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Opinion and Insight

Poland at a Creative Crossroads

Polish adlanders on the many competing shifts in their industry, culture and politics

Poland at a Creative Crossroads

The Polish ad industry has a lot to think about at the moment. As a new generation of creative leaders come through and clients begin to adjust to the new creative landscape technology has brought about, there are also many forces pushing against this change, some specific to advertising and others more driven by wider factors - the growing economy juxtaposed with political conservatism. It looks like a complex landscape to navigate.

LBB’s Laura Swinton asked a range of the country’s top creative figures for their thoughts on the changes their industry is having to adjust to, as well as some issues that are much bigger than just the creative industry.

Tytus Klepacz, ECD at Ogilvy & Mather Poland

LBB> How is the advertising industry in Poland changing?
 
TK> Today in Poland we are somewhere in between. Still between the "old and good" above-the-line history, from the story of TV being at the forefront through to digital narrative to the times we live in today. 

Somewhere between "old" and "young" creative directors in agencies, you can see this generational change. I'm part of it. 

And finally - and this is the worst - somewhere between the desire to set trends and create tastes and the dispassionate creation of communication based on pop and unsympathetic stereotypes. It is difficult to say whether we will take a step forward, step back, or be suspended somewhere in between.
 
LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about Polish creativity in 2018?
 
TK> I am waiting for the clash between old strangers with acquaintances and connections and young enthusiastic and hard-working creative directors. It will also be interesting, because this young generation of creative people are taking over the reins in network agencies, and the old ones are opening creative boutiques.
 
LBB> And the most frustrating?
 
TK> I'm afraid that both will be able to do little because of increasingly confused and fearful clients. You have to be really lucky today to have an equal conversation with the client. Thank God I still can.
 
LBB> And what’s been the biggest topic of conversation in the Polish ad industry this year?
 
TK> Are we still copying or are we creating something of our own? Something ours, but fresh. That’s situation was once perfectly named by a Polish writer - Sławomir Mrożek - "too big for Poland, too small for the world".
 
LBB> Poland’s economy grew pretty strongly last year - are you seeing the effects of that in the ad industry?
 
TK> On the contrary, it looks like a total recession is raging in the industry. Timidity, savings and conservatism.
 
LBB> In the UK, the ad industry is still trying to get its head around Brexit! With Poland’s government’s growing criticism of the EU, is the potential of a ‘Pol-exit’ much of a topic of conversation in the Polish ad industry?
 
TK> We have many more important topics: women's rights, the prohibition of abortion, restrictions on civil rights or logging the oldest trees that still stand. A lot is happening.
 
LBB> I know the Polish government is planning a crackdown on foreign-owned media and critical coverage etc – I was wondering whether that is having any knock-on effect on the Polish ad industry and the kind of work you can put out? Or not so much?
 
TK> I do not see any major correlations here. Business is a business. It will turn out whether a Pole will pay the agency more or less than a German or British. It will probably depend on the negotiation process.
 

Kamil Majewsk, Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi Poland

LBB> How is the advertising industry in Poland changing?

KM> Not quickly enough! Most of the brands and agencies still live in the pre-digital world, focusing mainly on TV. As the world of communication is now on the edge of even bigger change, with AI, dynamic growth and e-commerce becoming the most important touchpoints, I’m afraid that it will be even harder to catch-up with the rest of the world.
 
LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about Polish creativity in 2018?

KM> I would look for it outside of advertising. I’m especially proud of Polish game developers. Not only do they produce smash hits like The Witcher, but they also make the players think and make some very serious moral decisions, like in the upcoming Frostpunk from the studio responsible for This War of Mine few years ago. 

There are few big clients who are ready to react at the fast changing world. They expect their agency not only to deliver communication ideas, but to think of product innovations and how to really grow their business. It seems like a big chance for us, similar to those times when not everyone knew how to make TV commercials and clients believed that we knew what we are doing.

LBB> And the most frustrating?

KM> I’m constantly amazed with the creativity of journalists in Polish national television. The way they prepare their news reminds me of communism days and the propaganda we were exposed to on a daily basis. Those people could be amazing copywriters, if only they could use their skills outside if this political swamp.

LBB> Poland’s economy grew pretty strongly last year - are you seeing the effects of that in the ad industry?

KM> Unfortunately, the budgets for the productions and agencies’ fees are declining constantly. On the other hand, more and more little companies, that had never before thought of inviting big agencies to work for them, are now ready to give it a try. 

LBB> In the UK, the ad industry is still trying to get its head around Brexit! With Poland’s government’s growing criticism of the EU, is the potential of a ‘Pol-exit’ much of a topic of conversation in the Polish ad industry?

