CEO Spotlight: Edin Pasalic, Go2Digital, Zagreb, Croatia

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

This month we welcome Edin Pasalic, Co-Founder, Go2Digital, Zagreb, Croatia.

  1. I’ve seen you described as a smart, determined, young entrepreneurial leader with a big vision. Tell us about your background, and why did Digital Out-of-Home attract you?

    Born in Zagreb, I spent 18 years of my childhood growing up in Croatia’s capital city. I practised athletics during my schooling, and received a track-and-field scholarship to Chicago’s DePaul University, where I achieved Bachelor and Master degrees in Business. Having lived and been totally immersed in the Chicago lifestyle for over five years, I naturally developed a very entrepreneurial and visionary mind that felt inspired by technology and cool ideas.

    While I was studying, Chicago was leading the concept of Digital Out-of-Home as a major metropolitan and innovative city. It had a vibrant roadside digital network, creative advertisements in public transportation (with the Chicago Transport Authority), and an established digital network (run by Titan and Adspace digital shopping mall networks). The creativity caught my eye and became more and more noticeable.

    I started seriously thinking of ways to bring DOOH back to my home in Croatia. As DOOH didn’t exist in Croatia at that time and the advertising/marketing was generally years behind the U.S., I started brainstorming, researching, and meeting with advisors to turn my ideas into a realistic business plan.

  2. You were educated in the U.S. but in looking for a business opportunity, you chose Croatia. Is your family background there? Who co-founded Go2Digital with you? Did they find you or did you find them?

    I chose Croatia because of several different reasons: Yes, I am a Croatian national, born and raised in Zagreb. As well, my family is still residing there and my sister is part of one of the biggest media agencies in Croatia – which helped me break into the market with her established network.

    Go2Digital was co-founded by my partner Ante Filipović and myself. Ante had been working in Out-of-Home for 10 years prior to starting Go2Digital with me, so he had critical experience and knowledge of working in the local industry. I was very lucky to find such a strong counterpart.

    My idea was to start a shopping mall digital citylight network, as there were only 25 shopping malls in Croatia without any existing substitutes or competitors. After researching, I concluded that 85% of people age 15-plus regularly visit shopping malls at least two-to-three times a month. This gave me an opportunity that with minimal investment, I was going to be able to develop a very powerful medium with a massive reach – comparable to prime time TV channels.

    It does sound crazy and unbelievable that a recent college graduate with no professional real life experience would develop a medium that has a reach comparable to the largest TV channel in Croatia. But considering all the factors, such as size of the country, number of shopping malls, no current competition and how much Croatian people loved going to malls, this was a realistic opportunity.

    This brings us back to my meeting with my partner: Ante and I met during my negotiations with a shopping mall when I only had the original idea, while Ante’s other company, CMP – which he owns 100% – had the exclusive rights to sell static advertising within several malls in Croatia. I told him my vision and idea and, 15 minutes later, we shook hands and decided to go into business together.

    Go2Digital was born.

    He brought the local knowledge and know-how of advertising in Croatia, where I added the technical and operations experience of digitalization with the vision.

  3. In how many cities are your products deployed? Are all your products either one-or two-sided stand-alone totems? How many advertising faces do you have in total?

    We are currently deployed in 17 cities in Croatia with 182 digital faces. We have 104 indoor faces consisting of 52 double-sided units that are positioned in 22 shopping malls and 78 outdoor faces which are mostly on double-sided units with few single-sided units.

  4. You recently offered a new totem design in Zagreb Arena, a shopping and entertainment centre. Where are all your product designs developed and manufactured? How many different designs do you offer?

    Our first indoor digital citylights were developed by us (Go2Digital) in-house. We bought professional screens, industry grade PC’s, and developed an attractive casing. At start up, we were running on a limited budget and we were able to build an indoor digital unit that was 35% cheaper that any system integrators. I am proud to say that these units are in there, three years running and performing without any major issues.

    For our outdoor units, we extensively researched and tested different manufacturers. Croatia has a very diverse terrain, where you have the coast (with high temperatures), inlands and mountains, and countrysides. Because we decided to develop a national network that would put our outdoor units in several different climate zones, we had to be confident that the units could perform without any issues anywhere. We chose a Slovenian company called Infinitus Outdoor, which, without fail, has been an excellent product partner.

    We also partnered with Infinitus Outdoor on our newest design of indoor units that were put in the largest shopping mall in Croatia, Arena Center. These ‘sexy’ screens have received positive praise by clients and agencies, as being an excellent product in whole.

  5. Your products run a 90-second loop for 15-second ads, which is different from most of the 60-second loops we see. What prompted that?

    The Croatian market is still strongly dominated by television, where 57% of advertising budgets are spent. Compare that with the UK where TV only accounts for 26% of market share.

    We created our loop reflecting a TV model. A TV ad is adaptable since most of TV commercials have 15 and 30 second copies. To easily adapt to our medium in the first year, many advertisers were able to use their existing TV commercials. Now, many clients are using our medium for customizable or special campaigns, and are specifically generating new content (including interactive campaigns).

  6. You chose BroadSign International to handle your content management? Why BroadSign? Do you use any of its other services?

