Mirko Mandić, CEO, SVA

Entire Society is Behaving Like the Slowly Boiling Frog

SVA is a creative agency for market communications, public relations and the management of reputations that has already amassed 29 years of experience in using its campaigns to shift boundaries and change views of business, brands, markets, strategies etc. SVA is large enough to respond to any challenge, yet small enough to remain flexible

Despite satisfying business results, the CEO of agency SVA doesn’t hide his concern regarding the marketing and media scene in Serbia, and for the communications market as a whole.

What is the situation like in the advertising market in Serbia? Are budgets increasing or are we only seeing the validity of the saying “Small pond, many crocodiles”?

– Experts say that when a frog is thrown into boiling water it jumps out immediately, but in lukewarm water, it basks and doesn’t object until it is cooked. It seems to me, looking at the marketing scene in Serbia, that the same applies to crocodiles. If the “fantastic” rate of economic growth that the Serbian media is buzzing about continues, this year we will reach the gross social product level that we had in 1990. We are the first in Europe to achieve such a result.

That’s no minor (lack of) success, so to say that marketing budgets this year leapt by a few percentage points compared to nothing is fake news. On the other hand, not everything is in the budget. There is a worrying number of advertisers (budgets) that consistently finance campaigns, year after year, after which their market share falls, so they compensate for the difference in profit by lowering the quality of their products and “imperceptibly” lowering criteria. Frogs and crocodiles aren’t only present in agencies – they also dominate with advertisers.

Frogs and crocodiles aren’t only present in agencies – they also dominate with advertisers and sustainable in business terms

We live in times of media tabloidisation and reality programming. Has this led to change in the tastes and expectations of those targetted by marketing messages? Do they pander to the base passions of consumers?

– It seems to me that popular culture in Serbia is autistically vulgar and hermetic, while the mainstream national media is fake news. The most visible and influential are those who know very little, and they act like experts while in reality, they represent opinion-makers. This is the typical spreading of the Dunning-Kruger effect. The impact of this nonsense and aggression on consumers is enormous. It is so enormous that classical culture and European cultural trends successfully play the role of counter-culture.

The answer is yes. They pander to base passions. Pandering works, while in fact, it doesn’t work, because there is no growth, rewards and celebrations, and it would be good for us to reject it. The entire society is behaving like the slowly boiling frog from that previous answer. Serbia is a society in which every fourth young man considers slapping a girl once as not being violent.

You announced a year ago that you would be introducing an innovative content platform. Did you succeed in developing that?

– We’re slower than I’d like us to be, but we’re continuing to invest in research and development. Nevertheless, we’re all contemporaries of the technological revolution and it’s not in our nature to be observers.