Tuesday 21 March 2023

“Ist der neu?” Recycling ads

When you’ve had a top-notch ad campaign back in the past that still unlocks positive brand associations, you can do a lot worse than resurrecting it.

Nostalgia is frequently mentioned in this year’s trend reports as a way to escape to a simpler time, when the world appeared to have a little more stability. At least when viewed through rose-tinted spectacles.

Perwoll, the fabric softener, has done just that. This ad, from Heinat TBWA, is brilliant in so many ways:

    - it’s just right for the target audience - people who remember a glorious pre-internet childhood

    - it’s not simply a recreation - the ad shuffles, twists and turns the original idea and elements in a playful way

    - it’s the perfect blend of the familiar and the surprising

    - it affectionately evokes both the style and the positive bubblegum mood of the 80s in its execution

    - the idea of the whole spot reflects that of the long-running campaign: “is it new?”

I do wonder how much of today’s brand communication might be resurrected in 35 years’ time.

Monday 13 March 2023

The pylon wears Prada


I’ve been known to come back from ski holidays with an Extrawurst or two hidden in my bag along with the smelly socks, and this year is no exception.

For 2023, it’s a very striking campaign spotted on ski lift pylons, of all things. For Prada, no less - and there’s something rather splendidly unexpected about the combination of high fashion glitz and heavy industrial utilitarianism. Like Gucci and trainspotters. The campaign for Prada Linea Rossa may already be in its second year, as the case study from the agency responsible is dated 21/22. alpdest position themselves as “the alpine media experts”, offering out of home advertising in ski resorts throughout Europe. Media opportunities include ski racks, branded gondolas and, yes, 150 lift pylons across Switzerland’s swankiest ski resorts.

Sadly, though, I don’t think I’ll be splashing out on any of the Prada gear, gorgeous though it is. A €4,250 ski jacket is a swank too far for me.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

RETROWURST: Fast Food March 2004

This article from 2004 is a juicy one that’s close to my stomach: the topic of Fast Food in Germany. Written in the days when I’m lovin’ it was hot off the press, and Burger King was finding its feet in the German market, I was a little cynical as to whether US-origin fast food would take over the “unchained” Imbiss culture in Germany, or indeed whether Germans could ever be persuaded away from their beloved Metzgerei.


I was talking with a German colleague recently in McDonalds (!) about the subject of Fast Food or Food on the Go which is a very different kettle of fish (or Bratwurst in a bun) here in Germany to what one finds in the UK. It seems a little ironic that it is a German advertising agency that is McDonald’s great hope to rebuild their tarnished image. Whether ‘I’m lovin’ it’ will do the job or not remains to be seen, but maybe it’s the start of the American giants looking to Old Europe for help?


But back to the Big Macs, Big Tastys or whatever they call themselves these days. McDonalds has never been a roaring success in Germany and in the last couple of years with a dramatic explosion of new restaurant openings, Burger King looks as if it could do McDonalds some serious damage. Although it is a chain, the whole concept of Burger King is closer to German tastes as far as food and especially Food on the Go goes. The tradition of Fast Food in Germany is distinctly ‘unchained’. That is, there has always been a tradition of the Imbiss, or snack stand, but this is very much a local, independent thing. An Imbiss is typically a stand where you can buy various types of Wurst and grilled meat, served with bread or chips. Popular dishes include Currywurst, which is a Bratwurst sliced up and covered in ketchup and curry powder, Steakbrötchen, which is grilled pork steak in a roll, Grillhänchen, which is half a roast chicken and Nierenspieß, a sort of kidney kebab. The Turkish population have also been active in the Imbiss trade and one often sees Doner Kebabs and other Turkish-influenced dishes alongside the sausages and chickens. In contrast to the UK equivalents, the Imbiss stands do not have such a greasy, unhealthy and unhygienic image. Rather, because the food is of good quality, the hygiene standards are high and, most importantly, the Imbiss owner can probably tell you the exact origin of his sausages, almost down to the pig’s name, the Imbiss stands generally have a positive image of providing good, honest, real food, freshly-cooked for a good price. In fact, there is more concern about eating McDonalds, due to the additives and processed nature of the food than there is about the possibility of food-poisoning from the Imbiss.


