5 Minutes With… Cristiana Boccassini
Cristiana Boccassini started out studying classics, architecture and interior design, before enlisting for advertising school. Training and working in her home country, she spent 14 years at JWT, before making the move to Publicis Italy, to become ECD – a role she had resisted for many years.
LBB’s Rachael Delahunty caught up with Cristiana to find out more about her motivation, sharing the job with fellow ECD (and now Global CCO) Bruno Bertelli, and why she doesn’t like to feel sorry for herself when it comes to equal opportunities.
LBB> You studied Classics at University – how did you find your way into Advertising?
CB> After finishing my classical studies I enrolled at architecture course of study. At first I wanted to be an interior designer, then I heard about an advertising school and tried it. I started out in Rome, my hometown, and then in Milan where I got an internship at an agency. And from there my adventure began.
LBB> When did you know that you wanted to be a creative director?
CB> I have always liked the strategic part, and exchanging views with the clients to understand their needs. But in the first ten years of my career I refused to be a creative director, despite being offered the role several times. Eventually, however, I gave in after being asked repeatedly.
LBB> You were at JWT for 14 years – what kept you with them for so long and why did you move to Publicis?
CB> I stayed at JWT for so long because I was happy there. The agency has always had a strong strategic and international mark that allowed me to grow a lot and confront myself with different realities. Those were the years where I could participate in the network changing, its digitalisation, and in the increased focus on creativity. It was a very enjoyable time.
It was the challenge in the game that attracted me to Publicis. I was coming from an agency with which I had just won 11 Lions at Cannes and moved over to pick up a new agency that needed to be completely reorganised and refocused. Both in terms of creativity and business goals, it seemed to me the perfect challenge to continue to grow professionally.
LBB> How have you found being ECD with Bruno Bertelli now he is also Global CCO?
CB> I have been working with Bruno since 2002. We have always shared tasks and duties. What has changed now is that he is a little bit less present in the agency. He travels a lot while I try to hold the reins here in Italy. However, we continue to work together on all the international projects.
LBB> Creative leadership is such an important part of your role. How do you get the best out of your teams?
CB> Today the agencies need to be fluid, constantly moving and constantly evolving. Leaders must be the only fundamental point. To me leadership means giving vision to the people working with me, and security so they can express themselves at their best. All this to make them feel moving, and in the making. People feel inspired when they feel led into something new.
LBB> As an ECD, do you feel women are adequately represented in the ad industry in Italy?
CB> Generally I don't like feeling sorry for myself, including about equal opportunities. In Italy the problem still exists but, as in all areas, there are more sexist agencies and more open-minded agencies. We have created something that is very international in Publicis, by hiring many people from abroad. This has meant that the atmosphere is more advanced and egalitarian.
LBB> As a woman, did you encounter any prejudices in reaching such a senior creative post? What advice would you give young women looking toward the same career path?
CB> No prejudices at all. I had clients who preferred to deal with male managers, but these are still casual work relationships. Problems arise when there are prejudices within the workplace. My recommendation is to set one's own rules and conditions immediately, or else it gets much more difficult. And if you don't feel appreciated – forget it and look for another place.
LBB> Have you ever wanted to work outside of Italy or are there other markets that attract you?
CB> Publicis is, as I said, an agency with an international imprint with global clients, hence the need to work abroad is not so strong. Of course London and Paris are cities that I love. Although I would say that Milan has much improved in recent years.
LBB> Heineken is a brand that Publicis Italy has been working with for some time - and we've really been enjoying the responsible drinking ads. The 'Moderate Drinkers Wanted', for example, and the recent Jackie Stewart ad. It's a tricky brief - to advertise a beer and promote moderate drinking - how do you approach this?
CB> The approach is definitely brand lead. That means that rather than pure profit dynamics, Heineken in this case prefers to make a quality choice than a quantity one. Moderate drinking must become aspiration rather than frustration. Then of course the creative leap is what makes it rewarding for the brand; a communication that otherwise is likely to be patronising and boring.
LBB> Dacia is another brand you've done a lot of work for - what are your creative goals for them?
CB> Dacia is a brand that is very close to the people's needs. Strong, available and affordable cars. The objective is to turn this closeness into value. By making it clear what the brand believes in, and highlighting its proximity to the target.
Family Project was a project that has had much echo at all levels. This year we are creating a new project called ‘The Switch’ focused on young people who have to work on Sundays. It will be a lot of fun.
LBB> Of your recent campaigns and projects, which have been particularly satisfying or interesting to work on?
CB> Each project that I work on must have a clear objective. To improve the previous communication. Even a slight improvement. The gratifying part is when this path is visible.
LBB> How do you feed your creativity?
Working with more talented creatives than I am.