The Managing Partner at FCB Milan on his partnership with CCO Francesco Bozza and his masochistic passion for Italian rugby
A month ago, Fabio Bianchi brought his experience of over 20 years in agencies to FCB Milan. CCO Francesco Bozza came with him from Leo Burnett, where the pair had worked before. The double hire represents FCB’s focus on their Italian office and they have serious ambitions in their new roles.
Fabio’s career has seen him work on some demanding and prestigious brand accounts, including Procter & Gamble, Telecom, Unipolsai, Alitalia, Sky, Autostrade per l’Italia, Philip Morris, Samsung, Levi’s and Safilo.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with him to find out more about the new man driving the agency forward.
LBB> You recently joined FCB from Leo Burnett. What attracted you to the agency?
FB> I think FCB is a network where creativity still matters and a place where people can still make a difference.
LBB> At the same time, CCO Francesco Bozza took up a position there. You two worked together at your previous agency - how do you work together as a team?
FB> Yes, we have worked together for a few years on many different clients and many pitches. Francesco likes presenting me as ‘his partner’, this means we really work together both on business and strategy and creative projects. Joining FCB Milan we have decided to share the same office. This allows both of us to better know each aspect of the agency to influence all the people working with us.
LBB> What are your ambitions for the agency in the next few years? I presume you've thought of a game plan?
FB> We have really big ambitions for FCB in Italy. As I recently declared to an Italian magazine I’d like FCB to be the surprise on the market for the next couple of years. By that I mean to be invited to the most relevant pitches and win with an important success rate. I think FCB should have a more relevant role and why not start with Italian companies, taking care of their global brands? But I want FCB Milan be more visible also in the network, so with Francesco we’ll work harder with the creative department to obtain international success.
LBB> How did you end up in advertising? You began your career at Levi's, right? What was that like?
FB> Well, not exactly. I studied communication then I started in one of the best advertising agencies at that time, Milano&Grey (now Grey Worldwide), working on those accounts that were considered a school for marketers and advertising people - Procter & Gamble and Mars - before moving to the media department and later account management. Then I moved to Levi’s as Advertising and Promotion Manager for a couple of years. I understood how difficult that role can be when you have budget constraints and strategies are decided in a HQ so far from your market…
LBB> In your day-to-day work, what most excites you?
FB> I really love working with clients. To spend time with them, understand their problems and challenges, find the proper solutions in a true partnership approach. But I really like the creative meetings, mostly for new biz, where everybody can give their contribution to make a difference.
LBB> You're also General Secretary of the International Advertising Association's Italian Chapter. What are the big issues the association is grappling with at the moment?
FB> The IAA is facing the difficulties every association has at the moment. We come from a strong crisis in our market with a decrease in associates. As older associates always considered IAA more of a ‘meeting point’ with colleagues and prospects, younger professionals are attracted only by high-level educational events.
LBB> You've worked in both Milan and Rome. What are the advertising markets like in each city? Alessandro Sabini at McCann told us they're wildly different.
FB> I agree with what Alessandro said. The differences between the two cities are enormous. I fell in love with Rome; Milan never conquered me. But I think that if you want to work in this industry in Italy, the only place to be is Milan. Milan is more international from a business point of view, it is more dynamic, more open to the world.
LBB> Which pieces of work from FCB Milan do you particularly admire and why?
FB> I like to mention the project, the ‘Own Board Magazine’ for Tam Airlines that won a Lion at Cannes a couple of years ago. I know the airlines industry quite well and I understand how complex it can be to give life to an activation. Then I can’t forget all the massive work FCB Milan is doing for the Nivea brand at an international level.
LBB> We're coming up to Christmas and here in the UK the ad industry gets very excited about all the Christmas ads. Does that apply to the Italian market at all or do you have your own advertising traditions at other times?
FB> Unfortunately, we can’t compare the creative product for Christmas in Italy to the British one. Apart from a few campaigns for festivity products, brands are not used to airing those astonishing and emotional ads everybody is waiting for when Christmas is coming. It’s a pity.
LBB> How do you like to relax? Do you have any hobbies or passions that you can talk about for hours?
FB> Not exactly relax. To escape from stress and office issues I like playing rugby. I started too late unfortunately, when I was already 44. It’s not really a mad passion. So, if you want to talk for hours about rugby I’m ready. I also think I have the right solution to manage the rugby system in Italy to avoid those embarrassing performances our national team has made us used to watching… but it’s better to talk about this with a pint of beer.
LBB> Who has had the greatest impact on your career and why?
FB> Two people. My first CEO who accepted me as an intern in my first agency and a few years after, when he left the company, he called me back for a role with more responsibility. Also, my last CEO at Leo Burnett who supported me when I decided to take an MBA when I was working in Rome. After a few years he appointed me as general manager and later managing director of the biggest and most respected agency in Italy.