This month saw European Union membership negotiations kick off for Turkey, a country that is at last enjoying an era of relative political and economic stability. As Europe's second-biggest consumer market after Germany, the marketing focus is in many ways on the younger generation - 66 per cent of the 70 million population is under 35, while 41 per cent is under 19. Exposed to the world through TV, these consumers are ready to upgrade their lifestyles to match those they see in international TV shows.
Increasingly, local companies are realising that they have to build a brand bond with Turkish consumers. This new-found awareness is partly the result of long-term efforts by the ad industry to communicate the power of branding, but also because Turkish companies' Asian competitors have far lower production costs.
Growing confidence in the Turkish economy and a high rate of privatisation is at the same time resulting in increasing investment in Turkey by multinational companies. The outcome? A level of competition not seen before between local and international brands and, thankfully, an increasing share of the budget being set aside for marketing.
No surprise, then, that the ad market has grown by around 30 per cent in each of the past two years, and is expected to grow a further 20-25 per cent per year into 2007. Still, the base remains relatively small: adspend per capita is $32, while share of GDP stands at just 0.05 per cent.
TV dominates the ad scene, with a 54 per cent share, an unsurprising fact when the average time spent in front of the box is 300 minutes a day and new technology is scant due to infrastructure challenges and the low-level purchasing power for new generation technology equipment.
The food and drinks sector is expanding the fastest, while new brands and variants in the personal care and cosmetics category are flooding the market every day. Financial services, especially insurance and private pensions, GSM operators, mobile technology and home durables remain the biggest TV advertisers, and their spend on this media is expected to grow.
As suggested by the dominance of TV as an ad medium, the reality of the market is that all brands are today playing mass. Certainly this is different from the situation in developed markets right now, but it is also absolutely the right introduction strategy for immature, but fast developing, markets such as Turkey: the people you communicate with today may not be your immediate customer but will most likely be tomorrow.
How quickly tomorrow will come you can't tell. So as ever - but even more so than elsewhere in Europe - marketers and their agencies need to step up to the challenge and win a place in the hearts and minds of consumers sooner rather than later.
- Meral Akyel is the managing director of Leo Burnett Turkey.