Lürzer’s Archive has been featuring the work of Karpat Polat for the past 14 years, with a total of 64 of his print campaigns now to be found in our archives.
I’m not medium-oriented but ideas-oriented.
From his beginnings as a copywriter at the Rafineri agency in Istanbul, and then his work as a creative director at DDB&Co, he has been a frequent presence in the magazine, culminating in the in-depth interview we ran with him in Vol. 4-2011. When we caught up with Karpat this time around, he was acting as the juror who decides which recent work should appear in this issue’s Digital section. Michael Weinzettl chatted to the man who – by winning the first Gold Lion ever for Turkey, as well as countless other awards since then – has put his country’s advertising on the international creative map.
Hi Karpat, first of all many thanks for selecting the digital work for this issue. We at Archive consider you to be an old friend of the magazine. We have in fact been featuring your work since back in 2003, when you were still in your mid-twenties. And, of course, we did a long interview with you in Vol. 4-2011 titled “The best campaign of an adman is his agency.” So please tell us about all the things that have happened since then.
You did a brilliant job at DDB and started a new école in your country designed to take your advertising out into the world. And you’ve also founded your own agency, KARPAT. Was opening your own agency an idea you always had in mind?
I feel very fortunate. I started out on this road as a junior copywriter and now I have my own agency. That’s what I’ve wanted all along. I always dreamed about doing things my own way with my own business model. This is a dream come true, you might say.
When I told you that “the best campaign of an adman was his agency,” I was signaling my wish to found my own creative agency.
I have an entrepreneurial side. Even before DDB, I played an important role in another local agency’s story in Turkey. I had accepted DDB’s offer because I imagined it would be the test-run for my own agency.
When I started at DDB, there were two of us, me and a receptionist. In seven years, we entered the top ten billing agencies, became agency of the year in the Cannes rankings, and the most globally awarded agency in Cannes – for two consecutive years. During this time, I of course received countless offers from around the globe. I turned them down for the sake of my dream, which was founding my own agency. When you up your game that much, it’s not very easy to come out. I had to wait a couple of years for the completion of my share sales.
There are tons of admen who dream of founding their own agencies but very few of them actually do. Can you tell us how you set up your own agency?
It was a beautiful summer day. I signed the paperwork for my shares and I came home. I felt free after all those years … I was planning to rest a bit and launch my new agency around fall.
Nevertheless, the next morning I got a call from one of our clients from DDB and he said he had become the CEO of a new firm and that he wanted to talk to me. I told him I wasn’t working for DDB anymore. He was surprised and he invited me to coffee. When I went there, I saw the whole board waiting for me. Suddenly, we were talking about the needs of the brand. After that, I repeated what I told him over the phone. I was afraid he had not understood. “Oh that …,” they said, “that’s not important. We want to work with you and not with DDB.”
I got back home, called a couple of colleagues, and we started by the pool, and over the next couple of days clients kept calling. It was a fantastic summer: I was calling teams to work from poolside. And then we became crowded and had to move into a building … that’s where we’ve been for three years, though that is now too small for us and we’ll soon need to move again.
What are the works that you’re proudest of?
Frankly, I am proud of all the work we created for Coca-Cola, CNN Türk, and Colin’s.
Can you tell us a bit about the work you’ve created since opening KARPAT?
Our first big hit was Coca-Cola’s 50th year anniversary campaign in Turkey. The brief was quite simple: “Even though it was listed as the second unhappiest country according to the OECD data, we want to celebrate our 50th anniversary in Turkey by showing the optimism of Turkish people.”
We presented a strategy and said: If you spend 50 years in a country, you subsequently become one of them. So let’s write your name on bottles and packages in Turkish, as Koka-Kola for this year, and do it by emphasizing untranslatable, unique Turkish words and sayings that show the optimism of Turkish people.
That was a first for Coca-Cola, apart from in the countries where they are legally obliged to write their names in the language of the country. They agreed with our strategy and we aligned the campaign accordingly. The campaign broke emotional bonding records in the tests and then became a trending topic 5 minutes after its first run and won “Integrated Campaign Award” in a national competition …
In another Coca-Cola campaign, we discovered that housewives in Turkey were not happy at being left uncelebrated for the delicious dinners they have cooked. So we made labels to celebrate their cooking with quotes from their husbands and kids and hence changed the labels. Thanks to this “Label” campaign, we made our fathers show their true emotions, which they had previously struggled to display. The Label campaign produced some great results.
The international campaign created for Colin’s is another success story. We tried to engage the local with international and, parallel to this thought, we used top model Taylor Marie Hill, along with Turkish actor Ça?atay Ulusoy for the latest Colin’s campaign. The director was Emil Kahr, awarded by Cannes as the most promising young director, and the music was “Baby Did A Bad Thing” by Chris Isaak.
What were some of the criteria you applied when selecting the digital work for this issue of Lürzer’s Archive? Your background is very much in classic advertising media, and you were behind the best print ads ever to come out of Turkey, so what is your attitude towards digital media?
Actually, I was never a single-media-oriented adman. That is amongst my strengths, I believe. I love designing and thinking on campaigns as much as I love writing. I am part of DM9-DDB’s “Cannes Cyber Agency of the Year” success. Also, my unorthodox outdoor campaign for Türkiye ?? Bankas? brought the first Cannes Lion ever to the country. So here I am, not medium-oriented but ideas-oriented. It’s no different in my own agency; we like to go hand in hand with digital. Our recent Coca-Cola campaigns, New Balance campaigns, and CNN Türk campaigns move beyond traditional advertising.
We have four core values in our agency: independence to top-level creativity, power of local insights, ideas that can move, and being human-centric. When I choose an idea in the agency, I choose according to these principles. I did the same when choosing for this issue of Lürzer’s Archive.
What do you think about the role of print today? Is it about to disappear?
First, print won’t be disappearing of course. But it will change its shape.
What are your own experiences from your digital campaigns? Why were they digital and not conventional?
For me, digital is no more than a media. As we don’t have special departments called TV or radio in the agencies, I don’t think we should have separate departments for the internet. YouTube is today’s most viewed TV channel, so to speak. We acted according to that fact for our “Not for grown-ups campaign” for Panço, a kids clothing company. It was solely digital, it bumped sales by 250 per cent, and it won an Effie.
In terms of the political situation in Turkey, I assume it must be a very difficult time for advertising too. Am I right? What are your thoughts on this?
These days are tough for Turkey and, of course, it does affect advertising, too, in economic and spiritual terms. We are moving forward to an era in which artificialities have neither response nor compensation from the public, and in which digital will come forward. On the other hand, truly competent admen will solve communication problems and produce value that goes beyond our current understanding of advertising.
How do you feed your creativity? Where do you get the inspiration for your work?
Lürzer’s Archive, of course! You guys, do you need an agency?
Would you advise young people/students to go into advertising at this moment in time? What are some of the things they should be prepared for?
Of course! Advertising needs highly qualified, talented young people more than ever. They need to try to see the big picture. They have to understand how advertising can meet clients‘ expectations and how it can solve their business problems.
My humble advice to them: If you consider working with someone, always look at the careers of people who worked with them and understand how they got to this point in their careers. That will give you a realistic idea for your future.