The World: Insider's View - Austria

Austria's advertising industry is not doing too badly out of living in the shadow of its economic giant of a neighbour, Thomas Mas writes.

I'll spare you the football references. The sport isn't everything in Austria. We failed to qualify for the World Cup: we're a poor relation to our neighbour, Germany, when it comes to football.

It's tempting to think the same is true when it comes to media.

Germany's proximity means there is a significant media overflow into Austria. German advertising is ubiquitous on Austrian TV and some German advertisers could be accused of thinking about Austria as the 17th German federal state.

But such a view also poses certain dangers. Germany and Austria are two countries separated by their common language, which may well be the reason why German brands such as Mercedes, Audi and BMW have separate agencies in Austria that produce their own advertising. It may also be the reason why all the major German agencies have separate Austrian divisions.

If a German ad runs in Austria, the voiceover will invariably be re-recorded. The cultures are very different, particularly our senses of humour. What Germans regard as funny or creative may be received quite differently in Austria.

Austrian agencies have also had to demonstrate their creativity by producing campaigns with a fraction of the budgets enjoyed by our German cousins.

Like other industries living in the shadow of our economic giant of a neighbour, we haven't done badly out of it. Our position has turned us into a small but perfectly formed island of bliss.

That's not to say the industry here is static, though. The opening up of markets all around us and the introduction of the euro have brought huge changes to the communications industries. We have begun to think less in terms of traditional above- and below-the-line advertising or business-to-business and business-to-consumer campaigns, and more in terms of transnational and integrated advertising.

This holistic approach, which we call TotalWork at BBDO Austria, is increasingly demanded by our clients. The media-neutral big idea stands at the centre, implemented wherever our target group informs itself, communicates or shops. The Dodge car brand was introduced to Austria via ebay.at, showing just how far communication has gone beyond the conventional here.

As a result, Austrian advertising is on the up. Adspend stood at EUR2 billion in 2005, a 5 per cent increase on the previous year. We're also gaining recognition on the international stage for our creative ideas, which have taken home awards from Cannes, Montreux and the Clios.

We're looking forward to 2008, when the European Championship will be held jointly in Switzerland and Austria. As the hosts, we'll automatically qualify and we'll finally be there. It will be exciting to see where our advertising is at then.

- Thomas Mas is the chief executive of BBDO Austria.

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