In April 2012, as shown in an article on AdHugger, Monica Jitariuc became Partner within The Practice, with 5% of shares, at a moment when the agency’s social media business generated over 20% of its revenues.
And when it comes to awards, the situation couldn’t stay any better that year as well. 2012 represented for the agency 3 Golds at EMEA Sabre Award, the most prestigious competition dedicated to the PR industry, and the Global Sabre in Issues Management with the campaign “Transparency is Gold” for Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, this being the second year in a row when the agency received honors at these awards. At that time, The Practice remained the only Romanian agency awarded at Global Sabre.
In 2012, The Practice succeeded a huge performance, ranking 13th in the general top of the most creative PR agencies, according to the 1st Creative Index of global PR industry. The top includes just 1 more independent agency, Swedish Prime PR, all others being big networks.
Creative Index 2012 was compiled by The Holmes Report and takes in consideration the results to the most important international competitions (Cannes PR Lion, SABRE Awards, European Excellence Awards and many others). The model isn’t new in the communication industry, with advertising having for years such a ranking, The Gunn Report.
We are very happy. This result is extremely valuable for any agency in the world and even more important for us, an agency from Romanian with only 14 consultants! It is a reason for the entire local industry to be proud! It’s said 13 isn’t luck. Nor 13th place in the world in PR creativity isn’t luck. It is the result of trust from clients with courage and vision that chose us and approved our innovative concepts that generated results! It is a lot of work, ambition and passion from everyone in The Practice! A big Bravo! to all those who contributed to this remarkable achievement,” said at that time Gabriela Lungu.
It was also time for some local success, the agency becoming once again Agency of the Year at PR Award, with 14 awards (4 gold, 5 Silver and 5 Excellence Diplomas in 12 competition categories) after entering the competition with 8 campaign and 18 works on shortlists in 13 competition categories.
At the end of January 2013, Gabriela Lungu, Managing Partner & Creative, decided to leave the agency, in order to head towards an international career. She was followed at the head of the agency by 2 Managing Directors, Oana Bulexa, until then Head of PR, and Monica Jitariuc, Head of Social Media. Stefan Iordache, co-founding partner The Practice and COO Leo Burnett Group Romania, bought the shares Gabriela Lungu had within the agency and supported the new management team.
I’m really proud of the agency I created & managed. The 6 years with The Practice has been a tremendously rewarding journey and has brought me a lot of joy! Many thanks to all those who have been with me along the way and supported me all these years. It’s not going to be easy for me to be apart from my tiny but mighty company and also from the people who are so dear to me, but I’m doing it with the strong belief that what I leave behind is a solid and beautiful structure”, said back then Gabriela Lungu.
We are extremely pleased that we have been partners all these years – it was a very good and happy cooperation, which offered us great satisfactions. We support her (Gabriela’s) plans for the future and we want to thank her for the great results The Practice had so far”, added also at that time Stefan Iordache.
The management hand over was following by a succession plan, which included the identification and recruitment of high leadership potential people, training and promoting them step by step to gain the necessary experience, including even an exercise during the summer of 2012. The result was a natural and easy transition and a competent management team, responsible and enthusiastic, ready to lead The Practice.
Oana Bulexa had at that time 11-year experience in communication, working together with Gabriela Lungu for the past 8 years, and was among the first employees of The Practice. Within the agency, Oana has grown professionally and has taken positions of increasing managerial responsibilities, up to the current position of Head of PR Department. She has been coordinating some of the most awarded campaigns of the agency. For over two years, Oana has been leading the largest department of The Practice, successfully focusing both on the consultants’ professional development, as well as on the PR division’s growth by strengthening the relationships with existing customers and winning new business.
The Practice means excellence in communication. We’re always looking for the best, we are passionate about our job, we are curious and creative, we like effective results. This is the way our customers and partners know us and we will continue to be so in the future. We will focus on consolidating everything we’ve built so far with Gabriela and the entire team, and to provide our customers the same dedication, the same professionalism they are familiar with. We want to thank Gabriela for letting us learn from her and to grow rich with confidence and passion for communication,” said at that time Oana Bulexa.
On her turn, Monica Jitariuc, said that she felt honored that Gabriela trusted Oana and her with the management of the company.
