Razvan Capanescu, our juror for this issue’s Digital selection, is an internationally award-winning creative director. Distance makes time precious.
As of October of this year, Razvan has been entrusted with the role of Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett Group, splitting his time between London and Bucharest and making the most of what technology has to offer when it comes to e-meetings. Read the following email-generated interview in which Michael Weinzettl chats to the Romanian super-creative about his new position and his career to date.
Hi Razvan, a month ago you became CCO of Leo Burnett Romania. Congrats on that. Can you give us a brief review of your career in advertising which led up to that?
Thank you! Really exciting times here. I gave up a career as a lawyer to become a copywriter, which at that time I thought was the best job in the world. I still feel the same. I started as a junior copywriter at Saatchi & Saatchi Bucharest, followed by Ogilvy, McCann, then Ogilvy again, where I first became a CD, then Publicis (for the longest, most fruitful and happiest period of my professional life so far). I got the chance to build a creative department in Publicis the way I saw fit, and we really succeeded as a team. We won lots of awards, international pitches and important new business but, most importantly, we all gained a strong, long-lasting friendship. And we had a lot of fun. It’s a success story I plan to replicate and take even further at Leo, where I’ve discovered an amazing team with a strong drive for high performance.
The PR releases in connection with this important appointment spoke about Leo Burnett Group Romania adopting a new positioning and redefining “its advertising services to serve the post-advertising era.” Can you elaborate on the term “post-advertising era”?
Yes. It’s not a fancy sentence. It’s actually the way Leo Burnett Group Romania wants to add value to clients’ business in the communication age we live in today. And that means coming up with media-neutral ideas as solutions to our clients’ business problems. It means we no longer sell inventory (whatever the group has listed as different departments). Instead, we come up with ideas that transcend all media channels, putting together a valuable mix of specific skills (traditional ATL, digital, PR, media, shopper marketing, etc.) in one team, dedicated to one client at a time. We’re confident that this will ensure a far superior integration of the idea.
When, would you say, did the “post-advertising era” begin? Is there a timeline one could draw?
Probably the moment the digital and activation budget surpassed the classical ATL one.
Can you give us some examples of creative work out there that is clearly of the “post-advertising era” and perhaps speculate about what this might have looked like before the “post-ad era” set in? Would it have been possible at all – in, say, the Mad Men era?
The “push to add drama” stunt for TNT, which became a global phenomenon overnight. Besides the concentrated entertainment dose, people were touched by the power of a story unfolded in the least expected environment. A strong execution that had the necessary time to inflict all the emotions in real time, carried further by the disseminating mega-power of the online. In the Mad Men era, it would’ve remained just a crazy, short, street-theatre scene in a small town somewhere; it wouldn’t have made much sense as a TV ad either.
Or, better still, “like a girl” for Always/ P&G, a powerful manifesto that started a movement to redefine “like a girl” into a positive affirmation, empowering girls globally and bringing puberty education to millions of adolescent girls.
Quintessentially, that’s what “post-ad era” means – it might not have anything to do with advertising (in the classical sense), but rather with treating people more like citizens and less like consumers.
You are surely one of the very few creative directors to originally graduate from law school. How did that rather unorthodox career change come about? What attracted you to Adland?
I used to write scripts (short wannabe movies) as a hobby. I showed them to a friend, who happened to be a creative director. He liked my writing and handed me a VHS tape with the American “Funniest Commercials” show presented by Patrick Duffy, saying: “Try something even shorter than short movies. I think you’ll like it.” And I loved it.
I therefore left the court of law in order to plead for brands (and do them justice). And have been doing so for over 16 years now.
And what attracted you to the digital part of advertising?
The fact that, today, almost every individual can be their own media holding, i.e. receive, create, remix, and propagate the message with a spectacular multiplying factor. And that response can happen in real time.
When you started to get interested in advertising, who were your “heroes” in the business? And what about now? Any ad people you particularly admire?
