Maria PredoiuFrom: Iași Born on: 23 July 1980 Occupation: EdTech Entrepreneur. Associate Professor. Member of the International Advertising Association România board. Former IAA President and P & G SEE Marketing Director.
I have always considered that one of the basic responsibilities of a person is to give back. And that’s not because there is a new philosophy emerging on the wellness market, but simply because it is related to a daily basic common sense. Even more, it seems a physics law, like gravity theory, discovered by Isaac Newton. We have noticed over time how the character, the skills and the way of thinking – preferable wise – have formed also by taking from others and it is not only our own merits. And then, the apple drops out of the tree, gravity appears in its splendor, and we realize that give back exists because you first took. I do not believe only in individual training, however argued it may be. I do not believe in self-taught, without experience.
Maria Predoiu confirmed me on a Thursday morning how right it is to share your knowledge. Although she omitted, by mistake – of course, to talk about her professional achievements and intellectual muscles, it does not mean that it does not exist. She gracefully avoided any aspect that would have given her recognition, revealing a balanced woman.
And because I rarely meet people so open and sympathetic, I felt a sort of intimidation in the first few minutes of dialogue. It was visible. She smiled as I searched for my words and patiently waited for the fluent ones.
Maria, takes her two children, of six and nine years old, to school every day. That’s what she did before our meeting. She recognizes, and not for the first time, that through them she lives a second childhood, a responsible one.
Responsible is also her professional career in Procter & Gamble advertising universe, where she spent more than 15 years. She strongly believes in borders dissolution, a principle she has tried for herself for a period of 3 years through a P&G assignment in Geneva. Although, she wanted to demonstrate and self-demonstrate that she can do it, perhaps the main motivation was a comparative experience – what advantages and disadvantages does Romania have, what strengths or weakness the Romanians own.
“I wanted to see another perspective and to understand the wider context and to see if I can create impact on a larger scale, in more cultures and I proved that I can. Apart from the appreciation of infrastructure and civilization, I have been able to discover what we have here, in our country, so appreciated. It made me feel the longing: of people, of local tastes, not just culinary, but flavors. And then, I decided to come back and value what’s good here.”
“And? What do we have good here?” I asked.
“What I have felt and what matters for me is a depth of human relationships that I have not found in other environments. I met people, I solved problems, I had fun and I explored with them, , I created friendships. But, the connection that I experienced leaving here, with people I met in my childhood, but also with people I find in this stage of life, I didn’t find it outside the country. We are more open to let others get into the depths of our lives.
Furthermore, we have a special humor, we laugh in front of problems or we have a politically incorrect humor. It was a form of overcoming challenges or difficult moments, not only from the communist time, but from our entire history. Sometimes it can turn into superficiality, but the humor seen and used as a correctional or relaxing tool is healthy and I like it. “
MS: You are one of the most influential 50 women in Romania according to Forbes. What does an influential woman mean to you and how does a healthy influence identify?
I have always been motivated in life by the impact I generate through my actions, not the recognition. It has certainly come as a consequence that I haven’t sought personally. The fact that over the last two years, Forbes’s appreciation came to me, was a surprise because I didn’t prospect this area of laurels. At the same time, I felt a great responsibility for the trust that the evaluation committee showed me and then, because you are imminent, voluntarily or involuntarily, an example for other people. Thereby, recognition was a moment of surprise, followed by a huge responsibility. I want my behavior to inspire people who look at the prize list.
Positioning in the Top 50 Women turned me to a slightly more accentuated self-analysis than normal, starting somewhat from the same question: What makes a woman to be perceived as influential?
The answers that I have found then and in which I also believe today, concern: maximum honesty with yourself and continuous learning in symbiosis with the professional impact.
To be able to influence people in the right way, I have to be honest with myself, to think about what my values and energy sources are, what I want to create on my way and what I want to leave behind, building then my life on these answers. I think an important step is the separation of decisions coming through the constraints of society, by the personal ones. I try to keep a clear balance in favor of the things I do because I choose and not because “it is asked”. The trends launched by society are always different, being impossible to dominate them all. It is about concentrating energy on your own long-lasting priorities, the source of change and positive influence.
For me, personal life and professional life are not two separate lives but a single one, based on the same principles and passions that are easily adapted to the context, because the family gives me balance, joy, play, and the profession is to do meaningful things, constructive for those around me, and which, obviously, help me to live the desired lifestyle.
MS: You speak about family and play. Is there a story in your childhood that announces the creative human of today?
Yes, I think there were several moments in the early years that have encouraged and fueled my personality. One example is the fact that my parents have never done the homework with me. They checked it from time to time, but they gave me the confidence that I didn’t need any assistance to go through school. It was independence with a touch of responsibility when they said to me: we go to work, you go to school.
Then, on the creativity area, I did a lot of things when I was young, but at that time I didn’t perceive them as “creative activities.” From weaving carpets with my grandmothers in Iași, to the dresses and skirts made by my mother. I drew many of them on paper, simplistically, with child ability, and she tailored them. So somehow my mother taught me that ideas can be put into practice: you think, you make a sketch, you buy material, cut, sew and you get to the finished product, the moment when I put on my skirt with dots and I enjoy, looking in the mirror.
