Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
Two years ago I was doing one of the most unusual interviews in my life. New Moment Skopje won a Titanium Lion in Cannes in 2013, for their campaign 10 Meters Apart. I received the information from Cannes in the afternoon. I also received the video from Skopje, and I immediately forwarded it to Mr. Goran Milić at Al Jazeera. A couple of minutes later, I received a call from Goran saying he wanted to order a satellite link from Cannes to cover directly the moment when New Moment received one of the highest awards at the largest festival of creativity in the world. In the meantime, he had already alerted the correspondent in Skopje, so the whole story was set to start.
Two days after the award ceremony, when everyone’s initial elation had subsided, I decided to do an interview with Dušan (Dule) Drakalski, Creative Director of the agency New Moment Skopje and Regional Creative Director of the agency network New Moment. I sent him an email and he replied that he was on his way from Cannes to Skopje on his motorbike. He proposed that I send him the first questions, and he would answer them at the first gas station where he could get internet connection, then to send a second batch to wait for him at the next gas station. Thus, from gas station to gas station, through Italy and Slovenia, a great interview was in the making. In one of the emails I asked him where the Lion was and who could take a picture of it for me? Dule said the Lion was in the storage compartment of his bike, and that he would take it out and take a picture of it at the next gas station.
At this year’s festival in Cannes, New Moment (Belgrade and Skopje) won two Lions, which prompted this latest conversation with Dule Drakalski.
MEDIA MARKETING: When we spoke two years ago, after you won the Titanium Lion, you said that you would take a break for one year and then go to Cannes for a new Lion. You got lucky with two. Were you expecting both?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: I don’t remember saying we would take a break. And actually we didn’t. Last year we made it to the short list. We had a lot of work, we were learning a lot and I was a jury member. You really learn a lot there. In any case, that was an experience I will never forget. I do remember however that in one interview with you I said that it was our intention for every New Moment office to win a Lion. We have started implementing that gradually, but a lot of work still lies ahead.
MEDIA MARKETING: Cannes seems to love you…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Cannes doesn’t love, Cannes hardly even recognizes your existence. You are just a number there, among 20,000 people and 40,000 productions. You have to have really good work for Cannes to adore you, and that is hard. I will try to explain how painstaking that process is. I am not sure if I will be able to mention everything, but I will try to give you some idea of how things are. Not long ago, when I came back from Cannes, I spoke with a friend (Emil Zakhariev) about that – about the development of creativity and festivals. It seemed to me that we got better results at Cannes than at any other festival.
MEDIA MARKETING: We assume he didn’t agree with such assessment…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: He didn’t. I told him, “You know what, we’ve been sending work to other festivals for years, and getting almost nothing. We’ve been sending work to Cannes for three years, and we have three Lions. It seems to me that our results in Cannes are better.” He replied, “You forget that all those years were like a school that you had to go through, and that if you had been sending work to Cannes then, probably nothing would have happened. You forget that you used to sleep in the office for days just to produce something. That energy is only evident now. It’s not about festivals, it’s about commitment.”
MEDIA MARKETING: Seems a logical explanation…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Yes. I forgot all those times we spent days and nights working. I remember that the cleaning lady thought I was an alcoholic when she found me sleeping in the office with ten empty bottles of wine, which she threw out, and which were the designs I was preparing for a presentation the day after! There are a lot of creatives who don’t like me, because I forced them to work until it hurt. Some of them prefer their private life to the small office in Skopje, where we spent more time than in our own homes. I even asked the architects to make the creative office in Skopje look like a lived-in apartment.
MEDIA MARKETING: Turns out that everything is somehow a matter of choice…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Honestly, I understand all of them. Everyone has the right to choose, and every choice is good in some ways. My choice was to do this and I have no one to blame. I decided this on my own, regardless of how wrong or right that decision was. Other segments of my life have suffered for it. Behind every success there is sacrifice, the only question is whether you can take it.
MEDIA MARKETING: Let’s get back to the question at hand…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Well, a lot of sacrifices were made in order for that adoration to come. I would say that Cannes doesn’t adore you, it finds you. They find your work among the mass of others, and single it out, and then some young agency creatives adore the work – not you; they don’t even know who you are, nor should they. They look at work that is some kind of guidepost for the future in this business.