When I started, the titans for me were Ogilvy, Bernbach, and Burnett. Still are. Then I read the “Copywriter’s Bible” and was fascinated by the amazing story and copy-led campaigns of a particular maverick writer – Neil French. I become a fan instantly and have stayed so ever since. I also admire BBH and what Sir Hegarty did with the firm by zagging when everyone else was zigging. More recently, Erik Vervroegen’s PlayStation campaigns and obsessive attention for details in art direction became an inspiration.
Today, I think David Droga is the most influential adman in the business. I just love the bravery of the Droga5 campaigns.
What is some of the work created under your creative guidance you’re most proud of?
Hack-this-site.com and you’re hired. A recruitment campaign we did at Publicis for Bitdefender (global data security champion). Our insight was that the best data security IT talent out there is… the hackers. We therefore built a cheeky website as the center of the recruitment campaign, an open challenge for the hackers to test their skills at what they know best: trying to breach security on the web. Like in an online game, different jobs and salaries were accessible on different levels within the website, thus serving to demonstrate hackers’ skills.
Also, my most recent campaign, the one I’ve just implemented with my new colleagues from Leo Burnett. It’s a campaign against absenteeism in the voting process. The idea was to use two of the most representative kings of Romania, who, at crucial moments in our history, found themselves alone on the battlefield – our forefathers having had all kinds of ridiculous excuses, like today’s fellow citizens that found themselves too busy to show up and vote.
According to your LinkedIn profile, “a great ad is like a work of art.” Can you elucidate? And would great digital work then be akin to conceptual art?
A good work of art will move you, will touch you emotionally, or make you think. Maybe even transform you a little bit, making you reconsider your behavior, or the way you relate to everyday life. A great ad should absolutely do the same. And, yes, I think some digital work should be right there too.
Since we’re first and foremost a print publication, I have to ask you how you see the future of print advertising? You have been featured with your work in Archive several times over, one of the campaigns having been a spectacular effort for the CCVR, done when you were CCO at Publicis Romania. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I think print advertising will continue to exist. It will transform a bit, though. It will address a more selective audience. It will be a more crafted piece of work, since it will have a smaller reach, but for a more refined consumer. It will become the gate to digital with things like augmented reality. It will be more like a great piece of literature plus gallery art-like illustration or photo. And the rest will be coupons.
The road safety campaign we did for CCVR started from the observation that the vast majority of drivers are cynical and have become almost immune to the thousands of messages of the sort they heard in recent years. In order to attract the attention of these cynical drivers, we therefore decided to tackle the road safety issue in a more surprising way. We paid a compliment to their intelligence – using a black humor twist – rather than punching them in the stomach. We made a victim out of the top three villains of all time (famous dictators, beautifully impersonated and photographically retouched by my art director), stating the improbability of such a “it might have saved the world” kind of accident to happen.
Can you tell us a bit about the criteria you used to select the digital work for this issue of Archive?
The main criteria I used for the digital selection in this issue were freshness of idea and the relevance of digital for that particular piece (trying to skip the ones that really just ticked digital as another channel in the mix).
You say that you split your time between London, where you live, and Bucharest, where you work. Is that difficult to do or just a matter of perfect time management?
I actually live and work in both cities. Thanks to contemporary technology, it is easier than one might think. And, from the work point of view, it’s somehow even more productive at times. Distance makes time precious – the e-meetings are more focused, more efficient, as people realize they can’t afford the luxury of wasting time in small talk and tend to concentrate better on the business topics. Then, when I’m back to the office, sometimes it helps to meet colleagues (the whole plethora of characters) randomly on the stairs of the agency, chitchatting and bouncing off ideas. I’m lucky, because I can enjoy the best of both worlds.
How does Razvan Capanescu like to spend the – presumably little – spare time he has?
Trying to keep myself allured by the creative side with my amazing, most inspirational sparring partner – my wife. Cooking. Tweaking old recipes. Bingeing on movies (all kinds). Discovering great wines (contemplating to do that sommelier course after all). Going sailing.