In the arrivals area of the Tegel airport in Berlin hangs a cheeky outdoor advertisement from Huawei. Translated loosely from German, the ad copy reads: "What will be more widespread in Berlin: 5G or dog shit?"
Despite the question's insinuations, both are valid concerns. This question arises amid a possible delay in Berlin's first auction of 5G (fifth-generation) mobile licences slated for January 2019 if network operators are required to offer roaming in rural areas as part of the auction conditions.
4G mobile phone and wireless broadband coverage in rural areas are currently patchy; Germany is already behind its rivals in the high-stakes 5G race.
As for the doggie doo, the extent of canines being allowed to desecrate the German streets have resulted in vigilantes placing poisoned food in the walking paths of the pups, anti-poo campaigners gathering 250kg of excrement and hanging it from a statue in protest, and local councils imposing fines of up to €35 on dog owners who do not clean up after their pets.
The ad copy is a creative slant leveraging the two complaints, even if the visual is a stock photo. Cologne-based creative agency Palmer Hargreaves was behind the entire campaign.
The taunt, part of a campaign titled ‘Huaweiterdenken’ (a compound word translatable as 'Thinking ahead with Huawei'), costs more than €70,000 (US$79,520), according to the Bild publication. Shenzhen-based Huawei supplies smartphones and also equips network operators Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland.
While locals say the number of faeces landmines has decreased over the years, the development of the 5G standard in Germany is not making progress, according to some. So far only one trial, involving approximately 100 households, has taken place, prompting German senator Ramona Pop to comment the Huawei poster should be hung in front of the door to the federal government offices because "they are messing up the 5G auction" (German article here).
Who better to ask than locals? "That´s a fact," agreed two marketing managers of Lewis Germany, Niklas Jung and Ivonne Schmeling. "People keep getting angry in the countryside parts of Germany", where cellular coverage is sparse and they're forced to search for WiFi spots, Jung and Schmeling told Campaign China.
Jackie Zhang, managing director for Greater China at Lewis Communications, considered Huawei’s ad, provocative as it seems, "successful".
"It is important to understand the background—Berlin’s serious backwardness of 5G expansion and the dissatisfaction of Berliners," he said. "While the mention of dog waste comes off as insulting at first glance, it is an appeal on behalf of the people. It is a pain point that gained wide recognition and gives the brand the opportunity to push for further development of its infrastructure. Huawei can even be regarded pushing for social responsibility."
The way the ad is presented works for the German audience, added Jung and Schmeling, as it picks up the existing politics-laced discussion about 5G and gives it a funny dimension.
"As Germans, we like the way Huawei makes fun of our network 'failures'. Germany itself says it wants to be a forerunner in the digitisation of mobile telephony worldwide but is not able to expand our own country's network."