Exclusively for Stilbook, the founder of the McCann Grupa, the leading marketing and communications company in Southeast Europe, reveals that in his youth he wanted to be a historian or psychiatrist, but also admits that he did accomplish what he wanted and claims that freedom is the air we breath.We met Srdjan Saper at his home, on the fifth floor of a building in Vračar, where we drank coffee and enjoyed an inspiring talk. Open, approachable and extremely interesting, he told us about his work and life, and we carefully listened and absorbed each sentence. We found out his recipe for success, but also what his failures taught him.
SB: How do you define success?
The most important thing about success is to know it is temporary. As long as you live you always face new challenges. Therefore, I think you should never let success seduce you or failure disappoint you too much; it is important to have the courage to keep going.
SB: Successful people like you often say that time is money; do you agree with this and have you ever used this saying yourself?
It is increasingly difficult to deal with deadlines and agendas, and I’m getting fond of the famous saying carpe diem – seize the day; time is irreplaceable, and we still spend our life worrying about unimportant things.
SB: How do you view today your early career? Would you change anything?
I wouldn’t make any fundamental changes. Let’s say I wish I had made some decisions more quickly, but I don’t think I would even if I could do it all over again. That is simply a matter of my character.
SB: How did you imagine your life when you were a teenager, what did you dream of, and what have you achieved?
My generation was quite serious about education and career choices. I wanted to be a historian or a psychiatrist, and I enrolled in the School of Medicine. I’d say that I achieved what I actually wanted, I changed professions, was more or less successful, I was interested in many things, and yet, I managed to stay free and be myself. Freedom is the air we breathe.
SB: You left the University of Belgrade’s Medical School and dedicated yourself to art, have you ever regretted that decision?
I have, because I often lacked the serious perspective of a profession which I would have as a doctor. On the other hand, I was young and ambitious and curious, and it seemed to me that medicine requires the complete dedication and that I wouldn’t be able to give to it.
SB: What did success teach you and what did you learn from failures?
Success taught me that it has to be shared with other members of your team and that only if you know how to share success with people you work with, can you be a leader. Failures taught me how relative friendship can be, because comforting words or a handshake would often come from someone I did not expect.
SB: What are you most proud of in your illustrious career?
The fact that I have never thought I am something more than I really am, and I could always show this.
SB: You are committed to the development of culture and improving the image of Serbia. Have we made progress since 2000 and where is it reflected?
I have committed myself to it only a little and not enough, but since you ask, I think it is hard to change the image of a slandered country like ours is, especially when having to deal with the past. In a world where you have only 15 seconds for everything and everyone, only new positive things can change our image. And of course, we can change it too; it’s always nice to see how foreigners describe us with affection once they get to know us. But not everyone can get to know us.
SB: The Association of Serbian Marketing Communications awarded you last year with the Lifetime Achievement Award for your contribution to the development of marketing communications. How much do these awards mean to you, what is your attitude to them?
Awards are something everyone loves even when they know they are often just a matter of satisfying vanity and the result of compromise. But such is our human condition, we are social beings and we like being approved of and applauded by our tribe.
SB: McCann Grupa celebrated 15 years of work and has already won two Cannes Lions. What do you think: does marketing today have a major role in all areas of life as well as business?
I think it has, because, like it or not, branding is actually the essence of the consumer civilization whose crisis we are witnessing. Whether this crisis will be constructive or destructive in the end remains to be seen, but it will certainly bring something new. It is possible that the new circumstances will change the role which brands and consumption of goods, services and information have in our lives.
SB: What does your working day look like?
I chose a profession whose task is to make communication creative. But, I think that because of the speed in which reality unfolds, I deal with creativity much less than with communication. And this is the same every day.
SB: You have achieved success in different domains, you are a member of prestigious public institutions and in addition you are a great humanist. How do you manage everything, do you have time for yourself and what makes you happy?
One can have a little or a lot of time for oneself, it depends on how you look at your work. If your work is important to you, then you actually have a whole day to yourself. However, I wish I had more time to do some small things that make life beautiful and meaningful. Oscar Wilde said that some people bring happiness wherever they go, and others whenever they go. I feel happy when people feel good in my company.
SB: As a legendary YU rock star, what kind of music do you listen to in your spare time? What is your favorite song from the band Idoli?
At home, I listen to classical music and some light lounge, in a car sympho-rock of the seventies, and at parties anything they play. My favorite song is Ona se budi from Šarlo Akrobata band. I always felt sorry it was not our song.
Author of the article: Ana Ostojić,
Photographer: Ivana Jurčić (www.ivanajurcic.com)
LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE StilBook
DECEMBER 2012 / MARCH 2013, NUMBER 1, YEAR 1