Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
In the second part of our conversation with Anđelko Trpković, CEO of Publicis One in the Adriatic region, we focus on digital, investments in development and acquisitions, technology and its impact on life, changes and their pace, and the awards, or rather when will Publicis One Adriatic and its agencies return to national and regional creative advertising festivals.
Media Marketing: Digital is your favourite topic, and obviously of the entire Publicis One. Why do you describe your self as a digital agnostic?
Anđelko Trpković: Because we have to make a clear distinction between those who blindly believe, and those who think about what is offered to them. Blind faith – that would be digital believers. Because of all the information that surrounds us, we must be aware that it is not accidental that these information talk about the importance of digital without any reserve. There are some companies that have managed to earn great amounts of money just because they were innovative and because they were the first at something. They are now trying to set this innovativeness as something that is a lasting value, and they don’t want it to be just a peak that will only go down from there. There is a clear intention in the world to persuade people somehow that digital is the only possible way. And when you create “the only possible way”, an army of believers is formed who don’t stop to think why something is happening, but simply begin to follow that path because it is paved with some better, shinier tiles than any other road. We are constantly saying that it is good, but we aren’t stopping for a second to ask ourselves why it is good, and what will this enable us. I like to say that I am a digital agnostic because I don’t question even for a moment whether this will happen and whether it is important, but I am looking for reasons in everything. It makes it somehow easier for me to look for the difference between the important and the unimportant in what is offered to us. When I talk about whether digital transformation will benefit us in some way, I always say to people who are digital believers that the quality of our offer depends on them, and that they need to create value, but without losing sight of the fact that money is not the only value.
I have one simple example to prove this. The difference in the quality of life between what my grandfather and my father experienced at birth is enormous. My grandfather was born in a house that did not have electricity or running water, at that time the best mode of transportation was a horse, and there was no transmission of sound or image. So, he lived in the circumstances in which we, who were born in this century, would question whether it is even possible to live like that. Grandpa’s life was a quality life in the circumstances that were offered to him. One generation later, my dad grew up in a house that had electricity, had running water, he drove a car, he got introduced to television and learned about the existence of a phone. So his life circumstances were made dramatically better in a single generation compared to those of his father. Now I translate this into the relationship between my son and me. We two were born, and we live, in more or less same circumstances. We have electricity, we have water, we have transmission of images, we have audio transmission. For me it was important to have a long telephone cord, so I could have a discreet phone call from my room. For my son, that cord is gone. The difference in quality of life is not in whether that cable exists or not. It’s not such a huge difference as between having running water in your house or not. When I take a closer look at what he has, and I didn’t, the only quality we managed to make was to remove the cathode tube from the TV set, and our TV became thinner. That’s not enough. What I expect from digital transformation is to create such a value that will leave a deep mark in the civilizational sense through the changes that will take place. I want digital transformation to bring that kind of change as you get when you imagine life without running water, and life in a flat with a tap from which water flows when you turn it on. If we say that the digital transformation is the fourth transformation that is happening to us, then I expect all of those contributing to it to know what we need. We don’t need to see someone earning more money easier. We need a civilizational change that will mark the moment of our existence on planet Earth. If this is technology, then it must be in the function of health, education, change of quality of life and development of our community toward something better. The question of acquiring material values is not the only purpose of digital transformation.
Media Marketing: You mention technology and its influence on the quality of life. Today we’re debating whether artificial intelligence, as a result of technological development, will destroy lives, jobs, and some other things very important for life.
Anđelko Trpković: I do not think this will happen, first of all because we always have the ability to plug this device out from the power outlet. As long as the plug is in our hands, we are safe. We should never allow the device ability to turn itself on. Artificial Intelligence (AI) should help make things more accessible, it should make it easier to us to show our talents to a larger group of people. Our company has worked on creating the world’s first AI assistant in the past year. It wasn’t named Marcel by accident, and later on I will mention our founder not his name Marcel, and I will point out later to our founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet and the legacy that he left to the entire Publicis Groupe and our need to keep changing. When I think about what AI assistant Marcel allows us, two key things stand out. First is that it unifies the way we package the data we create. We work in more than 100 countries and each of us in our own way packs the databases we have. Marcel will in some way push us to start thinking about how to make these piles of terabytes of information that we collect and pack in some folders be accessible and beneficial to others. When you imagine an army of 80,000 people working in the Publicis Groupe, also imagine that every day, each of them creates at least 20 MB of data per day. And if that data stays in one place, then their value is not great. When we collect all of this information in one place, and when there is a way and algorithm that searches them – because a human can’t do this as there’s simply not enough time for that – it can help us in the way we handle this information and how we begin to understand the value of data. That’s the first thing – the invisible one – which is in the black box. The second thing that opens up opportunities is the ability to spread your talents to countries and clients that you didn’t even know existed, or you never could figure out what they do. Through Marcel app, all of our talents in the world will be able to participate in those projects where they are selected as part of a particular team. So, if you think your talents are limited by the geographic area in which you are born, Marcel is the first one to give you the chance to have your shining talent from South America or Bosnia and Herzegovina be shown in the light it deserves in a completely different place on the planet. I think that the whole AI story should be used wisely, where someone does certain operations faster than we can, bit in function of our development, and not in a sense where a machine would replace people in the workplace.
