Last Week Andreea Negrila and Alexandra Nicu interviewed the Finnish top-creative Eka Ruola, CEO and ECD hasan & partners Group Finland, at the Golden Drum festival about the past and the future of the renowned Slovenian festival.
We are at the 25th edition of Golden Drum. How is it like to be returning here as a speaker?
I love Golden Drum, I have to say in all honesty. It’s a fantastic festival, I think it’s really well taken care of. I’ve been here in the jury, I think it was 6 or 7 years ago. I’ve been twice now in Ljubljana, when it’s been there, and now when I heard it’s back in Portoroz I was really happy because I love this sight and to be a speaker here. I think the audience is very engaged, they really want to sort of challenge themselves, discuss about where this industry is going, so I’m really happy to be back.
Do you remember your first Golden Drum Festival?
I do. It was the one I was in the jury. That was the first time. I’ve submitted stuff before, but that was the first time that I actually attended the festival. I think it was 2011 or 2012. I remember it very well and also there were good parties, so you might not remember everything, but I do recall a lot. We had a good year that year. We also brought home quite a few awards.
How has Golden Drum changed over the years? Do you think it’s for the better?
I think it has changed accordingly the industry changing constantly. Portoroz definitely changed for the better. I love Ljubljana, I think it’s a beautiful city, but the last two years that I’ve been at the Golden Drum (I wasn’t last year, but at the two editions before), it was great. We brought home 2 Grand Prix in a row so it’s been amazing, but at the same time I basically only attented the Friday gala so I didn’t see much of the seminars, therefore it’s a bit hard to answer. I have to say though, when I look at the guest speakers, what they are talking about, how the program is built and so on, I think it’s all very relevant, it has transformed to be at the speed that this industry needs. And the way they care of me at this festival – this is just a great place to be a speaker. And I had a hard time arriving since I’ve missed my connection flight in Prague, so I’ve spent 10 hours on a bus from Prague to Ljubljana last night and now everything has been just, you know, the welcome has been very warm. So yes, Golden Drum has a special place in my heart.
Which was your first Golden Drum award? For what work of yours?
I think it was.. Let me think now. Not 100% sure, but I think it was a package design for children’s bread called Vilpuri. We got a Silver for that. Yeah, I think that was the first one. Golden Drum has been good to us. There have been quite a lot of awards so I don’t remember all of them.
These past days we heard a lot how advertising has a really important role in shaping our society and the world we live in. In your perspective, how can advertising shape the world we live in and maybe how can we maybe fast forward this process?
I would argue a little bit, this is semantics, but I think it’s still important. Advertising, to me, is a small part of marketing communication, which is a small part of marketing. Therefore, I wouldn’t say it’s advertising that is changing the world, it’s basically the new way of doing marketing communication and the whole role of marketing can be put to a place where it actually can have an effect on the society at large. I would say that those brands who really touch a nerve, who really set out to have a very purposeful communication, not just purpose driven campaigns, but the brands that are really searching for a higher ground in what they are doing and when they bring that into their marketing communication it’s not just for people to buy stuff, is for people to buy into a world of a brand, which is strong enough to take a stand to be culturally relevant, to be working towards something more meaningful and you’ll wanna be part of that finally, if you will, with the same brand sharing the values of the brand and the brand is for real doing acts that make a difference not just try to sell their products. I think those brands are actually selling much more than brands who only try to still push it, push things with advertising. So meaningful, purposeful, cultural relevant context – when brands find that stream that’s how they also change the world for the better.
This purpose has to be integrated with technologies, to find support in it?
I think the purpose is a bigger thing than any other instrument. Purpose is an idea, something that the brand truly believes in and why people come to work for that brand / company daily, and why they stay late. That’s number one. That’s basically why the brand exists. Then, technology, which I am a big fan of, there are all kinds of possibilities the new world has to offer, we should just embrace them, but those are merely instruments to get the bigger purpose to perform. I think they are important, but they help the purpose to become a reality. So they have instrumental value, which is very important, but still that would be the case in my opinion.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Passionate people, being very curious, all things art (I love your watch by the way, I have the same one), from the world around me and when it comes to my work – really from listening to the audience, putting people on a pedestal.
This was one of the topics discussed here at Golden Drum, that we have to take off our headphones in order get real insight from our surroundings.
