Launched in November 2006, as an entrepreneurial initiative of Gabriela Lungu, renowned and very esteemed manager with a huge experience in PR, alongside Ioana and Stefan Iordache, the leaders of the Leo Burnett Group, The Practice soon became one of the most prestigious Romanian PR agencies, conquering award after award, both nationally and internationally. In fact, the 10 years’ anniversary was beautifully highlighted by the title of Agency of the Year at PR Award, making MSLGroup The Practice the first Romanian agency to take that title for 4 years.
The agency started its beautiful road with a team of 4 people and only one client in its portfolio. In 5 years’ time The Practice was already formed of 16 consultants, divided in three departments, working for numerous prestigious clients.
When we thought of the name we use the preposition THE that indicates the superlative, in order to present the standards we are setting our agency to. I am looking back today I see that I’ve succeed in doing that most of the times; we’ve done justice to the brand we’ve created,” said Gabriela Lungu some years ago.
In 2007, the agency surpassed its owners’ biggest expectations, making profit after only 4 months of activity, handling the business for 17 brands. Also in the first year came the first awards. In January 2008 the agency became partner in Romania for the network Publicis Consultants Worldwide that later on became, following a merge, MSLGROUP – the communication and PR network of the big international group Publicis. At the same time, 2008 becomes the year with the biggest growth for the agency – 66% and the agency receives its first international awards.
The first international competition that The Practice took part on was SABRE Awards where, as Gabriela Lungu recalls and told startups.ro, they entered the competition “a little shy, having the complex of the small Romanian agency that tries to compare itself to the big international PR giants”. Not little was every one’s surprise when the team came home with 3 awards, among which the biggest prize of the competition: Platinum for The Best PR Program of the Year in Europe, Africa and Middle East.
It was a magic moment for our team – both me and my colleague Oana Bulexa shed some tears of happiness on stage! It was for the first time that a Romanian agency was winning a Grand Prix in an European competition,” added in the same article Gabriela Lungu.
In 2009, The Practice entered the to 10 PR agencies, as a turnover point of view, and, despite the economic crisis, wins the title of “PR Agency of the Year” at the national PR competition and is nominated at the category “Best Young Agency in Europe” at the European Excellence Awards.
2010 brings a big change for Oana Bulexa that becomes from Client Service Director, the new agency’s Partner, as a recognition of her talent and strong ethic and work in developing The Practice. Moreover, that same year, The Practice wins another important award for the agency and for Romania, being the first agency to win a PR Lion for Romania at Cannes Lions, the most important communication festival in the world.
The end of the year also marks the launch of two new departments: the events and the online PR. With this occasion, Monica Jitariuc is appointed Online Practice Director. Before joining the agency, Monica coordinated the PR activities at Friends Advertising, did internal communication (Dacia, Renault, Nissan), marketing and commercial PR (Marketing Director at Automotive Trading Services, dealer Citroën), ATL (Ogilvy & Mather), institutional PR (The Ministry of National Defence).
I am happy I’ve joined The Practice, an agency with prestige, and that I have been offered the role of coordinating the digital component of the agency’s services. It’s a good moment for the launch of this new department, because in the Romanian online are happening better and better things and the people are becoming more and more professional. Let there be resources and courage from the clients, because good ideas we have a lot,” declared back then Monica Jitariuc.
In 2011, the agency continues to grow in terms of number of clients and team members, but also in terms of awards – the Practice brings home the first Global SABRE for Romania.
Back then, Gabriela Lungu used to say:
The awards aren’t and will never be for The Practice a goal in itself, but only a normal component of the way we understand to do our job, with responsibility for the clients that put their businesses in our hands with the faith that we will help them for real. We will never be happy or willing to win awards with campaigns that are not very effective for the clients and we will always give the excitement of going up on stage for the long term satisfaction of knowing that we did our job well,” said Gabriela Lungu.
After 5 years of activity, the agency was already counting over 30 awards and 60 nominations at different festivals and had in porfolio clients such as: Avon, Carpatcement, Colour, Cord Blood Center, Eurocopter, GlaxoSmithKline, Gusto Pufuleti, Hochland, IKEA, ING Bank, Medas, Peroni, RMGC, Smartree, Starbucks, Varta, Trilulilu, etc.
AdHugger ends this first part of the article with an exclusive interview offered to us by Gabriela Lungu:
Which were the most important moments of The Practice?
There were many milestones in the history of the agency. They paint a wonderful business story, hard to repeat or replicate. Some were a “first” just for us; but some are a “first” for the entire PR industry in Romania, and remarkable achievements for any agency in the world, so I’ll always be very proud of them. I’ll go through the ones directly linked to my leadership:
The time I met with Ioana and Stefan Iordache and agreed to build a new firm together. I suggested we called it The Practice; they liked it, so that was that.
