Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
The first time Lazar Džamić was a guest of Media Marketing in Sarajevo was, I think, 14 years ago. The theme of his day-long lecture at the Coloseum Club, in front of about 150 participants, was: Digital Marketing – a future that has already begun. I remember that seminar well because of great content, but also because of one thing that happened then but never before (nor since). The number of participants at the end of the day was the same as at its beginning. Only three participants from Eronet at lunchtime went to do something in the city, sacrificing a great lunch. At a dinner at the restaurant Jež, Lazar gave me his book Advertising pAGE – not one, but five copies. “Here effendi, so you can give it to someone else as well.” Ten days ago in Belgrade he gave me an updated edition of the same book, which has just come out. This time, Lazar was not so generous. He gave me a single copy. Since he has decided that writing books will be his main business after his return from London, he started valuing his products more.
Media Marketing: Almost twenty years ago you published the first issue of the book Advertising pAGE, as a collection of articles that you had published about marketing from 1996 to 1998. You explained the publishing of the book with the fact that issuing a book of already published texts can be a way to reach all those who don’t read the newspapers in which they appeared. Three months ago you issued an updated edition. Why?
Lazar Džamić: I realized that for the younger generation of marketing specialists this book could be a kind of a time capsule and a reference to compare what has changed in the domestic marketing over the last twenty years. A lot of people have asked me where these texts and the first edition of the book can be found, and they can’t be found for quite some time now.
Also, the book is a meta-story about stories. As I wrote in the foreword: “We are just stories we tell ourselves,” and it’s one of the best definitions of personality – at the individual and national level – which I have encountered so far. Too bad I forgot who was the first who said it…
It’s not just high-sounding aphorism, but a deep evolutionary, biological and psychological truth. As Yuval Noah Harari brilliantly described it in his book Sapiens, narratives – fiction – have been the main driving force of civilization and the glue that enabled our human species (as only one of several varieties of the genus Homo) to grow beyond the small tribe of about a hundred individuals, and join into villages, cities, nations and transnational religions. We won the lottery of evolution only because we believed in the same stories, the same fantasies…
The story has saved us, praise be to her.
The story has also buried us – especially in Serbia during the Milošević era, when the stories that we collectively told ourselves had led to the greatest suffering of our peoples since the Second World War. Stories, therefore, can also destroy us, if their fantasy, that common narrative, is destructive. Stories are a mechanism to control gravity: they either remove it, and we soar to the stars, or they increase it hundredfold, so we plunge into the abyss. Stories are an elixir, and stories are poison – depending on the formula, the situation and the skill of the storyteller…
My book is a collection of some beautiful and many more such ugly stories, through the mirror of communication.
Media Marketing: What did you write about during those two years? What were the topics of your articles?
Lazar Džamić: The horrors and frenzy of Milošević’s Serbia, through the prism of communication in media and marketing. It was fascinating to me how surreal and brutal those times were. The main characteristic of that time could be briefly described as a gigantic hyperbole: at that time, all was symbolic and ‘of symbols’. That was the real hyperinflation that struck us: the one of symbols, not the money. The financial one came later, as a result of the symbolic. We lived, ate and drank, watched and listened, thought and breathed symbolism, from minute to minute. The nationalist and semiotic pornography was ‘the system’: entirely in manifestation, in the surface, in the signs, in the illusion, in exaggeration – and nothing inside.
Normal, straight – boring – un-symbolic life of some happier environments with historical deficit of metaphors and a surplus of order, looked like science fiction. Every word in our country at that time was huge, a question of victory or defeat, of rise or fall, of life or death. Literally. It was a time of crests: crests, crests everywhere. And graves, graves everywhere.
