A PR mission impossible: Cool Germania

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FROM IMRE KARACS in Bonn

GERMANY needs a new flag, with a blue stripe instead of that depressing black. Who says so? British public relations consultants Wolff Olins. The firm that credits itself with inventing "Cool Britannia" is going to give the Germans an image makeover. Cool Germania, here we come.

Commissioned by the German television channel ZDF, Wolff Olins researched attitudes to Germany for three years, and concluded that the country needed a relaunch. "The image of Germany is based on old stereotypes which do not express the contemporary reality," it says. Its glossy brochure claims, instead, that "Germany is an exciting and surprising country that is young, relaxed and happy, and offers more than perfect cars and well-regulated everyday life".

It is quite a tall order, as the firm's representative, Jocelyn Senior, admits. "We found most people who have never visited Germany view [it] from a historical perspective through figures like Bismarck and Hitler." Modern Germany, with an equally unflattering image, is the "land of the bland where everything is planned".

Wolff Olins' new flag - binning the black, which stands for death and Nazism - would include blue for Europe, and DE for "Deutschland, Europa".

It may say a lot for German courage that ZDF entrusted a British firm with the sensitive job of national psychoanalysis. Germany's poor image may be unjustified, but it was hard to refute all the stereotypes. In fact, the brochure boasts: "There are more nudist communities in Germany than anywhere else in the world."

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