The notoriously difficult EU needs help with its tough assignment.
Sceptical citizens of the European Union are soon to be blitzed by an
advertising campaign attempting to persuade them that a single European
currency is a good idea.
With budgets of up to dollars 108 million over five years, the
assignment will be a lucrative one. But the task is being greeted with
mixed feelings by agency networks across the Continent.
The downside is the EU’s reputation as a lousy client - shackled by
bureaucracy, ignorant of how advertising works and adopting a ‘we know
best’ attitude that so irritates senior agency managers.
Lionel Stanbrook, the Advertising Association’s director of political
affairs, recalls how he once sat in on an EU pitch for a PR and
advertising initiative. ‘At the end of the day, I remember thinking that
all it really wanted an agency for was to stack the chairs,’ he says.
An agency head declares: ‘You can’t even trust the EU to understand a
storyboard. You have to present it with an almost finished product
otherwise it can’t see how the advertising will work.’
And two months ago the EU’s reputation with agencies was badly dented
when it scrapped a dollars 40 million pitch to promote the use of olive
oil across the Continent.
The pitch was a farce of Gilbertian proportions. Eighty-five agencies
submitted proposals, only for EU officials to discover that proper
tendering procedures had not been followed and that the entire process
would have to begin again from scratch.
‘The way the pitch was conducted was absolutely outrageous,’ complains
Jean de Yturbe, chairman of the Bates Europe network, which was one to
contest the business. Maurice Levy, his counterpart at Publicis, another
contender, says: ‘It seems as if the EU has no respect for agencies.’
The olive oil shambles renewed calls for an EU equivalent of the Central
Office of Information. This would mean establishing a dedicated group of
advertising professionals rather than the current system, which allows
all 24 directorates to plough their own promotional furrows.
In the EU’s defence, producing any kind of harmonised advertising across
such a diverse array of countries must be a nightmare. And promoting the
single currency will be particularly challenging because countries vary
widely in their enthusiasm.
The UK is likely to be one of the hardest nuts to crack. As Paulo
Ettore, the chief executive of Saatchi and Saatchi, Italy, laughs: ‘I
was in Britain in 1972 when you voted to join the Common Market; it was
like you’d lost the war.’