With Agenda 2010 came economic recovery. To this day, not every social democrat is enthusiastic about the effects of the modernization program for the German social system, which was initiated by former chancellor Gerhard Schröder. For MEDIAFABRIK Schröders agenda was a breakthrough. The Berlin-based media agency will be 20 years old this year – and the fact, that the company with its 54 employees is still able to successfully position itself against much larger competitors is not least due to its location. „In 1997 we were the first media agency in Berlin. For agencies this was difficult terrain back then. Potential customers – brand manufacturers and large Dax companies – were rare and still are today“, says Peter Peschel, who founded the agency with Andreas Kinsky two decades ago. But Berlin is the administrative center for numerous large organizations and since 1999, the city is also the seat of Germany’s federal government.

Planning nationally, from within the region

DIEMEDIAFABRIK has drummed up business for Bundespresseamt, the Federal Press Office and the „Agenda 2010“ all over the country back in 2003. The SPD chancellor was probably voted out of office because of the program, but the Mediafabrik remained in business with the government. And independent of any party. For example, Peschels team supported Ursula von der Leyen while she held several ministerial offices. Bündnis 90/Die Grünen are also part of the customer base. „The Berlin location and the affinity to politics have paid off for us,“ says Peschel, who has been interested in German domestic politics ever since his teenage days. „Dialog partners realize quickly when you’re at home in this subject.“ This understanding of politics and local proximity have also given him access to customers such as the Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung (KBV) and IG Metall. The agency plans nationally for both clients. „One thing should not be confused,“ emphasizes Peschel, „although most of our customers are from Berlin and from eastern and northern Germany. Except for just a few customers, such as Berlins Gasag, we don’t work for them locally but countrywide.“ The agency generates 70 percent of the 40 million euros in sales nationally. In 2015 the first international customer was added with IDM Südtirol. IDMs Bolzano office promotes the South Tyrol region in terms of export, innovation, tourism marketing and agricultural marketing.

International expansion not at any price

DIEMEDIAFABRIK has won the budget in a bidding consortium with agency „Zum goldenen Hirschen“ – a European tender, which according to Peschel, has been won in the final round and against six competitors. There has been a very friendly and mutual relationship with „the golden stags“ for years. The two agencies had already cooperated for „Agenda 2010“. In addition, DIEMEDIAFABRIK teamed up with the Berlin creative agency in 2012 to pitch for the budget of AOK Baden-Württemberg and was awarded the contract. This is how the Stuttgart office was born and it has grown with every new customer. Besides AOK, this includes the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper and BEGROS, a furniture purchasing association. The team of six employees in Stuttgart is soon to be expanded. Currently, Peschel is looking for a managing director, who operates from the state capital of Baden-Württemberg. Local presence matters a lot to the Mediafabrik boss. One reason why he initiated Capita Media. The association of owner-operated agencies in twelve European countries such as Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland is to support DIEMEDIAFABRIK with their work for IDM Südtirol. „It is important for international planning to have reliable partners and expertise in each country“, Peschel says. Of course, the partners should possibly also cooperate on other projects. An international expansion on a large scale is not planned, however. „This would be too much“, says the agency founder. „If things evolve in that direction, that’s great – but we’re not pushing anything.“ At least, one is prepared for all possible scenarios. All in all, he focusses on mid-sized clients: „We don’t have customers spending more than six million euros a year on media.“ Budgets above this number mean that the purchasing orientation of customers is usually so strong that the networks can display their size. Below, according to Peschels experience, the customer often places more emphasis on personalized consulting, on executive level contact, on highly dedicated employees. These criteria then become somewhat more important than purchasing.

Politics as a door opener into the economy

The agency has plenty of work to do. Politics and organizations proved to be a good door opener into the economy. DIEMEDIAFABRIK has had its own special sales agent, DIEPOSTERFABRIK, since 2001. In 2010 DIEONLINEFABRIK was added as a sister agency. „We took that step comparatively late, of course“, the agencies boss admits, „but up until then we were able to meet the requirements of the customers in the online area very well ourselves.“ But Peschel is aware of where the agency is heading. Today, there are already 20 people working for the Onlinefabrik. That’s two-fifths of the total workforce, but still a comparatively modest dimension when looking at the digital arms race of other agencies. „Of course, large networks can invest on a totally different scale, but on the other hand, our approach doesn’t have to fit 20 major brands in 50 different countries.“ The Onlinefabrik is geared towards customized tools, tailored to each single customer. Here as well, they focus on the employees’ experience instead of an artillery of technology. „We know smart data, programmatic advertising and real-time planning too“, Peschel points out, but only where it makes sense. Peschel has now made an investment in more digital expertise to assess this reasoning. Philipp Sonnhalter has been heading DIEONLINEFABRIK along with Andreas Kinsky since April.

On the shopping list of large networks

The Berliners are turning the tables with the former managing partner of Dentsu-Aegis agency Vizeum. „Over the last ten years, we have received takeover offers from all top ten agencies“, Peschel says. No wonder, as DIEMEDIAFABRIK is still the only media agency headquartered in Berlin. The large agency networks are traditionally rooted in Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Frankfurt. In recent years, however, they have been increasingly attracted by the federal capital. There is not a single agency that hasn’t at least opened a small office there, others like Publicis have bought entire agencies to get a foothold in the capital. „Many have approached us and we take this as a compliment“, says Peschel. But he and his co-partner have always refused. „This is not what we want at all. If we were to let someone buy us, the idea of what we want the Mediafabrik to be, would be dead. As long as we don’t have to, we’re not going to do it.“
(June 8, 2017, Source: HORIZONT, Issue 23/2017)