what memes actually are. The term meme is a derivation of the Greek word “mimema”, which means “imitated”. Memes are photos, videos, GIFs or social media posts whose content, form or message is imitated or modified in a creative way. Memes are then shared via channels such as Instagram and Twitter or even special meme websites and blogs.

39% of German Internet users know what memes are and more than a third have shared these kind of images and videos before. Memes are already very popular with 16 to 29-year-olds online. In fact, 43% of young users regularly share them and 37% even regard memes as art (Bitkom Research, 2019).

Meme marketing: a creative content format for brands

Memes are no longer only created by millennials and GenZ’s – more and more customers and companies now also use memes to reach younger target audiences and to transmit a humorous brand image. To do this, brands can follow two different strategies. They can either create their own, new memes, or jump on the hype wagon of an existing meme.

The beauty brand Glossier often integrates memes it has created alongside product photos on its Instagram feed and effortlessly combines “Internet Ugly” with modern Instagram aesthetics.

How brands can modify and adapt existing memes for themselves can be seen in the current example of Area 51 memes. Background: Two million users responded to a Facebook event on 20 September 2019 that invited them to storm Area 51 in Nevada. Conspiracy theories suggest that aliens are hidden in the highly classified United States government facility. Thousands of memes have resulted from this event and many brands have joined the hype with creativity and humour.
















Whether created or adopted, if brand memes are done well, they can lead to high visibility and increased engagement. In times of infinite content but limited receptivity, memes are an appropriate format to stand out from the crowd and grab consumers’ attention.

Meme accounts and memers as content producers

A company decides to integrate memes into its marketing strategy and tasks its marketing agency with the implementation. But where can the agency employees find the right memes to use for their customers’ creative marketing? Websites such as reddit,, cheezburger and knowyourmeme have extensive meme collections.. Knowyourmeme is particularly helpful as it also explains the meaning and the origin of the meme, as well as showing several variations of the meme.

There are also a number of meme accounts on Instagram, which have considerable reach with millions of followers. The biggest accounts include @epicfunnypage (16.8 million followers) @fuckjerry (14.4 million followers) and @sarcasm_only (14 million followers). These accounts are bigger than the accounts of many beauty, fashion and lifestyle influencers. This is why it is time to take the meme community seriously and to see memers and operators of meme accounts as relevant content producers or curators. They know their community and understand the humour of their young followers the best, so agencies and brands should make use of their expertise and collaborate more with them in the future.

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!

Scrum, Kanban, design thinking, prototyping and collaboration are working styles and methods that have their origins in product design and software development. In recent years, they have found their way into the development of digital platforms, products and services. Now we are experiencing how they are beginning to change the way people work across communication agencies: in the future, communication strategies and communication campaigns and measures alike will be designed and planned more and more collaboratively – including in partnership with customers – in sprints.


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

Value creation is destroyed by communication. Admittedly, this is a bold suggestion. Especially as it comes from the pen of a representative of the communications industry. But while it might sound daring at first, the idea can easily be explained.

I do not want to bother with the superficially obvious examples of communication between companies and customers. We all know that this can sometimes backfire, simply because someone neglects to master their tools, or forgets to give the customer their glasses. Camel’s bungled brand management or Nestlé’s Kitkat PR disaster are just a couple of examples.

Instead, I want to focus on three different kinds of communication that are much less well known. And they also have a significant – but greatly underestimated – impact on a company’s value creation power.

1. When two parties meet and communicate with each other…

First, let us consider the interpersonal level, communication between two people. This might at first seem banal. But it is not! Thanks to ideas such as Schulz von Thun’s “four-sides model” of communication (the quality of communication is influenced by factual information, self-revelation, relationship and appeal) and Paul Watzlawick’s “constructed reality” (we perceive the world like a picture puzzle), we know that interpersonal communication is a highly complex process. A complex process that often goes wrong – and destroys value creation on a grand scale.

Steven R. Covey recognised this connection in the 1980s in his best-selling “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and therefore attached great importance to interpersonal communication: three of his seven effectiveness habits are dedicated to it. For example, rule # 5 reads: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.

We talk more, but communicate less

Active listening as part of an effective interpersonal communication strategy is becoming harder for us collectively. Although we are constantly talking and posting online, we are rarely able to truly communicate meaningfully.

And so it is not surprising that many New Work approaches aim to add value to interpersonal communication in the VUCA age. To name just two examples: the Tactical Meeting format is a highly efficient way to run weekly team jour fixes. And the retrospective (part of the Scrum rules) aims to identify factors which limit value creation in the process and to counteract them accordingly in the team.

Smart corporate leaders are understanding the importance of ensuring that the level of interpersonal communication skills is high throughout their organisations. And they inspire the entire team to look critically at their meeting formats to eliminate factors which destroy value creation early on.

2. When two parties meet and communicate with each other

That’s right, this title is the same as in point 1. Because it might seem that everything stays the same when you add the “organisation” dimension. But this is far from the truth.
Now new forces come into play, and their effectiveness is underestimated, since they are invisible at first glance. This realisation is only very slowly gaining traction in top-level management. Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory offers a helpful explanatory model: a social system is a closed system with a life of its own that exerts influence on the individual people in the system (in systems theory they are considered environmental). Thus, an organisation consists of people only at first glance. In the system-theoretical sense, it is actually based on communication.

A popular metaphor for illustrating Luhmann’s systems theory is the board game. Without the players (i.e. co-workers) the game cannot be played, but the players follow the rules of the game, which means the game (for which read: the organisation) makes the rules. The organisation’s rules of the game include the many explicit, and the even more numerous implicit rules, cultural norms, and beliefs that have accumulated since the company’s founding. They are the guardrails within which the possible is reduced to the probable.

Employees come and go, but the influential system remains

And now comes the really exciting part, because it shows the effectiveness of this explanatory model: If you lose one employee and replace them with a new one, I could almost guarantee that in virtually every case you will observe similar patterns of behaviour as before, and the bigger the company, the more likely this is. This is quite simply because only the environment has been changed, and not the influencing system.

