IRELAND: FANTASY IRELAND - Michael Cullen reveals why Ireland's demographic is a gift for home-grown media companies looking to innovate and extend their reach to new audiences as well as to marketers wanting to test products

If you're one of a multitude of advertisers, agencies or media

owners looking for well-educated people under 30 with more cash than

you can shake a stick at, Ireland is a seriously good bet.

The country is attracting media owners in their droves who are looking

either to extract riches from the Emerald Isle or to capitalise on their

existing success in Ireland by broadening their appeal. This has been

particularly true of Ireland's newspapers over the past year.

Newspapers command almost 50 per cent of Ireland's ad revenue and this

year they have been chasing an even bigger slice of the country's

advertising cake by developing new products.

Both Sir Anthony O'Reilly's Irish Independent and The Irish Times, run

by a board of trustees, have introduced Saturday magazines, The Irish

Times Magazine and Saturday.

O'Reilly's group continues to dominate the Sunday newspaper market with

The Sunday Independent and Sunday World establishing themselves as clear

leaders. Meanwhile, Ireland on Sunday, part of Scottish Radio Holdings,

has seen sales and advertising slide this year and its owners are now in

talks with Associated Press. To capitalise on the growth of recruitment

ads, the business pages in Thursday's Independent and Friday's Irish

Times run as separate supplements.

The Irish Times has also launched an arts supplement every Wednesday

called The Ticket. The success of The Irish Times Magazine and its other

lifestyle and sports supplements has meant aborting any plans the paper

may have had for the launch of a Sunday edition.

Meanwhile, magazine launches have been coming at consumers thick and

fast. The Dubliner, from virgin publisher Trevor White, targets

Ireland's elite in the way The New Yorker targets its upmarket

city-dwellers. And the thirst for celebrity magazines has now crossed

the water.

Who, billed as an Irish version of Heat, is the latest addition to

Ireland's celebrity magazine stable.

Published by Michael Hogan's Hoson Publishing group, the magazine joins

the likes of Hello!, OK! and the Irish title VIP, published by Hogan's

former partner, John Ryan. Meanwhile, Ryan plans to launch a gay

magazine in Ireland. However, is the time ripe? Peter McPartlin of Irish

International OMD is unsure.

He says: "The market is already well served by UK (gay) titles. Also,

many Irish advertisers are conservative and may be reticent to support a

gay magazine."

While Irish newspapers and magazines flourish, daily TV viewing has

dropped year on year among adults in Ireland by six minutes in the first

half of the year.

And the gap is closing between Ireland's biggest TV network, RTE , which

is an advertising-funded public service broadcaster, and its rivals. The

Granada-owned TV3 is now Ireland's second channel, according to research

by Initiative Media Dublin. The same research shows TV3 to be the most

popular station for 15- to 34-year-olds.

TV3 is certainly introducing a more user-friendly system of buying TV

spots for advertisers and their agencies.

It has introduced a system of guaranteed audience ratings where the

station will broadcast ads as many times as necessary to achieve a

certain penetration among its audience. This eliminates the risk

traditionally associated with buying high-cost TV spots.

The sales policy that RTE adopts is a pre-empt airtime auction system

where TV spots go the highest bidder. However, the network has been

experimenting with pre-agreed pricing packages.

McPartlin believes the link-up between RTE and Carlton in the UK may

motivate further pre-agreed pricing. Its second revenue stream, from

licence fees, does not look like it will be increased: RTE's demands

made to the Government for a licence fee increase fell largely on deaf


This has meant that UTV, TV3, Channel 4 and, more recently, BSkyB are

providing advertisers with a more cost-effective means of targeting the

most important age and socio-economic groupings. Channel 4 has had a

particularly good run over the summer with Big Brother, while RTE's Who

Wants to be a Millionaire?, presented by the Irish TV stalwart Gay

Byrne, continues to be one of Ireland's top crowd-pleasers.

Despite this, MCM Communications, the media unit of McConnells

Advertising, claims that RTE revenue was down 11 per cent in the first

six months of the year, a fall of about IR£6.7 million.

Debbie Kiely of MCM comments: "The most worrying thing for RTE should be

that Network Two is driving their overall decline in viewing


RTE experienced a 4 per cent drop in children's viewing and 2.3 per cent

in 15- to 24-year-olds. Kiely says that inflation for children is

running at 49 per cent year on year, with May up 87 per cent and June a

staggering 94 per cent.

