SUPPLEMENT: TELEVISION; Discovering a single Euro media market

Surprising results have emerged from a global study of TV habits. Enough similarities are apparent to suggest that pan-European brands and advertising can work.

Surprising results have emerged from a global study of TV habits. Enough

similarities are apparent to suggest that pan-European brands and

advertising can work.

The biggest piece of global research into broadcasting, covering

viewers’ attitudes to ads and programming, has provided strong evidence

that there is a ‘single European media market’.

Questions of whether pan-regional ads work, or whether ads should be

tailored to take account of cultural differences in different markets,

have long been debated by the advertising industry.

Discovery Communications, the parent of Discovery Channel Europe, spent

pounds 1 million on the study which was carried out by the US-based

international research company, Roper Starch Worldwide. Discovery, hell

bent on extending its service worldwide, wanted to find out ‘just how

far the media-driven global village has developed’. More precisely, it

wanted to know whether it could run programming and ads ‘sans

frontieres’ or whether they needed to be adapted to local cultures.

Fortunately for Discovery, the research found there are far more

similarities than differences between most countries in western and

central Europe, with the exception of the former USSR.

While it found that there are differences in the way European countries

view their advertising, there is enough consistency across Europe to

suggest that global brands and advertising can work. The consistency

extends to the levels of TV and video-cassette recorder penetration,

hours of viewing and access to cable and satellite channels.

The study surveyed 40,000 people in 41 countries worldwide with more

than 14,000 people interviewed in 21 European countries.

‘This is the most intensive and comprehensive piece of global research

to date,’ Nicolas Boyon, Roper Starch’s vice-president of international

research, says. ‘It took six months and has generated immense interest

from advertisers - not just about consumers’ attitudes to brands but

attitudes to issues such as morality and the environment. It’s an all-

purpose reference study.’

The research also found that worldwide television penetration of

households has almost reached saturation and, at 96 per cent, is higher

than the global penetration of refrigerators.

Eighty-five per cent of all households surveyed globally, and 88 per

cent in Europe, own a colour TV set. Half of all the households surveyed

own at least one VCR, with the figure dropping slightly to 48 per cent

in Europe, while 28 per cent of households globally are able to receive

cable television compared with Europe’s 17 per cent. Eight per cent

globally and in Europe have access to additional channels via direct-to-

home satellite systems.

The Roper Starch/Discovery findings make positive reading for data-

hungry advertisers and agencies who want to run ad campaigns across

national boundaries, but have previously lacked the evidence to prove it

makes sense.

The sheer scale of the survey base, in an industry which often builds

arguments on the back of focus groups of ten people, helps strengthen

the case for pan-European programmes and advertising. The downside for

agencies is that the study shows that viewers across Europe don’t like

the ads they see and feel that advertisers are pulling the wool over

their eyes.

‘This research clearly points out that television can cross national

boundaries. There are fundamental tastes, interests and programme

references that are truly global and that can be seen to apply to Europe

as a whole,’ Nick Colmer-Calder, general manager of Discovery Channel

Europe, says.

Colmer-Calder says pan-regional advertising is being held back, not

because of consumer attitudes, but because of the shortage of strong

pan-regional television channels. He says channels need to become well

established and easily recognisable before they can hope to attract pan-

regional advertising.

Of course, Colmer-Calder has a vested interest in saying this. Naturally

he wants to be able to increase revenue for Discovery by convincing

advertisers that his channel is worthy of a place on their media


But he has a point. To date, pan-European channels have covered areas

where language barriers aren’t a problem, such as the music channel,

MTV, sports channels such as Eurosport, and news programmes for English-

speaking business men such as European Business News.

With the exception of Discovery, which is gradually building its

audiences worldwide, there is a shortage of channels outside these

niches that provide a wider range of programming.

Richard Burdett, vice-president of ad sales at Flextech Television,

which manages cable and satellite ad sales for several channels

including Discovery, says that if strong channels are developed, then

there is no reason why pan-regional fmcg advertising shouldn’t take off

in the way that car and airline advertising has.

‘Advertising agencies need media vehicles that allow them to be

confident that their ad is in the right environment. That’s where media

owners can help them,’ Burdett says. ‘That’s why Time and Newsweek are

doing so well. If, for example, you see them on a schedule for Belgium

you feel OK because you know the title. It hasn’t got to that stage with

television yet and that’s what is holding back advertising in other


Magazines are certainly ahead of television in this respect. Pick up a

copy of Newsweek or Time in any European country and you have a pretty

good idea of what type of stories you are going to read, even though the

stories carried may vary in different countries to suit local readers,

and in what sort of format. The Financial Times has also latched on to

this and has increased the number of European editions it prints.

Despite regional differences, magazines and the FT are essentially the

same in each market, which makes it easy for advertising agencies to

feel safe that they know what they are getting when booking ad space in

them. It’s one thing to be able to book an ad across Europe, the

reaction to the ads themselves is quite another.

