Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
Krešimir Macan, founder of Manjgura, one of the leading regional PR agencies specializing in political marketing, spent the first eight months of last year in the cabinet of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković as communications advisor. It was supposed to be a longer-term engagement, but it wasn’t. All the pieces didn’t fit. Krešo was supposed to be an appointed official, meaning he had to leave Manjgura to avoid conflict of interest. He did everything as agreed, but the government, or its Prime Minister, failed to meet their part of the deal.
Somewhere around Christmas 2017, Plenković asked Macan to be a little flexible, to come to work as an external associate because they didn’t have time (nor will they ever „have time“ it turned out) to do the appointment.
He replied, „Okay, then you also be a bit flexible and abolish that condition of prohibiting the engagement of PR agencies in public companies and ministries.“ He was laying down the grounds for abolishing this regulation, and received support from the HUOJ and agencies.
He also received support from the media who said they didn’t see any reason to attack the abolition of such absurd decisions. Thus, Macan traded his agreed status for the abolition of that regulation that was introduced by Zoran Milanović.
It will later turn out that this agreement was counterproductive for Krešo. The regulation was abolished, but he was not appointed, so he was actually a freelancer in the Government and was still considered responsible for everything in the communications department.
Sometimes he got the same amount of heat like the Prime Minister. At one point he sensed that it was not what they agreed and what he expected. “It was a tremendous effort, exhausting battles around the Istanbul Convention, a great pressure for Agrokor, because Agrokor was a leverage for some in attempts to undermine the government, in order to put a stop to some processes. A lot of interests and a great deal of money was in the game. Those eight months were a very intense period, which ultimately prevented us to get together as a team. I was supposed to put my entire life aside and subordinate it to politics, and I was not prepared for it under these conditions. I learned to work with a team rather than as a one man show. Since I wasn’t given a team, I said thanks and left,” says Macan, who has capitalized this eight months, but in a different way.
His associates in Manjgura had taken the opportunity to show him they can work even without his daily presence in the agency. The dream of all employers is that they have someone to entrust the business, and don’t have to think about everything.
“When I returned to Manjgura, my colleague Katarina Leko began collecting her belongings to give me my office back. I asked her if the current arrangement suits her. She said it was great. ‘Well, then it’s great for me too. Stay where you are and continue to run the agency,’ I said.” Formally he returned, but now he is Chairman of the Supervisory Board. Everything is managed by Katarina, and Krešo jumps in where he needs to, or if he is really interested in a project that could teach him something new. Katarina is doing her job very successfully, and he gets the chance to use his extra time in different ways. Since last Saturday, we can watch him on Croatian television show Singing Stars.
E.D.: Would you have ever left the CEO position at Manjgura if you didn’t have to?
Krešimir Macan: Even before we had some steps toward getting a strong executive director. Earlier this was Nina Išek Međugorac, who went to Croatian Telekom, and now Katarina, but I was always getting more on my plate than I wanted to have after 20 years of leading the agency. Now I managed to achieve that I literally don’t have to see anything, and everything works. I’m like a real chairman of the supervisory board. That’s ideal. I’m doing what I’m interested in, what I’m looking forward to, and the firm presses on and develops. When Katarina and I would talk, she would always say that I need to give some personal stamp to everything. First Nina, and now Katarina, both have opened some new sectors in which I have never worked, which opens space for a strong growth. Pharmaceutical industry for example. We’ve simply shown that we are equally good and creative even in these new sectors, which has in turn broadened our interests. For years now we have been earning majority of our income in the market of business consulting, above all crisis communication and work with investors in Croatia. Politics is least profitable, even though it was my personal passion and specialty. It has proven useful to let other people in the agency to follow their interests because they can discover new industries where we work excellently, and ultimately make money. Today, more than ever, you have to constantly reimagine yourself.
E.D.: You are looking for a new job, new passion. Have you found them?
Krešimir Macan: I don’t have any daily obligations now. I work for clients who want it, but my daily dynamic is no longer at the level it was. I’m looking for a new challenge and I think I’ve found it. I watched a film about Brexit on HBO, staring Benedict Cumberbatch who plays Domenic Cummings, who was the chief strategist of pro-Brexit side, and I was thinking about how I do, and live, elections, so I recognized myself in some situations. First of all when they want to dismiss him and he says, “Okay, in five minutes you will have the resignations of my entire team.” They say it doesn’t work that way, and he replies: “Of course it doesn’t, I’m not the one leaving, you are.” That’s how it goes when you know what you are doing, and you feel you are right, and politicians would like to do things the old way, as it was done ten years ago. Today, technology has changed campaigns. Then I saw that in the year 2016, when we worked on the campaign for Democrats in Serbia, we did things in a very similar way, and made a result. You simply dare to do something unexpected and you don’t let anyone change that, especially when it comes to social networks. I remember that night, when I watched this movie, I couldn’t sleep. It’s a great movie for the profession. I have realized that we are lacking in knowledge on fake news and in general about the new trends of using social networks to create fake news. I see this is a big deal in Europe. I feel that there is room for me on that road, because I have the experience and the desire to do something that will be better. My ambition was always to leave a better world behind me.
