The World: Insider's View - Costa Rica

Costa Rica's ad folk are making a creative virtue out of economic necessity by replacing expenditure with clever ideas.

Costa Rica has a population of just over four million people. Although this is a small ad market, it's always been known for its big investments in traditional media exposure.

This year, though, the world economy is directly affecting the advertising industry. Clients are more conservative in their budgets and they're re-planning their strategies to get the most out of each dollar they invest.

The most affected is the newspaper industry, followed by TV and radio. The bonanza period experienced from mid-2006 to September 2007 was left behind.

As contradictory as it may sound, though, this crisis has brought great benefits to the Costa Rican advertising industry; since in terms of creativity and ideas, agencies have had to change their focus while developing new campaigns.

Nowadays, creativity has been established as a key factor for agencies and it has become the best way to counteract low budgets. Big investments in traditional media are gone, and we must try out new channels never before explored. And these channels can be even more effective than the traditional ones.

The market's behaviour allows people in the industry, at all levels, to open their eyes and meet a new consumer, a more evolved and different one. It is a consumer willing to have less paper and more screen; less telephone and more cell phone; a lot more SMS and e-mail, and even more messengers; less traditional TV and more reality shows; less radio and more MP3; less cinema and more YouTube.

Direct marketing, the digital era, and promo advertising have grown strong and have become the best paths for brands to win people's time. Advertisers are more risky and supportive when it comes to aggressive and distinctive strategies.

It is clear that during a time of economic instability we can strengthen our creativity, and it's apparent here in this little country of Central America. These efforts have raised the profile of the region with great advertising award wins in 2008, including the first four Cannes Lions in the history of Central America, won by JWT Costa Rica in the categories of Direct and Media; and also the gold and silver awards obtained by Lowe and BBDO at FIAP and Sol de Iberoamerica in the category of alternative media.

For economic reasons, we expect to live again under the umbrella of big investments in traditional media, but the ongoing diversification of media and creativity will make it increasingly complicated. It is said, though, that from the most unexpected places come the best of ideas, and I am sure that in these times new trends will emerge that will set a new direction for creativity in years to come.

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