Sixty per cent of the Europeans surveyed thought the ads they see were

creative or entertaining. That figure drops sharply to 40 per cent in

central Europe and 23 per cent in the former USSR - a sharp contrast

with North America where three-quarters of the respondents found the ads


Unfortunately, the research only asked respondents about attitudes to

advertising generally and does not provide any specific examples of

favourite or least liked ads.

Although the research revealed that there is strong brand sensitivity

across Europe, more than half those surveyed are not loyal to just one

brand, but rate several brands highly. For advertisers looking to

increase sales in different countries, it’s positive news as it shows

that European consumers are not set in their ways when it comes to

shopping but are prepared to try different brands. With this in mind,

one might conclude, advertisers could do worse than advertise on pan-

European channels.

As always, the good news has a caveat - in this case it’s that the

survey finds higher levels of cynicism in western and central Europe and

the former USSR about companies’ ability to provide accurate information

about their products than in any other region of the world.

Only 30 per cent of those surveyed in western Europe believe marketers

give them accurate information, dropping to 23 per cent in central

Europe and 9 per cent in the former USSR compared with 46 per cent in

Asia and 43 per cent in North America.

Only 19 per cent of those in western and central Europe believe

marketers respect the consumers’ intelligence compared with 31 per cent

in North America and 40 per cent in Asia.

Thus, the answer to the study’s central question - does a pan-European,

and even global market, for ads and programmes exist - may be yes, but

unlocking its potential is not so straightforward.

Breakdown of main findings in five key European countries


Italy receives 26 channels, far more than any other western European

country, although household penetration of pay-TV stands at only 10 per


Oddly, Italians spend less time in front of the TV than any other

European country watching, on average, 1.7 hours a day.

In a country where documentary programming counts for less than 1 per

cent of airtime, 79 per cent wanted to see more factual programming - a

higher figure than in any other European country. Italy was the only

European country where nature programming was not the first- or second-

highest rated subject area.

Cynicism about advertising in Italy is at one of the highest levels in

western Europe. Italians believe that marketers do not respect

consumers’ intelligence and Italians show the lowest level of confidence

in marketers giving them accurate information. They also strongly

believe that advertisers exaggerate health benefits and brainwash

children. Only 62 per cent of Italians declared ads creative and or


United kingdom

The UK, where households receive an average of nine channels, is second

only to Turkey in couch-potato terms. The average viewing per day in the

UK is 3.13 hours compared with Turkey’s 3.8 hours.

The UK is the most chauvinistic when it comes to its television

programmes - 79 per cent of UK respondents rate UK programmes as best.

The majority of the remaining 21 per cent said the US programmes are

best. However, only 15 per cent of Europeans think UK programmes are

best, with the US getting the most positive response.

The UK population also top the charts for its belief that advertising is

creative and entertaining, with 84 per cent agreeing. It was followed by

Ireland (77 per cent) and Norway (72 per cent). The western European

average is 60 per cent.

With the exception of Ireland, the UK is more positive than other

western European countries about marketers’ ability to give accurate

information about their products, but that’s not saying much - only 39

per cent believe they do and just 29 per cent think that marketers

respect consumers’ intelligence.

More than any other country we believe that advertising brainwashes

children (90 per cent), 80 per cent believe it exaggerates health

benefits and only slightly more than half believe that advertisers

sponsor worthwhile events.


Behind Italy, Germany has the second-highest number of channels, with an

average of 17 available to households. It does, however, have the

highest penetration of pay-TV services with a quarter of homes receiving


Germans watch 2.6 hours of TV a day, which is on a par with France - the

European average.

When it comes to what they want to see, Germans are among the least

inclined to want more factual programming with just over a third wanting


The Germans obviously take their advertising more seriously than other

Europeans. Just over half think their ads are creative and entertaining.

They are also more inclined than the other leading western European

countries to feel that marketers exaggerate health benefits. Less than a

third believe marketers provide accurate information and a low 15 per

cent believe marketers respect consumers’ intelligence.


France offers around seven channels, half of the European average and

the second-lowest number of channels in western Europe, yet has the

second highest level of penetration for pay-TV services at 19.4 per


Along with Germany, its viewers watch the European average of 2.6 hours

of TV a day. The French are only marginally behind Italy in their desire

for more factual programming with three quarters happy to see more

factual programmes.

France comes fourth out of the 14 European countries for wanting an

educational element in TV programmes. Whereas more than half the French

surveyed believe they make the best movies, only 10 per cent of all

Europeans think they do. And advertising? France shares Italy’s level of

belief in the creativity of ads - only 62 per cent find them



The Spanish receive the lowest number of TV channels in western Europe

with an average of six channels. The penetration of pay-TV services is

also low at just under 9 per cent.

The Spanish view less television than the average European, watching

under two-and-a-half hours a day.

As with France, only about one-third believe marketers provide them with

accurate information, and only 16 per cent believe they are treated


Spain is at the bottom of the league of key western European countries

when it comes to rating ads as creative or intelligent, with only 45 per

cent claiming they find them so.

The Spanish believe more than the other countries surveyed that the

health benefits of products are exaggerated, and they have the lowest

level of belief that companies sponsor worthwhile events.


Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content