Ami Hasan: It´s very difficult to export advertising services

July 7, 2015

Interview Ami Hasan, Chairman of Perfect Fools and Hasan & Partners and Balticbest 2015 Jury member. Ami will also share his experience with Balticbest delegates during the “guru workshop” on the 27th of August in Pärnu

Here in the Baltics, multinational companies are increasingly unifying their marketing teams i.e. making campaigns for the whole region. How does that work in Finland? What’s your view on local VS regional?

First and foremost, there’s nothing as powerful as local culture. In England, a longhaired wise man would be regarded as Merlin and in Finland, as Väinamöinen. Every culture has its own associations. Tapping into an unfamiliar culture can easily cause confusion amongst the local customers. Therefore, a regional approach can be very risky. You have to consider the things local people hold close to their hearts. Surely, you can still say a lot with regional advertising. We do have more similarities than differences. But you shouldn’t base all your advertising solely on the product qualities, because it’s not interesting for the consumer.Lets take Coca-Cola who’s jumping back and forward from regional to local. It all works. Saving money is not the main task for a marketer. The main task is to add sales. In some cases it might be more cost-effective, in others it might sacrifice sales. There is no universal formula.

Real-time content-based marketing has become a strong alternative to campaign-based marketing. In a connected world, brands have to be present 24/7. What are your thoughts on this?

All marketing communication is content-based. Every brand should be and usually is available 24/7. Customers are highly connected. They are able to engage AT ALL TIMES. Thus, all info has to be kept fresh and updated. Otherwise it will have a negative impact on the brand’s image.On the other hand, It doesn’t mean ruling out campaigns. Especially if you’ve got the budget for both. Some marketers prefer to shift their campaign money to content marketing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. It requires additional investments. We’re talking marketing automation. Brands who are good at automation believe in good content, which in turn has to be created first. Marketing automation doesn’t save you money, but you will get better results.

Can you share a few words about the state of Finnish advertising industry? How would you assess the current situation?

The advertising industry is a real parasite – we can only live along with other industries. At the moment, the economical situation is very bad. Advertising is suffering hard. Media advertising goes down by 20% during every recession. Most international advertisers have cut their spending. This has lead to some agencies shutting down or merging with others. Some have turned into a group of freelancers. Today, we have around 10 agencies, which you can actually consider as ‘real businesses’.

In Estonia, we are constantly returning to the idea of exporting our services to other markets. Do you believe in exporting advertising services?

Having done this for many years with different levels of success, I’d say exporting advertising is extremely hard. The advertising market is very competitive and overcrowded. It doesn’t matter whether the market is small or big, it’s practically impossible to achieve a market share above 10%. Clients are divided into big industry groups and switching within a single group can lead to conflicts.Why would a client buy advertising from another country? It has to be something very special they’re looking for… The level of creativity/processes/service has to be significantly better and cheaper. It’s a very seldom case. If we look at the whole world, we can probably count 25 internationally successful agencies. Wieden+Kennedy is one of frontrunners and their success has been mostly driven through their work with NIKE.

Is there any hope at all for the industry?

Of course there’s hope! When we bought Hasan & Partners back from Interpublic 4 years ago we had 30 employees and we were making a loss. Had we not made the deal back then, we’d be merged with McCann by now. We became masters of our own fortune. We grew from 30 people to 150, from one market to three, from one agency to five and are now making a good profit.You have to have high ambitions, talented people and invest into your competences (creative storytelling, good strategy, craft of production). If we look pass all the trends and ‘the flavor of the month’ in advertising – it’s still all about storytelling. It’s been this way ever since a group of people sat down by the campfire some thousands of years ago. Whatever the channel, a bad story is a bad story (even on Snapchat!).

Interviewed by: Hando Sinisalu, Best Marketing International