Barcelona GM REPORT
GM Barcelona 2005

The sun shone, the sky was blue and the breeze rippled gently through the palmtrees as delegates arrived at the Hotel Fira Palace in Barcelona for the Spring ICMA General Meeting. After a particularly cold spring in northern Europe, it was great to feel the warmth as we gathered in the sunny ‘Jardin’ next to the ICMA Member Lounge for the Meet-and-Greet Lunch. With over 100 member delegates and a further 50 non-members, speakers, exhibitors and guests from 29 countries, this was one of the best attended GM’s in recent years, and people were soon meeting up with old friends and introducing themselves to new arrivals as they settled down to fuel up for their afternoon on the beach.

The bus was loaded with budding athletes and off we set for the beach for the Mini-Olympics. The organisers, Incentives Barcelona, split everyone up into teams to play beach volleyball, Frisbee, badminton and petanca (the Spanish version of the French boules). Everyone threw themselves into the activities, literally in some cases, with exhibitors Mathieu Laverne of Calligramme and Phil DuBois of CityXpress colliding in an impromptu game of football which resulted in a very impressive black eye for Matthieu! A sizeable delegation relocated to the nearby nudist beach, and whilst far too much of Felix’s underwear was on show, at least he and Gerald kept most of their clothes on. Prizes were later awarded to Peter Whitmore as the best all-round participant, Judith Neilly for being the loudest, Sue Kendall for the best female athlete, Sorin Petcu for the best footballer and newcomer to petanca, Cal Bosveld for the best man with a ball and Bobby Ralston for the first injury. Congratulations to them, and thanks to all participants for being such good sports!

After dropping off some athletes in the centre of town for some sightseeing, the bus returned to the hotel and the delegates relaxed before the Welcome Reception and Dinner. Jill Armer, ICMA Chair, welcomed delegates to the conference, thanked ICMA Associate Members iPix AdMission and Joshua, and other exhibitors, and introduced the three prospective members who were attending – Nathalie and Stephanie from SPIR Multimedia from France, David Owen-Smith from Trader Media Group from the UK and Pablo Martin-Frances from from Norway – and urged everyone to make the most of their time together over the next few days. Delegates tucked into the buffet and talked long into the evening, mostly in the bar.


At 9am on Friday, delegates piled into the (just big enough) Salon Vivaldi to hear Jill opening the formal proceedings with some reflections on the importance of marketing today. To illustrate her point, she showed a TV ad from one of the most brand-conscious companies in Ireland, Guinness, which really sent a tingle down your spine. Then it was onto the two new member presentations starting with Harry Avgoustiniatos of Ch. X Tegolopoulos from Greece. Harry presented his main classified product, Chrissi Efkeria, and its key data, and advised everyone to polywrap their papers, as he had seen a 20% increase in circulation since taking this step. Following Harry, we welcomed Oscar Diele, General Manager of Marktplaats in The Netherlands, who made the introduction of eBay as a new member. After firing some cheeky questions at Oscar, delegates welcomed both new members into the ICMA family.

And it was back to Oscar again for the keynote presentation of “Classified like it’s meant to be?” eBay concluded the purchase of Marktplaats in November 2004 as one of their several recent purchases in the classified space, and Oscar took delegates through the development of the service, its remarkable growth curve, the dominant position it enjoys in the Dutch market, the deliberately simple and limited choices that it offers advertisers and users, and the changes that eBay has brought in, such as incorporating some eBay listings to balance trade. Oscar also reflected on some cultural and geographical factors which may have contributed to Marktplaats’ success, “the Dutch are cheap”, love a bargain, and the fact that the eBay auction model is diametrically opposed to the traditional “Dutch auction” model where the price actually goes down in the process. The Netherlands is also a small country which allows people to view and trade goods which are not easily sent through the post, thus favouring the classified model over the auction.

Mike Waterson, the Chairman of the World Advertising Research Center in the UK, followed Oscar and took a “helicopter view” of the classified industry. Mike described an industry that was thriving, with more prosperity and more competition leading to more advertising being bought. Classified advertising represents a US$ 1 billion (EUR 810 million) market annually, but media is fragmenting, time spent with printed products and therefore their circulations, are falling, and some online sectors, such as recruitment, are seeing 40% growth annually. “Better-faster-cheaper” is hard to beat, and Mike contrasted the analogy of theatre having survived the advent of the cinema, and cinema that of the TV, with the fact that the horse-and-cart did not survive the arrival of the car. “Browse versus Search” is an aspect of the classified experience that cannot be fulfilled by online but Mike concluded that, after death and taxes, there were only two certainties for classified media – more competition and more organised competition.

