US-Agenturgruppe AKQA eröffnet Büro in Berlin

Kreativer Hub für nationale und internationale Kunden in der deutschen Hauptstadt: Startkunde der weltweit größten unabhängigen Interactive-Agentur ist Nokia. Im Interview erklärt Chairman Ajaz Ahmed seine Ziele in Deutschland.

Text: Peter Hammer

Es ist eine kleine Sensation für den deutschen Agenturmarkt. Diesen März eröffnet die US-Agenturgruppe AKQA, San Francisco, ein Büro in Berlin. Die nach eigenen Angaben weltweit größte unabhängige Interactive-Agentur ist in Europa bereits in London und in Amsterdam präsent und beschäftigt insgesamt rund 800 Mitarbeiter.

„Deutschland ist Europas größter Markt für E-Commerce und hat eine größere Internet-Gemeinde als UK, Frankreich oder Russland“, begründet Ajaz Ahmed den Schritt. Bis Ende 2012, so der Mitgründer und Chairman, gebe es allein hier 60 Millionen Internet-Nutzer – bei einem stetig wachsenden Markt. Zudem: „Es ist wichtig für uns, die Reichweite zu vergrößern. Das erwarten unsere internationalen Kunden. Gleichzeitig haben uns auch deutsche Unternehmen und Einzelpersonen ermuntert, zu kommen“, so Ahmed. Berlin soll zu einem wichtigen kreativen Hub für die Gruppe werden – zuständig für nationale wie internationale Projekte.

AKQA hat so innovative Arbeiten wie das Spiel „The Lost Ring“ für McDonald’s umgesetzt und gilt als die am meisten ausgezeichnete Digitalagentur Europas. Sie entwickelt vor allem interaktive Inhalte, bei denen die Grenzen zwischen Werbung und Unterhaltung verschwimmen. Wie bei der iPhone-App „True City“, die die Agentur gerade für Nike realisiert hat. iPhone-Nutzer können sich damit von Trendscouts mit Insider-Tipps aus sechs Metropolen versorgen lassen.

Wie groß das Team in Berlin beim Start ist, verrät Ahmed nicht. Nur, dass weltweit nach Mitarbeitern gesucht wird. Offiziell leiten Tom Bedecarre, AKQAs CEO, sowie COO Jim Rossmann das neue Büro. Für das kreative Produkt zeichnen die europäischen CCOs James Hilton und Daniel Bronner verantwortlich. Startkunde ist Nokia mit der Mobile-Plattform Ovi.

Im Interview (in englischer Sprache) mit Werben & Verkaufen erklärt Chairman Ajaz Ahmed, welche Ziele die Agentur in Deutschland verfolgt.

Dear Mr Ahmed, when did you decide to start an office in Germany?

Ajaz Ahmed Germany is the largest economy in Europe and we're excited by the energy, dynamism, creativity and quality of talent in Berlin so it makes a huge amount of sense for AKQA to make this the foundation of our next location. The main goals we have for our Berlin office is to attract the best talent to our agency, expand our relationships with our clients internationally and work with local German organisations. We have many international relationships with our clients who have responded well to our decision to set-up in Germany and this launch allows us to serve them better. Opening new offices also provides our team with opportunities to expand their careers abroad and Berlin is an incredible city at the cutting-edge of creativity to provide this.

Germany is a shrinking market like most European countries. What do you expect?

Ahmed Germany is Europe's largest e-commerce market and has a bigger Internet population than the UK, France or Russia. There has been a number of factors driving the surge in German e-commerce. By the end of 2012 Germany will have around 60m active Internet users and this number could be higher as technology becomes ever more accessible. We are optimistic about growth. When it comes to the wider economy many countries in Europe, including Germany and France, are predicting a much faster rate of growth this year than was previously forecast. Your finance ministry, for example, recently announced stronger growth than previously expected. At the same time digital growth, especially in areas such as mobile and social media, continues to outperform.

Why Berlin?

Ahmed Berlin is home to many of the most acclaimed education and research establishments and is recognised for its creativity, contemporary arts and incredible architecture. This creates a unique and vibrant culture that shares the same values as AKQA. It's important for AKQA to have international operations and expand our reach, the agency gets a lot of interest from individuals and organisations in Germany. We already feel very at home in Germany and are excited by the opportunities ahead. We hope that Berlin will become an important creative hub for AKQA and be respected for the work it produces locally, much the same way that our London and Amsterdam offices are. With our Berlin office we have strengthened our global network and have the opportunity to attract a diverse talent base.

What – in brief – are the most important features of AKQA?

Ahmed AKQA is currently Europe's most awarded digital agency. It was also named Agency of the Year by five separate publications recently. That's never happened to any agency before. It is also interesting that AKQA's campaign for Fiat eco:Drive is the most awarded global digital assignment of 2009. So we have always felt it important to have a broad portfolio of work which spans integrated campaigns and big ideas, but what connects all our work is innovation. We prefer to let the work do the talking and that's a philosophy that we have always had. Our founding values are innovation, service, quality and thought and these permeate everything that we do. Our Berlin office is the perfect foundation for these values and contribute to our agency's overall momentum.

In Germany agencies like Tribal DDB call themselves multichannel agency – with stronk fous on digital. Are these your competitors for you?

Ahmed Digital is already at the centre of the media landscape. Our work goes way beyond what most agencies consider to be advertising in order to connect with consumers. As recent examples such as Fiat eco:Drive and Nike True City demonstrate, AKQA is fortunate to be involved with our clients at a entrepreneurial and product development level. Our agency is about innovation and entrepreneurship and this is why we are excited about our German venture.