When it comes to adding value, the system-theoretical approach helps by allowing a differentiated view of cause and effect. And it reminds us that there is little point in attempting to treat the symptoms (that is, the behaviour of employees). Rather, it is better to work out the causes (the rules of the game that produce the symptoms). This means working ON the system instead of IN the system.

Work ON the system – and not IN the system

If you ignore these interconnections, you can talk all you like, initiate every change programme you can think of, or change up all the central managers, you still won’t get the change you want. And you must have noticed the recent trend for “letters of admonition”, in which board members, for example, publicly blame the employees for behaviours that destroy value creation. This practice really achieves nothing (what it damages is another matter). Instead of trying to find choice phrases to describe alleged causes, this time and energy would be better spent exploring the cause behind the cause.

3. When two parties meet within myself and communicate with each other

Yes, you read that right. We shall now turn to the intrapersonal level: communication with ourselves. Do not be alarmed: this is not an esoteric approach, but a true value creation factor.
The question “Who Am I? And If So, How Many?” is not only a best-selling book by the philosopher Richard David Precht, but also very strikingly describes the concept of multiplicity of personality: In addition to a leading ‘self’ we also contain – often unconsciously – various different personalities within ourselves, whose feelings, beliefs and memories are firmly anchored in our brains.

Even if these different personalities are not (yet) known to us, they are constantly at work within us, busily engaging in dialogue with one another and sometimes, depending on external circumstances, they get the upper hand. We have all had the experience of witnessing a generally meek and quiet person suddenly exploding in rage. This was not the person we thought we knew as an adult, but the injured inner child or the inner rebel who briefly took the reigns, because an external impulse challenged that part of their personality.

Managing these different aspects of inner personalities is important

Another example: our internal movie gets hijacked by some destructive part of our brain and starts playing negative thoughts and painful memories on a continuous loop, over which we seem to have no control. This has profound negative consequences for our own energy levels and how we choose to act. It also has a significant effect on our personal contribution to value creation within the company.

The successful management of these inner personalities, including awareness and professional handling of them, is hugely important for value creation. I would even say: due to its leveraging effect, it is one of the most significant factors in value creation, because it significantly influences all three previously mentioned communication levels.

And in the age of VUCA and NEW WORK – when the traditional corset of familiar routines and standards as well as the guardrails of pre-existing chains of command are being eliminated, our inner personalities are challenged more than ever. The result is that even this level of communication will increasingly enjoy more attention from top-level management, simply due to a vested interest in a robust “bottom line”.

Let us return to the initial thesis: is communication fundamentally destructive for value creation, or is it a significant leverage factor in value creation – that is the question here. The answer depends largely on factors such as the level of self-reflection of all corporate stakeholders, and what significance the four levels of communication have in the top levels of management.

Enlightened business leaders have long since recognised the relationships described and used them for their own competitive advantage. Outstanding value creation has been the reward for their courage.

Shift to Post Smartphone World

A new era “after Smartphone” arrives. Powered by soaring mobile traffics, AI (Machine Learning), VR / AR / Fictionless computing are hot icons to catch up with. And autonomous vehicles, for sure!

All this techs are continuously connecting us from this to that, here to there. On December 14th 2016, Wynn hotel announced plans to equip all 4,748 hotel rooms at Wynn Las Vegas with Amazon Echo. And on the same day, Amazon succeeded their first drone delivery service with Prime Air in UK. And what else? Uber started its first autonomous vehicle operation in San Francisco whereas Silicon Valley start-up, Lucid Motors launched the luxury electric car, Lucid Air which goes 400 miles on a single charge. All these are happening day to day and we even do not have enough time to get surprised. Let’s not forget: For all that, Future is made for us, “human-beings”. Let’s enjoy this new techs and ride the comfort and convenience to the fullest.

Mobile All

In 2017, mobile is expected to stand even more at the centre of all communication in Korea,  which ultimately leads more to mobile commerce. With 91 % smart phone penetration rate (No. 1 globally as of March 2016) & the fastest internet speed, South Korean will likely consume more contents at mobile. (even TV contents are consumed at mobile)

In line with this trend, contents (including advertising) will be developed & formatted in mobile platform. And mobile advertising  will be further developed to reach right audience with more sophisticated performance measurement tools.

Tech-driven Contents

As the novelty factor of VR/AR technology cools down, creating more relevant contents will become essential. With Naver and Kakao – two of the biggest online industry giants in Korea – beginning to invest heavily in AR/VR content development, Korean consumers are sure to be presented with various, yet more relevant, contents to choose from.

Along with VR/AR, other technologies – such as AI and Livecast – are being implemented in various marketing platforms. This suggests that now more than ever, technological developments are pushing the evolution of marketing tools – something that the content creators must keep pace with.

O2O Almighty

The O2O (online-to-offline) business, which has emerged as an icon of Korean start-up since 2014, is steadily growing. In fact, the O2O service barriers are relatively low. Now, however, diffusion and differentiation are more emphasized in O2O biz in order to settle in the market.

Large platform companies such as Kakao are expanding the scale of service diffusion by acquiring related O2O services or providing various services within one type of app by combining the power of O2O service in the related area for win-win.

Personalized O2O services are on the trend such as ”Travel Accommodation” service reflecting the characteristic of single target who enjoys his / her life, “Personalized Beauty” service reflecting the consumer tent that pursues wellness and “Services aiming at 3049 target” that has emerged as the premiere of the health consumption market.

This O2O service, which makes consumers’ lives convenient and enriched, is expected to grow further thanks to mobile acceleration and easy mobile payment service.

The old year is drawing to a close. It’s time, therefore, to take a look at the coming year.  The experts of the Serviceplan Group have summarised their personal communication trends for the year 2017.

Dr Peter Haller, Founder and Managing Director of the Serviceplan Group

Public discussion has adapted itself to a good dozen mega trends. They trigger business trends and these lead to consumer and communication trends. Those who want to develop faster than the economy as a whole have no choice but to follow the growth trends. But which ones?

There are hundreds of trends and counter-trends. All of this against the backdrop of an accelerating change in digitalisation. But which of these trends are relevant to which industries? Which can I embrace for my brand? And which of these in this confusing process is the reliable guidance for my brand management?

This is the theme of our 2017 Brand Roadshow together with GfK, which is once again sponsored by the German Trade Mark Association. “Dynamic brand management through the jungle of consumer and communication trends” will take place on 7 March in Munich, 9 March in Berlin, 22 March in Frankfurt, 28 March in Cologne, 30 March in Hamburg, 9 May in Vienna and 11 May in Zurich.

Jens Barczewski, Deputy Managing Director Mediaplus Strategic Insights

2017 will be the year inflationary KPIs become the measurement of success for campaign and media performance. In 2017 there will be an agreement between AGF (the television research working group in Germany) and Google/Youtube over the designation of a common video currency. The ‘Quality Initiative for Research into the Effect of Advertising’, driven by the Organisation of Brand Advertisers (OWM) in cooperation with Facebook and Google, will deepen its work and define the first indicators. The AGOF will firstly designate reach on a daily basis and therefore facilitate a continuous improvement of the booking units.

With the associations’ initiatives the individual publishers will open up their own measurement and success indicators to customers and agencies in order to obtain greater transparency in the market. The commotion over the erroneous increase in video viewing times on Facebook showed that not every KPI should be accepted without deep understanding from the customers and agencies.

Winfried Bergmann, Head of Human Resources, Serviceplan Group

Political correctness is on the retreat

Overly cautious political correctness has definitively disqualified itself as being the spiritual leader towards populism. The US presidential election was marked by dishonesty – from both sides. You did not know what was worse – the evident lies from the one side or the awkward, fearful avoidance and concealment of highly relevant issues from the other. Someone who conceals topics, about which large portions of the public worry, because of an alleged sense of decency and misunderstood consideration, must not be surprised when the sovereignty of interpretation is lost in societal discourse. This is even more so in Europe.

Therefore, dear reputable conservatives, break free from political correctness and in the coming year engage strongly in your issues. Let us argue about all of that – from the centre of society, which would then have found the courage for free debate once more. For when we do it like this, there will be nothing more for populists to do other than peep out from the right side of the screen. And it will be lonesome again and they will go back to their crossword.

Stephan Enders, Head of Mobile Marketing of the Plan.Net Group


With the first bot shops among messengers the subject flared up in 2016. And, as it often happens when a new trend emerges, a euphoric, partly activist test phase was swiftly launched, sometimes even when the worth and meaning of a certain discovery could not be estimated. However, chatbots are merely the cherry on top of an older idea, whose impact stretches far wider than it looks at first sight. It’s all about the perfect customer dialogue.

Chatbots, together with artificial intelligence, are (or, rather, will be) a valuable instrument, perhaps the most valuable of them all. Because the trend of 2016 will be the mega trend of 2017, meaning that it will pool together different mechanics, half trends and instruments:

01 CRM: Customer service with a chatbot, whose reaction is always quick and precise.

02 BIG DATA: Only learning chatbots, with all customer data at hand, will be able to unfold their power. The evolution of chatbots will enforce Big Data processes.

03 MOBILE FIRST: Chatbots are perfect for mobile use and, therefore, ideally fit for the future – wherever the user might decide to roll: Facebook, (mobile) web, you name it.

04 SERVICELAYER: In a world of information overload, it will be vital to deliver the right information, at the right time, in the right place. Nothing more, nothing less. A chatbot will be able to do just that.

Gerd Güldenast & Marcus Person, Managing Directors at hmmh

Voice control
Google Home and Amazon Echo open up new possibilities, however still clearly show us their limits . 2017 is the year the merits of the products and services will be demonstrated convincingly without a graphical user interface. Creative individuals and developers are asked to smarten these systems and to further develop companions for everyday life or for an intelligent touchpoint in connected commerce.

Big data aids human customer service
The topic of customer service in the online world stands to change in 2017. Today chatbots are being used more commonly. They show however shortcomings where subjective feelings and emotions play a crucial role. With new customer intelligence systems and smart chatbots based on big data analysis, customers will receive a completely new quality of service in 2017.

Oliver Grüttemeier, Managing Director of  Serviceplan Cologne

Digitalisation only succeeds with empathy.

For years, we have experienced dramatic changes in the workplace through technological developments. Although companies attempt to increasingly fuse their processes along the supply chain, the digitalisation often only comes along sluggishly. 2017 will change that, because the top management currently recognises that leadership through ‘command and control’ no longer works. In the future, executives managers of successful companies will therefore be measured less by their accomplished goals, but rather much more by their social competence—the foundation for every form of cross-departmental collaboration.

In this area, Google is already 10 years ahead. Since 2007, Google already offers its employees the opportunity for personal growth and the development of business empathy with the program ‘Search Inside Yourself’. The success of Google is not only based on the accumulation of more data, but on the knowledge that the best search engine is our spirit.

Stefanie Krebs, Managing Director of Plan.Net Technology

In 2017 a creative thinker requires analytically and technically broad shoulders. While the mega trend digitalisation advances rapidly, the majority of companies have reacted and digitalised their structures. Now, together with their associates, they are facing the challenge of building an integrated business model from the emerging digital island which can also exist in a future shaped by big data, machine learning, the internet of things and perpetual digital innovation.

Those who want to deliver creative responses and celebrate communicative success must be able to develop organisationally and technically complex systems in a short amount of time. 2017 will therefore be the year of the creative team player, where it pays to deliver elegant solutions to complex questions using the input from your multi-faceted team with specialists for tools, technology, processes and people. It is no longer about the colourful façade, but the whole package.

Andrea Malgara, Managing Director of the Mediaplus Group

TV works

According to the ARF (Advertising Research Foundation) TV is still the most important advertising medium when it comes to building a broad reach and increasing return on investment. E-commerce companies are investing more and more in TV advertising. In 2015 almost every third TV advertising spot was occupied by an e-commerce product. TV advertising is strongly increasing online shopping traffic. Digital business models require a wide reach, however, to generate significant turnover.