After the morning coffee-break, the programme split into two tracks. Track OneSteve Hollingsworth of Northcliffe Newspapers Group of the UK, explained how the concept of the event auction had enabled papers in the group to offer local retailers an opportunity to participate in the auction process. Working with partners CityXpress, Northcliffe had conducted 3 successful event auctions to date and had several more in the pipeline plus plans to roll-out continuous auctions. One of the most significant benefits for Northcliffe was the chance to recruit new/lost/lapsed advertisers and convert them into active paying customers, thus increasing their advertising customer base.

Steve was succeeded by Ralph Werner, MD of, eBay’s online autos vertical in Germany. Ralph gave a thoughtful presentation, focusing on the key drivers of early mover advantage, business skills, product, marketing and pricing, which gave’s founders their early success. Surprisingly, much of’s early strategy was focused on dealers, unlike the familiar classified strategy of populating an environment with sufficient C2C advertising to attract B2C advertisers. concentrated on building the brand and their relationships with dealers, and charged dealers from Day 1. Ralph took delegates through the cycles and sub-cycles of business activity in the vertical market, illustrating this explanation with examples and advice. Finally, he closed with an overview of’s marketing today and showed the latest TV ad, which was a real “magic moment”!

The last presentations in this session were a pair from Peter Rees of Trader Classified Media, and newcomer Judith Neilly of Buy and Sell Ireland. Peter and Judith took different approaches to the topic of “Old versus New Marketing” with Peter taking a classic approach focusing on customers, company and competition, and Judith presenting three case-studies on circulation and sales marketing, two of which succeeded and one failed. On the company side, Peter explained that Trader maintained a clear focus on optimising the functionality of their sites and making them as easy as possible for advertisers and users to access. Customers (advertisers and users) are migrating to the Internet which is developing new business models all the time. On the competition front, Peter drew attention once again to Google which combines many of the “hot” features such as aggregation, localisation, rich media, and mobile access, as well as Craigslist and eBay’s future plans in the classified space. After such a global view, delegates were taken right back down to earth when Judith described what happened on the ground on a day-to-day basis at Buy and Sell Ireland. Two initiatives, one designed to boost circulation of Buy andSell Belfast by rewarding high footfall newsagents with GBP 50 to place the paper near the till in a special display rack, and the other to kick-start the property category by creating an “exclusive” club of estate-agents, were both remarkably successful with a relatively low level of financial or resource investment. However, the “A-Team” initiative (a sampling exercise with retailers) failed miserably, and did not achieve any of the stated objectives of raising brand awareness or increasing the ABC figures.

Following lunch in the ICMA Member Lounge, delegates were plunged back into the afternoon panel sessions. Track One hosted a panel of media-buyers from Spain, Finland and the UK, chaired by Peter Rees who addressed the question of how classified media could better market itself to advertising agencies and media buyers. Juha Herranen of Carat International in Helsinki advised delegates to focus on understanding their customers and providing measurable ROI, and to be conscious of the time pressure that media-buyers were under. This theme of lack of time resurfaced again and again and Alex Lawton of Starcom WorldwideAndrew Jack of Gritti Plc in London hit a controversial nerve when he said that some agencies don’t want to understand and if you come across such an agency, you should go direct to the client.

At lunch we were cordially invited by Sidharth Gupta, COO of Free-Ads India to join him at the next ICMA General Meeting in New Delhi in India on 10-12 November 2005. Back in Track Two, Stuart Wilkinsonof the BPA Worldwide

A regular at ICMA meetings, Sally Winfield, spoke on the highs and lows of marketing at LOOT. Sally has been MD of LOOT only since December 2004 but her involvement with Associated Newspapers stretches back over 17 years, and most recently as Group Classified Director. Sally described the recent change to white stock and the attendant advertising and promotional campaign which accompanied it, with the tagline “Your local markeplace”. With one of the most colourful and image-packed presentations of the programme, everyone loves to hear what LOOT is doing and Sally was inundated with questions afterwards.

