Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
Aleksandra Dilevska, a very successful director of Publicis Groupe Zagreb and Publicis Groupe Skopje, studied computer science at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. All that used to interest her once were math and physics.
After completing her studies, she contemplated finding work in some IT company. At that time, Aleksandra met Žaklina Nikolić, who came from Belgrade to open the affiliate agency of Dragan Sakan’s S Team Bates agency.
They quickly became friends, and Žaklina persuaded that Saška (Aleksandra’s nickname among all those who know her) tries her luck in advertising, and so it all began.
She quickly caught the adworld virus, she took over all international clients, and was thrilled with the freedom to create. “There’s no routine, and that’s what completely suits my character, continually finding new solutions. Resolving problems, creating something that has not existed before, from Isaac Newton to this day, that’s what creativity means for me,” says Aleksandra.
To my assertion that for an engineer, two plus two is always four, and in advertising that is not always the case, she says “Yes, that’s true. But there is still a way for structured, divergent thinking. Mathematics and passion for creation are the real formula for success for me.”
Aleksandra got her MBA in marketing at the University of Sheffield, so she combines engineering knowledge with marketing knowledge, which, as she says, has helped her a lot in business, especially in analysis, strategy and finance.
A year-and-a-half later (1996), Saška left S Team Bates to participate, as co-founder, in creating the Publicis agency in Macedonia. She built the agency together with Igor Čelebić, her husband Ahil Simov, and several associates, two of whom are still in the agency.
They started winning local pitches and started lining up clients. The agency grew, received regional and international awards, and is now firmly positioned as a leader in the Macedonian market. Three years ago, Publicis merged all its agencies under one roof – the Publicis Groupe Adriatic.
Soon after, Aleksandra went to Zagreb, and along with Macedonian agency, she took over the lead of the Croatian agency, which within its structure includes Publicis, Saatchi & Saatchi, Zenith and Starcom.
The assessment of the management of Publicis Groupe in the Adriatic region was that Saatchi & Saatchi could do more in Croatia, and that it has potential for development especially in creative sphere. “We want all brands to be active and strong, and there is no reason for this not to be the case in all markets. Saatchi has a strong creative character and I wanted to strengthen it further. I was fortunate to find people with whom I share the same passion for creativity. Everything fell in place, and our story of success could start.”
The “new” Saatchi led by Aleksandra stunned the entire Croatian advertising (and even wider) public with its first move – a brave self-promotion campaign that embodied the best of creativity that Saatchi is recognizable for.
“I would say that this campaign was in the spirit of the brand, a bit provocative and interesting, with a portfolio full of nothing that we sent to our clients. We wanted to wake up the market, to shake it. We wanted them to hear us. We made a joke on our own account, which is one of the best forms of humour and communication. Guys suggested it, and I immediately accepted it,” Aleksandra says, constantly smiling as though she can’t believe they actually did it, and yet it was so successful.
“People have commented that our campaign was great. Even the competitors said it was great. They contacted us, they shared it. Well, you know it yourself, it was quite popular on your portal as well. It seems to me that people are fond of our courage to do such a campaign, the spirit that was different from the self-praise in the style of ‘We are the best!’ This was a little bit inversive, and I think that thanks to it we have created a different impression.” We expect this, and some other campaigns of the Saatchi & Saatchi Zagreb agency, to be seen at the end of March in Rovinj.
At the conclusion that in Saatchi, after the self-promotion campaign, they dived into the sea depths (with Jana), Saška laughed and said, “We dived deep above all.”
Campaign for Jana is an example of how the Publicis Groupe’s creative teams work in the Adriatic region. Before, conditionally speaking, they were competing with each other. Today they are not. They use synergies and team up in their efforts to provide clients with the best creative ideas, resources and specializations.
“We all have our goals but we are connected, we work as a Connected Company. When a call for a pitch comes, we find out which team is the best for that pitch and then we participate as a team. We work great together and this is our strength.”