MEDIA MARKETING: When we sum up your stay in Cannes, it seems there are only a few film directors who can boast such a score: three Lions so far. If you continue like this, you will need a special showcase cabinet for all the awards.
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: I don’t think we make awards or that we work for awards. I believe that is an important part of our success. You have to genuinely forget about winning awards in the work process and deal with the process itself. Awards or anything else should somehow be unnecessary, so the process gains importance. Honestly, throughout my life I have often considered rejecting an award. When you are young and rebellious, and even a bit angry, you want to show that such things are not important to you, when you admire Jean Paul Sartre, or Marlon Brando, and how they rejected a Nobel Prize and an Oscar… so I also wanted to reject awards, and show the world they mean nothing, and be part of that rebellious group that wants to change the world. But I stumbled on this quote online and I believe it’s true: “To reject an award represents creating a greater fuss and more publicity than actually accepting it.” Unless you see some very good reason to use that publicity… but even if I saw it, I would still reject it.
MEDIA MARKETING: Awards are seductive, but also hazardous. They lull the award winners, they please the ego, but not creativity…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: I heard an interesting story about a German agency. Each year before Christmas they organize a funeral for their Lions, tigers and other metal animals and awards. They bury them in the yard so that their showcase is always empty at the beginning of the year. That is good for creative minds, so they know they shouldn’t exalt themselves and their work, because a person can often get fed up with himself, and think they are caught … by the balls. Then they can go no further, they become like a statue themselves, same as the statues in the showcase, suffocated by their own success, always thinking they are omnipotent, suffering the messiah complex (all I touch is gold).
MEDIA MARKETING: You are talking about some way of disciplining the ego…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Exactly. I honestly don’t want to succumb to awards. I don’t want to think too much about the past, because then time passes while you are preoccupied with your own success. Somehow you become your own historian, concentrating too much on yourself, but in the wrong way. You become preoccupied with successes that are no longer relevant. I believe that self-criticism is important. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t love yourself, but never in the way our parents love us, forgiving everything. I don’t want to forgive myself for everything I do, because that’s the only thing that drives me forward. I don’t think about the awards showcase. I think about the work process. At a lecture at the Golden Drum we demonstrated the time-lapse of receiving an award: 30 seconds. You need a lot of awards to fill your life with that. Even if you won all awards in the world, that would still amount to no more than two hours. And what about the remaining time? That is where you need to find yourself, in the work process. You need to make good projects and be happy with them. I honestly love many of our projects that have never won an award, although some of them brought us a lot of business. Even if the showcase becomes packed with Lions, laden with history, when we talk about this in 15 or 20 years’ time, I hope our showcase cabinet will still be something from Ikea or made by some ordinary carpenter. That way, there will still be a balance.
MEDIA MARKETING: Let’s stay with the awards for a while. Could you recall the last three years and explain what Cannes Lions bring: reputation, profit, recognition, power…? Have we mentioned everything?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Cannes Lions bring both everything and nothing at the same time. You probably need to know how to use their potential. That is hard in the Balkans, some would even say impossible. I believe modesty is important, and as well, the client feels that. I believe it is important not to divide work into the “awarded” and the “everyday.” I remember one of Saki’s statements, which I understood in my own way. He said there are good things in the garbage bin. What I have been trying to do for years is to make that dirty daily work rewarded – to make that connection between the daily grind and festivals as strong as possible.
MEDIA MARKETING: What does that mean in practice?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Creatives often laboriously do their daily work, and wait for that big project. Over the years I have learned that that big project never comes. I’ve learned that that project is built through each new, little task, each new campaign that initially seems like a waste of time. I like the idea that our clients become world renowned, that they feel that the work we did for them has global recognition. Do you realize what it means for TELMA TV to win a Lion? A small TV station from Macedonia gets free PR in Cannes. There lies the connection you asked me about.
