The federal government calls on the population to stay at home as much as possible in order to reduce contacts. Sometimes she does it very seriously, for example in health ministerial press conferences or chancellor podcasts. Above all, the government is trying to convince the younger part of Germans to stay away from home with commercials. Under the title “Special Heroes”, the campaign was broadcast online in mid-November. In the videos, older people look back on the Corona winter 2020 from a distant future and tell how they fought the second wave as young people – in which they did absolutely nothing. We “were lazy like raccoons,” it says in one of the spots. The reactions are divided. On the one hand, there was sharp criticism of the flippant tone of voice on a serious problem, on the other hand, the federal government is praised for its surprising speech, and the spots spread faster than expected. The production company of Joko Winterscheidt and Klaas Heufer-Umlauf, better known as “Joko & Klaas”, is behind the campaign.
SZ: Mr. Heufer-Umlauf, by no means all Germans seem to find it funny that the federal government has recently tried to advertise its Corona measures with humor.
Klaas Heufer-Umlauf: Humor is always very individual. You can’t force anyone to find this or that funny. Just because someone doesn’t exactly share this sense of humor doesn’t mean they don’t have one.
In the chorus of critics there are also historians who find the game with the motif “Grandpa talks about his heroic deeds in the war” strange.
Things are drawn into it that are really not there. Somebody simply talks about a challenge from the past that has now been overcome. The bite reflex when the sender is the federal government is remarkable. But that attracts a certain amount of attention, and that has its good points.
The campaign doesn’t have to worry about attention. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recommended you on Twitter, and the British BBC is suddenly jealous of the Germans’ humor.
Nice. Then they clearly realized that this funny mood can also be understood as cautious optimism. If we’re all in a good mood and we don’t have a pandemic, then it’s very easy to add a sense of humor. But above all, humor is what you do when it doesn’t seem that funny.
Don’t you have to take Corona seriously?
Of course, you have to take Corona seriously. We are in a very special situation, but that may also require different political communication. An address with which you accept that you might have to take something away. But with which you create an eye level and a closeness to people who otherwise do not exist.
As a rule, politics is criticized not for its cocky language, but for its overly cautious language.
Often rightly so. You are really amazed when suddenly a politician speaks in such a way that it doesn’t sound like he’s asking for a PDF. Then you immediately think: there is a person! A person can take me seriously. But a person can also have a sense of humor, for example.
But that can also go wrong.
But it is not a solution if politics by sheer fear of a discourse in platitudes or commonplace talk past people. It also happens that parties use words like “justice” to march into election campaigns. What should you say? Look, now it’s evidently about justice lately here in Germany.
What’s So Wrong With Justice?
Nothing, absolutely nothing. That is completely invulnerable and risk-free. Nobody can say anything against that. However, it does not reveal anything about the concrete political statement or intention. As a citizen, I always know that justice has always been the goal. So what was I being told here anyway?
How did you convince the Chancellor that the joke of the campaign is worth taking in too?
We didn’t run to sell something to the government that it actually doesn’t want. It was a joint decision.
Explain again for everyone who did not understand the idea behind the campaign.
We haven’t thought so much about how to kick as many people as possible in the shins. It’s about how you can donate a little bit of hope without actually knowing how it all ends with this pandemic. We therefore open up the story that it will be over at some point and that we will then have contributed massively to ensuring that it passed, namely by foregoing unnecessary contacts. That will probably have been part of the truth one day, if we stick to it. But that is only a very small piece of the mosaic of the entire government communication in this crisis. Specifically, the aim is to motivate those who have the opportunity to forego certain unnecessary contacts to do so, as this will make the lives of those who do not have this opportunity safer. Staying at home these days also means taking responsibility for those who cannot stay at home. But of course our spots are much louder than, for example, a prevention campaign by the health department. Because, of course, we have to rumble a lot more in our young target group to get it across.