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“Being Honest and True to Yourself Is Not Something Many People Can Be and Do”

Maria Tudor, chief operating officer at Publicis Groupe CEE on her new role, the pandemic, the media market, industry trends and her passion for the marketing profession

“Being Honest and True to Yourself Is Not Something Many People Can Be and Do”

(Translated from a recent interview with Biz)

At the end of June, Publicis Groupe announced new appointments to the group's management team for the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region. Maria Tudor, then chief media officer and business development lead for CEE, was promoted to chief operating officer for the region, a position from which she will work closely with Tomas Lauko, chief executive officer Publicis Groupe CEE. In this exclusive interview with Maria Tudor, we discussed her new position, but also the pandemic, the media market, trends and the passion for the marketing profession.


Q> How did you react to the appointment?

Maria> I’m happy and proud. We have a great team on board at Publicis Groupe Central & Eastern Europe and for me, this is very important.


Q> What are the first actions you intend to take in your new position?

Maria> What I have always been doing, 'hustling' as the Americans will say. 😊 On a more serious note, we have had a busy summer and there has been a healthy level of business activities in the markets which have certainly kept me busy with the country teams. Amidst that, we have also been working on an exciting new business proposition which we will be debuting very soon. Watch this space.


Q> You mentioned the impact in the industry. How do you want to reach this aspect? What exactly are your objectives?

Maria> I have always consciously “thought” beyond the agency – acting and leading (while in leadership position locally or regionally). With strong values supporting every decision I take and considering the impact we make in our community and beyond. My entire advertising career has been with Publicis Groupe and the company’s values reflect my own and this has been such a privilege. Publicis Groupe is a company that is aware of the challenges today and we have been transforming ourselves in a meaningful way. For people working in this industry, we are guided by a clear DEI (Diversity, Equality, Inclusion) strategy that we act on every day. We also collaborate with our clients, media owners, vendors and industry bodies to promote brand safety and ensure consumers’ integrity, especially in the digital world. We aim to build not just a conducive environment for our people and our clients, but ultimately, a better industry via small steps, internal actions and others that you will witness.


Q> What have been the most important lessons in your experience so far that will help you in your new position?

Maria> As you know, I have a vast and long experience that also includes many lessons for me. Driving the change is a not a choice if you want to be a leader of the industry, for a company as well as the individual. Being a leader is a heavy responsibility and you cannot keep the position without a strong, committed team. And the team comes always first, as happy team will ensure happy clients. Happy clients trust you and you grow together. Trust is the most important currency of our business and it is the result of consistent quality work and caring. And, “care” cannot be faked. I learnt that authenticity is more than just a fancy word. Being honest and true to yourself is not something many people can be and do. And finally, continuous learning. We have amazing learning opportunities in Publicis Groupe, however, there are only 24 hours in a day. How do you make space in your agenda for continuous learning and stay relevant? I am always curious and am blessed with a great level of energy and I love learning.  That’s my way, my personal journey.


Q> What does the presence of a Romanian at this level mean for the communication industry in Romania?

Maria> With the dynamic activities of Romania’s marketing activities and the many incredible talents within the local communication industry, it is only a matter of time before we see more Romanian representation at a regional leadership level. I’m honoured to have the opportunity and hopefully show our younger talents that career progression can happen locally and does not necessarily always require relocation to another market.


Q> How would you characterise the media market in the past two years?

Maria> Last two years? That will be around 2020. And 2020 was like no other. Challenges like never before. Before and after. There is no final “after” since we are still writing the “new normal”.

Yesterday, I passed by a newspaper kiosk.  When was the last time I read a newspaper?

In 2020, the changes in the media markets we have foreseen for a while were dramatically accelerated. The growth of the digital platforms (social, e-commerce) getting people’s attention and capturing them in the platform ecosystem is the driving force today. We pay for that attention, our clients pay for it. People consume media in a very different way, multi-screen and multi-tasking, leaving the old linear way behind.


