The most promising bit of advertising in Moscow right now is a little website called kakdela.ru. Kakdela are an online promotion outfit that's been around since 1999, according to their website. The site's design isn't all that good, and their copy is quite rough, but whoever owns and runs this small business truly has a good instinct for advertising and promotions far above many of the most expensive marketing gurus in this city.
A little while back, someone at Kakdela took a bunch of spray cans and tagged Moscow's ramps, bridges and fences with "raskrutka saitov kakdela.ru (website promotion, in English). Genius. Tagging urban objects is nothing new, and is done in the West quite often. Originally, this began as urban expression, marking particular territory or as an art-form. Like most underground things, this was picked up gained more street cred than any sponsored big name concert, the promotional darling for beer and tobacco brands over the last few years.
Even the brand itself is near perfect. Instead of calling themselves eOnlineAds or WebPromoGroup or something equally forgettable, they came up with a catchy name that had absolutely nothing to do with their line of business, but was easy to remember. They called themselves Kak Dela (how are you). It doesn't take a marketing guru to realize that most people will probably be able to remember that particular phrase. Another great bit of guerilla marketing let the people promote it for you. Every time some asks how are you, they will be promoting the company, sort of.
Other big name brands have tried to force street cred into their brand, the most recent being West cigarettes. You can see their 3x6 meter billboards dotting the Garden Ring. They're the ones on by guerilla marketing companies, and exploited to give brands street credibility and/or legitimacy. Because there was never the same type of urban culture in the Soviet Union, there is no similar history of such urban expression, hence tagging for commercial purposes hasn't really existed here. Tagging has only recently found a home in Russia, with websites such as http://streettea.spb.ru/ and http://can2.boom.ru/ showcasing some of the cooer stuff out there.
The idea to tag walls as a form of advertising wasn't suggested to Kakdela by an expensive ad agency. This was something that they did because it was cheap and they needed to get their name out. It was done because they decided that it was the right thing to do. It took someone with a strong, likely inadvertent, intuition for advertising techniques, and the guts to go out and deface public urban objects, knowing full well that if they pissed anyone off, it wouldn't really be hard to track the vandals down. This is a campaign that cost almost nothing to produce, and anyone who's seen it around town has been exposed to some of the most effective brand building tactics out in the market. By being truly low end, and grass roots, the campaign with a pack of West superimposed on a graffiti laden print, with the tagline "We speak the language of the streets," which is patently ridiculous. Anyone who has to tell you that they have street cred... obviously has none. Put this billboard up against Kakdela, and tell me which of the two has managed to achieve real street credibility.
Each year, a host of industry events is held, awarding trophies and plaques for most innovative brands, and most effective ad campaigns. Each year, well-connected stagnant companies and ads win the same awards, to the cynical chagrin of the industry and its observers. If you don't have a sense of humor, the after-parties at these things can really be soul-sucking events.
I drive past one of Kakdela's tagged ramps each day on my way to work, and every time I pass their advert, it makes me realize that despite their lack of official recognition, there is some great advertising in Moscow. For the cost of a few cans of spray paint, a small group of truly clever guys have managed to upend everyone by going back to the fundamentals of advertising, i.e. creativity, something the corrupt Big Cats in this town will never grasp.