Radoslav Bimbalov: There is a specific rule in advertising - you often have to brake the rules

Radoslav Bimbalov is one of the most recognisable faces in the local advertising industry. In a bgReklamist interview, Yordan Zhechev named him one of the people from "the dawn of Bulgarian advertising", together with Ivan Kirov (Toby), Irina Toncheva and Chavdar Kenarov. He was a radio host and part of a peculiar satirical-musical duo, called "Zamunda Banana Band", which managed to released four albums. He's been in advertising for almost 20 years as Creative Director of Lowe Swing, and a Co-founder and Managing Director of The Smarts. A person with a strong civil position and а loud, clear voice. We are happy for the opportunity to discuss with him the ad-world and what is happening around and inside us today.

What are you up to these days?

In addition to the regular things related to my business and family - I'm angry at the terrible state of free fall in which our tragic country has gone. I express my anger in writing, which is something I truly love. So for me this strong negative emotion has a positive personal effect - I put it all down in words. Something, I had left behind lately.

You are one of the strong voices in the social space, who speaks clearly and openly on the protests in Bulgaria from the very beginning. And what we can't help but notice is that you are also not alone. Prominent people and new voices from the advertising industry, as well as entire agencies even, came out with a definite civil position at the very "dawn" of the protests, when we couldn't hear so many "people of intellect" (as you called them in a post of yours). How do you explain this vocality of the industry?

In fact, I have been expressing my disagreement with the vicious way Bulgaria is led for years. For quite a while I've been sharing my views in a Facebook page - Guide to the Bulgarian citizen - in which I've tried with short satirical forms, often allegorically, to point out suppressed truths. The page gained a lot of followers, and even because of it, years ago, I was ranked one of the most popular people in social. But in the recent months I've done something radically different - I started writing analysis and open letters on my personal Facebook profile.

My texts are extremely long, unacceptable for the social media norm, but it turned out that this format is perceive much better and is shared much more. Which speaks to a couple of important things. First, people now need profound thoughts, not shallow information. And second - after all the falseness, Bulgarians now want the writer to speak from first person. I think this is a useful social phenomenon for the intellectuals, and I'm glad that a lot of people are taking advantage of the moment. And yes, many of my colleagues in the advertising industry also got involved, which is great. We are intelligent people, it is time to prove it with our personal positions, expressed in well-written thoughts.

Do you see any difference, be it positive or negative, in the young people who are just entering the Bulgarian advertising, compared to those from 10-15 years ago? The positive difference is that the once, starting now, are much more prepared. On the one hand - because of the professional education they can receive in Bulgaria, and many come back after studying abroad. On the other hand, the new generation is much more adaptable, because now we live in a widely opened world. Still 20 years ago, and now, one thing has not changed - smart and dynamic people enter the ad-business. And if they are strong and adaptable enough, they stay in advertising for a long time.

Who is the ad-person of the future?

The human. Robots can replace us in many places, but there is a specific rule in advertising - you often have to go against the rules. Machines don't know how to do that (yet).

The ad-agencies, like many other businesses, were forced to change their way of working and accept that "work can be done from home" due to the lockdown. We did a little experiment - on LinkedIn there are job postings from most advertising agencies around the world, that can be filtered by various criteria, and it is clear how the demand for people in the industry for remote work, even now, is still below 2%. Do you think that COVID has really changed the way we work in the industry or is it a temporary rescue reaction, and the "new normal" will inevitably become the "old normal" again?

Our work is always done in team. Despite technology, the lack of personal contact with the rest is an issue. Not only emotionally, but also timewise - something a team normally does in five minutes, is done in fifteen through an online connection. And most importantly - the team spirit is not created during a work conversation or process, but in all the rest moments, in which people spend time together.

Not to mention the agency-client meeting - you are looking at a black screen instead in the eyes of the people. I am convinced that many good ideas have died this year due to the lack of chance to be adequately presented and defended. Remote work is great for people who work alone. It is a real torture for us. So I accept this mandatory quarantine period, which we are entering again, as a temporary "abnormality".

What do you think is the ultimate model of a modern advertising agency? The only important thing that a good advertising agency needs is the feeling of freedom - at work (regarding the working space and working hours), freedom of ideas and opinions, freedom for the relations in the team. A good modern agency is one that knows how to give freedom to its talent - to let them fly, but to be able to keep them in a flock.

Praktika is one of the positive phenomena of "community" in the advertising in Bulgaria. Do you see a place for greater unity of people in the industry - be it for sharing knowledge or for another purpose? Despite the typical for ad-people, not only in our country but also around the world, strong ego and competitiveness, is there a "hunger for community"?

Praktika was created with the idea to set a stage for exchanging nspiration. To our great joy, this happened very strongly in the first two years of the platform. There is a definite hunger for community. We have seen that there are a lot of colleagues who are ready to share their experience to ignite others. Unfortunately, this year Praktika went on a long creative vacation, it is clear why… We keep our fingers crossed to awake the platform next year. Whenever it might be…

The Smarts is one of the few local agencies that often participates in international festivals and wins awards from them. What is the attitude of the industry to international festivals?

There can't be many agencies that win at international festivals. These are prestigious forums, with great competition, and participation is not cheap at all. I am glad that there are colleagues who have the courage to test their works at big festivals. This is important for us and we are happy that every year we take home awards from major international festivals. In addition to prestige, it brings satisfaction to the team. I tell every new colleague who comes to work for us - you must be thirsty for glory. Fame is a useful goal. The important thing is not to reach it easily.

In all probability, we are facing a difficult winter. What helps you pass through difficult times, professionally and in your personal life? I have a well-established strategy for dealing with depressions, that accompany the modern man. When you feel crooked or dumb - think of something forthcoming. Something small, but nice - for example, an upcoming meeting with a friend, a holiday or just a new movie to watch. The important thing is to be something bright that will happen soon. It will help you get through the darkness of the present.

* * *