Corporate, Cross Media and Hidden Ads
There is no hard data on the Albanian advertising market. Its size and composition are estimated based on financial statements of key media power-houses. According to estimates published by the economic weekly Monitor in February 2018, the whole advertising market in Albania, including TV, print, online, radio and outdoor advertising, was worth 38.4 million Euro in 2017 – registering a decrease of 900,000 Euro compared with the 2016 estimate. Excluding outdoor advertising, worth around 3 million Euro annually, the 2017 figure was 35.5 million, of which television took the biggest share of around 30.4 million, down by 600,000 Euro from the previous year. Meanwhile the print advertising market was estimated at only 2 million Euro, radio at 0.7 million and online at 2.4 million – surpassing print revenues for the first time in history. According to Monitor’s estimates, the overall advertising market has been stagnant in the last five years, registering a small drop from 38.8 million Euro in 2013 to 38.4 million Euro in 2017.
According to an analysis conducted by the MOM team, based on 2016 financial statements of the eight television companies with the largest audience in the country, more than half of the advertisement expenditures go to three biggest media companies, Top Channel, TV Klan and Media Vizion worth 25.16 million USD (20.4 million Euro). Top Channel is leading in terms of advertising share with revenues of 12.4 million USD (almost half of the big three), followed by TV Klan with 9.1 million USD and Media Vizion with 3.6 million USD.
Based on the response of the Panorama Group to the MOM team, the daily Panorama received 840,000 USD (682.000 Euro) of revenue from advertisement in 2016, around one third (34.1%) of the estimated total print advertising market.
The MOM analysis of the radio advertising market, based on revenues of a sample of ten radio stations for 2016 published by the Albanian Audio-visual Media Authority, AMA, show that two stations – Top Albania Radio and Club FM – controlled almost half (47.8%) of revenues of that sample, which were in total 2.3 million USD.
All available data shows that Albania’s small advertising market, which follows a global trend of stagnation in the last five years, is highly concentrated in the hands of a small number of media companies in TV, print and radio.
The audio-visual media law prohibits occupying a share of more than 30% of the advertising market by a company that holds a national audio or audio-visual broadcasting license. However, this is not easily applied in practice, as the law does not specify how to measure the advertising share, whether this percentage refers to the value of the advertisements or to the advertising airtime. AMA, the regulatory authority mandated to monitor compliance of media service providers with the law, decided to measure advertising volume in minutes. Advertising by the State is not regulated or even monitored at all.
A monitoring of the number of ad seconds, print space and pixels bought by different advertisers across all media in TV, print, online and Radio, shows that a handful of large international telecommunication companies dominate the Albanian advertising market. According to data gathered by IDRA Media, a media research company, for the first 11 months of 2017, the three largest advertisers in the Albanian media market are the mobile operators Vodafone, Telekom and Albtelekom, which are followed by other international corporations like Procter & Gamble and Coca Cola. The small size of the advertising market and the sheer size of a handful of telecommunication companies, means that there is little critical reporting on their activities in local TV or print outlets. When the Competition Authority fined the country’s two biggest mobile operators, Vodafone and AMC [now rebranded as Telekom], for uncompetitive behaviour in 2007, few outlets even reported the story, let alone with some scrutiny. Little has changed since then. When in May 2017 the competition authority opened a new investigation against Vodafone, Telekom and Albtelekom for creating an oligopoly in the market, the number of outlets that reported the story was again minimal.