We will continue to be an innovative agency that believes in results through creativity. We continue to be in line with the international concepts and trends, to assume leadership in strategic thinking. We will continue to honor the name: The Practice,” added Jitariuc.
The year continued very beautiful for the agency , that was designated Eastern Europe Consultancy of the Year by The Holmes Report, being the 1st Romanian agency that received this title, and became also Eastern Europe Consultancy of the Year at the SABRE Awards where it also won a Gold in Automotive for Renault.
“The agency made campaigns that were remarked beyond Romania’s borders (…), campaigns that underlined the quality of the creative work on the Romanian market and the talent of companies like The Practice to deliver big, daring and integrated ideas,” declared back then Paul Holmes, CEO Holmes Report Group.
2014 will be most known in the agency’s history for the fact that, after years of collaboration, The Practice joined MSLGroup, Publicis Groupe’s strategic communications and engagement company. As part of this, the agency changed its name, becoming MSLGroup The Practice.
MSLGroup is the largest PR network in EMEA, and one of the top four by size globally. Advisors in all aspects of communication strategy – from consumer PR to financial communications, from public affairs to reputation management and from crisis communications to experiential marketing and events – MSLGroup has a team of over 3,500 people across over 100 offices worldwide. Alongside its strong presence in Europe, it is today also the largest PR network in fast-growing China and India.
The integration of The Practice within MSL’s global operations represented the next step in the collaboration between the two entities, as Romanian agency was, since January 2008, an affiliate of MSLGroup.
As a local agency, in its 8th year, The Practice has already demonstrated highly creative and strategic thinking, best-in-class consultancy and impressive results. We are very proud of all that we achieved so far. Henceforth, our growth will continue within one of the strongest communication groups in the world. This insures us access to additional valuable resources and instruments, both for our team and our clients, and a new level of expertise and competences,” said Oana Bulexa, Co-Managing Director MSLGroup The Practice.
In 2015, it was the turn of Oana Bulexa to represent the agency in the international jury at EMEA Sabre Awards 2015. It was the second time when the agency had that honor, after 2009, when Gabriela Lungu – founder of The Practice – was juror and the first professional to represent Romania in this jury.
At the time when the agency is celebrating 10 year of activity, MSLGroup The Practice is currently working for 27 companies and 38 brands in total, such as: Amazon, AVON, Grolsch, GSK, IKEA, Hochland, Kruk, McDonald’s, PayPoint, Peroni, Remington, Samsung, Timisoreana, Varta. Many of them are with the agency for many years, the longest collaboration dates from 8 years ago. The team is composed of 20 consultants and the business is growing year by year: EUR 1.6 mil (turnover 2013); EUR 1.7 mil (turnover 2014); EUR 2.3 mil (turnover 2015).
For me, MSLGROUP The Practice is the perfect example that when you invest in passion and creativity and you fully trust great people, big things will follow. The Practice started as a dream and, with all the enthusiasm, determination and professionalism Gabriela and her team put into this story, the company has become a star quite quickly. Her ambition and her strong focus on creativity in times when little talk was done around this topic in PR, were big differentiators and have turned Gabriela into a benchmark in the industry, a pioneer and a true visionary. I thank her for all that,” declared in exclusivity for AdHugger, Stefan Iordache, CEO Leo Burnett Group.
For him, now, MSLGROUP The Practice has become a solid business and a success story in the communication industry both locally and internationally.
The agency’s leaders, Oana and Monica are best partners for me and I am happy for all their success and very proud for all their (so many) achievements. I am very thankful that their accomplishments were done both in terms of business by sustainable growth and in terms of PR product by great results in competitions and very important awards. I always say – work hard, have fun and all the rest will follow. We just celebrated last night the Agency of the Year title for a second year in a row and the fourth time in 10 years – well, this is something! And yes, working hard and having fun always go together. I see a bright future for MSLGROUP The Practice, as I am confident in the agency leaders and I am confident in their team – together we can be nothing but winners,” added Iordache.
We finish this beautiful re-cap of 10 years with an exclusive interview offered AdHugger by Oana Bulexa and Monica Jitariuc Co- Managing Directors MSLGroup The Practice.
