A communication professional with over 17-years of experience in integrated marketing, public relations and digital, Tereza Tranakas is Founder & Managing Partner of Oxygen, an integrated, forward-thinking agency, focused on driving engagement for top brands. Prior to Oxygen, Tranakas accumulated experience by working in top management positions for well-known international brands and tech start-ups, both in Romania and the US. BR talked to Tereza about the entrepreneurial path she took 10 years ago, about Oxygen’s growth and expansion to Cluj-Napoca, as well as the local PR industry of 2018-2019 and a possible economic crisis.
By Romanita Oprea
2018 was the year Oxygen celebrated 10 years on the market. Besides that milestone, how was the year special for you?
Ten years ago, I started Oxygen from the strong belief that communication is for brands and companies as vital as oxygen is for people. We grew steadily each year, by being a reliable partner to our clients and delivering outstanding results. There’s a lot of credit to our team for where we are now, and of course all the clients that have trusted us along the way.
I believe the 10-year milestone actually marks a new phase in our agency’s life, we can say we got to the next level in terms of maturity, experience, a highly consolidated team and a robust and diverse client portfolio. We now have strong competencies in practically every major sector, with experienced teams comprising strategists, senior consultants and the right know-how of the communication field and latest trends and technologies. More importantly, 2018 was the year that we made the transition from a PR agency into a full-service integrated agency with focus on digital and social engagement. PR is still an important part of our business, but we are now able to provide clients a full range of communication services. And that’s what Oxygen is all about now. Moving forward, there’s an exciting path ahead.
You decided to expand your activity, from PR to now also doing social media, digital and video production. Why did you make that decision and how did the clients react?
The 10-year expertise that we bring to the industry is more than passion and hard-working people. It is about the capability of adapting to the client needs, the market trends and opportunities. It is about being able to proactively identify and react to our clients, who are more demanding and more selective than ever. This is why it was only natural to start covering digital, social media and content creation, to go into video production, to build a strong creative department, events and eventually, to craft full campaigns for our clients. The reaction can only be a positive one from the clients, as they can get integrated quality services from an already trusted partner.
Also last year, you opened an office in Cluj-Napoca. Why did you make that decision and why particularly there?
I have been eyeing Cluj-Napoca for quite a few years, as it has become an incredible economic and social hub. We’ve done some projects in the past for Cluj-based brands such as Banca Transilvania and I was astonished with the development. Yet there was no experienced agency present right there to serve the growing needs of locally-based clients. In fact, we now run complex projects from our Cluj-Napoca office for companies with a strong regional presence especially in the Northwest of the country. Proximity, as well as having a local team that “speaks their language”, was key. We are the first national agency to open offices in Cluj-Napoca, as we see great potential in building and developing communication campaigns in the Transylvania area – and we see great results. My partner Ruxandra Marin and her team in Cluj have already done great work in our first year for local and international brands such as bigstep, Metro Systems, KiK, hipMenu.ro and many others.
What was the situation like for pitches?
We grow most of our portfolio organically and from client recommendations, and we only participate selectively in pitches. That being said, I am glad to say that we won every pitch in which we participated last year, winning new (and old) clients such as AXN (Sony Pictures), Huawei Technologies, Vivre, Femibion – Dr. Reddy’s, Prime Kapital or Veka Romania. I am very proud of our team for their achievements. Furthermore, an important contribution to the new client wins is done by our New Business Director Andreea Filip, who is doing an excellent job in attracting the right type of customers to the agency.
You also launched an agency vlog. Where did the idea come from and why?
The agency vlog started as a video project to help educate new generations of communicators about the industry. We always talk about how we need to find new talented and dedicated people, that could step up the game in the communication industry, but we (as industry) do not offer enough support to help them learn more and discover if this is the job for them. Also, nobody talked before about how the agency life is really all about, so why not us? With our own video production team in house, this was a fun and engaging experience for all of us. Now we are moving on into producing more sophisticated content material, so we will see how the vlog will evolve.