RTE also plans to launch the first of its four new digital channels in

the autumn of next year. The 24-hour news channel will be followed by an

education channel, another aimed at pre-school children and teens and a

political affairs service. Eugene Murray, head of digital at RTE, has

calculated that the annual cost to the network will be about IR£40


While TV3 is often branded as Ireland's version of Sky One and is

frequently criticised for its preference to "dumb-down" to appease the

youth market, its ties with Granada appear to have paid off handsomely -

about one-third of its content is ITV programming.

TV3 has increased its share of multi-channel viewing, with Coronation

Street and Emmerdale providing added impetus and broader appeal. In

April, Coronation Street had 20 per cent of adults watching TV3, despite

the flagship show being historically linked to RTE .

And Sky is also growing, particularly among younger audiences. Kiely

points out: "Sky is always going to provide low ratings, but it offers

advertisers frequency at a competitive price and cannot be ignored."

Contrary to popular perception, Sky One has a more ABC1 profile than Sky


On the outdoor front, business is booming, and outdoor now claims about

8 per cent of all media spend in Ireland. According to figures released

by the Outdoor Media Association, the outdoor market is worth

approximately IR£44.5 million, based on ratecard rather than

display. This year also saw the re-branding of David Allen, the

country's largest contractor, with a 46 per cent share of 48-sheets and

Europanels, as JCDecaux Ireland.

Niamh Cleary, the managing director of JCDecaux Ireland, said the move

allowed them the benefits involved with being aligned with a French

global brand. The company will be investing £1 million in site


The radio market in Ireland remains largely static, apart from the long

wait for a number of newly licensed urban music, talk and special

interest stations to take to the air in Dublin and Cork.

As far as Ireland's online interests are concerned, over the past two

years internet usage has doubled. Gerard O'Neill of Amarach Consulting

reported that almost one-third of Irish adults, or 895,000 people, are

now online, although some are hugely resistant to new technologies: some

47 per cent of Irish adults say they will never use the internet.

In terms of brand-building, Ireland is often seen as a dream come true

for marketers because of its demographic. Brands that have made an

impact in Ireland have often proved to be sturdy enough to take the rest

of the world by storm. Examples include FMCG brands, particularly drinks

brands such as Diageo's Baileys and Smirnoff Ice.

Smirnoff Ice, which at the time was launched by Gilbeys Ireland and then

became part of Diageo, crept into Ireland by targeting the country's

bright young things. Thirty top bars and clubs in Belfast were the first

to stock the pre-mixed drink, followed by 50 bars and clubs in Dublin.

The "hard" launch followed a few months later.

Rachael Meagher of Gilbeys comments: "The strategy was to establish

Smirnoff Ice as a serious brand with real credentials and not just the

latest fad. It meant positioning the drink as a mainstream brand as well

as sustaining a strong presence with quirky ads and the slogan 'Smirnoff

Ice - as clear as your conscience'."

Another Irish success story has been Bulmers Cider, first developed by

the French drinks group Allied Domecq and Guinness. Now co-owned by the

UK investment company BC Partners and Irish management, the brand has

more than 90 per cent share of Irish cider sales and about 11 per cent

of the wider alcohol drinks market.

Bulmers' achievements in the Irish marketplace won the Havas-owned Young

Advertising the Grand Prix in the IAPI Advertising Effectiveness Awards

2000. The brand has also been extended for export markets using the

Magners name in Northern Ireland and major cities in the US. St Ivel has

followed suit, developing a series of four ads through its agency,

Chemistry, which specifically target the Irish market.

Jeremy Crisp, the deputy managing director of QMP D'Arcy, whose accounts

included Nestle and Britvic in the UK and Ireland, is surprised that the

Irish market has not been employed for pilot exercises to a greater


He comments: "It's surprising because the market here would appear to be

perfect for marketers. Ireland has a youthful bias and the population

offers a good mix between rural people and urbane people with marketing

savvy. What's more, the fact that it's an island means that there's more

control on imports and exports."

RTE goes one step further in a bid to encourage test marketing by

allowing advertisers discounts on ratecard. Paul Mulligan, the network's

marketing manager, says: "There is no firm figure as such but an

advertiser like Procter & Gamble would have earned discounts of between

20 and 40 per cent for its first European tests in Ireland for Pringles

crisps and Crest toothpaste."

At Cadbury's, the marketing manager, Lee Ireland, has confirmed that

plans exist to introduce a new product next year which will be

test-marketed in Ireland. If the new product proves popular, it will be

rolled out overseas.

From Saturday supplements to snack foods, Ireland has the perfect

profile for both marketers and media owners seeking to test-launch new


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