By Mark Tungate
In this industry, some people appear on your radar and never go away. Krista Teivāne, co-founder of the new Latvian agency Dingo&Schwarz, has been on my radar since we met at a conference several years ago. It was organised by the Estonian media company Best-Marketing, an Epica jury member and, it turns out, Krista’s first employer.
When Krista told me about her new agency, my radar started bleeping and then activated interview mode. We’ll get to the agency in a moment, but first I wanted to learn more about the advertising environment in Latvia.
“Latvia is a small country within a small region, so we never get to work with big budgets in order to come up with something really huge and impressive,” Krista says. “So the answer is to come up with the smartest solutions – meaning, much better than the money we’re paid for them!”
In a logical world, Latvian agencies would be stealing work Scandinavia, but despite the price advantages, Krista says many clients “can’t believe we can be as smart” as the Scandinavian agencies. “So we tend to work with post Soviet Union countries who know our standards are high and see us as more European than they are. I guess we need a few more years to prove to the ‘rich’ countries that our internet is faster than theirs and we’re often ahead of them in terms of trends.”
THE TIME IS RIGHT
She adds that the advertising industry in Latvia is only about 25 years old, but her generation and those who followed immediately behind are now making an impact: “This is the first generation with industry education and international experience from good schools and exchange programs. We are the ones who will change the market.”
In other words, Latvian advertising is evolving fast. But some things remain the same. Krista recalls that when she was interviewed for her first job, at Best-Marketing, the company’s owner Hando Sinisalu asked her: “What is marketing?” She answered, quite simply, “Marketing is all around us.”
In the digital era, she believes, that statement is more accurate than ever. “The years have passed and I’ve learned a lot, but if somebody asked me that question today, my answer would be the same.”
After Best-Marketing, Krista spent no less than ten years working for McCann Worldgroup Latvia, where she was the group’s business development director. “It was a time when the industry was still developing, so being part of a network gave us the opportunity to learn from our big brothers, how to systemize strategy and blend it seamlessly with creativity. Sharing experiences and case studies is also great help, especially when you start working for a new account in an industry you don’t know.”
These days, however, the independent agencies have developed their own tools: “It’s not so important to have a big brother any more.”
Which of course makes it an ideal time to launch Dingo&Schwarz. Still in start-up mode, the agency is 12 strong and led by Krista with her two co-founders, Janis Berkis and Martins Lagzdins.
“We’re a youngster as an agency, but the people who work here are quite experienced, coming from McCann, DDB and other local agencies. Our creative director Renars Liepins has worked in LA; I have some experience from abroad myself, and our strategic director Edgars Arnitis has worked with many of the strongest local and international brands in our market. I think he’s the best strategic brain in Latvia.”
QUALITY AND ENERGY
The name came out of many weeks of discussions. “Dingo is our creative and wild part, responsible for great ideas, and Schwarz is our strategic and trustworthy part, always attentive and analytic, responsible for the target audience, the brand’s message and other strategic goals.”
One of the agency’s founding clients is Latvijas Mediji, Latvia’s most established media group, embracing the country’s biggest newspaper, news portal, radio, publishing house and many magazines. “Our first task was to rebrand the parent company, which was set up on 1988. It was a challenge as many of the newspaper’s readers have an emotional contact with name and logo, because it was created during the time our country was fighting for its independence.”
Although the team were quietly confident, they were surprised at how quickly the agency began to take off, with work from the biggest online gambling group in the region, new financial technology players and even government institutions. “We feel that big companies trust us already because they see the quality and energy. We want to be the best and therefore we work hard.”
Krista has always been active on social media and has a striking, photogenic presence. “It’s more about what you stand for and less about your appearance,” she says. “I’ve always had something to say. When I was younger I liked to post quite outrageous things, so I was always loved or hated. These days I’m more moderate, but I still want to be heard. Having your own agency is also a platform for speaking out.”
Brands, she believes, must be equally engaged. “It’s no longer enough to make a great campaign – you need to do so much more than that. You need to make a difference. The world gets more political every year and I believe advertising has more power than ever to influence change. That’s why the time is right to start Dingo&Schwarz.”
And also to put Latvia more firmly on the advertising map. “We will stand on an international stage and prove that Latvia can produce something meaningful. International companies will come to us because they’re looking for something fresh and wild they’ve never seen before.” Then she adds: “But they should hurry, because we’re getting overbooked already!”