As part of a special report on Emerging Markets, Mediapiac, a premium trade publication in Hungary, conducted interviews with high-profile businessmen from all over the globe. “Representing” the region of Central & Eastern Europe was Odysseas Ntotsikas, Founder & Managing Director of the Thinkdigital Group, who discussed, among other things, about the potential of Digital Advertising in CEE & S.E. Europe, TDG’s strategic plans and its partnership with Facebook.
Mediapiac: When talking about “emerging markets”, we usually mean the BRIC countries or, in other words, Latin-America and Middle East. That said, in Central Europe we feel that we lost the position we had a few decades ago and that we became “sinking markets”. What’s your opinion? In which parts of Europe do you see a real potential for the media/ad industry?
Odysseas Ntotsikas: I wouldn’t say that central european markets would qualify as “sinking markets” as far as Digital Advertising is concerned. In 2011 Western European Countries grew by 11.5% versus a significant 20% growth in CEE markets. And you know what? The fastest eight growing markets last year were from CEE & S.E. Europe.
Compared to MENA, BRIC or Latin America, it is obvious that we are not comparing apples to apples. Those countries start from either a different population base in the case of BRIC countries -thus the investment levels are different- or from a much lower base in terms of MENA & LATAM.
To answer the second part of your question, there are certain markets in C.E. & S.E. Europe where there is great upside, even though it’s obviously coming with a risk. Some of the markets that I would classify in that category are Romania, Greece and Bulgaria.
It seems that Turkey is the newest of the “fashionable” markets. What is so promising about this market and what are the major challenges?
O. Ntotsikas: Count the Thinkdigital Group (www.thinkdigitalgroup.net) in for that trend, if I may say. We have been flirting with the idea for several years, so we are planning to launch our operations in Turkey in early 2013. Turkey is indeed a “hot” market. Political stability for the last 10 years, fast economic growth coupled with structural characteristics such as the young population, the growing middle class and the expanding Internet penetration, make it an interesting market.
On the other hand, the truth is that all the above factors have turned the turkish market to partly live in a “bubble”. This “bubble” is not only visible in the Media/Advertising sector, where everything is getting inflated, but also in the whole surrounding economy as well. So, the most important challenge, I believe, someone has to face, is to make the right strategic moves in the market without getting carried away by the overall exuberant climate.
Other than Turkey, what’s next for the Thinkdigital Group? How is your strategy different in “emerging” and “mature” markets -if this distinction is meaningful in the Digital world?
O. Ntotsikas: Actually yes, there is a distinction but always within the strategic mission of the Thinkdigital Group, which is to connect brands to consumers in the best way possible. Overall, for ground-breaking services, depending on the maturity of each market, we take a gradual roll-out approach. What is next for Thinkdigital is very much related to the overall changes in consumer patterns & the way our industry is evolving.
To that end, I would say that we do have in our pipeline services that enhance our offering in Mobile, Video and Social Media so that we better follow the consumer habits.
That said, things like programmatic media buying and Real Time Bidding, have been top in our agenda for the last 2-3 years and are greatly underlying our efforts to further increase the value we offer to advertisers and publishers.
Your company represents Facebook as a premium partner in our market. So it would be interesting to know your opinion on what’s next for Facebook. Nowadays we hear about sinking stock prices, etc. Why we should have trust in Facebook as a tool for marketers and a good information playground for users?
O. Ntotsikas: There is a famous quote by one of the early day futurologists, which, I believe, clearly explains what Facebook and the recent stock pricing issue is all about: “People tend to overestimate the effect of innovations in the short run and totally underestimate it in the long run”. Facebook has championed in a brave new world, which didn’t even exist 10 years ago. And this is not only thanks to the fact that it has overpassed the 1 billion active users across the world. What is most important is that it paved the way for new forms of connectivity, openess, engagement and communication to evolve.
For Marketers, Facebook represents an unparalleled platform in scale and reach, which can help them connect with their consumers in an open trustful dialogue, while it provides the tools to create immersive and engaging storytelling experiences.
For users, it offers a very rich set of options to granulary control their information and how this is used by other parties.
So overall, I see huge potential going forward in further enhancing this relationship between brands and consumers via Facebook.
So, what are the main challenges for you as a Facebook partner? Is there a difference in Facebook position and biz potential in emerging and mature media markets?
O. Ntotsikas: If there is a challenge for the Thinkdigital Group, it is a much wider one and it affects everyone dealing with Facebook on a professional way. With the pace Facebook is growing in all directions, to keep track with the pace of new marketing services launches is a skill by itself. Thankfully for TDG, Facebook has been a great partner on this, continuously scaling up the resources to support us with updates, training and support for all the 6 European local markets that we operate in. I believe that the feedback and comments we get from our clients in every market is accurately reflecting the high-level of cooperation this partnership has reached.