Vesna Vlašić Jusupović: Dreamers with a Cause

Vesna Vlašić Jusupović is a managing director at McCann Sarajevo, one of the oldest creative agencies in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Being part of I&F McCann Grupa, their services are delivered under a slogan “Truth well told”, meaning every brand has a specific story to be told and the agency’s biggest challenge is to deliver the brand’s truth, no matter the time or budget at disposal. "Our mission is to deliver top notch products and services for our partners, clients, by creating together campaigns that can leave a deeper impact on all of us,” she explains.

Transparency and integrity are the key(s)

She emphasizes the importance of doing business with complete integrity and transparency, believing that good reputation is as important to clients as it is to the agency. While striving to integrate diverse portfolio of services with best practices in all fields and industries, the agency focuses on creating the most appealing content. In her words, they stopped trying to reach out to a consumer. “Let’s call us dreamers with a cause. As for myself, I’m the biggest dreamer, graduated from the Academy of Music, later on sociology and cultural studies which, together with my years spent studying design, made me quite a diverse professional, who owes her inspiration mostly to her two little gremlins, a boy and a girl,” Vlašić Jusupović explains.

An office of 23 totally different people

As mentioned, McCann Sarajevo is a part of I&F McCann Grupa, chaired by Srdjan Šaper. “Being a part of a big group of agencies like I&F McCann Grupa offers multiple competitive advantages for us. We are able to cover a wide range of services, able to gain a deeper understanding of regional and even wider markets, follow worldwide trends or even be a part of creating new ones,” she describes the collaboration with other regional offices and adds that they can always reach out for a number of good practices, case studies, industry insights and other information valuable to their clients.

At the same time, being part of the Grupa is an opportunity and obligation to grow and learn. “Which is crucial, if we want to stay leaders in what we do. We are an office of 23 totally different people with diverse background sharing the same vision, imagining and discovering new ideas to position our clients as leaders, speaking through funny and functional concepts, vibrant and meaningful visuals, innovative BTL digital and mobile channels, interesting and rich PR communication,” she said.

Further in the interview, we talk about McCann’s latest campaign that has a special meaning to the agency and advertising landscape in Bosnia and Hercegovina. She puts out her point of view working with global clients and expectations toward her appearance at Golden Drum festival on neuromarketing.

What campaign are you most proud of and why?

I have to say that each campaign we work on has special meaning to us, but just recently we ended a campaign that still has a specific impact on all of us at the agency, since we had managed to create a great creative campaign, engage a lot of partners and supporters and finally deliver a great result for our client, but also for a wider community. The campaign in question was a campaign to mark a World Dyslexia Awareness Week in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first time. I am proud to say that this campaign managed to stir and educate the public, link official institutions with experts and the association Vjetar which initiated the campaign, and most of all impact and educate the parents of children with dyslexia, making them aware that their children are not lazy or stupid, as most of them used to think before, since official information about dyslexia was lacking. We have helped to build a strong base for institutional changes, starting from primary schools to other educational institutions. By engaging primary school children on the voluntary basis to act as models in the visuals, we have sent a strong message of understanding and empathy for children with dyslexia coming from their peers who don’t have any learning disabilities, who stood up against the system with a message that the children can’t be blamed for the society’s faults, under the campaign slogan “Dyslexia is not a disease, it’s a diversity.”

Do you work with domestic only or with international clients as well?

Being a part of McCann WorldGroup is a privilege, because we are able to participate in big global pitches, so when we, as a group of worldwide agencies win a pitch, we gain one more international client. McCann Sarajevo started out in 1997. with one international client – The Coca Cola Company and I must say that we are successfully cooperating for 19 years. We also have other international clients but our business strategy obliges us to be strong enough to service domestic and regional clients as well. In my opinion, healthy balance between both domestic and international brands makes us a fully functional creative agency. Global companies generally have global strategies and creative solutions, so there is not much left for a small market agency like we are in terms of creative work. Never the less, we deliver high quality services for our international clients, sometimes even being able to cut through with a great creative idea like The Coca Cola Bubamara project for example. Still, the biggest challenge is to create an effective and noticeable campaign with a small budget and big expectations for our domestic clients, and this is what we do best.

How would you describe advertising landscape in BiH and its biggest challenges?

