EUROPEAN MEDIA: The Creative Advantage

The UK leads the way in Europe in terms of creative media thinking, but other key markets are catching up. Four Campaign reporters from the Continent select local examples.

GERMANY

While adspend in traditional media has been growing only slightly this year in Germany, special media solutions are rapidly gaining in importance and increasing their share in ad budgets.

The German advertising community has learned to be modest during the recent years of economic slowdown. Nielsen Media Research's latest report on adspend in traditional media for the first half of 2003 was received with a huge sigh of relief, because it showed a 0.1 per cent increase in spend year on year, so the market is now worth 8.29 billion euros.

But while ad budgets are still slow to recover, one sector of the media business is rapidly gaining in importance - the development of creative media solutions. Advertisers are challenging agencies to find creative media solutions beyond traditional communication.

"We are definitely seeing a growing market here," Hatto Spehr, the manager of Blocher & Partner Platforming in Hamburg, an agency specialising in innovative media concepts, says.

Delef Rump, the creative head of the Munich-based agency BBDO InterOne, which developed an event to launch the new BMW 5 series, praises the co-operation with SevenOne Media, the marketing and sales division of the ProSiebenSat.1 group's private television stations. The new BMW 5 series was presented in a 12-minute television event in the style of a gala. Among the celebrities attending the event was Sir Elton John, who introduced a new version of his song Rocket Man, which was originally released in 1972, the same year that the first BMW 5 series model was built. The show ran on a Sunday night simultaneously on ProSieben and Sat. 1, reaching more than three million viewers, or a 20 per cent audience share.

Peter Christmann, the head of SevenOne Media in Munich, argues that innovative media solutions are increasingly important and he believes that novel formats can solve problems in brand management that TV commercials cannot address.

"A double-digit growth of sales in this field shows that advertisers rely on such high-impact solutions," Christmann says.

Special advertising solutions now come in all kinds of shapes and sizes to try to catch the consumer's attention. Springer & Jacoby's search for innovative ways to use media was rewarded by two Lions in Cannes this year.

The media agency of the Springer & Jacoby group in Hamburg also received a Lion for best use of newspapers. Its idea was to place ads for its Smart car client in unusual locations - for instance, between the letters of the title of the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, along with the caption: "Park a Smart everywhere you like."

It took some negotiating to convince the management of the title, and of other newspapers, to accept the idea, but the ads boosted awareness of the brand.

Springer & Jacoby Media scooped its second Lion for best use of outdoor.

The solution here was to use the canvas covering the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin during a two-year restoration period as giant billboards for Deutsche Telekom.

Smaller projects, too, can make a big impact. Christine Look, the media communications manager at the media agency GFMO.OMD in Hamburg, decorated a Hamburg harbour ferry with the logo of the news magazine Focus.

The idea was much appreciated by the client, not least because the Focus-Elbschiff ferry cruises in front of the eyes of Focus' Hamburg-based rivals, Stern and Der Spiegel.

By Friedhelm Gieseking in Munich

FRANCE

FMCG giants have not historically been associated with a more creative approach to their media strategy. But work for Unilever's Lipton Tea through Initiative Media was this year shortlisted for the best use of sponsorship category at Cannes.

"Growth from Lipton in Europe is strongly dependent on recruiting new consumers into the market of leaf-tea and ice-tea products," Howard Smith, the European strategy director for Unilever at Initiative Media, says.

"Winning this battle depended on the Unilever brand reaching young adults. So our key objective was to drive awareness and positive brand values at the target." This was achieved by dramatising the core Lipton brand benefit, "natural vitality", specifically by demonstrating the relevance of the products in helping young consumers to chill out.

MTV and Lipton became sponsors of the "Isle of MTV", a pan-European music and dance tour that takes place in the key Lipton Ice Tea sales months of June to August. The Unilever brand also sponsored MTV Winterjam, a week-long winter sports and music festival during the colder hot leaf-tea sales period.

Within each event, a dedicated Lipton zone was created, called the Lipton T-Lounge. This was a distinctive, fully branded physical area, custom-built for people to take time and space to chill out and recharge. Initiative Media also used the power of MTV's media channels to communicate Lipton's link with the event via sponsorship billboards and traditional spot campaigns. Dedicated vignettes were co-produced with MTV and aired in conjunction with 25 hours of event programming. These were placed at the start of the ad breaks so that they appeared to be part of the programme.

They also promoted a specially created website, www.lipton-t-lounge.com.

Questionnaires allowed consumers to find out how "chilled" they were, and to be told their results with visually striking artwork and soundtrack.

The site was also linked to a competition that took place in the T-Lounge at events where people could vote online for the winner.

The media value of the billboard work for the events was four million euros, yet the total sponsorship investment for Lipton was two million euros. In the first two months, Lipton reached 27 million 16- to 34-year-olds via the broadcast media.

Co-operation between the media agency (MediaCom) and the creative agency (Grey Callegari Berville) can be constructive. Their work for Mars received the French Grand Prix des Strategies Media in June.

Mars' strategy to reach its main target audience (the 15- to 24-year-old age group) was conceived in three stages and started in April 2002. First, Grey Callegari Berville positioned Mars in "those small instants of pleasure in everyday life", with the slogan: "Mars - for happiness" ("Mars, que du bonheur").

Then MediaCom adapted these instants of pleasure to specific media.

There was a "universal" moment for the mass media: nine TV films and 60 press ads for 79 inserts in 28 press titles. And there were "individual and specific" instants of pleasure for more targeted media. Other outlets were also used: underlays in transparent coffee tables, postcards and posters in bars and restaurants.

