Friday, January 27, 2012

Czech the Difference

By Ilyse Cohen 

After getting back from our two-week journalism study abroad program to Prague, Paris, Brussels and Rome, I have learned so much about how different countries handle different aspects of the media. One of the differences I found most interesting was how the Czech Republic advertisements were targeted and regulated. In Prague, we visited McCann-Erickson, a worldwide advertising agency network with eight different media companies all geared toward helping their clients and growing their business.

During our visit to McCann-Erickson, we all learned many things about Czech advertising and regulations. It was very interesting to see how things were so different from what we are used to in America. For one, unlike Americans, the Czechs do not spend their money as freely as we do. They are very careful with their money and try to save it or spend it as economically as possible.  When making an ad for the Czech, you have to do it in a lot less flashy way. They are a lot more focused on spending time with their family than they are about going out and spending money. According to a data shared with us at at McCann-Erickson, 35% of the Czech income goes to housing, 27% to groceries and 8% to transportation. When they do need to go shopping, they chose to go more frequently, buying only what they need and finding the closest and cheapest places to shop versus Americans, who like to buy in bulk.

When producing an ad in the Czech Republic, it is very important to focus on the things that are important to the consumers.  Dogs are a very big deal there and if you want to make a good commercial that appeals the Czech, putting a dog in the advertisement makes it almost a guaranteed hit. Other important aspects to focus on are their values such as liberty, boldness, ambition, kindness, sensibility, self-recognition, naturalness, and deliberation. They are also very big on community. Overall, most Czechs only have about 55 human contacts, which means they have more solidarity and are very close to their community in which they live and work. Most of their time during the day is either spent at work or with their family. Czechs are also known to be outdoorsy people. They love going on float trips in the many rivers in the Czech Republic, hiking and camping. Many of the successful ads we watched at McCann-Erickson focused on the outdoorsy lifestyle along with a sense of community and tradition with friends and family.  They were funny and sarcastic, which Czech people are known to be.

Some of the problems advertising agencies, such as McCann-Erickson, face is grabbing the attention of the Czech people. The people have very little trust and a high lack of interest in advertisements, so ads need to be serious and transparent to grab a consumer’s attention. According to the data shared with us, 93% of Czech people believe that advertising is manipulative in order to sell more of their product. In order to gain their trust, advertising agencies have to focus more on the brand rather then the product. Most of the examples we saw at McCann-Erickson were focusing on the brand fitting in with the Czech lifestyle rather than showing off the product. When buying a product, 80% buy a product based on a personal recommendation while only 50% buy based on classical ads. This makes it that much more important that the ads get the brands message across and grab the consumers attention.

In the Czech Republic, there are a lot of regulations put on advertisements. Unlike in the United States, where the Federal Trade Commission under the government censors advertisements, in the Czech Republic there is a nonprofit, private advertising council called Rada Pro Reklamu (RPR), separate from the government, who regulates the ads. The main goal of this council is to achieve a fair, legal, decent and truthful advertisement.  One of the advantages of this council is that the regulations vary country-to-country depending on historical, legislative and social conditions. The council deals with complaints about advertising in print, posters on surfaces, parcel services, and audiovisual production, along with ads in theaters, on the radio, TV or Internet. The RPR does not deal with election or political advertising or cases in which the law overcomes over ethical concerns.

One example we watched at McCann-Erickson that had been taken off air was an ad McCann-Erickson made for Fidorka, a chocolate biscuit like a Kit-Kat, where a little girl sees a couple stopped in a car at a crosswalk eating a Fidorka. She proceeds to hit the car with her doll, releasing the airbags, so that she can grab the candy from the women’s hand.  This ad was removed because it was promoting children violence. I know that if I saw an ad like this in the United States, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the violence but would have thought it was a funny and creative commercial. This is just one example of how the Czech regulations and people see things differently than we do. We all thought that this ad was cute and even though the point of watching the ad was to see the difference, it had convinced all of us to go and try a Fidorka. I know many of us from the trip ended up buying a ton to take back to friends and family. Cleary, the ad worked for us but the reaction from the Czech wasn’t so positive.

It was amazing to see how different their ads were and what the Czech wanted to see in their ads compared to in America. In America, we love funny ads just like they do in the Czech Republic, but overall it is a different kind of humor. I enjoyed watching all the different ads and seeing what worked and didn’t work. After the meeting, I started to see some of the things we talked about in our meeting. Walking around I noticed there were not flashy advertisements and billboards like there are in the US. We saw dogs were everywhere and it was just like us as American tourists to acknowledge every dog we saw how cute it was.

Overall, I had an amazing time in the Czech Republic. Prague was one of my favorite cities that we visited. I love all the old architecture and how all the buildings were so colorful. Prague was the first city I had ever been to in Europe and I am glad it was. Besides having to get used to walking on cobblestone streets, it was an absolutely gorgeous city that I know we all loved.

Click here to contact Ilyse Cohen.

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