Jan Kempter: "Advertisers solve problems with the power of ideas"

His creative campaigns have won numerous awards. Now Jan Kempter, Creative Director at the Wirz agency, has been nominated for the title of "Advertiser of the Year" 2024. In an interview with m&k Werbewoche.ch, the Graubünden native talks about his inspirations, challenges and the future of the advertising industry.

(Image: m&k Werbewoche.ch/Beat Hürlimann)

m&k Werbewoche.ch: Jan Kempter, congratulations on your nomination! Why do you think you are among the three nominees?

Jan Kempter: Thank you so much! I was equal parts gobsmacked and quite proud when I found out. The reasons: I've been lucky enough to be in the spotlight recently with work that has not only won many creative awards, but has also made a difference commercially. And perhaps the nomination is also a bit of a tribute to the last few years in which I - always together in a team with great people - have delivered consistently good work.


Their creative vision has achieved impressive results, not only with the "Migros beer"but also with other campaigns. Which project from 2023 has inspired or challenged you personally the most?

One highlight was certainly our Film project for Switzerland Tourism with Roger Federer and Trevor Noah. Shooting with two superstars at Zurich main station was very exciting, but also incredibly stressful. But the extra gray hair was worth it when you see how well the finished film was received internationally. Another challenge was the Migros Christmas campaign. Finn the Christmas elf kept us on our toes for a large part of the year. We were also able to implement some exciting projects for Graubünden Ferien and the Graubünden nature metropolis. It was a busy year.

As Creative Director at Wirz, you serve a wide range of clients. What role does diversity and variety play in your work, and how do you manage to channel your creative energy into different projects at the same time?

Even if you might not think it - and I sometimes curse about the workload - having different projects at the same time encourages creativity. By constantly having to face new tasks mentally, neither routine nor monotony can set in and you stay fresher. This also has an effect on your ideas.


You have now been smoke-free for over a year. What is your next personal milestone?

Incidentally, in a month's time I will have been smoke-free for two years. Next, I want to write the screenplay for a feature film. Or at least try to.


As a 13-year-old, you believed in the seductive effect of Axe deodorant, inspired by the advertising of the time. How seductive should or should advertising still be today?

The ad in question was - by today's standards - pretty sexist, but it did one thing very well: Namely, it told an insight in a surprising, humorous and therefore convincing way for me at the time. If you can do that, advertising still works just as well today. If you mean "seductive" in the sense of stirring up unrealistic expectations; it's better not to do that. Today's 13-year-olds have become far too critical of advertising and advertising messages for that. Fortunately.


How do you incorporate important topics such as sustainability and inclusion into your advertising?

These are indeed important topics, but you can also do a lot of things wrong. There is no one-size-fits-all answer as to how to do it right. But the best way is always an open and self-critical exchange with everyone involved: client, agency and production partner. By the way, we have created the Wirz Competence Center for Sustainability launched.


How do you explain to a child what you do as an advertiser?

Imagine you have your own store where you sell ice cream. My job as an advertiser is to make sure that the whole world knows how great your ice cream store is and that everyone wants to try your ice cream. I do this, for example, with interesting stories, beautiful pictures or a sophisticated social media strategy. I'll tell you what a social media strategy is next time. And now off to bed with you.


Your work is internationally recognized, especially through awards such as a bronze Cannes Lion for "The Migros Beer". How does it feel to present your work on such a global stage and how do you think this will influence your future work?

The recognition abroad is a wonderful acknowledgement that makes us all very proud! We were particularly pleased about the beer awards because we weren't sure whether the campaign would be understood by an international jury, as Migros is somewhat complex to understand with its cooperative structures, voting and lack of alcohol. But fortunately our concerns were unfounded. The awards affect my future work in that I am under a bit of pressure to produce another such successful piece of work soon. Unfortunately, in our industry, you can't rest on your laurels for too long.


The advertising industry is constantly changing, especially with the advent of technologies such as artificial intelligence. How do you plan to maintain your creative vision and human perspective in an increasingly technology-driven environment?

