“Building Best Brands”: interview with the Red Dot: Agency of the Year 2016

On 27 February 2017, the Red Dot Award: Communication Design will start into a new competition's year and will be in search for the worldwide best communication solutions. Last year, the German agency Serviceplan managed to ensure itself the honourary title as Red Dot: Agency of the Year. Red Dot spoke to Alexander Schill, Chief Creative Officer of the Serviceplan Group.

Mr. Schill, the agency group Serviceplan likes to refer to itself as a “House of Communication”. What idea do you associate with this term? And how is that different from a conventional advertising agency?

We don’t even describe ourselves as an advertising agency any more. We are a house of communication that offers all services related to communication. Upon request, we also offer an all-round turnkey service. This might include the design and programming of a client’s website, the development of a comprehensive media plan or the finding of strategic solutions to key business challenges.

What advantages does a “House of Communication” offer for the agency and its client?

Today, communication is infinitely more complex than it was only ten years ago. Whoever thinks they can do communication today with tools from back then won’t be around for long. The issue today is to play a variety of chords in a coordinated and synchronised fashion. No one can get away with playing just one or three, as it was done in the 1980s. Today, as a client and contractee, you can either identify and network many individual smaller agencies, coordinate them on your own, and hope that they get on well together without too much rivalry and backbiting. Or else you can decide to commission a somewhat larger agency, meaning a house of communication in the broadest sense. In the latter case, you get all communication and media services from one source, seeing that all processes are coordinated from the outset to synchronise and function smoothly. Both options are valid and there are good arguments for both of them. We opted for the second one.

What fascinates you personally about communication or advertising? Is the fascination today different than what it was ten or even 20 years ago?

If communication was still done the same way today than it was ten years ago, then I would no longer be in the game, that’s for sure. What fascinates me about today’s scene is that we can reach a huge number of people with a simple idea and pretty little media money. Using social media any run-of-the-mill admen can move things if they really want to. And change people’s attitude towards a subject. It’s fast and less complicated for us than for our chancellor, if you ask me.

Can you give an example?

Just think of works such as “Like a Girl” by Leo Burnett for Always. It’s about equality and prejudice against girls. The alternative would be to launch actions, draft bills and so on. But a work of this kind can reach significantly more people around the world within only a few weeks than a new bill could accomplish in several years. Also, often ads of this type are thought up by a young team coming directly from university. The rules changed, I think that’s awesome.

Serviceplan’s vision statement is “Building Best Brands”. What do you associate with this alliteration?

We don’t claim to be the most bustling creative hub, although we’re certainly an energetic network. So, we don’t flaunt smashing hits, nor do we aspire to impress with global campaigns that are adopted across 50 markets at breakneck speed. We want to help our clients build and maintain brands that are successful over the long term.

» The comlplete interview in the International Yearbook Communication Design 2016/2017

» Further information on the Red Dot Award: Communication Design