interview by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Zarina Gencheva, Managing Director of Metroreklama, on achieving a successful business model in Bulgaria in 2017

zarina gencheva.jpg

The advertising business in Bulgaria has been rapidly developing during the past few years. This branch is already well positioned, its various fields are clearly diversified and new regulation, consistent with the best EU practices, has been enforced. These achievements, however, were related to overcoming serious challenges. Some of them are resulting from the financial, economic and political situation in Bulgaria and worldwide, while others are more local, as for instance the significant number of illegal advertisement facilities, unfair competition, lack of strategic vision in the regulation of outdoor advertising and the aggressive incursion of new technological solutions in the field.

In this difficult and challenging environment Mrs. Zarina Gencheva, Managing Director of Metroreklama, has made her business thrive. A natural born leader and fighter, she is the founder and chairperson of the Transport Indoor and Outdoor Advertisement Association (TIOAA) which is an active member of the international outdoor advertising association – FEPE International. In her work, Mrs. Zarina Gencheva has always been striving to establish good practices, high professional and ethical standards in the fields of outdoor advertising and socially responsible business behaviour, following her personal motto "Proper approach leads to proper results."

What does Metroreklama mean for you?

At present, Metroreklama is the professional project of my life. I became part of the company in 2001, when Metroreklama started managing the printed advertisement positions in the Sofia metro. I began as a marketing specialist and climbed the career ladder to my current position. Through all these years my team and I have worked without any compromise in the quality of our services and the correct approach to both our business partners and our clients.

How does the company manage to grow in the current environment in Bulgaria and the advertising field?

The current social, cultural, political, and economic environment in Bulgaria and the world's financial, economical, and geopolitical processes are challenges to any business but we take them as opportunities to unleash our potential. And I believe we have managed to. Today Metroreklama is one of the most dynamically developing and modern outdoor advertising companies in Bulgaria. And this is the result of our consistent work to create and keep our clients' trust, understand their needs and offer them the best solutions. In addition, our business model is based on the consistent application of the good corporate governance and corporate social responsibility practices. In the beginning of 2017 Metroreklama joined the National Corporate Governance Code and currently we are the only non-public company in Bulgaria that has been voluntarily implementing the CG highest standards. The company has long lasting traditions in the field of corporate social responsibility and has been organising or supporting hundreds of initiatives.

So, I am satisfied to conclude that currently Metroreklama is the company that offers the largest variety of outdoor advertising opportunities in Bulgaria. Our portfolio includes an ever expanding number of outdoor advertising facilities on the territory of the big cities in the country and the national road network as well as the well-known advertising positions in the Sofia metro, Billa and the Kaufland stores, public transport and the cinemas.

In addition to the corporate and business values, our success is based on our well-known persistence and consistency, creativity and honesty as well. Our efforts to build a good name now pay off, and our clients truly believe that Metroreklama is a reliable and responsible partner.

Last, but not least, I would like to note that our development has been driven, to a certain extent, by the development of our partners. The enlargement of the Sofia metro and the general infrastructure improvement, construction of new Billa and Kaufland stores provide more advertising spaces and opportunities for us to offer better and more complex services. The municipal tenders give us the chance to increase the urban advertising positions in our portfolio.

What are the main advantages of Metroreklama?

As I already said, the main advantage of Metroreklama is the opportunity to offer the widest variety of complex outdoor advertising solutions on the territory of the whole country. A successful outdoor campaign is the one that adequately combines diverse communication channels in accordance with the marketing objectives of the clients in the best value for money proportion. Happily, an increasing number of companies realise the need of well planned marketing strategies and effective combination of all elements in the media mix and this has turned to be a leading motivation when choosing an outdoor advertising provider. And this is namely the advantage of Metroreklama, besides our team. In my opinion, the good team is crucial for the success of any business since even the best idea "dies" if there is no one to make it come true. That is why people are the most valuable asset of Metroreklama. Our team includes carefully selected, educated, creative and ambitious professionals. They are more than employees since apart from sharing the corporate values of Metroreklama they share the ambition to achieve high goals, despite the difficulties and challenges, despite the fact that often we are forced to go beyond our personal limits while working on our projects.

