Ketchum-Pleon’s full-service agency aims to please

ketchum1by Andrea Karsesnick

Exactly 90 years ago, Ketchum was founded in Pittsburgh. Today, Ketchum, which is now is a subsidiary of the Omnicom Group, is one of the world’s leading PR agencies with offices across the globe, including Germany.

It joined Omnicom in 1996 and then merged with Pleon in 2009, which is based in Dusseldorf. Ketchum covers five global practice areas: brand marketing, corporate communications, healthcare, food and nutrition, and technology, according to its website. Pleon is the largest PR agency in Europe with 39 offices; it is also the third largest company in Germany.

Ketchum Pleon in Germany as a whole has 335 consultants, marketers and creative staff members. There are 37 media relations experts, 30 editors, 20 social media experts and one research center. There are more than 3,400 Ketchum employees worldwide.

According to the staff members who met with Point Park students, Ketchum Pleon Munich is a full-service agency. It is comprised of 60 people: Fifteen people handle health care, with clients such as Bayer; 15 associates handle change, with clients such as Zeiss and Siemens; and 20 people on the corporate team handle BMW, Kodak and Dell. All together Ketchum Pleon Munich has 42 clients.

Ketchum works with a number of well-known brands such as Snapple, Barbie, Special Olympics, and Häagen-Dazs.

Ketchum works with a number of well-known brands such as Snapple, Barbie, Special Olympics, and Häagen-Dazs.

Ketchum Pleon employs many research methods, according to Diana Dorenbeck, a consultant and media relations expert and Markus Ruether, business director and expert in corporate and financial communications. The agency enlists different research companies to perform market research. Methods include internal research by conducting questionnaires within the agency, street questionnaires and additional market research by calling random phone numbers and polling citizens. Phone calls are also made to journalists to find out what they think of different companies, they told the students. Ketchum Pleon Munich seldom uses focus groups.

Ketchum Pleon Munich puts a heavy focus social media. Of the Internet users in Germany, 76 percent are registered on social media. Social media in Germany is mostly Facebook, as Twitter is not that important, according to

Christopher Langner, director of digital and media communications.

That doesn’t mean that the agency doesn’t try some Web-based creative methods to help clients. He showed the students an example of an animated video for Lefax, an anti-flatulence drug produced in Germany that needed to reach a younger demographic, consumers 30-49. Check out the link:

According to Ketchum’s online magazine Perspectives, the video went viral, attracting 32,000 views on YouTube and capturing the attention of the mainstream media, which inspired thousands of consumes to actually begin engaging in conversation about flatulence online and reaching Lefax’s goal of generating buzz about the product.

The Ketchum staff members also shared their media tips for success in Germany. The top tip: “We’re the home to the Brothers Grimm. Pitch a story, not a product.” Following any PR campaign, Ketchum Pleon Munich must analyze and evaluate the results.  Analytics and metrics are very expensive and more often than not, clients do not want to pay for that, Langner said. Ketchum can easily measure how many media mentions a campaign received in comparison to competitors. Analytics on social media are done by Facebook, which can be seen by the administrator of a brand page. This is vital to measuring the impact a company has on the public through the use of social media. With this, a company can tailor the messages it sends to target audiences.

A castle fit for a King

Neuschwanstein is nestled in the hills of Hohenschwangau, Bavaria (photo by Katie Pflug)

Neuschwanstein is nestled in the hills of Hohenschwangau, Bavaria
(photo by Katie Pflug)

by Andrea Karsesnick

One hundred and seventy-two days.

That’s how long King Ludwig II lived in Neuschwanstein Castle, a tall, white picturesque structure sitting high in the mountains of Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, Germany. The castle was the inspiration of Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle, and it has been featured prominently in many films and German tourism videos.

King Ludwig was born on Aug. 25, 1845, in Bavaria in Schloss Nymphenburg. He began his reign as king in 1864 at the age of 18. He claimed to have accepted the throne too quickly and regretted it.

Ludwig II lived in a fantasy world. He wanted to believe in a “holy kingdom,” where each ruler was chosen by the divine right theory of kingship. In reality, Ludwig II was a constitutional monarch with duties.

He was a recluse, who secluded himself in his castle away from everyone and did not tend to his duties as king. The castle was never completed, although he moved into in 1884. In 1885, banks threatened to take away his property, and Ludwig II developed political enemies. He was arrested and interned in the Berg Castle in 1886. Ludwig II died of mysterious circumstances, an apparent drowning, on June 13 that year in Lake Starnberg. He died alongside his psychiatrist who had diagnosed him as insane.

