Dennis Lück

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It’s hard to keep track of the number of advertising awards Dennis Lück has won over the years. What’s certain is that his relentless passion for creating the winning cocktail of entertainment and optimism has helped pave his trajectory. Here he talks about why triggering human reactions should be at the heart of any successful campaign. Interview by Afsaneh Angelina Rafii —


Cover photo: Sebastian Magnani

Creating entertainment is my formula. That’s my rule. Entertain people, put a logo on it and life is good.

THE FC SCHALKE 04 FAN CALENDAR A calendar that shoots a goal against your favourite rival on a daily business. (2006)

CARLSBERG Probably the best beer in the world. Just wanting to get rid of the word probably. (2007)

This stuck with me. — Every year, I try to do one thing that is for a good cause. I ignore money, and I want to do good with the power of creativity and the power of my agency. We can fight Nazis, we can defend LGBT rights, we can do anything. KINDERNOTHILFE Donation card (2002)

Reading through your background, I have a hard time imagining how one makes the leap from being a translator to becoming a highly awarded advertising man. Can you walk me through that journey? How did you gather the courage to apply for that first advertising job? — I don’t think it was such a great leap, because even though I was a translator, I was translating creative content. I was always writing, but for other people, and at some point, I started thinking “wait, this could be said in a funnier way, this sounds like a dead end.” It gave me the desire to do original writing myself. That was my entry into the advertising business. I started as a copy writing intern at Scholz & Friends in Hamburg. You then climbed the hierarchical ladder pretty quickly, in retrospect, besides having brought some good ideas to the table (wasn’t there a lion involved while you were just an intern?) what do you think was essential to not only the skillsets you brought but also the working environment you were operating in, to allow for such a rise? — The good thing about our industry is that at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is the greatness of the idea, regardless of whom it may have come from. I had the fortune of having bosses who didn’t care who brought the ideas, as long as we were able to sell. That was one fortunate element, but the other element was PANIC. — I was an intern, and I didn’t want to pursue my translation career, so I had all my bets set on this internship. All of it. I was panicking every day, because I thought that this was my one chance to deliver. I was shooting out ideas like a mad man, if everyone had one shot, I shot a thousand times just to make sure that something stuck. That was my first 6 months in advertising. One day, one of these bullets hit, and all of a sudden, I became the champion intern that they could really not fire anymore.

Do you remember the project? — Yes, it was a project for Kindernothilfe (Help for children in need). It was a donation card. Something very simple. The donation card had the bank details, and what I did was to put images on there. One was of a child sleeping in a safe environment on a bed, and the image on the front was the same child, in the same position, but on the street. So, when you took out the remittance slip from the bank, you were pulling the child from the street into a safe home. It wasn’t so much the start of my career as my life insurance. — This stuck with me. Every year, I try to do one thing that is for a good cause. I ignore money, and I want to do good with the power of creativity and the power of my agency. We can fight Nazis, we can defend LGBT rights, we can do anything. What do you have planned this year? — There is a political party called AFD (Alternative für Deutschland) in Germany. We are founding a new party also called AFD (All for diversity). So, there will be two political parties called AFD, but one is right-wing, and the other is rainbows and LGBT and integration and freedom for all. We are going to copy everything, all of their advertising material. We will have the same logo but entirely different headlines. If they say right, we say left. — This is the stuff I do for the greater good, and for all the rest I sell tomato soup.

When pushing an idea through, you are less concerned with what studies or surveys claim, and more reliant on your gut feeling. How do you learn to listen to your gut? And has your gut ever made you stumble before? If so, how do you prevent that from inhibiting your decisions going forward? — It’s not that I ignore studies and data analytics, of course not. It helps a lot. I use them to develop, anchor and sell my ideas, but when it comes to judging them, I use a well-trained gut. So, it’s not just a gut, it’s a well-trained one. Whenever I have an idea laying on my table, I have a barometer for reactions. I do not ask myself: is this innovative? Is this technological, cool, creative, or whatever. I ask myself: how will people react? — If I want to make them angry, will they be a little angry? Very angry? Extremely angry? In the AFD example, will it make them a little angry or furious? Will people like you and me think it was funny or hilarious? Will journalist in turn think that it was smart or really clever? I don’t want to leave anyone indifferent. So if the reaction barometer says that people will react, then let’s do it. Has it become more challenging over the years to get a reaction out of people in the wake of social media? — It has always been a business of reactions and it will always stay one. But it has become more difficult to get to those reactions and to create them in an organic way. Creating organic, real human reactions is the hardest currency on the market and, still, it is the ultimate goal for us. — When we develop ideas here, we measure them at different stages. It’s not like we just put an idea out there and

