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.

DAY 10 – BMW

A tiny car in the BMW museum

A tiny car in the BMW museum

DAY 11 – BMW

The BMW excursion was a nice introduction into the marketing and advertising part of our trip. Even though I don’t know much about cars, let alone marketing, I was able to understand the overview of the company, strategies and new products because of how simply and concisely they were presented.

One of the first things they did was explain BMW’s target audiences across the world. I thought it was interesting that its marketing strategy for the spread out cities in the United States is different from that of the crowded cities in Europe. I never realized how many different factors, such as gas prices and even the electrical stability of a country, which a company would have to take in when trying to sell such a complex product in completely different environments.

I also thought that BMW presented its new “innovative” products in a very confident, yet humble manner. The attitude contrasted with that of Die Welt’s where they repeatedly boasted all of the newspapers accomplishments. With BMW, we were presented with the impact the innovation would have on consumers and how it would benefit society and the environment as a whole.

Speaking of benefits for the environment, it amazes me so much how much more “green” Germany is than the United States. On our train rides, I always see neighborhoods with each house having solar panels on the roofs. The folks at BMW also mentioned that Angela Merkel wanted to have more electrical cars in the near future, which brings up my next interesting highlight.

Marketing involves politics. I always knew that, but I never had a class on marketing so it was never made completely obvious. I thought it was so interesting how BMW talks with the government about the economics of transportation. It makes me feel like BMW is not just a monster company all for itself, but it also cares about society.

I saw a similarity between BMW and Süddeutsche Zeitung that they both make sacrifices to be the best of the best. BMW sells because it offers “premium” quality and the newspaper survives off of top-notch quality content. These are aspects to which consumers can become loyal.

To end the day the museum was an eye-opener and a lot of fun. I enjoyed seeing all of the super old cars and learning about their history. I’m sure my dad, who is a car buff, will really enjoy the pics!