The Russian Advertising Industry

The Russian Advertising Industry
Russia is a capitalist country, and like any other country that needs to promote goods, needs an advertising industry. This program briefly tells the story of the Russian advertising industry.

Michael Gibson, a British creative director and advertising consultant working in Moscow, who has been in the heart of the Russia advertising industry since the early 1990s joins the program.

Michael takes us on a whistle-stop historical tour of the industry in Russia. He points out that there was an advertising industry before the revolution, and over the years, it has served very different masters. "During the Soviet Union, it carried social and political messages. It was only in the nineties with the advent of a consumer society that advertising as we understand it in the west has really taken off…"

Michael splits the development of the Russian advertising industry into three phases: "Firstly, the ‘Man Men Nineties' — the first instalment of Russian advertising. This saw a huge influx of creative people into Russia, including myself. We introduced a lot of western brands products and services, and there was a gold rush feeling. It was tremendously exciting. But at the time the local industry didn't have a lot of experience, there were a lot of crude and cringe-worthy ads being made, it was really the international advertising agencies which brought in the experience and trained a lot of locals. That was a spectacularly decadent time, and really very like the Mad Men movies, and it all ended with a huge bang with a collapse in the economy in 1998."

"Then it readjusted, which leads me into my chapter two, which I have called ‘The Naughties,' which started in 1998-99. This was different, the industry was by then more refined. Whereas previously it had been dominated by foreigners, they were then basically all fired. Then was the time for good Russian creatives who had 10 years of experience to start picking up the reigns of their own industry and move it forward. We saw a lot of great work coming out of the 90s, some classic campaigns for Maya Semya, Tolstyak beers, some of the IKEA ads were made then. I worked with brands that were committed to Russia at that stage, people like Proctor & Gamble and Mars, they were all trying to create sustainable brands, created inside Russia, not hoisted on from the outside. That all collapsed with the worldwide crisis in 2008, and then we entered a third chapter, the 2010s, I call those years the ‘ONEderous one-zies'.

"All sorts of new opportunities raised their heads then. Advertising on TV had been a big monster during chapter one and chapter two but it was too expensive now because nobody had any budgets left. So we saw the rise of things like promotional and activational advertising, and agencies that were in the ‘below the line segment' did very well then. The advent of digital and social media redefined the way that this kind of advertising could be done. If before this kind of advertising wasn't seen as being as sexy as big-budget TV ads, now it became full of potential, and lots of ideas were finding their ways into these campaigns. So that's the history [of the Russian advertising industry] in a nutshell."

Michael describes how advertising campaigns that worked in the west, such as ads for Tide washing powder were readapted in the 1990s to suit the Russian environment. Although the desire to have clean floors and clean clothes is a universal human quality, the campaigns had to localize themselves to Russian floors and clothes; otherwise, they simply were not credible. "Each culture has its own special way of communicating. IKEA was very good at finding local insights, by using Russian flats which have a special dynamic to them, or the dacha which is very special to Russia."

Michael talks about the specifics of the Russian market in the digitized age, the way that Russians use social media and the way that advertisements are more emotion-based than in the west. He also talks about the way that Russians love spectacles, in the form of holidays, and festivals, and how this affects advertising. Please listen to this radio program for more information.

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