then pray to God that it works. We ask ourselves in the briefing, in the first tissue session, second tissue session, will people react? Will they laugh, will they be entertained? That’s really important. — The new landscape, in essence, makes it even more crucial that we get to people’s honest reactions coming in now from various channels. Advertising has a huge psychological component to it, when creating works how do you tap into the emotional response of your audience? Do you have a formula? — I have a formula, but before I get into that, I think it is important to ask: Where does advertising come in? So, if you look at the psychological component, if I say: business equals reactions, then how can we create reactions? Reactions can only be created if you create an emotion. Ok, so let’s look at emotions. There are 8 basic emotions. Whenever you have a briefing, define what emotion you want to cause. So, for example, you have to sell tomato soup and you want to create joy. Or, with the Nazi example, you want to create anger. Or you want to use shock as a tool or an instrument. That, then, becomes your playground. If you have defined where you want to play, then you also start thinking within the parameters that will spark that specific emotion. You have said that as a creative it’s important to ensure that you keep the creative mindset of a 6-year-old. Besides playing with your kids and listening to Metallica, what do you do? — Well, listening to Metallica is the most important bit! — I have stolen this quote from many other creatives who preach the same gospel. Young kids have this wonderful illogical thinking. They move outside of the box. That’s what I love. — I had a terrible moment with my kids recently, because I realized that

I was putting them in boxes. We were playing with lego and I told them to build houses. And that’s what we did, and they looked like houses. Shortly, thereafter I was flipping through an architecture magazine and the best house looked like a whale. I thought to myself, what the hell am I doing, I am teaching my kids to build a house that looks like a house. So, I went back to my kids and said, hey, let’s build houses that do not look like houses, do whatever you want. My daughter built a palace on a ship. The creativity started flowing. That’s when I understood that they are old enough to get conditioned to think a certain way by their school, by the media, by their parents, by everybody. I think it’s important to nurture that magical illogical thinking, the one that allows you to think outside of the box. What if your kids want to be “in a box”? — Well, if it’s their wish to build houses that look like houses, I will accept it and try to encourage them to be the best at it. Of course, they can become whatever they want, but as a parent I can try and give them something that they can use on the way. If they can keep the magic and nurture their creativity, then I am happy. Whatever, they choose, I don’t mind, whether a ballet dancer, a teacher, or anything else. I hope they will use their creativity to be good in their field. I think if you are creative in your segment, whatever that segment might be, you will be successful. You seem like a very positive person, and in the range of your work it looks like humour trumps shock in the quest for creating something memorable. I am thinking here specifically of “Relax we Post” for Accor and your range of works for Graubünden. — I think humour is the most important thing in life. Laughter is scientifically proven to be good for your health. If I want to create a link between product and consumer the

tool that is used the most is joy. If you can add joy to a product then people are more likely to like, and also to buy the product. I decided that entertaining people is what I want to do. I don’t want to do “advertising”. What do you really mean when you say that? What traditional elements of advertising do you not find appealing? — What I don’t want to do is to promote tea, by showing a women languorously sipping tea as she stares out the window. That’s traditional advertising for me and that’s what I am not interested in doing. I spend so much time at work or with work – basically 24hrs a day – because I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s ongoing. You lay in bed, and at 2 o’clock in the morning you come up with an idea. Because it is such a huge part of my life, I want to create entertainment. It makes my life easier to entertain people, if the reactions I get are positive. Creating entertainment is my formula. That’s my rule. Entertain people, put a logo on it and life is good. For the likes of Ogilvy and Reeves, everything revolved around the USP of a product or brand, does that view jive with your mantra to offer “brandertainment”: stamping a brand’s logo on a good and memorable piece of entertainment? — Yes, I mean if you have that one USP that does all the storytelling by itself, then it’s wonderful. What we often have nowadays are no USPs at all. Maybe every fifth briefing we have has an USP and the rest don’t, so we have to come up with artificial USPs. Tea that inspires, oh my God! — Of course, if there is a USP we have to exploit it to the fullest, if there is no USP then we have to invent one that is of use to consumers, having no USP at all just means that the product will fail for sure because then it has no reason to bring people to the shelf.

