Ad Man

Meet Germany's Don Draper

Jean-Remy von Matt
Jean-Remy von Matt, co-founder of ad agency Jung von Matt, is one of his industry's most colorful characters. Photo: Ingo Wagner/dpa
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Jean-Remy von Matt started in advertising in the early ’70s, later co-founding the influential agency Jung von Matt with Holger Jung.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The advertising business has changed dramatically over the past four decades, but the nature of advertisers are still the same, says Germany’s most iconic agency man Jean-Remy von Matt.
    • According to Mr. von Matt, the advertising industry is more opaque than ever with the rise of content marketing, native advertising and branded entertainment.
    • The internet has made finding the success formula of commercials more difficult, because unsuccessful commercials are much less visible.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

He’s Germany’s most enigmatic ad man. Jean-Remy von Matt, co-founder of one of the world’s leading agencies, Jung von Matt, even bears a few similarities to Don Draper of “Mad Men” himself. He’s romanced beautiful women (married four times), he’s handsome (appearing nearly nude in a men’s bodywear campaign) and has won multiple advertising industry awards.

But at 63, Mr. von Matt is getting ready to retire. “Of course I worry about (becoming a German middle-class patriarch),” he said. “I read stories everyday about old guys who can’t let go with great respect. So I try even more to find my age-appropriate role and not to stand in the way of new leadership.”

Handelsblatt magazine recently sat down with Mr. von Matt for a discussion about his colorful past and what’s yet to come.

Handelsblatt Magazine: Mr. von Matt, your agency is celebrating its 25th anniversary. You’ve won all the prizes, bid on massive projects, and experienced crazy times. Would you do it all over again today?

Jean-Remy von Matt: I don’t know. I love my career but the commitment level is very high. Working senselessly through so many nights. A permanent rat race, and you’re never at the finish. In that way it’s calming that neither of my sons is interested in advertising.

How has the business changed?

The primal function of advertising was market transparency, to inform consumers about products, their characteristics and availability. Google does that now. And advertising? It attempts to influence this transparency and through that is more untransparent than ever. For example with content marketing, native advertising or branded entertainment, all are results of surreptitious advertising.

Supposedly the industry was also more glamorous.

Sure, when I started at the beginning of the 70s. Earlier advertisers wanted to be more glamorous, today their ideas must be such. Everything that doesn’t fascinate or evoke interest in just seconds is punished with disrespect by the modern consumer. Boredom in advertising is deadlier than ever.

 

Video: A viral hit from Jung von Matt for Edeka, featuring a rapping senior citizen

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