Webit Organizer Plamen Rusev: Now Is the Right Time to Invest in Bulgaria's Digital Market

Interview |Author: Ivan Dikov | September 13, 2010, Monday // 18:19|  views

Interview of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) with Plamen Rusev, Chair of e-Academy, a Sofia-based international education institute, which holds a governmental license for professional vocation center in the fields of management and digital marketing.

e-Academy is the organizer of Webit, e-Business & e-Marketing Expo and Conference for Central and Eastern Europe. The first edition of Webit took place in Sofia in October 2009; the second edition is due in October 2010.



How would you describe briefly your project Webit? What does it entail, who are the organizers, who are the participants? As organizers, what is it that you hope to achieve with this initiative?

Webit Expo & Conferences is Central and Eastern Europe's biggest digital industry event which gathers in Sofia more than 5000 top executives, world-renowned digital marketing and advertising leaders, media, e-commerce professionals and creatives.

This year the event takes place on 27-29 October 2010 in the National Palace of Culture. Webit Expo & Conferences is organized by e-Academy and Webit Ambassadors Honorary Board.

As organizers our goal is to help in developing of the digital industry in the region of Central and Eastern Europe by providing a platform for the advertisers, marketing, advertising and interactive agencies, traditional and online media to hear and learn from the world renowned professionals from the entire chain of the digital industry and to network with their colleagues from CEE and the rest of the world.

In 2010, Webit expects more than 6 000 visitors and dozens of exhibitors. The exhibition area is accessible after a short and free of charge online registration. The Conference Program features both free sessions and panels, and paid ones. For the first time the registration for such an event offers the option to book individual panels from the Program.

Webit's first edition took place in October 2010. Viewing it almost a year later, how do you evaluate its success? What impact did it have on the e-marketing, e-business, online advertising and the other related spheres in Bulgaria?

Last year Webit was a great start with more than 4300 visitors mainly from Southeastern Europe and more than 50 speakers and top executives from Google, AOL, eBay and other top companies in the industry. This year Webit is gathering the industry of Central and Eastern Europe.

I wouldn't state whether we were successful or not, but the fact that this year the Vice President of Facebook is here to open the event is a very clear symbol of how the rest of the world is looking at Webit.

Among the confirmed speakers and attendees are also Yahoo! EMEA Director Marvin Liao; the creative brains behind some of the biggest advertising agencies such as Jon Williams (Grey London) – the most awarded European Creative Director with more than 100 prizes, Scott Seaborn (Head of Mobile Technologies at Ogilvy Group), Andy Fisher (VP of Starcom Mediavest), Chris Copeland (President of GroupM Search). Marketing & advertising directors of some of the world's biggest Brands will also share their experience during Webit 2010 – Nick Wiggin (Adverising Director, Ericsson), Alex Marks (Marketing Director, eBay).

The lecturers' list also includes top executives from numerous media companies such as Tom Bowman (VP, BBC), the founder of one of the world's biggest online media groups Cyril Zimmermann (Hi-Media) and many more. Among them is also Nielsen's Managing Director of Emerging Markets – Diego Semprun, Russell Buckley (VP, AdMob – a Google company) and more than 60 other presenters.

As for the impact on local, the Bulgarian market, it is very hard to say. It has been a very difficult year for the advertising industry and for the whole economy of Bulgaria and the rest of the region. One thing is sure – the industry has a place to meet, the advertisers have a place to learn and explore the effectiveness of the digital marketing and advertising.

Where does Bulgaria stand in the above mentioned fields (which are the focus of Webit) compared with the other Balkan countries? With the other countries in Eastern Europe?

So far the Bulgarian digital market is in its infant years. It takes special care and pampering to grow. At the same time it is competitive in terms of participants working with a very low digital ad spending compared to the rest of the companies from the region.

The Figures are very clear. The total digital ad spending per capita in Bulgaria is EUR 1.8. In Romania it is EUR 2.3, in Greece and Turkey it is more than 3. In Slovenia it is EUR 10 per capital while in UK it is 54 EUR per capita.

This of course shows not only the potential of the local markets but also how underdeveloped they are so far. This is one of the goals of Webit - to help bring awareness and celebrate the effectiveness and efficiency if the digital industry.

How would you characterize the level of penetration of the e-business and e-marketing solutions on the Bulgarian market, and among Bulgarian companies? Are the Bulgarian companies early adopters in that respect, or are they lagging behind substantially?

I will limit my comment to saying that we are behind Turkey and Romania.

Do you expect that the share of online advertising from the total advertising spending in Bulgaria will increase substantially in the near future? Does Bulgaria have 1) a sufficient Internet penetration rate; 2) sufficient level of trust and confidence in online shopping among the general public – to ensure a steady development of the e-business in the country?

The development of e-commerce will be one of the strongest push factors for online advertising. Of course, I expect further growth of the digital ad spending as a percentage of the total advertising spending. It was about 3% in 2009 but I hope that within 2011 it may reach 10%.

Bulgaria has more than 50% Internet penetration and it is growing. Broadband is expanding, we have one of the fastest mobile Internet connections in the world. We also have a high penetration of CC and debit cards. Bulgaria has also well established delivery services. So we have all the factors needed. The next thing it takes is change in the way of thinking and exploring the huge potential of the digital.

You are the Chair of e-Academy – a Sofia-based international education institute which holds a governmental license for professional vocation center in the fields of management and digital marketing. How do you evaluate the pool of talent in Bulgaria in these fields?

There is a shortage of well educated and trained professionals on the market. The universities do not teach students how to deal with the new digital challenges concerning corporate communications, advertising, digital creative and e-marketing. Most of the universities still believe that Philip Kotler has said it all.

Students do not understand that it is sometimes only the beginning and in many cases it is not even that.

The Internet is not a channel, it is an environment in which we all create, share, explore, do business, ... We need people who think beyond the message which is the symbol of the traditional adverting.

The new environment requires constant communication and dedication. The Bulgarian universities do not teach that. This was the reason we have established e-Academy in order to play our role in educating the market and thus developing the industry.

Are there Bulgarian companies working successfully with international clients in the e-business solutions sector? Is the Bulgarian e-business, e-marketing sector attractive for foreign investors?

Those are two different questions. Many Bulgarian companies and specialists work for international clients and do a great job in the fields of SEO, web production – design and development, content management, etc.

As for the second part I shall mention that Sanoma invested millions in the Netinfo company; also Investor.bg had a new investor some time ago. But after this I guess the world financial crisis and the economic crisis in Bulgaria led to a lack of investment interest. I am a firm believer that now is the right time to invest in the Bulgarian and regional digital markets.

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Tags: Central and Eastern Europe, online advertisement, online advertising, digital, Internet, e-marketing, e-Academy, Webit, Plamen Rusev


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