Media Marketing: Over the last couple of years Publicis has heavily invested in the development of digital. It has acquired several important digital companies in the world. What initially surprised me was that all those operations were largely initiated by Maurice Levy, a man who did not belong to the digital generation, and a man who could have been retired at the time when he was bringing the most important decisions on development of digital within Publicis. How is the transformation of know-how from the top of Publicis to its regions being implemented? How do you get all that you need from digital now?
Anđelko Trpković: Allow me to go back to Levy just for a moment, because it’s a very interesting thing. When we look at our group in terms of top management, it’s really conservative. Since 1926, when we were established, until today, we had only three global CEOs – founder of the company Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, Maurice Levy and now Arthur Sadoun. If we take into account that Sadoun came to that position two years ago, that means that Marcel and Maurice “ruled” Publicis for 90 years. Did they sometimes make some mistakes in their business? Of course they did. But the result of their work was leagues higher than the mistakes they might have made. People today are not inclined to forgive mistakes to their staff. We change people much to often. We aren’t ready to accept the values that will be created later. There should be no fear of mistakes arising from the desire to do something new and something good. The moment Levy was recognized as the future Marcel’s successor was one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the Publicis Groupe, in 1972 when our building in Paris burned down. The building is on a spectacular spot in the French capital, on the Champs Elysses, the first large building next to the Arc de Triomphe (not by accidence!). One night it burned down to the ground. At that moment, it looked like the possible end of the company. How do you continue to do business? Clients can say they understand you, but they won’t wait for you to come back to them after a few months when you get things in order. Work continued seven days later. No projects were suspended. One of the reasons why this was so was that at that point in time, Maurice Levy was in charge of the IT of Publicis Groupe. He appeared with magnetic tapes and said “everything is saved”.
So his idea that digitization is important essentially determines this moment in the company’s development, when he became the man who enabled the company to continue working, because he was archiving data in the media that represented the forerunner of digital. Today, our company, backs up all the stuff we have on the servers every month, and keeps them on hard drives outside our building. It is a matter of our legacy in which we say that nothing that happens can prevent us to continue operations as usual in just seven days. Your legacy, even if it includes something bad that happened, should help you be better later on.
Media Marketing: What is the fundamental idea of Publicis One? What is the most important thing in the system of Publicis Groupe?
Anđelko Trpković: Our group is based on three pillars. The first pillar relates to financial results, which is normal when you are a multi-national company, but it is not the fundamental one. Profit isn’t the goal. It is the consequence. The second thing that matters is the quality of the products we have. The third, most important thing, is the quality of people we have. In our system, no one will ever ask you only about the financial results.
In each of our reports there are three points we are reporting on. These are the financial report, the quality of work report through the examples of what we have done, and report on what is happening with our people and the culture we have within the system. Why is that so? Very simple. If you have the money, and a bad product and bad people, then the money is just a temporary consequence that will not last long. If you have good people and a good product, and you don’t have financial results, then there’s a problem in the management and the way we manage the system. If we have good people and money, but our product is bad, then we have to invest in the quality of our work. So, through the three points that you have as a system, you can easily understand what is happening in every country in the world. Let’s apply this to digital transformation. Arthur Sadoun, as the new CEO of Publicis Groupe, must introduce the kind of energy, enthusiasm and change that is needed to show that a new energy has come, that is ready to change something, and that will continue all that we did good so far. There is no dilemma that the group must first and foremost understand the needs of its clients and the directions they’re heading to. We want to be faster than the changes that are happening, so nobody could ever say we are dinosaurs, that we are an advertising agency of the old age.
Media Marketing: What does it mean to be faster than change?
