MEDIA BUYING & PLANNING; RAISING SOPHISTICATION IN E. EUROPE HAVLICEK BUILDS ON MARKET'S POTENTIAL

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In 1991, when he was 24, Petr Havlicek joined Young & Rubicam as a "junior, junior person" in the agency's Prague office. He didn't remain junior for long. He was promoted to media director just nine months later. And today, as managing director of the media agency Mediapolis in the Czech Republic, he is credited with recognizing the market potential in Eastern Europe and helping the agency prosper.

Two years ago, Young & Rubicam and Euro RSCG decided to refocus their joint media-buying house in Paris as a pan-European network and dubbed the new entity Mediapolis. Industry observers suggested that Mediapolis concentrate on Belgium, Italy, Spain and the U.K., but they underestimated the determination of Mr. Havlicek.

RECOGNIZING A NEED

In 1994, Mr. Havlicek recognized a need for high-volume media buyers in the Czech Republic. Several media agencies were already there (such as HMS Carat, Omnimedia and local firm Medea), but none had billings of more than $7 million-small even for this emerging market. The largest buyer was Mark/ BBDO's Media Direction, whose annual billings of about $35 million represent the lion's share of the market.

That same year, the situation changed dramatically. TV Nova was launched as Eastern Europe's first national commercial TV station, and it quickly became a ratings powerhouse, with advertising rates to match. Rates rose steadily in 1994 and 1995, so agencies began thinking about pooling their media budgets and resources to combat TV Nova's aggressive sales team.

"Our clients had few options to leverage their buying power against TV Nova's rising rate card," Mr. Havlicek recalled, "so we started to think about establishing a media company."

The result was Mediapolis in the Czech Republic, which brought sophisticated media buying to Eastern Europe. Today, Mediapolis is one of the Czech Republic's top three media buyers.

"Mediapolis and Petr Havlicek are clearly in tune with the Czech market," said Paul Karafotas, marketing manager of Benckiser, a Mediapolis client. "They operate in a very professional way, and Petr is competent and straightforward."

Mr. Havlicek and his staff of 20 offer full media services, including strategy and implementation planning, buying, post-analysis, research and monitoring. Billings in 1995 topped $22 million, and may reach $35 million in 1996.

Although Mediapolis in Prague buys media for Young & Rubicam and Euro RSCG, in 1996 more than half of its billings will come from direct business-either from 12 other ad agencies, such as Publicis FCB, or from independent clients. It already handles the market's single biggest client, the Czech national lottery operator, Sazka, and cosmetics marketer Margaret Astor.

Mr. Havlicek is working with other Eastern European colleagues. "We already share clients, and we are pitching for regional business.

"Today Mediapolis is like my baby," he added. "[In this job,] you must understand chocolates, banks and cars all at the same time. And you have to know why people are watching TV Nova, reading [the newspaper] Mlada fronta dnes and listening to Europa 2."

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