How do you cope in an environment where new technologies appear on the advertising market?

The development of outdoor advertising in Bulgaria and worldwide largely depends on the technological development dynamics and the increasingly aggressive new ways for social, cultural and corporate communication, influencing both the consumers and the advertising business itself. However, outdoor advertising is the only truly physical media today, thus appearing to be a sort of liaison between the classic and the modern advertising. Outdoor advertising doesn't compete for audience – it exists in the shared social environment without any expenses for the customers. Statistics show that in Bulgaria and worldwide people spend most of their time in public spaces that are entirely influenced by the communication means of outdoor advertising.
In this respect I don't see new technologies and digital advertising as problems, but as an opportunity to use them and provide even better service to our clients. In general, interaction between outdoor advertising and new technologies is something very nice. Thanks to this symbiosis, while travelling from point A to point B you are able not only to learn about an interesting product or service, but you may have even bought it or used it while still travelling.

You are also engaged with Sofia Bikes joint venture that won the concession for management and maintenance of a bicycle rental system in Sofia. At what stage is the implementation of the project?

This is a project of great public importance. Its objective is to offer the citizens and guests of Sofia a modern, comfortable and environmentally friendly alternative to public transportation. Currently the project implementation is yet to begin, as other participants in the procedure appeal the results. I hope that within months the Supreme Administrative Court will reach a decision in favour of the best participant.

Our ambition with this project is not only to make the bicycle rental service of quality and cheap for the customers. We also aim the proper combination of bikes for rent with the public transport and the new bicycle lanes to reduce the use of motor vehicles, particularly in the Sofia centre. This will significantly contribute for the better air quality in the capital city. The bicycles for rent will be widely affordable and actually cheaper than public transport, as the first 30 minutes of the ride will be free of charge. The bicycles will be also available 24/7, 365 days in the year.

What are the main problems the advertising business in Bulgaria faces?

Advertising business in Bulgaria has its problems as well, but we are trying to solve them with joint efforts in the branch and the support on the part of the state and the municipalities. A good example in this regard is the campaign against unfair competition that the Transport Indoor and Outdoor Advertising Association (TIOAA) has been leading for years. Municipalities actively work in this direction as well, showing readiness for changes in the regulation and the modus operandi in the field of outdoor advertising.

At the same time Mr. Zdravko Zdravkov, the new chief architect of Sofia Municipality, has also declared willingness for dialogue and reaching a common algorithm to deal with illegal facilities and the problems of outdoor advertising as a whole.

Our success and the belief that it should not remain an isolated achievement motivate TIOAA's team and me to set, aside our goals over the next two years, something extremely important: the elaboration and implementation of an outdoor advertising efficiency measuring system. This will provide advertisers with important feedback on all stages of the process: their goals set, invested funds, realised campaigns, reported results which will help them realistically assess their achievements. If we handle this challenge, we can expect a significant investment growth in the outdoor advertising sector.

What is the position of outdoor advertisement in Bulgaria today?

For the past few years the share of outdoor advertising in the media mix has been about 10% on average. According to surveys in Bulgaria for the period from 2012 to 2016, there has been an increase by more than 30% in the revenues of the companies in the branch.

Outdoor advertising makes a significant contribution to the economy of Bulgaria and probably brings the highest added value. It includes over 300 functioning companies with almost entirely Bulgarian capital, providing a significant number of permanent jobs and serious revenues in the state budget. Due to its functional specifics and financial accessibility it is the preferred media for the small and medium-size businesses. Independent international surveys have shown that outdoor advertising brings the biggest added value to other businesses, and hence is an indirect factor for their development and the development of the economy as a whole.

All of these, together with the sustainable development of this branch in the past few years, inspire me to believe that outdoor advertising has bright future and serious opportunities to grow. Investments are increasing and I expect that this trend will continue in 2017 and 2018.


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