The day we opened for business, on the 15th of November 2006, just 4 people, in a tiny office (with glass walls, so we used to call it ‘the aquarium’), and with 1 client. The day of the official launch party, in February 2007, just 3 months after we had started working; we were already a team of 7, and we had retainer contracts for 11 brands.
The day we won our first 3 awards – in October 2007, at the Romanian PR Award.
The day we officially became partners of Publicis Consultants (now MSLGROUP), and Pascal Beucler, who is now a good friend and SVP and Chief Strategy Officer of MSLGROUP, came to Bucharest to launch this partnership and meet the team. It was January 23rd, 2008.
The day we won our first international awards – in May 2008, at the European SABRE Awards Gala in Venice. One of the 4 awards we took home that night was actually the grand prix: the Platinum Award for the Best PR Program of the Year. What a night!
The day we became Agency of the Year for the first time, in 2009, at the Romanian PR Award. The same year we were also nominated at the European Excellence Awards as European Newcomer Agency of the Year.
The day Oana Bulexa became a Partner on the 16th of July 2010.
The day we launched the first Digital & Social Media practice of a PR agency in Romania in November 2010.
The day we won the first PR Lion for Romania, at Cannes Lions in 2010. The day we won the first Global SABRE Award for Romania, in 2011.
The day Monica Jitariuc became a Partner in the agency as well – March 7th, 2012.
The day we found out we were number 13th in the world in PR creativity, according to the Holmes Report Creative Index 2012, Top Overall Agencies (this ranking was done irrespective of size or specialism; the other agencies in the top 15 were big global networks; my team was just 13 people, all ladies at the time, with an age average of 26 y.o. Hence my favourite hashtag: #supergirls).
The day I learned that Publicis Groupe would be buying THE PRACTICE and the agency will become a MSLGROUP office; a moment Stefan and I both knew it was coming. I knew right then that it was time for me to move on, take my career to a new level, move to an international hub, and leave the agency in the hands of Monica and Oana, the two people I was grooming for this role for some time. We were Agency of the Year in Romania for the second time when I left, we were winning for the first time Eastern European Agency of the Year at the EMEA SABRE Awards, and we were nominated as Emerging Markets Agency of the Year at the Global SABRE Awards. The year was 2013.
Which were the best decisions you took regarding the company? What about the worst one? Going back, is there anything you would do differently?
Perhaps the very best decision was to have the courage to launch a firm in the first place. Then to do it in partnership with Stefan and Ioana – the best investors & mentors I could have ever wanted. To focus it on award winning creativity, on ‘results through creativity’ right from the start, in a time when creativity was not such a big thing in Public Relations. To run the agency as a creative agency, not a regular PR firm. To part ways with toxic clients and people. No. Matter. What. To always care about the agency’s culture – and spend significant effort and budgets to keep the right kind of inspiring environment. To stick to my obsession of not working on one-off projects, but just on long term, retainer based contracts (this was especially tough during the global crisis, when we needed any business we could get; we made some exceptions, but very few). To launch a digital & social media practice in 2010 – the first one of a Romanian PR agency. To make the best of our people Partners, and share with them the profits, not just the glory. To sell the firm at the right time, and to a good global network. To leave the agency in the hands of Oana and Monica – they’re doing a brilliant job and I couldn’t be prouder.
The worst one? I had too high expectations from some people and pushed them too hard sometimes. And while for some colleagues this style was right, bringing out the best in them, for some it was no doubt the worst. I sometimes wish I could have known back then what I know now, after so many years of experience, and found other ways to get to the results we needed…
Do you ever regret moving on from the company?
No regret whatsoever. First of all because the agency is doing great, so I have no reasons. But also because it was time for me to move on. I had already run a Romanian office of an international network (Ogilvy PR Worldwide, from 2002 to 2006). Then I experienced being an entrepreneur in Romania: I started an agency, made it successful and sold it. I didn’t want to start repeating things. I’m still too young not to want new challenges.
I do have nostalgia though. Every time I hear the name The Practice. I will always feel like that. The Practice will always mean a lot to me.
How do you think that the clients and people from the industry perspective on the agency changed during the years? (if it’s the case)
On the most important things, no, I don’t think the perception has changed that much. Creativity is still at the core of the agency. And THE PRACTICE is still a reputable, respected agency on any criteria.
How is seeing from the outside the agency you created and built?
It’s interesting actually. I can’t pretend I will ever be completely objective about The Practice (that is why I still recuse myself from judging their work when I see it in award shows for example), but I can definitely be a little less subjective. So I can see things with a bit more clarity, taking into account different factors… Almost like an external consultant who is a fan of the brand. So it’s always nice when the current management team asks for my view on things.
What pieces of advice did you give Oana and Monica prior to you leaving and what would you tell them now?
Back then I asked them to find their own way, their own voice, to keep evolving, but never to lose sight of the core values of the company – those shouldn’t change. I also advised them to get worried when there’s too much harmony – where there’s no tension, no conflict (the right kind, of course), there’s also no innovation and no progress.
Now all I say to them is… Keep Rockin’!