My grandparents were very curious, they wanted to find out more about the world and I think they planted in me the curiosity and the healthy patriotism, not the exaggerated patriotism. They read a lot and exposing me to various lessons of history, geography, we were doing educational games.
My father taught me the responsibility. Choose consciously and then be serious about what you have chosen to do.
Surrounded by all these influences, but also by humor, music, extended family parties, or going to shows with friends, I came to provoke my creative side.
MS: Last year you collaborated with the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Sciences. Do you like to be a teacher?
Very (x3) much. I held a “Branding Introduction” course for the second year of the license and now I took it back, but we added an “Advertising” course to the master in SNSPA. It is an effort because it requires a significant time investment. I have discussed with my family, explained to them that it is important to me and that I can offer relevance through the practical experience I have accumulated. I feel that in this way I’m actually connected with the current generation, and when my children get to the age of the student, I can be a better guide to them. I tell them at home about my various discoveries and dilemmas in the professorial world and ask them for advice on how to create another moment in class, so that successful interactions take place.
But the main motivation remains the sharing of practical experience. I think today’s young people need and vocally demand practical sense and pragmatism in their learning experience. The years of youth give us insights and help us understand the value of learning, because we do not have the native instinct to learn, but the instinct to adapt, and then, there – in school, you learn to learn. And when you finish it, it is advisable to keep the same hunger for the new, which not only helps you in life, but the act of learning itself is a pleasure, a source of joy. I want to be part of the learning experience of people.
MS: You have graduated from Harvard Leadership Trainings: “Leading Significant Change” and “Leading a Culture of Innovation”. What is the latest innovation gesture you have seen in the field in which you activate (Marcomm) at the level of Romania?
I cann’t talk about the latest innovation, but I’m going to mention three inititives that have attracted my attention through my scale of values. They are not just ideas that have been launched, created a flame and then extinguished, but ideas that have been put into practice and are now growing.
Bitdefender is an example. It seems incredible that we have in Romania, created by Romanians, the world’s number one brand in cyber security, with over 500 million users. The Talpeş spouses are beautiful and intelligent characters with a great endurance and extraordinary energy. They have built a sensational business out of their belief that they can do that. For me, Bitdefender is the role model brand and innovation for a whole generation or for many.
Sebastian is a 19 years old Romanian entrepreneur who has launched a media performance monitoring business on Instagram and Snapchat in the US, with offices in New York and San Francisco and he is working with extraordinary big companies as Universal Music Group, McDonalds . He has offices with dozens of employees and creates value for an industry that is dependent on advertising through the two social media platforms. Sebastian came to the Creativity4Better conference because he wants to offer his knowledge to the community, by telling how he started his first business ideas at 10 years old and how he learned to code by himself, how he connected on Twitter to the Silicon Valley group, to learn. Human quality is exceptional, he has principles and common sense.
Xenia Muntean, founder of Planable, a social media content management tool, works for example with Techstars London. And she is also a curious, common sense person, anchored in reality and persevering.
If I look at these three examples, somehow, a recipe is written. And if I read in all Harvard studies, the keywords are pretty much the same: curiosity, courage, perseverance, personal balance. All people who succeed at such a level have a personal common sense: they trust in their forces, but they do not exaggerate, they do not show off, but they are the kind of humble people, but very daring.
MS: It sounds paradoxical: humble, but very daring …
I do not think it is a paradox, but a return to authenticity and doing the things you choose to do, not the things that society pushed you to do. Once you have set your inner balance, your inner values, you can be humble as well as daring. You will not have hundreds of Facebook likes every day, because you will not put pictures of baby holding cats in their arms, but you’ll be happy with yourself.
Innovation comes from everything that I have pointed out, but especially from rigor in implementation, because implementation is much more important than idea; ideas are millions. The tenacity to materialize them can be found by few people. Then comes the ability to connect productively with other people and the ability to create resources.
I have developed a training program called INoFUSION, precisely because innovation is one of my passions (besides education) and that’s what I’m talking about there, that the idea is 3%.
Obviously, the idea is important, but what really matters is the endurance to put it into practice, the ability to connect with people – you can not do things only by yourself, you have to make them into a functional team, and the ability to do it, to attract resources, including financial, without which you can’t create something big. Innovation is not the idea, innovation is a concept put into practice and adopted by many people: the iPhone prototype was not an innovation, the iPhone in the pockets of all is innovation.
MS: We love presentations, to listen to motivational speeches, we borrow from that energy, but we come back to the daily routine shortly. Do you think we are a nation of spectators?
I do not think we’re a nation of spectators. I think we are a community with a great potential in the area of creativity, which has provided exceptional examples of individuals, teams that have built things that are internationally recognized, but which lack the systemic approach. I am referring to creating an ecosystem in which these highly talented individuals are inspired, encouraged and empowered, because in the absence of such an ecosystem, supported by industry and country strategy, only isolated individuals will create exceptionally, not the community in general. If you think, for example, at the Romanian gymnastics school, success didn’t come from time to time because once in a while we had a talented gymnast, but it has been going on continuously over the last 40 years, because there was a systemic approach in the back, from the culture of selection and training to the daily discipline. That’s what we lack. There are talents, but these talents must be able to operate in a potentiating climate. In general, in Romania, we lack this ecosystem. And we at IAA, through Creativity4Better, AcademiaA, IAA School, and other programs, this is what we are trying to do – to create the favorable ecosystem for talents to systemic highlight their value.
