Achim Rietze (Google ZOO): “The best EFFIE cases were simple in their storytelling and powerful in tying back the results to the objectives”

Creativity, Festivals & Awards

In 2001 Achim Rietze started his career at Y&R, before joining Jung von Matt in 2006. According to the ‘Big One’ the ‘most-awarded creative agency across all media and the world’ in 2007. Later he founded his own strategy unit at LLR – Germany’s ‘Newcomer Agency of the Year’ in 2009. In 2015 he arrived at Google and he is now Strategy Lead Google ZOO EMEA.

The 43-year old strategist is engaged at the global industry association for VR & AR, represented the planning community as APG board member in 2013 and a regular jury member at the Euro Effie and AME at New York Festivals. had the pleasure to meet Achim in Bucharest while he was the President of the Romanian Effie 2019’s Jury.  Below we leave you with some of the talk’s conclusions. When was the first time you knew you wanted to work in advertising?

I studied Social Science, loved thinkers like Theodor W. Adorno and was interested in what lies under the surface of society. Good marketing connects to people’s interests, passions and culture. It doesn’t get in the way of what people want, but is what they want. Think of Red Bull and how they leverage different subcultures to build their brand. So after I graduated from university I decided for a creative career. What excites you about the creative industry today?

I grew up in the golden age of MTV and blockbusters. Today people have tremendous choice and while YouTube and Netflix are booming, it became hard to reach people under 35 on linear TV. Mobile is the new creative canvas! And with everyone on the go, we need to use new forms of storytelling to catch their attention. Successful brands ‘deliver the dessert first’. They understood that the first seconds count and that mobile has totally flipped the story arch. How does technology – like VR and AR –  impact the world of marketing?

In a world where attention is limited, user engagement is the new media currency. I guess we see a shift towards immersive technologies, because they change the way we perceive the world. To put it in simple words: VR can take you anywhere in the world. And AR can bring anything in the world to you. Imagine when all brands start to offer experiences that seamlessly blend the digital and physical worlds while adding a new layer of helpfulness. From virtually trying on lipsticks, to turning retail spaces into augmented playgrounds. Were you passionate about technology before joining Google?

It’s not the tech, but how it magically transforms people’s experiences, that fascinates me. With the rise of machine learning, companies will compete in the augmented space, with useful services and contextual entertainment. I think these are pretty exciting times to work in marketing and we are only at the beginning of what’s possible. Let’s talk about how your ZOO team is working, please!

At Google we believe that if you focus on the user, all else will follow. Having a radical user focus is the foundation of a powerful business-, brand-, or campaign strategy. In everyday moments, our search behaviour tells quite a lot. Unilever’s Axe for example – once known for its stereotypical ads – created their ‘Is It Ok for Guys?’ campaign based on real Google search queries.

What also influences us, is the speed in which the world is moving. People are more demanding and impatient than ever. If they buy something online, they often expect it to be delivered at the same day. Speed became the new battlefield for brands. That’s why we use a unique agile sprint methodology to help brands move from problem to prototype in just a few days. What about the importance of strategy in such an environment?

If the ability of a company to renew itself quickly is so important, we also need to be able to quickly reconfigure our marketing strategies, right? The question is only how to do it. And I guess there are many ways. I do it by grounding my strategy in bespoke user insights and a clear vision for the project. This helps the whole interdisciplinary team to sprint into the same direction. Later we test and iterate our ideas. So yes, I am a big believer in the power of strategic agility – an experimental approach based on long-term brand thinking. Coming to the EFFIE Awards, how did you experience leading the jury in Romania?

I felt very inspired by the integrity and sharp thinking of my 120 jury members. There were a lot of lively discussions around some cases and at the end of the day, the jury truly honored the EFFIE brand with their attention to detail. Let’s not forget, that the EFFIE is the most important award in the industry, because it is about the one true important achievement in marketing, the results. What trends did you identify at this year’s EFFIE Award?

This year’s record entries show that the Romanian marketing industry is truly committed to proving the worth of their advertising. We saw more finalists than in previous years, but it was tougher to actually win metal. Which is a good thing! From my observation the best cases were simple in their storytelling and powerful in tying back the results to the objectives. They made me think: ‘Oh I wish I had done that’.

Another trend: More and more campaigns were submitted into special categories like Brand Experience or Seasonal Marketing – with some brands not entering into a market category at all. We know that the lack of context is one of the most common judge complaints. So maybe a market category entry should be mandatory for each campaign. This would put more emphasis on the actual business context and also help to not further inflate the special categories. The Grand EFFIE is always in the spotlight. This year there was none! Why?

I heard this made some waves in the industry. Let me explain: The Grand EFFIE is reserved only for a truly impactful case with the proven capability of delivering ‘outstanding’ effectiveness. This year, the two highest graded cases that were on the shortlist, were not meeting this requirement. Maybe next year you could establish a dedicated Grand EFFIE judging round to identify a potential winner among the Gold winners! How does the quality of the entries compare to other countries?

For me all finalists are winners, because they receive points in the EFFIE Effectiveness Index and are also celebrated in the EFFIE Case library. I recognized that Romania strongly believes in the power of creativity and I saw some brave digital activations. I can only say: Chapeau Romania! You can be really proud of the overall quality of your cases and should use the opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise with the world – publicly!