Mihai Gongu, GMP Advertising: An award-winning creative in 2015 is literally an inventor

Creativity, Festivals & Awards, People

Mihai Gongu leads the creative department of the Romanian agency GMP Advertising (partner Jung von Matt on Romanian market). In 2015, Mihai, a respected Romanian top creative, is part of the jury at The Cup and also, for the second time, juror at New York Festivals (Film competition).

Mihai Gongu

In an interview for AdHugger, he gave us some insight about his experience as a juror, about the evaluation of works based on “Triple Stomach Disease” and what does a campaign need to receive recognition in international festivals. He also shared with us some of his thoughts on advertising in general and Romanian advertising, creativity, trends and the Cannes experience.

AdHugger: What does the juror status at NYF mean for you? What about the juror status at The Cup? What are your expectations from the two festivals?

Mihai Gongu: I am fortunate enough to be at my second NYF judging stint. It is probably the best prequel to Cannes for global work and creative trends. The Cup is something entirely new for me. It is a very exciting idea to take the work of four specifically regional festivals: ADCE, AdFest, FIAP and Golden Drum and put it in one big melting pot to whisk out the cream of the crop. Moreover, being in a jury with a proper Mad Man like Mr. Conrad will be an experience in itself. We all still have a lot to learn from that fantastic copywriting and storytelling of the 80s. I hope we’ll have plenty of quarreling and we won’t agree on what is the best work and why until it will get ridiculously late as we did in all other juries I have been on or presided.

AdH: Over the time, you worked on campaigns that achieved national and international accolades. From this perspective, what does a creative work need to receive recognition in festivals?

M.G.: Years ago, a work was appreciated for its lateral, bold communication solution to a problem. Then it was required to entertain more than the TV show it interrupted. Now, more than ever, a creative work needs to be an invention of some sort.

An award-winning creative in 2015 is literally an inventor. I do believe this return to engineering is the best homage we can pay to the idea of creativity. And probably more useful, too. Of course, cartoon characters singing about death or celebrities doing splits on trucks still get the biggest number of gongs, but that’s just inertia. A Lion will someday be given to a campaign that physically and practically cures cancer. I love to believe that.

AdH: What will be the criteria you will use to judge the entries at the two festivals where you are now a juror?

M.G.: You’ll hear jurors talk about flawless craft, rare insight or work that blurs category boundaries. Forget all that jazz. Things are simpler. It’s called the Triple Stomach Disease. If it gives you a strong stomach ache that someone else did this campaign, it’s a Bronze. If it gives you gastritis, than it’s a Silver. It if gives you perforated ulcer, then it’s a Gold. And of course, if it kills you, it’s a Grand Prix.

AdH: Agencies and festivals: are participation to festivals and achieving awards helping an agency’s creativity? Why?

M.G.: Creativity is set in motion by people and people are set in motion by gratification and ego. We are humans, not robots. We love when our peers clap when we did something nice. That’s why entering work in ad festivals helps. But simply attending ad festivals is even more helpful. And doing it together with your clients is probably as good as it gets. We try to keep that tradition here at GMP.

Mihai Gongu (2)

AdH: Your agency, GMP Advertising, had some interesting campaigns during the last period, including WDYCO, which made solid use of digital and social media channels. How do you think digital and, respectively, traditional channels will evolve in the future?

M.G.: Well, I believe they will truly have evolved when we will stop referring them as non-traditional vs. traditional and stop discussing channels altogether. The consumers don’t think in channels. Nobody wakes up in the morning and plans his attention span for the day according to channels: “I will spend two hours on Facebook and I will distinguish how I waste time there to how I waste time in front of the TV. Oh, shit, now I have Facebook on my TV. Am I on the TV media Channel or am I on Social Media? I hope I don’t offend those important media guys by mixing it all up.” Hopefully, in the future, advertisers will talk about utility, culture and public agenda, not digital and social media.

Even Romanian brands have started to do their 100 years old anniversary campaigns. People know brands really well. They have been around more than their grandparents. They know what they sell. If they want details, they will read a brochure or check the website. If they want to try your new Jojoba flavor, they will go to Mega Image and just try it.

Brands need to start talking to their audience about much more interesting things. We will continue to develop our digital and new media skills here at GMP, but we’ll try to never lose the focus on the message.

AdH: Which are the international trends you consider most important / impactful now?

M.G.: Ad people are always trying to pump up this image of the trends that radically change every year. We pretend to go through a professional midlife crisis in every January. We said TV will be dead, but a classic, rather conventional TVC (“Epic Split”) singlehandedly took a small Swedish Agency to number one spot in all creative rankings. We said Facebook will be dead and it is growing like sponge cake everywhere and buying everything in sight. We said mobile will replace everything else, but Smart TVs are going through the roof while people binge on House of Cards series in marathon sofa-time sessions.

So if I am to bet on something is that people will not grow tired of a great engaging stories in 2015. The same trend that was hot when the ancestor of hipsters were painting the caves of Altamira.

AdH: Speaking of Romania, how do you think the local market will evolve in 2015? Which will be the factors that will influence it the most?

M.G.: We will see more money spent on cost-effective volume video content rather than 40” big films. This is also an opportunity here for those who know how to zag on the world zigs.

Clients will spend more money on research because not losing has become more important than winning.

We will see more all-rounded creative professionals forced by time pressure and lack of planning and resources to be also directors, strategists, sellers, coders and actors and not just writers and art directors.

And maybe we will witness more people leaving both the big marketers and big agencies to start up on their own.

Mihai Gongu - Creative Director GMP Advertising

AdH: You were the first Young Lion ever from Romania. Later on, you scooped many other prizes, including a Grand Prix at Eurobest. How did the Cannes experience influenced your career? Also, you are one of the Alternative School’s tutors. What were your reasons to share the knowledge you accumulated during your career with the ones at the start of theirs?

M.G.: I have told it many times over. Going to Cannes is life-changing. You need to be there and see this huge animal breathe ideas and enthusiasm through the words of the big guys in the Auditoriums and the tens of thousands of delegates who meet at the Gutter Bar. It’s networking like no other place on Earth and energy for your love of advertising like no university ever will.

I believe we are lucky to have a true fighter on our side in Teodora, who is constantly pushing for Romanian communication students to measure their talent and skills to the world’s best. Over the past few years, Romania was there on the podium also at the Young Lions competition.

Cannes gave me the hunger to come with work that truly makes a difference for the people. The work on Pepsi Vintage Bottle in BBDO together with my teams and the work on Gandul and Telekom in GMP falls within this category, I think.

I am proud to be a tutor at the Alternative School. I like the fresh unbiased look that students have on anything. They think for themselves, they have initiative; some of them work as freelancers. It can be a good source for a new breed of doers in Romanian advertising.

AdH: When you look at the young people that dream to work in advertising, what is your advice?

M.G.: I believe a lot in that quote attributed to Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” All the great ad people I have met had a very simple secret: they put a lot of work into it. Day in and day out.

You will get into advertising easily if you watch more of it, know more of it and do more of it. Create your own briefs on the brands that you love and work hard to solve those briefs. Don’t just send resumes. Send portfolios of your ideas. Sketches, pieces of writing, video and sound edits. Flex your muscles daily. The right people will notice.

AdH: Outside work, who is Mihai Gongu and what does he like?

M.G.: I would love to talk about myself and my hobbies but I’m afraid that it will be the most boring thing ever published on AdHugger and cause a dramatic decrease in readership.