By Aidis Dalikas, Director of The Pool, Httpool

Aidis: “It Takes Courage to be Creative”

Aidis: “We are seeing the rise of influencers, individuals paid by brands to promote products, from clothes and homeware, to cosmetics and tooth whitening products. It is a phenomenon with which every Instagram and TikTok user is already familiar with. On the whole, celebrity endorsement — the ‘Hey, this product is awesome… Try it now!’ message — has been a pretty successful marketing tactic. However the way in which brands work with content creators is about to see a shift in focus.

“I really believe the spotlight will now be increasingly moving away from the personalities of the content creators and towards the products themselves.”


Why is this?

Aidis: “Because brands are cottoning on to the real potential of content creators and their ability to present products in an engaging way to their followers. When content consists solely of an influencer talking about a product, it holds little interest for anyone who doesn’t know or follow that influencer. However, for influencers tasked with producing original, product-focussed ads, applying a ‘voice’ that aims to appeal to their audience, allows for the brand to reuse the content across similar viewer groups, often achieving similar results.”


So in other words, New Markets = Easier Win’s?

Aidis: “Exactly. Brands understand that what may work in one market, won’t always translate to another. However, brands are now discovering that it’s easier, and often cheaper, to collaborate directly with local creators and influencers. Giving them carte blanche to portray the product in a way that interests their audiences, thus meaning the brand benefits from several different creative perspectives, from various content creators who have already proven success in their domains. Each of these points of view can then be specifically tailored to the local market.”


What do you think some of the important things are that brands should take into account?

Aidis: “Well it depends, but I think the first thing to focus on is letting go of the reins.”


Sounds like a very laissez-faire approach!

Aidis: “I mean when you look at it,  it is! I always question, how much creative freedom is too much? After all, I believe a brand’s image is often very carefully curated and controlled, and imposing too many guidelines or restrictions on content creators can be counter-productive. For the best results, brands must have the courage to let go of their own creative vision to some degree. If they can embrace that, the potential for reaching new audiences is huge. This approach is also beneficial for brands looking for ways to scale in different markets.”


What else would you say is important ?

Aidis: “Brands should always be clear on Who Owns The Content. This is something that needs to be established early on in the relationship between brand and content creator. Both parties will need to be clear about who the content belongs to, where it can be distributed, and who can use it in the future. In this way, brands essentially take on the role of talent agencies, managing a number of different content creators, and distributing the created content in a multitude of ways (different channels, formats, and campaigns etc.). Sometimes they might use those individuals as platforms, sometimes as content creators or creative directors, who help them understand different audiences or markets, or a combination of those roles.” 


What would you say the best time frame is for  successful branding?

Aidis: “Definitely long term collabs.”

That’s interesting , can you expand a little more on this? 

Aidis: “Of course. So far it has been evident that brands tend to collaborate sporadically with influencers, flitting from one to the next, however we are now beginning to increasingly see longer term collaborations producing far better results. Sure, these relationships require more time and investment, but that pays off very quickly. A brand can test out 20 or 30 content creators, and then decide which 10 or 15 partnerships that work the best.” 


Would you say that Brand Collaboration is a new movement? 

Aidis: “Brand collaboration as a concept is nothing new. We’ve seen high fashion brands collaborating with alternative companies and entities for many years, for example, Balenciaga collaborating with the Simpsons. These pairings are sometimes highly successful, and sometimes they’re not, regardless they are all attempts to reach new audiences by piggybacking on different brands. At the end of the day that’s essentially what collaboration with content creators is, the same idea, on a much smaller scale.”

Aidis Creative

Amazing. What’s the last thing you would recommend brands to focus on? 

Aidis:  “The playing field is evolving at an ever increasing pace. In the age of social media, brands no longer have to compete only with other brands and products present across the market, they must now compete in the same space. The battle for prominence amongst the vast array of content created and distributed on social media, is an everyday affair. Brands that are too careful and measured with their voice and message, as well as those who repeat the same message week after week, risk being forgotten about. In contrast, those with the courage to embrace handing over some of their creative control will have the chance to fly high. Time to take on the challenge.”

