Small German companies are happy to work with the top Latvian agency

Kristaps Silins

Interview with Balticbest 2017 jury member Kristaps Silins, Brand Strategist and CEO at McCANN Riga. 

What are the main trends in Latvian advertising market?

Well, the competition is doing good. Solutions are becoming more daring and more interesting. There are some interesting campaigns going on. I see a lot of demand for strategy, but less elsewhere in the Baltics when talking to colleagues in Estonia. It seems to be the feature of Riga at the moment. Digital is growing stronger. Clients demand better quality digital campaigns than are being offered. So there’s potential to grow. Same with content marketing – there are very few strong players.

We are doing a lot to be the most “internationally minded”. That is something that is lacking in the market. Our clients are struggling a lot in export campaigns to enter international markets, like China or launching in London for example. They would like to have a local agency at home that could manage international campaigns or even more basic stuff like export branding. We are trying to set a trend in that. Due to our small market there is a need for that kind of services.

Also in Estonia some agencies are claiming to be helpers of getting into international markets, but they don’t have anything to prove that…

Often both clients and agencies don’t have international experience. But we have developed Germany as one of our main markets. It is biggest export market outside the Baltics. Approximately 15-20% of the business comes from Germany. We are also doing campaigns in other countries to stay fit in that field. We have developed a network of friendly agencies, like McCANN network, but also individual agencies. There are also Netherlands, UK, Spain, France and some Eastern European countries. So we try to build on that experience that most agencies don’t have here. Mostly it is related to brand strategy and consulting for redesigns and relaunches.

As Germany is one of the leading countries in the field of marketing how do they take on you? Are they are suspicious towards Eastern countries? Do you feel any patronizing attitude?

From our experience that is changing. We have found a good mix of having some local people in the team, which is a benefit for the client. Most of the top agencies are unattainable for the SMEs, because they are after big revenues. Therefore smaller companies are going for second or third grade agencies and they lose in quality. But if they reach for top agency in Riga they will get the best quality for the same price they would have got for mediocre campaign in Germany. So it’s a win-win situation.

How do you approach German clients? What kind of wildfire would be necessary to get attention?

Cold calling wouldn’t work in most cases. Most important is to do something that is noticeable and someone catches it, but sometimes it’s just the question of a few beers with important people in Berlin. German market is anyway too big to swallow it as a whole, so there is no need for a wildfire, sparks are just fine! We don’t try to get more clients than we can handle.

Can you bring a practical example or tell a story from your experience to illustrate it?

I’ve been doing quite a lot of talking in different events and conferences. Especially on the topic of strategy. Seemingly there was no result. But then came a call from a person who was in the audience one and half years ago who was now facing a business challenge. So we managed to turn this fruitful conversation into meaningful cooperation. This falls into the category of people just talking and building personal touch.

So it wasn’t an active sales process to conference attendees from your side?

No, but maybe it works for some companies. It is a ‘high cost low result’ approach. We really better focus on doing stuff that people will talk about. Even if the reach is small the impact will be higher which will lead to better results.

What is the biggest issue that clients in Latvia lack – what needs to be improved in their marketing skills?

What is lacking is being challenged early on. I’m always happy when marketing director comes to us as strategists before doing the annual plan or actual brief. When you have all the long run strategies in place very early there is likely something that will go unnoticed. So you actually kind of need this “idiot’s perspective” to succeed. We are most happy about the clients who don’t have those plans yet but they have the roadmap that can be developed on from day one. So there’s a need for naïve perspective.

There is an interesting case where one Estonian entrepreneur wanted to do everything by the book, starting from logo to social media campaign and showroom, but got very disappointed when nobody could do it as a full package – all the agencies were specialized on something, but unable to do it all together.

That’s why we have a full spectrum of services available in McCANN group in Riga through only one contact point. That is certainly one of the thing we try to do. And we would like to have more clients like the one you made example of. This would help to create the best outcome. Unfortunately most of the clients take all the ingredients and throw into one bowl and then hope it will work out.

But the problem with groups is that they are not the best in everything. Wouldn’t you agree?

Yes, but our policy is brutal honesty and our goal is 100% satisfied client. Therefore we might even say that some of our agencies might not be suitable for client’s needs. But we have open policy to work together with anybody, even with agencies outside the group. We carefully evaluate what’s best for the client. So we don’t have strict guidelines not to work with external partners.

What is the area where clients will be willing to spend money in the near future?

Certainly digital content creation, storytelling, branded content, etc. There is more demand than supply. Another area would be PR and lobbying. The trend has been going down, but due to changes in media and growing importance of social media is creating a need for that. It is good time for PR. Third area would be digital conversion and selling online. There’s a gap between digital sales and online marketing which would be analytical enough. Sales campaigns could be more creative and more analytical at the same time. It’s a bit like in the old days with classical media when the medium was more important than the content. This is happening today as well. So first you need to understand the channels and then you can grow creativity on that.

Interviewed by Hando Sinisalu, Best Marketing International

Balticbest festival of creativity will take place in Tallinn on the 30th of August, 2017. Check out the program