By Gerton Bejo, Founder and CEO of VATRA Agency

Tirana / Prishtina / Skopje / Belgrade

The smallest ideas and the people behind them can bring a masterpiece to life if they are continually recognized and supported. In a global, ever-moving world, creativity is essential. To think beyond tradition, as well as to see things in a different light and angle. Many young people have no shortage of this creative dose; on the contrary, it is often higher and unparalleled compared to the creativity of older individuals. The latter develop thinking habits that seem to help them in enigmatic and often challenging paths. However, I am not talking about a standard formula or a first-degree equation.

Over the past two decades, it has been observed that the creative industry has become a driving force for the economies of European countries such as Britain, France, Italy, and Spain. In Britain – the land of legends and mysteries – it is no legend and mystery that the creative industry alone generated total annual revenues of £3.6 billion in 2022. Exciting, isn’t it? A similar picture could have been unveiled for the region, but only if the relevant factors undertook healthy policies for their creative industries.

Why hasn't this happened yet? Firstly, the way of seeing things must change.

Human capital (including creativity, knowledge, skills, and dexterity) is one of the most valuable components in the creative industry and beyond, which is why investing in human resources is a necessary step. To this fact is added the panorama of a dynamic market that changes quickly; companies feel the need to invest their energy and finances in sustainable human resources because only in this way can they be successful and long-lasting. However, needs and opportunities do not follow the same trajectory. Attempts are ongoing across the spectrum of creating, managing, and cultivating solid employer-employee relationships. One of them is the establishment and development of internship opportunity policies. In fact, it is quite challenging for creative companies to offer professional internships to motivated young people, as everything translates into costs. And now, as you read this article, some sectors are facing another crisis, the possible global recession – with rising interest rates, inflation, and commodity prices.

At this point, the intervention of political actors and interest groups is needed to become initiators and partners in the development of the creative industry. This is a joint “battle” for a promising future, despite turbulent times. What regional governing forces can do concretely is to create a favorable environment for creativity and entrepreneurship by offering internships for students and recent graduates. In a market with an average level of competition, providing internships can give young people the opportunity to acquire skills and experience, further positioning themselves better within the creative industry. Thus, the region could become a hub location for human resources, attracting attention.

Returning to the earlier question of why the creative industry in the region has not yet become a powerful economic engine: A significant part does not necessarily consider consolidating the relationship between creativity and commerciality. However, this relationship enjoys a fully symbiotic nature. At the heart of creativity lies the ability to predict and produce something from nothing, which often results in a genuine business concept. Moreover, the process of this concept is often characterized as difficult to measure and manage by agencies. What could help creative agencies overcome “measurability” as a problem, not a crisis: a different mindset, away from devaluation, about how they themselves value their service. Agencies must be objective to the end and shamelessly demand what is theirs, not just live in the present, in meditation.

They must work for a name behind every logo, brand, or strategy, as well as for deserved income and, consequently, for foundations that can withstand the unpredictability of the future. The true value of an authentic, original, and creative product should never be forgotten. If there is something that overcomes creative strength, it is the lack of motivation. It is ironic to see how this happens to agencies, those that provide nothing but energy and ongoing motivation to businesses to move forward.

Agencies, only after going through this catharsis, can come together and lobby for a strong cultural environment that encourages and rewards creativity. The interest in having a decisive industry in a country’s economy needs to be articulated and conveyed with arguments and actual work.

Of course, the future will belong to those agencies that give due importance to their “brain.” Artificial Intelligence – with its many questions it raises – is a powerful tool that can help agencies minimize their inability to negotiate financially for the services they offer.

AI is not a reproduction of the human brain, and I want to emphasize this; it is inspired by it but does not undermine our evolutionary heritage. AI can reason, plan, or interact with the world; this is true, with the ability to understand and use language, make plans, and make quick decisions in time, as well as solve problems in a timely manner. However, the human brain is also characterized by subjective experiences – emotions, feelings, sensory perceptions… Which leads us to perhaps the most fundamental question that accompanies Artificial Intelligence: whether AI will one day be not only intelligent but also sensitive to external factors. As long as reality remains this way, without an answer to the question above, human intelligence will always feed artificial intelligence. In this process, the “lemon” (ps: the human brain) cannot escape being squeezed.

Well, agencies are faced with the demand to always provide creative “juice” and not the “lemon” itself, right? So, it is quite simply identified that the squeezing of the “lemon” as a process is what needs to be valued and paid for with the worth it deserves… for every drop gained.

Vatra is a regional leading in design, brand and digital communication agency passionately connecting brands to 55 million consumers in the Balkans for more than 20 years.

Gerton Bejo
Founder CEO of Vatra Agency
Tirana / Pristina / Skopje / Belgrade
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