The old Churchill quote, ‘Russia is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’, is often still bandied about by Westerners contemplating doing business in Russia. What they may not realise is that this is not the full quotation, Churchill went on to say, ‘…but perhaps there is a key’.

The ‘key’ Churchill was referring to is arguably globalisation. Businesses now have access to Russia to a degree unparalleled in the nation’s history. With this increased access, comes a chance to better understand the market and consequently, better appeal to the average Russian consumer. One of the major avenues through which Western companies can engage with Russian consumers is digital advertising.

There is no great mystery as to how a successful digital advertising campaign in Russia works, as long as some basic rules are adhered to.

The first thing to note is that the digital marketing and advertising industry in Russia is well-developed. Mass market and niche campaigns are run in large part to the same standard as in the UK and US. The cross-cultural pollination following the fall of the Soviet Union has also resulted in a whole generation of Russians growing up familiar with Western culture. As a result, global advertising campaigns do not need to be completely reinvented for the Russian market.

However, if you are translating a pre-existing campaign into Russian, it is essential to employ the very best translation services. This may sound obvious, however, a surprisingly large number of digital campaigns run in Russia with the nuances of the copy clearly lost in translation. This is especially true if a campaign involves puns or clever wordplay. It is also worth noting that Russians generally like online advertising to have a sense of humour.

Like China and Brazil, Russia has its own internet leaders. Yandex dominates the search market in place of Google and social media is largely the preserve of and Consequently, localised SEO, contextual advertising and paid search technology is available. Local agencies have also integrated mainstream products such as Adobe Adlens and Marin Software into their products. Therefore, it may be prudent to consider hiring a local Russian agency, rather than relying on a global ad tech company that does not have experience or software tailored to the Russian market.

One of the strongest online trends in Russia is currently gamification. A number of successful online marketing campaigns have incorporated an element of game play. This has helped to drive deeper customer engagement and is likely to continue to be one of the major trends in Russian digital marketing for years to come.

The best digital media campaigns run by Western companies in Russia appreciate that there are many more cultural similarities than differences. They do not try to reinvent the wheel to cater their content to what they perceive to be a Russian mindset. What they do, and the lesson any company wishing to run a digital campaign in Russia should take note of, is leverage the vibrant and talented ad tech scene in Russia to ensure that the campaign goes through the right channels, to the right consumers. After all, this is the key to any successful digital media campaign.


By Nick Davidov, Managing Director of the Pult Group.

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