In case you’re wondering who Stefan Stroe is, you should first know that my family name it isn’t a misspelt version of “store” (shop). Do you hear that, Google and spell checkers? 😀
Also, while I clarify this question for you, I hope you’ll allow me to tell you more about myself.
Below you’ll find original, updated essential information about myself, and I commit to updating it periodically.
In case you have something cooking in your oven, jump straight to the chapter you’d like to read (see the table of contents below).
There are plenty of facts and stories about my birthplace, education, professional experience, NGO activity, references and many more. I hope you’ll enjoy this Stroe storytelling.
Birthplace and Childhood
Answering this is easy. I’m Romanian, born in Bucharest.
As my fellow Romanian friend and colleague Sebastian Rotariu likes to say after hearing me introducing my nationality: “Yeah. Nobody’s perfect”. 🙈
My childhood happened during the 80s, and although communism wasn’t that fun (only two hours of TV per day, the weekend was only Sunday), us kids always found ways to have fun and stay outdoors as much as possible.
I am blessed with a wonderful family, my wife Natalia and I have one amazing son, Tudor, which I shared already that loves to play the drums.
Natalia and I have both international careers, and now we live in Prague, Czech Republic.
Of course, when I think of my family I have to mention my dear parents, too because they took very good care of me and my education.
Both my mom and dad were respected professionals.
My mom worked as a Senior Editor at the Romanian National Press Agency, covering Romanian and French news and she was one of the most literate persons I met. She loved her 6 volume French Larousse encyclopedia and relied on it just like we put our faith in Siri or Google Maps navigation. 🤩
My dad has been a prominent structural engineer, responsible for many industrial and transportation projects. Among others, he’s responsible for the structure of several underground stations in Bucharest which have been used already by a few million people.
A few years after the 1989 Revolution, I graduated from the Romanian high school CN Gheorghe Lazar in Bucharest.
Funny fact, my mom graduated the same high school, but in a period after WW2 when the institution was girls-only. 😀
In the mid-90s very few of my high-school colleagues actually knew what marketing is, but it was a math teacher with a daughter studying abroad that told us that marketing could be applied from selling condoms to advertise a church. 🙈
So at that age, marketing seemed like the right vocation in the Wild Wild East of Romania. 😀
Marketing university graduate
Four years later I graduated in Marketing at the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest.
Because in the 80s the state-owned advertising was the only one allowed (and it was awful), as a young capitalist I dreamed to create great ads.
Post-graduate degree in advertising
As I was already working in media planning since my last college year, I decided to complete my marketing diploma by a post-graduate degree in Advertising at Journalism University in Bucharest.
Along the way, I met a few really great professors:
Advertising career (1st decade)
In the 00s the advertising job market felt like Star Trek series because for 10 years job offerings were everywhere. I’d say that advertising jobs looked like spaghettified stars seen from Starship Enterprise at warp speed. 😀
If you were good at your job, but your boss was incompetent, you could say “Picard to base” and teleport yourself into a different agency with better pay.
So for 10 years, I had the privilege to work in a few top international advertising and media agencies, in four different areas:
- Media planning (at Media Direction/Graffiti BBDO);
- Consumer Context Planning (at Starcom Romania);
- Strategic Planning (at Leo Burnett and Grey Worldwide);
- Client Service (at Saatchi&Saatchi and Leo Burnett).
Just like other colleagues of mine, this accelerated career pace facilitated to become at only 26 y.o. Strategy Director at Starcom Mediavest.
Just two years later, the next top management position occupied in an international advertising agency was Strategy Director at Grey Worldwide, a creative agency.
Being Strategy Director is fun, but all the joy may be gone when you go to Effie Awards and you’re not winning a Gold or the Grand Prix. 😀
Effie Awards is a cool event, but those that are experienced to submit case studies know that data can be manipulated to look like Pamela Anderson in Baywatch (- OMG, are you saying… faked data? – No, just tuned.). 😀
As I wasn’t a fan of Baywatch series and Effie data tricks, I invited a group of industry colleagues to write with me a white paper for the Romanian Effie Awards jury.
The original version of the document is called “35 Tricky Questions for 2009 Effie case studies”, and it’s the first white paper in marketing industry’s history where competitors (senior strategic planners) joined forces to make these efficiency awards competition more honest, sharing and highlighting the tricks that are used to trick/impress Effie juries.
If you’re interested, you may read the first digital issue presented during the 2009 edition of IAA Effie Romania Awards event (Stroe – Slideshare link to the white paper).
While working for large international agencies and being in charge of developing Consumer Context Planning and Strategic Planning capabilities, I met some of the most prominent strategic planning professionals in the world.
