Analytic Vision

The Agencies’ Night

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 17/05/2012

Each year, in Bucharest, there’s an event a lot of advertising & PR agencies are waiting for. This year has been the first year when also the PR companies were allowed to participate and participate they did, indeed! On the 15th of May, it happened again, also in Bucharest.

Although I have not been so active in participating in events lately, this one I couln’d stay away from. As usual, for the readers which know my covering style in events, I will present you in a step-by-step critic analysis what my impressions were, what and where happened.

Basic stuff… or something like it :)

First of all, the list. Ahhh, the list [ro, php]. Of course, some are big names. Others were not so known (to me). As of course I couldn’t make a tour of all the agencies, I had to pick. So the first step was the elimination.So I took each of the 19 places on the map, with the corresponding websites.

1. Energiea. I don’t know what it is. Didn’t have a link. Too bad. Next!

2. Propaganda [en,jpeg]. Static page. WTF?!? Too bad. Next!

3. Jazz [gif ?]. Static page. This is lame. Too bad. Next!

4. Smart Corporation Group [en/ro, html/flash]. I didn’t get too much distinction or information from the website. Besides that, strangely enough, the adress where the event took place is different from all the three adresses for headquarters in Bucharest. Why host at a different adress from the ones at “contact”? It didn’t make sense. Too bad. Next!

5. Pygmalion – advertising facilitators [ro, FB]. “No description here. Just enjoy our daily content.” (I guess they don’t do branding). Not to mention, the “daily” content was not so “daily” and not even so interesting. Day by day by day, if you don’t have something to say, you slowly disappear (I know that one also from experience).

6. Arena Advertising Key [en/ro, flash]. This is exactly the kind of website that all my highschool colleagues, more than 10 years ago, were making fun of. Full of flash and empty of content. Hard to read (all in capitals – I guess they don’t do copywriting). The navigation menu is right in the 10 % bottom where you can see it by scrolling down. The website of this company is such a bad example of promoting, I don’t know where to start from. You know, sometimes it’s not so bad just to use some Joomla  / Drupal / WordPress, if you populate it intelligently with content. Too bad. Next!

7. Infinit Solutions [en, php] Red doesn’t go so well with blue, you don’t have to be a designer to know that. To add to that, white text on red background is not the best choice of colors. The gray is barely visible. There are too many colors. The text is not integrated with all the different materials. Too much flash. It’s good they claim to have innovation. Maybe by next year they’ll learn some basic web copywriting.And they are so, so far in Bucharest, almost near the exit! Too bad. Next!

8. Chelgate Public Affairs & Public Relations [en, html]. Though a better use of color, I repeat, red and blue don’t go so well together. I use them together, for example, when I want to especially draw the attention on some text, but not as a layout. Though, this is not the main issue. The website is too… web 1.0. Maybe that would’nt be so obvious if it wouldn’t try to seem as web 2.0. The news are old. There are few articles.  The infrastructure between the Romanian and English websites doesn’t seem clear. The jobs page [en, html] is not so appealing. All in all, though the presentation is, in content, impressive and professional, the communications seems too rigid. Anyway, it’s one of the companies which closed down the party early, beacause I wanted to pay them a visit by 1 AM during the event and it was all closed down. Not so friendly for a PR company.

So 8 out of 19 were considered by me as not worthy of visiting, simply judging by their website. Now, I know it may seem pretentious to discount these by such a simplistic criteria, but the truth is this kind of details really matter, because they establish credibility. Maybe not all young people are aware of these, but the feeling is the same. Maybe the people who organized the participation from these companies really didn’t care who came and just went along for… whatever.

“If there is one truth about the truths, then it can be expressed in few words, as it follows: truth is expressed, usually, in a few words. The rest is demonstration.” (Valentin Vasiloiu)

Now the audiences. The audience can, in the first place, be separated in 3 great categories:

  • those who came for the party, the free drinks and to get drunk
  • those who came to network and maybe interested in their career
  • clients, friends & partners of each agency which came to have a few friendly chats with the employees

The events, in themselves, can be characterized, by the social dynamics as

  • closed, that is, people only talk to those they already know; you can recognize this by noticing where their feet are headed to. If, for example, three or four people form a closed circle, their feet will be oriented towards those they are interested in adressing. Examples: Institute the Cafe, Lowe PR (partially), Cohn & Jansen
  • open, that is, people interested to know other people; you can recognize this by noticing where their feet are not tightly closed in on a circle, and it is possible for someone outside to join  the circle and get into conversation. Examples: Free Communication, Lowe PR (partially), Hippos

Of course, for those who came to dance & drink like to a regular party, the above don’t matter so much. But it’s interesting to notice as a general atmosphere of the event.

Each place has its strong points and downsides. Now judging these can often lead to unnecessary comparations and I don’t have the proper event management experience to do that. But, from a participant’s perspective, I will note for you what got my attention, both in the positive and in the negative. All in all, though, I have to warn you I kinda have a soft spot for Lowe PR.

Institute,  The Cafe [ro, php]

A place of networking for marcom people. It has an impressive library more than generous, especially with titles in design, branding and copywriting. The participants could have bought interesting and valuable books at great prices. Nice atmosphere, great space, wonderful people. Downside: closed groups.

It is surely a place to stop for people from agencies and for people who want to enter in agencies, and even for students who want to network and study. Unfortunately, The Night of the Agencies didn’t offer such an opportunity here. Too bad. Maybe next year.

The Branding Issue

More than a year ago, Lowe PR merged with Golin Harris [ro, php]. In this context, it is interesting that in the list [en, php] appeared “Lowe PR” and not “Golin Harris”. If I had been in charge of this aspect, maybe I would have opted for a positioning like “Golin Harris (ex-Lowe PR)”, to make the distinction – I say this because rebranding as a result of mergers & acquisitions is always a complex process. Now, for me this is new information, as I knew what Lowe PR means, as an identity and I thought this is way cool. Now, “Golin Harris” is an entity about which I don’t know a great deal and I consider that, after The Night of the Agencies, I don’t have a clearer perception. But let’s see how my experience went.

First of all, what I have to say is that almost everything at Lowe PR Golin Harris seemed to me overwhelmingly cool. Besides the naming issue, I can say this is one case study for success in what really is employer branding – and a company to inspire how to get intelligent and fine people. The place itself is designed for creativity, for interaction, for strategy. It really seemed to me like a strategic company for the future – and that comes from the organizational structure.

At the ground floor, there was a great, sumptuous atmosphere. Two bartenders prepared all kinds of drinks and were making all sorts of tricks. As everybody knows, a lot of any kind of party depends on the bar. The guys were moving smooth and fast. Still, maybe for the number of people present, there would have been better three. The cocktails were great. And free, of course.

The attitude was kinda closed, at least on the terrace. The band was great. There was some space to dance, but I haven’t really seen anyone dancing. A lot of places on chairs, a lot of places to stand. Lots, lots of people. Hortensia Năstase [ro, html] was a great host, saluting everybody, smiling, introducing people, attending to each one’s needs, bit by bit.

I sipped my cocktail, took two rounds around the room and didn’t find too much networking opportunity… or interest, for that matter. Besides, I didn’t know anybody there except for Hortensia.

Besides Hortensia, the most open person on the whole floor was Livia Voicu [ro, php] – for some background, check here [ro, html]. Of course, an ironic thing in a mass of people forming small closed groups (in Romanian, “bisericuţe”) is that someone open stands out. So much so, that it seemed for me as a crime to leave such a smiling, available young lady unattended for and I started a conversation, which led me through a tour of the whole agency, with all its divisions: Lowe & Partners (creation), Initiative (media), HyperActive (digital), GolinHarris (PR), Brand Connection (media), Lowe Medic One (medical communication) and Mobile Works (mobile marketing).

You can learn a lot about the organizational culture of a company by studying how the offices of employees are arranged. I was enchanted to find an intrapreneurial, non-formal approach. A lot of well structured space, autonomy, creativity and personalization. Space for physical recreation.

There were a lot of people working even at that hour and they were all so friendly and open, it seemed like a contrast to what was happening at the ground floor. Contrary to my nature, I must confess I was kinda reserved, because I felt overwhelmed with enthusiasm from everybody. The person I interacted with the most was, of course, one of the HR ladies – where to get more information about a company than from the HR dept? It was a real 360 degrees tour.

At one of the superior floors, I noticed the Golin Harris big frame. Livia tells me something like: “now, Lowe has become Golin Harris. There are only 3 Romanians at the top, the rest are foreigners”. Indeed, it seems a new structure. Livia was also, with a little picture, with other people, on the bottom row of pictures. “Some of the people from this row don’t work here anymore” (!?!). Now this turnaround can be interpreted either as: “so many people didn’t find themselves in the new structure” or as “praise to the company, as it keeps in great esteem those who left”. The unanswered question, strictly from a branding perspective is, for me: “So, no more Lowe PR (?) But, again, who is Golin Harris?”. Of course, I am convinced that the organizational culture didn’t change. Of course, it seems like a dream to work there. It’s just the kind of puzzling curiosity which makes me put challenging questions.

