Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam, has been appointed by Russia telecom company Beeline, giving the agency a golden opportunity to make its mark in the fast-growing BRIC market.
The agency is already collaborating with Beeline, both on a brand level and on future product innovations, although it will be early next year before any work is seen.
Lee Newman, managing director of Wieden, Amsterdam, said, "Even before this opportunity came up we took a small group to Russia for a fact-finding mission, because most of our global clients had identified Russia as a priority market for one reason or another."
Russia is set to host two major sporting events: the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup, both of which will be important to key Wieden clients Coca-Cola, Nike and Heineken. "One observation we've had from being there is that the energy, enthusiasm and ambition of the youngest segment of the marketplace is really impressive," Mr. Newman said. "There are lots of really smart young people and it's an interesting to dynamic to watch."
Beeline is owned by Amsterdam-based VimpelCom, but Mr. Newman said that the relationship had been established in Russia, not in the Netherlands. The process began a year ago when Wieden was invited to meet Beeline, and the relationship grew from there.
"This is an interesting project to get our teeth into," Mr. Newman said. "We have 25 different nationalities in our office and, as luck would have it, we have a couple of people who are either Russian or who have worked in Russia. We're doing a lot of research and spending time there trying to get under the skin of the market, as well as the company, working out how we can apply what we do to that market and make it culturally relevant. It's a pretty serious undertaking with a market as big as Russia -- you don't just walk in and expect to know how it works."
Mr. Newman added, "Beeline has always been a company that understands the power of creativity to move business. They had a brand re-launch seven or eight years ago that was very innovative for the Russian market, and they saw immediate business results. It helped the whole organization to appreciate the power of advertising and marketing, and to develop an appetite for it." The agency will not be opening an office in Russia, and instead will continue what Mr. Newman calls its "being there without actually being there" heritage. (Wieden already has offices in two of the other BRIC countries, China and Brazil, where Wieden & Kennedy, Sao Paulo, opened almost a year ago.)
Olga Turishcheva, Beeline's CMO, said in a statement, "Beeline is a company which has proven that powerful communication can change the fortunes of the brand. We've seen the difference it can make. We welcome Wieden & Kennedy to join us in growing the Beeline brand and further strengthening our bond with Russian consumers."
Beeline claims 62.7 million active subscribers, and operates in a territory with a population of 440 million, extending into former Soviet Union territories including Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Cambodia and Vietnam. Wieden will be working only in Russia, which has nine time zones and 143 million people. VimpelCom claims 193 million subscribers across Europe, Asia and Africa. The company's other brands incude Telecel, Leo and Banglalink. Wieden & Kennedy joins a roster of agencies working for Beeline.