Advertising is something that, in this modern capitalist-infused age, we are confronted with nonstop nearly every day. Slowly adapting to each other throughout the 20th century, advertisers and consumers have evolved from each other to the point that ads now often need to shock or seduce the would-be customer. The Baltic states went through a rapid version of this progression, catching up with Europe, following the occupation. Advertising emerging from the three countries went from unnoticed and reminiscent of 1970s styles, to contemporary and competitive in the global market. Simplicity also has been revived and is seen as the fresh face of a new, self-conscious form of the corporation. This week, The Baltic Times takes a deeper look at the men behind the curtain who help you decide how to dispense of your hard-earned cash.
TALLINN - In the advertising industry, few names come immediately to mind when considering unchallenged leaders. The Clear Channel Advertising brand undoubtedly appears in surprising places worldwide, in locales ranging from billboards to bus stops. The omnipresent outdoor Clear Channel presence began in the late 1990's in the Baltic States, and stands in the top leading market positions. However according to Taavi Vaenola, co-founder of Fiasko advertising company in Estonia, such giants are of little threat to the many-colored smaller firms throughout the industry.
"There is an absolutely huge market, and no real leader in it to accurately call competition," said Vaenola.
One reason for this is a highly segmented field of advertising types and specialties. Apart from the largest companies in the Baltics who manage their own advertising departments, most spread the work amongst smaller contracts.
"Many of the companies order different sorts of ads from different firms. Each campaign or type of advertisement may be a special thing, and they really don't block others out or prefer a single company. It's beneficial for both sides," said Vaenola.
This has particularly helped the young, smaller companies, which may be able to provide a striking quality of advertising at a much lower price than established agencies. "They can shift their loyalties and go straight for a cooler thing at a cheaper price."
This allows firms such as Fiasko to dabble in a wide array of advertising types and enjoy their work. Fiasko is able to assist clients in mediums such as online, print, outdoor advertisements, television and radio ads and general company branding; devising a single logo which will provide a visual representation for the company.
Estonia became famous in precisely this respect when it decided to brand itself as a nation in the early part of the decade. Launching the "Welcome to ESTonia" and "Made in ESTonia" initiatives, companies were able to participate in spreading the word about the country. T-shirts, commercials and pop songs were just a few of the things to emerge from the pre-EU accession drive, and it still reverberates throughout the state today.
Latvia and Lithuania have taken similar approaches to marketing the countries for tourism and business. Most recently, the Lithuanian government hinted at a possible official name change, in order to make the state more memorable and easy to pronounce throughout Europe. Latvia launched its newest and most extensive advertising campaign in February 2007, scattering posters throughout the London Underground along with television clips.
The images depicted made up a typical buffet of Latvian culture and landscape, from the slightly unnerving type of Latvian blue cow, to the Song Festival and Cosmos vocal group, to the unforgettable Aerodium vertical wind tunnel. This quest for higher numbers of tourists has remained constant in all three states, helping to pump local and foreign advertising agencies with state budget allocations aimed at spreading awareness of interesting quirks in the region, as well as the mere existence of the countries.
In advertising, the small size of the Baltic markets has not had a smothering effect as it has on other firms thanks to the reach of global markets and internet technology. Fiasko currently has over ten clients in not only Estonia, but Finland, Poland and even Australia. Vaenola acknowledges that the Baltics have not made many legendary impacts on the advertising industry, but believes that the particular style and sarcastic cultural outlook have found positive responses in many other world regions. He specifically noted one advertising campaign which occurred around Father's Day. Postcards advertising the company were sent through the mail, and included a condom with a large hole in it next to their "Happy Father's Day" wishes. Simplicity along with an edgy and often pessimistic take on life will continue to do well in the global advertising arena, believes Vaenola.
The advertising industry is not restricted as an art in itself to corporations and business. Movements for social responsibility which became popular in the last few decades such as the "Fair Trade" stamp, developed a brand. Vaenola plans to steer his company in a similar direction, using the flexibility of advertising to work with companies on one end, while encouraging positive social change and awareness on the other.
Having dreamed of working in advertising since he was a child (something few can claim in their industries), Vaenola enjoys the work and sees it as an art and form of expression in itself. Thus motivating his work towards positive social contributions is no challenge and something with which the nature of the industry is compatible.