With 13 years of experience in the marcomm industry, both on the agencies’ side (H2O Sport Events, Graffiti BBDO, Atelier Sapte) and on the client side, at Nestle, Anton Gherca is Chief Innovation Officer at g7 Romania. AdHugger talked with him, in an exclusive interview, about the agency he is representing views and approach towards innovation, but also about what it means to be an omni-channel agency in the Romanian advertising landscape of 2018 and how is the local industry at this moment in time.
AdH: What role is innovation playing in g7 Romania?
Anton Gherca: The mobile internet has brought a huge shift in the human behaviour and it is disrupting every industry in the world, from transportation to education, and, needles to say, marketing and advertising also. Already for some years now you have been hearing from every serious agency how they need to align themselves to the new digital reality. But it’s much easier said than done. Through the Innovation team at g7, we are tackling the bumpy road of digital transformation and we are building the roadmap towards a 100% omni-channel brand engagement model.
AdH: You have an innovation department. How does it work?
A.G.: Indeed, we have set up an innovation team since 2016. At that time we knew we needed to change our business model and our mix of services, but we didn’t knew exactly in what direction should we move. And this was the first objective of the team: to set up a new vision for the agency. For this we’ve researched in depth the global trends in advertising and we’ve build in-house literacy regarding most of the today’s hot technologies.
AdH: How has the department helped the g7’s activity in 2017?
A.G.: I believe the most important thing is that we have started an agency wide-discussion about change and the future and we have moved out of our comfort zone. Disrupting yourself, when you have a good performing business, is the hardest thing to do.
AdH: What are your main goals for 2018?
A.G.: I like to say that an innovative company doesn’t need an innovation department. Innovation has to live within every department and it has to be embedded in the DNA of the organization. This being said, the main goal for 2018 is to further strengthen the culture within our agency and to make innovation part of each of our functions, from the strategic marketing solutions team to the logistics team.
In terms of actual projects, advancing our data gathering and processing capabilities is a key priority. We are working on this with a couple of international partners for tech solutions and knowledge transfer.
AdH: The agency is also enforcing a lot of marketing activities. How are innovation and marketing working together at g7?
A.G. We have two new additional functions in our agency: the strategic marketing team and the behavioral planning team. We are working together on two fronts. One is building the data interpretation tools needed for our day to day operations and the other is in product development projects for our clients.
AdH: How are clients perceiving this change and how have the services they are requesting from you changed according to this situation?
A.G.: Our clients are open to innovation and, as most marketers, are always demanding new approaches from their agencies. Of course, from declaring that you want innovation and creativity to actually executing it there is a long way, paved with concerns, limited budgets and bureaucracy.
One very encouraging thing is that, together with some of our clients we have started organizing regular innovation workshops, where we mix teams and explore custom solutions for each brand.
AdH: What are 2017’s projects you are most proud of?
A.G.: We are glad that we have redefined our value proposition and we have come to a business positioning that is appropriate for the future and that generated enthusiasm within our team. This is the building block for all the innovative services and initiatives that we are currently working on.
One of the more „down to earth” projects that I would like to mention is the addition to our portfolio of a service that has nothing to do with technology, but is very innovative for our market: a promotional insurance that opens the way to creative promotional mechanism unseen before.
AdH: What type of clients are you targeting?
A.G.: Our client rooster is made mostly of large international FMCG companies, as these are the brands most active in our traditional services: shopper marketing and brand activation. In 2017 we started challenging ourselves and entered some „virgin” industries, like education, law or real estate. Once you understand the value of direct engagement of a customer, any business sector offers new opportunities.
With our new omni-channel approach we are targeting a different type of client, focusing on local entrepreneurs that have reached the scale where they need professional marketing services and understand the vision of an integrated customer experience across all direct touchpoints.
AdH: What are the services you wish your clients will ask more of?
A.G.: Two things that are the flagships of what we do as an agency today: customer experience design and omni-channel brand engagement. The thing is that it’s not the service per se which is important, but the mentality we want clients to approach projects: a human centric perspective, where we build upon real tension points in people’s real lives and in a data driven manner, where we rely on data to guide us in what should we do and weather we have done it well or not.
AdH: Why should clients look for an omni-channel agency?
A.G.: Because the society nowadays lives in an omni-channel world. People are not online and afterwards offline, in store and afterwards on social media. They are always connected and so should be our marketing. Even more, the walls have collapsed and customers expect the same brand experience across channels and they will sanction you harshly if you say something in one place and deliver another thing in the next place.
AdH: How would you characterize the 2018 Romanian advertising market and why?
A.G.: As always, there is a tough battle between agencies for every client and this unfortunately destroys a huge amount of value for the agencies, demotivates people and does nothing good for no one, not even for the clients who engage in pitches on a project by project basis. I think this happens because there is a good level of mistrust in the market. But I also believe that this is very promising. All agencies that will make a clear statement about who they are and what they do best will gain from this environment. Nobody can be good at everything, so we, the ad people, need to say not only what we are, but also what we are not. And that’s the tricky part.