MEDIA MARKETING: That’s completely clear…
DUŠAN DRAKALASKI: The goal is to enable profitable clients feel worldwide recognition. What do I mean when I say profitable? Not-for-profit awareness campaigns that win Lions are fine, and we should have those, but when you succeed in winning a Lion for a commercial client who generates profit, or produces whatever kind of product, they also feel what that means, they see their name in the international press and feel the drive to prove themselves. Rom, a chocolate bar from Romania, became a world famous brand thanks to Adrian Botan, McCann and their team. The whole year round all the newspapers in the world were writing about a little chocolate bar we had known nothing about. We have to make an effort to turn our Balkan brands into world brands in Cannes. We need to make campaigns that will break out from the Balkans and win the world. We need to get out of this isolated market that is not very big and we always have to believe that it’s possible. Just take a look at Dumb Ways to Die. From a simple metro ad campaign they now make dolls that record good sales. The campaign has started to generate a profit. The Balkans are a region whose inhabitants often spit on it. We must, finally, change that and make this region an example. We have some ‘awesome’ problems to deal with, but we must deal with them.
MEDIA MARKETING: Some award winners say that festival awards are a double-edged sword, because they are an industry specific recognition which only on rare occasions attract clients. There have even been cases where award recipients have then lost clients, where clients have said they don’t want a campaign for a jury, but a campaign for consumers, for the market…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Clients shouldn’t be beguiled by your awards, but by the work you bring in. A lot of clients in the Balkans have no connection with the Cannes festival and that can probably be improved. To lose a client has nothing to do with Cannes. Cannes does not guarantee you a contract with any client, Cannes only confirms that you did a good job, but it doesn’t guarantee that you will continue doing so in the future. Many directors have had a bad streak after winning an Oscar, so the award itself doesn’t help your future very much, it just defines your past and shows how you performed before, not how you will perform in the future. Of course you have to show that quality in every new campaign that follows. So all the winners who say awards are a double-edged sword were probably thinking it would be smooth sailing after the award. An award, however, does not mean retirement.
MEDIA MARKETING: Did you drive the Lions won this year at Cannes back home on a bike again, as was the case two years ago when you won the Titanium Lion?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: These Lions, unfortunately, are sent after the festival. Only the Grand Prix, Titanium and Gold are handed over on the stage. I did however keep the tradition of going there on my bike. Y&R has over 100 offices throughout the world, and wins more than 70 Lions every year, bit the Titanium Lion is still the only one in the Y&R network that’s on a global scale. I hope we will improve on that.
MEDIA MARKETING: Your bike is one of your greatest treasures. As with any other great love affair, this one also could not have been without its downfalls. You recently had an accident? How did you fare?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Badly. The fall was my own fault. I had a broken collarbone, ruptured lungs and loads of deep cuts… I was travelling on a business call to Skopje, but… I am not sure I want to talk about that anymore. My bike is somehow too personal a thing for me…
MEDIA MARKETING: But it is an inseparable part of your life, and work. So we need just a little more. What is it in your personality that attracts you so much to motorbikes?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: I am more attracted by the freedom than the machine itself – or at least the idea of freedom. I am not one of those guys who identify themselves with a machine. I am not like other bikers – able to hang out with people just because they have a bike. I once rode with Lazar Sakan, and I have only one friend with whom I ride in a group. He is Nenad Lozović Neša, a marvelous manager from New Moment Sofia. I’ve never ridden with anyone else. Neša, however, is my friend, and he would be my friend even if I didn’t have a bike. We work together, we are friends and that is our connection. The bike is only an instrument for pleasure, and often a means for going on a business trip, which somehow represents our craziness. It relaxes us and makes us happy.
MEDIA MARKETING: Love of bikes implies a free spirit and a courageous person, willing to explore, have adventure and take risks. Thus, in one place, we have all the traits that are sought in a successful and strong creative director. What is your take on that?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: I’ll focus on freedom if you don’t mind. Freedom is important, but it is also a great responsibility. Freedom is sometimes telling people something they don’t want to hear. It is important that that freedom is felt in the tone of your communication, but without having people think you are insulting them. Freedom does not mean you can just say whatever. Therein lies the responsibility of being free. That freedom, however, must be fought for. We’ve often had the situation where we would be trying to convince clients that something is good for them, to ask for freedom of communication. Recently I figured out that people sometimes don’t even see what freedom actually is. Take telephones as an example. Some people don’t understand that it is important to be free, because they are zealously devoted to some group or other.
MEDIA MARKETING: You are the Regional Creative Director of the New Moment New Ideas Company network of agencies. Could you explain for us what this means in a practical sense? Are you split in half? Is this zeitnot your curse? Do you lack free and professional time? It is not easy to manage a single project, let alone when you have Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Sofia… everything gets multiplied.