Anđelko Trpković: Our global mantra is Live the Change, be the driver of changes, otherwise the changes will change you. And when you look at the historical legacy we have, it did not happen by accident. Publicis Groupe was the first to start using radio as a means of advertising. We were the first to air an ad in the theatre. We were among the first to start with the formation of a network that enabled us to have different brands within the same holding company, and to have it all function seamlessly, while preserving each individual part of the system. When you look at the whole thing, then it’s clear to you that we have to be the drivers of change in digital transformation. Our promise was that we will make 50 percent of our revenue from digital by 2020. With the acquisition of Sapient, we have fulfilled that goal already in 2017. What we are currently focused on is that creativity remains the core element of our business. What we add to this creativity is called Data Driving Creativity, which means that our creativity is based on the data we collect. In order to show others that something is possible, we must first show it on our own example, and for this reason, the first AI assistant we created was not done for some client, but for us. It’s the “do what you want to talk about” mentality.
Media Marketing: How are these changes taking place?
Anđelko Trpković: In terms of how this is happening, it can happen organically, where people grow within the system, and, secondly, through acquisitions. One of the biggest acquisitions was the acquisition of Sapient, which is probably one of the biggest deals ever made in the world of advertising. However, there are other things that people don’t know about. One of the companies that work in our system is called Performics. This is also a company we acquired. And do you know from whom we acquired it? From Google! At some point Google had to decide what they are dealing with. They couldn’t be a provider and an agency at the same time. When this idea emerged that there is a high-tech company that deals with digital media performance, we were the ones who said: “Here, we will buy this company because we believe in the future and opportunities it provides.” That company works great. I encourage everyone to go to the site and take a look at Viva Technology, an event we organize in Paris. It has become one of the most significant events for tech, change, start-up culture and digital transformation in general. I would really recommend to anyone who has an idea they believe in and think it is too big for the market they operate in to contact us, so we could enable them to present next May in Paris. Viva Technology is the absolute center for presenting technological achievements in Europe, and we as Publicis Groupe can help people find their place on the big stage.
Media Marketing: How well equipped are your people in the region to follow the development of digital? Can a client here get the same as a client in any other European or global market?
Anđelko Trpković: Both yes and no. We recognize what is possible, but you also have to have the people who are ready to use it. For us as a group, it is not a problem to create a digitally and technologically perfect product that can be applied anywhere, using local knowledge, with potential need for special experts in specific areas to come and help.
Media Marketing: So three things are essential: someone with an idea, someone for whom that idea is useful and necessary, and someone who is ready to make that idea reality?
Anđelko Trpković: That’s right. Such projects could not be created just ten years ago. I sincerely hope that by the end of this year we will employ the first data scientist in our agency. She comes from global markets. Fortunately, she wanted to return to the region she grew up in, and now we can use her experience as an advantage, because she has worked on the projects that we can now only talk about.
But we don’t have to go that far. There are some projects that we are doing in Serbia, and people don’t know about them. For us, it was a great success when we created Digital Trade Application for a client, which was something that was reserved only for the tech companies so far. At a global meeting that discussed who works on projects in the field of trade activation, Leo Burnett was one of the rare creative agencies at that meeting. We have so far implemented such programs in four countries of the region, exclusively using our own in-house resources. We didn’t hire subcontractors because we believe that in the digital age the speed of realization of certain projects is extremely important – sometimes even the most important factor. In order not to spend time on selecting subcontractors, we created a pool of people within our system who worked on providing the speed necessary for the realization of such projects. If I tell you that we have implemented a similar project in Austria, then that means that we can achieve great things in developed markets even from here.
Media Marketing: Do the awards that you won in the past year mean that you are making a comeback to the festivals?
Anđelko Trpković: Not yet. We have focused on the internal development of digital applications within the system itself. It’s not that we were completely absent from festivals. We received a report that our clients this year reported nearly 400 works done by our agencies to the Cannes Lions festival.
Media Marketing: Which means that clients actually need awards?
Anđelko Trpković: Yes. Awards are the best indicator of what you’ve achieved, and they are an opportunity to measure against competition in the market, and see if you’re going in the right direction.
Media Marketing: Will you come back to the regional festivals? Are you coming to the Golden Drum and Sempler?
Anđelko Trpković: It depends on the group’s decision at a global level. If the decision is to remain absent, I will not object, because we have to show this kind of unity and willingness to make a sacrifice together if necessary, so that we can achieve a better result for all of us. The moment the group says we can compete, we will immediately report our works. We haven’t slowed down for a second, nor are our works worse because we didn’t enter them at festivals. On the contrary, I think it will create some sort of hunger for awards among our creatives, and they will approach these festivals with an even greater enthusiasm and fervor, because they will have to prove themselves.