A lot of these perceptions can be traced back to the difference in the way that the Germans buy their meat. The butcher’s shop or Metzgerei is alive and well in German High Streets and shopping centres. Although there are some small chains, many of the butchers are local independents. A typical Metzgerei will sell more than simply fresh meat, with a delicatessen section selling Wurst, Schinken, other meat products and salads, possibly a cheese/eggs and dairy products section; probably an Imbiss section for hot snacks and no Metzgerei worth his sausages would overlook the sale of Sauerkraut and Brötchen. Germans are quite happy to make separate trips to the Metzgerei and to stand in long queues, admiring the many Master Butcher Certificates and Awards for the best Fleischwurst in the region that decorate the spotlessly clean tiled walls. Some Germans are even happy to visit several shops, stopping at one for the Schnitzels, another for the Blutwurst and yet another for the Kartoffelsalat.


Even in the Supermarkets, the bulk of the meat trade is done via the butcher’s counter. Although pre-packed meat is available, it does not dominate as it does in the UK. Indeed, in some supermarkets, meat can only be bought over the butcher’s counter with the pre-packed section being confined to poultry only. Most Germans would be somewhat horrified at the idea of buying mince pre-packed that had not been freshly minced before their eyes!


With this strong culture, it is no wonder that there is a heavy distrust of meat and meat products which are processed, frozen, pre-packed or otherwise of ‘uncertain origin’. This can be seen in the area of frozen food, which, apart from fish and vegetables to some extent, has a rather poorer image in Germany overall. And, to get back to our friends the Burger giants, it is clear that the Burger King positioning of ‘closer to real grilled meat’ strikes a chord with the Germans. Interesting, too, that the only ‘indigenous’ fast food chains of any note in Germany are Nordsee and Wienerwald, which specialise in fish and chicken, rather than meat, respectively.


On a similar note, the ‘Sandwich Culture’ that we see in the UK is more-or-less absent in Germany. While one can find sandwiches in every supermarket, CTN and Boots as well as in the Sandwich chains in the UK, one is hard-pressed to find a pre-packed sandwich in Germany. What one does find are butchers, bakers and corner shops who sell fresh made-on-the-premises filled rolls. Again, it is all a local independent business with no chains involved. 


So what does this all suggest? Two business opportunities are clear to me: firstly, a German Bratwurst (and beer?) Imbiss concept in the UK and secondly, perhaps the introduction of a Real sandwich chain in Germany, along Pret-a-Manger lines. Whatever, I fear that it will take more than ‘Ich liebe es’ for McDonalds and their ilk to kick the Imbiss stands out of the German people’s affections.


Well, as always, my glance back has revealed a lot of new items on the fast food menu - with some from unexpected quarters. 

I did notice a few years ago in London, that some enterprising fellow had picked up on my “German fast food” idea. Sadly, Herman ze German appears to have been a victim of Covid. 

McDonald’s and Burger King are still battling on in there, changing with the times with digitalisation and Vegan offers, but dare I say they both seem a little lacklustre and part of the furniture? The McDonald’s in Hanau town centre has recently shut down, and I noticed that Five Guys has made it to Frankfurt. No doubt the cost-of-living crisis will have a major impact on the fate of the burger giants.

The local Metzgereien are hanging on in there, but I suspect the number has decreased over the last couple of decades. The plus points are supporting local businesses and farmers, the minus points the big “is-meat-sustainable-and/or-healthy?” debate as well as convenience and the price - see cost-of-living, above. There’s certainly been a clear increase in pre-packed meat in the supermarkets over the last couple of decades - yet also an increase in labelling and concern over animal welfare.

But the whole Imbiss scene is alive and well. There’s a kind of healthy co-existence with the whole “Food Truck”/“Street Food” category, as well more internationality on top of the tradition German and Turkish. Lieferando and Co. have worked to the favour of the small independent. And finally, there are a few “micro-chains” popping up, such as this one in our own area, although they’ve also opened in München, too.

Guten Appetit!