Bogdan Huma & Dragos Strat

IQads, January 2016

Bogdan and Dragos, tell us a few words about your career path. Start with the choice of your studies and continue with your professional experience.

Bogdan: A former colleague of mine had a saying: you’ll find two kinds of people studying Psychology, some who have nothing to do with it and others who have an issue. I’m going to say a cliché: Psychology chooses you, not vice versa, I went there looking for a solution. A period of introspection followed, after college – like a Math curve – by a search for a brighter side. I took a creativity test for Graffiti BBDO – one of the tasks was to create some “Van Kistock” cigarettes key-visual (in Romanian chistoc would translate as cigarette butt) – and the results were quite appreciated. Feeling encouraged, I sent my resume to a dozen agencies. Yet, nothing seemed to come out of it and I was on the point of giving up when, one evening, I got the idea to have some wine with my friends with the intention to collect the empty bottles. I put the message “talent in danger of shipwreck” in them and dropped them off at some agencies. Graffiti BBDO and Saatchi & Saatchi accepted the bottles and asked me to jump on board. I chose Graffiti and, in time, other agencies such as Prospero, Mercury 360, Propaganda, DDB/The Group, and, eventually, huma+strat.

Dragos: I like history in general, but back then, when I was 20, I was focused on political history, so I studied Political Sciences. Advertising came to me as an inspirational path. My high school colleague, Razvan Patrascu (owner of Firestarter in Brasov) was already an art director and lured me into visual communication. I pushed him to teach me everything he knew about Photoshop and 3D Max, and then, packed with a portfolio full of “wallpapers”, I went knocking on agencies’ doors. I started working for Prospero, but not for long. It was a total failure; on my first day of work they assigned me with Orangina launching campaign in Romania. It was pretty clear that I was not prepared for a project of such scale. Particularly as they specifically asked for concepts, not only for visuals. Con … what? What is that? I’ve also worked for Addvice, Firestarter, Greater, Propaganda, DDB/The Group and, of course, now in huma+strat.

In what context did you decide to start as huma+strat?

Bogdan: This formula exists for about 8 years now, since we met at Propaganda, only that it got a name two years ago. At the former agency we’ve worked for, both parties felt that something no longer fit. We no longer had high enthusiasm to work for someone else; they didn’t feel we were 100% there. As they use to say, there was no “chemistry”. We were both right. So we friendly shook hands and at that point we realized that we could choose going for other jobs and have history repeat itself, or make that step you don’t have the courage to make when you’re in your comfort zone. We thought that “huma+strat” just fits us and we gradually found out that we’ve stepped towards entrepreneurship.

You operate as an agency. Tell us a little about how you work.

Bogdan: There are several things positioning us as a micro-agency.
The approach. Our position in the equation has changed. As part of the Creative department in an agency you are trained to only keep one thing in mind, no matter what: to deliver creative ideas, preferably worth to be shortlisted in an advertising festival. Right now, we are the agency and the communication we deliver should primarily serve business purposes on short and medium term. Our major task now is to find solutions that position a business and allow a healthy growth in coming years.
Operational-wise, creative deliverables are only  part of what we do, the rest is project management – I had no idea that I’d end up doing so much account management work as I do now We handle projects as a whole, starting with the communication materials, then to implementation – we contract and coordinate the resources needed, whether this means the shooting crew, programming, 3D artist and drone, audio or video production.

Dragos: Plus consultancy-wise. We don’t think it’s our duty to make a flyer simply because we’re asked to. It is our duty to find out together with the client whether a flyer is what’s actually needed for the business. Our projects are predominantly positioning and identity projects. If we have to tell our client that he doesn’t need a flyer but rather positioning, we’ll make him aware of it and explain the steps, resources and costs to build a healthy foundation for the brand, not just develop an isolated material.

You work as a legal entity?

Bogdan: We work as huma+strat, as a clear entity and a micro-agency. On paper, we still operate as two different companies.

What customers have you won in 2015?

Bogdan: Colliers International – for which we have already created several video productions, WWF Romania – the identity for the HNV (High Natural Value) products in Romania, Panovia – positioning and communication, Mihai Petre Dance Academy – positioning and communication. We could also add other clients, but given our NDAs, I will not mention them

The first project in this formula – how did you get it and what was it about?

Dragos: Our first project as huma+strat was to create the identity for a Japanese restaurant, Yuki. The positioning we found was a “Japanese home dishes” restaurant because we realized that the recipes they cooked were those that the Japanese eat at home. No sushi? Yes, no sushi.

Bogdan: Yuki, the owner, was my team mate in sailing. We decided to make a team on land too, for his start-up.

The most complex project you had so far.

Bogdan: The presentation film for an office building in the Northern Bucharest business area. We developed the creation – concept, script, storyboard – and the video and audio production management and crew coordination – steady-cam, drone (film & aerial photo), 3D and 2D artists, VO (a native speaker of US English).

Dragos: Overall, about 8 suppliers who had to be perfectly coordinated to meet the deadline. I crafted the audio material myself as I have a mini studio that allows us to make audio productions (radio, TV); we also use it to record radio commercials with Bogdan as VO.

What were the biggest challenges you faced so far?

Bogdan: To change 3 web developers on the same project and to somehow meet the deadline – two of them simply left the project halfway through (one of the two was even an awarded agency, won’t say which one).

How do you promote yourself? How most of the clients find out about you?

Dragos: Word of mouth and networking. We also have a new-business partner that establishes part of the connections. Customers who recommend us are the most frequent factors of new business. Linkedin, promoting – do not necessarily work that much.

What do you do apart from work? Hobbies, other activities?

Bogdan: There’s a saying: “winter is not a season, but an occupation”. In the winter I keep myself busy with skiing and skiing trips. In the summer, I compete in regattas – as part of a sailing team – and enjoy riding the bike.

Dragos: I have been playing the guitar in a rock band, The Mono Jacks, for a couple of years now. This means rehearsals 3 times a week and live concerts whenever I’m asked to.

Future plans. What’s next for 2016?

Bogdan: We plan to develop our real estate and corporate films area. We have already established a partnership with a private investor who will provide some of the connections and the financial support to develop this business.