The former president of the US, Bill Clinton, will be arriving in
Rome for Italy's first advertising congress in 14 years at the end of
October. For a country where the prime minister owns the country's
biggest commercial media operation, the nature of his visit may not even
come as a great surprise to many Italians.
Silvio Berlusconi, who was re-elected as Italy's prime minister in May,
takes centre stage in the country's media. He owns Mediaset, which is
responsible for more than 40 per cent of all Italian TV and more than 60
per cent of all TV advertising through its sales house, Publitalia.
Mediaset and the public service broadcaster RAI account for an
astonishing 95 per cent of Italy's TV ad revenue as well as 90 per cent
of the country's TV audience.
Along with football, fashion and food, TV dominates Italy - more than 50
per cent of adspend is on the small screen. Italians have their TVs
switched on for about four hours a day and Walter Hartsarich, the chief
executive officer of Carat Italia, does not doubt that TV is close to
the heart of the nation: "Terrestrial TV is enjoying great success at
the moment due to a battle for audience ratings, which has spawned new
programming, such as reality TV shows, new soap operas and variety
performance shows. Big Brother scored ratings of more than nine million
viewers, while some of the new soap operas have pulled in a crowd of
more than 12 million."
TV is expensive for advertisers desperately seeking a decent return on
investment, particularly if they are opting for RAI and Mediaset
channels, which have the attraction - as well as the accompanying
expense - of massive ratings.
But perhaps one of the most significant news stories to break this year
on Italy's media scene is a challenge to Mediaset and RAI in the form of
news channel La7. Owned by the national telecommunications company
Telecom Italia, in which Pirelli and Benetton acquired a controlling
stake at the end of July, La7 aims to target young Italians who are
bored of the duopoly and want fresher content produced in-house.
The real launch of La7 will be in mid-October and experts have toned
down their expectations since the announcement that La7 will be an
all-news network. With Gad Lerner, the respected and impartial former
editor-in-chief of TG1 News, as a frontman for its news show, all the
signs point toward La7's editorial independence. Yet pundits are already
dismissing the station's original targets of capturing an audience share
of 6 per cent as unrealistic.
Currently, the television programmes that are guaranteed crowd-pleasers
are football matches, films (Titanic pulled in massive audiences earlier
in the year) and the news. But any channel showing football will always
have the biggest share of audience. Italy is football mad and must be
one of the few countries in the world which has two daily newspapers
devoted to sport, Stadio and La Gazzetta dello Sport. The latter sells
612,000 and is Italy's biggest national newspaper after Corriere della
Sera, which sells 719,000 copies. La Repubblica sells 645,000 copies and
is just in front of Il Sole 24 Ore (409,000 copies). Local newspapers
have a firm foothold in Italy and have recently seen the arrival of free
newspapers such as Leggo and Metro challenging their readers' loyalty.
As elsewhere in Europe, the new papers target commuters and are
attracting new readers of newspapers in Italy: a young, urban crowd who
have never been that interested in reading a daily newspaper before - in
other words, a dream demographic for many advertisers. Another freesheet
has just entered the fray, this time called City from RCS, the
publishing house behind Corriere della Sera.
Just like its neighbours in Europe, Italy has also felt the effects of
economic slowdown this year, so advertisers are continually on the hunt
for more cost-effective ways of targeting consumers.
One example of this is the outdoor industry. Growth is forecast at 5 per
cent for 2001, boosted by use of posters by candidates in the general
election campaign. Structurally, the medium is changing due to the
arrival of international heavyweights, such as Viacom and Clear Channel,
in Italy, which have snapped up Italian sales houses. The benefits of
international players entering the Italian market are long overdue.
Media planners and buyers are now dealing with just two or three sales
houses instead of 15 or more.
Hartsarich says: "We can already plan poster campaigns for 2002 as the
business is developing very quickly. Creatively, too, we are seeing more
innovation in terms of big posters and painted walls. The forecasts for
outdoor in Italy are better than for any other medium, although it might
not yet be that professionally run."
Eugenio Bona, the managing director of Media Italia, the media arm of
Italy's most established creative agency, Armando Testa (which has just
opened a London office), agrees: "There is quality improvement in
outdoor advertising. Nevertheless,it is polluted by unauthorised
Following the boom of 2000, 2001 in Italy has been subdued. But Bona is
still positive. He says: "Although telecoms and dotcoms have stopped
spending at such a fast pace, FMCG companies are still gradually growing
their investment - a reassuring signal for the immediate future."
EZIO MARIA CIUTI - CHAIRMAN AND CEO, CIA ITALY
What is the brand with the most influence in your country?
Fiat represents not just a car brand but an "icon" associated with the
more established economic centre of power of the country
What has been the most talked-about campaign this year?
Telecom BLU launched a campaign (below), which is an example of creative
uniqueness combined with a clear strategy. And the results in the market
have proved its effectiveness
What's been the biggest surprise hit on TV this year?
A real multimedia event was Big Brother. However, in terms of new
channels, the launch of La7
What's the latest must-read marketing book?
Giancarlo Livraghi's L'umanite dell'Internet (The humanity of the
internet). Not a book about marketing so much but a book about people.
Many marketers found it much more useful than books about marketing
Who is the best media sales team in the country?
Publitalia because it has been able to handle an extremely difficult
period with the minimum of fuss
Which media personality gets the most column inches?
No-one even comes close to Silvio Berlusconi
Who is the most feared person in the industry?
No-one really has the power to be feared
What's the biggest media party of the year?
This year it was the launch of La7 - a three-night event with a
broadcast evening, an evening for the media people and an evening for
Where's the best place to meet clients?
Always at their offices
What is the biggest single issue facing Europe's media industry?