Interview with Srdjan Saper

Advertising Industry of the former Yugoslavia – the industry with little money, few domestic brands, and a lot of enthusiasm


Interview made by: Alen Ćorović

Leading experts in the area of marketing communications, branding, and brand management will gather together, on June 14th, in Sarajevo at the third Branding Conference organized by Via Media communications agency. One of this year’s participants at the panel discussion “Who are real fighters”, is certainly one of the most prominent regional leaders and creators of trends, Srđan Šaper. At the panel with other speakers, he will talk about what direction the future of advertising agencies is taking, whether ideas are money or rubbish that ends up in a wastepaper basket, whether we understand the needs of buyers. In addition, he is going to talk about ethics, rules, and competition among agencies. An exciting panel discussion is in store for us, with the experience concerning how international brands manage local stories, about ROI – return of investments in the market and buyers.

Srđan Šaper, the Chairman of McCann Grupa, a professional with a rich experience, actually does have something to share with all those who wish to learn more about global and regional trends in advertising, media, and communications. He was born in Belgrade, studied medicine, and graduated from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, the course in film and TV production. He has been engaged in advertising since 1984. Thirty years ago, he was one of Idols, and later the director, composer, journalist, radio anchorman amd actor.  In his life, he was also a free lancer and, since 1995, the owner and director of the agency. Prior to the foundation of McCann Erickson agency, he had worked as the creative director and producer for the agencies: SM Delo, Borba, Ogilvy & Mather, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Idols & Friends. He likes to say that he has never had a boss. He has also been engaged in political marketing, he wrote poetry, and was the creative director of numerous advertising campaigns. A morning at sea gives him joy, and his dream is “that we agree about everything”. He would challenge himself to a duel, because he believes that both duelists would miss. He revealed to us that chocolate wafers are something he cannot do without. In order to get to know him from some other side, we interviewed Srđan and tried to get answers to some questions, to which he does not often answer.

You have achieved success in a number of spheres of life: you are an excellent marketing expert, the founder and the Chairman of McCann Group, the creator of successful political campaigns, a humanist, a popular musician… What are the ingredients of the recipe for success?

The ingredients of the recipe for success are, first of all, inquisitiveness to do and finish various things. One should have a bit of luck, be at the right place at the right moment and, finally, perhaps what actually counts most, a man must experience any problem he encounters on that path as a challenge, decide to resolve it, and find the best solution to it.

Your professional life has had an unusual evolution. You studied medicine, and finished the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, you were engaged in music and politics, and ended up in marketing. Why in marketing of all things?

Because marketing is the lowest common denominator of all the things you have mentioned. People who wish to engage in each of them a little, in the end opt to engage in marketing, which gives most opportunities for creativity to be revealed.

You were a member of the popular band Idols from the eighties. Is there a connection between advertising and the album “The Defense and the Last Days”?

I don’t believe that there is such a connection, except if the connection is the fact that creativity is required for both and that the meaning of what a man is doing is found in it.

What do you think, are you a better musician or a marketing expert?

I did not receive education in either. I have developed both areas through work and I think that I have proven that, in both areas, work is the most important to achieve success. Talent is not crucial ☺.

How would you, in three words, describe the advertising industry of the former Yugoslavia?

I would describe it in three simple sentences. The industry with little money, few domestic brands, and a lot of enthusiasm.

What success of McCann are you the most proud of and what was the key to it?

I would single out the fact that we managed to make McCann the best known marketing brand in Serbia and in the countries in which we do business. The key to that is that we always endeavor to think out of the box.

In your view, what is the biggest Bosnia and Herzegovina’s brand?

I would say that it is the Bosnian oriental-style love song, but I think that that time is yet to show that.

Branding Conference?

The Branding Conference is indispensable for our region. If we want to mean something in Europe and in the world, we must seriously work on creating brands both of products and of our region, but also of ourselves.

And to wrap up, can you reveal to us how did Spiridon Kopicl, the character you played excellently in the film “Strangler vs. Strangler”, find his feet in the transition?

Spiridon is quite different from me because , since he was small, had known what he wanted, but I think that, in the transition, he found new challenges to himself.

source: Media Marketing on