Feature

Eastern Europe: Special report

Mike Longhurst, McCann Erickson's senior vice-president, European business development, is still getting over being savaged by a feral dog earlier this year. And having endured a month-long series of rabies injections, he's also mighty glad not to be frothing at the mouth and barking at the moon.

His mauling came not while trekking through some uncharted wilderness, but when he visited one of the Interpublic Group-owned network's starred agencies in Central and Eastern Europe: McCann Erickson Bucharest, awarded Agency of the Year by the Golden Drum in 2006.

It's a story that seems to typify the perception of Central and Eastern Europe that still prevails among some UK ad agencies. Yes, it's a rapidly evolving ad region, but it's still slightly wild.

For middle-tier outfits, there remains a fixation on Western Europe as the first step beyond home shores. Perhaps it's because their head honchos were middle-managers in big networks when the Berlin Wall first fell and experienced the topsy-turvy business model forced upon them by multinational clients who wanted to move rapidly further east.

In those days, media costs (and commission) were low, and marketing budgets paltry, yet a lack of local experience meant ex-pats had to be imported on mega-buck salaries.

Now, that has been reversed. Media costs and marketing spends have risen, while talent is now almost entirely home-grown. What hasn't kept pace is the attitude of the mid-ranking UK agencies.

Even if they choose to ignore the macro economic and advertising growth figures, they would do well to take heed of the rash of new, successful clients emerging from the area. A recent report discovered that emerging markets are home to 70 per cent of 2006's new entrants to Business Week's top 1,200 global companies.

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