Ivan Totev & Dimitar S. Stefanov: If you find the right person, things just turn out right

Much has been told about creative duos. But it's still quite impressive every time when two people manage to find the fine balance between their worlds and turn it into a joint professional path and friendship. Ivan Totev and Dimitar S. Stefanov are copywriters in the recently transformed Wunderman Thompson Sofia, and before that they were part of the Saatchi & Saatchi Sofia team. In addition to a number of successful advertising campaigns, together they make 5 sentences - Short stories. For a quick read., which also became their first joint book. Two of the bright characters of the local ad industry - enthusiastic, opened and dedicated. In this interview we talk with them about the words like a copy and like everything else there is.



What are you up to these days? Dimitar: We combine agency work from home with work from home on our new book. [Ivan and Dimitar announced their second book just a few days prior to the interview. - Ed.] Soon we shall se what have we achieved.

Ivan: And a lot of Christmas campaigns.


You are what is called a "creative tandem" :) Do you write together, be it advertising or fiction? And how do you deal with the ego, so common for the creative people?


Ivan: In a Kurt Vonnegut's book there are two characters who are twins - when they are not together, they are ordinary people. However, when they are together and touch their heads, they become geniuses. It is the same in our industry. If you find the right person to work with, think with, and validate ideas витх, things just turn out right. That's why I'm glad that Mitko and I are what is called a "creative tandem". More often we brainstorm together, but it also happens sometimes that we write together at work. But fiction is a solitary activity, so each writes what is in their heart and then we use each other as focus group.


Dimitar: As for the ego, I don't think we can handle it. I believe that the good creative is more or less a covert egocentric shit. And certainly a cynic, so that we can filter our own ideas.


What are the similarities and the differences between creative writing for advertising and writing fiction? Dimitar: Both are done on a white sheet of paper if you want to feel special and cool, but you do it in text editor, if you want to get the job done. Ivan: One of them brings more pleasure. I'm still not sure which one.


To Ivan: We can't help but ask you about the transition from Account to Copywriter. They say that after some stage of your career, even just psychologically, it is difficult to start in a new role, be it in the same industry. How did you decide it?


Ivan: I have made two important decisions in my career. First - to start working as an Account in Saatchi & Saatchi. The second - to leave my job as an Account in Saatchi & Saatchi. And as for how I decided - Gavaza [Georgi Gavazov, the former Managing Director of Saatchi & Saatchi Sofia, currently the founder of the other half - Ed.] was scolding me for spending too much time thinking about ideas. He use to say that I won't become a great Account, if I continue like this. And he also use to say that Varna is cooler than Burgas. He was right about two-thirds of that. So at some point, I just started doing what I wanted to do all the time. Thanks, Gavaz. : *


To Dimitar: Mitko, this year you launched the first Bulgarian podcast for Formula 1 "Grand Tales". Where does your interest in Formula 1 comes from and where do racing and tales intersect?


Dimitar: When I was little, my dad and I use to move around our nineties satellite dish in an attempt to catch a clearer RTL signal to watch Michael Schumacher. I have long been looking for a place where you can talk about Formula 1 in Bulgarian and the discussion doesn't go down to the level football fans swear each other's teams. I didn't find it, so in the middle of the lockdown I made it, so that at least I could talk. And tales to be told are all around. If I liked curling, I could probably even get exciting stories out of it. But when we talk about some daredevils who make turns at over 250 km/h, it is somehow extremely easy to make them intriguing even for a wider audience.

Many things have changed intensively in our industry in the recent years. Technologies change the products and services of the clients, open new categories and businesses, which inevitably changes the processes in the creative agencies, the advertising channels, the advertising products. The topic of creativity is being replaced by new hypes such as “data driven solutions”, “design thinking”, “agile” ... However, the "words" are the one thing still there. Is the copy changing, or are the words so deeply human that they cannot be modernised and digitalised?


Ivan: The fact is that the role of the creative department is changing. Respectively - the profile of the people, who are wanted in creative. Years ago, it might have been enough to be able to write well or design great visuals. Not anymore. Nowadays you have to be much more profiled to be up to date. At Wunderman Thompson, we've been trying to impose this thinking for a while - we're looking for creatives, not necessarily copywriters or designers.


Dimitar: In my opinion, the words and the language in our work change mainly because we have filled up the Bulgarian language with foreign words and turn them into a normal, everyday expression. And I'm quite fine with that.

Grafa [Bulgarian pop music star and music producer - Ed.] was a guest some time ago in a show and was explaining how difficult it is to write lyrics for pop music in Bulgarian. On the one hand we are used to listening pop music in English and on the other hand, our language is difficult and just in English it sounds lighter. Is there such a thing in advertising? Are the words in Bulgarian hard to find?


Dimitar: I don't like the fact that I have to agree with Grafa and at the same time contradict Vazov [Ivan Vazov is a prominent Bulgarian writer, who have written about the unique beauty of the Bulgarian language. -Ed.]. The Bulgarian language is not the most beautiful in the world. It has often happened to me to come across a message that will sound wonderful in English and clumsy in Bulgarian. Or a designer to cry out that in the original the copy can be gathered only in one row. Ivan: As Grafa would say - "It's a lost cause".


What do you think the agency of the future looks like? Ivan: There are far more experienced and smarter advertising specialists who have to answer this question. But I hope the agency of the future cares more about its people. And for those to whom it speaks, and for those for whom it's responsible. Dimitar: With increasingly blurred boundaries in the traditional creative roles and with an overgrowing number of people with versatile background.


The strongest copy you've come across recently?


Ivan and Dimitar: This boy.

[Valentin Tomov, copywriter at Wunderman Thompson Sofia - Ed.]



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Continue reading: You can also check Ivan and Dimitar's top 3 Bulgarian ads in our Top Three section.

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