By Claire Billings, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 27 November 2009 12:00AM
In London's fashionable districts of South Kensington and Chelsea, a conspicuous poster campaign comprising Russian images and Cyrillic writing has been advertising the relatively new Russian magazine Snob.
The Russian language title has published in Moscow for the past year and recently launched in London. At its heart is an exclusive club, comprising 300 members made up of successful Russians, from fashion designers to artists, TV personalities and models.
According to the UK director of Snob Media, Timon Afinsky, Snob is targeted at what he calls "global Russians": Russians who are successful in Russia and all over the world.
"This group of members are united not by political views or by any other views but by their globalness, creativeness and openness to the whole world. According to some statistics, there are 300,000 Russian speakers in London. They might be from Russia, the Ukraine or Kazhakstan. We believe that 10 per cent of this audience are the audience of Snob."
The name comes from the William Thackeray quote: "None of us should be too confident that we are not snobs. That very confidence savours of arrogance, and to be arrogant is to be a snob."
And it is not meant to be taken too seriously. The magazine is heavyweight in both pagination (130 pages plus dividers and a bound-in supplement in one issue) and the topics it covers. It encourages debate on its website and positions its editorial content next to Vanity Fair and Monocle.
Snob's London circulation is 20,000, second only to Moscow, and a distribution of 15,000 is set for New York, Paris, Berlin and Rome. There is also the potential for its content and advertising to be localised into regional variations to suit advertisers' needs.
It sounds ambitious, especially when you consider there are several well-established magazines available to the Russian jet set. They include the high-fashion glossy Coast, which started in 1996, and New Style, an upmarket lifestyle title, launched by Russian Media House six years ago. These are distributed at airports, on private jets and in expensive hotels.
According to Simon Sylvester, the executive planning director at Y&R and Wunderman, the highly affluent are notoriously hard to reach. "They are the classically difficult to hit media target at airports because they fly in private jets and there are separate channels for VIPs. All of their land-based travel is in chauffeur-driven cars, but they do have huge amounts of money to spend on products."
However, Anna Jackson-Stevens, the publisher of Coast, does not believe that Snob is a rival to the luxury titles. "Snob is quite weighty reading material and edgy and trendy, whereas ours is very high fashion," she says.
At the other end of the demographic spectrum are Russians who fled the country during the 80s and 90s as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, followed by that of the rouble in the late 90s.
They landed in places such as Germany, where there are an estimated 3.5 million Russians, the US, where there are three million, and Israel. And where there are Russians, there are Russian-language publications.
In the UK, Russian Media House also produces Pulse, an entertainment and leisure guide, and the biggest newspaper is London Courier, whose sister title is the upmarket glossy Russian UK.
In New York, there are more than 30 magazines and newspa-pers serving Russian speakers from Russian Parents Magazine to Kurier Weekly.
According to Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the state-backed, international TV news channel Russia Today, the Russian language titles have small circulations. This, she points out, is largely because the Russian newspapers, such as Komsamolska Pravda, like the national TV channels, such as Channel One and NTV, have global distribution. This means that if people want to read about Russia, they can read the motherland's own publications.
Simonyan takes Afinsky's "global Russian" consumer further, explaining that Russian immigrants moving around the world today are different from those of the 80s and 90s - they are leaving to study, or because they've met a partner from another country or for a particular job, rather than because anywhere is an improvement on Russia.
"Russian language magazines and newspapers are for the older generation," Simonyan says. "There is a group of much younger, higher-skilled people living everywhere from South Korea to London. They maintain their Russian identity because it is so strong that you don't just lose it and mingle in. But, at the same time, they have become citizens of the world."
Simon Francis, the chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi EMEA, says the internet is proving a popular channel for younger Russians.
"Russians don't only read Russian. When there was the issue in Georgia, there was a spike in the BBC traffic as they turned to the BBC website because they didn't have faith in their domestic news services," he explains.
Saatchis has used viral ads on YouTube for everything from recruiting people from rival agencies for its agency in Moscow (it sent people to stand outside agencies such as BBDO in Moscow with bibs on saying "come and join us". One agency called the police and Saatchis filmed it and put in on YouTube) to the launch of Googlemail in Russia.
"Launching something like this on Snob's website, works really well," Francis adds. "The web can play a role between broadcast and print so the opportunity to stream interesting video will create some compelling content. There are some delicate issues people won't go near, but some of the video content goes further than the printed word and a static website."
One difficulty for any advertiser trying to reach Russians on a global scale is audience fragmentation. But there are cultural sensitivities it might pay advertisers to observe.
"Overall, you must remember that Russians haven't lived through 40 years of Western consumerism," Sylvester explains. "If you're showing countryside, which is beautiful to the rest of us, the Russians might think you're showing them a poor environment."
Another issue could be showing an image of a successful, independent woman, because Russians will question where she got her wealth if there is no man beside her. According to one source, many ads have been pulled in Russia as a result of this.
The trick appears to be in tailoring advertising to your audience."If you're marketing to a cosmopolitan St Petersburg or Moscow-style audience then you can go the whole hog," Francis says.
However, Sylvester adds that even the most well-travelled and sophisticated Russian consumer still longs for home comforts to a point. He concludes: "They may be sophisticated, international-thinking people, but they'll still be proud of mother Russia and decorate their homes with Russian designs."
More Russians are becoming more global, but the perhaps the real question advertisers need to consider is whether they will become less Russian?
RUSSIAN GLOBAL MEDIA
TV AND ONLINE
Circulation/reach: 200 million
Content: News and entertainment
Circulation/reach: 50 million
Distribution: Moscow, Europe, New York
Content: News and debate
Content: Luxury lifestyle
Content: High fashion
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk