my life in the most beautiful city in the world – St. Petersburg. I studied math and mechanics at Leningrad State University. Even then I was torn between math and what we now call «creative.» That word appeared in Russia much later…
As a child I was constantly moving all over our giant country with my parents and my brother, because my father was an engineer who worked on building mines, metros, and other subterranean facilities. I would study at several schools a year, which meant every New Year I had to send stacks of cards to hundreds of friends all around the country. The USSR had a tradition of children’s Olympiads in every school subject. It was equally easy for me to win prizes in math and literature; I also made good showings in union-wide dance competitions. I spent the better part of
My professional life started when my comrades and I set up Russia’s first rock station. Petersburg was the birthplace of the Soviet underground music scene. Our station, Radio-1, became a gathering place for all the city’s bands. Despite broadcasting on the UKV wave, we took the top spots in the ratings. We organized Russia’s first radio rock festival, which was broadcast to Europe, and spent hours dreaming up avant-garde projects in our friends’ kitchens. One weekend I got on the train to Moscow with a duffel bag… and stayed for 10 years… I got a job at Video In-
ternational, the country’s biggest media holding, then later went to McCann Erickson, and then opened the Russian office of Momentum. One of our happy clients offered us (the directors of Momentum) the chance to create our own business. And so in 1998, the year of Russia’s economic crisis, I became co-founder of The Point, an experimental marketing agency. After some time of working with my American partners I decided to move on. Our ways parted mainly for strategic reasons: they insisted on BTL for multinational brands, whereas I saw potential for strategic marketing, branding and integrated campaigns – a business that would cater to Russian clients. In the end they became a classic promo agency, and I created . That was in 2001. In June we turned 6.
One thing I can say for sure is that I founded IQ just in time. In 2001 you could still launch an agency with a starting capital of $20,000. I received a license on June 1, on International Children’s Day. A sizeable woman with a typi-
cal Soviet hairdo handed me the papers and said, «Don’t worry, baby, everything is going to be just fine.» Despite the dozens of sweet offers to head marketing departments of Russian offices of multinational companies, I decided to make another attempt at creating the agency that Russia’s newborn business really needed – an agency with global experience, but without the restrictions of a net. I staked my bets on having freedom to choose structure, strategy, clients, and creative solutions… The experiment appears to be a success. We have completed more than 600 winning campaigns for 182 clients.
We like say that if there are 30 creative monsters in the country, then all of them will work at IQ marketing. There are 45 of us in all, not including the masseur and the yoga coach. There are 15 more at IQ’s Petersburg office.
We work with almost every leading global corporations represented on the Russian market, but we can do the most interesting projects for Russian companies that have the unique privilege of making
The most important thing is to stay open to trends, changes, ideas, audiences and clients… the willingness to constantly change, because the context changes at lightning speed. their business from scratch. Our ideal project is one where we can help the client learn/ figure out the market, competitors, trends, audiences and even themselves, to form a brand concept and position, and only then work on packaging and communications. Our experience here and now became important and unique. Although once there was a funny incident: in response to our rather serious price offer for developing positioning for a leading TV channel, the client – a prominent oligarch – said: «I want to pay you more. Because I know that it is your know-how.»
You need a flexible mind, because each new brief is like a new life. You need to be as impressionable and eager as a child, since each time you have to sink your head in a new story, and believe in it. Only then can you create something truly, deeply talented. The greatest enemy of creativity is cynicism. You cannot let it close to the work of a creative agency. It is important to be principled and believe in what you do. Then you will be driven and persuasive, which are musts in our business when dealing with co-workers and contractors and clients.
When things are tough, and we need extra motivation to reinvigorate yourself, we remember that our role is to improve the health of the Russian economy. We truly want Russian business to feel confident working with us, to achieve more success and influence. We are thrilled when a client grows with us. A chain of electronics stores which we successfully repositioned and packaged 2 The first lion was an award for our humanitarian project in Beslan. After the tragedy in Beslan the agency felt overcome with helplessness. After what happened, after 1,673 children and adults were killed or wounded in a school seized by terrorists, we just couldn’t go on working as though nothing had happened. We realized that we had to do something. And we organized a campaign in Beslan – we took artists and paint on two airplanes to bring the children and their parents back to life. The first day after the period of mourning ended we went to the streets with all the children of Beslan and decorated the entire city: dim government buildings,
years ago was just sold at ten times its capital. The former owner, our good client, came to the agency himself with this news and said, «It all began when I met you.» You want your efforts to lead to
revolutionary changes in the life of the clients’ companies. In our growing, developing market it is possible, if you are not afraid of such a giant responsibility.
schools, fences, even cars and private homes… The city came to life, it overcame horror and fear, children’s laughter returned to it, and most importantly, the children were no longer afraid of going back to school.
told consumers that their behavior infuriated our Internet dog, who had been calmly living at Ozon until he was forced to run off-line and explain that banal truth. Our dog was a huge success. Moscow and Petersburg exploded with rumors. Radio hosts and bloggers talked about gigantic wild bull terriers settling the score with slow-witted humans. The net was flooded with amateur video evidence. Most importantly, the brutal battles were very convincing – the people just rushed to the virtual store.
Our second lion was for «Beware of D@g», a groundbreaking campaign for the Ozon online store. The press called it an innovative example of aggressive marketing or an anti-promo, and that is justified. Where else would you see promoters throwing people out the windows of cafes, hitting car windshields with a bat, or tossing passersby in dumpsters? And all because citizens did not want to understand the simple fact that books should be bought at home, while sitting on the couch. Playing on the fact that in Russian the «@» sign is called a dog, we
For now we only enter Cannes. For us it is the absolute industry standard. We have no desire to take part in local festivals. They are vanity fairs for local offices of net agencies, with very low-quality works. Competing with them is not a particular challenge or a particular achievement. That is why we are not planning to change our position. We believe that creativity is directly related to management. The agency has a special chemistry, an inspiring atmosphere. We created a mobile, flat structure with the freedom to model any team as we desire. As a result our projects can involve the whole country and the whole world. That really stimulates us. We have many exclusive practices, like vision meetings or brand and audience immersions. Last but not least, we have the coolest office in Moscow, with lots of mood-setting rooms for brainstorms. Our favorites are Strong creative is the fruit of creative efforts. It can be created with equal success by independent agencies and nets. The real work starts once to direct the client’s task toward the result. The future is with independent agencies, since the only structures that can efficiently react to such rapid changes in the contemporary world while remaining relevant and effective are mobile as mercury and independent.
the colored glass cubes – each has its own mood, and they are selected depending on the team’s mood and the essence of the brief. We also have two enormous balconies, rooms for massage and yoga, a dining room with a great kitchen and even two bedrooms. That’s
The difference is huge. On the one hand, global companies have extremely clear structure, demands and expectations. With Russian clients you have to expect the unexpected. You might find yourself in a situation where you don’t know who is making the decision, the brief does not exist, and the client is looking for something like business consulting. But on the other hand, global companies usually just want you to adapt creative and execution, whereas local companies might ask you to invent
why when journalists ask if I am afraid of losing employees to competitors, I sincerely answer no, since anyone who leaves IQ cannot compensate for that unique atmosphere – somehow his creativity instantly deflates.
an entire universe. The risks of working with inexperienced and chaotic Russian business are compensated for 10 times over by the privilege of working with companies’ owners, who are invariably amazing people.
We developed a corporate style and built a chain of environmentally friendly stores at gas stations. We made a conceptually new brand for newborn babies and their mothers. We made a project for a
local beer, where the whole country hunted for cans with GPS receivers, which made it possible literally drop the prize – a four-wheel bike – on the winner from a helicopter. We also opened a headliner pharmacy in the center of Moscow to present our virtuosic concept «Healthy People», a place that does not just treat diseases, but teaches people to stay healthy. We successfully completed the first hoax in Russian marketing history, with a legend about how Soviet leaders breeded with legendary Soviet mineral water that favorable affected the body’s reproductive function…
Magistral: environmentally friendly stores at gas stations.
