Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
Three years ago, during The Cup in Belgrade, when Media Marketing for the first time gathered the presidents and directors of national advertising associations, I suggested, among other things, that we all together launch a great campaign to promote advertising. This proposal was motivated by a large decline in investment in advertising after years of crisis that affected the entire world. First to react was Damir Ciglar, president of HURA, who said that the biggest problem facing the advertising industry is the fact that young people don’t want to work in advertising. “Let’s do something that will attract young people and stop their going abroad, because without them, our industry will not have any future,” Ciglar said.
Everyone agreed, but we never realized the campaign (nor the other conclusions from this very interesting meeting in fact). Well, perhaps we didn’t, but Imago has, with their Drain of the Ghosts of the Past campaign, with which the Agency celebrated its 25th anniversary. This was the occasion for this conversation with Damir Ciglar, director of the agency Imago, one of the most successful Croatian advertising agencies.
Media Marketing: You and your partner founded the agency during the “twilight” of advertising in the Balkans, brought about by the wars in this region. Why did you opt for such a move in such grim times?
Damir Ciglar: However impossible it was to avoid the reality of war, we were trying to live ‘normal’ – to work and create. I started in a student organization, then in an agency, then I was a freelancer, so the launching of a creative studio – back then we didn’t want to be an ‘agency’ – was an exciting step for me. My ex-girlfriend, now wife, chose the name, and so on 11 November, 1992, Imago was born!
Media Marketing: In the early years, the agency lived from Slovenian clients, and you spent most of your time in Ljubljana. What was that period like?
Damir Ciglar: I went to Ljubljana in late 1991, temporarily for three months, to complete the contracted jobs for Slovenian clients. And then I ‘temporarily’ stayed there for more than five years. During that time I had the opportunity to cooperate and work with a number of Slovenian agencies and advertisers and gained the knowledge (and capital) to get engaged in business in Croatia. Thus we gained a certain advantage in relation to the Croatian market – in the way of thinking, in approach to business and clients, but also in the production-technical level that was far beyond the Croatian demands and possibilities. Thus, each project realized for Croatian clients was very visible, which built interest among new potential clients to cooperate with us.
Media Marketing: How did the things unravel after the war ended?
Damir Ciglar: Since the very beginning our focus has been long-term. I was in my 20’s, and I wanted Imago’s foundations to be lasting ones. We started to see more serious advertisers, investments in advertising started, and thus the takeover of Croatian companies by foreign owners with whom we – honestly speaking – had an easier time in building quality business relationships and we could learn more from them. All this contributed to our growth and maturity, and things started moving towards the better. Even the arrival of big agency networks and their strengthened presence did not endanger us, because we already had competitive advantages.
Media Marketing: Imago relatively quickly started breaking through among the leading Croatian agencies. Was it successful leading of business, or was it the good creativity for which you have always been known that made the difference?
Damir Ciglar: Well it was certainly the distinguished creativity and production quality, given that business management was still not that close to us back then. We even designed and produced campaigns for other larger agencies, until they started considering us as competitors. However, we seem to have managed to master business quickly enough. Already in the late 90s we had an enviable list of domestic and international clients, and at the beginning of 2000’s we received the Golden Kuna Award as the best small company in Croatia. But we have always been and will be a creative agency – creativity is the reason for our existence and the cause for getting new gigs.
Media Marketing: In the past 25 years, you made your biggest success last year, when you brought the first Cannes Lion in Croatia?
Damir Ciglar: Last year was immensely successful for Imago, looking at the number and importance of the awards we won. Of course, Cannes Lion is the biggest of them all, especially since it was the first for Croatia in history. Although we had beautiful and creative campaigns before, obviously this one had it all – wherever we competed with this campaign, we won an award. Except at IdejaX????
Media Marketing: Campaigns for Jana and other Agrokor members that you did this year brought Imago into a very difficult situation because of the unpaid bills. Is the crisis over?
Damir Ciglar: Unfortunately, earthquakes like this are clearly a part of the agency life! Imago worked a lot for members of Agrokor – about 2/3 of all of their campaigns were created by us. So Agrokor problem was multifold. Apart from direct debts towards us, we also had a surplus of staff. But, that is also remaining slowly behind us. We have continued to cooperate with some of the members and have turned more intensively towards looking for new jobs, in which we have also been successful. In the end, instead of issuing layoffs, we are now even employing new people!
Media Marketing: This year you are again raking success with Jamnica, with the campaign Dear Mr. President.
Damir Ciglar: Jamnica is one of the members of Agrokor with whom we continue to cooperate. I think we understand each other very well, we know Jana as a brand well, and we still have a lot to give. Honestly, I think Dear Mr. President is even better campaign than last year’s. And I believe the Golden Drum Grand Prix is not the biggest award we will win for this campaign. It’s not easy to make a sequel to such a renowned campaign like the Wing of Love, so I’m even more excited about this sequel.
Media Marketing: Current situation demands maximum rationalization in terms of financial operations. There was no glamorous celebration of the jubilee that is quarter of a century. You celebrated your anniversary with the Ghosts of Past campaign with which you wanted to draw attention to one of the most serious problems – the leaving of young, talented, smart people abroad.
Damir Ciglar: Although we have a lot to celebrate and say about our past 25 years, we agreed that it is more important to say something about the future, not the past, and thus to mark our anniversary in the best way. Our slogan is Left brain the right way, which is why the brain drain of young and creative people from Croatia worries us, and we wanted to draw attention to this problem in the best way we know – with a campaign.
Media Marketing: Did the campaign deliver desired results? Have you succeeded in drawing the attention of Croatian public to the issue of brain drain?
Damir Ciglar: The campaign was very well received. All the major media reported with at least one article about the departure of our bus filled with the ghosts of the past instead of with young people. Since at least for one day that was one of the most important topics on all national TV stations, I believe that we have further sensitized society to the issue at hand. But keeping young and creative brains here is our long-term orientation, so this subversion is not just a one off.
Media Marketing: What are your experiences in the first year of collaboration with Ogilvy? Is it all that you have hoped for?
Damir Ciglar: Collaboration with Ogilvy is developing well, albeit a bit slower than we wish. Of course, in such a big system things don’t happen overnight, but there’s still that youthful impatience within us, so we want to see quicker changes. Well, I can exclusively announce here that last week we officially registered the office in Ljubljana, ImagoBold-Ogilvy, exactly on the day when we sent off the ‘ghosts of the past’, so marking of Imago’s 25 years along with a view to the future also got its metaphorical character, with the new an agency in Slovenia and a new beginning and a look towards the future!