Time Out has a chat with Davor Bruketa of Bruketa&Žinić, one of Zagreb's leading agencies, about the city's ever-growing creative scene and how Croatian companies can grab the world's attention.
Q: You started out as designers and became advertising moguls. how did it happen?
A: We started as a graphic design studio and after five years employing about 10 people and working for various advertising agencies, we decided that we wanted to do it all ourselves – and so we became an advertising agency. By about 2007 we were employing 70 people, which was a bit of a shock because of the organisational responsibility. After the financial crisis we shrank back to 50 employees but we are now growing again.
Q: Advertising and design are relatively new industries in Croatia. how are they getting on?
A: The biggest challenge for Croatian businesses is that they are not exporting enough and are mostly focused on a small local market of 4.5 million people. The biggest problem for Croatian advertising is that when you are selling a product in a marketplace this small, then you really need to address everybody from the 15-year-old hipster to the old granny living in a village; niche markets are too small for niche products to be worthwhile,or for niche marketing strategies to be interesting. So it’s important for us to try and find clients abroad.
Q: But local design is getting more visible…
A: Croatian designers are regularly winning awards around the world and graphic design is doing fine, however there is a much bigger problem with product design because industrial production is still pretty weak, and the habit of using designers when you are initiating a product is relatively new here. There are some furniture producers who are doing pretty cool stuff.
Q: You are certainly one of the very few Croatian companies to have an office in baku. how did that come about?
A: It happened by chance, we didn’t exactly plan to go there, but here was an international pitch by one of their mobile phone operators that we won. We went there and opened an office. Now we have an office in Belgrade, and we are currently in negotiations about opening an office in Vienna, and we work a lot in Slovenia, so it will be a nice mix of cultures and backgrounds.
Q: Does Croatia function as a brand?
A: All we have so far is the idea of our beautiful coast, which is not unique enough on its own. Identities develop over a long period of time and it takes a while to brand a country. At least Croatia is in theory small enough to do these things quickly. A recent example is Estonia, a small country that decided to be an online country in which everyone had the access to the internet, and is now known throughout the world as a country of modernity.
We could expand the Croatian brand from the idea of ‘beautiful coast’ to include some other values which are much more based on what people do – for example if we are the ecological garden of Europe we can also be the place of ecological design, or sustainable architecture, and so on.
Branding strategy is easy to think up, but implementing it involves all the opinion-makers in society, and the biggest challenge would be how to involve and convince all these people.
Q: You trained as a designer yourself, is this a good training for the business end of the adver tising world?
A: The most important thing I learned in design school was analysis, to understand what I have to communicate, who I am communicating to, what this person wants, what is the context of the communication, and how to go through all the clutter. And what we learned in the mid 90s is actually becoming more applicable due to the web, which makes two-way communication much easier.
Q: The internet must have changed things…
A: What the internet means is that if you have a good idea you can show it to the world in five minutes. And if it’s good it will spread like wildfire. For example 15 years ago when we first started, we had to do something really radical in order to get any kind of press coverage. Nowadays things can go viral very quickly. When we put information online about our cookbook that has to be baked before you can read it [made as the annual report for food- industry giant Podravka in 2008], we got a call from a Mexican TV station within one hour. In short, we have worked out how to get the bloggers and mainstream media writing about us, but we haven’t worked out how to make serious money out of it yet… But if it’s possible to get people’s attention there must be a way of making it pay.