In 2016, the copyright for Hitler's 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf expired, giving publishers free access to the text and raising concerns that the title would experience a surge in interest. So Ogilvy Germany planned the ultimate response – publishing a 'counter-book' that told the stories of eleven individuals and their struggle against racism.
“There was no concrete brief,” explains Tim Stübane, Managing Director at the agency. “It was more about seeing what's happening more and more in the world, especially Europe. We recognised that there's a shift to right wing tendencies, so the idea was if you have Mein Kampf in a book store, you should also have Mein Kampf Against Racism close by. We thought it would be good to have not just one book, but a flood of books – a lot of warriors against racism.”
The agency put together a group of eleven people, each with stories to tell about their own experience of racism – a man that stood up to nazis, a woman that removes nazi graffiti and a pro-refugee German mayor, amongst others. Part of the PR strategy was to feature people from across Germany, with the hope that regional press would have some extra incentive to share the story.
The book's cover follows the same visual language as previous editions, using blackletter and a red stripe across portrait photography. A limited number of special edition books were also sent out, with an extra Hitler dust jacket that needed to be torn off to reveal the real cover underneath.
Getting this reinvented version of Mein Kampf into book stores wasn't easy. The agency needed a publishing partner to establish credibility and help oversee the process, but many publishers were unsure about how many readers would be happy to be seen reading the book, or displaying it on their shelves.
Eventually, Ogilvy Germany teamed up with Europa Verlag, which was originally founded to provide a forum for persecuted authors and banned manuscripts. The agency found their second parter in Gesicht Zeigen – an organisation that encourages people to take action against racism. The partnership had particular resonance for Stübane, who'd worked with a team of students to design Gesicht Zeigen's logo while still a student.
The response to the reimagined Mein Kampf was instant, covered in press around the world and going above and beyond both Ogilvy Germany and Gesicht Zeigen's expectations.
“I'm a fan of provocative ideas like this, and not just for NGOs,” says Stübane. “You try to be spectacular as often as possible, but most of the time your'e very limited. Here I felt if we did it exactly the way we wanted, the effect would be fantastic.”