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An Interview with Dörte Spengler-Ahrens, CCO of Jung von Matt SAGA and the first female President of the German ADC

02 February 2021

An Interview with Dörte Spengler-Ahrens,
CCO of Jung von Matt SAGA and the first female President of the German ADC

 
Dörte is one of the most awarded German creatives, long term Committee Chairwoman and now President of the Art Director’s Club (ADC), curator of the ADC Festival and Congress Hamburg, Advisory Board Member of the D&AD and New York Festival, as well as a juror in all the communication industry’s most important international award juries every year (LIA, Clio, One Show, Cannes, ADC*E).
 
She was awarded Germany’s Agency Woman of the Year 2018, served 2019 as Jury President of the ADC*E Festival and has won over 600 awards in her carrier.
 
Besides work, she loves her husband Tobias Ahrens, her son Bela and the family dog Tyson. She also loves to travel and to meet people – preferably, all at the same time.
 
In this conversation we speak to Dörte on her focus as the first female president of the German ADC.
 
 
LIA: Congratulations on being the first female president of the German ADC. As we understand it, all ADC members in the annual general meeting elect the ADC President.  
 
Dörte: Thank you! I am very happy and honored and take it as a sign of approval and support within the members, the board and beyond.
 
LIA: What is your main role as President?
 
Dörte: As President of the Art Directors Club Germany I have the honor and the responsibility to represent over 750 top creatives, of which I have known a great number for many years, to voice their ideas and concerns, to stand up for their interests and to spotlight their visions. Not only within the creative industry, with congresses, seminars, and our beloved festival, but within society. I hope that my experience as Vice President for many years will help me get accustomed to this duty.
 
LIA: We know that the aim is to "steer the ADC through the time of crisis of the Coronavirus, to give it new strength and a new shine".  How would you achieve these very laudable objectives in the light of how the industry and the world in general have been affected by this adversity?
 
Dörte: Certainly we are in rough times. A lot of creatives, not only but especially freelancers and those involved in events, exhibitions and culture, are suffering from the crisis. On the other hand, I am convinced that creativity is a main property for societies worldwide to master crises, to be resilient and to turn obstacles into opportunities. The ADC will try hard in every way to encourage creative solutions, in all aspects of public life, whether it comes to digitalization, inclusion or creative progress.
 
LIA: One of your focal points for the next two years is to position the ADC as a creative force in Germany.  It encompasses problem solving, innovation for business, society, media, politics and the industry.  Can you please share more on that?
 
Dörte: These are too many points to go into detail here. But to sum it up: What I want to achieve is to make all decision makers even more aware of the fact that the ADC is a valuable hub of knowledge and creativity. We are a unique assembly of creatives, young and old(-ish), male and female, from different areas and different backgrounds. Therein lies a strength that we sometimes seem to overlook in our day-to-day businesses. This sense of having a “superpower creativity” is what I want to reignite in the club, together with every single member. Only then, will we make an even bigger impact.
 
LIA: The ADC Talent Award believes "talent does not have to be innate. It can also be learned".  How does the ADC mentor young creatives?
 
Dörte: When we tell young creatives, that they are talented, then that is a backhanded compliment, don’t you think? Because it also implies that if they don’t make it as a professional it is their own fault. We believe that there are other components in building a successful career as a creative: To be inspired, connected, to have someone to give advice when needed and, frankly speaking, to talk about you and your output.
 
We just renamed our Junior Award to Talent Award to shed more light on our Talent ADC program. All gold winners of the ADC Talent Award are able to use the ADC network and its creative expertise for five years. They can attend all section and faculty meetings, the ADC events and are allowed to be present at the jury sessions. And the best thing about it is that they will give us something back by applying for a membership later – or simply by creating even better creative work that will sooner or later end up in the ADC competition. It’s a win-win really.
 
LIA: Currently, the ADC has over 750 members who come not just from advertising, but more than half are from other disciplines of creative communication.  And there are only 450 jury seats available.  What are the criteria for selecting the jury from those who apply?
 
Dörte: Of course, almost every ADC member wants to share his or her experience in the juries. It’s also great fun, even though discussions can be quite heated. I know that it is the same at LIA and most probably every creative award session. We can have strong opinions, that is what keeps us running right? Haha. That being said, only members of the club can stand for election; the election is secret and free, conducted by our Awards and Jury team – all ADC members can participate. And I’m sure the members decide on the basis of professional qualification and not on personal reasons.
 
LIA: What new initiatives do you intend to launch in 2021?
 
Dörte: When I was younger and one of only a few women at the club, I started the LADC to connect with the other female members, share our experiences and support young women.
 
One of the first initiative I started now as President is to establish a forum to promote women and a female mentorship program. That way, I want to give young female creatives another good reason to get involved with the ADC and to apply for a membership. We will engage ourselves in promoting female creatives with initiatives and develop measures for more diversity. That’s all I can disclose for now.
 
LIA: In order to ensure that 2020 does not become a "lost year", the ADC will be introducing a "Corona Canceled Projects" category in 2021. What are the criteria and how do you prevent scam ads from passing off as a canceled project due to force majeure?
 
Dörte: We really wanted to bring this category to life, because it is an important signal towards every creative who literally lives off the interaction between people. However, it will be required that the project has been developed to production status or already set up when the restrictions came into place. And of course, any documentation will be studied thoroughly by our team and jury.
 
LIA: Winners win Nails. Can you tell us why the trophies are in the form of Nails?
 
Dörte: The ADC Nails are a perfect representation of creative excellence. It is based on a German saying. Literally translated: “You nailed it”. Because eventually, every great idea, every fantastic vision has to be pinned down. And if a project wins, you know you nailed it.
 
LIA: One of the things you love is meeting people.  Who is the most interesting person you have met?
 
Dörte: It is not one person but two: my husband Tobias and my son Bela. Besides loving them eternally I learn a lot from them every day.
 
LIA: On a more personal level, your life partner is the CCO of a top creative agency.  Do you talk about advertising, insights and evaluate work that you both see on the media at home?
 
Dörte: We have an agreement – we never talk about concrete work. Never. Because we are competitors – and always have been from the first day that we met. For the past 20 years this is a good strategy. The proof would be if one would eventually have a similar idea or execution as the other. Thank God this never happened! :-)