RUSSIA BECOMES THE LEADING ADVERTISING MARKET

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MOSCOW (RIA Novosti commentator Vladimir Simonov) --Russian-born World Boxing Champion Kostya Tszyu was less known to his compatriots when he simply knocked out his opponents on boxing rings in America and Europe.

Today, every Russian male, young and old, recognizes his name. Various TV channels broadcast an advertising clip where Kostya Tszyu promotes a certain brand of eau de toilette that is "not for sensitive skin."

During seven decades, when Russia was cut from the outside world by the Iron Curtain, its population was not aware of such a common phenomenon of the modern civilization as advertising. Today, this Communist taboo is non-existent. From a former "forbidden fruit," advertising of goods and services in all its forms - TV, outdoor or on-line - turned into a cult object of common interest, into a favorite topic to start a conversation, similar to discussion of a weather forecast.

There is certainly a lot to talk about. According to experts, sixty-one thousand well-known international brands were advertised in Russia last year, while a decade ago nobody even heard of them in the Soviet Union. Moscow alone features more outdoor advertising, including various street billboards, cross street banners and electronic screens, then the whole of Great Britain. Overall, Russia turned into the most thriving and fast-growing advertising kingdom in the world. Last year, it featured 32% annual growth. Experts believe Russia is more attractive in terms of advertising than India and China.

The geography of international capital flow confirms this trend. For instance, famous WWP marketing company set its sights on a piece of Russian advertising pie, which is worth, according to some estimates, about $9 billion. The company announced a cooperation project with Video International, the largest Russian advertising agency founded by former press minister Mikhail Lesin, who currently occupies the post of adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

AFP agency recently reported the News Corp, the advertising and publishing powerhouse that belongs to media magnate Rupert Murdock, applied at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for a target loan worth $130 million (101 million Euro) with the goal to invest in the Russian advertising industry.

Murdock plans to use the loan to create a regional network of outdoor advertising covering a number of ex-Soviet republics in addition to Russia.

The market of outdoor advertising, according to Murdock, is less threatened by commercial risks than TV or printed advertising. In any case, the News Corp will have to consider two important factors characteristic of the Russian advertising market - the exigent taste of Russian consumers who demand clever and creative approach to advertising, which is a rare case even in western practices, and rather harsh attitudes of Russian parliamentarians, who consider control over the advertising industry almost their sacred duty before the Russian state.

At the end of April, the State Duma passed in the first reading a draft new version of the law On Advertising, which is much stricter than the existing legislation. In particular, the revised law bans completely advertising of alcoholic drinks on TV, on the radio and on street billboards (sorry, Mr. Murdock). The new version of the law will put an end to the trick of using the so-called "umbrella brands," when consumers are indirectly reminded of alcoholic drinks through advertising of soft drinks, sweets or marinated pepper that bear the same brand name as vodka. Images of alcohol drinking are banned in any type of advertising, as well, meaning the advertisers cannot show people pouring or drinking vodka in a clip dedicated to, say, advertising of gas-heater or family psychologist services.

"Such an approach will decrease significantly the amount of alcohol advertising. Besides, it will be much easier to observe and control such a law, and certainly harder to violate it," believes Vyatcheslav Chernyakhovsky, the researcher at the Russian Academy of Advertising. Advertisers closely tied with the manufacturers of alcoholic drinks hardly share his benevolent optimism. Western investors in the Russian advertising market must also be ready to face the fact that the Federal Anti-Trust Service (FATS) watches closely the quality of advertising, as well. Recently, FATS levied a heavy fine on Chail Communications Rus ad agency for an indecent, from its point of view, advertisement of Samsung X460 mobile phone. The advertising clip depicted a brawl among young women who lined up for casting for a photo session with the phone. FATS found the brawl scene too realistic and violent, and the style of behavior used by the characters to attain their goal - immoral.

In the last year, the Russian advertising market gained the reputation among industry professionals as the leading world market. However, advertising does not make sense without goods and related business activities. The growing interest of global advertisers toward Russia points to the fact that the country gradually increases its investment attractiveness.

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