Luka Žgajnar, Regional LinkedIn Lead for the Balkans

From designing buildings to helping businesses grow, Luka Žgajnar says he’s “always been a creative person”. Luka was born and raised in Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana. While studying architecture at degree, he began working for a marketing agency, and soon discovered he had a knack for business development. Various projects followed, before Luka applied for a role with Httpool in 2019, looking after sales in Slovenia, and was of course accepted on the same day as his interview, which he admits with a chuckle, ‘was sort of amazing’.

Fewer Clients = More Revenue (no Einstein Needed for That one)

Luka manages Httpool’s LinkedIn sales in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania. The growth figures for the LinkedIn partnerships in the Balkans speak for themselves, showing a 1000% increase in the last two years combined. Luka puts Httpool’s success partly down to the fact that there are fewer clients on LinkedIn than on platforms like Facebook. This allows for a more holistic, one-on-one approach, in which Luka and his team can get far more involved with clients’ advertising campaigns and help develop their marketing strategies.

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Do you Speak my Language? Da! (That’s ‘yes!’)

Since each market has its own character, Luka says he’s gained valuable insights from having worked with people in so many different countries. “Let’s say, if I wasn’t working with our teams in Romania or Bulgaria”, he explains, “I wouldn’t understand their skills in persuasion when it comes to talking to clients, and I wouldn’t have been able to adapt that skill for our markets. For example, where a specific client isn’t, let’s say, the same as we’re expecting them to be”. He adds “it’s all about soaking up these insights and adapting them, learning how people actually interact, and how they perceive things in different markets and different territories”.

Relax, it’s Friday

Luka is keen to teach his team members the skills they need to develop confidence and initiative. “The way I work with them is not trying to push them, it’s more like educating them, encouraging them to take a proactive approach, and start bringing in more clients”.
Working for a global company like Httpool, especially through the Covid-19 pandemic, means team members don’t often meet in person. In an environment where the boundaries between office and home life have become more blurred, Luka has made a conscious effort to ensure colleagues feel at ease with one another. of the need to make sure colleagues feel at ease with one another. He reveals that at least once or twice a week on a Thursday or Friday afternoon, he would organize a call with his team, just to get their minds off work for an hour. He comments “the calls were not to talk about business, but to talk about our personal lives. At this point I began to see people be themselves more and open up, which was wonderful”.

Looking for the Finish Line? There Isn’t one.

As the number of people using LinkedIn continues to grow, Luka is excited to see what Httpool can achieve in the next few years. “It’s the potential that we have. This is, I think, the most inspiring thing for me” Luka states that “Httpool being a global company provides the possibility for unlimited potential” and he smiles “that’s where I see the biggest inspiration for my work, for the work of local teams and so on, so you never see the finish line and think you’re done”. In Httpool there is always something more, and for Luka “that’s what keeps me going and excites me”.

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Shuhel Pistawala, Partner Director for Indochina, and New Markets

Shuhel Pistawala beams as he recounts the story of Httpool’s growth in the Indo-China region since he joined the company, six years ago. As he speaks, the sounds of honking car horns drift up through the window, from the busy streets beneath. It’s no wonder. Mumbai is a city of more than 22 million people; a hub considered the ‘Land of Opportunities’ by the people who arrive every day from all corners of India’s 28 states.

Born and brought up in this most multicultural of Indian cities, Shuhel began working while he was still at college, teaching people how to use the internet. “Back then, there were cybercafés, so I used to manage a couple, later joining a retail company for which I taught children how to play video games. where I was teaching children how to play video games”, When the BPO (business process outsourcing) boom arrived in India, he found himself in roles supporting anything from tech to finance, for all offshore companies in India”. Following stints in ad sales for Man’s World (now MW) and Rolling Stone magazines, Shuhel eventually joined Httpool.

Shuhel story

Standing Out in a Crowded Market

Httpool India was launched in 201o, but as Shuhel explains, gaining visibility in such a large and heavily populated market was never going to be a straightforward task.

“You’re going to have too many publishers, too many websites, too many networks, and too much to do basically”, he explains. “With 1.3 billion people, as you can imagine, a lot of things are in abundance, like a hundred TV channels, two hundred languages, five thousand websites, a hundred digital companies… so obviously for you to stand out amongst those is really important”. Shuhel stresses the importance of PR, and promotional work, whilst of course always maintaining high client achievement.

