Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

“Never Trust an Idea You Feel Too Comfortable With"

Production Company
Berlin, Germany
Gotz Ulmer, CCO at McCann Worldgroup Germany on elevating creativity and what gives him goosebumps

REKORDER, the Berlin-based film and photography creative production studio, is proud to support LBB. Over the upcoming months, as part of the sponsorship of the German Edition, we will celebrate creativity and introduce some of the most innovative and creative minds in the industry. 

In this interview, LBB speaks with Gotz Ulmer, CCO at McCann Worldgroup Germany, about German creative, the best tag line in the world and his dream of being a rockstar. 


LBB> What were your influences and inspirations growing up? And at what point did you know that a career in this industry was the right one?

Gotz> A mixture of many things: a quaint little Southern German town, the bourgeoisie of the local inhabitants, a music group called KISS, my first paint set and my drums (the last two are to this day one of the most valuable outlets for me to release pressure from the job, even if there is often not enough time for it).
After my dream of being a rock star out of the provinces failed, the only income options left were illustration, graphic design or advertising. Already in my studies I met illustrators who were really breathtaking so I let that go. Just being the thirteenth best didn't seem very fulfilling to me.
But I felt very comfortable with graphic design and stupid ideas. Inspired mostly by American advertising and its tonality (whether on billboards, TV commercials or tablet mats in amusement parks) and two - stolen from a U-Matic - Lürzers archive reels that I watched until they broke. 
But I didn't realise that advertising was exactly my thing (contrary to what my professors thought) until I started my career at Jung von Matt in 1995. There was a lot to learn but I realised that I could swim along. It was a liberating moment and a short-term victory over the perpetual impostor syndrome.

LBB> Over the course of your career, you've spent most of your time in Hamburg. To what extent is Hamburg's creative culture typically "German" or specific to Hamburg?

Gotz> The German creative virtues are decentralised, after all. And diverse everywhere. But the Northerners are very straight people. They don't have much to do with polite phrases and self-congratulation, they just do stuff. That suits me. 
Let the Berliners believe in their avant-garde capital (American tourists continue to believe that), the Frankfurters and Düsseldorfers in their dream of an (extremely) glorious past, but the strongest creative pulse still beats in Hamburg. I have to say that, don't I?

LBB> You joined McCann Worldgroup Germany as CCO in 2021 after working at Jung Von Matt for over 25 years. With what expectations did you enter this position and how has it developed so far?

Gotz> I was attracted by the task of raising McCann in Germany back to the creative level for which this agency is known worldwide.  Because this career move seemed so absurd and far-fetched, it was extremely appealing to me.  After all, anyone can work for the best.
So far, installing a chain reaction has been immense fun - many things can be completely redesigned, existing things triggered and neglected ones brought back to life.  But the most inspiring thing is the exchange with colleagues from all over the world. I learn so much more. And my English is getting frighteningly better all the time. 

LBB> McCann has made a name for itself with its "truth well told" positioning - what is it about this creative approach that has brought the agency so much success?

Gotz> TRUTH WELL TOLD is the best tagline in the entire industry. That's a commitment. And since 1912, it just perfectly sums up what we should be doing every day. No matter the channel or communications approach. It already inspired me during my internship in 1993. And it also helps with complicated questions from my son.

LBB> When you look back on your career, are there any projects or work that are particularly important to you?

Gotz> I know the answer sounds a lot like LinkedIn bla bla, but what's really important is always the work that comes next. The one that turns my chronic dissatisfaction into goosebumps. The past is just for the records.

LBB> And finally, what is the best advice you have received in your career so far?

Gotz> One that I've heard more than once from various people is, "Maybe you're wrong?" But more important is some advice I gave myself early on: "Never trust an idea you feel too comfortable with."