How would you characterize the local communication industry in 2018 in terms of budgets, campaigns, creativity, etc?
Brands are becoming more extrovert now with the advent of digital media, especially those that do not have the budget for big TV productions and ads. There’s a lot of these brands going social, having more courage and directing their budgets to creativity, content creation and social engagement. In terms of creativity, there was also a need to come up with new and improved ways to reach the emotional side of the consumer, trend that will definitely be visible in 2019 too. Video continues to be on the rise, as well as influencer marketing, where a large part of the budget is being spent.
What were your most wanted services by clients in 2018?
Strategy, creativity, content development, reputation management and consumer engagement (be it via social / digital channels or actual events) were most sought after in 2018.
What were the biggest campaigns you worked on?
Some of our dearest campaigns include The Brave Bootcamp for AXN Sony Pictures, the 10-year integrated campaign of Olympus dairy company (which is unfolding now), the bold brand campaigns such as Free Your Hair, for Batiste Romania, with choreographer Emil Rengle, or “Personalitatea ta SPLAT” campaign for SPLAT Toothpaste, Campari’s Red Dairies, Metro Systems’ Tech n’ Trade launch in Cluj-Napoca, KiK’s launch on the Romanian market, Huawei’s Mate Pro launch, Total Romania’s Startupper of the Year competition supporting young entrepreneurs, the first edition of Betano Night Run, the strategy and positioning of Yasou new Greek restaurant in Bucharest, and also being part of the team behind BCR launch of George digital platform. There have been many other great projects, so the list could go on and on. I am grateful to all our clients for trusting us with their brands.
What were the campaigns you admired in the local industry and why?
I can’t recall when it was done, but I was very much touched by the MagiCAMP / MagiHOME campaign and many others with a social cause. As everyone from the industry agrees, brands without purpose will not have a bright future ahead.
What trends did you notice on the local market?
Key words in 2018 were courage, social purpose, boldness, authenticity and relevance. Of course, with a constant adaptation to the new channels, new content formats and the ever-challenge of capturing consumer’s hearts and minds.
What types of clients are you looking for in 2019?
I believe we seek in clients what clients seek in us. As with any partnership, we aim for honesty, transparency, respect, trust, courage, results-driven mindset. And last but not least, human. We are in the people business. It’s about people, chemistry and building long-lasting relationships.
What do you wish for the local industry this year?
I believe we all need to be a little more humble and mutually-supportive. Give credit where credit is due. Keep the focus on growing the industry, on improving ourselves and having always the client’s best interest in mind rather than what shines for awards.
Do you believe a second economic crisis will come?
As with any economy, there will be ups and downs throughout years. It is important that our business is healthy, with a diverse portfolio, and built in a way that can sustain these fluctuations. I strongly believe that the long-term outlook for Romania is positive. But we have to overcome a few bumps along the way. ☺
If so, how will it affect the Romanian PR industry?
There is a positive aspect of tougher times – it cleans out the market from many wannabes and only the most solid, reputable and healthy organizations prevail. I believe the market has well-established players who will outgrow more difficult times, as it was proven in the past.
What have you learned from the last crisis and how prepared are you for a new one?
I actually launched Oxygen agency during the crisis period. It was tough, but what a great experience! I never lost faith. Ten years later, we can keep the learning in mind. Most importantly, do the job well, with professionalism, passion, care and respect. And keep the organization flexible, with multi-disciplinary teams, in a structure that can easily adapt to new market conditions. Last but not least, humility. It’s important not to be driven by ego.
How has Oxygen changed you as a professional? What were the most important aspects you’ve learned from this experience so far?
Oxygen has fulfilled me professionally as no other job probably could. It’s given me such a broad experience of all communication areas, understanding of many industries, the opportunity to work with amazing teams and demanding clients. It has been the biggest challenge and the best achievement. It has really enriched me as a professional and human being.
And as I said, we’re in the people business. I have had the fortune of being accompanied along this journey by some great people who have supported me and Oxygen in our development. So thank you. And wow, there’s so much more excitement lying ahead, I just can’t wait!