Southern Europe: Southern Europe warms up

With a difficult 2003 now over, the media scene in southern Europe is getting stronger. What will 2004 hold for France, Italy and Spain?

FRANCE

The French media scene certainly won't be boring in 2004. Barely two months into the year, we've already seen new sectors advertising on TV, high-profile agency hirings and the resignation of a top television executive.

Olivier Mazerolle, the news director of France 2, was forced to quit after a vote of no confidence by journalists. Not only that, but the newsreader David Pujedas was suspended for two weeks (although wags pointed out that this coincided with the French school holidays).

Their crime was to broadcast the news that Alain Juppe (the former prime minister and the current mayor of Bordeaux) had decided to leave politics after he was convicted of corruption. The only problem was that in a simultaneous live interview on the rival channel TF1, Juppe was pledging to stay in his post and appeal against the conviction.

The incident is raising questions about who holds the power in French media. As one French trade journal observed, only in France could a journalist lose his job over a political scandal while the politician concerned got to stay on.

TV should get an income boost this year, with two new sectors entering the market. Retail chains and the press can now advertise on TV (although retailers will have to wait until 2007 to advertise on terrestrial channels).

Estimates suggest that the two sectors spent more than 100 million euros in January alone.

Most observers predict the overall recovery that failed to materialise in 2003 will occur this year. Initiative predicts the market will grow by 5 per cent in 2004, more than Italy (3.1 per cent) or Spain (3.6 per cent), but ZenithOptimedia is more conservative, predicting a modest 2.1 per cent growth.

As for a theme to watch this year, Olivier Altmann, the co-president of Publicis Conseil, says: "Clients now realise strong brand values equal success. Product-based advertising is losing ground. It's the big ideas that count."

by Mark Tungate

ITALY

The new year in Italy was seen in with a welcome dose of optimism. 2003 had ended positively and the pervading belief was that things were going to get better. The only question was by how much.

2003 adspend, according to Initiative figures, totalled $8 billion and the market is expected to grow by more than 3 per cent next during the next 12 months. However, agencies are keeping a watchful eye on a number of key factors.

One is consumer spending. "Italian households continue to be wary," Marco Testa, the head of Italy's biggest agency, Armando Testa, says. "Household income will not increase significantly this year and purchasing power has been gnawed away at by inflation."

The so-called "Gasparri law", arguably the most controversial media event in Europe in 2003, may start to impact the market this year. The ruling, named after the minister of communications, Maurizio Gasparri, was lambasted for laying the foundations for Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, to further tighten his iron grip on Italy's media market.

Billed by the government as a triumph for the economic democracy of media, the new law has lowered the ceiling on market revenue share entitlement per company from 30 to 20 per cent. However, in fact, the Gasparri law gives Berlusconi's media interests more scope for growth. The boundaries for what is defined as media have been broadened to the extent that his empire looks considerably less enormous.

Berlusconi will be encouraged by the early signs in 2004. In January, his Mediaset business recorded 10 per cent growth but warned that 2004 would most likely be a "two-speed" year, with the first six months significantly stronger than the second.

2004 should also prove a shot in the arm for RAI, the troubled state broadcasting group. After suffering a 3 per cent drop in revenues in 2003, the company is set to stage a comeback with its screening of Euro 2004, the Olympic Games and a longer Formula One season.

by Stefania Medetti

SPAIN

After years in the doldrums, 2004 looks like a turning point for the Spanish advertising industry. Agencies have been falling over themselves to release figures pointing to a return to growth - albeit a modest one, at around 1 or 2 per cent after inflation.

Certainly, there is plenty happening this year to give rise to what Concha Wert, the manager of the country's main ad trade body, the Club de Creativos, refers to as "cautious optimism".

That the Olympic Games will be held in Athens, and will therefore be televised during primetime viewing hours, is seen as propitious. The same goes for Euro 2004, to be held in Portugal.

Closer to home, 2004 is an election year. Barcelona is hosting a cultural crowd-puller called the Forum. And in the summer, Prince Felipe of Asturias will be marrying the divorcee newscaster Letizia Ortiz in what is already being billed as the wedding of the century.

That event alone means television and celebrity gossip magazines "have got it made for months", Wert says. "In advertising terms, this is a very good year."

The question is: will it last? Ignasi Puig, the founding partner and general manager of SCPF, thinks so - and not just because of the economic indicators.

"The job market has really picked up - I've had people phoning me up to ask where they can get hold of three creative teams at once," he says.

"A lot of people want to get out of this recession - it's boring. So 2004 will be a year of change; 2005 will not be a return to 2003."

It remains to be seen whether it will be a good year for creativity, however. Alex Martinez, the creative director at J. Walter Thompson Barcelona, says the past few years have left clients and agencies fearful of straying from known formulas.

"We are living in an age of fear - and that is not good. Given the level of ad saturation in the media here, there is a real opportunity for smaller, less process-driven companies to use their agility to search out new creative routes."

by Jason Deign

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE

Country/Media Advertising expenditure

('000 USdollars ) Annual % Share by medium %

2003 est 2004 est change

04 vs 03 2003 2004

France

Total 10,807,891 11,347,242 +5.0 100 100

TV 3,392,912 3,623,453 +6.8 31.4 31.9

Radio 912,331 1,029,850 +12.9 8.4 9.1

Newspapers 2,791,947 2,973,736 +6.5 25.8 26.2

Magazines 2,443,385 2,536,251 +3.8 22.6 22.4

Outdoor 1,186,141 1,108,813 -6.5 11.0 9.8

Italy

Total 8,019,910 8,272,491 +3.1 100 100

TV 4,524,995 4,683,370 +3.5 56.4 56.6

Radio 350,231 377,549 +7.8 4.4 4.6

Newspapers 1,501,767 1,533,304 +2.1 18.7 18.5

Magazines 1,280,722 1,297,372 +1.3 16.0 15.7

Outdoor 205,035 210,161 +2.5 2.6 2.5

Spain

Total 6,063,617 6,279,395 +3.6 100 100

TV 2,500,676 2,595,543 +3.8 41.2 41.3

Radio 546,483 562,996 +3.0 9.0 9.0

Newspapers 1,773,436 1,828,627 +3.1 29.2 29.1

Magazines 647,445 653,873 +1.0 10.7 10.4

Outdoor 481,871 519,773 +7.9 7.9 8.3

Source: Initiative Futures.

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