The Direct Media group has been working on strengthening its Croatian team for the past two years, and over the summer Vedran Petranović stepped in as the local digital director, bringing his years of experience in digital marketing. Vedran and Sanja Lalević-Cvetković talk about their plans for the Croatian market in 2018.
Even though Direct Media—a communications, advertising, and media service provider—is present in eight countries (Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia, Albania, and Bulgaria), you’re most likely to know it for its Serbian campaigns. One of those is the “A photo a day in the worst year of my life” campaign, which a few years ago went viral globally. The company also introduced novelties such as real-time bidding advertising, all the while investing efforts in numerous external initiatives such as bringing Nikola Tesla back to life and Netokracija’s Ladies of New Business conference. They admit that they are most commonly known for “reputation campaigns,” which is expected because they have high reach and original creative solutions, but among themselves they are more proud of result-oriented campaigns that achieve different goals, which is precisely the point of what they do.
After pitches, it’s time to focus on the next year
Vedran, who prior to Direct Media worked as a digital specialist in agencies such as MediaCom and Advans, tell me that soon—both in the Croatian and other regional offices—we’ll see additional reinforcements and connecting of local teams. The current agency situation in Zagreb is typical for the end of the year—after the creative pitching period comes the math period where they prepare the strategy for the coming year:
“Our main task is to take care of our present clients, which includes achieving the goals that they put before us. With the team itself getting bigger, and in line with Direct Media’s reputation in the region, acquiring new clients comes quite natural. In line with the above, the last two years saw us acquire several strategically important clients, such as OTP banka, Emirates Airline, Ford, and PharmaSwiss.
Since we are a full-service agency, our team consists of experts from both offline and online worlds.”
Fresh faces preferred over veteran talent
Further recruitments will follow, and Vedran reveals that the company is more inclined to choose fresh, less experienced faces than veteran talent. Even though this is a more difficult path because it involves mentoring and educating staff to train them into professionals, he believes it to be more than worthwhile in the long run.
“Today’s digital marketing suffers from a lack of quality labor force, and that pushes us even more to hire people with no experience and turn them into skilled digital professionals who will contribute both to Direct Media’s further development and to the market in general. Since employee experience is not a priority, we appreciate people who are motivated, eager to learn, and leaning towards (digital) marketing, new media, and technologies.”
For years, Direct Media has been using its own Direct Media Academy, as well as various other internal/external training efforts, to continuously hone its employees’ skills. And as of this year, the academy also welcomes clients. Education is the only way to remain at the very top when it comes to knowledge and expertise, which Direct Media well knows, investing in it and always staying a step ahead.
After hiring marketers, creatives are next in line, and Vedran says that they’re not looking for people from traditional creative agencies—traditional creatives are responsible overall creative concepts that carry marketing campaigns (offline and online), while digital creatives need to implement this overall creative concept in all online channels within a campaign. According to him,
“Digital creatives most certainly must have a knack for creativity, but given that the overall creative concept is already chosen, the emphasis is on the very knowledge of digital channels and their capabilities, and that’s where come to digital media specialists, the so-called “digitals.”
Digitals from media agencies are the ones who, based on the results of previous campaigns, know the advantages, disadvantages, and potential of digital channels—and not just channels but also their subchannels. This information tells them how users consume and respond to a particular online channel and what creative solutions are best for those channels.
In short, digital media planners convey their inputs to digital creatives, who ultimately give the final instructions for the production. The production team’s task is to create what the digital planner and the digital creative imagined.“
Croatian and Serbian digital markets are up on their feet
Sanja Lalević-Cvetković, Direct Media’s Digital Media Manager and, as of recently, IAB Serbia Assembly’s President, looks at the differences and similarities between the Croatian and Serbian markets, noting that both have come out of the stage where they’re not able to apply something that is already applied in the world.
“Clearly there are limitations concerning data or research availability, but even without it digital—both in Serbia and in Croatia—is now up on its own feet. It has earned equal status alongside all the other traditional media in the media mix.
The media are people, so digital itself depends on how much individuals representing their companies dedicate themselves to developing and enhancing services and markets. In Croatia, as well as in Serbia, we work with outstanding professionals and this way—through trade associations and with our clients—we move the market forward by sharing knowledge and experience from both countries.”
As for Direct Media’s support to various initiatives and pro bono work, Sanja points out that the company fosters the same values in every market, so similar activities in Croatia are almost certain. She also commented on supporting the Ladies of New Business conference in Belgrade.
“The regional advertising industry is dominated by women, but when it comes to digital, the common opinion is that men are prevalent, and that is why we support all initiatives that contribute to gender equality awareness. We also encourage female entrepreneurs to be brave and embark on exploring new businesses and new technologies, sending the message that these are not men-only only areas.
Guided by a number of examples of women who have already proven themselves and achieved remarkable results, these initiatives are intended for all those who might doubt their capabilities or believe that they won’t fare well in the world of technology, which is perceived as a male industry.”
Direct Media’s future in Croatia
Finally, when asked about what kind of campaigns we can expect from Direct Media Croatia next year, Vedran laughs and goes back to the beginning of the conversation and responds with—”those that achieve the goals that are set.”
“The campaign’s goal is always a guiding light and the goal is that which defines the structure of the online campaign. I’m glad that we’re operating in a “smaller” market because this still allows us to communicate effectively with clients and the media, and that direct communication is most often the secret ingredient for a successful media plan that stands out among others.
As we also often run regional campaigns, we very often talk directly with colleagues from other offices. This communication allows clients to have quality regional campaigns optimized for each market by local experts.
For our regional offices, this communication means learning.”