In addition, the data obtained from IDRA Media suggest that a lot of the advertising in television, print and radio comes from companies related to the media owners. For example, the allegedly biggest advertiser on Top Channel TV – by airtime for the period January to November 2017 – was the digital pay-per-view company DigitAlb. The Hoxha family, who are the owners of Top Channel TV, also control 51% of the shares at DigitAlb. Top Albania Radio, another outlet where the Hoxha family owns the majority of shares, is also very visible as an advertiser in Top Channel TV. Lori Cafe, a coffee import company, and Imperial Cinemas, a cinema network, both owned by the Hoxha Family, are also significant advertisers in Top Channel TV. The same can be said for the digital pay per view platform Tring TV and Media Vizion, both controlled by the Dulaku Family. Tring TV is the biggest advertiser in Vizion Plus, the national broadcaster owned by Media Vizion. The publishing house Botimet Living – owned by the Dulaku Family as well, is also a main advertiser in Vizion Plus. This pattern of cross media advertising, or advertising from outlets and other business affiliated with the owners of the media outlet, is also playing out at News 24 TV, Scan TV, Top Albania Radio, in the newspapers Mapo, Telegraf, Ballkan, Gazeta Shqiptare, Shekulli, Panorama, Panorama Sport, Monitor Magazine and others. It’s unclear if these ads, which come from companies that are under the ownership of the owner of the outlet, are offered at a discount or even paid at all. The real transactions and their value, if any, are unknown.
Hidden Advertising. Another challenge that the Albanian advertising market presents is the increased pressure from companies on media outlets to air and publish hidden – or so-called ‘native’ – advertising, which was identified as a problem dating back to the 2015 annual report of the Audio-visual Media Authority. In a paper published already in 2013, journalist and media researcher Elvin Luku highlights the impact that hidden advertising has on the Albanian media, particularly on talk shows. Luku underlines that important talk shows like Zone e Lire [Free Zone] on TV Klan, Procesi Sportiv [The Sport Process] on Top Channel TV or Dribbling on Vizion Plus, routinely feature hidden advertising. Zone e Lire for example randomly promotes musicians’ new singles as hidden advertisement. Another form of hidden advertisement identified by Luku in the Albanian talk show arena is the sponsored topic. He gives the example of the talk show Top Show on Top Channel TV, where an organization can pay to choose a specific theme by buying TV time. Luku cites the host of the show Alban Dudushi, noting that the organization that pays for the TV time and chooses the theme can select two of the people that will debate, which according to Dudushi, at least ensures some editorial control for the TV station. In the morning show ‘7 pa 5” [5 minutes before 7 a.m] on Vizion Plus TV, 15 minutes of editorial TV time cost 1200 Euro, excluding VAT. In the afternoon show Vizioni Pasdites [The Afternoon Vision] on Vizion Plus, 60 minutes of hidden advertising costs 3000 Euro, while 30 minutes cost 2000 Euro. Luku writes that even the semantics are revealing, because the people invited in these TV shows are considered as ‘clients’. The practice of selling TV time for hidden advertising and propaganda, has been also present during election periods. An investigation conducted by BIRN Albania found that several TV stations had advertised the sale of programs or TV features to candidates, listing official rates in the website of the Central Electoral Commission.
All-in-all, the advertising market in Albania is largely not transparent and the legislation is not specific enough on how to measure the advertising market share. In the meantime, hidden advertising continues to be a widespread practice. All of these are probably symptoms of much larger problems with the health of the political and economic environment in the country and should not be viewed in a vacuum.
Tregu i dobët I reklamave fut median në krizë: Televizionet pa fitime, "online" mund print-in, Monitor, 
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Big Advertisers Subvert Albanian Media Freedom, BalkanInsight.com (2013) Accessed on March 2nd 2018
Vodafone, Telekom Albania dhe Albtelekom nën hetim për manipulim çmimesh, Reporter.al 2017 Vodafone, Telekom Albania and Albtelekom under investigation for fixing prices, Reporter.al 2017, Accessed on March 2nd 2018
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Bulletin Periodik Nr. 1, AMA 2017 Periodical Bulletin No. 1, Audio-visual Media Authority 2017, Accessed in December 2017
A look at the Public Sphere in Talk Show Programs in Albania, 2013 Accessed in December 2017
Tele-demokracia: Talk show-t shqiptarë përballë mediave te reja, Elvin Luku2015 Tele-Democracy: Albanian Talk Shows and New Media, Elvin Luku, 2015, Accessed March 2nd, 2018
Shitja e emisioneve televizive mjegullon linjën ndarëse mes lajmit dhe propagandës, 2017, Reporter.al The Sale of Talk Shows Breaches the Lines Between News and Propaganda, 2017, Reporter.al, Accessed on March 2nd 2018