Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
I’ve worked for 5 decades in advertising and the media and have never ever been in a situation such as the one I found myself in last week.
A guy (I think his name is Haris) phoned me on Thursday and said he was Mixer House’s PR manager and a big-shot in the PR world. I think he wanted to impress me and intimidate me right from the get go. Then the torrent of abuse started because of my previous article about Mixer leaving Sarajevo sneakily, causing our city of Sarajevo’s image to be tarnished in the region. He was shouting down the phone at me and like broken record repeatedly saying I shouldn’t have published the article and that it was all lies. When he paused to take a breath I managed to ask him was it all lies, every single word? He said it was. I asked him if what Ivan Lalic had written on Mixer’s web page are lies as well (which I used verbatim in my article) to which he replied no but the rest of it was. I suggested to him to write a rebuttal which I would publish as breaking news to increase readership. He said that he would not write a rebuttal but he was prepared to issue a statement, only if I asked nicely, and continued to insult me. I put the phone down and he phoned again. Before he could speak I told him I didn’t wish to continue this conversation and I put the phone down again. He continued to call but I never picked up the phone.
In my article, I only asked for the truth about why Mixer folded so quickly. That was a record folding for any company. The silence around it caused ugly rumours about Sarajevo in the region, that Ivan and Maja were swindled etc. In this type of situation silence is the worst choice. If it was because of the debts, then say so. How big were these debts that accumulated in three and a half months? Three quarters of the 300,000 euro investment had been raised, leaving only 75,000 euros or 150,000 BAM short. What genius came up with the business plan to make 150,000 BAM in the first three months for servicing debts alone on top of running costs (the rent for the space, staff salaries, electricity, water, food and drink stock…). Mixer was not a gold mine! I concluded my article by saying that if it was Sarajevo’s fault I’d be first to eat my hat and give a donation to ease the pain of debt, as if anybody was feeling that pain at all.
In this wanker, the Mixer PR manager, I recognized one of those from the ranks of young, good for nothing fuckwits, swamping the PR profession and creative industry, peddling lies to young bands, private TV companies and concert and event organisers. My advice: If you need PR services contact one of the Sarajevo agencies – they know how to do the job.
On Friday morning I got another phone call from a man from the Canton Sarajevo Ministry of Interior (MoI) who introduced himself as an inspector of violent and sexual crimes (!!!). He asked me politely to come to MoI and make a statement as requested by the Canton Prosecutor. I can honestly say that the shock of this phone call has shortened my life by at least three years. Our son Filip hasn’t lived at home for a while and my first thought was that he’d been hurt. What else could it be. Violent and sexual crime of all things. Dreading the answer, I still asked him what it was all about. He said that Sarajevo Brewery were pressing for criminal charges against me. That was a relief. I went to MoI, and I have say that the inspector and his assistant were very polite. I was told about a considerable criminal complaint against me full of stupidity, lies and fabrications. Of course, the reason was my article “Who fooled Sarajevo Brewery?” which was published on the 8th of September last year. The article was discussing the obvious plagiarism of the TV spot for Czech Mattoni water, its idea (and everything else) was used for the production of a TV spot for Lejla – voda ljubavi made by Sarajevo Brewery.
I was accused of a criminal offence contravening article 295 – extortion and article 296 – blackmail contrary to Criminal Law of the Federation of BiH. And all this stems from the statement of Melisa Sefer Ličin, Sarajevo Brewery PR director, claiming that I threatened over the phone to destroy and cause untold damage to Sarajevo Brewery unless they put a stop to Lejla voda ljubavi campaign (!) Also, she claimed that I was aggressive, brutal and ruthless! All lies. I know Melisa well, I’ve done favours for her several times, I’ve never caused her trouble and I just don’t understand how she could lie so much. I know, she was saving her job. There is more to this than meets the eye.
Before I continue I want to mention something that I haven’t mentioned before but now it needs to be said. The slogan of the Lejla campaign was based on a Jana water slogan which became known globally through the story of Malena and Klepetan – Jana, voda s porukom ljubavi (Jana the water with a message of love). The Sarajevo Brewery slogan is – Lejla, voda ljubavi. (Lejla, the water of love)
I am a friend of Sarajevo Brewery. I still think it is a good company that needs to be supported. I gave my support whenever I could.