I try to maintain a healthy balance: I am excited about the new technologies with all their possibilities and experiment, but I retain a certain skepticism. Artificial intelligence is probably not the panacea for all problems that it is sometimes touted to be. And the human perspective remains essential in my opinion. In advertising, our goal is to touch people in one way or another. I think it will be some time before a machine can do this better than an empathetic human being. However, the pace of technological development is so dizzying at the moment that I may be proven wrong tomorrow. In any case, it remains exciting.


You have certainly experienced some highs and lows in your career. What was your personal key moment that made you who you are today?

Key moment would be an exaggeration, but my first visit to an ADC gala as a junior copywriter at least triggered something in me. Back then, I saw the award-winning work and thought with youthful arrogance: "I can do that too! And better!" A few more years passed before I was allowed to stand on stage for a piece of work. But my ambition was awakened.


What role do you think humor plays in advertising and in the work environment?

Humor in advertising is a wonderful way to evoke positive emotions and thus burn itself into the viewer's memory. However, this does not mean that advertising must necessarily be humorous. In the working environment, on the other hand, it is important that people laugh often and a lot. Where there is no fun, there are no good ideas.


Are you looking to the future of advertising, what changes do you expect and how is your agency preparing for them?

I'm not a very good oracle, but I'll give it a try. We've already talked about artificial intelligence. It will continue to keep us on our toes and shake things up. We have a task force at the agency that is constantly looking at which tools we can and should incorporate into our work processes. In terms of content, all the ESG topics will certainly become even more relevant. To be prepared for this, we at Wirz have set up the sustainability center I mentioned earlier. And then I think that target groups will become even more fragmented in future and therefore even more difficult to reach. The best way to prepare for this is to create outstanding communication that cannot be missed.


As "Advertiser of the Year", you would represent the industry to the outside world. How would you like to contribute to conveying a positive image - and what would be your core concern?

I think I would argue that we can achieve more than "just" creating funny advertising campaigns. We solve problems with the power of ideas. This should give companies an understanding of the value of ideas and encourage us to stand up with a little more self-confidence. Because if we do our job well, we can make a very, very big difference.


If you could be an advertising face for one product, which product would it be?

I have my doubts as to whether I would have a sales-boosting effect as an advertising face, but perhaps for some stylish Icelandic outdoor brand. Why? Because then hopefully there would be a photo shoot in the Icelandic wilderness and I could finally go to Iceland again. If in doubt, a Scandinavian brand would also be okay if there is an interested outdoor brand manager reading here.


In conclusion: What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would say to my younger self: "Keep doing what you're doing, because you're well on your way to being nominated for Advertiser of the Year." Seriously, one piece of advice I would give myself would be to call for a little more composure: "Everything always works out in the end. Most of the time, that is."

About Jan Kempter

Jan Kempter, Creative Director at Wirz and nominated for "Advertiser of the Year" for the first time in 2024, led the successful "Migros Beer" campaign, which won the ADC Grand Prix in 2023 as well as gold at the Eurobest Awards and a bronze at Cannes Lions. The campaign also won gold at Edi.23. Another highlight was the story "The Ride of a Lifetime" with Trevor Noah and Roger Federer for Switzerland Tourism, which won gold at Edi.23 and made headlines around the world.

Kempter was born under the zodiac sign of Capricorn, fitting for a man from Graubünden, obtained a certificate for being smoke-free in 2023 and claims to cook the best spaghetti carbonara in the world. His career in advertising began rather accidentally through a copywriting competition for toothpaste. As a 13-year-old, he was already convinced of the seductive effect of Axe deodorant thanks to the advertising at the time. For him, advertising is the best job in the world, although the thought of leaving the madness is always present.

Jan doesn't like 30-second YouTube prerolls and recognizes the potential of an idea when a feeling of euphoria flows through him as he writes it down. He thinks personalized advertising is overrated and when he sees an advertisement he created on the street, he wonders why people don't take photos of it and post them on Instagram with the hashtag WOW.

Selected works

The exclusive "voting beer" from Migros; one with, one without alcohol.

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