CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/JOAO DE ALMEIDA - Can we learn to stop worrying and love the euro? Joao de Almeida will have a hard job selling the euro, Francesca Newland writes

It is probably one of the most difficult advertising briefs ever

issued: develop a campaign to run across 12 countries and appeal both to

businesses and to consumers of all age groups. Your campaign must also

face hostility towards the product that is only intensified by the

public's ignorance of it. Oh yes, the product in question is a new

currency and it has to be launched on the cusp of an economic

downturn.



This unenviable task - the launch of the euro - has fallen to Publicis

Frankfurt, which has set up what it calls the Euroburo to handle it. The

network has developed the campaign with Portuguese-born Joao de Almeida,

the European Central Bank's project manager for the euro 2002

information campaign.



The fruit of the partnership - an 80 million euro campaign (£50

million or thereabouts) - was unveiled at an all-singing, all-dancing

press conference in Frankfurt last week.



The first of the TV ads features a flying euro coin that passes over

Greek temples, Atlantic coastlines and ends up being used as currency in

a nightclub. Others highlight the notes' watermarks and holograms. Were

they run in the UK, they'd be unlikely to convince the country's

europhobes.



The feeling of the campaign is summarised in the strapline: "The

EURO.OUR money."



Almeida and the Euroburo are targeting 300 million Europeans with the

work, or all "cash handlers", as Almeida puts it. "The campaign targets

everybody," he says. "We didn't structure it by targets. We have

combined and developed the communication in a way that is suitable for

everyone."



He adds: "We developed the same creative campaign for 12 countries. They

are the exact same TV and print ads, with the exception of

language."



In order to ensure that the work doesn't end up being wishy-washy

because of the breadth of its audience, Almeida and Publicis called in

the focus groups. "We have put special emphasis on qualitative creative

research," Almeida says. "We've tested it in 12 countries with focus

groups including several targets. So we're confident we can target them

all."



The principal function of the campaign is to inform. It needs to let

Europeans know about the timing of the euro's introduction and

familiarise them with the notes and coins. To limit counterfeiting, it

must also draw attention to watermarks and holograms.



By making it an information campaign, Almeida is hoping to skirt around

the emotional and political issues surrounding the euro. Many people

fear that retailers will round up their prices as the euro is

introduced, others think its introduction will facilitate money

laundering. Then there are nationalists who will see the loss of their

domestic currency as an unmitigated tragedy.



He says: "Our major goal is to explain better - to inform in an engaging

way about the product. It's a product-focused campaign."



However, Publicis' Barbara Lutz, who runs the 27-strong Euroburo, is

adamant that the work should appeal to Europeans on an emotional level

in order to ensure that they engage with the new product. Whether this

succeeds or not is open to dispute. The commercials feature positive

emotional scenes, which often seem stranded in Werthers Original

territory. In one, two rosy-cheeked children stand in a generic northern

European rural area buying crisp apples from a kindly old man with a

two-euro coin. A print execution shows football fans cheering as their

side scores. Sporting an appropriately non-national strip, one clutches

a 50-euro note.



Lutz says: "The launch spot is emotional. There's a focus on the scale

of the endeavour and the fact that it is touching 300 million Europeans.

It must stress the scale and the European element, then show the product

and give information about the notes and security features.



This is a very historic moment. It's very important for all of us. If

you are only trying to give factual information, it does not work.

People know intellectually that they must pay attention, but first you

have to engage them."



Almeida is enthusiastic about the scale and detail of the campaign. He

talks of the year-old partnership programme, which involved private

companies in disseminating information on the euro. He excitedly

describes the distribution of press kits to 3,500 journalists and the

drop of 200 million leaflets to European households in the last phase of

the campaign.



All in all, his attitude to marketing hints at his bureaucratic

origins.



Almeida, 37, specialised in European law before leading the Portuguese

national euro campaign for the Ministry of Finance in that country. He

has completed a business management course, but the word "marketing" is

distinctly absent from his CV.



It's tempting to put the safe, bland nature of the euro advertising down

to this personal background, but the fact is that the greatest FMCG

marketer would have had trouble with the currency launch brief. The

breadth of its extremely diverse audience, coupled with the political

sensitivities of its introduction, has meant that feel-good, generic

advertising was the only real option for Almeida and the Euroburo.



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