If the appropriate special interest channels are chosen and screen planning is optimal for an advertising campaign, the advertising recall, brand awareness and the conversion rate all significantly increase. Through brand-unique and innovative media strategy, we can achieve a 20 percent increase in turnover with a targeted media mix.

Kevin Proesel, Managing Director of Saint Elmo’s Berlin

In 2017, IOT (Internet of Things) and clever ideas are changing retail marketing.

We have observed that the classic sales funnel of companies is changing: through the technology shift and the increase in use of smartphones, customers themselves are becoming points of sales and points of information, because they are networked everywhere and can obtain information as well as provide information at any time. As a result of this, personalised and networked campaigns that are implemented close to consumers will be the most convincing in the future. In 2017, we will be seeing the first campaigns which will use networked Smart Buttons as marketing incentives in the Internet of Things.

‘Smart Button’? It sounds smart, and it is smart: in advanced retail campaigns, a branded button acts as a pivot point. It is not like the dash buttons on Amazon, which act purely as facilitators of a networked ordering process, but it is a starting point for a networked campaign storytelling, which unfolds once the customer connects their button to their smartphone—and once they press the Smart Button. Predefined processes now tell a story, which, through several chapters, leads the customer to more and more touch points of a company: always through the simple push of a button. In this way, a guided tour takes place from home to the retail department, which constantly further qualifies the customer and allows campaigns to be experienced fully networked. It is virtually engagement marketing par excellence, since it goes beyond only displaying content and includes the user directly: ‘2017? Press the button and see what happens.’

Dominik Schütte, Managing Director of Serviceplan Content Marketing

Content quality instead of quantity

In 2017, people will ultimately comprehend that the purpose of content marketing goes beyond simply selling. Therefore, companies will be more confident in finding narrative niches outside their brand. In the process, they will be astonished to find out that people actually have their own interests and that it is exactly through these interests that they can be reached and turned into customers. A win-win situation, for both companies and the people out there. Storytelling for the masses – yes, thank you. But make it qualitative, relevant and, please, don’t be annoying.

Klaus Schwab, Managing Director of the Plan.Net Group

I believe that 2017 will bring along two highlights:

First of all, it will be the year when voice command becomes widely adopted, meaning that digital services will be triggered through speech. And this will be the collapse of technical interfaces, such as displays and keyboards.

Secondly, we will witness companies developing platform strategies inside different branches. Namely, they will be more open to start-ups and work together, in order to facilitate their clients’ access to specific services within their own ecosystem.

Julian Simons, Managing Director of mediascale and PREX Programmatic Exchange

With the progressing digitalisation of the use of media, and even in most areas of life, the long known types of borders between offline and online advertising channels are beginning to blur. More and more advertising spaces are being digitalised, are therefore accessible via IP, and are going ‘online’. Subsequently, this also means that programmatic advertising will lead to an increased distribution and control of channels such as radio, out-of-home, and in the end, television. This will lead to big changes for the advertising market.

The tremendous opportunities of comprehensive control and of addressing someone individually are not without great challenges. Business models change and become more complex. Strategies and management logics that make it possible for the new complexity to be meaningful to use, have to be found to prevent campaigns from losing impact in an aimless atomisation. This change must always keep the interests of the user and their data protection concerns in mind, otherwise it will not be successful.

Klaus Weise, Managing Director of Serviceplan Public Relations

Digital enraged citizens are changing the world

Great Britain is to exit the EU, Donald Trump is moving into the White House. Who would have believed, last year, that any of it would happen? The two results are neither coincidences, nor singular political accidents. They are the beacon of a world quake that has just begun. The triggering force of that quake is the fear caused by a change in the world, brought along by digitalisation and globalisation. Similar fears have always existed, but today they are a million times amplified and multiplied through social media. Fuelled by shady hate speeches and sparkled by social bots and opinion robots, whose sole purpose is to rile up the crowds. In 2017, dealing with digital enraged citizens will be the main challenge of political parties, unions, companies and brands.

At Serviceplan Middle East, we’ve always counted on clients to recognize the fine line between defragmented and consolidated services as we stood our ground pro-integration. Here we share our successes and some hard lessons learned along the way.

A decade and a half ago, network agencies initiated the epic move towards specialization, marking the exodus of in-house media departments into global media houses. By the time we set up shop in Dubai in 2009, the argument has evolved into full service vs. specialist shops. Full service agencies were valued for their one-stop-shop solution, but were heavily critiqued for going broad but not necessarily going deep. On the other hand, specialist shops were esteemed for perfecting their individual crafts, but were deemed hugely lacking in macro perspectives.

Specialist agencies have become the norm as digitalization started to hound traditional full service agencies. Today, the territories are all but blurred. The demarcation line between creative and media houses have seemingly vanished – with media agencies becoming content creators, and creative agencies becoming learned consultants of content platforms. Specialist agencies started offering integrated and consolidated services, while big network agencies began shape-shifting again. Take the decision of one French powerhouse in late 2015 when it announced that it was restructuring its ranks into four consolidated hubs, putting client services at the heart of its mission. Transformation, it claimed, will be driven by the fusion of technology and creativity, with focused divisions in creatives, media, and technology among its four hubs.

Sticking to our “I” Guns

As believers of Integration, the plan was crystal clear from the onset. While we started the traditional route delivering only offline services in 2009, we stuck to our long-term vision of building a “Haus Der Kommunikation” in Dubai to offer specialized services under one roof. We knew there was no room for alternatives since we belong to an independent, family-owned agency group, headquartered in Munich, whose “Haus der Kommunikation” concept has weathered the industry’s shifting tides across 45 years of operations. 7 years into our own experience, we came to realize that boundaries aren’t limitations but opportunities to reinvent oneself, if only to stay profitable and above water in a region that has yet to see its full potential but is already besought with fierce competition from all angles.

