Sorin Tranca: Founder, Friends\TBWA

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Bio: Sorin Tranca is Founder of FRIENDS\TBWA.

How did you get into the industry?

Advertising was the second most interesting thing on TV. Didn’t manage to get into sitcom writing, so here I am… became a copywriter :) Let me just mention that happened only 18 years ago.

Any emerging industry trends?

If we speak of local trends, I think Romania is in a rare position now, that of a hopeful economic environment. We have economic growth a bit over the European average, so there’s an element of growing consumption across categories which translates into a timid revival of the marketing & advertising quality, overall. We see more image campaigns than in the late years and a bit more investment in brand building, with more campaigns addressing emotions than functional. Simply said, funny is back. If we speak of global trends, it’s just like everywhere else: personalization, mobile-first, with e-commerce looking down at traditional trade & all. Not much difference than elsewhere. Also, our Internet speed is by far surpassing the European average, so a lot of new tech initiatives. I think we agencies should really invest more in stuff like virtual and augmented reality, but sometimes it’s hard to sell the future to decision makers that are 50+. Also, things with “higher meaning” are picking up. A lot of marketers realise that their brands have to have some sort of social or cultural purpose, besides delivering good price and quality.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Besides the things mentioned above, I think there’s a great potential in talking to millennials properly. Sometimes I feel like a shrink, trying to make things work between father and son (decision maker and direct target of the brand). We have some success in doing that, but it’s really not about superficial things like “consumer language”. We need to dig deeper and segment harder, find better, more relevant insights. For instance, a lot of the car makers don’t understand digital natives for the simple reason that on average, digital natives are not really interested to spend 15k Eur to achieve status. They only need 1.000 and they do that by upgrading their phone, not their transportation. I come from the generation of people that considered a big achievement when owning a cool car. It’s not the same with our sons and daughters. I guess what I’m trying to say is that a long line of consumer habits (e.g. car > credit > job) are changing and there’s an opportunity for smart marketers here.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Please notice that I am part of a rare breed of creatives that have founded an agency and managed to keep it running for more than 6 months :) We called our agency, founded 2003, FRIENDS. This means trust, basically, and if possible, making things with people you enjoy. As one of my idols says, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing it well with people you like”. These are Master Lee Clow’s words and I totally believe in that. BTW, I think we were extremely fortunate to join a network that we had always admired, TBWA. I believed in Disruption® long before we joined TBWA. Coming back to your question, I plan to keep things growing along these 3 values: learning, doing, trust. Whatever we’ll do in the future, we’ll try doing them with these in mind. i believe in ideas and values, not in tools or channels. I don’t really care what the next opportunity is, as long as I learn something new.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

I guess this is the question where all of us will answer “digital” this-and-that. Being more specific, I’d personally like to link branding skills to virtual needs, i.e. make the digital funnel work better and bring more conversion through re-shaping key parts of it through better UX, more relevant copy, smarter pop-ups. Hope that makes sense :)

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

I plan to teach people around me to work better with suppliers, for instance. There’s a tendency to “kill” suppliers with cost and delivery time. My personal view on this is that the chain is as weak as its weakest part. I have always felt that respecting suppliers - like truly nurturing that idea - brings a lot of leverage in hard times. I think one of the things i will do next is to put all of our partners in a better position when they work with us or for us. I think we need that context to be more solid, emotionally, in a future in which specialized businesses are taking more and more share from the communication mix.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

2009. We almost closed down. Unimaginably tough year. Compared to 2008, we were left with almost one 4th of the business. I realised how much money and opportunity we just took for granted in the previous years and how superficial of a “manager” I was. I also learned that there’s no point in regretting bad decisions of the past, so it was easy to let go and focus on what’s next. I think that’s exactly what saved the agency, in a market that has severely contracted, from almost 1bil Eur to probably around 300mil. I also learned that you can talk to people more openly and the best work mates are the ones that are able to say what hurts to your face.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

I think we’re possibly the fastest guns around. I mean it, i think we work very fast, most especially when we have purpose and trust from the client. Also, if you listen to the first 2 times I say “this won’t work properly”, I think you will save a lot of money and time. So I also think we are quite precise in thinking and planning. But I usually tend to focus on what doesn’t work best, when I look at the agency, so I better stop now.

How do you motivate others?

I think I’ve always preferred motivation through shame, than through fear. I try to create a horizontal agencies, I don't like hierarchies that much and this is why I try to set a positive example or make sure I fit standards that a require in others. It really doesn't work that well as scaring people every day that they lose their jobs, like other managers like to do, but it creates a better workplace and more solid team, emotionally. I’m just not happy when I see people that avoid me because I’m the boss. I’d rather have them kick my ass so I can kick back. I hope everyone realises this is a metaphor :) right?

Career advice to those in your industry?

Be fast. Be kind. Be the thing you want others to be. Learn, un-learn, re-learn.