Fifty-five. A few humble words on the death of Stefan Kolle.

Yesterday morning, I was thinking, damn, I didn’t have time to write my third week report about Georgia.


Today, I don’t feel like writing it anymore. Because yesterday, Stefan Kolle died. For those who don’t know the name – Stefan was the founder of one of the most respected and most creative advertising agencies in Germany. But even more than that, he was a really great guy. And I don’t really say that about a lot of advertising people.

What pisses me off most – and I simply don’t find another way of phrasing this – is that the man left us when he was 55. Fifty-five. It’s completely impossible for me to ignore this and simply express my shock, horror, and disbelief. The simple reason for this: That’s exactly what I am. Fifty-five.

I could go on for pages, writing about what I liked about Stefan, but you only have to read the web pages of the German advertising magazines to understand that he wasn’t just some ad guy that died too early.

What I would rather like to do is just stop for a moment and think. Reflect. Focus.

First of all: The man was anything but the live-fast-die-young kind of advertising guy that would rush through his life and ruin it quickly on the way. On the contrary. Stefan was known to love Yoga, even gave his employees a chance to practice it. He loved to go to Ibiza – not to go wild in one of the clubs, but to come to rest, relax, recharge.

So – this horrible loss of life is not a reminder to live a healthy life. He did that, because you have to, if you work as hard as he did. No. It’s much more a reminder to make sure that there is enough joy in your life. Happiness. Laughter. And love.

Because no matter how healthy you live, no matter how much you make an effort to balance work and life in a sensible way – you could be sipping your morning tea one minute, and be gone the next one. Just like that.

And you should be doing what you should be doing, not something that you think you need to be doing for whatever monetary reason. You don’t like what you’re doing? Well, do something about it. Because you don’t want to die doing something that you hate doing.

As much as I have been shocked by the death of Stefan Kolle, I am at least a little relieved that I can say that am spending my workdays on something that gives me joy, something that I love doing.

It’s what Stefan did. In a way that most people in our industry are not capable of. Let’s just be honest for one sad day – advertising isn’t exactly filled with people that are humble, kind, cultured, and caring.

Stefan Kolle was the rare proof that you can be an advertising star without all of the shallow vanity, profane self-centeredness, and loud-mouthed bullishness that so many in our industry seem to think they need to develop in order to be successful.

His loss is, as a consequence, a loss of class, dignity, and kindness, not just in advertising. And I can only hope that his legacy will not just be a great and lively agency that will keep his spirit alive, but even more a whole bunch of caring, thoughtful, and humble advertising people that make our industry a better place.

May he rest in peace.


Working in advertising and communications. Founder of wrage/antwort, a business consultancy in search of creative answers to business problems. Based in Switzerland, working anywhere you need me.

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