VESNA VLAŠIĆ JUSUPOVIĆ: EVERY DAY WE PROGRESS AND LEARN FROM EACH OTHER
By: Ekrem Dupanović
I’ve been trying to arrange this interview with Vesna Vlašić Jusupović, director ofMcCann Sarajevo, for quite some time now; either Vesna didn’t have time, or I was dragged away by some other obligations… the pieces simply wouldn’t fit. But then a couple of days ago over a coffee we realized that now is just about the perfect time, as Vesna has a lot of information, her agency is in full swing and it has an enviable portfolio of clients and projects. So here’s the story.
Media Marketing: Now that you have an overview of the past year, it can be assessed as a very dynamic, exciting and successful one. How would you describe it?
Vesna Vlašić Jusupović: Our business last year pulled the entire McCann team into a kind of energy vortex. A lot changed, I took the lead local function, we got a new regional leadership, and with the experienced and capable existing team we created a special creative energy that led the agency to a host of new ideas, excellently realized projects and contracts with new clients. In addition to continuing our work servicing highly complex clients, we also faced new challenges in the field of PR and digital communications and came up with some very skillful and functional solutions. All in all, it was an insanely active year in which we managed to get the best out of the circumstances and all the individuals that make up our McCann family.
Media Marketing: Who are your clients, and which campaigns from last year would you especially highlight?
Vesna Vlašić Jusupović: For Coca-Cola – our oldest client, with whom we have learned and progressed for 19 years now in the market of Bosnia and Herzegovina and continually produce great projects – we launched a new local brand called Emotion, and the new flavor Fanta Madness. For the first time in BiH, as part of the Connect campaign,Coca-Cola used personal names on its labels, which was a particular challenge for us all. We also work with Carlsberg BH, for their three beer brands – PAN, Tuborg and LAV, and the cider Somersby. Last year we implemented a series of events with Carlsberg throughPAN’s sponsorship of the Basketball Club Sloboda Tuzla, which brought the club closer to the public and increased attendance at matches as well as general public support, while the client profited through increased sales. In the series of successful events I should mention the street basketball tournament PAN 3v3, which brought a great sportive atmosphere and great fun to the people of Tuzla. The second Lord Somersby’s Bridgeprovided ten unforgettable nights for Sarajevans and guests of the Sarajevo Film Festival, with exclusive transportation from specially designed tram stops, from which visitors were taken to the bridge in a Somersby old timer. With Violeta we told a unique ‘lilastic’story on the release of three new product lines, which in addition to a lot of public attention also brought us recognition from the professional public at BalCannes, but even more importantly, it brought great sales results for our client, Violeta. Raiffeisen Bank signed an exclusive agreement with us for strategic and creative development, and we created a variety of communications materials with them daily. A special challenge for us was the PR contract with Lactalis BH, with whom we launched a collaboration at the height of the crisis regarding the export of milk to EU countries, so from the get-go we were faced with many challenges that forced us to be creative in terms of communications channels, as well as the communication itself. For Konzum we created a visual identity and the production of TVC for the new K-plus sub-brand, “The tradition of my country”, and we did a couple of interesting TV productions for Bilim Pharmaceuticals,BH Telecom, Mingos coffee and some lesser known brands. Sarajevans also had the opportunity to enjoy the superb #refined event, organized by McCann, and we intend to continue this trend in 2016.
In addition, we have long-term collaborations with Podravka, Hypo Alpe Adria Bank,L’Oreal and MasterCard, and we got a couple of new clients about whose successful projects we will talk this year.
Media Marketing: When we spoke once over a coffee, I asked you what the greatest strength of McCann Sarajevo was, and then, when you started talking about your team, it was a never-ending story.
Vesna Vlašić Jusupović: Coming to McCann Sarajevo, I was uncertain what would greet me, but after a year and a half in the agency, I know that I could not have gotten better or more reliable coworkers. The greatest strength of each agency is its people, and I was very lucky that I was greeted in McCann by a team of, first and foremost, good people and hard-working individuals who, with a little motivation and their great experience, can create great visual, event and digital stories. Our people in the higher positions are, without a doubt, well-rounded professionals who can deal with all the professional challenges, and our younger colleagues have great people they can learn from. It’s a real pleasure to see how individuals profile themselves and specialize in certain areas of advertising. What is really particular to us is that we progress and learn from each other every day. The working atmosphere is great because of the specific culture of the agency, so everyone comes to work motivated to do their best every day, knowing they can rely on their colleagues, both on a professional and personal level.
For this year we have quite ambitious plans and the amount of work has driven us to hire a few new colleagues. My plan is to enhance the staff of the PR and Digital departments, which I currently see as a necessity for communications, and where I see the greatest potential for growth. Thus, as of March, we will have a new PR manager, and during the year we will be joined by a couple of creatives and assistants in all departments. In addition to the appropriate professional qualifications, they will of course be expected to fit in with the positive spirit that we are building, so the process will be quite demanding.