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Yes, I do lack time, especially in my private life. My life has changed profoundly since I took this job, and it’s still changing. My friends don’t call me very often, knowing I am somewhere but they don’t know where. At the beginning of each trip many people in the New Moment offices have no idea what it is exactly that I do. I remember Nemanja Vučinić asking me in Belgrade: “Wait a minute, what exactly do you do?” I personally find my efforts to unite the region very tiresome. I find some logic in what I do, but I am not sure I can explain it. In any case, it is a great experience to travel around the various agencies and see how people find different solutions, and also try to comprehend different problems.
MEDIA MARKETING: That is a good question. What is it exactly that you do?
DUŠAN DRAKALASKI: As far as my profession is concerned I have a story, this time regarding my grandmother. Right till the end of her life she didn’t know what I actually do. She couldn’t figure out why I appeared in newspapers, why I gave interviews, when all I did was ads. Why should I boast when I have such a lousy job, that is tarnishing the family’s good name. I was neither a banker nor a doctor, and I just explained things to people. She couldn’t figure out why I was sometimes a director, sometimes something else, and why they called me a creative director. She thought my profession was pretty useless. She used to ask me, “How can you direct creativity?” She always asked what my day was like. What it was that I did there, what was happening? And she wondered how come one day I was in a casting, the next day in the office, sometimes calling from some hotel or other and sometimes from another country. I told Davor Bruketa this once in Zagreb, and to my surprise he had the same story. His grandmother thought he arranged shop windows around Zagreb. As the years pass and as you advance in your job it gets harder and harder for you to understand it yourself, as you come to a stage when you have to determine your own priorities. Managers are in an even tougher position because their task is to identify priorities from the very start. I admire managers who know where to lead people. That is the ultimate talent.
MEDIA MARKETING: People say that the first thing that successful managers and creatives come to hate is travelling, and then mobile phones. What is your annual mileage? Do you keep track of it?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: I keep track to a degree. All means of transportation combined, I cover about a hundred thousand kilometers annually. I cover about thirty thousand by bike, the same by car, and the rest by plane. As for my mobile phone, after a lot of criticism from my close associates, that all I do is stare at that phone, I decided to make a schedule. At a meeting in Berlin I heard that the average man grabs his phone at least once every 45 minutes. I want to change that, but it’s hard. We live in a world of communications, and that world has its positive and negative sides. I remembered that moment from the movie Up in the Air when Clooney calculates how much time he spends on flights and how he can shorten it. I can say that those sixty-odd thousand kilometers I drive amount to about 25 days. So out of 12 months, I spend an entire month driving. That frightened me. So I started using that time. I set a topic for myself (a brief or a campaign) while travelling, and I aim to solve it before I get to my destination.
MEDIA MARKETING: Let’s talk a little about your agency in Skopje. Macedonia is probably an interesting and challenging, but also a turbulent market…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Macedonia is a small market. It is turbulent, but, above all, Macedonia has an interesting advertising scene, considering that everything is possible there. Macedonia is the only country with such a strong portfolio in the Balkans. It has three Lions: titanium, gold and silver. No other Balkan country can boast such a portfolio, except maybe Romania, if you count it as Balkan then they are the first. Our office has played a significant role in the development of the advertising scene in Macedonia. A lot of Macedonian advertising agencies have creative directors who first started working with us. Many agencies started winning awards at festivals following our example. I will send you a photo of the New Moment office in Skopje. Our creative department is small, but it looks like a barbershop. We hang all the diplomas on the walls.
MEDIA MARKETING: How do agencies behave in an atmosphere of political instability? This question is relevant not only to Macedonia. It seems it has been relevant in Bosnia and Herzegovina for years as well, and our neighbors aren’t ideally organized societies either…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Politics have a profound influence on advertising. These influences are various and exist in any country. Many advertising agencies have some contact with politics, but also many don’t. We try to be neutral, to do our job without the influence of politics. Some politicians have discovered the power of advertising and are using it copiously. Although I believe that the interests of politicians are more tied to the media. For some reason all politicians think that agencies can be made (a dangerous mistake) while the media must be controlled. That is another costly mistake. Unfortunately, the media in the Balkans are largely under political control. I believe we should all make an effort to change that. That is not a job for individuals, it is a matter of unity, which has yet to happen. The media represent power, but the media need content, and that should not be forgotten. Content is what we come up with, and wealthy media players often say they can do it themselves, and then end up buying content from the West. But that will change. The Balkans are rich in stories, and we should use those stories, this history of ours, that would change our future if we used it properly.
