Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
Interview by: Ekrem Dupanović
Translated into English: Hana Maurer
Denis Mancevič got his doctorate in social sciences in 2013, graduating five years later from Executive MBA. His professional career has involved working in diplomacy and economics, as well as three years in management positions with the SIJ Group (2014-2017). He is a regular columnist and has considerable experience on a number of company boards.
Denis is currently CEO of a new company, Herman&partnerji, which began operations on the Slovenian and regional markets on the first day of 2020. Before taking on this job, he was Head of Business Development for the PR agency Stratkom, one of the three partners who founded Herman.
A highly educated young man with considerable experience in consultancy, Denis says managing Herman is the biggest challenge he has faced. As we talked, he spoke dynamically and knowledgably of the communications industry, drawing on his rich experience. While not an agency man, he clearly has the knowledge to realise the vision of Herman’s founders, who include Franci Zavrl and Dejan Verčič. As he was speaking, I had the impression he was holding back somewhat, however, as though the time is not yet right for him to say everything he knowns or thinks. In his head, there is a complex picture of Herman’s future.
MM: Where did the idea of founding Herman&partnerji come from? Is it just another new agency on the Slovenian and regional markets or something different?
Denis Mancevič: No, it’s certainly not just another agency. We are creating something quite new, not so much a classic agency as a consultancy firm that also offers communication services.
We came up with the idea when we realised all three of our previous firms shared a vision but were too small to give it life on their own. We decided to create something Slovenia and the region have not seen before. In Slovenia, we are all about dividing things up, and the region is divided too. We wanted to do something quite opposite, something that has brought us all together on the same path. That is how the project started. Now it is in the go live phase… We have created a new brand and a new firm, Herman&partnerji. All three of our firms have transferred their work, contracts, and people over to the new business.
MM: Were there acquisitions or was it a straightforward merger?
Denis Mancevič: As the key people from all three companies were involved in founding the new firm, there weren’t any ownership issues, because this is a new firm where the key people are all partners. The industry is clearly suffering fatigue, not just in Slovenia but around the region. Over the past twenty years, there have been too few innovative development-oriented projects in the industry and what we want is to be a market disrupter. As we see it, the major potential lies in a combination of strategic consultancy, the creative industry, and technology.
MM: There is a trend around the world currently for major consultancy companies, like PWC, to enter the creative industry.
Denis Mancevič: It’s important which side you enter the market from. There are also examples of IT companies, or consultancy companies, entering this part of the market. We are doing so with our core expertise in PA (Public Affairs), PR, design, and advertising. We are planning to add technology to that list. We see technology as much more than just the digital, and we see the development towards digital and creative transformations in essentially social terms. Every enterprise and every product already has a digital layer, a digital life. That layer has to be managed and created by us. The digital shopping experience is different from the offline one. This is true of both B2C and B2B industries. There are lots of examples where online is just an extension of offline. We don’t think that were it’s at anymore. The global trend doesn’t support that.
MM: Did the three merged companies each bring in their own specific services or is it a composite, just a consolidation of the usual agency structure?
Denis Mancevič: No. We are working on making sure 1+1+1 equal five and not three. This is not Addiko advertising. We know where the expertise inside each of these three previously independent agencies lies. Stratkom is a leader in PR and PA. ArnoldVuga specialises in branding, design with brand identity, etc. BPCS is a full scope omnichannel advertising agency. But we do see that the trend is towards offering a full range of consultancy and agency services with single point access, something no one else in Slovenia or the region can offer right now. Big clients sit down with a digital agency, then a PR agency, followed by a marketing agency… There are too many in the conversation fighting over limited budgets.
MM: Fighting for a bigger slice of a shrinking cake.
Denis Mancevič: That’s right. The cake is getting smaller because there are no innovative products. There are plenty of industries creating enormous amounts of data. The creative industry still doesn’t know how to make smart use of this data. We want to include it in our full scope service, from strategy, strategic consultation and business strategy, to communications strategy, market communications, and any possible combination of them. Of course, it also includes creative execution and final production. Right at the moment, we at Herman are consulting, as single point access, for a number of bigger systems to whom we can offer support down the entire chain.
MM: I have done some asking around the region, and in Slovenia, to see how aware people are of your new company. And everyone is asking the same thing: Who is Herman?
Denis Mancevič: Herman is our inspiration. Herman isn’t a secret partner. To create something new we need to create something that can be redefined over time, because the business we work in redefines itself constantly. We believe it redefines itself a lot faster than the market thinks. This is why we wanted to create a character we could constantly redefine. That is how Herman & partnerji came into existence, with Herman as a figurehead we can constantly redefine.
