Establishing a Werbeagentur: How to open your own advertising agency in Germany

updated on 14. February 2019 15 minutes reading time

Want to establish an advertising agency (Werbeagentur) in Germany? Successfully setting up your own agency in the German advertising industry requires thorough preparation, which inevitably will involve navigating your way through German bureaucracy!

We’ve created this comprehensive roadmap to get you to your goal of starting an advertising agency in Germany!

Positioning: An advertising agency with a unique selling point

What kind of advertising agency do you want to establish? Whether your bread and butter is marketing, content, branding or web design, nobody can cover all facets of the advertising industry. Particularly in this sector where competition is so intense and varied, it’s important to define your own niche. Your business idea should be unique and must be formulated and communicated accordingly. Start with the rough concept and work your way into the details. The following key questions will help you. Add your own questions and formulate your individual business model.

Core business: What’s the core business of your agency? What are your competencies?
Services/products: Which additional services do you offer?
Target group: Who are typical clients for your agency services? What needs do you cover?
Catchment area: In which sector do you want to actively recruit clients?

Partners and cooperation: Who can help you enter the market?
Human resources: What does an ideal set-up for your advertising agency look like?
Knowledge: What kind of know-how is available how can it be added through new hires?
USP: Which unique services do you offer your advertising agency’s clients? Does your corporate design reflect this unique selling point?
Marketing and sales: How can you win and retain customers?

In the second step, you should position your own advertising agency on the existing market. A comprehensive analysis of the competition is a prerequisite.

Competition: Which competitors are currently on the market? Which characteristics can you recognise? How do clients perceive your competing advertising agencies and their services?
Look for open spaces: Where are there niches to place yourself on the market with a new advertising agency?
Needs: Where is there an unmet demand for your desired target group?
Distinction: How do you differentiate yourself from other advertising agencies on the market?
Perception: How do you communicate the market niche of your advertising agency? Which emotions do you want to create?

Choose a legal form: The legal basis for your successful path to your Werbeagentur

As a founder of a new business, you must decide which legal form you would like to use. For advertising agencies, the UG (haftungsbeschränkt), GmbH or GbR legal forms are the most frequent choices. When opening an advertising agency, you could also think about establishing a sole proprietorship. Be aware that the individual legal forms also differ from a tax perspective.

Here’s a brief overview of the common legal forms that are suitable if you’re setting up an advertising agency:

Forming an advertising agency as a UG (haftungsbeschränkt)

The UG (haftungsbeschränkt) stands for Unternehmergesellschaft (haftungsbeschränkt) – in English, entrepreneurial company (limited liability) – is a special form of GmbH. It’s particularly suitable for advertising agency founders who want to set up a limited liability company with little start-up capital.

Advantages: A UG only requires a share capital of just €1, which means the total formation costs are lower than those of a GmbH.

Liability: A UG has limited liability. That means that partners are generally liable exclusively with the company’s assets and not with their own private assets.

Forming an advertising agency as a GmbH

The shareholders of a GmbH, or limited liability company, are required to invest a total share capital of €25,000.

Benefits: The GmbH is a very popular and highly regarded form of enterprise, in Germany and also abroad.

Liability: The partners do not assume any personal liability, but are liable with the company’s assets.

Establishing an advertising agency as a sole proprietorship

The sole proprietorship is the simplest form of company form with easy registration and no accounting obligation.

Advantages: No capital contribution is required.

Liability: Careful, the sole proprietor is also liable with his or her private assets.

Establishing an advertising agency as GbR

The GbR, or partnership under civil law, is a variant of the partnership in which all partners are also managing directors (Geschäftsführer).

Advantages: There are no minimum capital or notary requirements.

Liability: The partners are also liable with their private assets.

You do not know which legal form you is best for your business?
Arrange a free initial consultation
with our experts now and let us advise you on your options.

Generally speaking, all German legal forms are available to you. The choice of the appropriate legal form for your company depends on many individual factors. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Founder experts, tax consultants and lawyers offer support for founders in every industry.

Checklist: Where do I have to register my advertising agency?

You can only really get started as the self-employed owner of an advertising agency once your founding phase has reached the major milestones. Here you will find the most important stops at public authorities and insurance companies as a guide.

Register as an advertising agency

Regardless of the legal form (Rechtsform) you have chosen, you must register at the trade office (Gewerbeamt) responsible for your company headquarters.

If you get the green light from the trade office, the tax office (Steueramt) will automatically contact you for tax registration. As soon as your documents have been reviewed and checked by the tax office, you will receive your tax number (Steuernummer) and may issue invoices.

