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 the PR companies were allowed to participate and participate, indeed! On the 15th of May, it happened again, also in Bucharest.
Although I have not been so active in participating in events lately, I couldn’t stay away from this one. As usual, for the readers who know my covering style on public events, I will present you with a step-by-step critical analysis of my impressions, what, and where it happened.
[Later edit in 2020: I removed the broken links. This offered me a pretty good perspective about which of the initiatives that existed back then survived after 8 years]
Basic stuff… or something like it :)
First of all, the list. Ahhh, the list. Of course, some are big names. Others were not so known (to me). As I couldn’t take a tour of all the agencies, I had to pick. So the first step was 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. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a link. Too bad. Next!
2. Propaganda. Static page. WTF?!? Too bad. Next!
3. Jazz [gif ?]. Static page. This is lame. Too bad. Next!
4. Smart Corporation Group ]. I didn’t get too much distinction or information from the website. Besides that, strangely enough, the address where the event took place differs from all three addresses for headquarters in Bucharest. Why host at a different address from the ones at “contact”? It didn’t make sense. Too bad. Next!
5. Pygmalion – advertising facilitators. “No description here. Just enjoy our daily content.” (I guess they don’t do branding). The “daily” content was not so “daily” and not even so interesting. Day by day, if you don’t have something to say, you slowly disappear (I know that from experience).
6. Arena Advertising Key [en/ro, flash]. This is precisely the kind of website that all my high school colleagues were making fun of more than 10 years ago. Full of flash and empty of content. Hard to read (all in capitals – I guess they don’t do copywriting). The navigation menu is correct at the 10 % bottom, where you can see it by scrolling down. This company’s website is such a bad example of a promotion that I don’t know where to start. 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. Infinite 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 a red background is not the best choice of color. 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 far in Bucharest, almost near the exit! Too bad. Next!
8. Chelgate Public Affairs & Public Relations [en, html]. Though I repeat a better use of color, red and blue, they don’t go so well together. I use them together, for example, when I want to especially draw attention to some text, but not as a layout. Though, this is not the main issue. The website is, too… web 1.0. Maybe that wouldn’t be so obvious if it didn’t try to seem like web 2.0. The news is old. There are few articles. The infrastructure between the Romanian and English websites doesn’t seem clear. The jobs page is not so appealing. All in all, though the presentation is, in content, impressive and professional, the communication seems too rigid. Anyway, it’s one of the companies which closed down the party early, because 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 simplistic criteria, but the truth is these kinds of details really matter because they establish credibility. Maybe not all young people are aware of these, but the feeling is the same. Perhaps 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 a 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 into 3 great categories:
- those who came for the party, the free drinks, and to get drunk
- those who came to network and may be interested in their career
- clients, friends & partners of each agency who 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. If, for example, three or four people form a closed circle, their feet will be oriented toward those they are interested in addressing. Examples: Institute the Cafe, Lowe PR (partially), Cohn & Jansen
- open, that is, people curious to know other people; you can recognize this by noticing where their feet are not tightly closed in on a circle, and someone outside can join the process and get into the conversation. Examples: Free Communication, Lowe PR (partially), Hippos
Of course, the above doesn’t matter so much for those who came to dance & drink like at a regular party. But it’s interesting to notice the general atmosphere of the event.
Each place has its strong points and downsides. Unfortunately, judging these can often lead to unnecessary comparations, and I don’t have the proper event management experience. But, from a participant’s perspective, I will note what got my attention, both positive and negative. All in all, though, I have to warn you I have a soft spot for
Institute, The Cafe
A place of networking for marcom people. It has an impressive library more than generous, especially with design, branding, and copywriting titles. The participants could have bought interesting and valuable books at great prices. Friendly atmosphere, great space, and wonderful people. Downside: closed groups.
It is a place to stop for people from agencies, people who want to enter agencies, and even students who wish to network and study. But, unfortunately, The Night of the Agencies didn’t offer such an opportunity here. Too bad. Maybe next year.
(keep reading ↓)
The Branding Issue
Lowe PR merged with Golin Harris [ro, php]. In this context, it is interesting that in the list from “Noaptea agentiilor” appeared “Lowe PR” and not “Golin Harris” If I had been in charge of this aspect, maybe I would have opted for 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 was way cool. Now, “Golin Harris” is an entity I don’t know a great deal about, 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 overwhelmingly cool to me. 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, interaction, for strategy. It seemed like a strategic company for the future – from the organizational structure.
On the ground floor, there was a great, sumptuous atmosphere. Two bartenders prepared all kinds of drinks and did all sorts of tricks. As everybody knows, a lot of any type of party depends on the bar. The guys were moving smoothly and fast. Still, maybe for the number of people present, three would have been better. The cocktails were great. And free, of course.
The attitude was kinda closed, at least on the terrace. The band was great. There was space to dance, but I hadn’t 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, and 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]. 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 to me 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 [name changed to MullenLowe Profero] (digital), GolinHarris (PR), Brand Connection (media), Lowe Medic One (medical communication) and Mobile Works (mobile marketing).
You can learn a lot about a company’s organizational culture by studying how employees’ offices 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.
Many people were working even at that hour, and they were all so friendly and open; it seemed like a contrast to what was happening on 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.
I noticed the Golin Harris big frame on one of the superior floors. 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 on the bottom row of pictures in a narrow view with other people. “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. But, of course, it seems like a dream to work there. It’s just the kind of puzzling curiosity that makes me put challenging questions.
In the end, I participated in a sort of quiz; based on the things I noticed from the tour, I logged into the FB account [ro, FB] and posted about the “Night of Passions” – a well-chosen title. Excellent idea, though a bit slow because of the keyboard control. Unfortunately, my presence wasn’t as attractive 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, and 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 helpful insight.
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 created a relaxed atmosphere. I was welcomed even from the door. I had the pleasure of talking to Irina Pătru (FB, Twitter) and discovering a very calm, open, practical, and welcoming person who 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 simultaneously. A great listener. Another significant 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 laughs.
My exit from the Free Communication compound was not as silent as that from
Lowe PR Golin Harris, as the gate was closed, and there was no sign of the gatekeeper, so I decided to jump it. Unfortunately, my “creative jump” wasn’t so appreciated by a dog around there, so that night also required my” negotiation” skills.
Leo Burnett&Target [en, flash] chose to position each of its agencies not as part of the big umbrella but as different 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 (Cristian China-Birta) via my sources. I’m kidding. Everybody knows that Leo is like a magnet for most 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 to be photographed on high-class paper, traditionally mastered. Also, there was quite an attractive 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 didn’t seem very interested in networking, but I came in contact with interesting people and had some laughs.
HIPPOS really pumped in the fun factor. This was a mustache 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 very friendly, straightforward, available, and on the same-level attitude, although he has 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 OK. 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 participating and organizing; this may be an opportunity to learn!
PS: If you’re interested in learning more about reading nonverbal communication (in Romanian), you may find this useful: Cum să scădem zgomotul din comunicarea cu cei din jur
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