Creative Director, DDB Budapest
Karolina began her career in advertising by accident, which soon proved to be a happy one.
During her 12-year career, she helped Ogilvy, then Y&R, and recently, DDB all become the most creative agencies in the country for several years in a row. She joined DDB in 2017 where she is responsible for the creative output of the country’s two biggest businesses, Deutsche Telekom and McDonald’s.
With her leadership, the DDB team has won accolades from Cannes Lions, New York Festivals and London International Awards in the last 3 years, along with a great first for the country: the cover of Adweek for a piece for McDonald’s Hungary.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR LIMITS
What kind of title is that, you might ask. Limits thwart our ambitions.
I hope that by sharing some thoughts with you, I can convince you that limits can absolutely be used to achieve better work, if we learn to turn them into opportunities.
Resource is not something that’s given to you, it’s something you create.
Making the most of your limits is all about reframing what resource means to you.
A lack of time, a shrinked budget, a lack of capacity. If this all sounds familiar, I’m happy to tell you that for an Eastern European, this is not only familiar, it’s never really been any different. It is our way of life, it is built into our DNA to operate in scarcity.
As Bane says to Batman somewhat dramatically, “you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it. I didn't see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding.” Resourcefulness is a way of thinking, a mindset that is as difficult to get rid of as it is for someone uninitiated, who is used to abundance, to switch to the other side.
To me, resource has never meant what someone allocates to a project, instead, it’s something that I turn other things into. Look at everything around you as a resource and a whole new world of possibilities opens.
This way of thinking can be a big forte in business. Because of course, when we’re talking about resourcefulness, we’re talking about creative problem solving - the very core of what this industry is about.
If you’re a client, the best thing you can do is to be a resource yourself. Not just financially, but with all your expertise and by pulling all your weight within the company. By leaning into a good idea, championing it, making it stick in house, making it a magnet for people from different departments and getting a good team behind it in the company, you can create a force field that amplifies the project and multiplies its effect.
Thank God for low budget.
To a resourceful person, having a low budget is not the enemy, it’s an opportunity. If you’re a client and you have little money but you still want to have an impact, this will downright force you to outsmart the competition. It is only creativity that can make this equation work.
A low budget compels both clients and agencies to engage an audience in ways that are different from buying people’s attention. And if that outdated thinking is out of the question from the start, you’re on a good track for something actually effective.
Of course, as a client, you have to pay somewhere. If it’s not the size of the campaign or the number of touchpoints, if it’s not the creative commitment, then you have to pay by taking a risk and by the effort you put in.
Find your tribe.
There are teams and then there are tribes and in my experience, if you want to do the best work of your life, you need the latter.
It’s easy to tell a tribe from a team, one way is to walk across an agency after office hours. The room that’s still lit, where a small group of people are still perfecting, solving parts of and figuring out a project, not because anyone told them to and after “it’s already fine for the client”, where they are still grappling with it because they know it can be better, it can look better, it can sound better - that’s a tribe. These people work on this project not because they are paid to, but because they want to. They are agile not in the way consultant companies use this buzzword, but in the way a small group of humans with the same ambition and the same commitment to one project, who trust each other and like to create together achieve things way beyond the expected.
Both as a client and as an agency, you’ll always get better work out of a tribe than a team (and you will always know if you’re working with one or not). That’s why finding, creating and cultivating tribes is one of the best things you can do to overcome scarcity of resources and also for company culture.
"Glass breaks. It’s what you do next that counts."
This quote is from a Netflix show I saw about glass blowers (yes, the guys who create glass artifacts - bare with me,) and I thought it was profoundly true to what we do.
It’s the nature of this business that the idea you’ve been crafting and you pitched and pitched again and that made the rounds in the client’s maze of a network and somehow made it through and that you finally sold with great effort can break at any time. Truthfully, they break more often than they don’t. It’s tough out there for ideas, they live highly perilous lives.
So what makes the difference is what you do after a new round, a changed context, a new CMO, or production, or another agency with the same idea, or a virus, or a meteor, or a new ice age, or anything else breaks it. Persevering through it all, leaving no stones unturned and even coming up with new stones to turn, is what works for me in these situations. Sure, this can look crazy at times but at least your team knows that there’s someone who won’t give up on them even if they themselves already did. And in the end, the stories you can tell about such success journeys are some of the best ones of your career.
So whether it means completely reframing the idea after someone killed it, or deciding to execute it anyway and try to sell it again, or cracking the way to produce it in a whole new way, or altering the business model of the whole project, or getting someone to do you a favour (just this once, of course), or pitch it higher, or involving another team from the network - whatever it is, glass breaks all the time and it’s what you do next that counts.