Ad Campaign Aims to Boost German Morale
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Germany's high unemployment rate and a mounting budget deficit have driven German spirits to new lows. A public service ad campaign, called Du bist Deutschland, or `You are Germany,' is hoping to improve people's moods. NPR's Rachel Martin reports from Berlin.
RACHEL MARTIN reporting:
The images are those of Germany's best and brightest, an ethnically diverse group of soccer players, actors, musicians, scientists and a few so-called regular folks doing regular jobs, like truck drivers or teachers, all delivering one message:
(Soundbite of ad campaign)
Unidentified Woman #1: (Through Translator) You are the miracle of Germany. The same way a molecule of air can create a big storm, what you do can make a difference.
Group of Children: Du bist Deutschland!
MARTIN: `You are Einstein, Goethe, Volkswagen; you are Germany,' proclaim the television ads and billboards around the country. The $35 million campaign, organized and paid for by dozens of German media companies, is meant to connect Germans to their past and inspire them to change their future. Over the past few years, Germans have become increasingly glum, and according to a recent poll, only 23 percent of them think things will get better. Bernd Bauer is one of the campaign's founders.
Mr. BERND BAUER (Dubis Deutschland): I really wanted the people to think about their situation, and it can also be an unemployed person. They have to think about their situation and they have to ask themselves, `Can I change it by myself?'
MARTIN: There are more than four million unemployed people in Germany, and the country faces a budget deficit of at least $40 billion. After 50 years of enjoying its status as the economic miracle of Europe, Germany is waking up to a new reality and a new challenge: How to stay competitive in a global marketplace without unraveling the social welfare system so integral to German society. Ursula Weidenfeld of the newspaper Tagesspiegel says the message portrayed in the Du bist Deutschland campaign is patronizing and makes light of the struggles many Germans face.
Ms. URSULA WEIDENFELD (Tagesspiegel): It's a little bit crazy to watch this campaign and to see all these celebrities talking about your chances of fun to be German and the responsibility you have toward yourself and for the society, because it's not just beat your wings and the golden X will light behind your feet. That's not the situation.
MARTIN: On a busy afternoon at Berlin's Alexanderplatz shopping center, the sentiment was the same. Yvon Safon(ph) is a frustrated mother of two who can't find a job.
Ms. YVON SAFON (Unemployed Mother): (Through Translator) Some people try to change the situation, but we don't have many chances to do that. I call employers, I apply for jobs, but because I have kids, I'm turned down.
MARTIN: Twenty-five-year-old Gordon Bronz(ph) just finished his engineering degree with top marks but also can't find work. Many of his friends have left Germany to work in countries like Switzerland or Austria, where the job market is better. He says he appreciates the idea behind the ads, but they're not realistic.
Mr. GORDON BRONZ (Engineering Graduate): (Through Translator) First, you have to get in a position where you can change things, and if I could change things, then of course, I would. But to just say `Hold on and things will improve' is not the way to cheer people up.
(Soundbite of ad campaign)
Unidentified Man #1: Du bist Deutschland.
Unidentified Woman #2: (Through Translator) Our life doesn't taste like sugar or candy. Nobody will try to say that. It might be that your back is to the wall right now, but together, we have torn down a wall once before.
Unidentified Man #2: (German spoken)
Unidentified Woman #3: (German spoken)
MARTIN: Campaign organizers say they're not expecting to start a revolution with their ads, but if they get individuals to realize their own potential, the perception and the reality in Germany could get a little brighter. Rachel Martin, NPR News, Berlin.
MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.
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