Finally, Mars adapted its creation for each press title. Depending on the magazine, its readership and editorial content, MediaCom negotiated a specific space and used an appropriate slogan.

The results have been excellent. During the first six months of the campaign Mars' decline in sales has been arrested. Half of the 15- to 24-age-group attribute the slogan "que du bonheur" to Mars, and 58 per cent intend to buy Mars as opposed to 42 per cent in the sector as a whole. Mars claims it will be taking the principle further in coming months.

By Isabelle Musnik in Paris

THE NETHERLANDS

Media is playing an increasingly important role in The Netherlands, not least because growing media opportunities are starting to open new doors.

Seizing these opportunities calls for creative solutions and some fresh thinking. And there is no mistaking the fact that advertisers are starting to wake up to the returns that a more creative approach to media planning and buying can bring.

Naked opened its doors in Amsterdam earlier this year and has already been working well for Heineken. Following an ongoing campaign for Desperadoes, a tequila-flavoured beer brand produced by Heineken, sales have risen by 30 per cent and the bottled drink is now second in terms of market share behind Corona; last year it was fourth.

The Desperadoes campaign has had a strong ambient presence, backed up by 15-second TV spots, cut down from 30-second TV spots, which ran last year. This highlights one of the downsides of a more creative approach to media: the fact that it can be a double-edged sword for both media agencies and owners in the sense of producing more creative work yet without the revenues that are garnered from traditional media buying. Hans Lemm, the managing director of one of Kobalt Media Services' business units, comments: "Clients want us to do more with less. This is a positive development for them, but it's less positive for media agencies and media owners."

Rogier Leliveld, the strategy director at Mediaedge:cia, doesn't perceive a clash of cultures though. He believes that creativity and cost efficiency can co-exist harmoniously. "Things are getting better and co-operation with ad agencies has improved over the years." When working with the small company Skip Intro, for Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, Leliveld praises the way media planning is discussed in an early stage of the creative process and the flexibility this affords, such as adapting a print idea for a poster site.

A basic example of taking a product to the streets was Kobalt's project for Holland's leading supermarket, Albert Heijn. Dutch passengers flying into Schiphol airport were met by taxis adorned with the Albert Heijn logo, and the message: "Welcome home!" The cab drivers then handed the passenger a small shopping bag filled with groceries. Besides being a pleasant surprise, the added advantage of such an initiative is that media agencies can develop these kinds of ideas independently of the ad agency and develop their own creative ideas for cutting through the clutter.

By Robert Heeg in Amsterdam

SPAIN

Spain went mad for the launch of the Renault Megane.

The use of outdoor media was quite spectacular. In Madrid's Barajas airport, the massive columns supporting terminal two - never before used for to promotional use - were covered in Megane banners. And the car was the centrepiece of groups of 8- by 3-metre posters - the standard outdoor format in Spain - in 200 sites across the country, displacing long-term advertisers such as the department store El Corte Ingles.

The burst of format-breaking concepts, planned and bought by Carat, was particularly impressive because Spain, at first sight, appears to offer little in terms of creativity in media buying.

This is a country where TV ad breaks last so long you have time to take a shower while the commercials are showing, and where programmers have no qualms about running the same spot two or three times in a break, sometimes back-to-back.

Perhaps this is partly because the economic downturn, combined with stiff competition between media owners, has led to rock-bottom prices for TV and press space. As a result, planners are able to use traditional media as the mainstay for campaigns with even the puniest of budgets.

They hardly need to think outside the box because what is on the box is perfectly affordable.

The issue is not so much what to resort to in the absence of traditional media - but what else to build in to campaigns to help them stand out from the crowd. Here, in areas such as outdoor, there is evidence of creativity - and plenty of it.

Compared with the UK, for example, poster sites in Spanish airport and rail terminals are a relative novelty, but they have taken off in a big way - and with a variety of formats, increasingly incorporating light and sound.

Barcelona's Metro stations, for example, show ads and news programming on large plasma screens. Valencia's underground, meanwhile, has been trialling in-tunnel posters that use stroboscopic lighting to project ads through the windows of moving trains.

At street level, very large format posters are now standard. They were recently used by United International Pictures' agency MediaCom to promote the launch of the movie The Hulk.

Here, too, however, agencies are keen to push the boundaries. For the launch of another film, The Ghost Ship, last year, Posterscope combined a mega-poster of 30 by 20 metres, on Madrid's central Gran Via, with light effects to highlight actors' faces and simulate lightning. Not far away in the capital, on the Plaza de Colon is one of Spain's largest outdoor sites, a poster measuring around 200 by 50 metres, which has been used by advertisers including the energy company Iberdrola.

Outdoor specialists are also increasingly looking at strategic product placement to add that little extra to clients' campaigns.

In February, for example, Posterscope took over 900 square metres of the Pasarela Cibeles, Spain's main fashion venue, and filled it with a bar, video projections and a newly launched BMW Z4, billed as the ultimate luxury accessory.

"In terms of outdoor creativity, I'd say we are a hair's breadth behind the UK and France - and certainly ahead of countries like Italy and Germany," Antonio Capdevila, the general manager of Posterscope in Spain and Portugal, says.

Hard evidence of the growing creativity of Spanish planners came earlier this year when Spain picked up its first best use of television Media Lion , for a Pepsi Twist campaign placed by OMD. On recent performance, there could be many more to come.

By Jason Deign in Barcelona.

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