Russia: Special Report

If you had to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and invent a land of opposites and contradictions, you'd be hard-pressed to top the reality that is Russia.

The Russian Federation is the largest country on earth, spread across more than 17 million square kilometres of northern Eurasia, and almost twice the area of the next largest, Canada. Yet, this powerhouse made its debut at the Cannes Festival to pick up a gold Lion just two years ago (and has only managed one other gold since then).

Within Russia exists the extremes of super-rich urban sophisticates and simple-living rural peasants. Moscovites have more in common with Londoners than they do with many of their compatriots. For years, Russians have lived under constraint and rations; now they are getting high on the whiff of heady consumption.

Natalia Stepanuk is the founder of IQ Marketing, Russia's only Cannes gold Lion winner. As she reveals with candid vigour on page 31, Russia is a country of extremes and paradoxes that makes advertising to its inhabitants extraordinarily challenging.

But, with GDP percentages hitting the high 20s and 30s in recent years, and predicted to outstrip the global average by a least one point in the coming ones, it's no surprise that, increasingly, multinational marketers are having a go.

Not only having a go, but making a special effort. Nike, that bastion of US brands, has side-stepped its worldwide policy for the first time ever and embraced the Russian youth market, with the country's own planned and created ads via Nitro, rather than use a global campaign. Did it make a difference? Read JWT's Craig Davis' reaction to it in our Russian Private View.

Watch as Western ad networks swoop.