For the past 25 years, Veronica Savanciuc has relied in entrepreneurship on a simple recipe, yet effective both during good and difficult times: the partnership.
She is one of the most renowned personalities on the Romanian advertising market. “I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to building an industry,” says Veronica Savanciuc. Throughout time, she has been president and member of the main advertising organizations and associations (having served three mandates as President of International Advertising Association in Romania, for instance), bearing a hand to the birth and development of the local market on its long path to normality.
Throughout all these years, she has been loyal to a simple philosophy of life and business. “I am absolutely certain that one’s life is marked by providential encounters. Should you get the chance to meet people with strong values whom you resonate with both personally and professionally, it’s extraordinary to make them your business partners, if you can. None of us is perfect or competent in all aspects of a business. It’s excellent to have loyal partners, whom you can share your skills and inspiration with. I am a big believer in chemistry, in a match between people, in professionals who complete each other by having different ways of action, but common values. This way, the circle is complete.”
Veronica Savanciuc is the President and CEO of MullenLowe Romania, one of the main local communication groups, which registered a cumulated turnover of 46 million euro.
The group’s story began 25 years ago, with a partnership between Veronica Savanciuc and the advertising man Paul Radu. It all happened in the first months of 1993, when Veronica Savanciuc gave up a Marketing and Sales Director position at one of the few multinational companies present at that time in Romania, in order to establish an advertising company, Plus Advertising, together with her business partner.
“I soon understood a simple issue. Many foreign companies were already present in Romania and needed complex marketing services, whereas the number of advertising agencies was very small. It was, therefore, another extraordinary convergence between what I loved to do – marketing – and a high need for advertising services on the rapidly growing Romanian market,” says Veronica Savanciuc while recalling the beginnings of Plus Advertising, a company established with an initial investment of several thousand dollars.
Just as many other businesses started at the time, the break-even ratio came early on. “It was a time of particular opportunities, which we knew to capitalize.”
As a matter of fact, business savviness, courage and innovation lie at the basis of Veronica Savanciuc’s professional evolution. After graduating the “Tudor Vianu” National College of Computer Science in Bucharest and the Bucharest University of Economic Studies, Veronica Savanciuc continued her studies with an EMBA at ASEBUSS/ University of Washington. Studies in economy were useful for everything that followed, in particular her move to entrepreneurship. “Everything that has happened in my life, the people I’ve met, the companies I’ve worked in or with have helped me become what I am today.”
How did the partnership with Interpublic start? “The opportunity came when I attended the IAA Conference in Prague, in the summer of 1993. It was then that I understood the extent of the international advertising market, the activity of the global communication groups and the immense opportunity to associate with one of them. Several international agencies responded positively to our collaboration proposal, and, at the end of 1994, we chose to partner with Lintas, member of Interpublic Inc, one of the first four communication holdings in the world.”
“The choice came about naturally, as three of our biggest clients at that time were Lintas international clients. Actually, Unilever and Johnson & Johnson are, to this day, our clients,” adds Veronica Savanciuc.
“Our relation with Interpublic continued with the gradual affiliation of the specialized companies we launched in Romania to other major networks of the holding – Initiative, Golin, BPN. It was an opportunity for them to enter the Romanian market through a trusted partner, as well as for our group to bring in the local industry the know-how of some powerful international agencies. We genuinely adopted the Interpublic brands, embraced their values, made their names familiar to the local market, we grew together and treated them as equal partners, even if Interpublic has a minority share in our group (i.e. 20%). We are the only group in the communication industry to include 4 different IPG networks,” explains Veronica Savanciuc the group’s very good relations with its American partner.
As such, this was the first advertising group in Romania to choose to diversify its offer from the very start, and it currently includes the agencies MullenLowe (advertising), Initiative (media), Golin (PR), Profero (digital), Medic One (healthcare and pharma communication) and BPN (new media). Approximately 40% of the group’s clients purchase integrated communication services, most of them accessing at least three components – usually, creation or media, digital and PR.
Another major direction on which the group was built is the partnership with people. “Among our top managers, 5 have been with us for over 10 years: Octavian Popescu, Alexandra Olteanu, Oana Cociașu, Hortensia Năstase, Andreea Dinescu. It has always been a priority for us to attract the best people, train them, retain them, and some of our top managers have become partners in the companies they run,” says Veronica Savanciuc.