How important is the shock factor in getting a message across? — It’s an instrument that you need when you have to wake people up, shake them, when everything else fails. In the case of violence against women or against homosexuals, wars, road safety, etc. But even the act of shocking has become challenging because of all the news we are bombarded with all day. — I don’t want to scare people, I would like to help them learn something.

But isn’t it similar to green-washing, in that it is just a way for a brand to “morally” wash its image? — Green-washing is a difficult topic. It’s not ideal but I have to say I prefer green-washing to hiding it all. If there is a brand that at least tries to do something good, or one that creates a fund where they donate some money to a good cause, I prefer that to brands that don’t do anything or that try to hide. So, there can still be something positive in there.

There is a fine line between the shocking that moves people to action and shocking that makes people shut off. — Yes, shocking is very close to scaring and making people look away. My job is not to make people look away. It’s not my instrument. There are people, advertisers or creatives, that use it a lot, especially for human rights topics and it creates emotions, so it is worth a shot. But even for these topics I prefer using a little bit of optimism to show that there is a way out, some light at the end of the tunnel.

So, does success equal going viral? — No, that’s the only part where I stay old-school: success is when it sells. Success is when people go to the shelf, that’s the only success. Viral is something that is of course great when reach is your goal, but if my goal is to sell tomato soup to 20.000 people in Canton – whatever and I sell it to 20.000 people in that area, and it did not go viral, but it did that thing it had to do, that’s also success. I always try to have a balance between what we want to do in our industry, of course that includes the big party, the entertainment, the purpose etc. but at the end of the day I don’t want people to forget why we have a job: we sell tomato soup. Yes, we can use entertainment. Yes, we can use purpose. We can use all that stuff but, in the end, if I don’t sell the soup, I will be gone tomorrow.

You touched on the ingredients that create a successful campaign, but do you think that the way we value a campaign today is on its propensity to go viral? — I think that the word “value” has become increasingly important. If brands want to create value or a purpose, to stand for something, then that can make a brand go viral. And by viral I don’t mean funny clips that you share. If you look at Nike for example, what they did with Colin Kaepernick, that wasn’t just something people shared but it’s something people talked about, something that triggered a conversation. If brands can decide which purpose they want to stand for and live that purpose, make people experience that purpose… and here we are not using advertising words but rather things like purpose, attitude… that’s a new kind of advertising. If they live by their own rules, then brands are strong.

Compared to when you first started out, there has been a shift in the communications landscape, with social media having gained a pivotal place, how has that evolved your approach to your advertising work? — When I started out, an entire campaign could fit on a little piece of paper and now we need giant walls to demonstrate the massive customer journey and where we meet all our clients… that’s the difference. For me, it was a welcome change because it just means that it widened our playing field. We get more chances to play with ideas. Whenever something new pops up on the horizon, I think it provides you with

new opportunities to be playful. Even data, where everybody thinks it’s so dry, it’s so annoying – again, I think it’s something we can play with and it’s worth giving it a chance. About data Sir John Hegarty has said: “Data is great at giving you information, giving you knowledge; but it doesn’t give you understanding and that is its great failing,”. What’s your take on that? As I understood it, you, in fact, feel that data is a game changer. — It feels like I am saying God is not right (winces). I feel so bad, because I love John Hegarty so much. He is one of the reasons why I am in this business, one of my inspirations. So, it’s really hard for me to say that, but I think it depends on how you look at data. You can say data is dry, boring, an excel sheet and has no life… but I think data has life. — I’ll give you an example: It was Valentine’s Day recently, and on Spotify’s analytics, they found that there was a guy who was sitting somewhere listening to a song called “Sorry” over 200 times. That was data: One person sitting in a room, listening to a love song all day long, and the song was called “Sorry” on Valentine’s Day. But it’s also a story. Imagine that guy. What did he do? Did he cheat on his girlfriend? Did she leave him? Did he forget to buy flowers the day before? I don’t know, but it’s storytelling. Still it’s data, a line that came from an excel sheet. That’s how I see data and you get all sorts of strange data from everywhere. — If we look at data as insights, if we look at data as hints for a story then it’s highly valuable… so, sorry John. Music plays an important role in your life, you come from a family of musicians, and you have to rock out for at least 10 minutes every day at home, what role does music play in advertising? A lot of your campaigns trigger emotions that are nudged by the presence of music. Is that an element you pay a lot of attention to? — Yes, I do. Not because I am a musician