That’s very healthy. One of my team members was building a strategy for a client of ours and the most important thing when building that strategy was when they went to the retailer and stayed there for 3 hours doing nothing but watching people behave – that was key. Of course, we have all kinds of tools and research but that was crucial and the creatives just sat there, listened and watched. Passionate people bring inspiration to me, nevermind their nationality and what their business is, if there is even a business. All art things are really a big boost for me. Reading, watching, experiencing stuff just makes me tick.
What would be your advice for the young generation of creatives?
That’s a really important question. I really hope they'll wipe the floor with us. They need to be bold, they need to be determined, but they have to serve the right Gods. That is not an award show award, but truly building something meaningful for their clients, understanding their client's business, not just being mad about creativity and what creativity can do. That’s of course, again, an instrument and it’s important, but the ones who really understand their client's business and become business problem solvers with creativity, are the ones who will be speaking on stage at the Golden Drum 5 or 10 years from now. The young creatives have to understand that they are brand builders, not just artists. It was a very bad example but you know what I mean. Basically, they need to understand the business and that they are in the problem-solving business, not selling creativity but cooperation. I still consider myself a young drummer, so...
How would you describe the job of an ECD that is also the CEO of Hasan & Partners?
It’s a 24/7 job and to be honest the CEO part is pretty much the same as the ECD part, I do have my own clients where I work as the creative lead, but in a support function. We have 7 units in the group, the managing directors take care of their units and I support them. I try to integrate as much as possible and try to show and support the direction towards which we are going, when it comes to a vision, but yeah I’m a supporting function, I’m a helper and then, at the end of the day, I hope they perform at their very best on our platform and my biggest joy comes from our people being able to make magic on something truly interesting and I just try to help them to get to their goals – that’s the CEO part. The ECD part is basically...I come from a creative background, that’s my trait, if you will, and therefore I’m also supporting the teams, I’m trying to find new ways to inspire the clients as well to take a bigger leap when it comes to bravery, when it comes to their communication, how they can do more, how they can do the most out of creativity, how they can see new kinds of business opportunities within the marketing sphere – I’m not a business consultant as such, even though sometimes it feels very close. If I had to describe it in two words I would say it is a supporting function and I try to support as much as I can. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. If you ask my people, most often I do fail.
So, a mentorship trait is an important value for these two roles?
It is and I’ve been really bad at it. I am really happy that some of our units have been now building this mentorship programs within. I haven’t been very good at that myself, even though I use my own mentors to guide me in this hectic world, but I think it’s a very important dimension for personal development. Having said that, I just heard from one of our units, Frankly Partners, that they also did reverse mentorship so the younger ones were mentoring the older ones and that was a good use. So, it goes both ways, I haven’t been good at that or building that to our culture, but I think it’s happening more and more without me interfering and when good things happen, that I haven’t brought up or interfered with, I’m just really, really happy and then again, I try to support.
Which was your advertising highlight in 2018?
I have to say it’s all things Nike. Or do you mean my own? I can give you both. What they’ve done with Kaepernick and after that with Semenya. That’s just massive. Going back to the purpose, they have a very purpose driven communication, all time high shares, huge increase in sales – there you go! And they didn’t sell a lot of sneakers with those campaigns and they sold a lot. And I think even more because they were so purpose driven.
As for my own highlight, there were quite a few but I was really happy that one of our young creatives brought home her first Lion from Cannes and was also shortlisted here with this work, “Sheboard” for Plan International, and that was a highlight looking at what’s happening in the creative department and I have to say in Helsinki our teams have been doing really good work with business schedules and in the mist of transformation and one highlight is that we co-founded an agency TBD in San Francisco which is still less than a year old and there is good news coming from them and I am really happy. And personal highlights, to be speaker at Golden Drum about The Unknown Soldier and I took a speech about that project as well, which is a personal project, in Cannes so Cannes and Golden Drum on stage about a personal project that’s a highlight for me personally.
What is your favorite thing about Lürzer's Archive?
I mean, your product is... is just a boost of inspiration everytime I get my hands on it. That is my personal number one and the way you beautifully curate the world of design and creative communication, it’s fantastic. It’s well curated and the inspiration always lays in there. I’m envious whenever I read LA and that’s great. It’s good envy.