KM> Many creative people from agencies react to madness that’s around us. But they do it as individuals, organising protests, writing articles etc. Political opposition is weak and they don’t know what their brief is – constant talking about the assault on democracy has lost its glamour, but they have no other ideas. Once they will find it, I’m sure there will be hundreds of creative heads in the country eager to help them spread the message. 

LBB> I know the Polish government is planning a crackdown on foreign-owned media and critical coverage etc. – I was wondering whether that is having any knock-on effect on the Polish ad industry and the kind of work you can put out? Or not so much?

KM> Most of our clients stay out of politics as a general rule, so the change of government was not as crucial as noticing how strongly our nation is divided in two. And as the whole nation is our clients’ customers, we have to be extremely careful not to offend either groups (liberals and right-wingers) with our communication messages. 


Havas Poland
Joint responses from:
Marcin Mroczek,Creative Director
Jaroslaw Chludzinski, Strategy Director
Tomasz Targinski, Business Development Director 

LBB> How is the advertising industry in Poland changing?

Havas Poland> There are not too many changes in the advertising industry in Poland in the last year. 

The market is stable and in a good condition because the economy in Poland and in Europe is growing. There are many complex projects, including the real 360 projects , where cooperation between media, creative, digital and PR is needed. We can also see a lot of new pure above-the-line (big production films) projects on the market. Some agencies with roots in digital are developing their ATL businesses more and more. We also notice the continuing switch to digital. Many newcomers to communications business – digital and offline brands that are growing and maturing to use mass communication.

LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about Polish creativity in 2018?

HP> The most exciting thing is that one single video from Poland can be the number one Christmas ad in the world. And you don’t have to be big network like Wieden+Kennedy to do that. All you need is an outstanding story to tell the people. It is enough to be a small boutique agency from Warsaw. That’s really encouraging. 

LBB> And the most frustrating?

HP> There are only few clients’ and agency’s CEO’s that understand the cultural role of advertising. They idolize collateral driven by data and the ongoing ability to precisely target and reach audiences in new ways. And they forget to create culture through campaigns with powerful messages that generate fame and talk-ability. 

LBB> And what’s been the biggest topic of conversation in the Polish ad industry this year?

HP> Regulations of creative pitches. SAR (Polish Ad Business Association) and other players on the market started a big discussion about how pitches are organized. It is a huge cost for ad agencies. Usually pitches are not paid and regulations are strongly needed.

We can also see staff shortages. The best, the most talented people are occupied and that is a problem for hiring them for new projects.

LBB> Poland’s economy grew pretty strongly last year - are you seeing the effects of that in the ad industry?

HP> Yes, of course. We can see that there are lot of new projects on the market and a lot of creative pitches. Both from state-owned companies and from the private sector. We can also see that new projects from the local and national government sector (with EU funds) have appeared. 

LBB> In the UK, the ad industry is still trying to get its head around Brexit! With Poland’s government’s growing criticism of the EU, is the potential of a ‘Pol-exit’ much of a topic of conversation in the Polish ad industry?

HP> We think that Pol-exit is not a topic of a conversation in the Polish ad industry. Of course that is a topic in the public space, especially around the democratic opposition and the free media but not in the ad industry. We have other incoming problems such a new regulation about advertising time. For example beer commercials are now only allowed between 8pm and 6am in the media, new regulations will probably change that time of to between 11pm and 6am. Another big change is restrictions on trade, closing supermarkets and shopping malls twice a month on Sunday. It will have rather a huge impact on the Polish ad industry.

LBB> I know the Polish government is planning a crackdown on foreign-owned media and critical coverage etc – I was wondering whether that is having any knock-on effect on the Polish ad industry and the kind of work you can put out? Or not so much?

HP> Yes, you are right. There was a possibility of a penalty put on TVN (Polish private television owned by Scripps Discovery) by KRRTiTV (National Broadcasting Council) but the penalty has revoked. More impact on free media from the money of state-owned companies (30-50% of the market depending on the sector oil industry, banking, insurance, airlines and others). Those companies stopped campaigns in some of the private media companies (TVN - Scripps Discovery) and Polsat (Polish company) television, the Wyborcza newspaper (Agora, Polish company) and Newsweek (Axel Springer). So it is not just foreign-owned media but any media business critical of the Polish government. We can observe a certain level of caution among clients, when touching such culturally controversial topics.


Sebastian Hejnowski, CEO at Leo Burnett Warsaw

LBB> How is the advertising industry in Poland changing?
 
