Join us today as we spotlight Vladimir Bystrov, publisher and co-owner of MAM Marketing&Media magazine. The media offers a comprehensive coverage of everything hapenning in the Czech creative business. Vladimir shares the freshest updates from MAM, his approach to evaluating creative work, some career insights you don't want to miss, and more. Let's get started.
What inspired you to become a journalist and how did you get into the profession?
I grew up in a journalists’ family, so my choice was no surprise. During summer holidays, I worked at the newspaper as an intern, performing the super important role of the errand boy. I was tearing up the telex reports printed on the infinite roll of paper and taking out the cartridges from a pneumatic tube post connecting the newsroom with the composing room in the printing works.
What’s your role at MAM Marketing&Media - and what are the latest developments there?
I am the publisher of the magazine, which I co-own with my partner through our company B&R Holding. It comprises several entities specialised in different forms of communications, like public relations, event management, R&A, graphic design and more. Our weekly issue remained the only printed outlet for our industry on the Czech Market (there used to be 3 weekly editions a couple of years ago), now competing mainly with online titles.
Over the last 5 years since we acquired the magazine, we have relaunched it with a brand new editorial team, redesigned the print layout with the help of the most prestigious typo design studio in town, Marvil, and brought back our annual industry conference “Forum Media”. It transitioned from a small local event for some 100 people to a huge multi-stage international conference hosting 70+ speakers (more than 20 from abroad) and some 800+ delegates in one day. Mark Tungate (Epica Award's Editorial director) delivered a speech at our conference 2 years ago!
In your opinion, what distinguishes Czech advertising from other markets?
For a small nation with its local language, it is often uneasy to compete on the international stage, even with good advertising. Very often the copy is based on linguistic humour or double-meanings which simply don’t work when translated. Also, the most successful local campaigns use well-known moments, figures, historical or cultural contexts shared and understood by the local market, however non-transferrable abroad.
This is known to all small nations I believe, so what is successful at home, only rarely also works abroad. The small success of Czech advertising on the international scene leads to a lower self-esteem and less applications in the competitions. The fact that many global brands produce their ad campaigns on large markets and then just roll them out around the world means there is less original production for the largest brands created on the local markets, which is a pity.
The locally produced campaigns work with lower budgets which creates significant limitations. The epic movies we know from the most famous brands usually don’t come from small markets. Another difference arises from our different historical experience: Czechs are generally less sensitive to various recent trans-Atlantic topics like me-too-ism, equal-chance movements and others. For Americans some of Czech ads may look inappropriate, or at least tasteless, which is not how they are seen at home.
Czechs are generally less sensitive to various recent trans-Atlantic topics like me-too-ism, equal-chance movements and others. For Americans some of Czech ads may look inappropriate, or at least tasteless, which is not how they are seen at home.
As a member of the Epica Awards jury, how do you approach evaluating and selecting the best creative work from around the world?
I look at the campaigns as if they would be used for the Czech market. As an international competition I see Epica as a showcase for an “international advertising”, thus, advertising which is globally understandable. Also, I admire simplicity and the ability to express the idea quickly. As an old-school guy, I am a fan of the “art of 30 seconds”. Never-ending videos of 3 minutes or more are not for me. Ads which need a half-page explanatory text are not made for real use. I like the adverts which sell the product or promote the brand, which is what advertising was originally created for. I prefer common sense.
How important is the relationship between journalism and the creative community, and how can it be further strengthened?
Journalists are born to be critical of everything and everyone, except themselves, of course. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable, but more often it helps move others forward. Creative animals included. That's why Epica is so important on the creative awards map, and why industry media is so useful for the healthy development of the creative industries. Listening more and better to each other would be beneficial for both parties. Less pride, less vanity, more humility and openness to the other's point of view would be rewarding.
What are the most memorable campaigns or creative projects you've covered and what made them stand out for you?
Over my three decades in the profession, I have come across many campaigns that I hold in the highest regard. One that truly stands out to me is Dove's “Real Beauty” Campaign. Another notable one is the "Reassuringly Expensive" campaign for Stella Artois, as well as Heineken’s “Moments" campaign.
I should also mention a few ads that are memorable to me: there would be definitely “Litany" for The Independent, “Missing Piece” for The Economist, Joe Pytka’s "Pillow Talk" for Disney, "Big Ad" for Carlton Draught and Nescafé’s "Neighbour at the Door" campaign.
And for a more recent period, "We're The Superhumans (Yes I Can)" commercial. They all tell something about the brand or product, while still delivering a core message the advertiser sponsored the campaign for.
How d’you stay informed and updated on the latest trends and developments in the creative industry?
I watch several international online news sources for the industry, including AdForum. I try to attend two or three industry conferences or events every year to meet people and get some inspiration. Having been on the Epica jury for more than 20 years now, I am always keen to meet other jury members and the awards' team to compare our views and discuss the hottest issues. And I try to invite the most interesting personalities to our annual conference to allow my colleagues in the Czech market to meet them too.
What role do you see journalism playing in promoting and advocating for diversity and inclusion within the creative industry?
Media can still play an important role in educating society and shaping opinions on crucial matters, despite a steady decline of its influence accompanied by a dangerous rise in the influence of social media and various private channels. Journalists have a power and a responsibility for how they use it. This applies to every major topic of the day, no least diversity and inclusion. What I mean is that the media should report carefully and thoroughly on these topics, while avoiding activism or participating in campaigning that would make them biased and therefore untrustworthy.
Who are your role models or mentors in journalism and the creative world? And what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
One of the best pieces of advice I got was “Effort is great, but results are important.” It told me that every piece of communication we propose or execute should have a reason and we should watch whether this reason has been fulfilled. I am tired of unnecessary creativity for its own sake. I am sick of long-form epic campaigns which don’t tell you why the brand or product should matter. Before we spend a client's money we should know why we’re spending it.
Media can still play an important role in educating society and shaping opinions on crucial matters, despite a steady decline of its influence accompanied by a dangerous rise in the influence of social media and various private channels.