SPONGING ON COMPETITORS IN PURSUIT OF CLIENTS
At least three Bulgarian companies could not resist this year the temptation to hit a blow on their competitors while advertising their own product. For months on end the audience was amused by the game organized by the Zagorka brewery and the reply of its biggest rival Kamenitza. While the fans of the Stara Zagora brand were collecting beer caps, hoping to win a BMW jeep, the Plovdiv-baser brewer tried to persuade them and everybody else that good beer is not due to the cap. In the end the Union of Brewers reported that the Cypriot Brewinvest and the Belgian Interbrew (controlling respectively Zagorka and Kamenitza) remained the leaders on the domestic beer market, leaving far behind in the ranking all other competitors. Despite the summer superiority of Kamenitza in respect of sold hectolitres, Zagorka remained No 1 in the branch for the first eight months of 2003 with a 32% market shares. According to ads experts, Zagorka's strategy and the reply from Kamenitza were worked out well and demonstrated a good knowledge of the real and potential clients' habits. The ads campaign of Brewinvest traditionally staked on Bulgarians' interest toward promotional games, while the answer from Kamenitza was witty and did not contain any malice or agressiveness. When we speak about brewers, however, such campaigns cannot result in any significant shifts in the market positions, Roumyana Kalcheva, a marketing expert in the agency for market research Market Test, commented. Beer consumers in Bulgaria do not tend to be super-loyal to any specific brand. They rather prefer broached, bottled or stout beer, and they are inclined to change the brand in order to ge what they want. Yet, the fans of Zagorka and Kamenitza should be satisfied. The former - because the strategy caused a reaction, and the latter - because they gave a good answer to the competitors, Ms. Kalcheva added. The practice of sponging on the competitors persisted in 2003, especially in the sphere of electronic mass media. The Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) marked the beginning of its holiday programme scheme by the motto The first meet the summer first. Around the swimming pool of the Maria Louiza artificial beach in Sofia the state-run radio's head Polya Stancheva assured her guests that the BNR was No 1 on the radio air and was therefore morally entitled to throw up a party on July 1. The game with figures was doubtlessly aimed to hit the image of BNR's most serious rival Darik Radio, which summer party was a day earlier - on June 30. The private electronic media also invited its fans around a swimming pool - that of the Bankya Palace hotel - in which Darik's owners Radosvet Radev is a shareholder. Amidst the lack of hot news, the competition between the two radio stations was met with enthusiasm by the dailies, which wrote about the menu at the parties and which one was attended by a larger number of politicians and businessmen. (In fact the main interst was which radio's party was visited by the Chief Secretary of the Interior Ministry Gen. Boiko Borissov). In the fight for prestige the BNR tried to attract the Parliamentary Chairperson Ognyan Gerdjikov. However, he replied by self-criticism: Unlike Parliament, the BNR has a high rating and it is well-deserved.The Bulgarian National Television (BNT) also did whatever it could in order to hit its most serious rival bTV. The motto of BNT's summer party was: There was no Nova TV, there was nor Murdoc, there was nothing but BNT. As usual, bTV did not answer back the challenge.In fact, the most biting ads through the year came from BNT, especially when the news teams of Channel 1 and the now extinct Air 2 were obvious rivals. BNT's Air 2 even chose as its official ads slogan the sentence Two is more than one, trying to change the public opinion that Channel 1 is the more important and prestigious programme. At teh dawn of democracy, however, the biggest ads blunder was not made by a radio or a TV channel, but by a trade company. The ads campaign of the Terastio chips would be hardly forgotten (or repeated) in the near future. The Greek company, importing the product, presented it in Bulgaria by the announcement: This is not Zrancho, this is Terastio. The protest of Zrancho against the unfair competition resulted in a huge fine to the Greek company, and finally Terastio had to leave the domestic market.