Russia: Special Report

Russia is Europe's answer to China. Its economy is growing faster than that of any other European power, and it is expected to become the continent's leading economy by 2020 (possibly before, if oil prices continue to rise).

The country's 145 million people are spread across the world's largest land mass, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Siberian Arctic.

While most of Russia is poor, there is a growing middle class, made obvious by the countless Mercedes queueing outside Moscow's latest Ikea.

There are other similarities. Its advertising market is the same age as China's (roughly 15 years old), and its consumers, free from the shackles of Communism, have worked up a thirst for spending their newfound wealth.

But whereas in China there is a sense that its economy and ad market will hurtle on inexorably and indefinitely, in Russia there isn't the same certainty.

Under Vladimir Putin, the country has enjoyed some stability. But constancy is a rare beast in Russia. A period of wealth has the habit of being followed by the kind of poverty immortalised by television images of glum Russians queueing in the snow for bread.

This is making life tough for Russia's agency bosses (we meet Grey Russia's Alexei Kovylov on page 33). Clients are anxious to grab market share before the good times fade, and aren't afraid to work agencies into the ground to get it.

As a result, Russia's creative product is struggling to keep up (page 30) - at least in the eyes of the West. Grey's Pierro Leone says: "A Russian client recently said to me: 'I sometimes wish we had slanted eyes like the Chinese. We look European, but we're not. We have different values and think in a completely different way.'"