In 1999, whilst gathering nominations for the BiH most successful manager of the year (this was a Business Magazine project, I was the publisher and editor of) I asked Zdenko Mihajlovic, Market Banka executive director and one of the most successful private banks in BiH (taken over by Raiffeisen bank later on) for his suggestion. Zdenko and I were great friends and I valued his opinion. He knew business and businessmen very well. He thought for a moment and said that he has an excellent candidate, but was not sure whether I was brave enough to accept him. His proposal was Nazif Branković, Sarajevo Brewery director. When he asked if I was brave enough he meant that the financial inspectors and police were frequently in and out of the Brewery that year. All the media were chattering about it, and the Brewery was on the front pages. That was during the privatisation period. Somebody wanted to buy the Brewery and they needed to find a reason to remove Hilmo Selimović from the helm. I said to Zdenko that I had nothing against Nazif Branković as a candidate if he was confident that Nazif was an excellent manager. I wanted to meet him and Zdenko organised a meeting with the Brewery president. Prof Nijaz Duraković and Ekrem Lekic (Walter magazine) were already there when we arrived for the meeting. We were asked to see Branković whilst they were having their meeting. I met Nazif, I liked him immediately. He was open and easy to talk with. Selimović obviously told Prof Durakovicćand Lekić why we were there, and prof Duraković told me: “Dupanović, you know that the professor is always right. Nazif will be the best candidate.” I told him it was not my decision (although it was) and thanked him for his advice. I already knew that Branković couldn’t win, but for the Brewery to be in the final ten was in itself a gift. Every year the ceremony was shown on TV, it was one of the most watched TV shows. We presented 10 managers, showed a 2 min video clip for each of them and the winner. Nazif Branković’s nomination was really an important event for the brewery.
After Selimović saw his guests off, he told me straight away that Nazif has to win manager of the year and he will pay me handsomely for that. I told him I was not there to trade, and Zdenko said: ”Hilmo, don’t talk to Ekrem like that.” Everybody must have thought that I would leave that meeting with a considerable amount of money and what follows will show that. That night, there was a Sportsmen of the Year ceremony in the Holiday Inn organised by Nezavisne Novine of Banja Luka. After the winner was announced, Vedrana and I were sharing a table with Hasan Sarajlić (Kopex Sarajlic, Srebrenik) and Faruk Širbegović (Kompanija Širbegović, Gračanica). Prof Duraković said in passing: “Ekice, you got some dosh today” gesturing with his fingers towards his jacket pocket. I didn’t respond.
We made a film about the Brewery and the manager Nazif Branković, we showed it at the ceremony and promoted them during hard times. I never went back to the Brewery, until Melisa Sefer Ličin moved from MITA Group Agency to become their PR manager. Maybe I should have. I could have had a year’s advertising contract from them for my Business Magazine. But I didn’t. I was careful not to accept business from any of the nominees.
Around that time a few other things happened that enlivened my contact with the Sarajevo Brewery. Melisa took over the PR, the Brewery intensified their marketing and sponsorship activities, Haris Kuskunovic became a manager, I’ve known him for a long time and have a good relationship with him. I often received invites to various events organised by the Brewery. I rarely attend these events, but I did attend theirs because of Melisa and Haris. And of course, wrote about it on the portal, especially on the Art&Business portal because the Brewery was a sponsor of many cultural institutions and events in Sarajevo. I was present at the signing of the sponsorship contract with Sarajevo Film Festival, I attended the promotion of the National Theater contract, I was there for the promotion of the Sarajevo Beer special edition with BiH film posters etc. I had coffee twice with Haris at his invitation. I was thinking of offering him a sponsorship of the Art&Business portal because of their involvement in the scene, but I didn’t. If I offered it I am sure he would have accepted. I had a gut feeling, something was telling me it wouldn’t have been a good move. If I’d had a contract with them, I couldn’t have reported on the plagiarism of the Mattoni water TV spot. Like this, I have my independence.
I am very careful in choosing strategic partners for advertising on Media Marketing portal. I am always mindful of potential conflicts of interest and losing my independence. I don’t think I do favours for my partners by being in a contract with them. A contract for me means that I trust them and appreciate them and our partnership.
I have a lot more to say about Sarajevo Brewery, but I will save it for the court, in case the Prosecution decides to proceed against me on the charges of extortion and blackmail.
I repeat again, I have never, ever taken a single dime from Sarajevo Brewery.
Finally, some advice for the little frustrated PR man from Mixer and Melisa. When there is a crisis in a company, you activate the crisis communication to lessen the impact. Mixer and the Brewery had every reason to start crisis communications. They chose silence and silence is the worst choice. Jernej Repovš wrote in his book How the visual identity of an organization is created and how it works: “If all you hear from an organisation is silence, others will speak for them, and often not favourably.”