A result of crisis is that every tool and systems of evaluation and validation of an idea, within the agency and client teams, don’t provide sufficient assurance that you have made a good choice – because you simply aren’t ready for any risks. Playing it safe is often a risk in itself and rarely an ideal solution, I see it more as a test of the partnership between client and agency , rather than a hindrance to the expression of creativity
Olivera Perkovic, after several years of absence from Belgrade , settled down in her hometown to continue her career at McCann Belgrade . In the middle of this year, she was appointed director of the agency, the largest agency in the chain of I & F McCann Group. In the years prior to assuming the directorial role in the agency , Olivera worked on several very important projects worth mentioning: repositioning the company Bambi Banat , repositioning the Carlsberg brand Lav Beer, organizing the largest NCP in the history of the Serbian market for The Coca – Cola Company and other big strategic and communications projects for the agency .
Aside from her love of fashion, music and travel, she is, according to her colleagues and friends, rational, precise and concise, measured and professional, and strict, yet fair, in business.
IN AMERICA BY CHANCE, AND IN AUSTRALIA FOR HER STUDIES
MM: Throughout your studies, you wrote columns for Politika. What did you write about, what interested you most? You wrote at a time when the stars were not aligned for Serbia.
Perkovic: My first jobs were freelance articles for daily newspaper, Politika. They’re the ones that were dearest and that stayed with me longest after moving to the United States, and were mostly related to astrology. It all began after an acquaintance with Goran MILEKIC, one of our renowned astrologers, through his astrology school. I was fascinated by the knowledge that astrology offers. For someone who at this point is 18, 19 years old, this was my first important education experience. It might have been unconventional, but that’s how it was.
MM: Then you went to Chicago and continued your career as a Brand Manager in the company Express Ltd. What led you to take this step?
Perkovic: Life circumstances resulted in a long spell outside the country. Going to America was entirely accidental – as a result of the Green Card program. A later departure to Australia was planned and primarily related to the purpose of study.
America was hugely educational for both my professional and personal life. In America I matured and gained my first formal work experience in the field of fashion retail chains.
Work in Express Ltd. was a developmental experience – I wouldn’t call it career building – those were early beginnings, achieving independence, maturity, and gaining my first management experience.
MM: After six years in America, to living at the end of the world in Australia, where you worked with local clients as an account manager at WA Australia. That’s a bold move, how did that come about?
Perkovic: Going to Australia was planned and done in the pursuit of further education. Work was, in contrast to my stay in America, completely in the background and I only worked part-time when studies allowed. As for choosing Australia and Perth, that was tied to family circumstances and the decision to all gather on the same continent at least once. It gave me the opportunity and time to focus on my studies that had been put on hold during my stay in Chicago. EXEC MBA studies are only an upgrade to the previous experiences that I thought should exist – a form of professional or academic training that fosters an interest and possibilities for something else.
FROM CLIENT SERVICES TO DIRECTOR OF McCann AGENCY
MM: It’s 2005 and you return to Belgrade and started working at McCann in Client Service Department. Why did you return to Belgrade and why McCann?
Perkovic: In the time I spent in the U.S., I visited Belgrade only once. I could not imagine what life in Belgrade again could bring nor did I imagine ever returning. Simply, after finishing college, this was the only moment in which I was able to spend a longer period in Belgrade. During this period, McCann happened. I started working at the agency, in the client services department. There was a parallel with previous experience in the context of project / people management, planning and monitoring of the results of the brand, but this job and the agency offered something completely new for me. I liked the job and the people in the agency. I developed a desire to stay and that’s how it is to this day.
MM: In the eight years you’ve been at McCann, you’ve moved across three positions, culminating, in the middle of this year, with your appointment as the Director of the largest agency in the I&F McCann group. What qualified you for this responsibility-laden position at a time when advertising agencies around the world are going through a serious crisis?
Perkovic: In the period between 2008 to 2012 I worked in the position of Client Service Director in the agency, and that means working closely with all business partners: clients and external partners, and internally involves a lot of work and cooperation with all stakeholders. Through this experience you get a full picture on how the market functions, the needs and problems of clients and brands, as well as the areas of improvement and development of agency services. On one hand, you have to be a natural and integral part of the client’s marketing team and on the other, you solve the needs of the end user as well. Problem solving is the key to organic growth, and also the key to long-term relationships (between client agencies and consumers/brands). In times of crisis, of course, problem solving only becomes more vital. And that’s what specifically qualified me for such a responsible position.
MM: McCann Beograd has a fairly stable list of clients, some of which you’ve been working with successfully for years. What is the situation usually like in Serbia, do clients lean towards long-term co-operation with their agency, or do they rely on pitches, choosing an agency on a campaign by campaign basis, as is the case in most countries in the region?
Perkovic: The crisis naturally brings instability. This instability is reflected in everything as long term planning is becoming harder and harder. Even if you plan everything perfectly, you have to expect surprises. There are several elements in your question. We have examples of successful operations and growth in times of crisis, as not all industries are affected equally. Not all companies have the same approaches to pitching processes – some see it as a healthy control mechanism for the agency of record, some, in cooperation with several agencies, see advantages and space for a wider pool of ideas. If you’re creating the benefit, that’s the right path, it’s the benefit that should be assessed. The most common result is allocating business by service segments to multiple agencies. If there is a good mechanism for coordination of all activities and one brand guardian, you can achieve good results. If you don’t make that happen, I don’t think there’s a real benefit.
PITCHING IS TEAM SELECTION, NOT SOLVING THE CREATIVE PROBLEM
MM: Otherwise, what’s your position on pitches? I communicate daily with ten agencies in the region and generally, for all of them the biggest problems in work often stem from ill-prepared and poorly organized pitches.
