‘Every great innovation was born out of dissatisfaction’ – in conversation with Jean-Remy von Matt
Renowned for his ingenuity in the advertising realm, Jean-Remy von Matt stands tall as a creative powerhouse. As the co-founder of Jung von Matt, he has crafted slogans that resonate globally. In an exclusive interview, this luminary unveils the secrets behind his creativity, delves into his philosophy, and unravels the path to his triumphs in the advertising industry.
Since graduating from your training program as an advertising sales men, you’ve immersed yourself in the creative industry, specifically from the advertising perspective. With your extensive experience, what changed over the last years in the industry and what changes would you propose for the creative industries/advertising industry for the future?
The media revolution has turned advertising on its head. Most things have improved, leading to even more opportunities and, above all, to a much more targeted approach.
However, the fact that social media has allowed hysterical little minds with their little worries to fraternize and set communicative firebombs in every company has led to a new anxiety and thus boredom.
As always, there will be a courageous company leader who will rise above this and succeed. And many will follow.
Your advertising slogans and campaigns, including those featuring Angela Merkel for Sixt, are widely recognized throughout Germany. How do you foster your creativity, and what is your secret? Where do you draw your inspiration? How do you determine what resonates with the target audience?
Three questions whose answers would normally fill a lecture for me. As I have hardly read any books and know practically no movies, inspiration for me has always been what I could observe in my everyday life. Many of my ideas came about this way.
However, it’s also true that very few of the ideas that have made our agency famous have come from me.
My most important contribution has been to foster a culture of creative excellence and to give the many personalities at our company the freedom they need to perform at their best.
Over the past twenty years, Jung von Matt Hamburg has evolved into an internationally active agency with more than 1200 employees worldwide. Your work seems to have been quite successful. What enables you to work most effectively? What is the driving force in your work process?
The decisive word is dissatisfaction. I am convinced that every good idea, every important initiative, every great innovation was born out of dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction with the status quo.
The cry for mother’s milk is the very first dissatisfaction that leads to a solution to a problem. And so it goes on – cry after cry.
Jung von Matt’s central business philosophy revolves around the idea of the Trojan Horse: Good advertising should have an attractive and friendly outer form but be inherently offensive, efficient, and purposeful at its core. How do you apply this philosophy in practice and creativity? Is it still state of the art?
A good example of the Trojan horse principle is our work for the mobility service provider Sixt: their communication was always received by users as a friendly gift that they were happy to accept – even though every advertisement contained a concrete offer at its core and was ultimately hard selling.
In the wake of the media revolution, we have all questioned our principles and come to the conclusion that our Trojan Horse analogy is timeless.
Please describe your work approach in three words.
Sorry, but I need 4 words:
Make. Optimize. Optimize. Optimize.
You’ve built one of the most successful advertising agencies in Europe, achieving a lot in your career. Is there anything new you want to achieve at this point? What are some small goals you currently have? Are you interested in completely venturing into something new? Any projects you are currently working on/future projects you can already share some details about?
After I left my job as agency leader, I started doing conceptual art. My goal was to stay true to creativity but use it for something more sustainable. And it is a very refreshing experience to dive into an unknown world with new principles and new players after such a long time.
After a few poor beginnings, I achieved first notable successes with my lifetime sculptures, of which I have already sold over 60.
Can be seen at: lifetimesculptures.com
You’ve been teaching “Methods and Techniques of Advertising” at Hochschule Wismar for the past 20 years. Based on your experiences in the advertising industry, what are the key lessons you impart to your students? Any advice for young, emerging advertisers?
I think the most important advice for a young creative is this: Always assume that no one will ever be nearly as interested in your idea as you are.
The work in the advertising industry is diverse. What aspect brings you the most joy? Where can you let your creative instincts run wild in your work?
Unlike many creatives who have a wish list of which brands they would most like to work for, I never had that. I was joyfully curious about every new task – the more challenging the better.
When I was searching for a solution, I often felt like I was a grandma sitting in the doctor’s waiting room doing crossword puzzles.
What is your personal favorite campaign by Jung von Matt?
For 33 years, I have hoped that the next campaign from our agency will be the one I am most proud of. Sometimes it was true, mostly it wasn’t, of course.
Image Credits: © Jean-Remy von Matt, 2023