Jamnica was the first client of the “new” Saatchi in Croatia. After that came Kraš with Bajadera. “I’m very proud of working with Jana and Bajadera. These are, in Saatchi’s vocabulary, Lovemark Brands. These are the brands that are both local and regional leaders.”
I noted they need to be caregul in selecting future clients, in order to make a collection of Lovemark Brands.
“A healthy combination of local and regional, large and small brands is always good. It may be even more challenging to create a Lovemark brand when the ambition of a client and our creative potential unites in order to transform challengers into leaders. Even when we work for international brands we create local communication, we do not adapt the communication that was implemented worldwide. We create local, meaningful ideas within the architecture of this brand and all its values. That’s a big challenge and responsibility. When you work for a great brand, but do it quite locally, new and original.”
But how did a Macedonian lady fare in Zagreb? Saška says that she is doing well, and that besides all-day obligations in the agency, she grew to love Zagreb. “Zagreb is a nice city. There’s a lot of things happening. I’ve found wonderful friends. I would like to have more time to enjoy myself, go to the theater and get together with others. I owe a bigger dose of Zagreb to myself. This month, we will complete the process of moving the agency to new offices, and with the coming of the spring I plan to dedicate myself a little more to Zagreb.”
We also talked about the differences between the Macedonian and Croatian advertising markets.
“The Croatian market is much bigger, the media budgets are bigger. International and global clients of our Group are more active in Croatia and have significantly larger budgets than in Macedonia. It carries great responsibility with it, it’s not easy to service large clients – but it’s our job, and we enjoy it. As for creative ideas, craft and production standards, I don’t see any difference. What is exciting in Croatia is that there are more powerful local brands with whom you can create a brand strategy and ideas for the entire region. In that sense there are more options and this is the key difference between the two markets. It is a great challenge when you strengthen brands locally and regionally. And since challenges are the main motivators for me and my team, it’s all very interesting to us.”
Aleksandra is full of passion and ambition. She says it is not easy to run agencies in Zagreb and Skopje at the same time. Much has to be done on both sides. Even when we were arranging the time for our appointment at the Esplanade Hotel in Zagreb, it was necessary for Aleksandra to fit it in with her obligations in Macedonia and Croatia. Things are moving very fast in her business. When she looks back to the year behind, she sees that much was done. Agencies are growing both in Skopje and in Zagreb, and this pleases her greatly. They have 65 people in the Skopje agency. Their clients are Makedonski telekom, Skopska banka, Skopska pivara, electricity distribution company EVN. They finished last year with a Christmas campaign for Coca-Cola, which was implemented in Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo.
But did her studies in IT help her navigate the digital chaos that marked the beginning of the digital revolution even in the advertising industry? “Yes, absolutely. Programming is a way of thinking. When you complete these studies, you know the technical problems. You know how it all works and it’s easier for you.”
She attaches special significance to strategy when it comes to competitive advantages of the agencies she leads. Powerful strategic thinking and creativity based on strategic insights. Along with the strategy, of course, is an excellent team, working with people, their loyalty… Aleksandra regards this as particularly important. She adds relationship to everything, and she repeats it several times.
Relationship between agency teams and clients. She beieves that people are what creates success, and that a good atmosphere, filled with good intentions and knowledge, makes everything move forward.
Qualified people, strategic thinking, knowledge and passion, because without passion you can’t achieve anything in this business. “We can say that we are digitally advanced, that we are experts in multichannel thinking, but it all starts from finding real people of agile brain, who are eager to learn and be different, better than others. This is the basis for creating great ideas. This environment that is created in the process of creating is what makes a difference. People need to be found, motivated and guided. It seems simple, but it’s not.”
She adores her team in Skopje, and that will always be the case. New energy and ambition are being launched in Zagreb, and excellent results in the past months prove this. She is proud of what they have achieved in a very short time.