When we started, well-meaning industry advisers were saying you either go big or you go boutique. Boutique was the preferred route to gain a good share off the pies of big-name regional clients who remained stable or were recovering fast post 2008. Niche offerings, they said, would help one zero-in on specific gaps that big networks may not be quick or flexible enough to fill in. Niche, they argued, would guarantee a steady flow of income for boutiques for as long as niche is delivered with measurable efficiencies.

The problem? We were neither big nor boutique. We were, in reality, gap-fillers in our own industry, occupying a niche somewhere between a big network agency and a specialized boutique shop. We were extremely careful not to get across as another “indie” house wanting to capitalize on Dubai’s diversity and central location as we highlighted the hybrid nature of our concept. “A subsidiary of Europe’s largest and most successful independent agency group poised to offer innovative communications, innovative digital solutions, brand-individual media, and strategic market research under one roof,” we soon realized, is a concept unheard of in the region. Worst, it is one that often leaves most clients baffled, and at times doubtful.

But their doubts weren’t unfounded. On lots of occasions, we were too adamant to prove our case that we barged into pitches for specific requirements with a full portfolio of consolidated ideas that span offline, online, even experiential. Most times we would leave presentations patting our backs, elated over pleasantly surprised and extremely impressed prospective clients, only to rub ourselves sore come decision time when we are finally told that while our concept was by all means strategic and commendable, budgets could only accommodate specified requirements. Yes, those heartbreaks came in a handful, alongside our more substantial wins.

But with almost 8 years worth of learnings, we’ve come to reinvent ourselves. Not only are we the first agency established outside of Europe that ultimately catapulted the group’s internationalization, we are also the first to introduce a fifth communication pillar – Serviceplan Experience, which offers brand storytelling in a physical space. Today, Serviceplan Middle East continues to stand its ground, advancing the group’s three invincible “I’s” of Integration, Internalization, and Innovation.


Outrage across the world. How could Donald Trump, a hatemonger, racist and liar, have been elected as US President? The reasons behind the outcome are complex. However, one thing is certain: communication had a major impact on the result of the election. What can we learn from Hillary Clinton’s PR disaster?

First of all, political communication needs a vision. Trump packed his into the slogan “Make America Great Again”, however banal, primitive or vulgar you might find it. But can you remember Hillary Clinton’s slogan? No? That is precisely the problem. It was “Hillary for America”. So what vision was she trying to convey, what was she promising her voters and where was her call to act? In my opinion, the main thing that Clinton conveyed with her slogan was her desire to become President of the USA. If you were to summarise the essence of all of her statements, you would see that she hoped to bring experience, continuity and stability to the White House in times of political upheaval. She stands for relentless pragmatism, not dissimilar to the approach taken by fictitious President Frank Underwood in “House of Cards”. Even if you’ve seen just one season of this amazing Netflix series, you will understand why so many Americans failed to find their passion for a cold power politician. This is particularly true of liberally minded Americans, the Democrats’ core voters. They stayed away from the ballot box in their droves while political madman Trump and his sometimes insane-sounding tirades mobilised every fibre of his followers. Now let’s come to Angela Merkel and the current rise in right-wing demagogues. Do you know the Chancellor’s vision? Or her central promise? Experience, continuity and stability in times of political upheaval or something like that? When it comes to the next parliamentary elections, I am fearing the worst.

At first glance, it seems almost paradoxical that billionaire Donald Trump received a disproportionate amount of support from low-income voters and blue-collar workers. The answer to the puzzle is simple. In the battle for the White House, Trump was more successful as portraying himself as a good listener. In his speeches at the very least, he seized upon the fears of workers, those who feel alienated and afraid of social decline, and who have lost out due to globalisation and digitalisation. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” was Trump’s central promise. And it didn’t matter that his economic plans, such as closing off the American market and scrapping international trade agreements, have raised fears among economists. For workers in the Midwest, who are afraid of losing their jobs due to the mass “dumping” of steel into the USA from the Far East, Trump’s attacks against China, globalisation and free trade signalled one thing: at least one of the presidential candidates is listening to us. How many people here in Germany feel like they are the forgotten men and women of their country? And which members of Berlin’s political scene can appoint themselves as this group’s protector with any form of credibility? Gabriel? Nahles? Seehofer? I believe that one of the biggest problems in political communication is that too many people feel that politicians are terrible at listening and have lost their relationship with the people. If the CDU-SPD coalition wants to gain at least a governable majority at the next election, they need to make a credible and personal promise to the people who are feeling forgotten.

Trump was also skilled at making the most of media reaction. Each one of his incitements, his intentional displays of brazenness, was duplicated a thousand times over. This is how he kept his name out there, compensating for the fact that Clinton had a lot more money, supporters and TV ads for her campaign. Do you think that this game is restricted to the USA? And what comes to mind when you think of the words Boateng and Gauland or Petry and an “order to shoot”? These examples show that the right wing here in Germany is also capable of unleashing waves of indignation with their planned provocations. Their goal is to create talking points and stir up emotions among their own followers. Sometimes it might be better to just ignore this unpleasantness, instead of putting the disseminators in the spotlight and allowing them to play the role of martyr.

Trump also proved himself to be the master of social media. Trump, who many Democrats see as the political incarnation of a scary clown, used social media to generate discussion, provoke and mobilise. And he relied hugely on some high-tech helpers. A study by the University of Southern California revealed that 400,000 socialbots were involved in political discussions regarding the US presidential election on Twitter. A total of 75 per cent of these opinion robots produced positive messages about Donald Trump. In an era where an increasing number of people live in a bubble of social media filters, this is a major competitive advantage. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already suggested avoiding the use of socialbots in the next German parliamentary election campaign. The SPD, Linke, Grüne and FDP parties also refrain from using these software robots. In contrast, the AFD has announced that it plans to use bots to stir up sentiment on a large scale on social media. Just one more reason to fear them in the run-up to the next election.