Business registration in Berlin (download form)
Business registration in Hamburg (download form)
Business registration in Munich (download form)
Business registration in Cologne (download form)
Business registration in Frankfurt (download form)


Commercial register entry for advertising agencies

As a public register, the commercial register (Handelsregister) documents the registered merchants in the area of a competent register court (Handelsgericht). The GmbH and UG legal forms must be entered in the Handelsregister.

Membership in the Chamber of Industry and Commerce

If you establish an advertising agency, membership of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK) responsible for you is compulsory. Like the tax office, the IHK will be informed by the trade office about your establishment and will then contact you.

Trade association for advertising agencies

Trade associations (Berufsgenossenschaften) are the providers of statutory social accident insurance (gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung) for companies and their employees. Be sure to take the initiative to register with the administrative professions organisation (Verwaltungs-Berufsgenossenschaft – VBG).
Even as a small business owner without a staff, you are obliged to register with your relevant trade association.
If you have any questions concerning employers’ liability insurance, the German Social Accident Insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung – DGUV) can help you by calling 0800 60 50 40 4.

Federal associations for the advertising industry

As the owner of an advertising agency, we recommend that you become a member of a specialised association that represents your interests and those of the industry nationwide. For advertising and marketing agencies, this is the General Association of Communications Agencies (Gesamtverband Kommunikationsagenturen – GWA), the Central Association of the German Advertising Industry (Zentralverband der deutschen Werbewirtschaft – ZAW) or the German Association for Digital Economy (Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft – BVDW).

Opening an advertising agency: Qualifications and requirements

Classic advertising agencies are included in the creative industry. There are no professional requirements that you as a founder have to meet. However, professional experience is absolutely essential in order to gain a foothold in a competitive industry. Regardless of whether you yourself are in the advertising industry or have a career in a related sector: your skills are central to the success of your advertising agency. Your original discipline is secondary if project management, sales and marketing are your areas of expertise.

As an independent agency owner, you are commercially active and thus responsible for all financial and personnel decisions. In addition to industry knowledge, entrepreneurial knowledge is also essential. Accounting, legal, management and personnel management are areas in which you should acquire comprehensive knowledge through further training.

Costs: Opening an advertising agency with financial planning

Every business start-up should be based on a detailed business plan. After all, thorough financial planning is the pillar on which your successful start into self-employment stands. So take your time to include all relevant cost points in your business plan for your establish your agency. Based on this calculation, you can begin the cost forecast for your first fiscal year.

You can use the following list as a guide:

  • Formation costs (consultation, official fees)
  • Acquisition costs (office equipment, technical equipment, software and IT, office supplies)
  • Costs for a website (web design, domain, content, ads)
  • Costs for advertising material and customer acquisition
  • Ongoing operating costs (e.g. rental costs for offices, electricity and heating costs, software and IT services, accounting)
  • Staff costs for your employees
  • Taxes
  • Insurance (trade insurance, social insurance, professional indemnity insurance, trade association fees)
  • IHK fees
  • Financial reserves

The costs you have to cover will also determine your rate. Calculate how much your agency’s services cost to make it viable as a business and start selling them as soon as your advertising agency is operational.

Staff: Success starts with recruiting

Your goal is to establish a marketing agency with sustainable success. Not to be neglected is the right composition of your team. Media designers will likely only make up a small part of your staff. These professions and fields of activity are usually found in an advertising agency:

  • Sales and account management
  • Design/graphic design
  • Marketing (print/online)
  • Business development
  • Accounting and office management
  • Staff
  • Content creation/copywriters
  • Photography/photo design
  • IT and web design

Freelancers are common in the industry. Be aware that you may have to make contributions to the Artists’ Social Fund (Künstlersozialkasse) if you employ artists (photographers, publicists, designers). Use Germany-based, industry-relevant job portals such as werbeagenturjobs.de to find experienced applicants.

Offering career opportunities

The advertising industry is a fast-moving business. The employment of interns, contract work on a freelance basis and a high degree of fluctuation are common practice. Therefore, keeping a good team together is a discipline to be mastered. In addition to fair salary payments, consistent further training is an opportunity to maintain a functioning team.

Any more questions? The IHK Berlin offers a comprehensive Guidebook (in German). You can also read our How to Open Your Own Agency guide.

Which legal form works best for you?
firma.de can find you the right expert to advise you on your business idea.

The information published on our site is all written and checked by experts with the greatest care. Nevertheless, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information, as laws and regulations are subject to constant change. Therefore, always consult an expert in a specific case – we would be happy to connect you with the right professional.

firma.de assumes no liability for damages caused by errors in the texts.

 

 

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