SH> In terms of market development and innovation, it isn’t any different from the market in the UK. Many Polish agencies compete for the budgets of global brands and carry out campaigns that are recognised and awarded at international advertising festivals. Numerous Polish agencies, including those that make up Publicis Groupe, are global or regional hubs – Leo Burnett is such a hub for P&G Home Care.
 
The changes that do take place mainly concern new frameworks of activities, the most important of which is open dialogue with consumers. We’re living in a conversation economy – thinking in terms of advertising spot production is fast becoming passé. The advertising industry draws from the way PR agencies think; engaging in fights for a common cause, sharing the same values, the same vision of the world. This is proven by such campaigns as Always’ Like a Girl, which was created jointly by Leo Burnett and MSL.
 
Another visible trend is the use of technology and data to create individualised messages and niche strategies. Marc Pritchard calls this mass one-to-one marketing. At Leo Burnett’s Warsaw office, we’re working hard on developing our advanced dynamic creative competences, which will allow us to reach consumers with tailored messages at every stage of the consumer journey.
 
Poland has found itself in a unique situation. Many experimental projects could potentially be tested out in our country. How is this possible? To put it simply, the language barrier limits the global impact of any failed ad campaigns. At the same time, Poland has 40 million inhabitants and a large, modern market similarly developed to those in the UK or in France. That’s why many international companies are willing to try out bold and innovative solutions.
 
Poland’s advertising industry is investing in cooperating with startups and creating friendly ecosystems that give rise to new products and services, and new concepts are grasped fairly quickly. Publicis is a perfect example of this; as part of our global network, we’re developing our Business Transformation offer, we’re the organizer of Viva Tech!, we cooperate with the international startup community from Warsaw and enter local partnerships with Polish startups as well. We’re definitely heading towards business consulting, where an agency is responsible not only for a clients’ communications, but for the success of their entire business.
 
LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about Polish creativity in 2018?
 
SH> Football! Football’s like a religion here in Poland, so the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia is a fantastic opportunity for truly creative guerrilla marketing campaigns. Taking a broader look, I’m predicting that 2018 will see a number of stunning advertising campaigns based on AR and VR technology.
 
LBB> And the most frustrating?
 
SH> There’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of improving business culture and building mutual trust. Unfortunately, even well-known corporations often invite not just two to three select agencies to a tender, but give or even ten. This makes the process ineffective and difficult to run for the client, and it’s devastating for an agency. It’s rare to see a client covering the costs of creating an offer, and many decisions are taken solely based on consumer tests. Therefore, instead of going through their comprehensive strategic process with an agency, clients often shift the responsibility of selecting their future business partner onto market research companies.
 
LBB> And what’s been the biggest topic of conversation in the Polish ad industry this year?
 
SH> In advertising research, which is mainly dominated by future commercial animatics, it’s fairly common for average and boring content to get chosen, because, after all, “We all like to listen to songs we've heard before.” This shifts our industry backwards by a decade at least, and content produced for local markets is rarely fresh. This can be seen in the results of Poland’s advertising industry in creative competitions. When agencies do win awards, it’s often for creative social campaigns or ad campaigns that have been implemented abroad.
 
Another widely discussed topic is agency rates, which have been averaged for the majority of the market and constitute a reference point in negotiating terms with advertising partners. In my opinion, such a small diversification of agency wages is a ball and chain that slows the development of the industry in Poland. Clients shouldn’t have their choices limited to just average agencies. They should also be able to reach for the top shelf.
 
LBB> Poland’s economy grew pretty strongly last year – are you seeing the effects of that in the ad industry?
 
SH> It’s true, our economy is growing, but we’re going to have to be patient if we want to witness a visible impact of this on the advertising industry. Polish businesses and foreign corporations need a sense of stability and security. I think that businesses are becoming more optimistic towards the future, and with this, there’ll be wider access to newer and greater budgets. Clients will be investing in new campaigns; ones that are much more digital and multi-channelled. Increasing this budget pool won’t pour more money into good old ATL, but it will allow for the exploration of new channels and means of reaching consumers.
 
LBB> In the UK, the ad industry is still trying to get its head around Brexit! With Poland’s government’s growing criticism of the EU, is the potential of a ‘Pol-exit’ much of a topic of conversation in the Polish ad industry?
 
SH> Poles feel that they’re an integral part of the European Union; we have strived to become an important member of the EU for years. After our initial delight that came from finally joining the EU, our approach became more critical. Current discussions focus on the widely interpreted realisation of Poland’s best interests, rather than on a 'Pol-exit'. We love complaining, it’s in our blood, but there’s no real talk of leaving the EU. Recent changes to the government and Mateusz Morawiecki becoming Prime Minister prove that even politicians from the ruling party have set a definitively pro-European course.
 