While pollsters and politically active Germans were caught off guard by Trump’s election victory, one academic – the linguist Elisabeth Wehling – had already predicted his win a long time ago. She and her research team have been studying politicians’ use of language and discovered that Donald Trump was a lot easier to understand than Hillary Clinton. Because he expresses himself at the same level as a child of primary-school age and uses specific words to cultivate images in his audience’s heads, he is easy for all sections of the population to understand. While this has garnered him the derision of intellectuals, it also ensured the votes of less-educated members of the population. Established parties and the media can also learn when it comes to ease of understanding. Maybe it’s time for a new era of understanding, for more clarity and less political jargon. Otherwise, we will encounter a lot more Hillarys here in Europe: highly skilled, politically experienced, unpopular and spurned by the voters.

Two weeks of Cannes are over – an extremely great, exciting but also exhausting time. Strenuous for the brain and the creative muscle. 25 judges from 25 countries. 25 completely different minds with different views, with statements, inflammatory speeches and discussions; simply fantastic.

My conclusion from the area “Direct”: there weren’t any radical, major trends, but there certainly was a “hidden trend”, namely Gender Equality. This issue is becoming more and more important. No matter whether female, male, transgender or homosexual – every person has the same rights.

This is recognised not only by the NGOs but also more and more Super-Brands are showing a clear stance and taking a stand.
A great example is Doritos:

My other highlights

Snapchat, WhatsApp, mail and Facebook … That all trends in communications bring a work that Grand Prix shows that our voice is our most original communications organ, proving “The Swedish Number”:

And yes, breast cancer prevention can be fun. A lot of fun even:

My personal favourite is Case OPT-Outside of REI: it’s incomprehensible when an outdoor retailer abolishes its strongest sales day of the year and thus triggers a whole movement. And with a clear message: do not go shopping – go outside on Black Friday. Enjoy your life, your loved ones and nature. Great great great!

Until next year!!

Because we are asked this question and similar ones so often, we launched our company presence on with 8 video stories on Thursday.

whatchado is an online recruitment fair, where colleagues talk about their job, career and business in short videos. Various industries are presented to school and university leavers, as well as career entrants, and they are given insights into different fields and disciplines.

Two simple reasons why Serviceplan Group is using whatchado:

  1. We want to demonstrate all the possibilities and perspectives in a big advertising agency through all of the various job profiles in order to inform and enlighten those starting their career. Which school leaver knows exactly what they should do upon finishing school, when they only have the vague idea ‘something to do with media and people’?
    whatchado also offers insight for parents and teachers into unknown chances for development and sectors which lie outside of their own personal experience.
  2. We want to support our recruitment team in finding motivated and communicative colleagues. In short, people who have realistic expectations of life in an agency and who are willing to contribute.

Sho Tatai, junior recruiter at Serviceplan in Munich, gets straight to the point: “Why whatchado? Because it represents a relevant solution for career entrants. In my opinion interest is one of the factors for success for entry into professional life. whatchado addresses this through authentic insights into various job profiles. The job description therefore takes on a face and a character.”

Winnie Bergmann, head of human resources Serviceplan Group, gives more reasons for our involvement: “As the first big advertising agency on whatchado, we are getting involved because we want to highlight that agencies are still offering the most exciting jobs in the field of communication. It isn’t internet services and service providers where these new jobs originate, but rather agencies working as an intergrated whole. Career entrants often don’t realise that and whatchado is a great platform to broadcast this information
Another reason we are involved with whatchado is because we know that in the future we will rely more and more on colleagues joining us straight after finishing school who will study alongside their work. We have an appropriate institute of higher education right next door to us, the ‘mind’ academy, run by Steinbeis University.”

“I am really happy about the support and cooperation with all my colleagues from different agencies. We had a great day and made some really nice videos. And that was partly in difficult conditions: Basma for example had to deal with a streaker behind her, and Sebastian appeared in the videos despite having had next to no sleep the night before and had a big customer presentation straight after filming. Another big thank you.” Nina Stechl from HR Marketing summarises the day of filming.

All videos can be found on whatchado and all job openings can be found on our careers portal.

As the old year comes to an end, the time comes to take a look to the future. The experts from the Serviceplan Group put together their personal favourite communication trends for the year 2016.

Florian Haller, CEO, Serviceplan Group

To inspire consumers, the marketing of the future has to create worlds of experience in which engrossing “Customer Experiences” ensure long lasting customer relationships. For marketing this change means, among other things:

1. Away from the “14-to-49-years” mindset – toward micro-segmentation and personalization
Because consumers move individually in the new consumer and media world, media planning with broad categories such as “14 to 49” can no longer achieve a lot. In future target groups based on socio-geographic data and ranges will be replaced by the analysis of stages of life, needs, and the experiences of each individual consumer. To accompany personalization through media planning, we need more than ever to focus on methods such as micro-segmentation.

2. Away from the channel perspective – towards “customer journey” accompaniment
Today, consumers use more channels, contact points and marketing resources for their purchases than ever before. Their “customer journey” is now many times more complex than it was even ten years ago. It is no longer a question of online or offline but of the mixture thereof. According to studies, so far few companies have really looked at their customers’ journeys.

3. Away from the advertising message towards relevant content offers
Exaggerated advertising claims no longer match the purchasing behaviour of the present because consumers believe nothing at face value. Up to 90 percent of purchasers have already done their product research before they visit a store (Forrester). So companies need to develop ideas on how they can support potential customers at an early stage with information and convincing arguments.

4. Away from technology focused data analysis – towards the use of data for customer satisfaction
In future it will not be about hoarding data for advertising purposes. Instead, companies will need to consider how they can use information to shape their business model, improve their products – and ultimately make their customers happy. The intelligent use of data will be decisive. This new strengthened position can only be achieved by dumping outdated mechanisms and tactics – and instead having the courage to venture a new beginning. The consumers will be grateful.