GLOBAL BUSINESS: “Advertising is a global business which largely depends on the audience. It is not a coincidence that everyone in Cannes boasts about how many people saw their campaign, how many of them clicked the like button on their project. At the end of the day, our business is measured by results, and I don’t like it when creatives say that people don’t understand them; no one is obliged to understand you. It is your obligation in this business to be understandable.”
MEDIA MARKETING: In addition to being politically instable, Macedonia is also a small and economically undeveloped society. There it is. Double jeopardy for an agency.
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Maybe we would be much more successful if we had a bigger country. But we don’t. The Macedonian office has a great manager, Saša Pešev. He has managed to create an atmosphere that has enabled the Macedonian team to succeed in the market through its creativity. I believe that if that office were in a bigger country, it would be even more successful. The market constrains you. Imagine you are a music producer and you need to organize a concert. If it is a concert for 100 people you don’t need more than two speakers. If you are organizing a concert for 100,000 people, then you need some serious sound equipment. An agency is that sound equipment, because the agency is what does the advertising, and its size is tied to the market.
MEDIA MARKETING: Are there some exceptions?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: There is an exception when, say, an agency is from a small country, Austria for example, which has eight million people and is not big, but the German language is spoken by 90 million people, so the agency has power thanks to the potential market in Germany. All of us in the Balkans bemoan our small size. Advertising unfortunately is a global business and largely depends on the audience. It is not a coincidence that everyone in Cannes boasts about how many people saw a campaign, how many of them clicked the like button on their project. At the end of the day, our business is measured by results, and I don’t like it when creatives say that people don’t understand them, No one is obliged to understand you. Your obligation in this field of work is to be understandable. Macedonia, a challenge? It is not so much a challenge as it is a fate. We would be a different agency with this same capacity we have in Macedonia anywhere else in the world. Throughout our lives we are running with a boulder on our shoulders, while others run circles around us.
MEDIA MARKETING: Sometimes I think that deficient and poor countries are just the result of a lack of creativity in their political leaders. Do you think that creative directors of advertising agencies could handle such a role?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Honestly, I would never deal with politics. What I do know is that leaders need to be creative. Often it could be some adviser who isn’t mentioned in the newspapers. But political leaders usually choose bad advisers, who tell them they are the greatest and feed their ego with false data. One of the scenarios I wrote for a feature film deals with that topic. Politics and marketing. Saša, Filip and I came up with the idea over a lunch. The idea is great, but I am still in the mindset “an adman makes ads” so it’ll be hard for this film to make it to the movie screen.
MEDIA MARKETING: Still, we can’t get away from politics…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Politics is something that I used to hate when I was younger, but now I am beginning to understand it, only just. I do however believe that politicians are closer to managers than to creatives. A larger part of their job is planning, while creatives push their energy over to another side when they plan. For example, a budget can suffer because of the production or because of the idea. A creative can be an adviser but not the prime minister. I apologize to all creatives who are good planners. I am sure that such exist and they could maybe be better politicians. But even if that is the case, we all chose our professions and I see no reason why we would make a footballer play basketball or a florist open a pie shop. Everyone should simply be good at what they do and love their job. That, for me, is what is most important: to be devoted to what you do and to try as hard as you can. In the West a profession is often handed down within the family. The West is full of family businesses, and here everyone wants to be something else. That is nice in a way, but it means that you always start from the very beginning. The first time I met Mark Cremona was in Moscow, he was 42 at that time, and he told me that his father was a creative director in Italy. I found it so odd, because this profession has only recently appeared in our country. I can say that I am somewhere between the first and the second generation of creative directors. Creative directors don’t usually have a family business, especially not in the Balkans where all of us want to be different, even from our own families. But all of that is changing. Žarko Sakan might be the first example from the Balkans where this tradition is continued.
