Zsuzsanna Kiss graduated from IBS in 2001 and is now the Sales Director and Country Manager of Media Sales at Cinema City - CineWorld Group.
Could you tell us about the major steps that led you to your present position?
I started my IBS-Oxford Brookes University studies in 1997 and completed them in 2001. I remember one of my greatest experiences was that we could spend two weeks in Oxford before we began our studies. I liked the mind-set and the atmosphere of IBS although I must confess that I had to face some tough experiences as well.
Can you tell an example?
I had to learn how to learn, how to think in a creative way. I came from a strict and rather rigid Hungarian system of education, from a secondary school in Debrecen. After my first marketing exam, when my professor György Hay returned my paper, he said that I did not pass the exam. I was shocked, I wrote down all the things perfectly that were in my textbook, I said. He sat down with me, and we discussed my paper. He explained me that textbook content without real life example was not enough. So I failed my first marketing exam.
My experience was rather shocking, but thanks to it I had to learn how to think in a creative way. This school prepares you for life, especially for business life. I think I learnt the most from failing, and now I am actually grateful. What’s more, I have fond memories about a certain day when I got acquainted with my later husband, Balázs Halmay (see our interview with him here). I was really sad coming down the stairway and he was really happy as he was coming up the same stairway. He was always a very good, successful and outstanding student. We looked at each other and this was the moment of spark on both sides.
Getting back to my career, I was at Műszertechnika during my placement and I wrote my thesis paper on Public Procurement Marketing which was very much connected to my placement job. Right after IBS I worked for the television channel RTL as a marketing manager. That year a new type of interactive platform was launched. This meant that we had to find income sources beyond normal advertisements. We initiated phone-in quizzes, reality shows making money from viewers voting, and I was working on these extra incomes. It was a very exciting period of commercial television. Well, we also had to deal sometimes with people who came to complain about huge phone bills, because the kids used these high-fee phone lines.
How could you manage that?
We had to direct them to the mobile phone companies. It took a while for the Hungarian audience to get used to this type of games and the consequences that came with them. The beginnings were tough. I worked for RTL for 5 years then changed to Cinema City. By now, I have been in the movie business for 10 years. There was a little here and there in the meantime. From Cinema City I went to Palace Cinemas, then back to Cinema City when the two merged in 2011. There were two multiplex cinema chains, Cinema City and Palace Cinema in Hungary. Cinema City was strong in the countryside, Palace Cinemas was rather Budapest-focused. The long-term strategies of the two chains were different. Cinema City always wanted to develop continuously, step by step (now Cinema City is the part of CineWorld Group, the second largest cinema chain in Europe), while the primary aim of Palace Cinemas was to develop a very successful and attractive business that can eventually enter the market and can be sold with a nice profit.
How did you get involved in the movie business?
Honestly, I did not plan my work career in the media business. I went to interviews, I did them, I was good at them, so it was a bit accidental that I got involved in the movie sector. When I began working in Cinema City in 2006, I had to develop everything from zero. I had to build my team, our network of clients, how we work today. My team and I set up and developed this field, literally from scratch. There were a lot of direct calls, meetings, we had to set up a network of connections. As the Country Manager of New Age Advertising, I am in contact with companies and media agencies that advertise or have spots before the film screenings. My task is to generate income from mainly on-screen and off-screen cinema advertising activities. Cinema media is a premium media reaching premium audiences and can be targeted with minimum waste deviation for advertisers.
Can you tell an example of a business success that you are proud of?
It was my dream project and actually it happened this year. From April 2016 our IMAX in Budapest is called “Simple IMAX”. Simple is the brand of an OTP filial. As a result of a three-year long negotiation process, we could sign a long-term contract which is the biggest contract of New Age Advertising in Hungary, maybe internationally as well. One part of the deal is that the Simple brand became the name sponsor of IMAX cinema, which is an image strengthening device. The other part is that people can buy cinema tickets through the Simple mobile application. We can see that it was important for Simple to have an even stronger brand image and to multiply the usage of the Simple mobile application and with Cinema City we could find our mutual way, hand-in-hand.
Are you working together with your husband?
Although we do together everything we can, we have our own career paths. We continued our studies together after IBS. We went to an executive MBA program at CEU, when there was an option to apply for a US grant, we both applied and both of us received it. This is how we could go to Atlanta to the Business School of Emory University where we spent a semester. This was a fantastic experience. We both felt the need that we have to develop ourselves and the way we think and act.
You have work and you do your job well but somehow it becomes a routine. We needed a change. In Atlanta we had excellent and very demanding professors, we studied different fields of marketing (strategy, communications, online, product, international etc.), we had product branding simulation contests, real life case studies, presentations, negotiations, how to pass your intention in a way that both parties feel it a win and not an imposition. All these added a lot to our IBS experience but it was tough. We had to step out of our comfort zone but it was worth it.