To wind-up the morning sessions, Sidharth Guptaof Free-Ads India and Stefan Anderson of Eniro Oy contrasted the different approaches to marketing. Sidharth opened delegates’ eyes to the very different ways in which people in developing markets respond to marketing. Value, reputation and stability are key, and who will forget the example of the crab syndrome? Sidharth was followed by Stefan, who contended that once the basics were right, it was a question of targeting the marketing message and vehicle, and the product and service. Concentrating on the 4P’s of marketing – product, price, positioning and promotion – Stefan analysed how Eniro addressed these in the Finnish high-income market.

Following the afternoon coffee-break, delegates split into six workshops which were repeated three times. Despite the acoustic difficulties (and the non-functioning kitchen-timers), delegates packed out the six tables over the 90 minutes and all complained that they did not have enough time. Special thanks to all the workshop leaders – Peter Lamb (who consistently scores 10/10 from delegates for his workshops), Gerald Coniel, Audrey Cunningham, Peter de Souza, Konstantin Kandler and Craig McMullin and Peter Norman. We’ll sort out the noise and give you longer next time!

After a quick wash and brush-up, it seemed about two hundred people turned up for the Catalan Evening buses outside the hotel. We finally managed to squeeze people onto the buses and set off for the Can Cortada, a 12th century fortress/farmhouse. We enjoyed some drinks in the courtyard before settling down to long low tables where we were served with a range of tapas starters, a huge shank of lamb and crème catalan. A lovely traditional evening!

Amazingly, people turned out in time for the Saturday meetings Publishers’ Meeting chaired by Cal Bosveld, the Sales Managers’ Workshop led by Ramon van den Ende and the Technology andBusiness Development Forum, facilitated by Peter Zollman of Classified Intelligence.

opened the Publishers’ Meeting and introduced George Brooks of Trader Publishing, a new member of ICMA. George made his new member presentation, introducing his company, its products and business strategies, and after fielding a few impertinent questions from Jack, was welcomed into the Association. Cal then shared a few thoughts on where the classified industry was heading before introducing Bob Cauthorn, president of CityTools and former senior executive at the San Francisco Chronicle. Bob described the experience of the Bay Area newspapers, which had failed to react to the threat posed by Craigslist, a small home-grown online operation employing 18 people which is now present in nearly 200 cities worldwide. Arrogance had led to the loss of control over classified pricing. Bob contended that classified markets could shift, classified-only products had done this to newspapers and now free-ads, free-access online sites were doing it again. After this provocative presentation, delegates split into smaller groups to discuss their response to this phenomenon, many concluded that they should do a “Friday-Ad” and go free themselves. It’ll be interesting to see if any have done this by the time of the next GM in India.

Downstairs in Salon Coral, Ramon was marshalling his sales managers for a mammoth session of exchanging ideas and experiences. Thanks to a lot of pre-work, delegates had arrived prepared with presentations and case-studies to share with their colleagues, so much so that they ran out of time to consider some of the issues planned for the second session. Never mind, we’ll make sure that we recycle these for the next GM!

Next door, the first ever Technology andBusiness Development Forum was taking place, ably facilitated by Peter Zollman. All the exhibitors were given the chance to present the latest trends and developments in their industry, and delegates participated actively in all the sessions and really stayed true to the concept of the “forum”. The anecdotal feedback was excellent and we will definitely aim to repeat this meeting in future.

Jill, aided by the Saturday meeting chairs, expertly wrapped up the conference

Onto the Business Meeting, where the 2004 audit was approved, BERK re-appointed as ICMA auditors for 2005, presentations on ICMA projects and PHOENIX were made, and elections for Committee were held. Full minutes are posted in the ICMA Library.

And after a well-deserved break (more than a few people I know had a short nap!), it was on with the party-dresses and make-up and onto those buses again for the ICMA Gala Party in L’Hivernacle, a Victorian-style wrought-iron greenhouse-type building originally constructed for the World Exhibition in 1888. Welcomed with a glass of sparkling cava, delegates enjoyed the spacious Parc della Ciutadella before sitting down to a delicious three course meal. Dessert was followed by a spectacular Spanish danceshow with rather more audience participation than I had bargained for but everyone threw themselves into it – literally! The traditional dancing finished, the DJ and open bar took over, and we had to tear people away onto the last bus at 1am. Apparently, the party continued until very late at a series of bars near the harbour, and there were several sore heads the next day…

Many thanks to the Committee, the speakers, the chairpeople, the exhibitors, but most of all to you the delegates who really make ICMA General Meetings what they are!