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5 Questions with Publicis Groupe CEE Lioness: Zsuzsa Polgar
Advertising Agency
Budapest, Hungary
Publicis Groupe Hungary's chief business officer on memorable experiences, challenging the status quo and learning how to keep finding inner drive

As part of Publicis Groupe Central & Eastern Europe (CEE)’s 'Embrace Gender Equity' initiative that was launched during this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8th, the company created a special series 'Publicis Groupe CEE Lioness' designed to showcase and spotlight its many female talent and leaders across the CEE region, celebrating their experiences and important roles they play within the company. Get to know the Publicis Groupe CEE Lionesses through their stories in this series.

1. Can you share your story with us, how have you gotten to where you are today in your profession?

Zsuzsa> When I was around 18 years old, I read an article about Saatchi New York (NY) in a magazine. I remember the article talked about how a day looks like in this big agency, it talked about rebel creativity and Saatchi’s credo, 'Nothing is impossible'. I was like “I wish one day I could work for this cool company.” And five years later, I got in. :) Not to Saatchi NY, but Budapest and I could not have been happier with the opportunity to start as an account assistant. My first client was Erste Bank, which was a BTL (below the line) client and so I did many leaflets, city lights posters and POS (point of sale) materials. Every day I woke up and went to the office with a big smile on my face and said, ‘This is the best job ever!’ I loved every minute of it. In my second year, due to team changes, I was given the opportunity to work on P&G alongside my manager at that time, Kinga Meszaros, the former CEO of Saatchi Budapest. Kinga was not just my manager, but more importantly, she was my mentor for 10 years. I consider myself lucky that I could learn everything from her.

This was the start of my journey with P&G - with a five-market coordination for ATL (above the line), creation of ATL campaigns end to end for the biggest brands of P&G including Ariel, Pampers, Blend-a-Med and Blend-a-Dent. I believe I’ve seen P&G operations from many angels - local, regional, global and thanks to its complex yet logical procedures and ways of working, I have been able to gain extensive knowledge about brand building, qualitative and quantitative research, how to test creatives, how to write GOOD briefs. I was part of some cool new product and brand introductions; I was leading global website building and digital content creation for Tide, Ariel and learning together with the P&G global laundry and Baby care team not just the basics of digital, but mastering digital consumer journey and content creation in the last seven years and creating a unique program leading the way in digital brand building globally.

2. What has been your most memorable experience in your career so far?

Zsuzsa> I consider myself very lucky because over the course of my career I have had many memorable experiences. I was part of the (super cool) 'Ideas Academy' that Saatchi used to organise, or 'Tribes' workshops led by the great John Pallant, and I could witness how these great creative leaders operate and how a great idea is born. Besides these memorable creative experiences, I worked together with multiple great talents across countries and regions - I saw how the iconic, Cannes Lions award-winning Super Bowl ads for Tide came to life. Exciting times :)

Besides these memories, my all-time favourite experience, there is also the Pampers Club operation that we built together with my colleagues Roy Bar-Adon and Eric Rainsberry. This long journey gave me so much growth in my professional and personal life. To mention a few: learning how to work together (and I mean really work together) when you have the maximum trust in your peers and knowing that no matter what, you are there for each other day and night and over the weekend; or during the most challenging presentation to Marc Prichard (P&G global CMO) because together, you are able to create magic; learning what leadership really means and how much it matters every day; doing something which no one ever has done, so you can count only on yourself and your peers and do whatever you think is the good way/solution; learning that you can really make mistakes and it won’t weaken you, but actually it makes you stronger and better in your profession.

3. Similarly, what was the most challenging moment and how did you overcome it?

Zsuzsa> I believe that this industry is famous for many things, but for sure it’s famous for the most challenging moments. Since we work together with people in fast pace work environment, crafting insights, creating art - which is always subjective -, delivering it within tight deadlines and having to solve impossible challenges, all these create the perfect combination of the most challenging moments on a daily basis. I have had many of these and it’s hard to pick one. The one that came to mind is when I just took over Pampers and presented the big campaign ideas to the lead of Pampers Club who is a very challenging P&G leader (rightfully) and is super smart and extremely demanding. He said that these are bad ideas and execution and was ‘curious’ about how we ended up presenting these ideas to him. I remember that it was a crucial moment and  I had two seconds to make the decision - be honest and tell the truth that might impact our future collaboration, or just respond generally and take the blame. I chose to tell the truth, which led him to realize that there had been a huge disconnect between them internally and on the brief itself. This led us to receive a new brief with 10 days to present new campaign ideas. This enabled us to find the creative platform idea for Pampers Club (turning nappies into rewards), a platform idea that we are still using today after seven years. This was a pivotal moment as it is likely that if we never spoke up, we would never have gotten a new brief, we would never have delivered this idea, and we would never have built the Pampers operation in Saatchi Budapest.

4. What are your most important tips on achieving success?

Zsuzsa> Over the past 17 years I have worked with three different CEOs, multiple clients and built several teams. This industry taught me how important it is to challenge the status quo, but more importantly, to challenge myself (to succeed). No matter how successful your business unit is, how good your team is, or how much growth you have delivered so far, there’s only one constant in the industry and that is ‘change’. This means we are always in beta mode. It took me some time to learn how to keep finding my inner drive / strength to look at things from multiple perspectives and NOT be defined by a ‘this is how it has always been’ way of thinking.

From the moment I started to work with more people and having more direct reports, reflection on myself, on my actions and to be able to reconnect to my inner self became more important. I had to learn to practice resilience, to be in the present for myself and with my people and how to give the best advice / coaching at the time they need it and what it is. I believe we can achieve success if we are super clear about ourselves, our limits, and boundaries, having clear goals set for ourselves (by us and by our leaders) and we can recognise which things are really for us and which are not.

5. What are your tips for younger female talent embarking on the journey you’re already on?

Zsuzsa> Be brave to make mistakes and admit it.

Be bold to say, ‘I don’t know’.

Never assume! 

Ask questions. Always. But also try to find the answer by yourself.

And then ask questions J

First and utmost be loyal to your peers, not to your bosses J

If you don’t love what you do, first reflect on yourself. Maybe it’s not the company you have to change.

If you feel you’re struggling with something and you don’t find the solution, talk to your peers. Most probably, they struggle with the same thing. And feeling you’re not alone with that issue is already a win. 

Never forget what you were (professionally) when you joined, so you can always reflect on yourself and see how much you grown.

Agency / Creative
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