Suzanne Tongue, account director, Saatchi and Saatchi, Rome

Suzanne Tongue, account director, Saatchi and Saatchi, Rome

When I arrived in Italy in January 1992 fresh from the grey advertising

corridors of New York, I expected to find what most of us experience on

Italian vacations - a sunny, relaxed and somewhat undisciplined

atmosphere, slowly being tempered by the presence of multinationals and

modern marketing techniques.

I was looking forward to morning cappuccinos, sunny lunches and the

development of advertising that was elegant, tasteful and well-designed

- the best of all things Italian.

What I didn’t expect, however, was that a month later the country would

explode with the scandal Italians called ‘Tangentopoli’ (Bribe City),

which began as a small-scale criminal investigation and eventually

brought down the entire government.

Every morning there were screaming headlines, incarcerations, even

suicides. And eventually, what emerged from the rubble was an entirely

new cast of political players. Looking back, it seems a miracle that we

survived, that business went on as usual.

Anyone expecting to find a market less developed than the perennial

‘gold standards’ of New York and London will be disappointed. Italy is a

European advertising powerhouse, with three major state-owned television

channels, three private TV channels, state and private radio networks,

at least 26 major newspapers, scores of magazines, and a highly visible

(and sometimes controversial) network of outdoor posters.

And while Italian advertising isn’t yet consistently bringing home golds

from Cannes, the best of it continues to be ‘world class’. It is no

longer a rarity to see an Italian campaign selected by a major

multinational to ‘lead’ the rest of Europe.

No, it’s not the big things that make the difference. For that, turn to

any market and media fact book. It’s the little things - like the

Italian coffee ritual, which is just about the greatest pleasure there

is, and the hair-raising drive to work in the morning.

It’s also the fact that business - and life - in Italy is all about

togetherness, which means that meetings last twice as long as they need

to, and that you can’t grab a sandwich at your desk without feeling like

an anti-social criminal. Not to mention the language and the gestures

which have their own poetry.

It sounds like a cliche, but it’s not. Now that I’ve tasted it, it’s

going to be awfully difficult to get me out. Come over and see for

yourself. I’ll buy you a cappuccino.


Fact box


30 seconds prime-time TV                 dollars 45,000

Full page ad in national daily           dollars 65,000

Total adspend 1994                       dollars 5,651 million

TV penetration                           100 per cent

Colour                                   97 per cent

Video                                    48 per cent