He started to build it on the ruins of another castle.  The construction of Neuschwanstein started in the summer of 1868 and was ready for Ludwig II to move in in the end of 1884, according to the castle’s official website. He only lived in the castle for a short period before his death. He only saw this home as a construction site.

Neuschwanstein was Ludwig II’s escape from reality. It was his dream world modeled on the Middle Ages. The paintings on the walls were done by seven different unknown artists from the academy in Munich. Famous artists did not want to work for Ludwig II because there would be little room for creativity in the artwork as Ludwig II had all of the ideas. Nonetheless, the paintings are extremely intricate and ornate.

The castle from ground level.

The castle is a 30-minute uphill walk.
(photo by Johnie Freiwald)

Ludwig II did not want anybody to share his luxurious castle with anyone. However, the castle was open to the public seven weeks after his death. Today, roughly 1.4 million people visit the castle each year and there are nearly 8,000 visitors each day.

The Point Park University group’s tour guide cited her favorite part of the elaborate castle.  Saura Samgabote, who has led tours there for seven years, says, “I love the details in the paintings. Every day I notice something I did not the day before.”

The decorated walls of Neuschwanstein were based on and inspired by the works of Richard Wagner, who was a good friend of Ludwig II. The paintings were inspired by his operas and medieval legends. There were three main figures on the walls of Neuschwanstein: Tannhaeuser, the swan knight Lohengrin and the Grail King Parzival.

Another theme used throughout the interior walls was religion. Ludwig II’s throne room was overseen by whom he saw as the highest king, Jesus. Ludwig II believed kingship to be “by the grace of God.”

The swan is also seen many times within the castle. Ludwig had a large swan statue and even door handles were modeled to form swan necks. The swan followed the religious theme as they are the Christian symbol of purity.

A basic ticket to the castle costs 12 euros. The visiting hours of the castle are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April to 15 October. From Oct. 16 to March, the hours are shortened to 10 a.m-4 p.m. Tickets need to be purchased in advance, and visitors can only enter the castle’s rooms by guided tour. The castle is closed Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1.

Visitors have to purchase tickets at the Ticketcenter Hohenschwangau in the village of Hohenschwangau below the castle. From Munich, tourists need to take a train and then a bus to the castle; it’s a very steep 30-minute walk to the castle from the village, although a bus and horse carriages are available.

Last Day in Germany!

Today was the last day here in Germany and it was probably the most exciting as far as media visits go. Today we visited Ketchum Pleon and Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Ketchum is a PR agency, which I actually had the chance to visit in Pittsburgh, so I was very excited to visit it here in Munich. We learned more about the German Media, but this time from a PR standpoint, which was very beneficial to me. I asked so many questions and was very excited to learn about this agency. I asked about the analytics used in measuring the success of a campaign and learned that they are just about exactly the same as analytics in the US. The same thing goes for market research methods. They do polls through the phone and questionnaires. I was shocked though to learn that they seldom use focus groups as a source of research.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung is actually a competitor of another newspaper we visited, Bild and Die Welt. Personally, I’m not very interested in newspapers, as I am sure I already stated in my blogs, but I found this visit interesting. At one point, we were shown advertisements, which basically blew me away. They reminded me of those books we all had when we were toddlers, the books that had different textures in it that you could feel, like fur or snakeskin. These ads had the feeling of leather, a smooth finish and much more. It is definitely something we need to get over here.

Following the meeting we had discussing the paper, we took a short walk across the street to where the papers are actually made. I never saw a printing press before, but it was much more amazing than I had expected. I also did not expect to see so much work put into it. I thought it just printed and it was done… but there’s so much being done. It was amazing. The only downfall of seeing the papers being printed was that it was hard to breathe in that room. I felt like I was inhaling paper fibers or something.

All in all it was a very informative last day.

I don’t know anything about cars.

So… I don’t know anything about cars. I know the brands, but that’s about it. We went to visit the BMW Headquarters today and I was excited for our first PR visit finally.

