Archive's frequently employed "special agent" Charlotte Bufler is also the founder of brand-new agency TheWunderwaffe.com and is internationally in-demand as a lecturer. During her travels, the curious creative meets exciting colleagues who she interviews for Werben & Verkaufen, the German marketing weekly about the situation in the ideas industry around the globe. At the fringes of the Forward Festival in Vienna, she spoke with Mariusz Jan Demner, who has been shaping creative events in the Alpine republic – and beyond – for decades. His agency, Demner & Merlicek was founded in 1969. In 1976 a third partner came on board, making them Demner, Merlicek & Bergmann. They have been around and submitting work in Archive forever, I remember them from my earliest days with Archive, back in the late 1980s.
Here's the interview Charlotte did with Mariusz Jan Demner, grand seigneur of Austrian advertising:
Mariusz, I recently had a conversation with Susan Credle of FCB New York about the impact Trump and Co. have had on the creative industries. What's the situation in Austria like?
Austria is a bit far away from Trump.
But you have your own...
Yes, we have our own Trumpisms. The parallels I see in the political situation between the US and Austria are that those who know something about communication, and who follow strategies (even if we might find them vile) are always successful. Trump is a media man, a politician who knows exactly how the media work. He knows exactly how to constantly deliver sensations to the media in his creative ways, which occupy and interest people. In this way, he increases his status.
I know from political work, and from election campaigns: people don't necessarily choose the arguments; it's a big mistake to believe so. They choose fields of force that can, under certain circumstances, be charged with arguments. They often follow impulses from political punctuation – in one direction or the other. Even in the most impossible direction.
This is what makes them successful.
Yes, it does exert a certain fascination on certain people. And here in Austria, we see a young man who everyone underestimated at the beginning but who knows a lot about communication, concentration, and strategy...
You're talking about the Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.
He has turned an ossified, long-established party around completely, within a very short time and made himself Chancellor. Through his own efforts. One may not like his central themes. But you have to acknowledge what a professional he is.
As a die-hard and successful European election campaigner, can you still sleep soundly during the Brexit discussions and everything else that is happening on the European level?
Yes, thank you, I sleep well. I don't think we should let ourselves be blinded by the constant media buzz. What we are experiencing in the UK is not a tragedy yet, and if it is, only one for the British. But it's already quite a success for the EU! Thanks to the discussion that this step has triggered and to the unity of all the other member states of the EU.
A story born of jealousies, and the intrigues of a single party in England, the Tories, has plunged the country into complete confusion.
But that is at least in the process of establishing – of wrestling - what's it like to answer existential questions. The country does not know what it wants. Politicians do not know what they want. Everyone is afraid of something, nobody knows where it is going. Sounds paradoxical, but I think it's extremely productive. Because that is more likely to strengthen Europe. One can already see now what has been very rare so far: all other member states are in complete agreement with the UK in the Brexit discussion, no one is out of it. And the Brits, who in all these years have always wanted to fry their special sausages, walk around in circles. And who knows? If it takes long enough, perhaps there will soon be a second referendum, which until recently seemed unthinkable? That's exciting, I like the soup that's being cooked up.
What about advertising creativity in Austria in general?
The so-called creativity? Which is in some room and is in a strange state, like gas. It spreads out in space and goes where you let it go. Often you don't let it, then it's not perceptible at all, especially, but not only in Austria. Creativity goes just like a gaseous thing does. If you use creativity properly, you can move a lot, if you use it sensibly, super. If not - pffft. You have to use this power again, bring it into a new context. In general, I would say that the more fragmented and fragmented our media landscape is, then the creativity there is today, in our age of digital breathlessness, should be much better.
Is the advertising industry still fun?
If you ask me about my shop I still do have lots of fun. But that's also because we've always been thought of as an advertising agency. In reality, we have always been business consultants and help our clients to grow and develop positively, to become or remain market leaders. And that has been very successful. But not only because we do creative advertising, but because we are trying to understand their business, and build on this. Building on this, we create differentiation. Many consultants today understand the business, but not communication. We can do both.
What about digital?
Oh, come on! Digital? The whole "digital" business is really getting on my nerves, as they say in Germany. It's not about "the" digital. Of course, you also have to play digital channels properly today. But it's always about a consumer journey. We've always had to meet consumers properly. In the digital world, we have to do that even more; more accurately, more purposefully. It's all about preserving business sense. That is what we need, that is what we need to be able to do.
See Howard Luck Gossage - grassroot campaigning has nothing to do with digital.
Absolutely not. Gossage was a forerunner. He did this long before the Internet even existed. It was Gossage who put someone into the spotlight who foresaw EVERYTHING: Marshall McLuhan. He wrote everything down in the late 60s: "The Global Village", "Understanding Media", "The Medium is the Message" and so on. And now, almost 60 years later, everyone wakes up and says, "Huh???? This has all become reality!!!" There are too many lazy people in the industry. Mentally lazy people.
Thank you very much, Mariusz, I'll pass it on.
The two covers of Lürzer's Archive that landed Demner, Merlicek & Bergmann the front page over the years: Cover of Lürzer's Archive 3-2003, image taken from a campaign for upmarket retailer Julius Meinl. Art Director: Francesco Bestagno Copywriter: Monika Prelec Photographer: Joachim Haslinge. Right: Cover or Lürzer's Archive 3-1989, image taken from a campaign by Demner, Merlicek & Bergmann, for Hirsch brand watch straps. Art Director: Werner Celand Copywriters: Johannes Krammer, Jan Mariusz Demner. Photographer: Bernhard Angerer