Lazar Džamić: ‘Odvratajzing’ is a coined phrase of mine (odvratno=disgusting + advertising – possible counterpart adversetising) in an article about the catastrophic situation of marketing communications at that time, in 1996. It was a time of lies, dilettantism, fraud, theft, paranormal (and paramilitaries) and much, much rhyme! It was as if the entire advertising production at the time was made in rhymes – nursery rhymes for easy remembering by the lobotomized population – which was our specificity compared to developed markets where the rhymes are rarely seen in ads. So everything at the time looked disgusting to me, as well as everything that I mentioned above…
Media Marketing: Before me I have two issues of the book Advertising pAGE. How are they different? What makes this book, published 20 years after the first one, different from it? You had published the first book when you departure from Serbia to London, and the second one immediately upon return from London. You say that these 20 years was a rest that was necessary both to Serbia, to you and to the book.
Lazar Džamić: The difference is in the 11 new articles that I’ve written in the past few years – some of them were published in your portal as well. Also, the book is now formatted and proofread properly. I think the first edition came out too fast, everything was still fresh, and simply part of the regular life. It took all of us to become a little more normal, so that all this in the book now seems as a surreal fantasy – at least a bit more. Although, many tell me that a lot of this in our marketing and media has never actually changed…
Media Marketing: It’s very interesting that the publishing of the book was sponsored by the Mokrin House. How did it come to that?
Lazar Džamić: Friendship. I’ve known Bane and Ivan Brkljač for years, thanks to you. You introduced us and it turned out that we are like-minded on many issues and attitudes toward life. What they did – and what they are yet to do – with their Mokrin project is at the global level, in many respects. It’s about creativity at its purest level. The one true creativity that surprises and shocks, and really puts things together and frames them through a completely different, new lens. It’s the same with that spaceship that has landed in the midst of sleepy Mokrin, where the atmosphere of the famous Google’s garage is mixed with the gaggle of geese, where leisure and work take place in global nomadism, where the space for innovation is nested next to the agrarian fields… pure creativity! It’s the space that I myself would prefer to use for my projects in the near future. Who hasn’t been there has to go…
Media Marketing: You’ve returned to the Balkans after many years spent in London, and you immediately started touring the region. You were everywhere, from Slovenia to Macedonia. It’s as if you wanted to make some kind of inventory of the situation – to have a look at us and see how we stand in relation to how you left us. Well, how do we seem? Are we nicer, smarter, better, more organized… I mean the advertising industry as a whole.
Lazar Džamić: Definitely better, in many ways. Some underlying currents are, unfortunately, still the same, but they reflect politics, so I didn’t expect changes there… However, much has changed for the better. Foreign networks have come with their methodologies and tools, people are better trained, they speak the modern marketing language, now I can speak with our people the same as I talk with my people in London, without the need for much explanation of terminology. People know the famous campaigns, examples, they read blogs and literature. And that’s good. Many of our agencies have received and continue to receive big international awards, even the biggest and most prestigious. Our managers, like Miša Lukić, are becoming regional leaders in major chains, while some of our agencies are buying foreign ones in the most developed markets. All this was unimaginable twenty years ago. There are some regional differences, but the best and the worst things are the same everywhere.
Media Marketing: You are exceptionally organized person, so I’m sure you have a precise plan for 2017. Could you reveal for us some of those plans?
Lazar Džamić: Of course. Writing is my new profession and most of the time will be devoted to it. I’m already working on four new books, two for this and two for the next year, two in Serbian and two in English. One of them will be the second book of the Plum Tea, my essays on the comparability of life in Britain and in the Balkans. With one of my academic colleagues from London I’m making the world’s first collection of essays devoted to all aspects of the so-called ‘Content Marketing’. It will be interesting. Otherwise, I have a list of about thirty books which I will try to write while the health and strength serve me, so I’m not afraid of being bored in old age!
In addition to writing, my other focus is my little Digital Academy, a program of fifteen modules for the transformation of agencies and marketing departments in companies. That has also started great and I’m slowly expanding the program to the region, but this activity is secondary to writing.
Finally, I teach at the Faculty of Media and Communications in Belgrade, on the course in digital marketing, so that also demands a bit of my time … So, there’s still the fuss like in London, but there is no coercion or the hamster wheel. Now I’m the boss of my time and my mental focus.
(Order Advertising pAGE book by Lazar Džamić here)