05 Sep 2013.

What you don’t know about Croatia, the new EU member

The digital scene is extremely lively, with many digital agencies developing their own projects and applications.


Croatia, which joined the European Union this summer, is globally known only as a tourist destination, the Mediterranean as it once was and a country successful in sports. The more attentive observers of communication industry may recognize Croatia for its graphic design frequently winning awards at the most renowned international competitions.

However, very few are, for example, aware of the fact that back in 1928, Croatia, then part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, was the host of the first professional advertisers’ meeting aiming to establish a professional association and to join the European Continental Advertisers Union (Union Continentale de la Publicité) in Paris. This indicates a long tradition of advertising industry in this region.

Today’s Croatian communication scene is a reflection of the strength of the Croatian society and economy. The country is still young, having obtained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, an event which utterly and abruptly transformed its entire social and economic context. Today’s marketing scene has developed hand in hand with the liberalized market of the new democracy, since the 1990s.

Nevertheless, marketing as a profession was well developed in Croatia in the former state, even though it operated in a non-market environment. There were strong marketing agencies and experts, there were good creative solutions that have remained integrated in the culture to this day and many brands, ads, posters and newspapers were designed by renowned artists.

Democratic Croatia inherited from Yugoslavia some of the strong local and regional brands which were faced with fierce international competition after 1991. Most of them started to communicate by emulating foreign brands that functioned in an entirely different context, however, those who adapted to the local culture proved to be more successful.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the most successful Croatian advertising agencies today are locally-owned, which perhaps makes the country specific among the others in the so-called Eastern Block. In the 1990s, Croatian market saw the arrival of numerous global agency networks, bringing with them their know-how.

Many have since left, but they have, in turn, shaped a new generation of local advertising experts. Some local creatives established their own agencies, which managed to position themselves well with a different, local approach, and these are the ones who have started to successfully expand abroad in the recent years.

For many years now, the most interesting things have been taking place not in the market sector but in the civil sector, on the so-called independent scene, due to the fact that Croatia is still building up its transition society and much effort must be put into the improvement of the shattered social relations. This is where the creatives see more freedom, much clearer and better goals than those set out for communicators by market economy.

It is the projects from this very sector that win the most international awards. Greater freedom, predominantly granted in smaller projects, results in awards in the market sector as well. As anyone will point out when asked about the communication industry in Croatia, visual culture is highly developed. This is the consequence of the impact of two strong design schools and of the ever engaged design scene.

As for the media, the strongest ones today are television and Facebook, whose potential is still insufficiently exploited by advertisers since today every second Croatian internet user is also using the said social network. And it is this sphere of digital communications that is generating the most exciting projects. It is little known that projects such as Mediatoolkit, Socialnumbers and Socialpuzzle, assisting online marketing around the world to create Facebook campaigns, came from a Croatian company or that the popular ShoutEm solution for iOS and Android applications development was also created by Croatian authors.

The digital scene is extremely lively, with many digital agencies developing their own projects and applications. Such are Baby Watch, the application enabling expectant mothers to monitor the child while still in the belly or Sound.log, the application which is in essence a social radio, helping its users to discover music shared by their friends on social networks.

Once all these digital experts are coupled with good designers and a strong advertiser providing enough room to bolder solutions, Croatia could perhaps finally be crossed off the list of the countries never to have won the Cannes Lion.

Jelena Mihelčić

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