myself. It all goes back to creating reactions. Music as a tool is an emotion amplifier. There is even scientific proof that you can almost double the emotional outcome of film for example, if you add the right music. The type of music you choose has a massive influence on how people react to what you do. — When we tested films back in the old days, I found out that there was one commercial with one song striking super positive results. And I didn’t understand why, because it wasn’t good, even mediocre. I thought that maybe it was just the music. The next market research, different product, they just used the same song and it tested green again. I thought, hmmm, maybe that’s just a coincidence. Then it happened in a third market research, and again it tested all green. The commercials were so different, across different products and brands, and in some cases so boring, but they all used the same song. That was proof that even in an inauthentic environment like market research, music has such power, such an influence on how we react to something. It was a real lesson for me to really value music as an important element. You have said that talent is important, but passion is essential to give that talent flight. What unfulfilled project does Dennis Lück want to throw all his passion behind? — If you want to have the big boy dream, my 6-year-old version of what that future dream is, I want to be in the top ten of the Spotify charts for Switzerland with a metal song. That’s my dream. It’s totally unrealistic, but it’s what brings me to the cellar ten minutes a day every day to play music.

I think humour is the most important thing in life. Laughter Energie is scientifically proven to be vom good for your health. If Feinsten I want to Wie ein Mailing Bündnerfleisch create a link between product zu einem hochkarätigen und begehrten Proteinprodukt machte. and consumer the tool that is used the most is joy. If you can add joy to a product then people are more likely to like, and also to buy the product. Ausgangslage

Wie schafft man es ein junge, aktive und ernährungsbewusste Zielgruppe für eine edle TrockenfleischDelikatesse aus den Bündner Bergen zu begeistern, welche noch heute nach einem Rezept aus dem 18. Jahrhundert hergestellt wird?


Wir nutzen die wenig bekannte Tatsache, dass Bündnerfleisch aus 40% Protein und nur 4% Fett besteht. So kreieren wir drei Packagingdesigns in limitierter Auflage, welche das Bündnerfleisch als natürliches und hochkarätiges Proteinprodukt positionieren. Drei Social-Media-Spots rufen per Call-To-Action dazu auf, eine dieser Verpackungen über die interaktive Mobile-Challenge im Webshop gratis zu erspielen. Dafür müssen sich die User mit Hilfe des Smartphones körperlich betätigen. Das Bündnerfleisch kam in dieser Form direkt als Mailing bei der Zielgruppe an.


Die erste AuflageLECITHIN Bündnerfleisch (2000 Verpackungen/ DOPPELHERZ war innerhalb von nur 24 Stunden restlos A Mailings) campaign that demonstrates vergriffen. Total nahmen über 12‘300 User aktiv an der how many things we have to Mobile-Challenge teil. Es wurden 93‘000 Shoulder Presses remember. (2006) ausgeführt, 13 Stunden Ommm gesummt und erstaunliche 47km gerannt. In den ersten drei Kampagnentagen stieg der Traffic auf der Website um 9‘900%. Und Bündnerfleisch ist nun bei den Jugendlichen schweizweit als hochkarätiges Proteinprodukt bekannt.

SWISS GRISON MEAT Swiss Grison Meat. No one knows that Grison meat is way better than any other protein shake or fitness nutrition. This message is transported by the new packaging design. (2018)

Die Packung „Workout“ gibts nur gegen 20 Shoulder Presses mit dem Smartphone.

VERGRIFFEN innerhalb von nur 24 Stunden


akti Teilneh


ive hmer

Die Packung „Yoga“ gibts nur gegen 12 Sekunden Ommm ins Smartphone summen.


Shoulder Presses wurden ausgeführt

Die Packung „Running“ gibts nur gegen einen Sprint mit 15 km/h mit dem Smartphone in der Hand.