The absolute drive for success, both for the client and the agency. Our famed creativity, our inventions of unconventional strategies, and our effectiveness on the market – those are all the result of this drive. Recently a designer friend from a big net agency complained that in the last year not a single one of his ideas was realized! For us that situation is unacceptable. We would go bankrupt! We
We get those offers each year. For three years in a row we made successful appearances at Cannes. And each time we were greeted in Russia with suspicions that we were preparing for a sale. Recently I keep having them to officially refute rumors about negotiations for our sale to the press. I am forced to assert that we still feel good in our independent status.
work very hard, and not only on client briefs, but on ourselves. Each employee of the agency looks at and listens to gigabytes of information from all over the world every day – from trend digests to sociological surveys. And what’s more, we know and love our countrymen. Our agency immerses it-
self deeply and seriously in the audience of each brand. Our guys travel all over the country, they take hundreds of depth interviews themselves, and find themselves in the most unexpected places. We are not city slickers. That is how we come up with the coolest, most vital concepts.
Business FM rejected a brilliant concept: «There are ears everywhere.» We were going to hang silicon ears of various sizes all over Moscow – in buildings, in restaurants, restrooms… But at the last minute the client decided that at the height of an espionage scandal it would be inappropriate. A great campaign fell through for the Allianz asset management. We wanted to make
Right now we are actively discussing producing independent projects. The first experience was spontaneous – we made a magic tablecloth as
gifts for clients. It seeped into livejournal through our designer’s blog, and ended up paralyzing our reception – we got calls from all over the country begging to buy the tablecloth. We had to make an extra batch and sell it in shops. The same thing happened with our roleplaying game for adults, «Party in Bed.» The agency suddenly got an extra source of income. And we have endless ideas for launching similar projects, from films to fountain pens.
personal newspapers for the Russia’s top 500 businessmen in the style of Vedomosti, the local version of the Financial Times. A newspaper from the future, which is totally dedicated to the addressee, who was achieved incredible success and power because back in 2006 he used the services of Allianz. But the campaign didn’t work out because of copyright issues.
Once we brought our client, the marketing director of a respected global company, a slogan for women’s soap wrapped in brand new write package: «Endless white line.» It was supposed to symbolize eternal success in life, which in Russia we say
consists of alternates between white and black lines. The client grabbed the board and brought it to the place where he always tested our creative – the accounting department… He ran back a few minutes later shouting: «Are you crazy? I always knew you were on drugs! My accountants associate it with an endless line of cocaine!» It was like the old joke: «I won’t buy your concept, but I’d like to meet your drug dealer». Actually, funny things happen every day. We just finished a campaign for the radio news channel Business FM. We invented characters, these glam-
I was invited to give a speech on the topic: «What is an independent agency in Russia?» I decided to say what independent business is Russia in principle. The topic is not a simple one, since in Russia truly mutually exclusive things are happening, and only a person born here can explain them. I decided to spend a day in the
orous bums, who stood with tablets reading «I didn’t listen to Business FM» at the doors of Moscow’s hottest nightclubs. Each had a story explaining how he fell on hard times. Our bums were hugely popular with the partying businessmen; they took their pictures with them, and even gave them tips! Even after the program was over, some of them kept working as glamour-bums with the sign «I didn’t listen to business FM.» I guess the pay isn’t bad… Our client is happy.
Sometimes you have to have fun where you weren’t expecting it. When we were presenting the design concept for Healthy People the client suddenly joked: «You always do it backwards. First you present it, then we go celebrate. But you should do it the other way around.» Without saying a word, I got up and went to our refrigerator, where we always keep ten bottles of vodka in the freezer. Never has a presentation been such a success…
agency with a camera and ask all our guys about it. I got a very funny, but at times frightening film about how we work here. It was all very natural, not at all acted but this film along with a demonstration of our work made a dramatic impression on the festival’s audience, just like Russia itself did.
Rock. Brain. Dream.
article about an advertising agency