MM: Create and change?
Denis Mancevič: First, create, then later redefine. Why the name Herman? The name was the result of a creative process. We think it is a good fit for the region. It was very important to us that the brand allows the firm to be positioned on the corporate consultancy side of the business as well as on the creative part.
MM: At the moment your only regional presence is in Sarajevo though the ArnoldVuga agency. Will you be creating a regional network?
Denis Mancevič: Herman has regional ambitions and we are already working on regional projects. We support Mercator through the region, and we are working on PA projects in the region through Herman’s ecosystem.
MM: What exactly is Herman’s ecosystem in the region?
Denis Mancevič: Herman’s ecosystem is its subsidiaries in the region (only in Bosnia for now) and partner agencies. We plan to develop it. We definitively have ambitions of becoming a regional player, which is why our priority is providing effective support to our regional clients.
MM: Who are your regional clients, other than Mercator?
Denis Mancevič: For now, we can only discuss Mercator. There are other clients, but we are not at liberty to discuss them publicly yet. We have some clients we are working for regionally, and before Herman all three partner firms worked on individual projects for individual markets. We are currently working on upgrading that within the framework of a complete regional service.
MM: Will your regional expansion be exclusively through partner agencies or are you planning to open your own as well?
Denis Mancevič: We will develop the ecosystem. Where we believe that we can maximise additional value by going with a partner, we will go with a partner. Where we think there may be more work and that it is important and likely to pay off to invest, then we will invest.
MM: How exciting do you find this job compared to the consultancy work you have mostly done previously?
Denis Mancevič: It is a great opportunity for all the partners and for me, because we are creating something new, a new dynamic that will be recognised in Slovenia and beyond. Already, in a very short period, we have managed to create a team of close to 50 and our ambition is to expand even further. This is the most challenging project of my life.
What sets us apart from others on the market is the scope of our services, from strategy to production, and our insight into specific industry verticals. We have a clear strategic vision and we want to cover all the key verticals. We are already very strong in terms of our knowledge base, with competencies in all the key verticals, like retail, energy, telecommunications, banking, insurance. Where we are already strong, we can offer our clients strategic support, because we understand the trends in these industries. We can sit down with the management of these companies when they are creating their strategies. We want to be there from the beginning, which is why we have been developing our competencies very consciously and for the long haul at the strategic level, to help our clients transform, create ideas, and understand the value chain and customer experience. We also want to support projects, whether they be consultancy, technological projects, or creative transformations.
MM: So, it is a much wider range of services than offered by most traditional agencies.
Denis Mancevič: That’s right. We support clients in very complex projects in sectors where we are strong. We combine in- and out of house partners. This is very important, and it is what differentiates us from our competitors. When we sit down with a client we don’t try and copy paste a solution, we delve deep into their business model and goals and use them as a starting point for creating a communications campaign, a new brand, or an entire digital transformation project.
Media Marketing: Herman’s launch coincided with the appearance of the coronavirus with all its adverse impact on the communications industry. It is as if you were heaven-sent to offer clients not just creative but consultancy services, which they will need more than ever once this is over.
Denis Mancevič: Yes, the broad range of services we are providing in a coordinated and unique fashion offers extra added value under circumstances like those we are living through now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are offering several clients a combination of crisis communication (external and internal), consultation on contingency plans and optimising business, and, of course, adapting corporate and market communication to the current situation.
Media Marketing: In your opinion, what state will the communications industry be in after this pandemic? Will it be hard hit and need a long period of recovery, or will it be stronger, more aware, and smarter than before?
Denis Mancevič: The communications industry will undoubtedly change. This situation will affect the industry long-term. Whoever survives and comes out on top will have to be agile, but also to adapt their services quickly while at the same time actively supporting ambitious clients. In our vision, the so-called 9 theses we published before Herman’s inception, we clearly wrote that we see the future as digilogical, not just a harmonious combination of online and offline communications activities, but a real union of these two worlds. We think the crisis will speed up that process, and we are ready for it.
MM: Is Herman’s staff working from home? What has your experience been?
Denis Mancevič: Yes, we have been working from home since the 16th of March. All the teams have adjusted to the new situation very well and everything is running smoothly. It requires more coordination and communication, and a lot of effort from all our employees, but for now everything is working perfectly. We are supporting all our clients, working on adapting existing campaigns, and creating completely new and very creative solutions, like the M-soseska for Mercator.