CLOSE-UP: GLOBAL BRIEF; Readying Europe for the ecu

The notoriously difficult EU needs help with its tough assignment.

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.’


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