Classic commercial, on the principle “I have money, so I will film it and run it everywhere” is no longer the most important thing
E.D.: You are following Brexit? Are you analysing this issue?
Krešimir Macan: The referendum for Brexit is the first case in which complex messages were very cunningly placed on digital channels behind the back of the opponent. The messages had to be verifiable on the factual side, and how people would eventually perceive them was left to be the problem of the other party, who did not find a good response to it. So, the messages were, conditionally speaking, verifiable, but the story itself that the huge millions of pounds, which go to the European Union every day, would return to the UK health system, had no correlation. The message was simply acceptable to disappointed people. Above all that framing of “retaking control”, and therefore the majority voted for Brexit, although there was no basis for that. The elite of Great Britain failed to listen to the people. There’s a great scene in the movie when they are detecting what would be the profile of these people, and they take them to such a neighbourhood, and politicians say, “I’ve never been to this neighbourhood.” When they listened to these people, they heard all sorts of things – they were forgotten, they didn’t have jobs, there are migrants around them whom they had nothing against, but they simply said they no longer had their neighbourhood in which they grew up. They had nothing against migrants personally, but they have nevertheless changed their way of life. Dominik paid close attention to them, and he played that trump card. And what was most important to me, a new strategy was employed for the first time. It is customary to have voter databases based on which you communicate. Dominic used social networks to identify voters who no one else saw and, most importantly, he approached them through social networks. Cities voted to stay in the European Union, rural areas voted for Brexit. Something similar has happened in the US now. Workers in the US were seeing production jobs move to other countries – Mexico or China. Trump sent them messages that he would return all those lost jobs. No campaign is won on facts, but on emotions. If you forget that, you lost at the very beginning.
E.D.: So you remain in the domain of political marketing?
Krešimir Macan: I personally, as a consultant, yes – and if need be we will form a team. If someone wants to lead a serious or challenging campaign, I will gladly join, otherwise, I would rather comment on the sides and give ad hoc advice. I still find it incredible how much campaigns are underrated in our region, although it is well-known that they shape the decisions of every fourth voter. It’s not something that you should just let run its course.
E.D.: Are there politicians in our region that are truly worth collaborating with?
Krešimir Macan: They will come. I am pleased that I had the opportunity to work for Prime Minister Plenković. Regardless of the fact that he is constantly being attacked, he has made some changes that are a step towards better. It’s not easy to do things overnight. I’m sure a generation of new people will come, who will work seriously and in the right way. They will be born out of dissatisfaction of citizens. It will be someone who will impose themselves as a leader. Whatever we might think about current politicians, they are a symbol of things beginning to change. Živi Zid came to stay in politics for the long haul. They’re not like the Orah that appeared and disappeared. Traditionally dominant parties now have the problem of securing a stable majority in parliament and need to change the model of operation. SDP more than anyone else. They have big problems with regard to the competition on the left.
I’ve heard a lecture recently, by a colleague who said that the average lifespan of a brand today is only about seven years, and if it doesn’t adapt after that period, if they don’t invent something again, they are in danger of disappearing. So, every three and a half years, you have to start thinking about what and how to do next, in order to avoid being trampled on. We have a lot of brands that pop up, make a good head start, someone buys them, and they either disappear or simply break down in their business model because the world is already moving on. The big ones have to keep listening and adjusting, or they will sink. Just look at the challenges in the car industry – the likes of Mercedes or BMW must find the answer to the electric vehicles. The parties think this doesn’t apply to them.
Whatever we might think about current politicians, they are a symbol of things beginning to change
E.D.: Do you have an example?
Krešimir Macan: I do. Where’s Nokia today? It was untouchable in its industry. Where was IBM at the beginning of the computer revolution, and where is it now? Microsoft is still one of the largest companies in the world, but at one point they also stagnated. For example, they managed to ruin skype, which was the original messenger, and messaging apps today are the dominant category in communication. They just didn’t understand that business segment. People thought IBM can never be shaken, and yet they completely lost their lead position because they thought no one would ever topple them down. We also have some startups from Croatia that have been able to launch all over the world, but then disappeared because they failed to adapt.
Digital economy changes everything, and if you start selling an old product in an old way in such an economy, you will lose your market over time. A good example are American retail chains that all have huge problems. If I’m not mistaken, Sears is on the verge of bankruptcy, or has already bankrupted. For the first time, Christmas sales are better for online than for classic stores that are no longer a key place for Christmas shopping. On the other hand, Amazon is opening a cashier-less shop. You get identified through your smartphone, they know that Ekrem came in, you buy everything you need, you scan at the exit and leave. A colleague told me the other day: “The problem is that we in the Balkans would eat the sandwich inside!” Scan that, hah.
E.D.: Is PR industry in Croatia on the rise?
