A brand evangelist with a strong business background on the client side, bringing consumer understanding together with trends, data and research interpretation. With more than 14 years of experience in the marcomm industry, both on client side (Vodafone) as well as for major agencies (CohnandJansen JWT, Publicis Group, Ogilvy), Ana-Maria Olaru is now a Strategic Planner for Havas London. BR met with her and had an exclusive interview about her professional path so far and the industry she is working in.
This interview is part of the series called “Romanian creatives in the UK” started with Maria Nazdravan and followed by Bogdana Butnar, Stefan Liute, Andreea Nastase, Alina Pirvu, Teodor Cucu, Mihnea Miculescu, Raluca Voinea, Anda si Dragos Teglas, Diana Vasilescu, Mihai Coliban, Viorica Gheorghita.
By Romanita Oprea
Do you think this trend of Romanian advertising professionals moving abroad will continue? Why?
I believe that there is a lot of talent in the advertising industry that would bring a lot of added value abroad. Leaving the country is a very personal decision as it implies hard changes and decisions so it is hard to say whether there is a growing trend or not. I also think that we live in a world where work mobility is much easier and brings a lot of value so for sure there will always be a percentage of people in the industry taking this challenge, whether they will be promoted within their organization or take the leap on their own.
What are Romanians’ main advantages over their international competition?
I just moved abroad – started on the 4th of June – so it is very early to provide such an evaluations. But I think that our Balkan spirit helps us capture more emotion and have a better understanding of different targeting categories.
How and why did you decide to leave Romania for the UK?
The UK was always at the top of my list for two reasons: first, it is a planning and creativity hub, a place I looked to many times when it came to knowledge in advertising. Second, from a cultural point of view, the British culture always seemed closer to my values and way of working so the integration seemed like it would be easier for me. We will see if I was right 🙂 I am a Strategist with Havas London – I really liked the team, their internal culture and their work, so we really clicked in the process.
How important were the awards you have in your portfolio in your resume and how much do you think they mattered in the agency’s decision to hire you?
On a scale from 1 to 5, I would say the awards were a 3 out of 5 in importance and this is due to the fact that I had mainly local awards in my resume. I think this changes when you have international awards under your belt as they become much easier to recognize from any country in the world.
But even though my awards were only local, it was important to have Effie writing experience, which can be applied to international awards writing moving forward.
What were the main challenges you faced after moving to London and how did you surpass them?
The main challenge for me was to understand how the industry works in the UK and to get to know the people in the industry as I had no prior connections. It is something that I am still working on, I am making full use of my APG and IPA memberships, going to all the industry events and also reaching out to planners in more informal settings.
How happy are you still with the decision you made?
I am actually happier now with my decision than I was when I left. The first 6 months were a roller coaster trying to figure out so many things at once. But the quality of the work that I have seen here, the projects I am involved in and the team I work with make it an amazing experience that I am fully enjoying.
How has your perception of the UK advertising scene changed since you’ve been working in London and why?
I don’t think that my perception over UK advertising has changed. Before coming here, I thought that in London there is a high regard for planning and this has been confirmed in the day to day projects. I was really very happy also to see the importance set by the clients on research that supports the process in all its stages: strategy, creative concepts and creative executions.
Are you inspired by the career of any Romanian advertising persons working abroad? Why?
I think there are a lot of Romanian advertising professionals who have amazing careers, both abroad and in Romania. I was not specifically inspired by someone, rather the decision was personal, something that I wanted to experience.
What advice would you give to a Romanian advertising person who is thinking about moving to London?
One of the most important things about working in London for me was discovering the importance of the team in all projects. To be able to deliver excellent campaigns, the way the team works together is crucial and this is why there is a constant investment in building the team, getting to know each other and bring out the best in everybody.
My advice would be for them to take their time and get to know their team – it is very important not to be perceived as a lone ranger.
Do you believe that the Romanians working in the London marcomm industry will be influenced by Brexit?
This is quite a complex question for everyone in the UK, not only the Romanians. While everyone has an opinion, I am trying to look at the factors that would influence the decision: if the economy will be affected and go into a recession and if the budgets allocated for global work will also suffer, then for sure there will be changes in the industry that may affect the Romanians working here as much as the other expats in the industry.
But the general feeling for all Europeans is that there is an effort to make the transition as painless as possible and in my case, we have reassurance from the agency about their support throughout the entire process, whatever it will be in the end.
What made you choose a career in advertising in the first place?
It became very clear to me during University that Advertising was the most exciting part of Communication. I am a neophiliac (I know, it sounds like necrophilia, so close, so close) so I was drawn to always discovering new trends, being one step ahead in culture and what people want or need. So far, advertising has been the good thrill that keeps on giving.
What do you believe to be the main qualities of a great planner and strategist?
Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is, in my opinion, the most important quality of a great planner. There is constant talk about being the consumer’s voice within the industry, but having actual empathy and understanding your target, that is a truly remarkable skill. And it is not as easy as it sounds. The industry is living in some of the best working places in the cities, we are surrounded by people that are as educated as we are, with medium to high income, with exotic holidays and wild nights out. But what we need to understand is the reality of the target who has maybe a more routine life, with its own difficulties and we need planners that are more connected in order to generate truly extraordinary campaigns.
At this moment, looking to the future, do you see yourself staying in the UK or do you want to try to move to another continent again (in the US or Japan, let’s say)?
I have been in the UK for just 6 months, thinking about a move now seems quite a challenge ☺ Time will tell if I will become a globe trotter, for now London has been amazing, despite all the Brexit uncertainty, and I don’t see myself moving in the near future.