The Beat of Golden Drum
Ulrich Proeschel, VP of business development at TBWA/Europe, took the stage at this year’s Golden Drum International Advertising Festival and spit science. I had an out-of-body experience, where all my irritation with this business burbled out of the mouth of a stranger.
From the splintering of agencies into ‘advertising,’ ‘media,’ and ‘digital’ to the mass crib death ads experience in tandem with any nation’s economic ego trips, Proeschel laid out an industry that 6 years ago was at such a nadir he could not counsel anyone he met to go into it.
I know all about that. I left New York advertising in 2005 to move to Slovenia and wrote for this publication.
Proeschel shortly left all this doom-and-gloom and gave the most intriguing presentation of work I saw in Portoroz. His resonating credo was “There are no campaigns; only brand behavior.” This became a clear example of advertising learning from the failures of politics, where promises disappear once the ‘product’ is off the shelf.
While it’s certainly sad we live in a world where many great global minds go into governing ephemera rather than policy, it’s also incredibly exciting.
One of the best overall campaigns out of New Europe came from Romania where BV McCann Erickson revitalized the national chocolate bar Rom by rebranding it as a wholly marketed American franchise complete with ‘stars and stripes’ packaging. This tongue-in-cheek assault on Romanian patriotism garnered an extreme Facebook presence and market share domination. And, for me, it’s always funny to see American ‘bestness’ mocked on foreign soil.
From Hungary’s Ackio 360, we saw a brilliant fast-and-cheap approach to getting taxpayers to contribute 1% of their rates to charity, specifically the World Wildlife Fund. Using only the cost of two panda costumes and one color photocopy, they gained 300,000 Euros of free media exposure.
And, on a truly sparse budget for the telecom category, Rabarba out of Istanbul got over 3.6 million reaches through Twitter and word-of-mouth by engaging Internet die-hards in a simple PostIt-themed phone-and-data-minutes giveaway.
All these works can be seen on the Zlati Boben website. (http://www.goldendrum.com/competition/showcase/winners-2011/)
What does this have to do with Slovenia? Well, Patrick Hanson-Lowe, the Chief Marketing Officer of Publicis, a timeless and timely European megaplex of advertising gave a talk titled ‘Fortune follows Fame.’
In it, he showcased a Renault Megane interactive stunt that was perfect in tone and reach, but to my Slovenian-bent attitudes, it did not hit a bull’s eye. This tactic used a French car to transform a miserable British town. I found in my 2 years as a resident, you can’t sell Slovenians on self-worth by playing product (influencer) against location (influenced).
He also expressed a well-rehearsed appreciation for Slovenian ‘hospitality’. He is British, so I never doubted his sincerity. But Slovenia is not particularly hospitable. We need only look at this summer’s Metelkova Mesto banners which read: ‘Immigrants Welcome. Tourists Fuck Off.’ to see how much in the way of budget hospitality one might expect here.
In Trieste, waiting for a late bus to LJ, I introduced myself to a coterie of 5 student travelers by saying ‘Of course, you’re from Slovenia, so you speak perfect English…’ After the giggles died down, one student offered me an ice cream candy bar from her backpack. I countered with “Are you sure you’re Slovenian?” She said, “We’re in Italy. I can be generous here.” Funny and factual.
On the Slovenian successes at Golden Drum, I loved the reimagining of Kratochwill’s corporate identity by local team Futura, where the words for ‘beer’ in numerous languages (made as froth) spilled out of a golden kozarec lock-up. This is concrete poetry for commerce.
It’s what Slovenians do well. Hyper literacy suits them. Whereas Brazil and Singapore win awards for their graphic, language-less work, Slovenians should embrace how wordy they are. Slovene makes a talky, analytical people who truck no silence in their conversations and have a hundred borrowed expressions for getting their point back into the mix.
My final thoughts on the course of Slovenian advertising are cribbed from Farid Chebab of Leo Burnett. To his thinking, the next step is gossip; something advertising (or even PR, for that matter) has never done well. The population here is small and chatter is infectious. An Ljubljana buddy of mine just started dating a Macedonian girl to get out of the Slovene rumor mill. Slovenia, reap this whirlwind.