We have admired Maria for quite a while for her enthusiasm, the openness and professionalism, she puts into everything she does. And this interview is no exception. After we contacted her with a few questions, she immediately responded with a concept: "Well, because the situation was extraordinary in every sense and forced us to work from home, it really brought us together in one place and at the same time all our roles - professional, family, social. We had to be mothers, directors, daughters and friends at the same time and at the same kitchen table. This rarely happens, if not ever, so I decided to answer on behalf of three of my personas, who were mainly dealing with the crisis: the advertising professional, the mother and the person Maria."
Enjoy this much-more-than-an-interview about advertising, life, parenting and all our personas.
What are you up to these days?
Maria: I'm trying to balance my life, to line up the peaces. And to look deeper into myself and further into the world, which becomes even more foreign when it's on the other side of a computer screen. I watch movies I've already watched. I re-read the classics. Obviously I need something familiar and predictable, and I give it to myself that way.
The professional: These days and always - I work, I work, I work. The home office made the days longer, the lunch breaks shorter, and the meetings turned into small voyeur raids on people's homes and wardrobes. But I find that uniting.
Eva's mother: Yes, few things can unite us the way a child screaming "I'm in the bathroom!" in the middle of a zoom presentation does. But to answer the question - I'm trying to simulate a normal childhood for my daughter - something almost impossible in the last two months. Because childhood should be free, irresponsible, easy. Last week I took a few days off, so we can all mark the end of the lock down by picking poppies and eating cherries from the trees. What more does a child need?
Are you excited about returning to the office?
Eva's mother: I haven't been so excited since my first party after I stopped breastfeeding.
Maria: I hate someone telling me what to do. Even more, to command me. Something in me is frantically rebelling against orders. My grandfather used to say that I was a donkey and I can be only made to do something by good. And so it is. I believe in contagious good, in encouragement, in going with someone, to someone, behind someone, but not in a military lineup. Fear is a bad adviser and can very easily eat up your soul. Suddenly and very quickly we realised how easily freedom can disappear, how easily we can give it up. For me, returning to the office in some distant way is a symbol of the restored right to move, travel, work.
You've seen the pictures on the net that say "covid-1984," haven't you? Few people know that "1984" and "The Wonderful New World" are based on the novel "We" by the equally unknown writer Evgeny Zamyatin, whose works were banned by the Soviet Censorship Bureau. It tells the story of a "utopia" in which happiness is at the expense of freedom.
The professional: In an interview for The Talks, when asked how his life changed after Jean-Claude's death, Christo said that her absence was huge, but what he missed the most were the arguments with her, the criticism, the clash of opinions from which truly good work is born. Mediated communication is not fertile ground for constructive conflicts. I can't wait to have a good old argument with someone in the office, even just for the milk in the fridge :)
Do you think that the people in the advertising industry in Bulgaria and the advertising products themselves will change as a result of the lock down?
The professional: The fact is that the economical impact of the lock down was felt instantly in our country as well. Advertising campaigns were suspended or completely revised, many agencies had to loose some of their talent. I'm glad that Noble Graphics went through these hard times without any "casualties". And here I want to take the opportunity and high five (with triple-washed hands) the super-humans in the office, who stood firm for the last three months.
On the other hand, the emergency situation has shown us that there is nothing scary in having your team at different places - some in Bansko, and others in Plovdiv. The lock down also gave me the unsolicited chance to rehabilitate (for myself) the brainstormings - those time-consuming and human-swallowing Langoliers, that I've never like really much.
The ad itself, in terms of content and form, also felt the restrictions and had to be more resourceful, flexible and agile.
Eva's mother: Difficulties and limitations make you inventive. Just think about the character form our folklore - Hitar Petar, or Br'er Rabbit, in the African-American folklore, who had the wits to beat the fox. In the tales of people or communities under oppression, there are the so-called tricksters, witty heroes who embody the idea of survival in extreme conditions. They are often smaller and weaker than their rivals, but they always manage to defeat the greater force with tricks. These archetypes are a very interesting example of how you can succeed without getting into a fight, having greater power, or wealth.
