German Efficiency

May 26, 2011

By Bill Duggan

I just returned from a trip to Berlin, Germany where I attended a meeting hosted by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA). During my two days there (too short, by the way), I was impressed with a number of simple efficiency measures that are part of everyday life in Germany.

Upon arrival, the line at immigration took only about five minutes - faster than anywhere I've previously been.

In my hotel room, I needed to insert the hotel key card into a slot on the wall in order for the lights to go on. I was given just one key, and when I left the room, all the lights went off. In the common hallways in the hotel, lights went on quickly when I emerged from my room. Otherwise they were off, unless other guests were in the hallways. Same thing for common restrooms. These simple conservation solutions obviously lead to great energy savings and undoubtedly cost savings as well.

I was brave enough to tackle the Berlin subway system. Escalators there were still, unless people were on them. And a still escalator began moving immediately as soon as a foot was placed on it. Best of all, there were clear signs that alerted travelers to the timing of arriving trains - noting the destination and the number of minutes until the arrival of each respective train. Such signs were visible in multiple places in the station and helped avoid the madness of rushing down the stairs to a platform in anticipation of catching (or just missing) your train. Can't wait until we get those in New York!

Returning to the airport, there was a large electronic sign that noted the drop-off location for every departing flight. Once dropped off, I just took a few steps inside to check-in with my airline - and my departure gate was right there too.

The WFA meeting that I attended was for the Global COMPAG committee (Communications Procurement Action Group). And, of course, we discussed efficiency measures for advertisers at that meeting. They included agency performance evaluations, media auditing, and production decoupling.

Both media auditing and production decoupling gained significant traction in Europe prior to doing so in the United States. For most marketers, media accounts for the greatest percentage of marketing spending, and auditing can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of that spending. Production decoupling is also fairly new in the U.S. and can lead to great savings. I wouldn't be surprised if the Germans helped accelerate work on both media auditing and production decoupling and, if so, those would be two more examples of German efficiency!


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