Things are looking good in Romania: the economy is growing strongly and inflation is at its lowest rate for years. Add to this the fact that the new government recently increased consumers' purchasing power when it cut income tax from 25 per cent to 16 per cent, and it's no surprise that Millward Brown's recent survey showed that many of the world's most positive marketers now operate here. Some 80 per cent of Romanian respondents said they expected to see an increase in their 2006 marketing budgets.
All good stuff but, ultimately, the biggest and most positive impact on our industry will be European Union accession in 2007.
The key point for our industry is that Romania's long-awaited EU integration will expand horizons for local and international brands. As the market liberalises and competition hots up, success will come from being a strong European player, not just a strong local player. This battle will require all of a client's available resources and represents an opportunity for agencies to show the value we can add.
Once Romania joins the EU, our country will become a very tempting market for international brands that were previously absent for political or economic reasons. The big budgets and know-how gained in other markets will play their part in the fight against local competitors, creating a David-and-Goliath market almost overnight. This imbalance will inevitably bode well for communication standards in Romania. The arrival of international brands will quickly familiarise consumers with creative, top-quality advertising and they will soon demand beautiful ideas from their brands of choice.
The first challenge for agencies comes now: we must prepare the battle ground, help clients to be increasingly innovative and start to set the future standards of the market. We need to be producing and selling increasingly creative and daring advertising, and encouraging clients to increase their communication budgets now in advance of the changes ahead.
Our second challenge is to prepare to handle a lot more business - we expect our portfolio of clients to grow, both through the international network and from winning new pitches.
But probably our most inspiring challenge is to help local clients win their battles in other EU markets by producing good, local advertising that will travel well across other European markets. And how will we do that? Probably by exploiting the cultural clash between the Romanian spirit and the new EU norms and legislation that will come to govern us. This new framework will undoubtedly lead to the appearance of fresh communication insights that Romanian agencies must uncover and exploit.
No matter how big the challenge, or how unequal the initial battle between Romanian and international brands, the best of our brand owners will ultimately benefit from EU accession and could take a lead in Europe. The question is: are we, as our clients' partners, really ready for 2007? As Leo Burnett said back in the 30s: "The standards are going to be very high and the pace is going to be very fast."
Ioana Iordache is the managing director of Leo Burnett Romania.