MEDIA MARKETING: So we should concentrate on quality…
DUŠKO DRAKALSKI: For a long time now I believe that there are an enormous number of people in the Balkans who are doing something just temporarily, they have a temporary profession. They are destined for some other job, like the president of the state or something similar, but by fluke, by chance, they are doing something else at the moment, they are restaurant owners or waiters. Everyone understands someone else’s profession or problems better. I could say the same for myself. I love movies, but I do ads. So I also belong to that Balkan mentality. I honestly believe our problem lies in the delivery of quality. We all allow our lives to pass by, waiting for the right job, the right ideas and the right things to come to us. You need to be devoted to your work even if you have a different plan. And you need to do that “temporary” job the best that you can.
MEDIA MARKETING: As you are constantly zooming around the region, what differences do you observe between markets, clients and agencies?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: I see more differences in communication than in agencies. Each market has its own communications that go through the media. I have been making a list of those things for years. I record those differences in my notebook. I divide them into outdoor, copy, film and digital. I will explain only the copy (written forms, slogans, headlines) because to explain all the categories would take a lot of time and space. Copy, I believe, is very much tied to strategy, and strategy comes from the market milieu.
MEDIA MARKETING: This will probably be interesting to all of our readers. Let’s start with Bulgaria…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Each market has its own communications stamp. Bulgaria has somehow isolated its marketing. For years now even their advertising fair, Fara, announces The Best of Bulgaria. Their entire communications are thus focused only on the Bulgarian market. They use local insight, which is often unintelligible for a foreigner. Even if you understand the Bulgarian language, sometimes you will need a Bulgarian to explain something, which you can read from a billboard, but can’t understand the meaning of because it is utterly local. As Jure Apih would say, Genius Loci or, perhaps, Local Genius in this case. If you look at Russia, it’s even more isolated and has a model similar to Bulgarian advertising, only even less understandable for foreigners.
MEDIA MARKETING: Let’s move on… Serbia?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Serbia is more open and their communications are more understandable, even outside the country. Probably because many Serbian brands want the regional markets, but language play in Serbia has got into copy in a big way. My theory is that it comes from the word play that people in Serbia use all the time. All those shatro, utro (slang) variants have made it so that the slogans and headlines often contain rhyme. They are a quite catchy when you say them, and somehow everyone follows that model. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but there are often cases where a rhyme or catchy slogan concurs with the strategy only because it sounds good.
MEDIA MARKETING: And now we come to Macedonia…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: You have to be an awesome writer, a genius, in order to pull off a rhymed slogan or headline in Macedonia. Otherwise everyone would laugh at you. Macedonian advertising uses formal language for communication. You get the impression that billboards have a serious tone, using very little slang or rhyme. Maybe that is what drove us in Macedonia to create humor and production, to avoid that sense of seriousness that Macedonian advertising contains.
MEDIA MARKETING: Croatia?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Croatia has changed its advertising a lot. Something that was probably like a single entity in the former Yugoslavia is completely different today. I really like the fact that Croatia has a lot of design in advertising. It is also a little freer in terms of communication. Nowhere else have I had the opportunity to direct a sexy ad for a mobile network operator except in Croatia. You can’t see a sheep singing about Christmas in a church in any other market. I also find OK the idea promoted by the advertising scene there, BalCannes. It sounds to me like some attempt at unity. On the other hand, I often hear people say that Croatia doesn’t belong to the Balkans, even from some people who actively participate in BalCannes.
MEDIA MARKETING: The special case, Bosnia and Herzegovina…
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: What I find hard to understand is that Bosnia uses its trademark humor so little. For me, Bosnia was the country in the former Yugoslavia with the best sense of humor. But you see very little of that in their campaigns. That sense of humor is a powerful weapon in Bosnia’s arsenal and should be used as much as possible.
MEDIA MARKETING: Are we all getting out of the crisis together or are there some differences?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: It seems to me that we are all somehow finding our own path. There is something else that matters, and that is that we are all striving to be different in some way. All of us are creating some new kind of something here in the Balkans, which is something I don’t agree with; Someone creating a new language, someone else a new history, we all have some kind of need to get as far apart as possible, instead of uniting. But we are all small markets, and it is only united as a single market that we can be competitive with other regions.