It was a privilege to listen, learn from and talk directly to world-renowned admen such as Jon Steel, Chris Forrest, Mark Earls (aka the HERDmeister), Faris Yakob, professionals that inspired my advertising work.
Being in the same room or speakers panel with these guys was fantastic. To see “Stroe” written next to names like Steel and Forrest felt also a bit crazy at that time, too. 😇
Joining Account Planning Group UK and later co-leading APG Romania has been another major step in my strategic planning career development, joining the international account planning community.
Entrepreneurship (2nd decade)
In 2009 I decided to start my business. Initially, I was thinking of calling it “Stroe. An ideas store”, but it felt like it was a bit too much. 😶
Instead, I launched Online Brand Ambassadors® (OBA) and Brand Ambassador®, two marketing services which later became the core services of INCANDESCENT Marketing, my communications agency.
Besides running the company I focused on managing the marketing function in certain areas:
- acquire new business;
- mange the agency’s image on the market;
- coordinate the Client Service & Creative teams;
- oversee the quality of our campaigns.
Gradually, in addition to Brand Ambassador and influencers campaigns the agency also has delivered a series of marketing consultancy projects, creative research, word of mouth monitoring, branding and advertising campaigns.
Over a ten years span of entrepreneurship, I tried to continue to develop and learn a new thing every day. It wasn’t easy but after 10 years of advertising it was the right thing to do because I learned a lot about:
- Business management;
- People management;
- Start-up strategies;
- Word of mouth;
- Consumer research.
Being an entrepreneur was fun, but at the same time highly demanding physically, with lots of working nights and litres of adrenaline drained for pitches.
Looking back I’d say that moving from the comfortable agency strategic planning to real entrepreneurship was like playing wrestling on the tablet and then have The Notorious mistook you for Khabib Nurmagomedov. 😬
Marketing career (3rd decade)
The 3rd decade in my career is about marketing. It started in Bulgaria in 2008 at Synevo Bulgaria and continued in the Czech Republic at Medicover Diagnostic Services (MDS).
Marketing and Communication Director
The first job proved was a huge bet and a fantastic match.
The Bulgarian diagnostics company was not profitable but had great potential, but the Romanian manager, Sebastian Rotariu made me a very smart proposal.
Two days later I put on my wingsuit and jumped. The job was mine. 🙂
A decisive contribution to turn the company profitable after 7 years of decline was an innovative digital marketing strategy and a new website that offered Bulgarian patients online laboratory tests preordering, a premiere for the Bulgarian market.
I was happy and I still am of what I did. 😇
Synevo Bulgaria was a true leap of faith, but it paid back in 1 year time:
- The company turned profitable after 7 years of decline;
- Marketing became digitally-led;
- Relaunch of the website;
- A revolutionary marketing strategy shook the market (aka “The Health Manifesto”);
- A winning local marketing team was born;
- The Content Strategy and SEO grew monthly website traffic 47 times, from 10k users (Jan 2019) to 473k (Nov 2020).
International Digital Marketing Manager
Now my job is more serious than usual. I have a position within the divisional eCommerce team of Medicover, performed remotely from Prague (CZ) and reporting to a manager in Medicover HQ in Berlin, Germany.
Although remote, I am keen to deliver digital excellence across Medicover diagnostic services (MDS) in 10 markets: Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.
SEO is cool, but feels like NYSE (super crazy) – please read my point of view on Medium, here.
Top achievements in this position:
- Manage divisional Search Engine Marketing activities (PPC + SEO);
- Enrich local SEO expertise via Semrush & Ahrefs;
- Improve local usage of Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Data Studio, and Google Ads;
- Create the first divisional SEO & Content Marketing framework;
- Build with the local marketing teams eCommerce, SEO & Content Marketing strategies;
- Pilot and implement a unique CMS solution for websites and web stores;
- Co-lead the digital branding of Synevo.
In Romania, my name Stroe was associated with “advertising” and “professor”, because while working in the agencies, I accepted all academic invitations.
Similar to the thirst to learn new things daily, I enjoyed lecturing, giving speeches, joining experts panels, even creating my own curricula for the cool courses I was invited to teach.
Lectures at three universities
Shortly after graduating from university, Sorin Psatta, a former professor and senior strategist at Graffiti/BBDO, asked me to teach Media Planning at the University of Journalism and Communication Studies (FJSC).
I was quite young, but it t felt the right thing because I was crazy about Media Planning.
There weren’t enough help files in the software we were using in the agency – TNS/AGB, TGI/Kantar, BRAT/Focus SNA – to answer all my questions. I wanted to understand everything like Neo in The Matrix. 😎
Soon after that, two other professors (Prof. Ioana Cecilia Popescu and Prof. Dan Petre) invited me to lecture similar courses at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (SNSPA) and the Marketing Faculty (ASE).