Ronald Focken, Managing Director, Serviceplan Group

1. Agencies must start consulting for digital transformation in order to prevail against new competitors from the consulting side.
Today Deloitte Digital has a worldwide turnover of 1.5 billion US dollars and is placed 11th in agency rankings. Accenture, Deloitte & Co. are going into the agency market to fight for our budgets. They have better access to customers because they have direct contact to the CEOs. However agencies can also win strategic projects in this growth area, and have the chance to improve their profitability. Agencies which do not invest here are losing opportunities to improve their reputations as well as long-term customer relationships.

2. Facebook, Google and Co. will become agency competitors and also sell creative services.
Many continue to claim the opposite, but the issue will arise – if not in 2016, then in 2017 or 2018. Direct distribution channels to customers are increasingly being forged. Google is not only at the Cannes Festival with a large stand because of the creatives, but also because of the large branded manufacturers. Selling of creation is already common in the United States. There, large agencies compete against the creative departments of social media companies. Facebook and Google offer creative concepts, and are getting business because social media has become one of the main channels for customers.

3. The idea no longer pays, complexity will increase and so profitability will continue to decline.
The big trend could therefore be to counter this by bringing together the power of agency associations for a stronger voice in politics and business. So far, only the Association of PR agencies is taking a stance and providing with Pitch-Block and the certification of pitch consultants for new rules.

Wolfgang Bscheid, Managing Director, Mediascale

Data-driven campaign management will be a big issue in the coming year – both in the media and in creation. This trend is being driven by several factors. Firstly, programmatic reach extension is increasing making data-based media buying much easier again. Our new platform solution PREX (Programmatic Exchange) gives our customers all available reach sources options automatically bundled for individual campaigns. In conjunction with CORE and NERO, our analysis and targeting products, both internal and external data can thereby be used for accurate reach selection and creative assignment. On the other hand, customers now know from their own experience what added value data can do, and so they now press for the use of profiles data for media selection.
However, creation will have to face this challenge next year significantly more intensively than it has done this year. I am very sure that the active participation of our creative elites will provide a huge boost in this matter. So hopefully next year we will see what is really possible when modern media control technology and great design get together.

Stephan Enders, Head of Mobile, Plan.Net Group

1. The invisible Web
Internet growth is unstoppable and consumer demand for apps unbroken. However, it is time to take a U-turn: the example of Apple reveals this in the fact that they provide an increasing number of interfaces between native apps and operating systems, so making new widgets possible. Based on personal preferences, places or situations you access relevant information and functions in your calendar day overview, push notifications, or even on your search page, and all this without having to open the app itself. The native app is increasingly merely a “base station” on your smartphone. The possibilities of native apps are thus paving the way for how we will deal with future digital content. Relevant content will find us. Websites and apps, as we know them will fade into the background.

Closely connected to the invisible web is the increasing:
2. Digitalization of our environment
and thus the associated additional networking of our connected mobile devices. The Web of Things will come to life and thus the exchange of information from device to device will become more relevant. First and foremost is the suitability of beacons for doing several tasks. Already, simply by their existence, we are able to track passage frequencies through open Bluetooth interfaces and thus utilise this passive use of technology for the optimization of sales areas. It can be used for indoor routing systems and for the careful use of exclusive offers via push information. And finally, beacons are also suitable for authentication in mobile payment systems and access control. After Apple exclusively achieved dominance with the introduction of “iBeacons”, Google followed with its open system Eddystone and Facebook is bringing in its own hardware. The latter is distributed free to shopkeepers to give a spatial meaning to Facebook Likes. Thus stores can succeed by using Facebook app push notifications in relating their own product Likes to smartphones and thus perform hit-sure referral marketing on the basis of personal data. Of course, beacons are not all-purpose wonder weapons but, used wisely, they are perfectly suited for the digitalization of our environment. So 2016 will also be a beacon year!

3. Chat is back. And augmented reality refuses to die!
Lately a number of new chat-based services have emerged. The makers addressed the question: What do users already use intensively? The answer? All forms of chat, Messenger and SMS applications, devoid of any frills, concentrating on the essentials. One example is the concierge service “Mission Control” by Lufthansa. The range of such services will grow in 2016 with certainty. And Augmented Reality (AR) experiences will have a renaissance. In the meantime, in some areas, for example as with instructions via AR glasses for automotive repairs, the technology has already found its place. Now the renowned “New York Times” has (re)discovered the strengths of augmented reality for journalism, and augmented individual reports with 360-degree insights into report locations. Thus readers can literally immerse themselves in the action area, not with costly new hardware purchases, but with their smartphones, and Google Cardboard from the finest papier-mâché for five euros. That immersion is not only restricted to journalistic worlds, but also to brand worlds, is self-evident.

Thorben Fasching, Marketing & User Experience Director, hmmh

From the multi-touchpoint trade perspective three topics will come to the fore in 2016.

Firstly: Off- and online will continue to grow together. The shopping behaviour of many customers is forcing traders not only to expand their digital business, but also to advantageously connect their touchpoints with customers to guarantee an uninterrupted shopping experience.

Secondly: It is also increasingly recognized here that intelligent CRM activities, including through the use of BI systems, can already partly run local one-to-one marketing campaigns in real time. This leads to a significant optimization of cost per new customer, so that conversion rate optimization will almost automatically experience a renaissance in 2016.

Thirdly: Despite convergence, native applications are increasingly becoming the surprise winners. Already declared dead two years ago, as traffic moved to mobile browsers, today, around the world, 80 percent of mobile traffic is attributable to native applications. Even transactional business is increasingly observed here.

Tobias Grewe, Partner, Serviceplan Köln

From employer branding to applicant experience – companies become applicants

The term “applicant” no longer applies only to the eligible job seekers, but equally to companies which seek highly skilled professionals and whose business success depends on their success in the battle for the best talent. Eligible job seekers are scarce and have now become “critical consumers”. Companies now need to apply to these coveted talents rather than vice versa. Candidates do not just want credible insights into the working environment of a company, but also quick access to relevant and authentic information and, above all, transparency with regard to the handling of their uploaded applications. So it is no longer just about the application process, but also about creating, as potential employers, a positive “applicant experience” – comparable to the customer journey we know from brand and product communication. “Make them care and make them buy” is the goal. To achieve this, the challenge is to make employers’ content with the right employer story perceptible at all relevant touchpoints in the information, application and negotiation phases – from job ads or careers pages to touchpoints which often do not take communication concepts into account, such as fast feedback on applications or even acceptance or rejection communications.