Perkovic: Pitches aren’t simple, neither for the client nor the agency. It might sound banal, but for the agency it’s essential to know the real reason for the pitch, that is, the real needs of the client. I say this because this often isn’t solely the project brief. If a client initiates a pitch for the selection of a partner, he’s then searching for and selecting his team. From our experience, the clients are not seeking solution to the campaign. When pitching, agencies usually devote all their time and effort to solve a specific problem. I think truth is that the client chooses the people, capacities, resources, knowledge – i.e. those who they will entrust to solve their problems. That problem solution process begins once the company becomes agency’s client.
MM : I & F McCann Group works across the entire region . Do you think that this profession, at a regional level, should adopt and adhere to certain rules of pitching so the terms of cooperation within the region can become standardized?
Perkovic: Of course it is necessary to standardize pitching conditions in every market, and we’re well aware that in different places it happens at varying terms and conditions. There are a lot of elements in the system and pitching process that should be changed. We’ve seen development of a centralized purchasing departments that procures all services, including advertising, become a reality. What recently seemed as impossible task is now a common practice. In that sense, how to properly express, provide and assess value is the objective of all stakeholders in the process
MM : Three years ago, a U.S. company’s research showed that the advertising market in Serbia experienced the largest expansion in the world, and will have the highest growth rate . How do you evaluate it?
Perkovic: In some individual market segments there will definitely be a dramatically higher rate of growth than in already developed markets. On the other hand, in comparison to the global trends, growth dynamics are not progressive. I think the Serbian market in general is still quite conservative and underdeveloped – which on one hand, implies that it isn’t very dynamic, but on the other hand, creates a lot of room for innovation.
PLAYING IT SAFE IS RARELY THE IDEAL SOLUTION
MM: In previous years you led the repositioning of projects for some of Serbia’s most important companies. How many such projects, of course, if they’re successful, secure customer loyalty ?
Perkovic: Trust comes from building a partnership. This would be a prerequisite, loyalty comes later. Loyalty develops through great challenges. To maintain and improve already good results is a real challenge and that’s when partnership and loyalty play the greatest role.
MM: It is said that the crisis has created a lot of fear in advertising. Agencies are afraid to lose their customers and therefore play it safe, resulting in fewer surprising creative solutions. People employed in the marketing department of the company are afraid of losing their jobs, so they’re also not inclined to accept such solutions. Agencies complain that this stifles creativity. How do you look at it, is there such fear, do agencies and clients kill bold ideas?
Perkovic: It does exist. As a result of the crisis, all tools and systems of evaluation and validation of an idea, within either the agency or client teams, don’t ensure that you have made a good choice – because you’re simply not ready for any risk. Playing it safe is often a risk in itself and rarely ideal, I see it more as a test of the partnership between client and agency, rather than a hindrance to express your creativity.
MM: This is the first time you’re working, as a Director of McCann Belgrade, on the business plan for the coming year. What’s the year going to be like? They say you know all the secrets of astrology. What do the stars say, will advertising get better?
Perkovic: I think that 2014 will be as equally challenging as 2013. This will require flexibility and agility in every sense, otherwise you can’t react fast enough to any changes, or rather, divergence from the plan. Good planning in this day and age should take into account all the unexpected things that could happen so you’re well prepared. Some statistics say that very few business plans come to realization – and the most common explanation for that lies in their implementation. If you organize everything in way that you can implement everything you’ve planned, that’s how you’ll have a good year.
MM: What impressed you the most in advertising, in the years that are behind you, what makes you persist in this job and drives you to take on greater responsibilities?
Perkovic: Communication has a very strong influence. Through these influences you can achieve a lot and that’s the key motivator.
MM: Do you have any role models in advertising, is there one person whose work fascinated you and strengthened the belief that you work in the most creatively stimulating profession in the world?
Perkovic: There’s no specific example, and the proof that I work in one of the most creatively stimulating industries lies in great ideas.
MUSIC, FASHION AND ADVERTISING COMMUNICATIONS
MM: When I was preparing for this conversation, I made some inquires about you with people who know you well, they say that you are rational, precise and concise, balanced, professional and strict, but fair. Does this describe you well? And would you rid yourself of any of these traits?
Perkovic: I believe they’re correct. I would not give up any of these traits, because I think they are important in business.
MM: You’re in the best years for business. You have already gathered a lot of experience and the best and most productive period is still ahead of you. What are your ambitions, how do you envision your future and do you see yourself in advertising for the rest of your career?
Perkovic: My ambitions are in learning, to be the best you can be. It sounds simple and natural- but it’s not so easy and requires a lot of effort and focus. The future is a reflection and consequence of the present. Continuous personal development is the goal – but the paths through which it can be realized remains to be seen.
MM: You love music and fashion. How much do these two fields of art empower you to be creative in your work. Music relaxes you and fashion inspires you, which usually solves problems for women- going to a fashion show, scrolling through a renowned fashion magazine or just simply going and buying yourself something nice as a way of saying “bye” to your worries.
Perkovic: Music is one of the most beautiful things in the world, as is fashion. Music, fashion, and advertising are all communications in different forms, but equally beautiful.
MM: They say that you are a fan of luxurious shopping trips. Where do you prefer to travel?
Perkovic: Travel brings a new experience and that’s important, through those experiences you discover new people or culture, or find out something new about yourself. Shopping, as such, is only an element of indulgence, but the point lies in new experiences …There is a nice quote from Oscar Wilde: “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”
The interview was published in print media marketing ( broj10/2013 ) , as well as on the website : http://www.media-marketing.com/intervju/7188-olivera-perkovic-direktorica-agencije-mccann-beograd.html