An "Egon" for Switzerland

The Chief Marketing Officer of Switzerland Tourism is "Advertiser of the Year 2023". André Hefti prevailed against three top creatives. What drives him, how did the masterful campaigns around Robert de Niro, Roger Federer and Anne Hathaway come about? And what accents does he want to set as advertiser of the year?

(Image: Chris Reist, Illustration: Silvan Borer)

There hasn't been such an exciting race for the Egon in a long time. The jury of experts had already voted, and two favorites had emerged. Then, in a second step, the online voting began. Subscribers to the newsletter can vote for one of the nominees. One vote per subscription. This part of the voting counts, just like the jury evaluation, 50 percent. For a little more than a week the online voting window was open and ... the net almost collapsed (I exaggerate only slightly), so strongly did the nominees mobilize their community. Sign-ups for a newsletter subscription skyrocketed and a breathtaking head-to-head race ensued. In total, more than 800 people cast their votes. When the window closed, the online votes and jury results were tallied using a percentage key that has been in place for years and revealed: Switzerland Tourism's Head of Marketing, André Hefti, wins the voting and is "Advertiser of the Year" 2023.

What is good advertising?

How creative can or must you be as a head of marketing? André Hefti laughs. Without ideas and a clever way of implementing insights, nothing works, says the Advertiser of the Year. Digitalization, he says, is overrated. If everyone pursued insights and creative ideas as intensively as the hype of digitization, some brands could gain a sustainable competitive advantage. In his opinion, creativity will become more important despite digitization, or perhaps because of it. But he thinks the life cycle of even good advertising has become very short. Successfully activating even outstanding advertising over a longer period of time is a challenge, he says. Strategic foresight, focus and the highest standards are required for this.

It is crucial to build communication platforms that can be used in the long term. Many do not have the patience for this. Switzerland Tourism has been doing just that for years. Naturally, in close cooperation with outstanding agencies. But also with the most likeable person in the world. With Roger Federer. "The fact that we were able to win Roger Federer as an ambassador for Switzerland as a travel destination was certainly the best thing my team and I have done in recent years," reflects André Hefti. But also the cooperation with international celebrities like Robert de Niro, Anne Hathaway and Trevor Noah would strengthen the charm of Destination Switzerland.

Who is the man behind the successful marketing measures?

André Hefti grows up in a world without brands. There is no television in the Hefti home, but he knows and senses that there is a world out there waiting to seduce him. This triggers a fascination that he cannot escape. As a student, he applies twice to an advertising agency, but is rejected both times. He has to laugh at the absurdity of reflecting on this now as the reigning "Advertiser of the Year," and adds, "Maybe I'll apply there again now."

Before André Hefti takes up the post of Chief Marketing Officer at Switzerland Tourism in 2018, where he is responsible for global marketing, he is active in various international marketing functions in the consumer goods industry. He is married, the father of three children, and lives with his family in French-speaking Switzerland.

Can the Swiss advertising industry keep up internationally?

Hefti feels that the Swiss advertising industry does not receive enough appreciation on the international stage. For international clients, London, Paris, New York - the usual suspects - still get the nod. Unjustly, says the marketing expert: "They're also just cooking with water."


"You masterfully demonstrate what communication is today".

David Schärer was "Advertiser of the Year 2021/22". In his laudation, he honors the newly crowned winner of the Egon.

"Who would have thought more than thirty years ago, in the playground of the Spiegelfeld schoolhouse near Basel, that we would one day meet again at what is probably the most honorable moment our industry has to offer? That I could hand over the baton to you because you are now "Advertiser of the Year"? I want you to be proud today. Proud of your achievement; proud that with your work - I'll go so far today - you've written advertising history. Because what campaigns are has changed fundamentally in recent years, and the primacy of measurability is often to the detriment of magic. But your work shows how to create a sensation today. Your work for Switzerland Tourism is groundbreaking and a shining example of what modern communication is. Communication that delights the audience and brings results. It is particularly noteworthy that you succeeded in this high-profile, one could say courageous communication in times when it was particularly challenging to promote a destination of all things.

We are living in difficult times, but I will nevertheless allow myself an aphorism from the military: A U.S. general once said that amateurs talk about strategy, but professionals talk about logistics. We all know that paper is patient, especially when it comes to concept papers. The best ideas are nothing if they don't find majorities, and you masterfully forge those majorities in your organization. I can think of hundreds of objections why a campaign with Federer, Hathaway, de Niro and Co. is too big a ladle (we are a modest country after all) and why the message of the campaign is actually a negation. And the best strategy is worth nothing without its implementation. Nelson Mandela's bon mot "It seems impossible until it's done" hangs as a flag in my office. Your campaign is an example of this courage to simply go through with something like this. I am a little envious that you and your esteemed colleagues at Wirz recently succeeded in staging a PR happening out of a film shoot at Zurich's main train station and then not even confirming that it was you. That's a lesson in how to organize hypes. Looking back, it's always difficult to say exactly how great work is created. What's certain is that it takes a great team and a client who is internally convincing, who finds alliances and works closely together to make the campaign better and better so that its message can work. You have succeeded brilliantly in this with your work. You can be proud of the coups in the last five years, which is why you are the absolutely deserved "Advertiser of the Year".

As a tourist, you also live in one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. I hope that you will succeed in making the title of advertiser more prominent in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Take this opportunity to raise the profile of our profession and inspire young people to take up this profession. My warmest congratulations to you, dear André."

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