Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Dejan Letić
Milena Banović is the founder and director of the agency M2Communications, which is behind some of the most successful events in the region. The Venetian Carnival in Porto Montenegro, BMW’s international training for the new models of Series 7 and X1, the spectacular premiere of the new Mercedes-Benz models, the Gala Evenings of Serbian Association of Managers, the national premiere of Fiat 500L, these are just some of the projects that Milena has realized with her team. We talked about what makes M2Communications stand out from the others, why they are directly approached by representatives from the headquarters of global companies when they want to entrust a project to someone in Serbia, and how they manage to create events for VIP clientele like those in some of the world’s biggest capitals.
Media Marketing: You have experience with clients from the country and abroad. What are today’s clients like, and how much have they changed over recent years?
Milena Banović: The market has changed, trends have changed, and consumers have become more selective because they can get, check and compare information in real time. Companies are fighting for their favor, but budgets have been reduced because of rationalization. In such a constellation of market relations, agencies have to adapt through support and joint adoption of new knowledge and partnerships with clients, so that together they obtain the highest quality, within the streamlined investments.
On the other hand, one section of our clientele does not represent the average client of Serbian communications agencies – since we do specific, high end events for VIP clientele in the so-called luxury area. Here the challenge is not the budgets, although they are also significantly lower than in other parts of the world for the same kind of events, but the fact that these experiences must satisfy the sophisticated tastes and expectations of clients who are frequent guests at exclusive events on the global stage.
Media Marketing: What were the biggest changes you’ve experienced?
Milena Banović: One of the first changes in the development of our agency was the acceptance of big challenges, because we found that it motivates us and pushes us towards setting new goals.
Demand today is for greater flexibility, more intensive monitoring of trends and mastering the skills of creative management. These are the areas our team continuously works on in order to gain knowledge from new areas of communication, and to master the practices of major international agencies that will create added value for our clients, but also for the whole communication profession in Serbia and in the region.
We try to avoid classical concepts, even when they are easier for implementation or meet the needs of the client. The point is that we raise the bar for ourselves, in relation to what our initial task is. Thus, from the very beginning, we make already difficult projects even tougher. Clients always find it interesting of course that it is the agency that is testing the limits of feasibility, but this only further inspires us.
For example, in 2013 there was the presentation of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in the Yugoslav Drama Theatre. We presented two ideas to the client, but we advised them to go with the more ambitious one, despite the fact that we knew that we would have a very short period of time between approval and the date of implementation. So we formed and managed a team of over 100 people, in order to create a very complex and unique event in a very limited period of time.
Media Marketing: One of the more significant projects last year was the event for BMW, for which you were engaged directly by the company’s HQ. Have you had similar experiences with other companies?
Milena Banović: BMW Group AG conducted an international training for the new models of Series 7 and X1, and entrusted the M2Communications agency with the complete organization of the four-day event at several locations in Serbia. The training was global in character and was implemented in several countries in Europe, South East Asia and Africa. BMW gave the organization of the training in Serbia highest marks, and has characterized it as Best Practice. At the end of the year, we also received the UEPS gold award in the category of “corporate event”.
The first multinational company that hired us directly was SAMSUNG back in 2009, after which other clients followed suit. When a company HQ directly selects a partner, we are often in competition with agencies from other countries, so winning such projects brings us additional satisfaction.
Media Marketing: Porto Montenegro…. When did the collaboration start and what makes it special?
Milena Banović: Porto Montenegro held an international pitch, in which we competed with agencies from London, the Middle East and the region. We won the tender, and also became their “permanent address” for the realization of events. Among our major projects for Porto Montenegro are the so-called Owners Club Event in 2014, inspired by the Venetian carnival, and the finals in 2015 of the Superyacht Rendezvous – an exclusive party called Pearl Party. It was a closed event for clients of Porto Montenegro. At these events there is no room for standard protocols, speeches, promotions – everything is very dynamic and elegant with the sole purpose of gaining the attention of clients who have specific expectations and live a certain lifestyle, as they are the international jet set. Of course, the aim is to promote closer ties with such clientele and new plans for the marina, but this should never be intrusive, and mainstream concepts and presentations must not be a central part of the event. These are the kind of hospitality events where the guests should enjoy themselves in accordance with their sophisticated tastes. The region, unfortunately, has very few such events, and they are mainly related to exclusive locations such as the marina at Porto Montenegro, which is one of the largest and most modern in Europe.
Media Marketing: You are a member of the supervisory board of the Serbian Association for Marketing Communications (UEPS), as well as an active member of the Serbian Association of Managers (SAM). How do you see yourself in these roles?
Milena Banović: It’s a completely legitimate that membership in these association be a choice for the purpose of networking. However, what I believe in and what I strive for together with my colleagues is to unite the business community, or at least our profession, around certain common issues, such as, for example, faster adoption of foreign practices and improving the quality of work. We try to be good interlocutors with each other, and also with representatives of institutions, aware that we are part of the chain of stakeholders who must work together on the creation of better business conditions for all of us.
A big reason why I dedicate time to associations is the exchange of experiences, comparing best practices, and identifying the challenges facing the industry and ways to overcome them.
Media Marketing: Agency M2Communications has won the UEPS awards for an “event project” four times (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015)? Is there a secret to succeeding in this?
Milena Banović: Although there is no secret formula, the quality and level of provided services will always be in the forefront of our business and an important aspect of project management. We have a unique approach to every job, and we have raised event production to a higher level.
Our work method is such that there is no difference between the idea and the implementation. We simply deliver exactly what that we envisaged and presented to the client in the beginning, or even better. Each task is analyzed in detail. We try to get to know our client as well as possible – with their brands, values, history, competition… We take care of the details and create innovative conceptual solutions.
An important ingredient of the formula of success is to love what you do. You should always embark on the voyage to business success wholeheartedly. If your personal affinities and interests are closely related to your profession, and the business dynamic is part of your lifestyle, you are on the right track. With knowledge, experience, tenacity and the skills to overcome obstacles, crossing the finish line becomes more certain.
Media Marketing: What are you especially proud of in your work? Apart, of course, from the awards that we’ve already mentioned.
Milena Banović: We are proud of our energy and the environment that we’ve created in the agency. We’re proud that as an independent agency we have grown into a company that is competitive both on the domestic and international market. We cultivate good relations with all of our clients and associates, both as partners and as friends. We like to accept new challenges with them, and to share the joy of a job well done.
We advocate for the creation of an authentic brand experience – everything that people experience and that ties them to or associates them with a brand, at the rational and emotional levels. Our work process has proven to be successful, at least judging by the results, the projects that we have implemented and the reactions of clients.
We try to give a personal creative stamp to everything we do. We experience every project as a new opportunity for innovation or the implementation of an original solution that will bring uniqueness to the client. We like to say that we are developing new opportunities, embracing challenges and creating new experiences.