Entrepreneur Envoy becomes part of a European campaign to promote Entrepreneurship launched by the European Advertising Agencies. “ This is NOT my Future”

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Date: 24/09/2012

Europe Aims to Encourage Young to Be Entrepreneurs

PARIS — If and when the euro crisis ends, Europe will still face an existential economic question: Who will provide the jobs of the future?
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Five European countries will begin a campaign promoting entrepreneurship in March 2013.

In the United States, entrepreneurs have tended to provide much of the employment that fuels recovery. Even if the current rebound lags behind previous cycles, Americans can still point to Silicon Valley and its start-up culture as symbols of economic dynamism.

In Europe, by contrast, a lack of entrepreneurial gumption is widely seen as a chief barrier to growth, especially at a time when many big companies are shedding jobs. An advertising and informational campaign begun Wednesday in Brussels aims to encourage young Europeans to take charge of their economic future by starting businesses.

“We wanted to introduce a positive voice into the European debate,” said Moray MacLennan, chief executive of the advertising agency M&C Saatchi in London. “The idea was to take young people and say: I will not be a victim of other people’s pessimism. I will control my future.”

Shot in London institutions like the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the British Library, the ad highlights displays featuring European scientists and thinkers of the past, including Plato, Galileo and Darwin, as well as Charles Babbage, the computing pioneer, and James Watson and Francis Crick, who discovered the structure of DNA.

A narrator reads a quotation attributed to the British auto racing entrepreneur Bernie Ecclestone: “I think Europe is finished. It will be a good place for tourism but little else. Europe is a thing of the past.”

The final “exhibit” is a young girl in a glass box. Instead of remaining stationary like the other items on display, she picks up a hammer and shatters the glass.

“That is not my future,” she says, as the screen displays the address for the campaign’s Web site. “This is my future.”

The campaign was developed by the European Association of Communications Agencies, a trade group based in Brussels, in partnership with M&C Saatchi and other ad firms. It features a video spot that emphatically rejects the idea that Europe should be consigned to a museum of economic and technological history.

“Entrepreneurship is one of these things where everyone says we could do things better, but nobody gets on and does it,” said Robert Madelin, director general for communications networks, content and technology at the European Commission in Brussels, which is supporting the campaign. The campaign, he added, sends the message that “entrepreneurship is part of the European dream.”

The campaign, which is being run as a public service initiative by the agency association, is set to begin in five European countries — Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Britain — in March 2013. In addition to advertising, it includes a Web site that will gather information and resources for entrepreneurs.

The agency group intends to hire two people in each of the five countries to run the Web sites, as well as to organize networking activities linking potential entrepreneurs with mentors and peers.

The agency association is raising funds for the campaign, and has received expressions of support from European publishers and television groups, as well as other media owners. They will be encouraged to run ads for it on a public service basis, keeping the overall budget for the campaign to 2.2 million euros ($2.9 million).

The goal, according to the agency group, is to encourage European entrepreneurs to found 500,000 start-ups over the next three years, creating two million jobs.

Mr. MacLennan, who is also president of the European Association of Communications Agencies, acknowledged that the campaign would not directly address certain structural barriers to entrepreneurial activity in Europe, which can be politically sensitive. These, analysts say, include rigid labor markets in many Continental countries, which make it costly to hire and fire workers; weighty legal and financial penalties for business failure; and a lack of access to financing.

Instead, the campaign aims to change mind-sets, including an ingrained cultural aversion to risk that, Mr. MacLennan maintained, was one of the main problems holding back entrepreneurial activity in many European countries.

“The idea is to help people surmount the emotional and cultural barriers that stop them from taking the first step to starting a business,” Mr. MacLennan said.

Some entrepreneurs agree that this is an important first step.

“When you go to a dinner party, and people say, ‘I’m a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant,’ or whatever, and then they get to me and I say, ‘I’m an entrepreneur,’ a slightly glazed look comes over people’s eyes,” said Rajeeb Dey, founder of Enternships, a British start-up that connects students and job seekers with small companies seeking interns.

“They sort of feel sorry for you,” Mr. Dey added, at the Brussels news conference. “That needs to change.”

While the campaign is aimed primarily at young Europeans, external perceptions matter, too.

Europe’s start-up deficit, as well as the widely held American idea that Europeans lack entrepreneurial get-up-and-go, is not just a product of the economic crisis. A befuddled quote has often been used to sum up a longstanding view from the other side of the Atlantic: “The problem with the French is that they have no word for entrepreneur.”

In recent years, however, negative views of Europe’s economic performance and potential have hardened. Mr. MacLennan said he was driven to act after reading a cover story in Time magazine about a year ago, which conflated the euro crisis, Europe’s lack of economic dynamism and the riots in London under the headline, “The decline and fall of Europe.”

“I thought, ‘How dare you write off a whole Continent?’ ” he said, adding that Europe had a bigger gross domestic product than any other region in the world. “It potentially has a great part to play in the world.”