He is popularly known as the "Oprah Winfrey of German Television", and has a formidable reputation as a German television and radio personality of immense stature, in a career spanning over three decades.

By Anupama V. Chand

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Published: Mon 7 Jun 2004, 3:22 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:47 AM

Fritz Egner, whose popular television show, "The Funniest TV Commercials in the World" has over the last eight years generated considerable attention for its selection of TV advertising that makes the biggest impact, was all praise for Dubai, when he spoke to City Times, during his recent stopover in the city.

"Dubai is a city that has a great infrastructure, some ultra-modern and fabulous buildings, and I was absolutely overwhelmed when I first visited Dubai some two years ago, and taken completely by surprise because I didn't know what to expect... since then I have made several personal visits, invested in property here, and even convinced my friends back home to come and look the place over with me, taking a great pride in helping them discover that this is not the average Middle Eastern country they would expect to find," Egner said.

He also lauded the fact that Dubai society gave the impression of being open, flexible to adaptation and change, and yet true to Islamic traditions, without hurting religious sentiment, and that so many nationalities lived and worked together in relative harmony.

He pointed out that he was in Dubai this time to film about 10 to 13 instalments of his "Best Television Commercials of the World" programme for German TV Station's Sat 1 channel, with 60 per cent of the programme being shot on location, following which he would fly to New York to complete post-production work.

The team from Creative Media Production GmbH, Munich, is working from the Grand Hyatt, which provides for some good backdrops, and will also be working from Emirates Towers, Burj Al Arab, Mina Al Salam, and Shangri-la Dubai. The programme, by CMP, is considered one of the highlights of German television, notching up some of the highest television rating points, and also serving over the last eight years, as a reliable yardstick to measure quality television spot ads.

Fritz Egner is happy that his programme, in some indirect way, contributes to the dialogue of cultures, helping people in Europe and America, better understand the Middle East, which they essentially know about from the images of aggression that emanate from here.

Egner said that the TV show, which was first filmed indoors within a studio setting, had subsequently, about five years ago, moved outdoors to different locations in Europe, Lebanon, Dubai etc., which he believes has rejuvenated it with a new lease.

"I am also trying to assess how television advertising in the Gulf works, and how it is different from places like Europe," said the Munich-based Egner, who said Arab television advertising showed promising signs, needing only to be careful that instead of blind imitation of its European counterparts, it remained a truthful representation of its culture.

"I think we have gone too far in Europe using semi-naked women in excess to sell products, operating under the premise that 'sex sells'. But I think it is time we stopped, took stock and went back to thinking of advertising a product, without resorting to such exposure for the sake of exposure," he said.

About whether Arab advertising would lose out on an international level, due to its traditional restrictions, he said this was not an issue, and that within two years a lot had changed on the media scene in the city, with a great deal more objective reporting taking place within, which was also reflected in the city's image as projected by the European newspapers and media.

Television commercials, to be effective, have to be high selling and pack a punch, with humorous commercials often suffering a lack of brand recall, he said.

"You often find companies that are well-established are the ones that take a risk and try humorous commercials, new and upcoming companies cannot afford the luxury, and would rather try to sell their product first,” he chuckled.

And which is his favourite commercial of all time?

"A little difficult to explain perhaps, it is so visual. It was a spot trying to promote the need for environmental conservation, and showed several naked behinds seated on a bench...then one of them gets up, and the sign-off read -'how long will it be till you get off your backside and do something for the environment?' - so memorable and yet so simple!" he recalled with a smile, adding that he actually had to look at thousands of commercials in the course of his job, making recollection rather difficult!

Humour again could differ from region to region, what was perceived as funny in Britain, need not be so in Italy, while the Arabs and the Africans might employ different kinds of humour to get the message across, he said. He commented that although America had not had any good advertising in decades, the scenario was suddenly changing with some really creative work emerging from there of late. He also had a good word for the Indian advertising industry, pointing out that several ads managed to combine humour and effective selling, motivated he felt, perhaps, by the Indian film industry!

Chuckling at being equated to the Queen of Talk, Winfrey, Egner said: "No, I don't really love to talk, so I don't think there are great similarities!"

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