Daily Archives: February 8, 2009

How to crack an alien culture. Part 2

(This is part 2 of an ongoing series. You can read part one here)

You could argue that the German culture is the opposite of the Irish culture. We both like a beer or twelve but there the similarities pretty much end. Oh and we both share an historical animosity towards the English (the Germans’ cousins btw. Anglo-SAXONS…innit).

So when my partner and I got an assignment to create a Volkswagen ad to run in Germany, i felt nervous. The good part was we got to party in Berlin in the middle of summer for two weeks. The Berlin office of the international ad agency we worked for, headed by inestimable Amir Kassaei, felt that bringing in outsider perspectives would be a good thing. So an “American” team (us) and a crazy good Dutch team (Bart Kooij and Nico Akkerman) worked together. Well it started out as work and quickly degenerated into play. Berlin in the summer is a great place. After a briefing at the agency and a trip to the really cool VW factory in Wolfsburg we settled into a routine of going to bars and cafes and drinking beer and chatting and coming up with ideas. 15 hours a day! The Dutch clearly are prone to dehydration.

i soon emerged as the killjoy wet blanket who felt the need to do something culturally apt. Our Dutch counterparts worked on the Volkswagen business and knew the client well. so the conditions were good.

and then i went and did something so spectacularly stupid and awful that i cannot repeat it in this blog. but it had the effect of me falling in love with Germany and Germans in an instant. if you really need to know what it was i will be happy to email you. but the memory of it still pains me. it is not for public consumption.

the net/net effect was that i was suddenly really motivated to make Germany feel good. that was the silver lining. anyway the commercial below was the idea of ours that was chosen by the client. And i have to say Amir and company did a great job with the execution. I remember being emailed the final spot, which i wasn’t even aware had been shot, and being prepared to wince. And was actually pleasantly surprised. The director Sebastian Strasser did a great job. And i would like to apologize to Sebastian’s production company for the infamous “Felix Glauner Incident” at the Berlin Art Directors awards show dinner one year later. I will also be happy to email you the excruciating details of that one if you really must know. Again, too painful to recount here.

Turns out I have a knack for annoying Germans. But they like my ads. This commercial was a big hit in Germany. And then ran all over over Europe. It was the fifth most awarded commercial in the world in 2005. I like this one because i consider it the cultural equivalent of a German guy working on a Guinness ad for Ireland. And somehow it all worked. I was surprised, put it that way.