Without any break, for 15 years (2002 – 2017) I prepared and lectured several courses and seminars, focusing on the hot areas in marketing that students were eager to discover:
- International Marketing;
- YouTube Viral Marketing;
- Strategic Planning;
- Media Strategy & Planning;
- Integrated Communications.
The long-run passion for mixing professional experience with teaching activities also put my name, Stroe on the list of lecturers at the Romanian-Canadian MBA in Bucharest, Romania:
- International Unconventional Marketing (2014-2015)
- International Media Strategy (2006-2007, 2007-2008 and 2009-2010)
Funny though, most MBA students were older than me. It put extra pressure on me, so in return I had to put every presentation I gave on steroids, to check every possible angle and anticipate their questions.
It was tough, but extremely rewarding, even getting unexpected applause at the end.
After my uni graduation, I stayed in touch with the universities and other marketing alumni, getting involved in lots of NGO work.
It always seemed like I had to share my work experience with younger generations, just as I learnt when I was a curious student.
Co-founder of Marketer Club NGO
In 2004 I co-founded the non-profit association Marketer Club, which develops co-training programs for students in collaboration with top marketers from different industries.
We applied for European programs and we were happy to have one of our ideas funded.
Co-founder of Excedo NGO
Later in 2009 I also co-founded EXCEDO NGO, whose objective is to develop nation-wide programs that would support young generations’ progress.
This was a pure Stroe brand because we wanted to set an example of involvement in cultural events for the young generations.
Creating White Libraries Night event
Two years later, together with my wife Natalia and a team of marketing students we initiated and organized pro-bonus the White Libraries Night (in Romanian: “Noaptea Bibliotecilor”).
The White Libraries Night became a national event dedicated to the book lovers in Romania, which was attended by over 22,000 people throughout the country.
During the advertising career I’ve been a guest speaker and moderator to marketing and advertising events:
- Digital Marketing Forum – 2014 edition
- Conferința PR Beta – Timișoara, 2013 edition
- PR Beta Workshop series in Timișoara, Cluj, Iași, Oradea și Brașov – 2013 edition
- Digital Marketing Forum – 2012 edition
- Young Professionals / IAA România – 2012 edition
- Webstock – 2011 edition
- Digital Marketing Forum – 2011
- Marketing 360 – 2011
- Digital Marketing Forum – 2010
- SMARK KnowHow Series conference – 2009
- IAA Young Professionals: Planning vs. Research workshop – 2009
- APG Romania: “Developing a great strategy” – 2008
- Inspire – 2008
- Master Plan conference – 2007
Trainer and mentor
I have also been a trainer and mentor at workshops and conferences organized by business, marketing and advertising student associations:
- Marketing Faculty 10-year anniversary conference – 2013
- Serile Marketer organized by Marketer Club – 2013
- Job Arena organized by BOS Romania – 2013
- AdRev 8 organized by Advice Students – 2012
- Teach Me organized by Advice Students – 2011
- Think Strategy v Advice Students – 2011
- AdRev 7 organized byAdvice Students – 2011
- AdRev 6 organized by Advice Students – 2010
- AdRevolution organized by Advice Students – 2008
- Advertising Community organized by BOS România – 2007
- Think Strategy organized by Advice Students – 2007
Back in 2006, I launched my first blog called “Constructive Brand Strategy Criticism” (www.stefanstroe.ro).
That was the “e-corner” where I shared opinions and analyses about brand communication, engaging with lots of people interested in international advertising, including strategic planners such as Amelia Torode.
As a member of the Romanian blogosphere, I joined with great pleasure events (conferences, seminars, industry events, contests) and informal happenings (sports, informal gatherings).
After more than 10 years of publishing on the first blog, and following his relocation from Romania I decided to migrate the site from .ro to .com.
So what does “Stroe” mean?
To recap from what I mentioned at the very top, “Stroe” is not a misspelt version of “store”/shop. 🙏
Stroe a typical Romanian name, but you cand find related names (using the same root) in other Eastern European languages:
- Moldova: “Stroevici”
- Bulgarian, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan: “Строев” (read “Stroev”)
- Serbian: “Stroevic”
- Czech: “Stroj” is a noun and it means “machine” (reference: Wikipedia)
- Dutch: the name represents a hamlet in the Dutch province of North Holland (reference: Wikipedia)
So my biggest branding fight is with the English autocorrect functions in search engines and spell checkers that think StROe is misspelt, indicating “stORe” as an alternative.
My game with AI is on. 😇
- Linkedin profile
- Twitter page
- Personal projects on Behance
- Instagram profile
- Pinterest profile
- New Facebook page
- Medium articles
- Slideshare presentations