Russians Learning How Americans Sell Their Wares

by Maria Burnham

Published in the Commercial Appeal, November 17, 2004

Trace Hallowell sat in a small, packed room with his professional peers and explained how the creative process worked for him.

Notebooks were open and pens at the ready, but no one wrote down a word he said.

He cracked a few jokes; no one laughed.

He asked questions; no one answered.

But the 11 advertising professionals gathered at Tactical Magic came alive after the woman to Hallowell’s right began translating his words into their language of Russian.

During the last two weeks that scene has replayed itself all over Memphis as the group of Russians traveled from advertising agency to advertising agency, learning different aspects of the American style of practice.

“The advertising business in the United States is very developed. In Russia this is a young business and we can learn a lot,” Alevtina Kitova, director of a seven-person firm in Ulyanovsk, said through a translator.

The group of four men, seven women, their translator and facilitator is here with a program, Center for Citizen Initiatives, that brings Russian professionals from about 60 business disciplines to the United States for intensive training.

This is the first group to visit Memphis.

“I like very much the people of this city. They are very friendly and open,” Kitova said. “In Russia we are not accustomed to greeting and smiling at people we do not know.”

Everyone has been welcoming to the visitors, said Mickey Woodham with Thompson & Co., the program’s local coordinator.

“I am proud of our city,” she said. “Not only have the business hosts opened their arms but so has the entire city of Memphis.”

Workshops started Oct. 18 at the University of Memphis with an overview of the American advertising industry. In addition to general advertising and marketing practices, the group has also studied legal and ethical issues in the business, financial planning, human resources, creating a business plan, using the Internet and

branding.

The participants come from varied backgrounds and cities. By American terms they’re all new to the industry, with the most senior members dating to the early days of Russian advertising about 14 years ago.

Alexander Filyurin was in on those early days.

He and a partner run the 60-person Melehov & Filyurin Advertising Group in Novosibirsk. Filyurin, also speaking through a translator, said most of the theoretical knowledge his firm began with came from American books on advertising.

His background is in science and mathematics, but Filyurin said he always felt he was a creative person. He found an outlet for that in advertising.

The structure of his business is based on that of American companies. But he would like to hone the timing control and traffic management aspects. When his business partner came through the CCI program about three years ago it helped streamline their business. He expects the same to happen when he returns.

For Anastasia Diomidova of St. Petersburg the program has given her ideas for reorganizing the structure of the company she co-owns, Esquire Advertising Agency. That includes the concept of multilevel management. 

“The principal work of advertising agencies (in the U.S.) differs greatly from the Russian ones,” she said through a translator. “The production part is the same but management aspects are different.”

One of the key parts of the CCI program is to teach management skills to the visiting professionals, said Madina Bikbulatova, director of CCI-Dubna, Russia, who is serving as facilitator.

“And that is what’s been most beneficial for them.”

But it hasn’t been all work for the group.

Their evenings and weekends have been planned with cultural enrichment in mind.

Soul music has figured heavily into that education and many of the visitors fell in love with the musical genre after their visit to Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

This weekend they continue their American music education with a trip to Graceland and pick up a little holiday culture with a haunted house visit and Halloween party.

The group seems to be enjoying and benefiting from their trip, said Bob Chandler, chairman and CEO of ChandlerEhrlich, which conducted a workshop on new business development.

He added they were warm and engaging and appeared interested in the work done in Memphis.

Chandler believes the local community has embraced the visitors out of a mix of duty, fun and networking.

“The world is shrinking. Who knows where the next market will be for our customers. It’s not inconceivable that in six months we’ll need a partner in Russia.” 

Download this story as a PDF

"Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind." - Walter Landor