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a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Du bist Deutschland

Posted by Thomas Nephew on October 1st, 2005

Barcelona Olympics and 'Du Bist Deutschland' logos
Du bist geklaut (“You’re ripped off”)
Originally uploaded by Tobi Bauer.

It means “You are Germany,” and it’s a rather odd, pointless, 30 million Euro media campaign — complete with its own cute little logo — that’s just kicked off in Germany.

The campaign’s organizers — a consortium of “over 20 German media enterprises… together with advertising and public relations agencies”explain:

The message: every individual needs confidence in his own strength and capabilities.

A positive self image is an important prerequisite for our economic and cultural development. The campaign invites you and everyone else in Germany to dare something new and to participate with fresh elan.

This ostensibly puts the media organizations in the vanguard of those “working for Standort Deutschland” — Business Location: Germany. One ad series says “You are [famous German]”, from Goethe to Helmut Newton to … wait for it … Albert Einstein — who had to leave Germany for the U.S! So much for “Standort Deutschland.”

I suppose this is all kind of harmless, but I would find it more than a little patronizing, too. Apparently, some German bloggers agree; Tobias Schwarz (“almost a diary,” “Fistful of Euros”) has even started another blog about it (this one in German), and Johnny of Spreeblick has developed a Photoshop countertemplate. One of his own sendups features former chancellor Helmut Kohl musing about his stubborn refusal to go with the crowd and obey election finance laws.

In “You are complaints: mixed echo“, Schwarz googled around German blogs to try to gauge reaction. He found ample criticism, but also considerable support for the campaign: “enthusiastic … it was high time,” “touching,” “really impressed.”

Elsewhere, Anke Groener says that “a new name can give a bar new life,” citing the Clinton 1992 campaign as an example of a successful campaign that was as much about intangible atmospherics as it was about policy. I think that campaign was a teensy bit more policy oriented than that — but even if the atmospherics were important, at least it culminated in the tangible outcome of electing someone who then measurably did the job. This campaign, on the other hand, seems mainly designed to say “buck up, Deutschland! If things suck, maybe it’s your fault.”

It’s a little disconcerting to see Germany heading down the PR/self help/motivational route that’s always seemed one of the phoniest parts of American life to me. Not that PR and what not are all that foreign to Germany, but I can’t recall a campaign quite like this one.

But relax, America! If Germans want to pull even with us when it comes to empty public relations schtick, they’ve got some catching up to do. Exhibit A: Karen Hughes on tour in the Middle East. They’ve got nothin’.

8 Responses to “Du bist Deutschland”

  1. eRobin Says:

    At least they aren’t jelly doughnuts.

  2. RobertNAtl Says:

    Actually, Einstein left Germany twice, the first time for Switzerland (where he became a citizen) and then, later, for the US (where he became a citizen again). I’m not sure Germany’s poster boy should be someone whose citizenship inclination seems to have been “Auf keinem Fall Deutschland!”

  3. Jens Says:

    politicians and advertising agencies alike wish, that this ad campaign will change something. the politicians try to activate the people (useless, of course. nothing changes by having fancy ads instead of real work) and the agencies hope for more business from the politicians – next time for money.
    in the end, the politicians and the ad companies will pat themselves on their shoulder about their great work to make a change… without anything happening in the real world far outside their focus, because the people don’t care: ads still don’t work here. and i’m proud about that.

  4. Sven Says:

    for “normal” people this campaign is pure cynism: some millionaires tell people in fear of unemployment or already unemployed that they just had to “try a bit harder and they can make it” – as if they didn’t try hard enough for years now without a chance, either because they are “too old” (with 45 years old) or “too expensive” (with an effective rising of their loans of +-0 the last 10 years) and so on. And the campaign originates from those who told everyone that “Standort Deutschland” was soo miserable during the last years – and now the same people tell me, i should stop complaining? Re-Defining criticism and reflecting things (and not just say “yes” without thinking) as that “complaining” (Gejammer).
    No, i don’t think, that this campaign “moves” anything or anyone with a normal brain. To speak with Berlins Mr. Wowereit: “Und das ist auch gut so!” 🙂

  5. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Jens, the 30M puzzled me — it seems like a lot of money on the one hand, but not enough to really nudge opinions someplace (and to where?) on the other: maybe a few weeks of ads? But I think you’ve hit on it: it’s an investment by the media outfits, hoping for business from the government — esp. now that some kind of new government is on the horizon.
    Sven, the stagnant wages (‘loan’= Lohn =wage) you mention are happening over here, too — as are the two-faced responses to the problem: google for “The Great American Jobs Scam”.

  6. Sven Says:

    ah, wage – thank you, have to memorize… :-))

  7. Anonymous Says:

    ” If Germans want to pull even with us when it comes to empty public relations schtick, they’ve got some catching up to do ”
    Thats so cute , Adolph The Freedom Fighter said the same thing . Thats why he was so popular with millions of people , he just told them what they already ” knew ” .
    ” 80 percent of the hostility derived from American policies, especially on Israel, Iraq,
    Abu Ghraib Guantánamo ”
    Thats interesting , so what were the excuses that were used before these excuses ?
    ” Abu Ghraib pictures ”
    Thats the best accusation , like um , these kind of pictures never existed before ?
    Are you kidding me ? It was all ignored until some ” Americans ” were caught on film .
    No other country is guilty of exactly the same , including my arrogant self righteous morally superior country , Canada .
    Were was the ” world outrage ” before ? Pathetic .

  8. Thomas Nephew Says:

    “like, um, these kind of pictures never existed before?”
    Well, not with American soldiers running the S&M show — especially in a war ostensibly about bringing democracy and human rights back to SaddamWorld (once no WMD turned up).
    In general, the “you’re another (or worse)” charge vs world opinion won’t do. The question isn’t whether our country is different from other bad ones past and present, it’s whether ours is different *enough*.

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