What is your first memory about The Practice?
Oana: The first memory that comes to my mind is discussing with Gabriela around New Year’s Eve in 2006, about me joining THE PRACTICE. I had been in her team previously and I knew I wanted the opportunity to work with her and learn from her again. I was truly excited, as the company had only been on the market for about a month and it was already considered a new star. I will never forget Gabriela’s first words, saying to me “I have an award-worthy campaign for you when you come”. She was right. Man’s Day campaign was the first campaign I was assigned and handled in THE PRACTICE and it made history in competitions.
Monica: I remember quite clearly when Gabriela called me in 2010 to ask me to join THE PRACTICE. I was home on mother leave and we had a long lively conversation. Then she asked me to found and run the first social media department of a PR agency in Romania. Wow! I was surprised, excited and a little bit scared. It was quite a challenge to come back to work in such a great agency with such a great mission and so much trust from Gabriela to back me up.
You entered the company at different times. How do you consider that it helped your duo through the year after starting to manage the company?
Monica: In entering THE PRACTICE I had a clear mission – building the first social media department of a PR agency in Romania. Previously I have had 10 years of communication experience – both for clients (7 years out of the 10) but also for agencies. So, entering the company during interesting times (2010) when digital and social media were big bets for companies – well, that was very exciting.
When we became managing directors of the agency I think the speed and energy from the digital and social media approach, the complexity of client communication strategies I managed and a quite good intuition helped me to put valuable assets on the table. My optimism and positive energy included!
Oana: We had complementary assets and backgrounds, and this helped us find our way to take the agency forward, while not alienating from its initial purpose: to be the most creative PR agency in Romania. I was one of the first employees of THE PRACTICE, I lived and breathed all the good moments and the challenging moments, I had the privilege to watch and learn from Gabriela for years. I am impregnated with the same DNA, I grew professionally understanding the importance of strategy and creativity in PR, the importance of being a true consultant to your clients, the importance to deliver them the best results. So when Monica and I became the new management team, I felt personally responsible that while we aimed to progress and innovation, we also preserve this philosophy, so I was always very preoccupied that we don’t disappoint and that we don’t lose our way.
You started this adventure (becoming Managing Directors) with a lot of enthusiasm. Has it changed through the years?
Oana: Honestly, I think at the beginning courage prevailed enthusiasm. It was not easy to take over the responsibility for a famous entrepreneurial business, from such a strong and highly appreciated leader as Gabriela. And it was also not easy to know how high the expectations were, both in terms of business growth and reputation.
Enthusiasm… I believe I gained more and more of it as time passed and we could see the agency growing and the positive results coming. So I am now much more enthusiastic and more trustful than four years ago, as now I not only see what we succeeded in the meantime, but also have a clearer vision of what we want to achieve in the future.
Monica: What an adventure it has been! I am on the list of usual suspects when it comes to unbound enthusiasm in all aspects of life. But, in this particular case, the enthusiasm has become bigger as we started leaving a mark of our own on the agency! There were tough times at the beginning and struggles in finding a way to continue having the best PR product and bringing and keeping with us the best people. Enthusiasm was important but determination, lots of work and the never-give-upper spirit took the command and did the job.
What were your main goals back then and how did they change in time?
Oana: When we took over the agency management, we started quite prudently, as the agency was already in a great spot. For the first year, our goal was to maintain the clients portfolio and to secure the business. The management transition went smoothly and we lost no client.
In the next year, we developed our first business strategy. It was the first time we put our ambition to envisage what the agency would look like in the next few years, under our leadership. Back then we were so sure we nailed it! But we still needed to accumulate experience and know-how.
This year and next year are the truly transformational years. After gaining valuable knowledge, after making mistakes and learning from each and every one, after discovering our inner bravery, after winning the Agency of the Year title two years in a row, MSLGROUP The Practice embarks in a new journey. We now have a clear and exciting road ahead of us and we are convinced it will prove itself successful, especially since we have the full support from our team and our partners. And of course the network’s support is also very valuable in developing our plans.
What were the main challenges?
Oana: The first challenge was to make a great team out of putting together two of the most different people you’ve ever seen. Previously each of us had run a different department and team, and although we worked together on almost every project, we still had different personalities, sometimes different views. Once we shared the company leadership, we had to start focusing on the things we had in common, on how we can build together. And it wasn’t easy.
