NEWS

Comic heroes to get euro message across

The comics, board games and competitions for children may appear to suggest that the massive promotion which aims to inform 300 million Europeans of the introduction of a single currency is an easy task. Not so, says the European Central Bank (ECB). The gigantic media campaign, launched last month to coincide with the presentation of the actual banknotes by ECB and national banks throughout the eurozone, itself faces something of a logistical challenge, although not as great as that faced by those responsible for the cash distribution, the ECB said in its October report released on Thursday. It has allocated 80 billion euros and formed a team of 12 to coordinate the media campaign. International communications group Publicis has been recruited to help get the message across to Europeans. With the countdown to the launch of the euro getting nearer and nearer, the media campaign has acquired added urgency, says Joao de Almeida, ECB project manager for the information campaign, who was in Athens this week for the launch of the Bank of Greece’s information campaign. The first stage of the campaign focused principally on banks, businesses and government organizations which had to implement complex institutional, technical and operational changes to accommodate the new currency. Front loading and subloading operations, which started on September 1, saw national banks supply euro banknotes and coins to the banking and retail sectors. The final stage, launched last month, is equally important, as the objective is to convince Europeans that the euro is not just an abstract, remote concept but a physical commodity. Almeida says the campaign’s objective is to reach 80 percent of the population in the region and to rely on having the word getting passed on from that point. Children are expected to play an important role in this, hence the comic heroes, board games and a euro superstar competition. The Bank of Greece is relying ona newly launched comic hero, Eurocles (a spoof of Greek mythical hero Heracles), and Eurodromies, a board game centering on the euro, to acquaint Greek children with the new currency. Children play an important multiplier role, Almeida says. When they play these games, they may turn to adults for further information, getting them involved as well. The media campaign focuses primarily on TV ads, print advertisements and the distribution of leaflets to get the message across to 12 different cultures. Our experience shows that a combination of different tools and media are the best way to familiarize Europeans with the new currency, the ECB project manager said. TV ads show scenes from everyday life in Europe and highlight the fact that the euro will become a part of Europeans’ daily lives. Leaflets, 200 million of which will be distributed to every household in the region by the end of the year, contain facts on the euro banknotes and coins and illustrations of their verification features. The ECB has also encouraged organizations, such as banks, retailers, educational institutions, tourism groups and the media, to play a more active role in the changeover by joining its partnership program. To date, more than 3,000 partners across the region have already signed up for the program, making them able to get access to ECB and national banks’ materials on the euro and use them for their own communications. So, how effective has the campaign been? Almeida says it’s too early to tell. We are monitoring the program. So far, we have good feedback from the media. Media coverage has grown; more and more people are visiting the ECB’s website and staying on longer, he says. The litmus test, however, will come on January 1, 2002, when the general public gets its hands on the actual banknotes and coins. The media campaign is scheduled to continue into the first weeks of 2002. With the changeover under way, it will be easier to get the message across to the public, Almeida says.