EUROPEAN MEDIA: Italy - New beginnings

The big news in Italy's media market was the merger of CIA with The Media Edge. Enrico Robbiati discusses the year's events with some key names from the Italian media scene.

early to gauge the full extent of the effects of the merger between CIA and The Media Edge, but one thing is certain: Albino Ponchio, the managing director of the newly merged agency, is far from shy about the company's connections to WPP and determined to make the most of them.

"We must co-ordinate to avoid overlap with MindShare and the company's other agencies," he urges.

And Ponchio is keen to see the merger as heralding a new start in media practice in Italy. "We are transforming from a traditional media agency model to communication planning and implementation consulting," he says.

The new agency clearly has an ambitious streak, best exemplified by its target of hitting billings of one billion euros by the end of 2002. It won't be an easy ride. Only Carat, the country's largest media agency, has managed to break the billion barrier. The current economic climate won't help.

Elsewhere on Italy's media scene, Web Media's CEO, Domenico Ioppolo, became Initiative Media's chief executive following its merger with Chorus Media, the former media arm of Lowe. His new remit includes the supervision of the expansion of Magna Globa, Interpublic Group's buying heavweight which unites the buying for both Initiative Media and Universal McCann.

No-one working in media has an easy task ahead of them, though, as adspend for press, radio and outdoor has taken a collective turn for the worse in Italy. Only TV, which accounts for more than 50 per cent of adspend in the country, seems to be standing its ground. Sipra, the sales house for the three RAI TV channels, and Publitalia, which represents the Mediaset network, are both performing well.

Antonello Perricone, the managing director of Spira, says RAI's targets have been met because of some clever package deals which tapped into Italy's first love - football. The network showed World Cup matches and bundled in internet and radio coverage for its advertisers.

As for Mediaset, more traditional sales tools have kept the balance sheet healthy, according to its president, Giuliano Adreani. It has relied heavily on news and entertainment programming such as Striscia la Notizia after the 8pm news on Canale 5. Mediaset's three channels are managing to maintain a total audience share of an astonishing 43 per cent, despite cuts to the network's production budget to the tune of 170 million euros.

Turning to newspapers, Italy's biggest titles, La Repubblica and Il Corriere della Sera, both suffered a dip in newsstand sales. La Repubblica decided to act by offering its readers competitively priced editions of famous literary classics. When the venture became a success, Il Corriere della Sera wasted no time in following suit.

Many Italian magazines are currently undergoing a redesign and there are also a few new launches. The most significant launch is the dedicated football weekly Controcampo. Having been spun out of the Mediaset TV programme of the same name which broadcasts on Italia Uno on Sundays, there are high hopes for the magazine. Published by Mondadori Editore, the company's general manager, Roberto Briglia, describes Controcampo as "a football magazine which tells it like it is and which respects fans".

Famiglia Cristiana has stolen the show in the general interest sector.

Published by Periodici

San Paolo, the weekly's circulation has already exceeded 900,000 copies and advertising is up by 20 per cent this year.

And last, but by no means least, the Catholic publication Avenir has redesigned to great fanfare. In only two months, the title has matched year on year advertising spend. Considering market conditions, could this count as a miracle?


What is the most influential brand in your country?

Telecom Italia. After it was taken over, the company had a long period

of transformation. It now stands for an interesting mix of Italy's old

and new economies.

What has been the most talked-about campaign this year?

The new campaign for TIM, the largest Italian mobile operator, where the

participants of Saranno Famosi (the Italian version of Star Academy)

play themselves in a campaign in progress. The irony of the campaign was

that a Mediaset programme was being broadcast on RAI-owned channels.

What has been the biggest surprise hit on TV this year?

Saranno Famosi has been a real revelation, in terms of both the

programme and the people in it. It started off being quite underground,

but quickly became a real social phenomenon and a great ratings success.

What's the latest must-read marketing book?

The House of Ideas (La Casa delle Idee) by Alberto Abruzzese and Americo

Bazzoffia. It is dedicated to all the innovations that have transformed

our life, objects that today appear to be quite banal but have

tremendously improved the quality of our life. The book is also a kind

of big case study on Procter & Gamble.

Who are the best media sales team in the country?

Publitalia and Sipra, the media sales houses of the two main TV groups,

despite their different ways of working.

Which media personality gets the most column inches?

Silvio Berlusconi.

Who is the most feared person in the industry?

It is not easy to be feared in Italy.

What's the biggest media party of the year?

It's not the right time for thinking about parties.

Where's the best place to meet clients?

In our offices.

What is the biggest single issue facing Europe's media industry?

The downturn that is restraining the huge potential of digital


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