5 Minutes with… Jorg Riommi
Jorg Riommi has lived and worked in Rome, San Juan, Berlin and Frankfurt – but since 2007 the city of Bucharest has been home to the half Italian, half German creative director. He arrived just as Romania joined the European Union and has seen the young, creative country evolve before his eyes. There’s a generation of spontaneous entrepreneurs shaking things up both within the ad industry and beyond, and Jorg is loving every minute of it.
Following a stint at Saatchi’s in Germany, Jorg became chief creative officer at Publicis Bucharest in 2014 – and these days he’s regional creative coordinator for Publicis One CEE too, a role that’s allowing him to delve into all sorts of exciting, tech-forward markets.
LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Jorg to pick his brains because if you’re not obsessed with Romanian creativity, well, you really should be.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what role did creativity play in your childhood?
Jorg> I grew up in Rome, Italy, and I spent childhood summers by the seaside in Fregene, a small beach resort town near Rome, and in Munich, Germany.
When I was a kid I remember spending a lot of time drawing, I really loved it. I also loved reading and getting bored, which led me to daydreaming. I also did all sorts of weird things with small animals like crickets or lizards, but am not sure that qualifies as creative…
Then, when I was 11 or 12, I discovered guitars and everything blew up! It started a love for music and playing that lasts to this day. I guess this all contributed to my aesthetic taste.
LBB> And did you have any favourite ads growing up?
Jorg> There were some pretty horrible ads that chased us all in Italy for many years, you just couldn't not see them. Mulino Bianco's little yellow cap girl with little kitten, Pennello Cinghiale, Tonno Insuperabile 180 grammi di bonta’ in olio di olive, Denim per l’uomo che non deve chiedere mai.. Somehow they ended up as cult ads. I guess a whole generation can confirm this.
It was a million years ago, and I’m not quite sure I liked them – but they did catch my eye for sure.
LBB> Did you always want to go into advertising or was there something else you wanted to pursue?
Jorg> I wanted to be a rock star, of course! I’m not kidding!
I gave it a good try for a few years with a couple of bands, before realising Italy doesn’t quite have the culture or scene to make that work properly. By then I was already in my university years and had got the advertising bug, so in the end I took that turn.
LBB> You were in bands? What instrument and kinds of music did you play? And is music still a big part of your life?
Jorg> Yes, I was in bands for around 15 years. We played covers and our own stuff, on the rockish side of things. I was lead guitar. I still love music but as for having time to play… well…
LBB> Am I right in thinking you’re half German and half Italian? How have both of those (very different!) cultures informed and influenced you?
Jorg> It’s good I’m a Gemini - that helped me cope with such a bipolar upbringing.
Growing up in Italy with a German mum was an interesting experience indeed, but I think I owe much of my 'edge' to this set up, if you want to call it such. In the end, it also impacted my work of course; a love for fun and improvisation matches smoothly with a sense of method, discipline and proper planning. Somehow one side strengthens the other and makes it a lively mix! Sometimes hard to cope with – ask my wife – but it’s also never boring, I guess.
LBB> You’ve worked all over Europe, but I’m really curious about what drew you to Bucharest?
Jorg> A crazy creative director from London called Nick Hine – now worldwide creative director for Red Bull! That’s it.
I was comfortably sitting in Saatchi Rome and doing international EMEA workshops every few months when I met him in Amsterdam in 2006. And incredibly enough I had put his work into my university graduation thesis, that’s how we connected. We really clicked while working, and after a few months he called me up saying he was in Saatchi Bucharest and there were some interesting international plans to make cool stuff happen backed up by John Pallant (Saatchi & Saatchi EMEA ECD). A few days later I was on a plane. It was a blast, and a month or two later I dropped everything and moved to Bucharest. It was 2007, just as the country entered in Europe – but I didn’t pay much attention to this back then, I was too busy partying and working hardcore.
Everyone back then thought I was crazy…
LBB> How has Romania changed since you moved in 2007?