Media Marketing: McCann Sarajevo is part of the I&F McCann Group, the largest agency group in South East Europe. Does that give you a certain sense of security?
Vesna Vlašić Jusupović: I wouldn’t quite define working within the I&F McCann Groupfamily as security, because I think that, objectively, security within our industry no longer exists. Regardless of the size of an agency, agency network or group, all that matters is the quality of the services they offer. So I find more security in the fact that such a large network also sets very high professional standards, making us locally motivated to do more and better, and to improve every day in order to offer clients the highest quality solutions. This is what ultimately brings true pleasure.
Media Marketing: Do other agencies from the Group offer support when you need it on certain projects, and vice versa, do you cooperate with other agencies on their projects?
Vesna Vlašić Jusupović: Within our region, we have a very functional setup, a team of seniors, regional directors for strategic planning, creative development, PR… This team is always available to local agencies, especially when it comes to regional projects which will, hopefully, be more numerous in the future. All the agencies of the group are in constant contact. We have an established system for the exchange of knowledge and experience, and sometimes we collaborate on projects for clients that we support regionally as a network. Each local agency has its own characteristics and strong traits. We share ideas and tips, and therein lies the vast power of a network such as ours.
Media Marketing: How would you assess the advertising market in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the position of McCann Sarajevo in that market?
Vesna Vlašić Jusupović: The advertising market of Bosnia and Herzegovina has passed through various stages over the years, but after rapid expansion in the 2000s, which was characterized by big marketing budgets that practically built the foundations for some agencies in BiH, there was a change in the situation. The global economic crisis hit, and left its mark on our economy. Budgets declined, and the appetites of advertisers started to grow. So it was difficult with the existing budgets to cover everything that needed to be covered for successful communications. In such a small market – which in addition to all other problems is also unorganized and poorly regulated – it’s very difficult to reach clients. When we consider the general lack of education and the lack of understanding about the need for adequate advertising and communications that still exists in some areas, it puts us, as agencies, in quite an awkward situation. The market of Bosnia and Herzegovina doesn’t have a lot of important local brands, and there’s a strong trend to centralize the marketing activities of global and regional clients, where we often encounter situations in which local agencies are working on the implementation of strategies, with materials that are localized, and where we are left with very little room for working on larger projects.
These are the very reasons why quality of work is crucial, and that’s what can separate one agency from the rest of the bunch, and that’s what, I believe, is one of the things that embellishes the agency McCann Sarajevo. On the other hand, locally we can offer good quality productions and much more favorable prices compared with the region, and especially the rest of Europe. Agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina have great creative potential and I think it’s very important to get out of rigid frameworks and offer ideas and projects that would be relevant for major players on the regional and global levels.
For us that already started to happen with the project Bubamara (Ladybug) which we did for Coca-Cola, in collaboration with a top-notch team of experts – from Oscar winnerDanis Tanović to colleagues in our global network. This is also our second project to enter the Top 25 projects, last year at BalCannes. This trend continues, and in the past few months alone, we, as McCann Sarajevo, have been invited to a number of regional and global pitches and I hope that we will get a chance to work on other, equally successful projects. Although we are currently one of the largest and most successful creative agencies in BiH, we definitely don’t want to stop there. Our goal is to grow, offer new services, set higher standards…
Media Marketing: McCann Sarajevo offered support to the Cannes Lions in Sarajevo conference, which will be held 3 March in Vijećnica. What motivated you to get involved in this event?
Vesna Vlašić Jusupović: Everything mentioned above is the reason for our support for such an important event. I believe that for our creatives it’s of key importance that they have the chance – right here in Sarajevo, which unfortunately hasn’t yet hosted a Lion – to experience a great creative event and meet with individuals who have had the honor to work on campaigns that have brought them this prestigious award. It will be our great pleasure to host our colleagues Vlatko and Vlado (Vladimir Dimovski and Vladimir Ćosić), who will present their “lion-winning” projects and prove the thesis that good ideas can come from anyone and anywhere. Creativity works without exclusivity. I think it will be highly motivational, primarily for members of the creative industries, but also for clients, because they will get the chance to learn firsthand about the importance of creativity in communication and how it contributes to the creation of their image, brand recognition, building loyalty and facilitating business.
Media Marketing: Creativity is what has always marked the work of agencies under the I&F McCann Group. How do your clients in BiH react to your creative ideas? Do they have the courage to engage in the realization of the kind of unusual ideas that have the best reception among consumers?
Vesna Vlašić Jusupović: In our experience, clients break from established clichés more freely when it comes to new ideas in the use of different communications channels. They are also more willing to experiment in so-called new media, and that’s what we are trying to take advantage of. Sometimes we have the support of our clients and our best projects have been created as a result of such situations – mutual recognition and the dose of freedom that our clients give us. However, this is not a general rule and it’s very important for us, as an agency, to get to know our clients as best we can, but also to better inform them about the creative processes, enabling them to get to know us and our ideas, so we can build mutual trust. After that, it doesn’t take a lot of courage. Everything comes into place quite naturally, and that’s how the best projects are created.