During the presentation at BMW we learned about all the key points about the new BMW Electric Car model. From a PR standpoint, this was interesting to me because he was highlighting all the different facts/selling-points that would be stressed to the public. I could careless about cars, but I found it very interesting that he kept stressing how “green” of a company BMW is. I didn’t know this. It made me wonder if anyone knew this. Do I not know this because I don’t follow anything on cars or is it because they don’t do enough PR in the states on this point? Or maybe I’m just not their target market. I’m a female college student… not someone who is too concerned with a luxury vehicle.

We also had the chance to visit the BMW Museum. Again, I’m not interested in cars, but I loved the architecture of the museum. It was very modern. I also loved seeing all of the old models of cars. That was actually very interesting. I loved history, so to become interested in what I was seeing, my mind tied the cars to history. I could honestly careless about all the car facts and everything about the engine and design… I just liked seeing the old models of cars. For some reason, old cars always fascinated me. The facts about them didn’t… just the image of them. They look so cool!

We also learned about the customization opportunities available with a Rolls Royce. I found this extremely ridiculous. The car in general is ridiculous. I mean, I guess if I had the money to spend I would buy it? But I don’t really know. Here’s what I mean by the car being ridiculous: There’s a umbrella actually INSIDE of the door. You can pull it out whenever you open the door. That made me think: “Are you kidding me?” Come to think of it, if I had the money I don’t even know if I would spend it on ridiculous things. Why not spend it on something else a little more useful? Then again, I guess everyone has different tastes. If I had the money for a Rolls Royce, I would rather spend it on beautiful furniture for my mansion (assuming I could afford a mansion too) but then someone else may just spend it on having an umbrella come out of their car door.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Today we visited Neuschwanstein Castle. Last time I was in Germany Neuschwanstein was an optional excursion, but we had to pay 80 Euro out of our pocket to see it. I turned it down because I didn’t want to spend that much money and I figured I would come back to Germany in my lifetime and get the chance to see it again. Little did I know, I would be returning in three years and would get the chance to visit the castle for free. I regretted not seeing the castle then, but now I’m pleased that I didn’t spend the 80 Euro on tickets!

Just like for our trip to Salzburg, we took a train to the town that the castle was in, Hohenschwangau. The town literally translates to “High swan area.” It was beautiful making our way to the small town. It was very scenic. There were snow covered Alps in the distance and it was very picturesque. It was breathtaking.

The climb up to the castle was ridiculously long and the incline up was very steep. My calves and thighs were aching. We also had to climb in the rain. Needless to say, the climb didn’t make me too happy, but it was all worth it in the end. I got some amazing pictures up at the top and the castle was really something. It was gorgeous inside.

The castle wasn’t even actually that old. It was less than two hundred years old. Whenever I think of castles, I think of medieval nights. Neuschwanstein was actually the castle on King Ludwig, “The Crazy King.” He lived in it for a very short time, before he died of suspicious circumstances. Going back to being surprised about how young the castle was, I was equally surprised when the tour guide said that King Ludwig had a phone connecting to the post office. That really put the age of the castle in perspective for me.

I am an artist, so my main take away from this experience has to do wish all the very detail oriented lavish artwork that you are able to see on the interior walls of the castle. It was beautiful, and surprisingly all done in the same style. (Naturally I assumed that because it was all done int eh exact same style that it was one person. Painting styles differentiate from one person to the next.) I was wondering how one person could paint all of these rooms with so much detail in such a limited amount of time. I asked the tour guide what artist painted the walls. She told me that the paintings were all done by 7 different unknown artists, who were students from the academy in Munich. It surprised me that unknowns were painting for the King, but when the tour guide explained why, it all made so much sense. No famous well-established artists wanted to work for Ludwig because Ludwig had all the ideas and would tell each artist specifically what to do. There was no room for creativity. As an artist, I understand why the well-establish, well-known artists wouldn’t want to work for the King. I paint for my creative freedom and pleasure. Without creative freedom, there is no pleasure. Those artists were painting something that they wouldn’t even be able to claim as “there own.” This was very thought provoking for me.


Salzburg Trip

Today we went to Salzburg, Austria! I have never been to Salzburg before or Austria. I also have never taken a train anywhere before, so today was loaded with “firsts” for me today.

Once we got off the train and after our hunt for a usable  restroom, we started walking towards where we were supposed to meet our Salzburg tour guide. We started our tour in Mirabellplatz, where the DO-RE-MI scene was filmed in The Sound of Music. (The Sound of Music is one of my absolute favorite movies!) This ranks as one of the most exciting parts of the tour for me, seeing sights where the Sound of Music was filmed. We saw steps that the children sang on, two fountains from the movie, statues, and a green leafy arched passageway that the kids run through. I think our tour guide said we were suppose to see the house from the Sound of Music as well as the Von Trapp’s actual home, but we did not get a chance to see that.

