Former chief creative officer of Leo Burnett and Publicis Romania, Razvan Capanescu has taken over the creative department of McCann Czech Republic, leading creatively all the group’s divisions: McCann, McCann Digital and Momentum.
What do you consider to be the most important moments of your career and why?
The moment I’ve got hired as a copywriter at Saatchi & Saatchi/ 141, the moment I’ve chosen to go to Publicis and join Alex Badila in building an agency that would change the top of the Romanian ad industry, and also the recent one: moving to Prague to lead the creatives of McCann Worldgroup.
How did they change you and your perspective on advertising?
The first big moment basically opened my eyes to something far more exciting than being a lawyer’s apprentice (I graduated from law school). It changed me a lot, because I discovered advertising like a passion, a job I could do long term without feeling it like a daily grind. I did a bit of theatre acting during my studies, and I loved playing different characters. Advertising was quite similar: thinking like a different character every day – from a truck driver beer-fan to a housewife in love with romantic comedies – only this time I got to write the play.
The experience at Publicis was probably the richest in learnings and the most prolific so far period for me. It proved me how much I can achieve with the right ambition and the right support. I have a lot of good memories, especially from those moments at the beginning, when together with Alex and Teddy (Dumitrescu) and the team we had to win client by client, award by award, and step by step to climb our way up. Those years were so intense, but maybe exactly because of that we all really felt like part of a family.
Now, moving to Prague is equally exciting. So many opportunities. I’m sure there will be plenty to learn from this time as well.
When was the moment you knew for sure that being a creative is your true professional path?
When, together with my art director at the time (Cristian Banu), we won the biggest pitch of that year – Carrefour – against all odds. That presentation could be a winning pitch for a retailer’s business even now.
What do you consider to be Romanian advertising’s main positive features?
I will refer to the Romanian advertising as I know it, and not to what’s on air right now (I know very well that lots of good ideas are presented to clients, but many are simply killed or brought down to an insipid common denominator in lame focus groups). The Romanian advertising is more courageous than most, and more surprising. It benefits (most of the time) from the exuberance and effervescence of the Latin spirit, combined with the thorough Anglo-Saxon approach (that so many Romanian professionals learned through courses, EMBAs, trainings or just by working with expat colleagues).
What about the Romanian advertising professionals’ best assets that recommend them on the international market and help them succeed?
Good continuous education and desire to evolve, adaptable sense of humour, curiosity for other cultures and accepting diversity rather easy, and the ability to do a lot with almost no resources. And ambition above average, but that’s prerequisite for anyone’s success.
Have you considered moving and working outside Romania before? Why was this the right moment and why Prague?
I had considered working abroad before, and I have worked abroad before. Working for global ad agencies, I have often been part of international teams on multi-market projects. And my first big expat experience was in London, two years ago (when I joined my wife who was living there).
The recent move to Prague is different though, with many responsibilities, not like freelancing. This time it is a fulltime job abroad, with a high profile, for a big agency (the biggest on the Czech market), leading a large team, a job that also involves being a global brand custodian for one important international brand with Czech roots, Bata. That’s how Prague seduced me.
How would you characterize the Czech advertising industry in terms of creativity and innovation?
Several years ago we were admiring how the stage at Portoroz was being conquered by the Czech agencies. It was a wave of creativity and enthusiasm we would experience as well, a bit later, in Romania. Czech creative work was bold and very well crafted. But then things started to change, as most of the veterans chose other creative industries, where they still excel – film, art, software. This is a trend that has started to develop in Romania as well.
In a time when true creative talent has so many options, we need to bring back the excitement over this creative occupation. It’s crucial in the Czech Republic, and very soon will be in Romania as well.
What are your hopes and desires entering that market? What about the challenges?
My hopes are to establish a couple of international Czech brands – like Bata and Kozel – as household names on the global stage and to put McCann Prague among the best European agencies. It’s not going to be easy, but with the support I’ve been promised it’s achievable.
Do you believe that having worked in the McCann network before will help you adjust more easily to the new position? If so, how?
My previous period as a McCanner helped me get to know Adrian Botan and respect his leadership as a colleague too, not just as a competitor. But apart from that, so many things have changed. The network is very different now, even though it still runs 100 percent on creativity fuel. So I don’t know if returning makes things easier, but it definitely makes me happy to be in a place driven by the same creative ambition.
How long did it take you to make the decision to leave? Was it hard?
Yes, it was hard to decide to leave. I had the chance to work with some amazing thinkers at Leo Burnett, and we’ve done some great work together. I’ve built a solid creative team there, which I’m confident could do really well even from now on.
Deciding took a lot of thinking, discussions with several people and lots of sleepless nights. But I realised it was time for me to move on. I left with a clean conscience that we’ve reached the goals I was given when hired. The international plans are very promising, so now I’m looking to the future.
How is McCann Prague positioned on the market and what do you plan to do during your first year?
McCann Prague is currently the biggest agency in the Czech Republic, the most effective – as recognized by the Effie Awards – and the only one which came back from Cannes with Gold.
My goal is to make the agency produce this kind of results constantly and to get more and even higher creative accolades. To make market leaders out of the brands we look after.
Also, to help the global brand Bata reach its full potential.
What are the accounts you will be coordinating? Will you also work for regional clients?
As CCO, I’ll be clearly working on all agency accounts. Some are multi-market as well, like I mentioned before. The main clients are Bata (global), Gambrinus, Kozel (regional/ international), L’Oreal, Nokyan tyres and Vodafone.
McCann in Europe is known for not being a very creative agency, except Romania. Do you intend to change that perspective? How?
I don’t think that’s entirely true. I think McCann gains momentum in Europe and has several offices earning creative reputation. Amongst which, yes (and I’m happy for my colleagues), Bucharest shines the brightest usually. But offices like London (that won 20 Lions in Cannes this year, for instance) or Madrid, Stockholm, Milan and Tel Aviv are always associated with great creative work. I do trust Prague will be a very strong creative pillar for the region very soon.
Do you have a certain target to reach? How much of free hand do you have?
The target is to become the most prestigious agency in the Czech Republic and one of the best in the region. I have all the freedom someone in my position usually has. Like I said, it’s not going to be easy, but with the support I was promised it’s achievable.
What will you miss from the Romanian advertising industry and your position at Leo Burnett?
Of course I’m missing my colleagues in Bucharest. The vast majority also became my friends, like family almost. I often remember our inside jokes, the type of humour one can only share with very close friends. But I’m working with a very good and fun bunch in Prague as well, so I’m lucky to add new friends every day.
About Razvan Capanescu, chief creative officer at McCann Prague
An international-award winning creative director, Capanescu has scored several creative premiers for his former agencies: the first Cannes Lions, the first Golds at the International Golden Drum Festival, the first Epica Awards, the first admissions in the prestigious Luerzer’s Archive and the first Intercontinental Advertising Cup won by a local agency.