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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Western ad agency to promote privatization

BBDO Marketing in Moscow and Countrywide Communications, a London-based public-relations firm, will bring an ambitious and controversial privatization program to 150 million Russian citizens in what could be the country's largest advertising and public-relations campaign ever.

The two firms, both owned by BBDO's parent company, Omnicom, comprise the communications arm of a Western consortium of six companies selected in a search by the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to advise and assist The Russian State Property Committee, Goskomimushestvo, with the privatization of medium- and large-scale industry.

DRT Braxton Associates, part of Deloitte Touche Tomatsu, is leading the consortium, along with Credit Commerciale de France. Other members include accountants DRT Inaudit, London-based merchant bank J. Henry Schroder Wagg & Co. and the law firm of White & Case.

With a modest initial budget of

400, 000 ECUs (approximately $520, 000) from the European Community for the project's first four months, BBDO/Countrywide's task is to "bring privatization to the people", according to Bruce Macdonald, general director of BBDO Marketing in Moscow.

Under the program, every Russian citizen will be eligible to receive special vouchers to purchase shares of enterprises which employ more than 1, 000 workers or have more than 50 million rubles in capital.

The program will affect 40-50 percent of Russia's state property, according to Anatoly Chubais, the deputy prime minister in charge of privatization. The first of three stages, "corporatization", is scheduled to begin in the fall.

BBDO/Countrywide will develop a nationwide television, radio and print public-service campaign to inform the public about the program and how they can take part.

"We want to create an awareness and make sure that people understand the process", said Peter Chandler, BBDO/Countrywide's director for the project. Chandler has been brought from London to Moscow full time to head the effort.

But getting the message across in a country that has been raised on state

propaganda will be difficult, Macdonald said. Russians, weary of reform, are cynical about the program. and privatization is and has been an alien concept throughout Russian history.

"This is a cynical, skeptical public", Macdonald said. "After 70 years of reading government communications, they have a highly developed sense for reading between the lines".

The campaign must appeal to an entire and diverse population of 150 million people of varied ages, tastes and political beliefs, including both liberal supporters of the program and right-wing opponents.

"We will use simple terms - a

character or a cartoon, and acknowledge the elements of disbelief or cynicism that people are likely to feel about this program", Macdonald said of the campaign, which is under development now. "They need to know what's in it for them".

Part of the message will be simple advice - where to go and what to do with a voucher, the official note backed by the federal budget which can be used for the purchase of shares of industries, investment funds, or sold for cash. BBDO/Countrywide is sufficiently involved to design the voucher itself, an intricate, classical note which at rough glance resembles turn-of-the-century Russian banknotes.

Perhaps most significant for communications experts is the government's recognition of the value of communicating with the public. Privatization is the first major reform to be prefaced with a Western-style public-service campaign.

"If you don't control communications yourself and help people to understand what the program is", Macdonald said, "then you're less likely to end up with a success".