By Michael Meyer, Partner and Creative Director
When I switched on the TV on 11th April and watched the national news – the butterflies came back; that fluttering feeling in my stomach and the lingering sense of amazement at what happened on NASA’s Apollo 13 mission in 1970. It was only a short story about a mission – an event – but the essence of which has inspired our agency ever since it was founded 12 years ago. We had just been planning our LinkedIn content as a fitting tribute to mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13 mission, and that live moment at the end of the news at 20:12 on Saturday evening still managed to move me. It took me back to the heart of the moment – when the astronauts Fred Haise, Jack Swigert and their commander Jim Lovell finally returned safely to earth.
It stirred the same emotions as those I felt in 1995 when the film Apollo 13 was released . Despite the sweltering summer heat, I managed to talk my sister into going to the cinema with me. Few films, this one being a true story of a NASA mission, have ever fascinated and enthralled me as much before or since.
Seven years later, the ‘Apollo 13’ movie aired on TV and I was enthralled all over again. Wouldn’t some of the analogies from the film be perfect for the corporate philosophy of an advertising agency?
Perpetual communication, absolute mutual trust, genuine and active team spirit, acute awareness of resources and, not least, the unstoppable momentum and power of a brilliant idea.
In 2002, I was still with Jung von Matt and couldn’t really see any way of implementing this idea, but what I did already know was that I wanted to launch my own agency one day – with the very best advisor right beside me. I was absolutely obsessed with the principles of a story that would guide my agency; an agency that didn’t even exist. I was so convinced it was the story that I was prepared to base my decisions – about the right people to establish a company with – on their willingness to believe in the power of that story.
In 2004, after my time with Jung von Matt, I returned home to Munich to work as a freelancer. As it turned out I spent more time in Hamburg, Berlin and Düsseldorf than I had intended. My actual objective had been to spend a lot more time in Munich and to ‘sleep at home’ – rather than getting up at 06:30 to fly back to Hamburg. Fortunately, later on there was also plenty of work in Munich, too.
Then, as luck would have it, in 2007 I met a former client at BMW again, Virginie Briand. Back then we and our respective teams had cooperated on the international market launch of the BMW 1. I had been with Jung von Matt working for Jean-Remy and Deneke, and Virginie had represented BMW. We were greatly appreciative of one another’s work, but – as is expected in a business environment with a respectable automobile manufacturer like BMW – our interaction was formal, and we had always been on last-name terms. Later, I was booked by the agency that Virginie worked for after moving from BMW, and a joint project brought us together once again. I remember, we still addressed each other with the formal ‘Sie’ word for the first 30 minutes. That didn’t last very long. The immense pleasure, passion and enthusiasm we had shared working on two BMW/Jung von Matt projects was soon revived. Just a few weeks later we made the bold decision to become self-employed – as soon as possible. And at the back end of summer 2007 it was no sooner said than done.
We were fairly sure early on that 1) we didn’t want the agency to be named after a collection of surnames – regardless of the order, and 2) we needed a powerful philosophy; one that would guide us to perfection within and sell us to the world outside. Everything had to be smart, unique and memorable.
This was the big moment; and for me the inevitable test of whether I had chosen the right partner. I suggested the idea of Apollo 13. Virginie and our original associate Florian Scherzer both loved it. Virginie in particular. OK, I thought – that’s a good start! In the euphoria of the moment the first few hundred Euros we invested didn’t go on laptops or office inventory. We used them to create original Apollo 13 merchandise. We felt increasingly sure we’d found the right story for our business with every parcel that arrived from the US.
Now we had a story that provided an endless supply of ideas and inspiration for our corporate philosophy. But even then – we still didn’t have a definitive name! Apollo13 Werbeagentur was the pre-launch running favourite, but it had to be aborted for reasons of legal uncertainty – and because it still didn’t quite light up the skies.
At the time we were preparing to establish the company I was still freelancing. Every second outside of work, and sometimes during working hours, was spent on the quest to find the right name. I came across the Wikipedia entry for Apollo 13 again and again (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_13). Towards the end, I began to take note of the mission launch time: 19:13:00 GMT. Then I knew I had it: 19:13!
I called the team back in Munich full of exuberance. After 1 or 2 seconds we knew we had our name. Virginie was equally as enthusiastic. Although Florian had already decided he wasn’t ready to risk the responsibilities of his own agency at that point in time, he proved his loyalty by immediately setting to work on the design of our wonderful logo; the one we still use to this day, and the one which catches the eye on the front page of every single presentation we give.
We knew we had the perfect philosophy and an ideal name to go with it after our first meetings with clients and prospective customers. “Why 19:13?” was a question that came up almost every time.
I would like to seize this opportunity to thank the team members that were there at the very beginning: Florian Scherzer, and particularly Johannes Orgzall, who joined a little later, but who shaped the output of our Art Direction for many years. Thanks to both of you!
Above all, my greatest debt of gratitude is to my wonderful co-founder, Virginie Briand, who I’ve known for almost 20 years, and with whom I have had the pleasure of managing 19:13 and our magnificent team for over 12 years. It’s just as much fun as it was back then and we’re as close as we ever were.
I can say it now; I would have founded a company with Virginie even if we’d based the story around Tom and Jerry. But don’t tell anyone. It’s even better the way it is. Cheers Virginie!