Jorg> Romania has changed a lot since I moved here, especially Bucharest – it literally exploded. When I got here in 2007 was right at the beginning of this change, lots of infrastructure work and renovations going on. Now it's a vibrant young city full of energy and ideas and things happening. Literally every month there’s a new bar, club, restaurant or cool events place opening. Real fun and inspiring to be around, and lots of possibilities.
LBB> Romanian creativity is so exciting – what is it about the country and the culture that lends itself to creativity?
Jorg> I think when things are not set and in a melting pot state, you have lots of opportunities to try things out.
And I think the Romanians’ Latin background is like the Italians, and their natural inclination towards a culture of spontaneity and improvisation is key.
Necessity is the mother of invention after all, they say, and here there are a lot of possibilities as everything is happening right now, I see it unfolding in front of my eyes. It’s really a time and land of opportunities, full of a new generation of smart young people who want to change what they don’t like from a previous distant communist era and have the mindset and now the tools to do it. What’s better than that?
I also think there’s a special will and a hunger to prove yourself and to be an entrepreneur. And Romanians are really smart about that. Look at the growth of the IT sector here, for instance. It’s gonna become the Silicon Valley of Europe, and in many aspects Bucharest already resembles Berlin, another place I lived in for a while.
LBB> Are there any local artists/filmmakers/writers who really inspire you and who our readers should check out in order to get a handle on Romanian creativity?
Jorg> Many, here is just a few:
Inna – not an artist I necessarily like the music of, but when a few of your videos have 200 million views each on YouTube and you are sold all over the world, you must have done something right. You might know all of her songs, yet not know she came out of Bucharest.
And here's a great creative story, more on the business side - Bitdefender.
The great thing is that I can call a few of them friends, so it’s a real privileged close look into their vision, dreams and challenges.
LBB> Your role now encompasses the whole of Central & Eastern Europe – what markets outside of Romania are really exciting you at the moment?
Jorg> I’m getting more and more into this with specific clients such as Coca-Cola, which I lead for Publicis in CEE - and working directly on pitches and more with the single country's offices. There’s a lot to do, and I think CEE and especially Eastern Europe are really exciting markets right now, as lots is happening.
I think Turkey and Ukraine are particularly exciting as they are huge markets with great potential.
LBB> The region has a wealth of tech talent too – thinking of places like Poland, Ukraine etc. How does that play into the kind of work coming from the region?
Jorg> I think there’s obviously a lot of attention in the region on technology, especially IT and to a certain extent also AR, VR and AI. Romania plays a central role in the region, especially in IT and security. Numbers are growing as more international companies are investing and the culture of angel funding is spreading. For us this attention to tech and data was pretty central in a few of the things we have done in the last few years, most recently Renault Doodle Mats and Enel's The Nest Address. Not to mention other projects such as ACR Streetview Test, Mr Bear Driver or Bernie's Speed Test.
LBB> There’s also been some difficult political situations recently across the region – from the anti-corruption protests in Romania to far right activity in Hungary and Poland. How do these sorts of situations impact on the region’s ad industry?
Jorg> I think protesting is a good thing. Change is always welcome, especially if it’s against an old way of doing politics and some old mentality. Far right activity instead is something I don’t like at all as it’s not progressive but rather retrograde. Pity it seems rather a global trend these days. It will pass, like all things.
LBB> Which recent projects from Publicis CEE have particularly inspired and excited you?
Jorg> There’s some amazing work coming out of Milan for Diesel (Go with the Flaw, Flaws Always Win, in collaboration with the NY office). I think Turkey has some great stuff for Turkish Airlines and Renault.
There’s also some great work coming from Publicis Belgrade and Macedonia soon.
LBB> Outside of work, what do you do to recharge your creativity?
Jorg> I love to spend time with my wife and my two sons. In recent months I have also been busy with an agrotourism project in a lovely area in the north of Romania called Bucovina that I’m slowly taking care of at a distance.