Perhaps the first attendance at the conference is for the show, the second time you write down ideas and approaches, and for the third time you are already returning with a team. You receive advice and try to apply the principles debated on stage in your business. It is a continuous and sustained effort for us, the IAA team, through multiple collaborations with universities, various industry associations and authorities, so that we build the right environment for development.
MS: But how do the authorities step in here?
Looking at the UK, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, South Korea, or Singapore, we see that the authorities decide, in collaboration with industry, that the creative industries have a multiplier effect on the economy and on the wellbeing level of the population. Therefore, you define a country strategy with focus on education, you support young professionals, you deliver events and initiatives, invite foreign delegates to economic talks, use embassies as a tool to promote the creative potential of your land. There are things that can be done, and IAA is working to make this moment happen in Romania too, because it is natural and keeps the desire to do things together – no one can do it alone.
We must not fall into the trap of the mentality: if the authorities don’t do, it is not possible. It’s easier at the initiative of the authorities, but we can also make change, we can also start. The thinking of only receiving is harmful.
MS: Can a creative team be created with people who have no creative background?
Can anyone design without doing a school or a training with the role of exposing them to software trends and techniques? Of course, but amateurish. Obviously, you need a school, either institutional or informal, to do something quality. You have to go through a training process. But you do not need a school of creativity to find solutions, perhaps unexpected, to older problems. You need openness, the ability to see possibilities (instead of barriers), and the ability to develop better ideas debating between different points of view. To gather in the same room different people is a smart move. I think people with a lot in common generate a worse idea than people who are different, but to whom you have created the context of a constructive discussion, an environment where they feel valued, heard, and not judged.
MS: The projects that you loved the most were the projects most popular among public?
The projects that I loved the most were the projects that had the most real impact and which were not necessarily the most colorful and shiny. If I relate to IAA, our actions have materialized at the community level, either educationally or professionally, but they are not all loved, because they are not all visible. For example, there is a lot of legislative work that can not be so exciting. Indeed, a conference such as Creativity4Better is more colorful and appealing, and I hope that its impact will be as substantial as the impact of a well-developed legislative initiative along with industry experts and authorities.
MS: There is a legal, but immoral thing that happens in the field of advertising; what would that be?
It may be legal, but immoral aspects, because legislation will never regulate and it shouldn’t regulate all areas of life. An over-regulated state is a rigid state, which lowers the state’s economic quality, limiting creativity.
Of course, the risk is the emergence of less moral but legal situations. It is related a lot to people’s personal decision. We make a lot of advocacy for responsible advertising and responsible marketing and communications through the IAA, but the decision as to how this principle applies in everyday life is of every operator, brand, agency or environment.
Look, a legal, but unethical thing is the media practice of formulating titles in an attractive (and sometimes fake) way that is unrelated to the content of the article. And yes, you get the clicks, but on the other hand you form a very aggressive and negative-minded collective mentality, you send false messages through the title, although you explain reality within the article. It is an immoral practice. And there are effective and moral alternatives to create clickable titles without feeding aggressiveness, sensationalism or negativism. But it requires more work, professionalism and verticalism.
MS: Everyone wants personal branding? Who is entitled to have it?
Well, I would say that this PB is an element of personal hygiene and an element of digital intelligence (DQ). In the digital habitat, even if we do not want, everybody designs their own brand and it is better to know what brand we build and take care of it, than to let it happen. My recommendation is that, when we build our own brand, we should start from the inside, from our authentic values, taking into account that this PB needs to be coherent over time. If it is anchored in the trends of the moment, but not in your personal principles, it will design a chaotic path and will lack credibility. Instead, if you set this solid structure, and then you consciously build through all your exposures: social media, emails, articles, blogs, comments, etc., you have long-term gains. All of your actions define you, and not the intention to be in a certain way. I think we have more to work there. It is not important to MAKE a personal brand with 3 professional photos, but by connecting with yourself and then coherently with yourself. There are people with a solid foundation identified in everything they do and say, but also people so willing to be appreciated, that they are totally incoherent: they give an aggressive commentary on a context, showing a day later pictures with them in the same context. We have to decide who we are, regardless of what society wants, regardless of the cancan theme of today or tomorrow.
MS: What is the main defect of Marcom’s human?
I do not think it is a generalized defect, but I think it is a risk for any Marcom person: in the speed of business, of day-to-day transformations, we can sometimes lose our depth and create superficial solutions that does not solve any of the two things a marketing and communication act should do – it does not create any additional business value and does not bring any positive impact on society.
I think that any brief on marketing and communicating should address these issues equally. And sometimes because of the speed, or we only tick one or none. Here is the risk.
More about Maria Predoiu’s activities you can find on her Likedin profile.