Q> How do you think the media market will look in 2022-2023?

Maria> OTT or traditional TV? How long will TV be in sold-out? A regular board or digital OOH? A brick and mortar store or e-commerce? TikTok or Facebook? Whatsapp or Signal? Is it still offline and online? Does it make sense to have this split? How will the cookieless future impact “media market”? How do we secure brand safety and how automation and AI will change the way we operate? How do we build personalized communication and deliver relevant messages to the consumers? How we make sure the “inventory” and the huge number of impressions we buy do translate into business results?

Amongst the above questions lie potential answers.

As I said earlier, we need to lead the change but when the change is coming from the “outside” and we cannot control it, we need to swiftly adapt.


Q> What are the main trends you’ve noticed?

Maria> Every year, all industry players, virtually everyone, are publishing their trends reports. Top 10, top 100, general, economy, finance, media, digital, social – they are all out there, many available for free.

However, beyond that, I notice that when I buy some drugs for my mum, she is checking online, going on Google and making sure that there is no side effect. I notice that people around me are spending more time on mobile rather than talking to each other. Yet, we more connected than ever before. Also, when ordering food online, we check local producers first, how sustainable their business is and how we can help and promote healthy lifestyle. And, when picking a restaurant or a hotel, we tend to first check other customers’ reviews. I also notice the rise of fake news and the polarization of our world, the fight for power, yet on the other hand, I also see a promising, generous, younger generation.  I remain hopeful and optimistic.


Q> How much longer do you think the industry will feel the effects of the pandemic?

Maria> I doubt anyone want to or is able to answer this question accurately at this moment when there  is simply no guarantee in how the virus will mutate and it also depends on the rate of vaccination across the world, not just in developed markets. Having said that, vaccination is pushing us in the right direction towards normality, albeit a new one, and that rings well for all businesses. We have been doing well in 2021, we recovered quickly, and we are re-building it. Will 2022 continue this trend? It is also up to us, to each player and the industry as a whole.


Q> Do you think there are aspects that will be changed forever? If so, which ones and why?

Maria> Covid-19 certainly accelerated the e-commerce development and digitalisation. It is quite clearly a milestone in the history timeline of our industry. Companies and agencies pivoted within a short time during the pandemic to service the demands of the world trapped at home. While consumers’ habits will evolve again when things return to some form of normalcy, a big part of the e-commerce behaviours formed in this period and how consumers prefer to experience brands will remain. Or the way how we make and consume content. Or how we value health and appreciate family, friend and …life.


Q> How do you keep your passion for advertising alive after so many years?

Maria> The communication business has and is still transforming so much and quickly, it almost always feels like a new business. There is never a dull moment and you never run out of new things to be excited by, to learn, work on and launch. For me, Publicis Groupe’s transformation over the past 5-6 years have been industry-changing (from the acquisition of Epsilon; to Marcel.ai; to the global #PauseforAction initiative), and to be a part of it is extraordinary. I love it. 


Q> What are the biggest challenges of a regional job?

Maria> Every job comes with challenges. There is no job without them. Instead of challenges, I prefer to think of them as watch outs (and opportunities). As with every job, time management and prioritising are crucial – that importance increases when you have a wider geographical scope. Being adaptable, keeping an open mind and humility are crucial when you work across cultures and different teams. Self-care / well-being is very important too, as per the flight emergency’s advice to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others, we should always remember that we can only do our best work and help others when we are strong and well. I’m pleased to say that Tomas, CEO of Publicis Groupe CEE is a big advocate of a healthy and well team and leads by example on it.

As you can see, it is a set of watch outs and opportunities, that are applicable to most working professionals.


Q> What are the most beautiful aspects?

Maria> Definitely the people and the energy they bring!


Q> Could you please tell us more about the Power of One spirit?

Maria> The Publicis Groupe’s Power of One spirit is driven by a common purpose, a powerful spirit, shared behaviours, great character, and a relentless focus on our clients.

This article was first published in Romanian here in Biz

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