5 minutes with... in association withAdobe Firefly

5 Minutes With... Joachim Kortlepel

Associations, Award Shows and Festivals
Busan, South Korea
Jung von Matt ECD and AD STARS 2020 final judge discusses fake news, using music to solve a problem, and the joy of breaking rules

As a former journalist on Capitol Hill, Joachim Kortlepel wonders if we’ll all look back on fake news and Trump & Co as a flaw in the matrix. He also dislikes the rise of xenophobia and one-hit-wonder marketing campaigns, but is passionate about music, experiential marketing and Jung von Matt’s ‘magnetic’ culture, where he’s been since 2001.

As well as being ECD, he joined Jung von Matt Holding in 2017 as a creative service provider for around 15 Jung von Matt agencies globally.

Joachim has won over 200 awards including a Graphite Pencil at this year’s D&AD Awards and a Grand Prix/Green Pencil at One Show 2020 for ‘For Seasons’ – a campaign that cleverly recomposes Vivaldi’s Four Seasons using climate data to raise awareness of the consequences of climate change.


You began your career as a journalist. Why did you decide to be a reporter?

I was always extremely into politics. From early on. I believe this is connected to my country’s history and its role in world politics ever since World War II. I was always looking for answers with regard to all of what happened before and after WWII. So politics became my major at University and together with my deep love for writing, I kind of made my way straight to the European Commission in Washington D.C., where I worked as a legislative correspondent and political analyst. I was allowed to report on US foreign and domestic politics. Pretty amazing to witness Senators and Representatives of the House on a day-to-day basis on Capitol Hill to be honest.

But as time went on, I discovered that rather than writing about something and running after the facts (facts meant something in those days) it would be more challenging and somehow more fun to create something that others would be writing about. That is when I switched, got back to Germany and worked at BBDO with a focus on copywriting.


As a former journalist, what do you think of the ‘fake news’ phenomenon? 

Quite honestly: it pisses me off. The other side is pure disbelief that Trump & Co. manage to keep this going for them: disregarding everything, putting criticism aside by simply calling it fake news. How could that happen? To a little lesser extent this applies also to decision makers in other countries, i.e. Russia, Poland or Hungary, just to name a few. But what happens in the US is still worse. It will be interesting to see how we will look back on this in a couple of years from now; or maybe even after the next US election in November. Is this something we will be referring to as a flaw in the Matrix?

Anyhow, all of this asks us to be even more in love with every detail of a story, to be even more precise and responsible and even more reliable, because mistakes and flaws in our facts and stories will only foster and nourish the ‘Trump-way-of-doing-politics’ (if you can call this politics at all). My hope is, in the end, facts will win over.


You joined Jung von Matt in 2001. What does it do differently?

I feel the culture is magnetic. There is such a strong drive for non-conformity, a desire to break the rules no matter what. We always want to be unexpected, we like to surprise people and add some humour to our stories. Our campaigns entertain. And what I do like very much about our spirit: “No” is not an answer, whatever the obstacles are in bringing campaigns on air, creativity will find an answer. Together we can do everything. And if we fail to reach our goals, we come back stronger.

Wherever and whomever I did meet in the past: I never saw this creative spirit or experienced anything close to it again. So maybe they – as we say in Germany – will have to carry me out of the building because I will die here one day at my desk ;-)

In 2001, you set up Jung von Matt/relations – why did you become so interested in experiential marketing and ‘brand experiences’?

To me, experiental marketing is one of the most authentic ways to communicate. Brand experiences (specifically the combination of digital & non-digital) create highly emotional reactions. The way I see it, making brands tangible is one of the greatest challenges in marketing and creates some of the most emotional and credible ways to communicate with customers: everything is real. No editing, no post-production and no ‘let us do it all over again’. It is live. And you know what is really great about this? If you do your utmost to create something amazing and emotional, people will not only highly value the experience itself but also the amount of work you put in only to please them. That is a win-win scenario on all accounts.

You believe ‘creativity can solve every problem in the world’ and there are lots of problems to be solved this year in particular. Have there been any innovations in Germany in response to the coronavirus or Black Lives Matter movement? 

In Germany, they managed to bring about a mobile app that every German can download. It tracks your way and if you got in contact with somebody infected, it is much easier to trace. And it is even in accordance with privacy rules, which are pretty tight in Germany.

As for Black Lives Matter: it is a global movement that is a long time overdue. And although racism seems to be a larger problem in the US, we too in Germany must be very aware of it. Not only because of our history, but also since we have our own problems to solve, racism being one of them but another big one is xenophobia. We still need to do everything we can to stand against this. In politics, in society and in advertising.

I am somewhat fed up with those one-hit wonder marketing and advertising stunts: I believe we need to engage something truly more profound and impactful. And yes, creativity can solve this! But first we need to address the problem and ask the right questions.


Do you have a creative process: how do you approach a new brief? 

Everything begins with a white and empty sheet of paper. From then on it is the permanent search and the discarding of possibilities. Always and always further. I don't think that we are very different from others. It's hard work and we don't have that one elaborate process, except that we create the best possible framework so that creatives can fully focus on the task at hand. 

Everything at Jung von Matt is designed to allow creative people to be as creative as possible. Then it takes a little luck and every now and then courageous clients. Because one thing is clear: just like in a Formula 1 race, to get to the top you have to leave the racing line and move to the battle line. Only then can you overtake. And to do that, you sometimes have to do the unexpected, surprise everyone and challenge the status quo. Equipped with these guiding principles, the goal is clear and the way is clear for all to see. For me it is living the breaking-of-rules. Non-conformity to the extreme.


What is your proudest achievement, professionally or personally?

Personally, it is a short answer: My three kids ;-)

Professionally, projects that involved music in one way or the other to solve a problem, to raise awareness or to create a meaningful impact.

As a standalone project, most likely the global marketing campaign for the opening of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg back in 2017. That has been a once-in-a-lifetime effort. Because it does not happen all too often that you have a building only for music and art like this one, and a client’s construction delay crisis like the one we faced when we began to work.

As the leading creative I spent some 1.5 years solely dedicated to this project. It was worth the effort and I can look at the Elbphilharmonie every day when I pass by it on my bike. That’s awesome and sort of a permanent reminder of my own work when you look at how it has become a concert house for truly everybody and how we managed to turn public opinion around.

Are you working on anything interesting right now?  

Yes, and it involves music. A truly global effort demonstrating yet again the power of music and creativity. What is remarkable is that we are cooperating between agencies and I am extremely happy to work with AKQA Australia on this. Public announcements are to follow sometime in the fall of 2020 and I can’t wait to tell more.


You’re joining AD STARS as a Final Judge this year. What are you most looking forward to?

Well, it is a great honour to be selected as a final judge for the AD STARS festival and I am so curious to see all the work.


What city are you based in, and how does it inspire you? 

Hamburg. The city is located at the river Elbe not too far away from North Sea. Water almost surrounds the entire city, it is everywhere and the power of it is to be felt in every corner. The liquid force is something that I seek to achieve with ideas, too. Creating unstoppable power such as the strength that water can develop. And as for the tides, nothing stays still, it is a constant flow, day by day as it is with ideas. That asks for humbleness.

Work from Mad Stars