LBB> I know the Polish government is planning a crackdown on foreign-owned media and critical coverage etc. – I was wondering whether this has a knock-on effect on the Polish ad industry and the kind of work you can put out? Or not so much?
 
SH> All over the world, public debates are becoming increasingly more aggressive and politicians are falling victim to their own expressiveness. The previous government focused on national politics and played the “bad foreign media” card, but the recent changes have seen the most controversial politicians being shunned and replaced with new ministers that represent a pragmatic attitude and approach to the economy. And already there are visible results –  the fine imposed by the National Broadcasting Council on TV broadcaster TVN, which is owned by Scripps Networks Interactive, has already been annulled after mass public outcry both nationally and abroad. We’re of the general opinion that the years to come are going to be smooth sailing for businesses here in Poland, and I believe that this applies to the advertising industry as well.


Agnieszka Klimczak and Małgorzata Drozdowska, Creative Directors at JWT Poland

LBB> How is the advertising industry in Poland changing?
JWT> It is changing as it is all around the world – the globalisation ironically seems to mean we are looking for local insights and executions for global clients and pitching more and more for local ones. There are less long-term relationships and more price competing and pitching, as the barriers of entry of the industry seem to vanish with every creative person owning an iPhone. Contrary to global trends, that sees consulting companies outpacing digital agencies in expertise and creativity, Deloitte is closing its creative branch in Warsaw as if the experiment didn’t work here, at least from the economic point of view.

LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about Polish creativity in 2018?
JWT> Last year polish agency Bardzo managed to make one of the most loved X-mas spots worldwide, a spot for Allegro, an online auction website. Nearly three minutes of heart-warming, simple, universal story. Not only was it a very touching and exceptionally well crafted, but it also opened marketers mind for storytelling – and in the era of content, the sudden hype for storytelling is a very exciting thing.

LBB> And the most frustrating?
JWT> Content may be the king, but queens are many - those behind the one-way mirror during the focus groups. The budgets are tight, the stress and pressure continuously grows and the partnership between the agency and the Ccient is replaced in most cases by the pitching process and the never-ending testing. And great ideas need not only great creatives, but brave clients. Not that we don’t have them, but the industry seems to not encourage them to be brave. The process of pitching, where your only chance is to tell the Client what he wants to hear, and not what he needs to hear, is frustrating. 

LBB> And what’s been the biggest topic of conversation in the Polish ad industry this year?
JWT> There were a few important ups and downs last year. Personally, (when creative directors in FCB Warsaw) we become first Polish agency that was shortlisted in Cannes in Innovation category with a Smart Bell developed for AXA, which then won numerous awards, from Cannes Lions, Eurobest, Cristal and 2 Grand Prix in Golden Drum. Presenting on stage in Cannes between Google and Apple was a great honour and proof that creativity and innovative thinking doesn’t belong to the Silicon Valley only. 

LBB> Poland’s economy grew pretty strongly last year- are you seeing the effects of that in the ad industry?
JWT> The whole industry is counting money, spending wisely and using AI tools to plan even more efficient campaigns. There is more and more money and more and more craft in digital campaigns. The sky may be not the limit, but hey, on the other hand, limits are what make us even more creative. 

LBB> In the UK, the ad industry is still trying to get its head around Brexit! With Poland’s government’s growing criticism of the EU, is the potential of a ‘Po-exit’ much of a topic of conversation in the Polish ad industry?
JWT> Not really. Of course, Brexit did affect our lives and where communication is happening in real time, we can’t say that this did not have any impact on us, but this did not affect our daily work. It’s a very difficult moment in Poland now in terms of politics, but knowing our history we need to have strong alliances.

LBB> I know the Polish government is planning a crackdown on foreign-owned media and critical coverage etc – I was wondering whether that is having any knock-on effect on the Polish ad industry and the kind of work you can put out? Or not so much?
JWT> The Polish Government is very conservative one, but we are definitely far away from Facebook or Google being banned. In the era of globalization, it’s impossible to steer the communication on the national level, without introducing dictatorship. And that’s not the case. Of course, there are restrictions, and the sad and frustrating thing is watching how with every new law basic women’s rights are being taken away. We would even say that the most effective campaign of this year was the “Black Protest” with millions of women going out to the streets with their umbrellas, to protest the laws on abortion. It helped for a while, but it’s happening again right now and we wish ourselves and all the women in Poland, that this year will not pass under the sign of the black umbrella.