Spain does not expect a repeat of the spectacular late 80s boom
when the economy grew more than 5 per cent annually in three consecutive
years. Even so, GDP is estimated to grow by 3 per cent this year, the
country is well in line with Maastricht’s targets to join EMU with the
first group of European Union member states, inflation is at its lowest
since the 60s, the stock market is charting a series of record highs and
business optimism is increasing.
’Agencies have been doing good business since mid-1996. The market is
bullish,’ Lawrence Sudlow, the managing director of Sudlow Media,
The Madrid agency has established a Spanish buying centre jointly with
another shop, Eureka.
Despite this optimism, advertisers have to be resourceful. Caution over
unemployment (Spain has western Europe’s highest jobless tally according
to official figures) has kept consumer spending increases below the
economic growth rate.
Advertisers have become very demanding since prices were slashed in the
advertising industry recession in 1993 and 1994. ’Agencies sold the
shirts off their backs,’ Sudlow says. ’Advertisers haven’t forgotten -
now the challenge is to find ways of improving our service without it
In the long term, use of the Internet and the take-off of digital
television will help advertisers to target more accurately, Marina
Perez, the editor of Control, a Spanish advertising and marketing
magazine, explains. Spain’s first digital TV group, Canal Satellite,
started broadcasting this year. The Internet clocked up 800,000 users in
Spain at the end of last year.
On average, each household has at least one TV - Spaniards are not, by
and large, regular readers. According to a survey by the media research
organisation, the EGM (Estudio General de Medios), from April 1996 to
March 1997 38 per cent of Spaniards claimed to read a daily newspaper,
while 37.3 per cent read a monthly magazine and 36.7 per cent a
The EGM cites the sports newspaper, Marca, as the leader, with 2,635,000
readers over the same period, followed by the national general daily, El
Pais, with 1,470,000, and the Periodico de Catalunya, a Barcelona-based
daily, with 1,026,000 readers.
Leading national newspapers have not enjoyed a significant increase in
their combined readership in recent years, while El Diario 16, one of
the six major national dailies, is struggling to keep readers and
overcome its debt problems. Provincial and regional newspapers are
gaining ground, perhaps because the trend towards regional autonomy in
Spain for Catalonia, the Basque country and the 17 other autonomous
regional governments, is becoming more marked.
TV advertisers want more proof of their campaign results, since the cost
of ads has begun to rise again after a plunge of 80 per cent two years
ago when channels saturated their screens with cheap airtime. ’Then, the
stations were virtually giving away slots but, since the introduction of
the European Union directive in Spain (which placed hourly limits on
advertising time), advertising charges are rising and are much more
realistic,’ Perez explains.
TV research is covered by Sofres, a French-owned company, and by
Infoadex, a Nielsen/Duplo Spanish joint venture. The EGM, the
circulation analysis by Oficina de Justificacion de la Difusion, and the
business readers’ survey, Dirigentes, owned by the Recoletos Group (in
turn controlled by Pearson), are the main sources of information about
print media. Sudlow says: ’The OJD needs developing, especially for the
trade press. Although foreign influence has had an impact on the methods
used in Spanish media research, there is still room for
If Spanish children’s love of TV is any indication, audio-visual media
have a promising future, according to a survey published in April by
Central Media. Four- to 12-year-olds spend, on average, more than three
hours a day watching TV.
Newspapers have been full of what has been coined ’la guerra de
television digital’ (the digital TV war), so called because the
government is trying to halt progress of the first group in order to
allow a rival consortium, which includes the state broadcaster, to get
off the ground on equal terms.
The Canal Satellite grouping, headed by the media magnate, Jesus de
Polanco, began broadcasting in January and has stolen a march on the
rival consortium, led by Telefonica and the state network, RTVE (Radio
Television Espanola), which isn’t scheduled to start its service before
the summer. Meanwhile, the government is trying to slow down the advance
of Polanco’s group by casting legal impediments in its path.
The stakes are high in digital TV - the two groups plan to invest at
least dollars 560 million between them over the next three years. Yet,
in the long term, advertisers should benefit from the growing acceptance
of the medium. Rosemary Reid, an independent foreign TV executive based
in Madrid, says: ’The advance of digital TV is at a very early stage,
but advertisers plan to benefit from cheaper rates and better
One of the most important trends is the rising level of readership among
teenagers and young adults. ’They are reading more magazines and we are
seeing the launch of more special interest magazines,’ Sudlow says.
Earlier this year Grupo Zeta launched Conocer, a lifestyle magazine
aimed at 20- to 30-year-olds. Interest in foreign influences,
particularly English-language voice-overs and titles, is high in this
Euro-enthusiasm remains very strong here. Spaniards want to be
identified with the EU. They are equally keen to absorb American fashion
and culture, to help reaffirm their new cosmopolitan identity.