What makes a full-service agency differentiate itself on the Romanian advertising market, how can it resist in the industry, but, especially, at what level should it take its creativity to be on the top? An honest interview, about everything what advertising is and isn’t, an honest retrospective, but also an evaluation of the present times and a projection of the future of the industry, with Andrei Dragu, Chief Operations Officer at v8, exclusively for Careers-Business.
C&B: How would you define yourself as a businessman, what values do you never waive from?
Andrei Dragu: Values define me as an individual, both in my personal, and professional life.
I choose to believe in ethical values that, for some people, might seem old-fashioned, but they are very present in my world: honesty, respect and solidarity.
These are values that today, on any media channel, make you hit skip after two seconds, do not generate engagement and even make us feel a little awkward when we hear or mention them.
Even though our attention dramatically dropped in recent decades, I believe and hope that the human core will always enter into a magnetic relationship with such values, whether we show it or not.
C&B: Which of the v8 story attracted you to be part of the team? How many years have you been in the industry and how many in v8?
Andrei Dragu: I’ve been active in the industry for 15 years, and a part of the v8’s team for more than 5 years.
I chose v8 due to the consistent, sincere and passionate speech of Ionuț Andrei, CEO of v8, in the two meetings we had, a year apart.
I’ve decided to stay at v8 because Ionuț’s speech wasn’t just a story but an actionable vision.
v8 is not just another business in the communication industry. I can say this because our main goal is not profit centric. Profit is viewed as an organic consequence of an ever-improving product generated by medium and long-term partnerships with both colleagues and customers.
We think and invest on a long run, with a lot of passion for what we do, and always stiving for better.
C&B: What has changed in your v8 status from the beginning until now?
Andrei Dragu: At the beginning, my responsibilities were more focused on strengthening partnerships with new clients. I acted as a business consultant for both the client and the internal team.
Now, using my previous experience, my focus has shifted towards designing and implementing a solid system that ensures breeding of a powerful competitive communication product.
C&B: What did the advertising market look like when you entered the industry, and what does it look like now?
Andrei Dragu: The advertising market was 15 years old when I “enrolled” and looked like a teenager full of energy, optimism and passion. Now, I’d say it looks like an educated, refined 30-year-old, who just discovered Twitch.
C&B: What are the most important achievements of 2021 for v8? But for you, as part of v8?
Andrei Dragu: All in all 2021 was a very good year for v8. In terms of success, first of all I would like to mention, my many exceptional new colleagues who have changed my perspective on the Z generation. I am honored to work alongside them every day and I thankthem for giving me confidence in a future led by this exuberant, responsible and creative generation. Hiring such people is an ongoing challenge either you take into consideration the pandemic context or the labor market that had an extremely high volatility factor for several years now.
Secondly, we are very happy because 2021 not only brought us new customers, but we were pleasantly surprised to meet brand teams with whom we had an instant “chemistry”. We believe that this is one of the basic ingredients for building strong long-term partnerships.
As a part of v8’s team, my top personal achievements are also the above-mentioned ones. I like to win, and 2021 was about winning quality colleagues and partners.
C&B: How has v8 felt the pandemic so far? What do you feel was the biggest challenge?
Andrei Dragu: The two pandemic years were very different, with challenges from diametrically opposed areas.
In 2020, the first year, everyone stopped, and the main challenge was to emphasize the need for a more humane and empathic communication from brands.
In 2021, after a clear outline of new consumer habits, the “digital chase” began. Regardless of the sector, digital had become a priority, both in terms of communication and infrastructure development or improvement.
The challenge, in this context, revolved around meeting deadlines and scaling up implementation teams. More than ever, the urgency of project’s implementation had an immediate and direct impact on revenue and, thus, digital communication was finally perceived as a vital business element.
Today, things are settling down and they are migrating from a shock, a tactical reaction, to a medium-term approach, with a much more important strategic factor.
C&B: With what plans and goals do you start in 2022, as COO of v8?
Andrei Dragu: The alternation between the remote and on-site workspace came with new challenges in an industry that relied heavily on in-person interaction. We have a solid system, which has given very good results in this chaotic context, but its continuous improvement is a recurring priority, especially considering the impact it has on organizational culture.
The automation and standardization of certain processes is very important and, implicitly, we are looking to update our digital infrastructure. We want this update to have an impact beyond internal processes towards the company’s product.
The education sector is another priority for us. We are talking about a 3 layered customized course program starting from the collective needs of the agency, moving on towards role centric needs and, finally, reaching an individual level.
But, perhaps the most difficult goal is the one regarding the approval and implementation flow catalyzation for real-time marketing initiatives. I consider it being the most difficult goal because its three-dimensional challenge matrix – internal reactive speed, approval process speed of our partner and the flexibility factor of allocating unplaned budgets for such initiatives.
The solution, in this case, is based on many components, but all of them are under the umbrella of building a solid and organic partnership between the agency’s and the client’s brand teams.
C&B: How hard is it to be creative now, when we are invaded from all directions by news, commercials, social media, various opinions?
Andrei Dragu: Creativity has never been an easy subject.
“Then”, I think, creativity was a much more singular initiative, because of the conservative mindset of the times and limited communication channels. “Now” we enjoy many more tools, sources of inspiration, and collective initiatives are encouraged and can be seamlessly achieved.
If “then” the genesis was difficult, “now” it is a differentiation matter. Today, everyone creates, creativity differentiates.
And speaking of diversity, I’m the first to applaud it. It’s good to think differently as long as we think. An initiative that starts a conversation is a matter of interest. The major changes in mentality, and not only, started with an offensive discussion about the status quo.
C&B: What does the Romanian advertising market lack?
Andrei Dragu: Nothing.
C&B: What advice would you give to a young advertiser so that he can enter and succeed in this industry?
Andrei Dragu: There are two things that come to mind now. I’m not the author nor do I know who to quote. Even if I can’t provide the author’s identity, I think they have a lot of substance and are extremely useful in life and certanly in early advertising life:
1. “Small minds discuss other people. Great minds discuss ideas”.
2. “When you speak, you learn less than when you listen and observe”.