Ad agency executives estimate about $200 million-222 million euros-is being spent on ad and marketing campaigns to educate Europeans and visitors to Europe about the new bills and coins.
The biggest effort is a $72 million pan-European campaign from Publicis, part of Publicis Groupe. Publicis set up a "Euro Buro" in April 2000 in Frankfurt-near its client, the European Central Bank-where 27 Publicis executives from 13 countries including the U.S. and Canada work on everything from 200 million brochures to ads in 11 languages and a Web site (www.euro.ecb.int). Most of the dozen countries in the euro zone are running their own national ads, and marketers such as credit-card companies and retailers have run euro-inspired messages.
European financial markets converted to the euro in January 1999. Most of the educational campaigns broke last year but had been handicapped by having to explain a product that consumers couldn't use until euro bills and coins were introduced Jan. 1 in all European Union countries except Denmark, Sweden and the U.K.
"I believe most people are ready," said Maurice Levy, Publicis Groupe's chairman-CEO. "However, we should not underestimate the difficulty. It's quite difficult to [calculate] the conversion. And we may see longer lines. Most stores have hired youngsters to help with lines, packing while the cashier figures out one box with francs and another box with euros."
Publicis handles national euro campaigns for France, Germany and the Netherlands as well as the umbrella pan-European effort.
For non-Europeans, ads by Publicis are running on CNN International and in The Wall Street Journal. Airlines are showing euro infomercials as inflight videos; airports are plastered with euro ads.
Among marketers, Visa Inter-national through February is running a pan-European print campaign from Publicis' Saatchi & Saatchi, London. It shows two identical Visa cards to indicate that the same card is used before and after Dec. 31, 2001. The headline: "All you need to know about the euro."
"The message is `Don't be worried about the changeover, or being embarrassed about [not knowing] if you're getting the right change back,' " said Jason Dorin, Saatchi's Visa account director. "There's huge apprehension among consumers. A lot of them are pissed off that their currency is going away."
In Publicis' pan-European ads, the theme is "The euro. Our money." TV commercials that broke last September show generic European cities against the voice-over: "Different countries. Differ-ent dreams. Different expectations. Three hundred million people sharing one single currency."
Now that the euro is actually in people's hands, "there's a feeling of Europeanness and appreciation," said Barbara Lutz, manager of the Euro Buro. "That's what we learned [from research], that the emotional side is important." In fact, as straightforward information campaigns aimed at educating consumers who have no choice about accepting the product, most euro ads are pretty dull.
The German national ads are particularly somber, addressing Germans' fears about losing the strong deutsche mark. Well-known Germans such as ex-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt reassure their compatriots.
France's ads are the most light-hearted, with 12-year-old Lise as the campaign's face. She has outlined the transition, offered conversion lessons and introduced bills and coins under the slogan: "The euro: It's easier together."
France alone has at least eight euro campaigns. One by Publicis asks consumers to guess the euro price of ordinary objects such as a frying pan; the correct answer is revealed at the bottom of the page.
The price quiz is important, Ms. Lutz says, because the French franc is one of the toughest for consumers to visualize in euros. Here's the conversion formula the confused French are told to use: Divide the price in French francs by two; add the result to the original amount; divide the total by 10.
Addressing fears that stores will take advantage of the changeover to raise prices, French grocer E. Leclerc has run ads from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe Alice, Paris, promising to round down to the nearest euro cent.
The Italians started late. An estimated $6 million campaign funded by the Council of Ministers from WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, Rome, both reassures Italians that prices won't go up and warns retailers that they'd better not. In the most eye-catching euro ad, by Turin agency Armando Testa, Sophia Loren urges Italians to donate their old coins to fight cancer.
So far-reaching is the currency change that the French Lottery has to relaunch its instant "Millionaire" game this month. Ads from Callegari Berville Grey will explain that the old 1 million franc prize, worth about $138,000, will now be one million euros, a whopping $900,000.
Contributing: Eric Lyman, Rome; Dagmar Mussey, Duesseldorf, Germany; and Larry Speer, Paris