In a way, this is a story about oil and water. And while oil and water don’t mix, just like the two of us are different, when put together, oil and water will help each other make a glass fuller. And this is what we wanted to achieve in this agency, to make the glass fuller.
Then there were other challenges on the way. Like when we focused so much on the product and no so much on the team. People are the most important: surrounding yourself with the right people, sharing the same values and ambition and energy is essential; and encouraging, inspiring, coaching, listening to your people is nothing less if you want to succeed. We learnt a valuable lesson the hard way.
How hard was it to step into Gabi Lungu’s footsteps?
Oana: It’s a question we get quite often, but the truth is neither Gabriela, nor we expected to step into her footsteps. Every leader has a purpose and a way. Monica and I focused on finding our own, individually and as a team, while maintaining the business to the high standard clients were used to. What we learnt was that finding our own way was one of the biggest challenges we ever faced.
What do you consider to be the best pieces of advice she offered you?
Monica: Gabriela insisted on us finding a way of our own. She always says that constructive conflict is one of the keys of success and encouraged us to agree to disagree always. More, she always told us to reach for the stars, never give up quality because the way down is dangerous as you get quickly used to it. She used often the Leo Burnett motto: “When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get them, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”
She was totally right.
How is your true experience, behind the glamour that most people would perceive that it comes with being one of the most famous PR persons in Romania, running one of the most successful PR agencies?
Oana: Difficult, challenging, rewarding.
Difficult, because it is not half as easy as they say. It was never a glamourous and small-talk-over-a-cappuccino industry and it will never be. We are constantly balancing between inventing new recipes and preserving old principles. Clients have high expectations from MSLGROUP The Practice, we are being evaluated much more severely. So we have a tremendous responsibility.
Challenging, because it is a competitive industry, with a few tough opponents, and this keeps us alive, awake and ambitious. And also because every day there are more and more interesting briefs, clients come with the most stimulating challenges and we absolutely love to solve problems creatively.
Rewarding, because all efforts pay off when you receive recognition. When results prove your campaigns worked successfully. When clients are more than satisfied and show you how much they appreciate working with you. When communication professionals award your work in competitions locally and internationally. When your family network is proud of your achievements.
How do you consider that the clients’ and industry people opinions have changed during the years about the company?
Monica: I think direct contact and day to day real work are decisive in forming an clear opinion about us. This is why I trust a lot people we worked with, people who know us for real and have been exposed to our work, our way and our people. All these constantly rank us on the top of the most creative agencies on the market, give us innovation awards and consider us a benchmark for the industry.
This never changed. Just got stronger and stronger in perception and visible on the market.
What does it stand for MSLGROUP The Practice today?
Monica: Results through creativity delivered to clients by the most creative, inspired and in-the-know team.
What were the company’s most important moments since you are part of it?
Monica: Since we took over the leadership of the agency, there were some very special moments that made us absolutely proud of our team and of our clients.
- The sustained success in clients’ perception – our agency being named “The Most Creative PR Agency in Romania” in 2014, 2015 and 2016 at BIZ PR Awards, based on the response of more than 200 companies, all PR & communication clients.
- Winning “PR Innovator of the Year” award at Romanian PR Awards 2014.
- September 2014, when THE PRACTICE joined the MSLGROUP family, becoming a key part of the global network’s Central and Eastern Europe operation, after 6 years of being an affiliate. This underlines the trust and appreciation the network has for the Romanian market and especially for our agency. It is not widely known the fact that most international networks are present in Romania through affiliates, not through owned agencies.
- The next year, in 2015, when together with our colleagues in Poland, we received our first network recognition, contributing to MSLGROUP being appointed Eastern European Consultancy of the Year.
- Another important moment was when we shared the next three years business strategy with the entire team. We were so happy to see people’s reactions and to feel that everyone is totally on board. It was probably one of the most rewarding moments we felt as leaders of this agency.
- This year we celebrate the agency’s 10-year anniversary, which is no ordinary occasion. We had an amazing 10-days marathon to refuel our creativity engine and again, the reactions and feedback from the team were priceless.
