If you spot a man in comfortable trousers heading to the airport in his BMW 5 series, while snacking on a lump of Lindt chocolate, he's likely to be one of the Euro elite. There is now quite a bit of information on this creature. As well as the annual Europe 2004 research, there's EMS and its new look at top earners, EMS Select. TGI's Europa research sheds more than a bit of light on the better-off European, not to mention the observations of media owners and planners.
No prizes for guessing that there are more men than women taking home a fat pay cheque each month. EMS takes a look at the top 13 per cent of European adults. Of those, 65 per cent are men. When you whittle it down to the top 4 per cent, studied for the Europe 2004 research, that 65 per cent becomes 79, with an average age of 47.
Probably the most interesting thing to advertisers about these individuals is that they have a lot of money. Seven hundred and fifty billion euros of earning capacity is concentrated in the top 3 per cent of Europeans. The highest 4 per cent has an average personal income of just less than 80,000 euros.
And they don't keep it all in the piggy bank. At CNN, Jonathan Davies, the senior vice-president for advertising sales for EMEA, says that the channel's viewers bought 1.7 million cars in one year. "Often advertisers are doing branding campaigns and they know that they are reaching opinion-formers and business leaders, but what's staggering is the amount of money these people spend."
But they also spend on business purchases. Europe 2004 says it's an average of 184,000 euros each year, per person. Many of the Euro elite spend a large amount of their own and their company's money on travel. The EMS Select sample makes 64 million return air trips in a year and 75 per cent of those were on business.
At British Airways, the head of marketing for the UK and Ireland, Jayne O'Brien, says there have been significant changes to the typical business traveller in the past few years. Short-haul trips within Europe have pretty much lost any glamour that they might have once had. The market has become younger and many trips involve getting there and back in a day, so comfort is high on the agenda. "There are fewer suits than five years ago," O'Brien says. "And people are very au fait with mobile technology." Not only will they set up their laptops in the business lounge, but they make the most of innovations such as online check-ins.
After 11 September, European short-haul flights weren't hit as badly as long-haul. There has been an increase in the need for reliability and reassurance, but O'Brien also detects a "go-for-it" attitude among some travellers. Rather than being put off by terrorist threats, the doomsayers might be having the opposite effect by encouraging people to experience travel while they can. "People live a lot more for today, because the world has become a much more scary place," O'Brien says.
When they're on the move, most of the business elite demand a bit of recognition. Patrick Ryan, the client-services director at Media Planning Group, works on InterContinental Hotels and says of business travellers: "They are quite status-oriented. It's not that they walk around with a big, shiny Patek Philippe, but they want people to acknowledge how important they are. They don't want people fussing around them, but when they want it, they want it now."
They also have a penchant for gadgetry. The EMS top 13 per cent reports a leap in spending on digital gadgets. And of the Europe 2004 top ten million, 20 per cent or so have three cars or more. TGI's Europa survey in the UK, Spain, Germany and France shows a preference for certain brands among those earning upwards of 50,000 euros. They are around four times more likely to go for a BMW 5 series or a Mercedes than average Europeans.
But there are also those chief executives who would rather go to work in a less-than-pristine Nissan Cherry.
The surveys take account of the different sorts of top earners by coming up with cluster groups. Europe 2004's largest contingent are the "natural followers" who are easy-going and advertising aware. But they exist alongside the "contented conservatives" who are traditional, reserved, reticent and unconvinced or the "established achievers" who are money-driven, principled, prudent and self-assured.
EMS identifies almost 40 per cent of the top 13 per cent of earners as "mainstreamers" with incomes of between 40,000 and 60,000 euros and a love of motor sports. Just under 20 per cent are "extroverts" with slightly higher incomes, a strong international orientation and are more likely to be self-employed.
The higher up the earnings ladder that you go, the more people have some sort of higher education. More than half of the EMS Select individuals has a university degree or equivalent and almost one in five have a doctorate or higher degree.
The majority of them will get their fix of current affairs through TV, papers and magazines, but almost one in four now go to the internet for the latest news. As a group, they are keen on pan-European TV and almost half of them will have read a recent issue of a pan-European English title or picked up an inflight magazine.
It's unsurprising, then, that CNN's viewer research shows that 2.5 million of its viewers worldwide have spent six months or more abroad and that two million of them have a second home in another part of the world. So it's interesting to hear Davies talk about one of the fears of the business elite in the 21st century: "Where do you call home any more? It does become a rootless experience."
LOWDOWN ON EUROPE'S HIGH-FLYERS
Average age: 46
Sex: 76 per cent are men
Employment: 66 per cent in paid employment, 27 per cent are
Average working week: 49 hours (20 per cent work more than 60 hours a
Earnings: 90,500 euros a year
Air travel: 7.9 return air trips a year
Watch TV every day: 78 per cent
Watch pan-Euro TV every day: 33 per cent
Read an issue of an international magazine: 45 per cent
Have internet access: 90 per cent
The EMS Select universe: 8.2 million of Europe's most senior managers,
frequent flyers and high income earners - the top 3 per cent of Europe's
Source: EMS Select 2004.
This article was first published on Campaign