“Chemistry in the team makes things good. This is one of my most important priorities in Zagreb. The agency was raised from scratch in Skopje, which means that I had the opportunity to start at the very beginning and do things the way I think they should be done. The difference is in creation. It’s one thing to create, and completely different to manage. For me, results and money always come as a result of good work and passion to be better than you were yesterday. When finances are the most important goal, then you can make the wrong decisions. Our focus must be on our agency product, on what we do, on what we are creating.”
What is Saška’s vision, and what are her desires?
“This is somewhat abstract and emotional, not strictly defined and tangible. When I was thinking about the vision and wishes for 2019, I put a lot of things in that basket. My goal is something that will make a difference. We have the responsibility, both as people and as a profession. And most importantly, we have the power to stand up to the occasion. Sometimes we get crushed by the everyday life – deadlines and pitches. However, we need to take some time for something that is more important for the society at large. It would be good if we could incorporate such a mission into what we do every day for brands.”
As she talked about this, I recalled a campaign for Alzheimer’s disease, which Saatchi worked on for Deutche Telecom and received nine Lions in Cannes. “Yes, that is such an example. You don’t say: We will donate something for the kids, or for the elderly, but you merge the good cause with the essence and function of the brand, making something that has a longer life span and can achieve a stronger and longer-lasting influence. Social responsibility needs to be lived every day. This is the economic model that represents the vision of the future. For this reason, the campaign for the Alzheimer’s disease brought the agency nine lions in Cannes, and it won the Grand Prix at Golden Drum. It was a Great Brief, to which we created Great Stuff.”
By rule, everything starts with a good brief.
“Along with the brief there must be ambition. It takes two to tango. Sometimes even small things make a great idea. It doesn’t always have to be magnificent. Sometimes, a small idea changes the environment, the world or the people around you. So a higher goal is what I want to do with the agency, with people and with clients. Clients have the power, and the same goal, we just need to meet somewhere in the middle.”
Are clients ready for such rapid changes occurring in the industry or is the market compelling them to play along? Aleksandra says some clients are very well prepared, and that’s good, because then the agency has a great dialogue with them.
“I would say most of them are ready. Those who are not ready may not even had to go through transformation at all, but they are aware that they need to transform their business in the digital and technological context. Our group and our agencies have recognized it long ago. We team up every day, acquire new knowledge about the technologies and ways in which they work, in order to respond to the challenges of change. Our job is to provide clients with communication solutions for their problems and to be their partners in transformation.”
Aleksandra believes that it is clearly visible that the communications industry around the world seeks social responsibility in all forms, striving to send such messages to their public, in order to influence the world to become better.
In a couple of years, brands that cannot prove their value to the community in which they grew, or in whose market they appear, will almost have no place on store shelves. “Brands are expected to have a humane dimension to their existence,” Aleksandra concludes.
In the end, we talked about artificial intelligence. She says she expected this question, and that she has conflicting opinions on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The emotional and rational one.
“Sometimes I get excited when I see what can be done with artificial intelligence. And then I get worried when I think about how this will all affect the future. Last year, however, this attitude towards AI relaxed at a global level. In essence, the role of AI is an upgrade of human abilities. It’s more about that, than about replacing someone. Just as the computer enabled us to be faster and more efficient. But how things will develop in the future is anybody’s guess. There will have to be some ethical standards and restrictions. There are many challenges ahead of mankind. Technological giants are becoming even more influential than even some states. Those who lead them need to sort things out, and we will follow them and try to find our own place and role in all that. To summarize. Sometimes this whole AI thing seems exciting, and sometimes frightening.”
As we were saying goodbyes, Aleksandra told me she is especially proud of the Order of the Knight of Art, which she was awarded with by the French government at the proposal of their embassy in Macedonia. I wanted to turn on my iPhone on and talk a bit on this as well. She just waved her hand. Humble, hard working, positive, loyal, very elegant, successful … An artist in everything she does and lives.