Another highlight from this walking tour today is seeing Mozart’s birthplace and learning about him. It’s amazing how muh of a genius he was, and I love how we got to see the house he was born in. This just shows you truly how remarkable and preserved the city is. I can’t believe such an old building is still there. This goes for the entire old city. It is just so preserved to look like it did hundreds of years ago. It’s amazing. I also love the architecture. It’s beautiful and really has that old middle aged charm.

As for the weather today… it was alright during the walking tour. It only rained a little bit during the tour, but after the tour is when it really started to pour. To make matters worst, it was a holiday so mostly everything was closed. The only shops, which were open were the tourist gift shops and you can only go in so many gift shops before they all start to look the exact same! Katie and I walked alongside the river through a market, but then the stand owners began to close up because of the cold rainy weather. Then we took shelter in some enclosed sidewalk and sat there for 30 minutes to take up time before we had to go to dinner.

I loved the place we ate dinner. The restaurants seemed extremely small from the outside, but it was actually pretty big, with many different floors, which had small rooms to eat in. We ate in a small room after climbing about 4 or 5 sets of stairs, some very uneven. Naturally, while we were eating dinner, the weather became very nice. We had a nice dinner and then made our way back to the train station so we could journey back to Munich.

Dachau Visit

Today we went to Dachau, the concentration camp outside of Munich. I have already visited the camp before. This was my second time, but it was still just as powerful as the first time I went there. The first time I visited Dachau, we were behind schedule on our itinerary, so we had to cut the trip short, which means I didn’t get to see the whole camp. I’m glad that this time I got to see all of it.

It’s so weird to think that we were walking in a place where such a horrible event occurred. It’s unfathomable even. We were able to see reconstructions of the barracks and it was just awful how prisoners were piled into wooden bunks that were meant for a much smaller capacity. That part always gets me, imagining 100s of people jam packed into on room.

We were also able to see the memorials for the Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Following that, we went to see the gas chamber and the ovens that bodies were burned in. Last time I was at Dachau I did not get the chance to see these parts. Imagining the herding of people into the gas chambers and then pushing the dead ones into the ovens really got to me emotionally.

Lastly, we went into the museum and saw film on Dachau. The museum always has an emotional affect on me. The part which affects me the most is seeing how gaunt and skeleton-like the prisoners all were in the camps. The film gets me very emotional too. Again, it’s seeing the prisoners in such a horrible unhealthy state.

Last day in Berlin!

This was my favorite day yet! I think I may say this everyday, but this truly was my favorite day. We went to Axel Springer today, which is a HUGE publishing house in Germany. It’s a very modern building, even though it was built in the 1950s. Axel Springer is also an acadamy, which takes in students. Many apply, but only 20 are accepted. They are of all age ranges and most have a degree coming in. He told us that they range from 18-33. All students are given the tools they need. They are given a Mac, an iPhone and an iPad. Axel Springer teaches them how to use those tools and then they have the freedom to create. After completing their coursework at Axel Springer, they re required to take a job there, which is nice because that means they are guaranteed a job. Five of the students came in for a question and answer with us before we were able to see their newsroom, where the work. I was surprised to see how modern it was. Mac Computers were everywhere. I also learned that they bought custom made iPads that were huge.

We also got to learn about one of the papers Axel Springer puts out: Die Welt. Die Welt is your average classic newspaper. However, I was surprised about some of the information we were given. For example, Die Welt sells more of their app than they do actual papers. I found this astonishing, because we previously learned that Germany is slow when it comes to internet and only 72% of the people use it. I also seldom see people on tablets and more often see people reading a paper book or using a traditional print paper.

Later that night we went to the Reichstag, which is the German Parliament building. We were able to go in. We went up to the roof and we were able to get some pretty breathtaking pictures. You could go up farther than the roof too. We climbed all the way up to the top of the dome and the view was even better. It was beautiful! This was an amazing experience.

