European Media: Special Report

If you could run an agency in one of Europe's biggest five media markets, which would you choose? Germany, the UK, France, Italy or Spain?

Judging by the current mood of media agency bosses, the smart move would be Spain (see feature, this page). Ah, you're probably thinking, the laid-back urban buzz of Barcelona, the scent of Seville's blossoming orange trees, the football-shirted lobsters of Benidorm. All good reasons. But if you are looking for a media market with the best growth prospects, and the chance to do what you never thought possible in an industry hamstrung by all those pesky rules and restrictions, then Spain is your best bet.

Spain, Europe's fifth-largest ad market (worth around $7 billion) is expected to grow faster than its bigger Western European neighbours over the next three years. It will enjoy growth of 16.9 per cent, ZenithOptimedia forecasts, between now and 2007.

By way of comparison, Italy, Europe's fourth-largest market, is expected to grow by 14.4 per cent. France, third-biggest, by 9.6 per cent. The UK, a rather healthy 11 per cent, and Germany, Europe's largest ad market with spend of more than $19 billion, a relatively measly 4.9 per cent.

Spain is free of major structural problems - such as restrictive labour laws - and its ad market, as a proportion of the wider economy, is much smaller than the other four. There's more scope for growth, and the market is still hungry; still recovering from a long lean period that ended with the demise of General Franco in the 70s.

But what about the central and eastern markets? Aren't they Europe's answer to China? Perhaps. Media uptake there is three times faster than in the west. But, as Mark Tungate warns on page 31, the region can prove a black hole for naive businesses that expect an instant return.