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9th Annual European Market Guide: Major Growth Across the Pond

10 Jun, 2010 By: Pat Cauley Response

Even with continued market-to-market hurdles, the European DRTV space comes of age.

The continent that brought us DRTV legend Anthony Sullivan, as well as singing sensation Susan Boyle, has quickly become a highly coveted market. And while there may be a few idiosyncrasies marketers must navigate, it will take a lot more than an Icelandic volcano to stop them from tapping into the lucrative revenue stream that is the European marketplace.

European Customers

TV shopping revenue in Western Europe is expected to grow from €4.2 billion in 2007 to €6.4 billion in 2012, according to Screen Digest. But in order to accurately target these European customers, it’s imperative to understand their wants.

“Fitness, kitchen and household categories continue to do well. There is also a demand for do-it-yourself (DIY) products, especially during the spring and summer months,” says Michele Quinlan, Chicago-based director of sales and marketing for Global Infomercial Services.

Sheb Alahmari, manager of international sales and wholesale for Irvine, Calif.-based BJ Global Direct, agrees that fitness is a strong product category. “Typically, higher end items like Ab Circle Pro do better than a lower ticket fitness item,” Alahmari says.

However, European desires extend beyond fitness. Martin Purcell, chief operating officer of JML GmbH, contends that Europe also has a solid market for beauty products. And Sylvia Morales, vice president for Santa Monica, Calif.-based Williams Worldwide TV, agrees. “A change that has emerged within the beauty segment, though, is the growth of the topical category. Traditionally difficult because of required local approvals and clearances, this expansion is due largely to the close cooperation with product owners and their willingness to manufacture locally, as well as an increased patience and support with the registration process,” she says.

European Union?

If there are any lessons that can be taken from Chevy Chase’s 1985 classic “National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” it would not only be to stay away from English roundabouts, but also that no two areas of Europe or its citizens are exactly alike. “Many advertisers thought the expansion of the European Union to 27 countries, linked with the continued growth of cable and digital channels, would open up new and profitable markets. However, some countries — such as France — remain largely protectionist, and DRTV has not made much impact,” says Digby Orsmond, CEO and creative director of London-based ARM Direct Ltd., and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board.

“The majority of media is in the U.K., Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Spain and Italy,” Quinlan adds. “Obviously, more media equals higher sales so many suppliers tend to focus more on these markets.”

Purcell adds Scandinavia to the list and also accentuates the Dutch. “Holland is one of the most responsive markets per head of population and really punches above its weight,” he says.

Orsmond concurs. “Consumers in Holland, Ireland, Germany and the U.K. have most embraced DRTV, and their populations like using their televisions for all manner of home shopping. Interestingly, these countries also have the most call centers per head of population.”

And Morales says Central Europe is quickly catching up. “It has stepped out of Western Europe’s shadow,” she contends. “The consumer base continues to increase as its per capita income — and resulting buying power — grows.”

However, in the end, Orsmond’s experience always proves that the U.K. is still the best DRTV market in Europe. “The cost of both short- and long-form airtime is very competitive when compared to the U.S. Another added advantage in the U.K. is that TV audience levels can be accurately tracked using BARB (Broadcaster’s Audience Research Board), making planning and buying TV airtime more accurate than any other country in Europe,” he says.

Orsmond contends that the Brits’ embrace of teleshopping simply comes down to the numbers. With a population of about 59 million, the U.K. has 14 home shopping style channels compared with Germany’s approximate 84 million population having only five.

Likewise, Alahmari contends that acceptance levels for DRTV vary on the continent. He says the U.K. and Germany can certainly move volume. “Some European countries like France are very strict about importation and TV ad claims, so it’s very difficult to transition a campaign, whereas you can import and sell almost anything in a country like Holland,” Alahmari says. Which begs the question: With target markets and products categories established, how does one go about actually transitioning their campaign?

Campaign Transition

Orsmond charges that with regard to creative style, it is important for U.S. companies to understand that European consumers have very distinct tastes and that their U.S. infomercials should be made in such a way as to allow for cultural or language differences at the initial production stage.

“Europe is pretty much accustomed to U.S-style products and TV presentations, and as usual, the devil is in the detail. For example, don’t spend five minutes of your cooking show talking about meatloaf when most of Europe does not recognize it except as an aging rock star,” Purcell quips, also stressing that marketers must remember differences like measurements and calculations.

“FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval doesn’t mean a thing to most European TV stations,” Orsmond says. “To get a product approved, especially a cosmetic or pharmaceutical, it must conform to local standards, which vary from country to country.  For example, cosmetics containing a fairly common ingredient, Alcohol 40, are prohibited in Scandinavia.”

Even electronics must be adapted, as the European standard is 220 volts (U.S. 110 volts). “Not only do manufacturers need to produce different product versions, they must get the product passed by local trading approval boards such as the BEAB (British Electrotechnical Approvals Board) in the U.K. and TUV in Germany,” Orsmond adds.

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