In the end, I participated at a sort of quiz, based on the things I noticed from the tour, I logged into the FB account [ro, FB] and I posted, in relation to the “Night of Passions” – a well chosen title. Nice idea, though a bit slow because of the keyboard control. Unfortunately, my presence wasn’t so interesting to Livia as the tour she offered me, as I was reading through all non-verbal channels the end of patience (yes, I know, I test people’s patience, first they hate me, eventually they grow to love me). Anyway, one of her colleagues, Alina (if the memory serves me well) kept me company while finishing the quiz – by the way, I have a recommendation for her as to her concern – a client of mine’s blog [ro, blog] might provide with some useful insight.

Free Communication

Very close to Lowe PR Golin Harris, there is a small, friendly, steady and efficient PR team, a bunch of creative and open people which really created a cool atmosphere. I was welcomed even from the door. I had the pleasure of talking to Irina Pătru (FB, twitter) and to discover a very calm, most open, practical and welcoming person, which showed me around (another example of well used and organized open space). I also interacted with Teodora Stoica [ro, php] and Radu Popa. Teodora seemed to me as a very attentive person in non-verbal communication, easy-going and observative in the same time. A great listener. Another great presence, Radu offered to tempt me with a beer. I replied politely, saying I didn’t come for the beer. “I noticed”, so he said – therefore, my young padawan blog followers, don’t throw yourselves at the beers first when going to agencies’ parties, because all that is seen is not told.

Other pluses: large wardrobe, space to dance, OK terrace, I think (but I’m not sure) they even gave away umbrellas, because that afternoon rained a lot.I had some laughts.

My exit from Free Communication compound was not as silent as that from Lowe PR Golin Harris, as the gate was closed, no sign of the gate-keeper, so I decided to jump it . My “creative jump” wasn’t so appreciated by a dog around there, so that night also required my” negotiation” skills.

The Leo.

Leo Burnett&Target [en, flash] chose to position each of its agencies not as part of the big umbrella, but as separate attraction points> 2 Parale, Digital Star, iLeo , The Geeks, The Practice. It is also, well known, that the coolest of the cool join here for a super party, or at least this was the rumor, confirmed by Chinezu via my sources.  I’m kidding. Everybody knows that Leo is like a magnet for the most part of advertising admirers. Still, my experience was a little zany. I arrived at 13 Nicolae Iorga a little past midnight, where I found out that the Leo, being ultimately so special, had its own mini-event organized, that might be called “The Agencies’ Evening”. I was not the only one disappointed, as there was another group of young people around, out of which one said “s-o stâns lumina!” (~”the light has been turned off”), and others said other things, not worthy of being mentioned in a decent post. Anyway, a lot of people from the Leo party went to…

Cohn & Jansen, JWT [en, flash] had the best music I have listened to, from all the places I have visited during The Agencies’ Night. Even now, a song I heard still goes through my head, without being able to stop it. The guys from “Atelierul de print” had participants in line for being photographed on high class paper, traditionally mastered. Also, there was a quite attracting contest for a cell phone (which I missed) and a creative contest with unique T-shirts. Around 2 AM, the party was still going and there were quite some people. Of course, half of them were either drunk, or smoking themselves to sleep, but the other half was quite energic, joking and dancing.It was really an event for young people. The guys were really professional and moved fast. I arrived late, and the people didnt’s seem to much interested to network a lot, but I came in contact with interesting people and I had some laughts.

HIPPOS [en, flash] really pumped in the fun factor. This was a moustache party, and after 3 AM people were still talking about monkeys and hippos. There was also a karaoke party. The bartenders were great. The music was good. The people seem creative and calm. I talked the most with Mihail Stanciu [LinkedIn]. I perceived him as being very friendly,straightforward, available and had a very on-the-same-level attitude, although he has a considerable experience as a marketer.

I liked the website of HIPPOS because it was to the point, creative and colorful. The people there proved to be the same.

In the end, everybody is fine. Everywhere I went, people came to stay. Each one had its own specific. I’m sorry, maybe some of my comments will upset or surprise some people. I didn’t have any hidden agenda. I just came to meet people, have fun, get the feeling and write this article, so that when anybody asks me “How was it?”, I could give them this honest, totally subjective and free-minded post.

Congratulations to everyone for the participation, organizing and may this be an opportunity to learn!

PS: If you’re interested in learning more about reading non verbal communication (in Romanian), you may find this useful: Cum să scădem zgomotul din comunicarea cu cei din jur 

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