    We tested four different Content Management Systems at the beginning, and BroadSign proved to be the best CMS for an advertising network of our type. BroadSign is extremely efficient. When you have to run 30 to 40 campaigns per month, spending five minutes a day optimizing and scheduling the campaigns allows us to focus on other tasks as a busy start-up.

    We are talking to BroadSign about its new programmatic platform and are looking forward to incorporating it into our sales cycle, too.

  7. And you chose Quividi for your products’ measurement. Why Quividi? Do you use any other measurement as well?

    When starting Go2Digital, we were curious about what is and is not working in the online, digital, and mobile space to grow at such a rapid rate. Our conclusion: measurement, targeting and optimization.

    As much as OOH is perceived to have a massive reach and great image, more and more clients/agencies were unable to provide the ROI. Unfortunately, lack of measurement of classical OOH made its budget stagnate. We decided to offer the best indoor and outdoor medium that gives our clients exact data and achievement measures (impressions, active viewers, demographic, attention time, dwell time, CPM impression, CPM active viewer).

    Our exponential success in the last two years is due to two things: offering an excellent, premium product and providing facts and data as output from each campaign.

  8. There are pictures of mobile devices on your website, but we didn’t see anything about their use. Are your advertisers asking for their campaigns to connect to mobile? Can you give us an example?

    Our first mobile/DOOH campaign ran in early May, 2017. This nationwide mobile/DOOH integration campaign was with Croatia’s telecom company, Hrvatska Telekom. Users could transform their mobile phone into a remote control and play a virtual game on our screens, which showed each a unique URL. When users entered the URL into their mobile phone browser, the mobile phone transformed into a gaming console (like a remote control). The game showed a sea diver in the ocean needing to avoid sharks that are trying to catch him. A user held his or her mobile phone to move the diver up and down, manoeuvring around the sharks.

    It was a super awesome way how to integrate mobile and DOOH which our client, Hrvatska Telekom, believes is very critical to promote their mobile phones and connectivity (eg., to our screens).

  9. How many employees do you have? Do you have R&D or creative departments in-house? What’s your company structure?

    Go2Digital is co-owned by Ante Filipović and myself. It has all been in-house investments.

    Just 2.5 years old, we grew from a two-man team to a six-man team that is running this lean and mean engine to its perfection (sales, IT, operations).

  10. Go2Digital products register a very high number of impressions for their advertising. Could you tell us about the audience and the behaviour characteristics of the Croatian consumer?

    Out of 182 digital faces that we currently have in our portfolio, 10% of them are located at the busiest squares and walkways in the country. One of our top locations is measuring daily over 240,000 impressions; overall on a monthly basis we can deliver over 30,000,000 impressions and 12,000,000 active viewers.

    After two-and-a-half years of collecting data, we learned that the positioning of our digital city light is the most crucial part of creating an effective and powerful medium. Some of our locations didn’t perform the best due to the fact that we didn’t position a digital city light at the right spot inside the mall or on the square, so we had to make a few adjustments to give our clients the best possible opportunity to reach their target audience with the right message at the right time.

    Some of the interesting data that we gathered and helped us optimize campaigns are:
    • There are more male viewers of ads in shopping malls than female viewers: male 54.2% vs. female 45.8%. This due to the fact that females spend more time inside the shops while males are in the mall areas where our screens are positioned
    • The average attention time on an ad is 4.7 seconds
    • 58% of go2digital network viewers are between the ages of 14 and 35 – this gives our clients an opportunity to use our network to reach the hard-to-get young target.

  11. Track and field was a big part of your world while at university and later in the U.S.. Are you doing anything in this regard in Croatia, either personally, with your employees or externally?

    Track and Field was my passion and life during my college days. Reflecting now, the sport taught me dedication, fear, persistence, and competition – critical for a successful entrepreneur. I stopped competing on a high level to focus and invest in Go2Digital.

    Croatia offers Business-to-Business races and 5K runs throughout the country, in which we participate as a team to support our healthy lifestyle (and maybe run by a few of our screens. 🙂 )

  12. I understand that you plan to expand to some 500 screens in Croatia in the near future. How do you intend to do that? Alone or with a partner?

    We have adjusted our plan to grow to 250 digital citylights within Croatia, so as to keep our unique positioning of premium product at top locations. We don’t just want to be everywhere and average. Go2Digital is premium and at the right time and place.

    However, we are now investing in R&D for super iconic projects such as a new category of offering.

  13. At what stage do you expect to get into programmatic buying, if you do? What are your thoughts about programmatic use in Croatia?

    Programmatic use in Croatia has started in online/digital market but has failed to gain any major traction. Go2Digital believes it can definitely help us bring more international clients that are planning to run global campaigns that have to cover dozens of different markets.

  14. Tell us about your growth strategy. Croatia borders on several countries. Are they part of your expansion plans?

    Our goal is to finish expanding inside Croatia by 2018, where we plan to finish installation of all premium locations in both small and large formats. Our possible expansion across border will depend on potentially finding a partner that shares our vision, where, with the opportunity, we can apply our Croatian model to other countries and regions.

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