If you don't pursue the risk, what are the chances of getting noticed?

Interview with Ljeta Putane, McCANN Riga Managing Director.

Ljeta Putane  

Where do you put your focus and how do you make money – as an agency?

Currently we put focus on innovation as most of our clients are looking for a partner that tailors solutions to their actual needs. They come to us with complex business problems and we need to respond to them with maximum efficiency combining different tactics and solutions that go far beyond TVCs, prints and banners. The better we understand our clients and their needs, the more money it brings our clients and eventually us.

If we’re talking about agency services, one of the latest bestsellers is Employer Branding. Nowadays many companies are competing for talent which is not that easy to find. As a result of this, businesses have started to think not only how to market their products but also how to market themselves as attractive employers. This year we’ve been working on quite a few Employer Branding campaigns and have seen some really good results for our clients.

If you look at the Latvian market in general – what are the sectors of growth, where do you see hunger and ambition? Traditionally the golden clients for the agencies have been large telcos, banks and food companies.

I think the hunger and ambition lies within start-ups, digital and tech sector that is eager to export its products to new markets. In order to achieve that, they have to move fast, experiment and quickly adapt to new challenges. Working with them requires a different approach and non-standard solutions but it is truly rewarding when you see them succeed.

Large telcos, banks and food companies still ensure a large proportion of business to agencies. Even though they are not as aggressive as start-ups, they too face interesting challenges and invest in innovation to cater to the needs of an increasingly demanding audience.

Usually start-ups and tech companies don’t like old school way of going to an agency with a brief and ask for help – they would rather have very agile in-house team.

That is why for us as an agency the only way forward is to adapt to the changing needs of our clients, be it hiring strategists that help with business problem solving, working with influencers who reach the necessary audiences, ensuring 24/7 service, etc.

For instance, this year we had a client from London with an exciting brief. They were just about to launch a new product which would be superior to blockchain. Their solution was something we had not encountered before and our team was digging into facts round the clock just to understand it to the core and be able to offer the communication tailored to their needs.

In general, we often get clients who don’t see us as an average agency and appreciate our flexibility. And that’s where I think our strength lies.

Would you agree that the overall “coolness” of the advertising agency business has disappeared?

My parents used to work in advertising in the 1990s and I spent all my childhood watching Cannes Lions and eating cookies in their offices. From what I remember it probably wasn’t the healthiest environment for a child to grow up in but it was super cool – parties, smoking, having fun, long hours... Simply put, it was a real rock star lifestyle.

Even though the agencies are not that bat shit crazy anymore, they are still cool. For instance, our clients love to come to us for meetings because they enjoy the relaxed and creative atmosphere in our office. People wear Barbie jumpers, make bad jokes, run around with dogs and eat dodgy sausages while someone has passed out on the sofa next to the wall with an old avocado stain.

There is always an issue how to sell risky ideas to clients. You have “We believe in Calculated Risk” written on your door. How do you take calculated risk in advertising?

We came up with the slogan in 2016 when McCANN merged together with White Label . White Label was all about brand strategy and calculation but McCANN – about risk and creativity . Combining these two concepts and coining the slogan “Calculated Risk” was the best way of telling our clients what we are about.

To us, the idea is simple. If you don’t pursue the risk, what are the chances of getting noticed? You are just going to be another detergent on the shelf. But if you only risk without a clear goal in your mind, you’d be throwing money to the wind.

Therefore we make sure that whatever risky ideas we offer, they all have a clear reasoning and agenda behind them. Obviously, the risk level for each client is completely different as for each client “standing out” means something completely different, but it is important to include that element of risk even in the most standard of all products.


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