The World: Insider's View - Germany

Concerns over ad clutter and football burn-out mean media owners still have free inventory during the 2006 Fifa World Cup, Dirk Engel reports.

When Fifa decided to hold the 2006 football World Cup in Germany, the whole country had great expectations about the big event, not to mention the huge economic benefits it would no doubt bring. Strangely enough, this positive attitude has changed as the tournament approached. More problems have occurred and criticism has increased against Fifa, the German FA and the German team.

There are two reasons for the switch in mood: first, it is typically German only to see problems, not opportunities. Second, compared with England, Italy and Portugal, Germany is simply not a passionate football nation.

More interestingly, this mood has been reflected in the advertising and media business. Last year, all forecasts in Germany predicted big adspend increases, owing to the World Cup. The matches are broadcast by the public stations, which cannot air ads later than 8pm, except TV programme sponsorship.

The Sunday matches will be broadcast by private stations (public stations cannot show ads on Sundays).

Many advertisers are associated with the World Cup, from international sponsors such as MasterCard or T-Mobile to other brands that have bought licences from Fifa. Besides the official partners, other advertisers are keen to jump on the bandwagon.

In recent weeks, consumers have complained at length about "football overkill" in advertising, and the national newspapers have written reports about the issue.

Ironically, most advertisers tried to avoid the clutter and higher prices during the World Cup, focusing on the two months before it begins. Most began promotional activities that will end before the start of the main event. As a result, TV was overbooked and cluttered in April and May.

However, during June, many campaigns have come to a close and the TV stations have a lot of free airtime.

The matches are also not fully booked - this has never happened in previous World Cups. Historically, advertisers avoid the World Cup period, because they expect lower ratings on non-football programmes and do not get any airtime on the matches (or they do not want to pay the high costs). However, after the football craze of the previous years, it is strange to see ad clutter during the World Cup decreasing.

Other media faced another problem: they were unable to sell their premium packages. Outdoor sites are now offering discounts of up to 50 per cent.

All these problems have, of course, left media owners not entirely satisfied with the World Cup and its ad opportunities.

But for consumers and football fans alike, the lack of advertising interest during June is not such bad news after the recent clutter. Now German fans can relax, watch the matches and enjoy the sight of England in the penalty shoot-out ...

- Dirk Engel is the head of research at Universal McCann Germany.

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