Vanja Blumenšajn: Notes on creativity


Vanja Blumenšajn is a Very creative director with many years of experience in advertising. He’s also the co-founder of the creative agency Señor, which has won the Agency of the Year title in Croatia this year. Vanja was named Creative of the Year, four times recognized as Copywriter of the Year, and as one of the best domestic creatives of the decade. Standing out with his imaginative and methodical approach to things, he’s now sharing with us his thoughts on working in the creative industry and its challenges.

How would you describe what you do when first meeting someone?

That has always been the hardest for me to explain. When it comes to my cousin's aunt twice removed, the easiest thing to say is: I do commercials. But, in reality, what I do is communication - my calling is turning ideas into communication materials and conveying them to an audience. In this job, you do a bit of everything - write screenplays, shorter and longer forms, come up with names, choose music, meet directors, actors, animators, typographers… There's never a boring day, really.

You love to cook. If your creative work were edible, what would it taste like?

I really like the richness of Asian cuisine. I like combining the seemingly incompatible - fruits and vegetables, sweet and salty, all the different spices and flavors. I like to think of my job as the same - it’s never an ordinary brown stew, but instead a little bit of everything, and with every new bite - I mean, project - discovering something new.

How did you find your form of creative expression?

I’ve been told by people, a couple of times already, that they recognized one of my commercials, and I thought that was really great. It’s nice to have your own signature, but that doesn’t mean continuous repetition of what works, it means creating a sense of continuity in your approach. I never really searched for my creative approach. It’s more the fact that over the past 20 years, my creative process kind of solidified into what it is now. However, I don’t like the idea that my creative journey is done. Or that it will ever be. I always question and reevaluate things, seeking joy in every challenge I give my all to solve.

How do you decide that something is creative?

Someone said: everything has already been done. If that’s true, then creativity is the ability to recognize and combine existing things in a never-before-seen way. We mentioned cooking - even if they have the same ingredients, different people will make a new, different kind of dish, because each situation comes with more than just one solution. However, striving for newness shouldn’t be the purpose of what you do. What matters is to improve, reimagine, and simplify what’s been done before. Maybe that’s the best answer to your question. When I assess an idea, I try to visualize what the author saw in it. Combined with my experience, I evaluate what is new and useful, how much it suits the client or the problem we’re trying to solve. I’ve always valued intuition more than math.

Does today’s consumer lifestyle create pressure for the creative industry?

The people who do this job often live it. What matters most for our mental health is to remember that we’re not (just) artists, instead we use artistic expression such as film, music, photography… to create communication with the goal of promoting a service or product. When I was a kid, it puzzled me that every year the tourism season had to be a few percent higher than last year - it made me wonder, until when will this growth keep increasing? I believe that the objective isn’t to work more, but work smarter. That’s what Señor is here for. If your only goal is to increase growth and sales, sooner or later you’ll reach the ceiling. However, if you carefully develop the product, service and communication, keeping in mind the end benefit for all those involved, then the growth can be sustainable.

Would you say it’s harder to be a creative these days?

It’s never been easier... but it’s also never been harder. I can write a simple tweet, and if Rihanna retweets it, only a few minutes later this tweet will be seen all over the world. On the other hand, there’s seven billion people in the world that can do the same. From this mass of possibilities, there’s saturation across all communication channels, which means it can be difficult to secure the coveted spotlight. That’s exactly why I consider authenticity the key element for this; working in a way you feel is the right one and, by doing so, finding the right audience for you. There’s plenty of room in the world for all (ideas).

Will the shorter content formats prevail?

It seems like we’re going in that direction. Longer texts are becoming few and far between, with more frequent uses of symbols, images, and videos. To paint a better picture, ten years ago commercials needed only a few frames, but last year, we filmed a 30-second commercial that had 40 of them. There’s a limit to how many messages a person can absorb, however. The consequence is that messages are forgotten more quickly, simply blocked out, ignored or weren’t even perceived in the first place. Everything is exponentially accelerating with the times, but I’d personally put an emphasis on things that have length and depth because that’s what you need to create a strong, long-lasting impact on someone. I was at a poetry reading recently, the entrance was being charged, and all of the tickets were sold out. I’d thought that had gone out of fashion.

What values would you like to see more of?

More sustainability in every sense of that word. Advertising is a part of pop culture and cannot be different from the society around it, because it’s created by people who grew up in that community for the people that grew up in that community. That doesn’t mean you shouldn't push things forward, broaden horizons and expand boundaries. I would love it if people approached this line of work with dignity and a passion to move the entire industry forward. And for there to be more freedom and opportunity for bolder ideas. Due to fear or a lack of knowledge, clients usually decide to limit communication to the most common denominator. From my experience, the audience can recognize when it’s seen and valued, and will reward you for it.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I don’t have a recipe for inspiration, or a rabbit’s foot for luck. At a former agency I worked at, I used to always say that if they knew how much I recharge when I take vacation days, they’d force me on the road at least once a month. It’s essential you allow new experiences to enrich your life, they’ll serve as the ingredients that help you cook up new, unique combinations with fresh insight. I can be inspired by food, travelling, conversations I have with people, movies and TV shows, books, nature… None of that is directly associated with advertising, however it helps my mind reset and allows for new creative pathways to form and flourish.

If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?

I would love to bring more optimism and positivity into the world. For us all to find joy in the good things in life, enjoy it more, and just bring the focus back on quality of living. With anything we do, we should always keep in mind a more just society, where there is a profound awareness of ecology - because without that we have nothing. I think that would be a good start.

The text was originally published in the printed edition of Grazia magazine.