We were on a live broadcast of German National TV

This morning we had to wake up very early. Today was the day that we went to ZDF, a television station here in Germany. The reason that we had to wake up so early was so that we could be on TV! Yes, we were on TV today. We got to sit in the live audience of their morning show, Moma Cafe. That was very interesting. I feel like it’s an exclusive thing to do, so what an amazing opportunity that was! The show happened very quick. I found the set up of the audience very interesting. We were all sitting at tables in the cafe. There was food and drink placed in front of us too.  We were so close to the talent! I thought we were going to be off stage on a bunch of risers as the audience.

After we sat in for the morning show.  We went on a quick tour of the studios and then we moved into a conference room to speak with Wulf Schmiese, the male talk show host for Moma Cafe. This was very interesting. We were also in the room with another tour group. They were from Palestine. Our questions and their questions were very different and everyone I spoke to about it felt tension in the room. We had questions relating to Wulf and his job, but the other group seemed to be pursuing an agenda. They definitely made him feel uncomfortable. One girl started her question out like, “Let me educate you first.” Saying that really sounded like she was trying to belittle him and then she just spoke about her cause. After her awkwardly answered her question, he turned to our group and asked us if we had anymore questions, because you could tell he was uncomfortable.

After this visit, we went to DPA, The Deutsche Presse. This was very interesting. What I found most interesting about this is that they don’t put news out for the public. They put news out for other newspapers and publications. This is what their main goal is. I thought that was very interesting.

I also continue to find myself more and more surprised about the German hospitality we are receiving. Every visit so far has offered us drink and sometimes even food! Deutsche Presse offered a lot of my German favorite chocolates.

Universität und Brandenburger Tor Besuchen

Visiting the University and Brandenburg Gate
This trip just continues to get better and better as the days go on. I know it’s the second day, but already I know that I’m in for lots more fun. Today we went to Frei Universität. To do this we had to take the U-Bahn. The U-Bahn and S-Bahn are basically a subway system. “Bahn” translates to “train.” I’ve been on the U-Bahn before so, it was nothing new to me, but I never had to use connections. I see the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn like a puzzle. Sometimes it’s very difficult to figure out how to get from point A to point B when you need to use connections. We took the U-Bahn to the University.

The University is in a more upper-class “suburban” community. I loved learning the history of the area it was in. The area the university was in use to be a Jewish area before WWII. Then they were unfortunately forced to leave. Then there houses were taken over by high-ranking SS officials. I learned a lot of interesting stuff that I would not have known otherwise. I learned that the radio is actually very popular in Germany. Personally, my household doesn’t even have a radio. Being an advertising major, I was very excited to learn about German advertising in relation to journalism forms. While in Berlin I have noticed advertisements everywhere. They’re in bathroom stalls and even on napkins! Wherever you look, there’s and ad… that is, everywhere except in newspapers. German newspapers have a lot fewer advertisements than American newspapers. Their ad revenue comes from inserts within the papers. At the university I learned about an Xchange program done in the summer with journalism/communication students who know a good amount of German. This is definitely something that I am interested in.

Another very fun thing we got to do tonight was visit the Brandenburg Gate! This was so much fun. I love the Brandenburg Gate and it is such a great symbol representing not only Berlin, but Germany. After walking through the gate and onto the other side, I saw a guy with what I think was a Soviet hat. I asked him in German if I could try it on and take a picture. He said yes but then asked if he could be in it. I said he could and after than and at an extremely fast pace, other random Germans and our group were running into the photo. It was hilarious. This was supposed to be a photo of just me but it soon grew to me and 30 other people!

Another highlight from tonight was when we were going out. We decided to check out the young adult night culture. We had to call a taxi to get to where we wanted to go. Naturally, I had to do all the speaking… which I love! It’s really good practice for me. So I sat in the front of this taxi and I had a full on 10 minute non-stop conversation with the driver in German. He understood everything I said and I understood everything he said. It really makes me feel good. I love that even though I told him that we are from America, he didn’t start speaking to me in English. I know that some Germans do that because supposedly they are as eager to speak English as we are to speak German, but I sometimes take it as an insult when Germans speak in English to me. I just want to practice! When we got to the club the bouncers told me that I spoke very good German and sounded excellent. I love hearing that because I really do want to eventually become fluent. You could say it’s one of my life’s goals.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be in this amazing country. It feels different the second time around. I feel so much more comfortable here than I did three years ago. That can probably be attributed to now having six years of German under my belt. I know I’m gonna cry when I leave. When I go back to Pittsburgh, it’s not really going to feel like going home. This is really cheesy, but it would be more like leaving home. I feel so comfortable here in Germany. I love the culture and the language.