The World: Insider's View - Italy

Marco Testa is optimistic about the potential of the new, digital Italy, but warns advertisers and agencies will have to catch up fast.

In Italy, there are 109 mobile phones for every 100 inhabitants.

We have 5.6 million high-speed internet connections and 3.2 million digital terrestrial TV decoders. More than 3.5 million families subscribe to digital platforms. These numbers are rising in leaps and bounds every year.

The new, digital Italy is keeping adland awake at night with one question: "So what do we do now?"

The safe bet is new, interactive languages and content for new platforms which, although they're ready, are for the most part empty.

The Italian coffee brand Lavazza has just embarked on an unusual, complex and successful multimedia operation that includes the lot - from a TV commercial to a TV soap, from a rich internet community to the imminent launch on a mobile channel, all backed up with virals, merchandising and editorial.

The Lavazza campaign shows it doesn't pay to be afraid of the audience.

If your creativity strikes a chord, they will know how to follow you without too many problems. Today's consumers are more advanced than we give them credit for.

There are potential pitfalls, though. We do not yet have efficient tools to assess returns, and those models that are available refer to yesterday's media market.

There is also the issue of skills - in most agencies, account handling and creative departments have changed little. Co-ordinating and inventing multiplatform advertising campaigns is not something that you learn overnight.

The agency where I work has taken creatives, web designers, IT specialists, and new-media marketers and set them all to work under one roof, but this type of initiative is still a rare beast today. The rest of the market is still divided, each unit with its own skills, separate from the others.

On this front, I foresee changes in the near future for the simple reason that response times with digital are so much shorter. When you interact with the consumer in real-time, decisions must be taken quickly - it's not possible to move from one department to another to decide what to do; one central reference point that can contribute all the necessary skills is needed.

Fortunately, clients are beginning to realise this. At last, the world is changing. In some years' time, we will look back at this period as a complex but unforgettable time, when those who had the intelligence, courage and creativity to look ahead were able to change their own destinies and those of those around them. We can recall what William Blake said: "Everything we see created, at one time was just imagined."

- Marco Testa is the chairman and chief executive of the Armando Testa Group.


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