As regards long-term partnerships with clients, MullenLowe has developed communication campaigns for companies such as Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Orange, whom they have collaborated with for over 15 years, and has created slogans that have made history: “AMIGO şi eşti ca nou” (AMIGO and you’re as good as new), “Tu şi Tuborg!” (You and Tuborg!) or “Văru’ tocmai te-a rezolvat!” (Cousin solves you!).
MullenLowe is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. “Advertising and marketing have evolved so much throughout this time. We have Romanian campaigns winning prizes at Cannes and other renowned international festivals, we’re exporting campaigns on other markets, we develop regional strategies. However, I think the size of the advertising market keeps us from reaching our full potential, given that it cumulates budgets that are significantly smaller than those of other markets in the region and still below those in 2008 – the reference year in Romania.”
For the development of a market, however, the more difficult periods are just as important as growth years. “The 2008 economic crisis has given us a lot of wisdom. It was the moment we all matured,” adds Veronica Savanciuc, who considers that the concern for efficiency is the main gain of the crisis. In fact, speaking of efficiency, MullenLowe was the first company in the industry to implement a traffic system in 1995.
Nevertheless, MullenLowe’s positioning for its 25th anniversary is not centered on the quarter of century that has passed, but on the present and, more importantly, on the future – because, as Veronica Savanciuc says, at 25 years old you have your whole life ahead. “We have always been Young & Bold, we’ve taken chances and had the courage to be ahead of the industry a lot of the times. We’ve had bold professional approaches – from the renowned fully branded Levi’s tram in 1994 to the recording of heart beats through a mobile app (Orange My Heartbeats). But we’ve also had the best parties and most unusual teambuildings. We’ve always tried to be disruptive, both in external projects and internally – we’ve ‘opened’ a tattoo studio for employees, we’ve launched our very own beer brand and we’ve officially introduced sabbatical leave and Light & Pet Friday. Since this is our group’s DNA, our 25th year anniversary concept is 25 Years YOUNG. We are young enough to focus on innovation and doing things differently, but at the same time we are old enough to have the know-how required to successfully develop everything we intend to.”
There are over 160 employees in the group at the moment – some of them have been part of the team ever since the beginnings, while others are still students, and they are all young in spirit, according to Veronica Savanciuc.
“The 90s were a unique time – the enthusiasm at the start of a new industry, the awakening of a country. However, I’m just as glad today to meet young people passionate about advertising, who have the courage to come up with something new and who are motivated to get involved in the development of this field.”
The advertising industry has practically developed ahead of time and in contrast to the slow evolution of economy, particularly in the first decade, according to Veronica Savanciuc. Before the crisis, the advertising market was valued at 500 million euro. Today, despite many consecutive years of growth, we still haven’t reached that level again, unfortunately.
The Romanian media market has grown each of the past several years by approximately 10%, reaching up to 407 million euro in 2017, according to the Media Fact Book report issued by the media agency Initiative. If this growth pace is maintained in the following years, the local media market is expected to reach in 2020 the peak it registered in 2008, according to Initiative estimates.
The years 2016 and 2017 have brought about the largest post-crisis growths for the media market, just like for the rest of the Romanian economy, and this trend is expected to continue. Nevertheless, the media consumption per capita was 17 euro in 2016, much below the level of 70 euro registered globally and incommensurable with that of over 150 euro reached in Western European countries.
Although the digital’s market share has been constantly growing in past years, Romania still remains a TV-dominated market. Considering the richness of the TV channel offer, coupled with a decline of the main audience categories and a sustained growth of advertising-derived income in 2016 and 2017, the TV prices are under a great inflationist pressure. However, this channel was the main engine for the media market last year, with a 12% growth, reaching a value of 268 million euro, according to the report.
Media Fact Book 2017 furthermore reveals that digital, with 18% market share, has not reached its potential in Romania, compared to other countries, but is expected to come close to the level in Europe in the following years. Beyond the ground gained by the digital, the next step in brand communication is the mobile – a trend that companies can no longer ignore, as smartphones have become the channel that is the closest to the user.
“Today, the consumer is smarter, more connected, but has less patience to receive and interpret brand messages. Brands thus have to reconfigure their communication to focus on relevant content,” says Veronica Savanciuc.
This article was originally published on Forbes Romania