Krešimir Macan: Yes, but I think the biggest challenge for us is the integration of agencies that is happening recently. We will always have our specialist position. I often asked why we have more PR agencies in Croatia than in the rest of the region, but nobody answered that question for me. Obviously, an expertise was created at some point, at the time when big agencies did not understand and appreciate PR because it was a fairly small part of the cake. A lot of people from major agencies – from the largest franchises – left their agencies, unhappy because they were not understood there. They thought PR was some kind of peanuts and they did not understand its potential. So, we have enough experts, we had an extraordinary HUOJ conference late last year that showed the industry can draw the strongest names from business, politics and everywhere else.
For years it was good, then this digital thing shook us, so a question imposed itself who has adapted to it and how. The one who had the know-how and will to combine Digital and PR fared pretty good. When you digitize a campaign, you have to have a good story. So, we are moving towards that integration. There is room here because in many companies today, PR is considered a far younger brother of marketing with smaller budgets, and they do not realize that stories are everything today. Classic commercial, on the principle “I have money, so I will film it and run it everywhere” is no longer the most important thing. A brand has to tell stories, and PRs have always been better in creating stories than marketers. You now have an example of Varteks and Nenad Bakić. Bakić, let’s say, is not a marketing expert, yet he has managed to create a buzz around Varteks, and celebrities are being dressed in local clothing, they are praising themselves for wearing Varteks pieces. So Bakic did an excellent job as an influencer himself, because it became his personal authentic story. He began to choose those who would wear their suits, and make them brand ambassadors because they are also popular on social networks. Bakić is a proof that if you are persistent and have a good story and vision, you can start telling it on your own, and make success. If you have some money at that, even better.
What I’m trying to say is that all the segments of the PR market in Croatia are rapidly evolving and growing. Earlier, we had agencies specializing in, for example, PR support for fashion brands and shopping centers – one or two of them – until other agencies realized there’s space for them there, and so the competition grew. This is repeating itself in every sector. Integration is the greatest challenge today for everyone. They need to have digital and they have to work on media buying. What Imago did right now is the real thing. You take a digital agency, merge it with strong marketing, but I do think that there is a lack of strong PR that doesn’t necessarily have to be integrated. You can make a partnership. Clients will demand it – they want to work with just one company as before. Storytelling is the job of a PR that many today are still underestimating. Everyone wants stories. HT has worked on STEM education for 2,000 students, and announce that next time there will be 3,000 of them. These students cannot be attracted with an ad, but with a hell of a good and positive story. A story that needs to be written and spread among the kids in order to motivate them. Money can help you make a good advertising campaign, but you will never reach that number of participants through marketing.
Digital economy changes everything, and if you start selling an old product in an old way in such an economy, you will lose your market over time
E.D.: Why do you believe PR is underappreciated?
Krešimir Macan: Because of the smaller budgets, many think our work has no value, but they still want PR. Why? Because they need a story. Volvo has made an excellent video with Van Damme (Epic Split) and others before it, investing big money in the production itself, but the whole world has learned about that video through digital channels and through PR. They learned about it through the stories about this video, which are being told throughout the world. Video is a tool, but after it, everyone is demanding that it be talked about. And here’s where the PR comes in.
Integration has a lot of room for both digital and PR because they need each other. Digital professionals need us to give them stories. Someone who has grown in the digital world finds it hard to tell good stories, because they are technicians – although there are exceptions. We need digital because we don’t know technology. We are missing media buying because the client wants a one stop shop – all in one. Who writes native? PR! Who gives money? Marketing! A synergy is needed.
E.D.: What do you think about influencers?
Krešimir Macan: Influencers have always existed, even before social networks. There have always existed opinion makers in every industry, only we perceived them differently.
E.D.: Before, you had to build a career to be considered influential.
Krešimir Macan: Well, it’s still like that, only social networks have enabled everyone to try it, and have shortened the procedure.
E.D.: Even kids are influencers today.
Krešimir Macan: Well, they have also built some sort of influence within their target group, although this whole thing with influencers should be seen more professionally. Let nobody condemn me, but today in Croatia there is only one strong influencer. It’s Ella Dvornik. She’s the only one with the business machine that follows it all, and everyone today want to be Ella Dvornik. Over time, these children will grow and become Ella. Once I talked with Ella, and she told me that her business has grown up several times over the past couple of years. She has full-time employees and is very serious about this job. See how Joomboos, that was launched by 24sata, is growing. They are the ones creating these new faces. They started doing videos with stars, and every year they produced a new star. They adapt to trends because people are looking for stars. We still don’t have a kid known to the public as the one who advertises toys, as is the case in America where kids get hooked on some other kid that advertises toys.
We still don’t have an industry that would allow such a kid to become a millionaire in the region, even though it is only a matter of time that someone pops up. But children are moving and growing little by little and they no longer have the borders of states to limit them. If they are good, and if they are authentic, they will eventually build their own brand and the whole world is theirs. They have to be authentic because if the whole thing is its own purpose, forget about it.