Entering Germany, I already knew that the advertising industry there was not nearly as strong as the American industry. The Germans were skeptical of anything that could be interpreted as propaganda, and there were several obstacles to advertising with certain media outlets, especially television which served as a primary form of advertising for Americans. I thought I was coming in to my research with a strong base of knowledge about the current state of the advertising industry to build upon… Oh, how wrong I was.
I didn’t understand the full extent of the lack of interest in advertising in Germany, until I actually showed up there. Driving along the Autoban, I would see outdoor advertising (billboards) that were faded and illegible, with too much writing to make out the message as you drive by. A blunder that any American marketing student (or at least a William and Mary marketing student) would have spotted and corrected in a heartbeat. Furthermore, television advertisements were nearly irrelevant, due to the bizarre spacing of 15-minute-long advertising blocks at the end of programming rather than interspersed throughout… Making it incredibly easy for Germans to simply stop watching the TV for the commercials.
And finally, the kicker. The German Museum of Advertising, a huge draw for me in visiting Frankfurt, was no longer in operation. An online search had provided me 3 different addresses in the city where I might locate this Museum. The first took me to the P.O. Box for the German Museum of Advertising… Nope. The second took me to a row of German advertising agencies, which were all located in Frankfurt. Interesting to my project, but still not the Museum… Finally, the third address took me to the Warehouse where all the Museum’s stuff was being stored now that the Museum was no longer up and running. Great. Although the lack of national interest in keeping up the Museum was certainly supportive of my conclusions about the German advertising industry, I needed to rethink my research plans.
And so I decided to take a different approach, if I couldn’t visit the German Museum of Advertising, then I would analyze various advertisements around different German cities, including those on the radio, on television and those seen outdoors. And so I hopped in my rental car and took off for a new city to begin to discover what advertising looked like outside of Frankfurt…