MEDIA MARKETING: You already have a lot of experience in different markets. You are also present in Bulgaria, where New Moment has a strong agency. While we are doing this interview you are in Sofia, working on a big pitch. Agencies from the region have lately been expanding their agencies throughout Europe. They are very competitive both in terms of ideas as well as prices. Are you contemplating the expansion of the New Moment network to some attractive markets?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: We tried to do that a long time ago and are still working on it. We have the intention of expanding, but I think that we first need to unite as much as possible. We need to make NM function as a single whole, and only then think about other markets. Opening an agency in this world is a risky business endeavor in the sense of whether or not the investment will pay off.
MEDIA MARKETING: What do you think, could the agencies in the region unite on such projects? Three agencies pooling funding and human resources and starting a new business. Could that be one of the possible business models for the region?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: If you ask me, the only thing undermining that model is the human character. Ego, greed and other debilitating behavioral precepts. I believe it is possible, but on the other hand it is impossible for people here to agree. It would probably take a psychoanalyst to answer that question. Had we wanted a joint destiny we would still be Yugoslavia, not eight, nine or even ten frivolous states. I don’t know to what extent we will divide. For years I have been struggling to understand the Balkans, with little success. We always change the rules of the game. But the fact that it is possible is illustrated by some agencies in the region. Bruketa and Žinić have opened up agencies in Austria and Azerbaijan, and I hear they plan to go even farther. That is proof that it is possible.
MEDIA MARKETING: Let’s go back to Cannes for a bit. You are already a common face there. Do you have regular contacts, friends you see each year, and do you actually have time for any of that?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: I have been a regular at Cannes since 2012. I have contacts from the Y&R network but also with many other people, like Wieden & Kennedy. I enjoy seeing my friends Jaimie Mandelblaum, the Creative Director who took Y&R-CEE (Central and East Europe) to the highest level ever, Marco Cremona, who has now transferred to Google, Marco Do Nacimente, one of the best art directors, Rui Alves, a South African genius, and many others.
MEDIA MARKETING: Which meeting this year will remain special in your memory?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: While waiting for a friend for an arranged meeting at the Carlton, I ran into Al Gore. I said to him, “Good morning Mr. President.” He replied, “Thank you.”
MEDIA MARKETING: Did you have time to listen to some of the lectures? Which one was the most memorable and why?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Yes, I went to a lot of lectures. Some of them were big, but in general I have a feeling they were not better than the ones in 2012. My criteria have probably changed, bearing in mind that I go and listen to the best of the lectures. Looking Glass, Silverstein, J. Oliver, those are the ones I would single out this year. It is interesting that Cannes sometimes brings in a name such as Marilyn Manson, which is a rare opportunity to see how a celebrity thinks. Monica Lewinsky gave a speech this year, and two years ago Bill Clinton spoke on the same stage. When in Cannes, it is important to go to the lectures. You can miss out on a party or two, but lectures are important. They charge your batteries, they open you up to thinking about things you’ve never thought about before.
MEDIA MARKETING: Did anyone particularly disappoint you?
DUŠAN DRAKALSKI: Yes. I was disappointed with the print jury, and I don’t think I was the only one. When the print jury in Cannes presented the awards you could hear whistles in the hall. Cannes doesn’t forgive. When casting votes you should create the future, not the past. The print jury this year chose some solutions which required some serious analysis as to whether they were really gold or not, but that’s festivals for you. You have to watch carefully for what is good, and not take for granted that everything awarded is the best in the world. Every festival, even Cannes, has some kind of lottery in it. I met David Droga once at the Golden Drum. Even then, as a young guy in this business, I had a problem with the fact that the jury members are creative directors. At the party after his lecture, I went up to him and we had a little chat. I asked him why the jury was composed of creative directors, and didn’t he think that was a problem and that all of them, who are members of the jury, actually want the awards. He answered that it’s a catch 22 situation. They are the best placed to determine the future, but they can also miss, because of their own interests. In 2013, a letter by David Droga, then jury president, was displayed in Cannes, in which he explains the voting system to other members. I kept that letter in my head, that recipe for creating the future in this business. I try to be as little disappointed as possible. I try to accept the mistakes and continue the struggle to the end to make this business as humane as possible. I honestly believe that this region is full of untapped potential. All of us here are less and less frightened, and we want more and more to feel better at home. There lies the potential for the refining of the Balkan region, in every field of business, not just advertising. I believe things will change. I believe that soon the entire world will see that potential.