13 STUNDEN Ommm wurden ins Mikrofon gesummt

47 KM wurden gerannt

This spread GRAUBÜNDEN MASTERPIECE How regular trail markings were turned into little pieces of art. (2018) Next spread ALPINA WALL CALENDAR Find out how Alpina colors would look like in your favourite room. With a 3 x 2 m tear-off calendar featuring the finest Alpina colors. (2009)

Previous spread & this spread SAMSUNG DESIGN EDITION For just one day, your favourite daily newspaper came in a super classy design, creating the perfect environment for the new Samsung Galaxy smartphone. (2017)

… at the end of the day I don’t want people to forget why we have a job: we sell tomato soup. Yes, we can use entertainment. Yes, we can use purpose. We can use all that stuff but, in the end, if I don’t sell the soup, I will be gone tomorrow.

PUBLICATIONS 01 CHRISTOPH NIEMANN Illustration Design 2009 02 MICHEL MALLARD Creative Direction 2009 03 FUN FACTORY Product Design 2009 04 ANDREAS UEBELE Signage Design 2010 05 HARRI PECCINOTTI Photography 2010 06 KUSTAA SAKSI Illustration Design 2010 07 5.5 DESIGNERS Product Design 2011 08 NIKLAUS TROXLER Graphic Design 2011 09 JOACHIM SAUTER Media Design 2011 10 MICHAEL JOHNSON Graphic Design 2011 11 ELVIS POMPILIO Fashion Design 2011 12 STEFAN DIEZ Industrial Design 2012 13 CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER Sound Design 2012 14 MARIO LOMBARDO Editorial Design 2012 15 SAM HECHT Industrial Design 2012 16 SONJA STUMMERER & MARTIN HABLESREITER Food Design 2012 17 LERNERT & SANDER Art & Design 2013

18 MURAT GÜNAK Automotive Design 2013 19 NICOLAS BOURQUIN Editorial Design 2013 20 SISSEL TOLAAS Scent Design 2013 21 CHRISTOPHE PILLET Product Design 2013 22 MIRKO BORSCHE Editorial Design 2014 23 PAUL PRIESTMAN Transportation Design 2014 24 BRUCE DUCKWORTH Packaging Design 2014 25 ERIK SPIEKERMANN Graphic Design 2014 26 KLAUS-PETER SIEMSSEN Light Design 2014 27 EDUARDO AIRES Corporate Design 2015 28 PHILIPPE APELOIG Graphic Design 2015 29 ALEXANDRA MURRAY-LESLIE High Techne Fashion Design 2015 30 PLEIX Video & Installation Design 2016 31 LA FILLE D'O Fashion Design 2016 32 RUEDI BAUR Graphic Design 2016 33 ROMAIN URHAUSEN Product Design 2016 34 MR BINGO Illustration Design 2016

35 KIKI VAN EIJK Product Design 2016 36 JEAN-PAUL LESPAGNARD Fashion Design 2017 37 PE’L SCHLECHTER Graphic Design 2017 38 TIM JOHN & MARTIN SCHMITZ Scenography Design 2017 39 BROSMIND Illustration Design 2017 40 ARMANDO MILANI Graphic Design 2017 41 LAURA STRAßER Product Design 2017 42 PHOENIX DESIGN Industrial Design 2018 43 UWE R. BRÜCKNER Scenography Design 2018 44 BROUSSE & RUDDIGKEIT Design Code 2018 45 ISABELLE CHAPUIS Photography Design 2018 46 PATRICIA URQUIOLA Product Design 2018 47 SARAH-GRACE MANKARIOUS Graphic Design 2018 48 STUDIO FEIXEN Visual Concepts 2019 49 FRANK RAUSCH Interface Design 2019

BOARDMEMBERS Nadine Clemens (President) Mike Koedinger (Vice-president) Anabel Witry (Secretary) Guido Kröger (Treasurer)


COLOPHON PUBLISHER Design Friends COORDINATION Heike Fries LAYOUT Claudia Eustergerling INTERVIEW Afsaneh A. Rafii PRINT Imprimerie Schlimé PRINT RUN 250 (Limited edition) ISBN 978-2-9199551-2-1 PRICE 5 € DESIGN FRIENDS Association sans but lucratif (Luxembourg)


This catalogue is published for Dennis Lück’s lecture at Mudam Luxembourg on June 5th, 2019, organized by Design Friends.

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