Florian and I studied together at the University of Amsterdam (2008-2009) where we both completed a Masters in European Communications Studies. I remember him as a creative -- and occasionally contrarian -- member of our class, someone who often brought a different perspective to the table. So I was keen to find out what he’s up to now. We spoke in mid-May, just before the Romanian government started to loosen the screws on a pretty hard-core approach to Covid-19 lock-down.
Florian has worked in Romania’s advertising industry for the past 13 years and is currently a senior creative at MullenLowe Profero, which is part of Bucharest based LoweGroup. Florian’s bread and butter is creating and developing digital advertising campaigns, which includes developing campaign concepts and assets, pitching presentations to clients and presenting the company at conferences. He also supervises and trains junior colleagues in the creative team.
The 15 people strong Bucharest team sit with a number of other companies in the Lowe group, which has around 200 people based in the city, covering everything from ad sales to experiential marketing. He enjoys his varied role and the office, which has an informal atmosphere with bi-monthly social events where people can relax and have a drink after the workday.
“It’s not anything like Mad Men, but it’s a nice culture.”
So what does Florian think Covid-19 will mean for the digital marketing industry? So far some clients have cut their budgets but compared to other areas of advertising things haven’t been too bad. People spend lots of time on digital platforms in times like these. But how might it impact the creative output?
“Even before the outbreak clients asked us to achieve as much as possible for as little as possible. TikTok is growing quickly, and with it there is more interest in live video, which is quite new for advertising and doesn’t require high production value. Lockdown also means that stock photos become more important since it’s not possible to organise shoots. People are now used to a new visual language that is more authentic and less polished, which might push down requirements for larger advertising campaigns as well.”
He also wonders if the fact that people are now used to seeing people's homes on Zoom calls, and the difficulty for people and influencers to portray exclusive and highly editorialised lifestyles during lockdown, might signal a shift in tone towards realism in advertising.
“When everyone is on live video in their homes we come to understand that people are ´real´.”
Large disruptions provide creative opportunities and Florian mentions a recent pro bono campaign he was involved in where unsold billboards lead to a social distancing campaign to encourage people to stay home during the early part of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We knew we had to look for opportunities in this period. A colleague from our media agency Initiative told us there was a lack of billboard advertising and suggested we use them for a public campaign. So we came up with a concept “if you can read this message you shouldn’t be here, but at home”. We turned it around from idea to execution in one week and as the billboards were installed the government enforced a national lockdown. It received lots of positive attention.”
Translated example of the pro bono campaign.
I was keen to understand if Romania is different in any way from other countries when it comes to digital marketing, but Florian pointed out that the industry in Bucharest is more international than people might assume.
“Since we are part of a global network I’m sometimes in meetings with colleagues in New York, London and Singapore and I wouldn’t say what we do is so different from those markets. Campaigns in London and New York are more focused on big data and agencies sometimes act more as business consultants, advising on strategy and product development. In Eastern Europe our work is more focused on the advertising campaigns. This can involve adapting global and regional campaign content, such as video commercials, but most often it means creating original content for social media, websites, newsletters and materials for in store promotions to name a few examples.”
What about the future? After 13 years in the advertising industry Florian is becoming increasingly interested in the gaming industry. Last year he even created his own game.
“It’s a choose-your-own-adventure type of game, reminiscent of 80’s text-based adventure games. There are no pretty visuals because I wanted to focus on the story and on presenting myself as a guide for the player. I don’t have coding skills and just started learning visual game builders, but I could be a narrative designer. That’s the person who creates the story, writes dialogue and shapes functional texts to give flavour to the game world. I would like to work with something where there is a more tangible output, something I can keep.”