Cannes 2015: View from Turkey

'Mother’s Day: the tea urn': Vestel and Blab
'Mother’s Day: the tea urn': Vestel and Blab

By focusing on creative effectiveness - and with a little help from 2Pac - agencies have responded positively to plummeting advertising spend over the past 12 months.

By Tolga Tuna, editor-in-chief, Campaign Türkiye

When I received an e-mail from our global editor-in-chief, Claire Beale, asking me to contribute to Campaign’s global issue with an article explaining creative trends in Turkey over the past 12 months, I had a moment of silence.

OK, let’s be honest. It was more than a moment and there were some tears. I truly wished that I could write a piece about how a Turkish Internet of Things start-up had created an app that changed the fundamentals of marketing, how a Turkish agency sparked a new innovation trend or how a Turkish brand ran a great campaign that contributed to a social cause. It would just take 20 minutes to write; maybe an additional ten minutes to spruce it up.

Unfortunately, this is not the picture of Istanbul’s creative landscape at the moment. Turkish advertising spend increased only 4.3 per cent last year. Not too bad, you might think – but you know nothing, Jon Snow.

In 2010, our ad industry expanded by 31 per cent, and it has enjoyed double-digit growth for the past four years. In the past 12 months, Turkey has experienced four elections, political volatility and street demonstrations, not to mention instability on its borders, from Greece to Iran, Iraq and Syria. The Turkish lira has weakened by about 25 per cent against the US dollar. As you can see, winter has already arrived…

So what has happened to creativity in this kind of environment? Have Turkish agencies simply given up? Have they scaled down and punched the final nail into their own coffin? Nope, they have not.

2Pac himself defined the phrase "Thug Life" as a way of succeeding against all the odds. And it applies to Turkish agencies. They put their shades on and moved forward with a type of Thug Life creative approach. With budget constraints, they focused on creative effectiveness.

This year, there are 18 Turkish agencies on the Effie Effectiveness Index (an all-time record). Turkish agencies also proved that Istanbul has the potential to be a real creative hub for the region. TBWA\Istanbul’s Cem Topcuoglu became the president of TBWA across Central Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, and is now overseeing operations in more than 50 countries. Turkish digital agencies are managing Coca-Cola’s social media operations in 90 countries. Demet Ikiler became one of the first country managers of WPP’s new model.

Independents are performing even more brightly. Alametifarika, Happy People, Concept and the new shining star Blab are not just dominating local competitions; now, they are grabbing international brands as clients and creating campaigns not just for Turkey but also for neighbouring countries.

To sum up, whenever you feel winter is coming to your lands, remember how Turkish agencies did not fear change and made a difference with tremendous budget constraints. I look forward to seeing which creative trend will be dominant when summer returns.

Cannes contenders

‘Save lives with R-Link’ Renault

Using mobile phones while driving causes 25 per cent of traffic accidents. To raise awareness of R-Link technology – which, with an in-built voice-command system, enables motorists to dictate to their phone – MEC created a smooth campaign. With a real-time web to mobile connection approach and with shocking prank videos, the campaign showed the importance of not using your phone while driving. The result was 4.2 million unique users reached in ten days. 

‘Tweet Village’ Sekerbank

Some farmers in Turkey still have to abandon their lands and migrate to cities because of poverty or environmental issues such as desertification. Sekerbank launched a campaign – supported by loans and incentives – to encourage farmers to remain in their villages. The video was highly popular and the #pleasedontleave hashtag shared more than 32 million times. In one particular village, there was no internet connection, meaning the farmers couldn’t see the messages. So Concept, the agency behind the campaign, reproduced thousands of Tweets offline and turned the area into Tweet Village. A very well-executed campaign that generated a great buzz. Farmers were touched. They decided to stay. Happily ever after…

‘Mother’s Day: the tea urn’ Vestel

A campaign from Vestel, one of Turkey’s biggest home-appliances brands, focuses on how a mother’s brain is functioning. The film starts with the image of a mother and son, who bought her a tea urn as a Mother’s Day present. During this split-second, we see the thoughts that pass through the mother’s mind: from the birth of her son to the various disasters throughout his life. Of course, it ends with a warm motherly hug. The execution of the film is almost perfect. It may touch every local consumer with a mother. And that’s a pretty large audience. 

‘Song of the Day’ Open Radio
Havas Worldwide Istanbul

News is important, but it quickly fades away. Songs, however, last forever. Turkey’s prestigious in-depth news radio station Open combined the two. Every morning, composers turned news spots into lyrics. Then, amateur and professional musicians, including superstars, together created Song of the Day. A simple idea, a cool execution and vibrant songs that created a great buzz for the radio station.

Consumer trends/lessons for brands

Bargain hunting is cool again
As the economy slows, consumers are again engaging easily with discount-focused ad campaigns. At present, more than 50 per cent of all TV spots are screaming: "Buy me, I am cheaper now." And it’s working.

Share everything
Traditionally, Turkish consumers are conservative. A couple of years ago, you could not imagine sharing your car seat or giving your house keys to a stranger. But now platforms such as BlaBlaCar, BiTaksi and Airbnb are thriving.

Retired celebrities are back
Using celebrities is an easy way for brands to connect to targeted audiences. The problem is, in Turkey, there is no Hollywood or Bollywood. Famous people are scarce. So all celebrities are now brand ambassadors. Even the retired ones.

Higher state of consciousness
After hundreds of thousands protested on the streets of Istanbul against demolishing a park to build a shopping mall, consumers are more conscious about brand cause. They closely monitor the statements and acts of brands.

Feed me real time
Most Turkish brands with marketing budgets are already using Meerkat and Periscope. Sometimes a live stream of a product launch, sometimes just a silly message of a shop supervisor. But it doesn’t matter: consumers love it.

The fear factor
"Fear" marketing tactics may not be as effective as before in mature markets. But, in Turkey, they remain on the rise. Consumers are easily influenced by "If you don’t stop doing that, you’ll burn in hell" kind of messages. Sad but true.

Start Your Free 30-Day Free Trial

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free