A change in thinking is taking place or must take place soon. A refusal must therefore no longer be a rejection, but, perhaps, more of a thank you, connected with an invitation into the company’s talent pool. Even candidates who you have to reject are often underestimated multipliers for the company’s image. In the digital world and its associated evaluation forums, bad experiences are communicated quickly. This holistic view is important for the development of future employer branding concepts which is important for a coherent applicant experience regardless of whether it leads to employment or rejection.

Rami Hmadeh, Managing Partner, Serviceplan Middle East

Trends 2016 – It’s all about personalized experiences.

The consumer in the Middle East continues to desire and respond to highly individual marketing and advertising. The fact that they want to be wowed, courted, heard, understood and appreciated at any touchpoint of a unique customer journey also explains why Me-Commerce keeps growing in importance. Consumer-to-consumer communication on social media platforms, immediate access to content through mobile as well as beacons and near-field communication are becoming stronger triggers to drive purchase decisions – simply because they satisfy a growing demand for personalised shopping experiences. Accordingly, content marketing is on the rise, too. In 2016, 60 percent of marketers in the Middle East are said to increase their content marketing budgets, with more than 30 percent of them planning to spend up to a half of their digital budget on it. The challenge will be to create and distribute content that is valuable, relevant and attractive enough to retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. This is where ‘Big Data’ will continue to play a decisive role, however we’re talking more about the ‘right’ rather than ‘big’ data. It goes all back to being truly personal, individual and authentic. Marketers who manage to establish an on-going conversation with their target customers with the right content on the right touch-points will definitely be on top of the trend in 2016.

Manfred Klaus, Board Spokesperson, Plan.Net Group

For 2016, I see three trends, in which we should invest in the long term. Content competence will be a key success factor in brand communication in 2016. Only those who appreciate relevant content for the target group (for whom and why?), creation-management and content generation (what and how?), as well as controls content management and distribution (where, how often and how much?), can achieve sustainable success.

Extensive data expertise is essential to understand and assess this. This includes identifying company-wide mission-critical KPIs, generating them through integrated systems and analyzing them to be able to make timely predictions about the effects of future decisions.

This is the cornerstone of the business relevance trend, which will create an all-encompassing assessment grid of all facets of (digital) communication. This will represent the foundation for the future economic success of companies.

Michiel Noens, Strategic and Innovation planner of Serviceplan Belgium

2016 – The year of consumer data control

The fight for data control is in full swing. Powerhouses such as Google are trying to get more and more control over data. But this hasn’t passed by the consumer unnoticed. The Internet of Things powers their data consciousness, and wearable technology will increase its market presence and user adoption in 2016. This direct connection to their personal data has made them aware of the influence it has over who they are and what they do. In the meantime consumers are providing more data than ever for marketers to mine. The key is to find the right balance in giving data back to the consumer while providing the service to make it manageable and the knowledge to understand it all, thus protecting the value perception of the brand.
This increase in data is directly connected to the increase in marketing automation. To promote the content or story we create, we know we have to provide the correct pieces of the puzzle throughout the customer journey. Tools such as automated media buying, detailed campaign tracking and CRM software allow us to connect with the consumer with the right message at the right time. They are aware of this now. And we have to be honest and show them we know who they are, but also to allow them to control the data we manage. So, do you control your data? Do you track their activities? Are you transparent with your customers? Get in control now and share it with all of them.

Per Poulsen, Innovation Director der Serviceplan Gruppe

2016 – Year of all things virtual.

Oculus Rift, Microsoft HoloLens, Magic Leap. It might all sound familiar, but so far the only virtual reality experience for normal people was the 360-degree videos on YouTube and Facebook or the Google Cardboard viewer. In 2016 the high definition gadgets will finally hit the consumer market and probably change how we play games. But it will also change how we interact and how we tell stories. The virtual will be supporting the real and vice versa. People will expect experiences that create a world in which they count. They will become part of your brand, and you can become part of them.
Many companies are still battling with creating meaningful advertising on TV and Internet but in the virtual world, the entry effort is even higher. Here, the story you tell will decide if you get an audience at all. It is not enough to create something new. Are you able to tell the story of your product in an emotional way? Do you know what the essence of your brand is? Can you create the right “brand” feeling in a room that doesn’t exist? If not, now is the time to figure that out or your company will miss the next wave of consumers.

Klaus Weise, Managing Director, Serviceplan Public Relations

2016 will be the year of content and the year of the monkey.

With a bit of malice, one could argue that content marketing has perhaps a market share of at least 80 percent, at least according to the trade press, and in industry community discussions. In real life and in the budgets of the advertising industry on the other hand, content marketing only plays a subordinate role. While there are few valid figures on this, in a study by market research company Facit Research, 84 percent of surveyed managers and marketing managers admitted to having no performance measurement of their content marketing.  But if content marketing throughout the marketing mix played such a significant role, then one would also definitely want to measure the success of these measures. I think in 2016 this will change. Content marketing is experiencing its breakthrough. Content marketing will be further professionalized; and become much more than just traditional corporate publishing in a new guise. Content marketing is increasingly based on a well thought out strategy and will continue to have larger budgets available. Content marketing will become increasingly performance-oriented, and success controls in content marketing will become the norm.
2016 is, incidentally, the year of the monkey in the Chinese calendar. The Chinese horoscope says of apes: “This sassy animal bursts with exuberance and brings a lightning-fast pace and fantastic motivation with it. The monkey increases communication, humour and wit, and helps us with grace and ease through stressful times. Business flourishes. The monkey provides the ability to find unconventional solutions to old problems.”
That monkey is definitely content marketing.