Maria: As much as I love order, I believe in change. Sometimes disruption leads to new horizons. Literally the other day SpaceX launched the first private rocket into space, thanks to its completely innovative strategy to build without unnecessary plans, designs and theorising, relying on an iterative approach to solving problems. Our friend from earlier, Zamyatin, said it very well: "The world is kept alive only by heretics: the heretic Christ, the heretic Copernicus, the heretic Tolstoy."
In an open letter to humanity published in the French Le Monde, 200 international celebrities - actors, singers, journalists, producers, appealed: "Do not return to normal!" How do you perceive the "normal" and the "new normal"?
Maria: By "new normal" people seem to understand the trauma of the experience - keeping distance in the store and on the sidewalk, fear, avoiding crowds and touching surfaces, caring a mask in their pocket. However, I would be glad if "the new normal" is actually the moral of the experience - how important is to take care of each other, to value those who take care of us, to realise the meaning of the domino effect, to become more responsible in the choices we make.
The system is not broken, it is built this way - to suppress, control, divide, concentrate power and money in a certain circle of people.
If we want to change something, we must also change our perception of normal and ask ourselves the question "Why?" more often and more honestly.
The professional: Maybe the "new normal" for the advertising industry will be a truer connection with people, with more meaning and awareness of the role and the power of pop culture. I am an incurable optimist, don't judge me too hard.
Eva's mother: The truth is that none of us knows where the old ends and the new begins, and where we are now on the "before and after" curve. My feeling is that not only we aren't returning right now, but we are going, not knowing where. Changes are about to happen and we, being part of what is happening, cannot look from above or from the side as bystanders. As a mother, I have my fears, but also my hopes, in spite of the growing entropy in the world.
You are one of the strongest voices in the local industry when it comes to supporting women's career development. See It Be It is the great Cannes Lions platform, which thanks to you, has a local program. What did See It Be It teach you, what does it give you?
The professional: Collaborating with Cannes Lions gives me access to an invaluable exchange of ideas with people from all over the world. In the last month alone, I have spoken to creative directors, copywriters, designers, production directors from the United States, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Romania, Italy, Spain and France. This connection is indescribably invigorating. If you're still reading and you've gotten this far -
my unsought bonus advice is: find yourself partners in crime, like-minded people, accomplices, who will tell you "Great, let's do it".
My big personal lesson was not to stay silent about the things that matter and to swallow my ego.
And the ego is sometimes cleverly disguised as a fear of exposing ourselves and failing, of disappointing some else and ruining their idea of who we are.
Eva's mother: A woman's career, her growth in a company, her salary, if you will, are directly related to whether she is a mother. Yes, it's stupid, it's unfair, but it's true. Interestingly, we ourselves do not realise where the conflict between our different roles comes from and sometimes we need to look around and recognise who we are in someone else. That is why See It Be It is such an important and successful initiative. Sharing experience, talent, knowledge, resources, insights - this is what gives birth to and nurtures a change in the status quo. And the cliché is true - change begins from within.
What has inspired you lately?
Maria: The genius of nature, the generosity of grandmother Nadie Mehmed from the village of Pechenitsa, the courage of Ivo Dimchev, the people who keep their hearts brave.
Maria Milusheva is a Creative Director and Partner in Noble Graphics with 15 years of experience in advertising and dozens of awards in the field of marketing. Apart from being a jury at a number of Bulgarian and international festivals, she has also been a speaker at events such as TEDx, Golden Drum and AdBlackSea.
Maria is also the only Bulgarian woman selected by the prestigious Cannes Lions festival to participate in the See It Be It program - an initiative aimed at encouraging and promoting women leaders. In her desire to keep the door open for others, Maria transferred the initiative from Cannes to Bulgaria and for 2 years organised 13 events with a total of 71 speakers from all around the world.
For the last 5 years she has also been the mother of a daughter who thinks that Freddie Mercury, Ivo Dimchev and Mike Patton are the most beautiful in the world (after mom, of course).