- Building strong client relationships with important market leaders and providing world class consultancy for them as communication leaders
- When we have succeeded actual integration with different practices and companies of our local group, bringing a one-door best-in-class communication practice to our clients. Integration and synergies were tough to get for real because people work with people, not with companies. Now, with a very strong connections with teams in all practices in Publicis Groupe Romania we are stronger and smarter than ever.
- When we got involved pro bono in creativity projects that became benchmarks for creative industries- such as NOD Makerspace, the first big makerspace in Romania
- In 2015 the agency made history by winning the PR Agency of the Year title for the third time, an absolute premiere on the Romanian market. It took us four times more awards and five times more nominations to win this title, compared to 2009, when we were first named Agency of the Year. Speaking about the increasing competitiveness of the market.
- And our latest success comes from last night, when MSLGROUP The Practice was named for the fourth time PR Agency of the Year at the Romanian PR Award Gala. We are still under the strong emotions we felt on stage together with our team and clients. It is an amazing achievement, especially since we managed to win the title two years in a row, which is also a first for the local industry. Another first is the fact that for the past two years our agency was the winner of the “Best Measurement and Evaluation” award, a very valuable distinction in our industry.
When people say MSLGROUP The Practice what do you want them to think about and associate the name with?
Monica: There are so many good things we want them to think…
Best PR consultants. Great people. Great business. Great results. Deep understanding of industries. Speed. Quality. Right price. Always one step forward. Always there when needed. Getting things done. True Partners. Strategic minds. Talents. Openness. Vision. Forward thinking.
Creativity. Inspiration. Fairness. Empathy. Honesty. Great energy. Authenticity.
What are the main wins / successes in your opinion for the company in those 10 years?
Monica: The story of this agency is a beautiful story with significantly more ups than downs. There are moments when partners, friends and colleagues ask us at the office, joking, of course: “Why don’t you just leave the awards for others?”, “You have no more space in the trophy room”, “Another award…aren’t you bored?”. We never laugh at these jokes.
This is our way of doing things around: being a leader of the industry by elevating the role of public relations in complex, strategic map of communications. Our success is the result of hard work and great team and no, we will never get bored of this type success. In Romania there is a sort of “success fatigue”. People get fed up with success quite quickly and they start not appreciating it at the right level, expecting it every time as a natural status quo. For us this is the mountain we decided to climb – recognized success. And each time we have the feeling we have reached the top, another peak is on the horizon and we must continue climbing. Higher and higher each time. To the top.
What about the failures?
Oana: I wouldn’t say failures. But we surely did mistakes along the way. One of them was to focus too much on the business performance and only secondly on our people. It was our first year in the new capacity, and we were so absorbed by the fact that we wanted to prove ourselves that we neglected nurturing the relationship with the team. Some people felt neglected, as they had high expectations from the two of us, and of course they sanctioned us – some were demotivated, other left the agency. It was probably our hardest lesson until today, and it was painful to acknowledge. It made us understand how important it is to keep your team close, to vibrate in the same beat, to get people on board, to give them a purpose, to offer them recognition, to seek their advice and support. This has become our priority ever since and it brought along with it all the main success stories of our mandate.
What is your goal for the future?
Monica: We will continue to inspire and grow great people into the best PR consultants team on the market. By motivating and inspiring this team, constantly winning shareholders support and using MSLGROUP know how we are sure we will be able to deliver the best PR product on the market and have one of the most wonderful teams.
We want to focus on the scalable business sectors as we want to double business on mid-term. We will focus more and more on strategic sectors for our business, come with new services proposals for our clients and future clients.
Actually, the biggest goal for the future is to continue to reach for the stars!
Who was the first client you won in the company?
Oana: The first new contract in our current management capacity was for Timisoreana, Ciucas and Stejar, three local beer brands in Ursus Breweries portfolio. This came after a previous two-year collaboration on Peroni Nastro Azzuro and one year collaboration on Grolsch and Redd’s.
What about the latest?
Oana: The latest long-term wins include the Corporate Comms assignment for GSK Romania plus two more clients, one in Corporate Comms and one in Corporate, Commercial and HR Comms, very recently added to our portfolio (so recent that we cannot disclose them yet).