Latvian advertising legend Ēriks Stendzenieks: There will always be a need for good storytelling

Ēriks Stendzenieks

Eriks is a founder and creative director of Mooz, one of the most iconic Latvian ad agencies, and Director of the Board of the Latvian Art Directors Club.

What is your view on the status of advertising industry in 2016?

There is too much enthusiasm about the technology. Social media, gamification, the internet of things, Pinterest, etc. These new things are exciting, but they do not solve basic human problems. We forget that we still have human bodies.

You cannot download a sausage from the internet. Or get pregnant via Skype. We as humans are still the same we were a thousand years ago. Our bodies have not changed, our instincts are the same. We still want to love and be loved. I think that certain things cannot be robotized. Human storytelling is still needed.

I used to be the big advocate of traditional, epic ATL campaigns. Then I got excited about the gadgets and technology. Now I am back where I started – I believe in good old storytelling in advertising.

What are the main trends in Latvia?

We lose people, our population is declining. We lose market players – Nordea Bank recently announced that they will leave. Aldaris has centralized its pan-Baltic marketing operations. There are rumors that LMT and Lattelecom will merge in the future. But regardless of that I do not see dramatic decline of the advertising business.

I see attempts of over-targeting, segmenting the audience into ridiculously small segments. If your target group is „left- handed Lutheran cyclist who loves cats and non-carbonated water“, you end up targeting only one person. I agree that it seems very tempting to target precisely, but it is impossible. Narrowing down the audience that much also means higher cost per contact.

There is also this soft and sweet trap, fake sense that we can measure everything in digital marketing. We can measure almost everything in real time – but we really do not know how to interpret those numbers.

Why Latvian (and Baltic) agencies are not very successful in winning big advertising awards, such as Cannes Lions?

There has been an enormous change in the festival model. It is not a competition of advertising, it is a competition of case studies. And it is very expensive to produce a good case study – it costs almost as much as the production of the ad itself.

If you compare it with the Oscars then it would be as if (instead of the movies ) „the making of Batman“ would compete with „the making of Titanic“.

Big global networks such as WPP and Omnicom also complain about that trend in festivals.

Unfortunately we have lost the culture of making posters – almost all ex-Soviet countries had it. How to communicate powerful messages without saying much, with keeping your mouth shut. How to remove all the unnecessary elements from the poster.

Many agencies believe that content marketing is the most important trend now.

Many agencies promise to their clients to create good content. As if it was an easy task. Can you imagine that movie directors will come together and agree to make only Oscar-winning movies?

There is no other magical trick than good old storytelling. But the talent is limited, there will be only limited number of good stories. Not enough for every client.

People do not want that much content about every brand. There is already too much content anyway.

I remember the previous big buzzword – in 2005-2006 the agencies talked about the interactive banners as the solution to every problem.

You have been in the advertising business for 25 years. What keeps you excited?

There is always demand for a high quality storytelling, I love that. Some clients who value that still keep me going.

I think we as humans are irrational, illogical and unpredictable. No artificial intelligence can understand us human beings. There will be always need for good storytellers.

Interviewed by Hando Sinisalu, Best Marketing International