Iconic German Shop Springer & Jacoby Closes

Once Owned by Interpublic, Former Mercedes Agency Files for Bankruptcy

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Springer & Jacoby, the agency credited with inventing modern German advertising, has filed for bankruptcy only months after celebrating its 30th birthday.

At the time of its demise, Springer & Jacoby's biggest client was Osram light bulbs, but in its prime the agency created campaigns for Coca-Cola, Panasonic and Castrol, as well as injecting new life into iconic German brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Deutsche Telekom and Lufthansa.

Interpublic Group of Cos. sold its majority stake in Springer & Jacoby in October 2006 -- three months after the agency lost its biggest client, Mercedes-Benz -- to German communications group Avantaxx, which is run by entrepreneur Lutz Schaffhausen. Mr. Schaffhausen is said to have spent nearly $20 million trying to revive the ailing agency, but last week was forced to admit defeat. He couldn't be reached for comment.

As recently as 2005 Springer & Jacoby won a Gold Lion at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival for its Olympus 'red eye' campaign.

Springer & Jacoby was known as the school of German advertising, and many of the country's advertising leaders started their careers there. Constantin Kaloff, a former creative director at the agency, said, "Springer & Jacoby was the mother of all the creative agencies in Germany, the architect of our creative landscape. We are very sad about the loss, but S&J lives on in our hearts, thoughts and work: surprising creative solutions, that solve clients' problems in a highly efficient and entertaining way."

Two of Germany's most famous agencies, independent shops Jung von Matt and Kemper Trautmann, were started by Springer & Jacoby alumni and are viewed as keeping the spirit of their alma mater alive.

Kemper Trautmann took out "farewell" ads in the German trade press this week, carrying the line "Springer & Jacoby lives" along with a list of eminent former employees. The ad bears the "pistol" image that was the agency's unofficial logo (it's actually a floor plan of Springer & Jacoby's first office). Everyone who worked there for five years was given a pin bearing the design.

The demise of the once-great creative shop accelerated after losing the prestigious Mercedes-Benz account -- which accounted for one-third of billings -- after 16 years to rival Jung von Matt in July 2006.

Gunnar Brune, managing director of Lowe Deutschland, said, "This is the end of a long, sad story. Mercedes leaving the agency was like a captain leaving the ship, and many people in German advertising find it hard to believe that their 'school' has been dumped."

According to insiders, founders Reinhard Springer and Konstantin Jacoby started to take a back seat after they sold 35.5% of the agency in 2000 to True North to create a Springer & Jacoby European network by funding expansion into Amsterdam, Budapest, Istanbul, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Vienna and Zurich. Interpublic inherited the Springer & Jacoby stake when the holding company bought True North in 2001, and raised it to 51% in 2003.

But Mr. Springer and Mr. Jacoby are said to have found it difficult to hand over management of the agency to the next generation, resulting in the frustration and eventual loss of its most talented senior staff. Most of these managers had been given shares in the company back in 1994, accompanied by guarantees, which had to be paid out in full when they quit, despite the agency's plummeting share price. And the European network was not a big success.

The deep global recession appears to have been the final nail in the coffin for the agency opened by Reinhard Springer in 1979, just as Germany's commercial television service was taking off.

Copywriter Konstantin Jacoby joined him in 1983, and in 1984 the agency won the first of many Cannes Lions, establishing a reputation for cutting edge creativity accompanied by an "advertising must entertain" philosophy. As recently as 2005 the agency won a Gold Lion at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival for its Olympus "red eye" campaign that brought home the camera's features with a real baby and the tagline, "Would you save or delete a red-eyed baby?"

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