Stroll down Istanbul’s glitzy pedestrian shopping street Istiklal Caddesi and you’ll get a glimpse of the new face of modern Turkey—young, hip, educated and affluent shoppers, hungry for the latest gadgets and fashions, arms laden with packages.
It’s these eager young consumers that Turkey’s advertising industry has in its sights, and in turn it is them fuelling the sector’s steady and splendid growth—8% last year.
While the size of Turkey’s advertising market is still modest compared to its American or European counterparts, it is considered one of the fastest growing in Europe: spending on advertising has almost doubled from 2009 to 2012 to 4.65 billion Turkish lira ($2.6 billion), more than half of that going to television spots.
Foreign investors have certainly noticed and have been moving into Turkey, partnering with Turkish advertising agencies and acquiring local firms. Some international advertising agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi, TBWA and BBDO have opened branches in Istanbul to cater to Turkish clients.
Turkey has a long tradition of advertising, and the sector is well established. What is now fuelling growth is demographics—Turkey has a “youth bulge,” a swelling population of those under 35 who are eager to buy items with brand names and try out the latest products—and who have far more disposable cash than their parents did.
Advertising firms such as Alametifarika have benefited from the boost in advertising investment and stable demand.
Based in Istanbul, the company has continuously ranked in the top three in the sector, boasting clients such as Turkcell, Turkey’s biggest cellphone company, Turkey’s second-largest private bank, Garantibank, and the country’s national airline, Turkish Airlines.
The company credits its success with its “understanding” of Turkish culture and focuses many of its campaigns around prominent local figures and musical hits. But it says it doesn’t limit itself to Turkish consumers. Its slick adverts for the global Turkish Airlines target the needs of business travellers around the world.
Alametifarika co-founder and deputy managing director Yasemin Sumer says she sees huge growth potential for the local sector. Comparatively few global brands currently have a presence in Turkey, but industry officials expect that to change as they notice the millions of young, happy shoppers ready to open their wallets.
“It’s a popular industry, and its image is bigger than its actual size right now,” says Sumer of the local sector. “But it’s picking up.”