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DUESSELDORF -- In an unconventional move for corporate Germany, Bertelsmann Chairman and CEO Thomas Middelhoff and Chief Creative Officer Rolf Schmidt-Holtz are taking starring roles as space travelers in a new print campaign for Germany.

Just as unusual is the campaign's aim: to elicit new, creative ideas from the general public.

"We pursue big ideas -- no matter where they lead us," reads the headline, accompanied by an image of the two executives preparing to be beamed up from the transporter chamber of the Starship Enterprise of Star Trek movie fame.

The ad's body copy continues: "If you have an idea which may move the world, Bertelsmann Content Network (BCN) is the right partner. We have the know-how and means to realize your vision." The e-mail addresses of Mr. Middelhoff and Mr. Schmidt-Holtz follow.

The Star Trek-inspired campaign was created by True North Communications' FCB Worldwide, Berlin, which Bertelsmann secretly appointed around a year and a half ago. The ads are in national daily papers, many magazines of Bertelsmann subsidiary Gruner & Jahr, business magazines and news weeklies Der Spiegel and Focus. They will run until June. It has not yet been decided if the campaign will be extended for longer.

Bertelsmann says it may be rolled into other core markets at a later date.

At the same time, BCN is building an online presence with a home page (

BCN was set up in July 2000 to foster cooperation between Bertelsmann's content-oriented divisions. Executives in its New York and Hamburg offices are tasked with creating new businesses, finding new markets and delivering content specific to their target consumers. Since its inception, more than 300 project ideas have been processed, some of which have been implemented, the company claims. -- Dagmar Mussey

Copyright May 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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