"So many of the community markets here in the U.S.-the Polish, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Russian markets and many more-were not being talked to by major companies," he recalls.
Mr. Topchishvili responded by starting Global Advertising Strategies in 1999. The agency, based in New York with annual revenue of $20 million, has helped marketers ranging from Lufthansa German Airlines to Western Union generate awareness among what Global calls Central and Eastern European Americans, or CEEAs. Through partner companies in other cities, Global also handles assignments in foreign markets for Europe-based companies with U.S. ambitions and vice versa.
By Global's count, CEEAs represent the third-largest market population in the U.S., trailing only Hispanics and African-Americans. The company pegs the market size at slightly more than 20 million, with buying power of $600 billion in 2004; it expects that sum to surge northward of $800 billion by 2008. "That's twice the size of the Asian-American market," Mr. Topchishvili says.
He rattles off these figures and makes these claims with little boastfulness in his voice. Rather, Global's president-CEO seems genuinely surprised that so few competitors have attempted to muscle in on his action: "There's more now than there was, but it's not high competition yet."
Perhaps this is due to the lack of research about the CEEA market.
"You discuss multicultural, and [marketers] speak about African-American, Hispanic, maybe Asian-American," he says. "The challenge we had was explaining the buying power and loyalty [of CEEA consumers], explaining how they consume media in a different way."
An example of how Global plies its trade within these communities is its recent work for Lufthansa. With monthly travel from the U.S. to Central and Eastern Europe relatively stagnant, the airline approached Global to drive awareness in five CEEA communities, including Russians and Poles. Global's effort behind Lufthansa's weflyhome.com ethnic-targeted portal included everything from sponsorship of Russian concerts to street marketing in Chicago's Polish neighborhoods. Since the start, Lufthansa has expanded its CEEA efforts into 19 other markets. "They didn't make the [usual] mistakes you see," Mr. Topchishvili says. "They were sensitive to the cultural specifics, and they listened."