I hope they will allow ad space in the Bible.
The man behind the selection of digital work in this issue is Israeli Nir Refuah, former VP Creative McCann Digital Tel Aviv and – as of spring of this year – General Manager MRM Romania, the digital arm of the communications division of McCann Worldgroup in Bucharest.
L.A.: How did you get started in the digital field, and how did you wind up in Bucharest? Please tell us a little about the course of your career to date.
Nir Refuah: My career started from a different field – the Israeli 90s start-up industry. I initiated, and owned, two start-ups in the b2c communication field, and was part of the founding team of “Walla,” the largest Israeli web portal. In 2007, I got tempted to join advertising for the VP creative role at McCann Digital Israel. During my five years there, I probably did something wrong – so I ended up here in Bucharest, filling the role of Chief Digital/Innovation Officer for the Central/Eastern Europe region.
L.A.: What’s it like working in Bucharest as opposed to Tel Aviv?
Nir Refuah: Bucharest is an amazing place for digital and innovation, and clients that actually push their agencies for better storytelling and creative. It seems to me that Eastern Europe has the most potential to become the next hot creative region. Although there is a lack of production values and things are underdeveloped in many countries, the creative talents in Eastern Europe have got top-level ideas, and it’s only a matter of time until they get recognition worldwide.
L.A.: You’ve just returned from the Golden Drum Festival. How was it? Your agency was among the winners, right?
Nir Refuah: Yes! We had great results at the latest Golden Drum Festival, which also reveals, I hope, a new creative era for the region. McCann Erickson picked up CEE Network Agency of the Year, with 150 points, 105 of those points having come from digital work and digitally led integrated campaigns! Most of the awarded pieces initiated from digital creative talents, and only then “adapted” to ATL media – billboards, films, etc. This way of work, which we call “Digital 1st Routes,” in my opinion represents the future of creative advertising, and the fact that the festival recognized and awarded all that work made us very happy – and, as a result, also pretty drunk.
L.A.: How important to you, and for advertising, are awards in general?
Nir Refuah: On the one hand, I think creating award-winning creative work for our clients is crucial for the agency and the team. On the other hand, award shows have recently been tending to award “more than advertising” work and pro bono campaigns more than real work made for real clients. This might be the result of over-motivated-to-win agencies that are creating ads only for the purpose of winning awards. I might be old-fashioned to believe that the purpose we are here for is simple: to increase demand for our client’s brand using creative methods. It’s plain weird to see that, sometimes, 50% of award show winners is pro bono work seeking to raise awareness for all of society’s ills, while brilliant creative ads that actually worked for real clients are left behind.
L.A.: What are some of the differences between the Israeli and the Romanian ad scene?
Nir Refuah: The two agencies, and markets, are very different. While the Israel branch is most efficient and media targeted, the Bucharest office is based on creative excellence and digital experiments. Israel has a very developed media market, with great measurement systems and marketing methodologies, while in Romania the focus is still on digital storytelling and integration.
L.A.: Please tell us about a campaign you did, or were involved in, that you are most proud of?
Nir Refuah: A small campaign we made in Israel for Huggies brand that never got awarded or known outside of Israel. The campaign, called “Night Shift,” was a digital platform that is open only at night, from 22:00 to 06:00, and provides answers, community, and support for new parents who find themselves awake at night. The platform launched as a two-week campaign, and ended up being promoted for three years – and became the most important digital asset of the brand in Israel
L.A.: What are some of the projects you’re involved in right now?
Nir Refuah: Right now, MRM and McCann Romania are working on several projects. Some are local and some for the region, but all of them involve the connection between mobile and other media channels – web, outdoor, and even TV. The second-screen realm is yet to be fully discovered and it holds a great promise for creative stories and utilities.
L.A.: Our magazine is chiefly known for print and film. We added the Digital section only a few years ago. So we’d obviously be interested to hear your take on the “future of print”? Is there one?
Nir Refuah: I hope they will allow ad space within the Bible, because that will soon be the only material actually printed! But, seriously, my prediction is that print distribution in general will keep decreasing until it hits around 5% of the ad budget. There are some opportunities for magazines and targeted materials, but I can’t see how the digitalization process of society will stop.
L.A.: Some ad agencies still prefer to go outside their four walls for digital, while others try to integrate a digital department in their agency. Each option comes with its own set of challenges, doesn’t it? What is your pitch on this?
Nir Refuah: I have experienced all formats of digital work: in a full-service digital agency, a digital department, and in a fully integrated agency. I don’t think there’s a formula for “correct digital work,” or any corresponding constellation for agencies. Each country, market, and – sometimes – even the brief requires different approaches and solutions. Generally speaking, however, full-service digital agencies and creative shops usually provide a better creative product and user experience, while the integrated ad agencies are sometimes better at understanding the brand strategy and real needs of the clients.
L.A.: What, in your experience, has been advertising’s attitude to digital? Do you think that the ad industry has now successfully adapted to the importance of digital and social media?
Nir Refuah: Oh man, how I wish agencies were already half as ready for digital as the clients are! The fact that there’s still debate about digital’s future role, and that most big agencies are still TVC creative driven, just shows how far the advertising industry is lagging behind what is actually happening in every living room on earth. Some agencies, for example, are afraid of dealing with digital, so they hire a special UX/UI specialist to build and design FMCG brand microsites, small websites, and even banners. How come the agency creative teams don’t know how to build the digital experience for their own campaign? Creative teams that can’t characterize a mobile app or a facebook campaign, and need “specialists,” should hurry and train that skill before they get extinct. I think the future of integrated creative comes from digital natives, not the young film directors who turned to advertising. By this I mean the digital savvies, the programmers, technology freaks and digital creative talents – who will also learn to produce TVC scripts and billboards to amplify their creative concept.
L.A.: What were the criteria you applied when selecting the digital work featured in this issue of our magazine?
Nir Refuah: I tried to pick up work that meets the following list of criteria:
1. Is fresh and innovative
2. Features high production levels
3. Boasts technology-driven insights
4. Was produced for real clients and big brands