The Italian PR industry is set to survive the downturn better than many other European countries. After growing in revenue by 14 per cent between 2006 and 2008, the industry stalled in 2008, but remained steadfast.
The ICCO Report 2010 predicts that revenue for this year will remain at ‘stable’ levels, unlike many of the country’s European counterparts.
Marco Delle Donne, CEO of Ogilvy PR’s Italian partner Aida, estimates the industry to be worth some €2 billion, with nearly 6,000 agencies operating in the country.
And with 23 million internet hosts in the country, Italy is an international leader in providing online access, ranking at a comfortable third globally.
The Italian comms industry has been quick to capitalise on this. The ICCO Report cites digital and new media as sectors of growth for 2010, with new media also highlighted as an industry poised for rapid expansion.
Ketchum Italy president and CEO Andrea Cornelli explains: ‘Today the emerging new media in Italy are radically changing the communications model.
In the era of Web 2.0, the online applications useful to promote a high level of user-interaction are creating a "relationship communication", whose key words are quality of content, timeliness and interactivity.’
Print media has a low impact in Italy, a situation which hasn’t really changed for more than a decade. APCO Rome office acting MD Paolo Nicoletti puts this down to print’s share in the advertising revenue stream compared with other media.
He says: ‘One reason for the long-term weakness of the daily press is its meagre share of the advertising revenues: in Italy the advertising market is dominated by TV. The written press commands only a third of it.’
The key newspaper titles are Corriere della Sera, la Repubblica and Il Giornale.
The broadcast media are dominated by two key networks; RAI, which is publically owned, and Mediaset, a privately owned group. The latter is owned by the Berlusconi family.
Delle Donne cites the broadcast media as the most influential, in terms of the general public, adding: ‘RAI and Mediaset have similar shares and audience.’
Digital media also have a major role to play.
Text 100, Italy managing consultant Barbara Ghirimoldi believes that many online readers are business users, with key websites being the online versions of the daily newspapers such as repubblica.it and corriere.it.
Nicoletti says: ‘Recent online surveys of Italian internet audiences show that they are well educated and more liberal than average Italians.
‘Internet audiences comprise people who are distrustful of both daily press and television, and use internet to obtain access to objective news - not just in Italian - music, merchandise and services.’
Despite this approach, Nicoletti believes that digital media are also somewhat restricted by advertising revenues.
Key social networking sites include local platforms dagospia.it, a forum for users to discuss politics, media and economics, and beppegrillo.it, a blog authored by a leading Italian comic who is also active in social campaigning.
Facebook and LinkedIn are also currently widely used and YouTube and Flickr are gaining momentum, but Twitter is proving slow to catch on.
Lewis, Italy general manager, Maria Teresa Trifiletti says: ‘Facebook, in particular, is positioned as a very powerful tool for both users and companies, and is absolutely the most popular social media in Italy.
‘Twitter is not so popular in Italy and is only used by the business community.’
The ICCO Report highlights the automotive, IT and financial sectors as industries with low growth prospects for the coming year.
Based on this, leading Italian motor brands Fiat and Ducati may struggle in the current market.
Fashion brands Nike, Diesel, Fornarina, Miss Sixty and Swatch are seen as lead trending brands by Delle Donne, along with drinks brands Campari and Red Bull and gaming firms Nintendo and Apple.
Ghirimoldi explains: ‘These brands come to the fore as they have larger budgets for advertising and other forms of marketing communications.’
Cornelli adds: ‘Undoubtedly the most dynamic sectors in terms of communication and investment are those of household appliances, clothing and fashion, retail, telecommunications and food industries.’
Boasting an impressive 6,000 agencies, overseen by trade bodies FERPI (Federation of Public Relations) and ASSOREL (Association of Full Service Consultancies), the Italian PR market is a highly competitive one.
The ICCO predicts that one of the key problems facing PR professionals in the coming year will be competition, and with the rapid rise in digital and battle for territory in this arena, this looks likely to be a market in which this struggle will be clearly demonstrable.
Smaller local agencies struggle to offer a more global approach to comms, according to Trifiletti.
She says: ‘Local PR agencies may offer more dedicated services and resources but they aren’t able to offer a global flavour. You must have a local approach combined with a global vision.
This will make the difference in PR strategy for both international and local companies.’
Delle Donne adds: ‘It is important to work in an international environment to enlarge perspectives and anticipate trends but the expertise in the local market is fundamental.’