I like to say that we are a 3D market – diverse, disorganized and difficult. Diverse because one can really find everything here, from small very successful design studios, to international creative agencies, from one man digital agencies working for European markets, to specialized big digital agencies, from so called freelance communication specialists to actual competent experts, from agencies employing 20 or 30 people to those employing the number needed for the pitch… Disorganized since it has very multifaceted administration and business environment, making it harder to have strategic overview or create effective strategy for any client and difficult because we are mostly a price oriented market, so in a lot of cases the clients just go for the lowest offer, so this very rarely coincide with the best quality offer. For clients who are not that familiar with the market it is really hard to see through the offer and references when the market is not fully transparent. We all need be honest and admit that without accepting our reality and doing something to change it, we are left in a tight spot.

Is advertising in BiH any different compared to advertising in other countries from the region? Is there anything specific that needs to be taken into consideration?

Compared to the region, our most important difference is that in Bosnia and Herzegovina there are only a few successful local companies. There are some export oriented companies who are still not that strong to be able to invest in advertising. Although, good advertising is never a waste, but an investment, this point still needs to be built on, when it comes to the majority of local companies. We are also still not very attractive to foreign investors because of very challenging and long lasting formal procedures. That leaves us as a really small market, with a lot of players, high competition and not to mention zero rules of conduct. Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the rare countries in the region without a professional advertising association, there are no pitching rules or laws covering this industry, and so all this makes our professional lives really hard.

Still, there are some slow movements forward. I recently received a call for a pitch where it was stated that all participants in the pitch will be reimbursed for their efforts, which usually never happens. So I think changes are possible but, it’s necessary for all participants in the process to take joint action. Starting from clients to agencies and media.

What’s your take on this year’s Weekend Media festival and the list of best works?

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend so I can’t comment on the overall picture, but I understand that it did manage to gather the biggest number of agencies and participants so far. Generally WMF is a great event for the regional creative industry. What I can see from the list of top projects is that there are some new agencies present with very good projects, which is nice to see. A fact that regional agencies implemented successful campaigns in the foreign markets is also a step forward for the regional industry. I believe that the potential all our agencies have within the creative services is tremendous and we need to push forward in order for our ideas and capabilities to be seen elsewhere, beside our neighboring countries or franchises creative overviews. Clients are watching, this is an opportunity to show.

Last question. How would you describe the position of digital in BiH and in the region? At what stage is it?

Bosnia and Herzegovina is still a digital infant. I’m not saying that there isn’t any good professionals who can offer supreme services, but in general we are quite underdeveloped in this field, since clients still see the digital world as a cheaper substitute for traditional media. What they don’t see is that there is a new revolution going on, there are new channels present now, that didn’t exist two years ago, there is a whole new generation of people who are not only digital natives, they are accessibility natives. The new world is moving very fast and we need to move at the speed of light in order to keep the pace. Now, it’s not enough to “speak” about the brand, consumers need to be able to sense it, love it, connect with it and actually feel it. We are entering the field of augmented reality and this is why development of digital communication in advertising in inevitable. At the same time we need to give our brands some actual meaning because new consumers are much more informed and choosy. I’m afraid that we are still only following up on all the possibilities, but we could have a great capacity if we opened up and joined up with hardware and software companies in pursuit of a mutual agenda.

This year you will have a lecture on Golden Drum? What are you expectations now that Golden Drum is more open to Adriatic region and what is your lecture about?

Yes, I will be participating in a panel discussion about neuromarketing. I will be presenting a client case for which we had very good results. The idea is to clearly point out, with concrete arguments, why this type of pre campaign research can be extremely valuable to any brand. While presenting this case I will try to explain how it is possible to have the best campaign results, and invest just a little bit more of your time and creativity, whilst having a partner to point in the right direction. I think it will be quite interesting.

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I&F McCann Grupa jedan je od vodećih komunikacionih sistema koji 20 godina uspešno posluje u 12 zemlja jugo istočne Evrope i nordijske regije. Naš posvećen tim čini 600 talentovanih profesionalaca, koji svakodnevno sarađuju na integraciji marketinških kampanja, promotivnih aktivnosti, organizaciji događaja, dizajnu, planiranju i zakupu medijskog prostora, PR, produkciji, komunikaciji u oblasti zdravstva, kreiranju TV sadržaja,kao i na svim formama digitalnog marketinga. Agencije koje posluju u okviru I&F McCann Grupe deo su McCann Worldgroup (,jedne od najvećih svetskih agencijskih mreža,osnovane 1902.godine koja posluje u više od 120 zemalja sveta, i u vlasništvu je Interpublic Group (IPG) ( sa sedištem u Njujorku.