2017 marked the start of Httpool’s Indian partnership with Twitter, and in 2019, with Facebook. The company also began to expand into other countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal. Furthermore, Httpool now represents TikTok in Cambodia and Spotify in Cambodia, Laos, and more recently, Mongolia. Shuhel is keen to travel and meet his new team member. “I hear that the temperature in Mongolia is in the minus, and I would love to experience that”, he smiles.

Shuhel points out that the Indo-China region is still “quite nascent when it comes to the digital ecosystem”, which means there are huge opportunities for future growth. He’s hoping Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines will soon be added to the list of Httpool countries.

Culture Shock

Shuhel can still remember the surprise he felt when he began being able to travel for work. “In India, if I must get to a meeting with somebody, even after coming on time I still have to wait for hours at the reception to ensure I meet the right person, but going to Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar is slightly different. The other person is waiting for you. So, it was a big culture shock for me”. He laughingly adds, “sometimes I don’t want to go back to working the Indian way anymore”.

When asked what he values most about working at Httpool, Shuhel mentions two things. “I love the transparency that we have amongst the stakeholders and amongst the people. And the access. It is great that it is so easy for me to reach out and access the CEO, CRO, or CMO etc.”. He adds “we are all one ping or WhatsApp away from updates, feedback, or a chat. I’ve never experienced that with other organizations, and it’s very enjoyable”.

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Aiga Kalbjonoka, Start-up Partnership Manager

Aiga Kalbjonoka is a whirlwind of energy. “If you were to ask my colleagues how my day to day work looks”, she smiles, “the jokes would come rolling in, and say that it looks as though im at all the parties, having all the drinks with clients and partners” But to an extent it’s not a joke, Aiga travels extensively for her role at Httpool, and attends countless events etc, “networking is a huge part of my job” she comments.

You might be forgiven for thinking that life as Httpool’s Start-up Partnership Manager sounds like non-stop entertainment. But Aiga is accustomed to hard work, thanks to a childhood spent living on her family’s farm in the Latvian countryside, close to the Lithuanian border. “I spent every summer working for my family business, milking cows and helping with the garden, living a super traditional countryside life” she says. During her first year of studying Business Management at the University of Riga, Aiga began working for a business incubator. She later joined the local Business Angels network, where she eventually became a managing director, all still whilst completing her studies. A year and a half in Greece followed, with Aiga helping businesses to relocate to Latvia. Shortly after her return to Riga in 2020, she joined Httpool.

Aiga story

Pleased to Meet You

“The thing that I enjoy most, professionally, is connecting people” comments Aiga, she loves being able to introduce people to one another, and hopefully create value for them both. ‘This is my job’, she explains. ‘To build the collaborations and connections, for us to be represented in this community, for our people to be present during networking events. By being on the stage with presentations, and building collaborations with venture capital funds, and with investors. Because each of them is holding their portfolio of start-ups, and when the start-ups are growing, we are their first choice to come and discuss and create a plan for how they can accelerate their global growth using the platforms we’re representing’.

Unicorn-Spotting in Estonia

Aiga works with start-ups in the Baltics and Nordics, as well as Poland. “In general we are quite fortunate that the Baltics and Nordics are both developed in the startup and venture capital field”, she says. ‘They’re even calling Estonia the ‘Silicon Valley of Europe’, because they have nine unicorn companies already, and a population of only 1.2 million”’. The start-up scene in Poland, however, is dramatically different.

Aiga explains that due to Poland’s sheer size, “it is so diverse”. If you Google ‘Start-ups in Latvia’, or ‘Venture capital funds in Estonia’, you’ll find everything in one place. They have one webpage, there’s information, it’s so available, and you can reach whoever you need through a maximum of two or three handshakes. “In Poland, there’s more than one city which stands out, hosting different events, initiatives, and venture capital funds” she says. Moreover, “some events are still codvcred in the local language and therefore we require a native speaker based locally”. “So it’s really difficult for someone from outside to go in and to create collaborations there. They’re still doing a lot of things in the old school way”.

Httpool: The ‘Start-up’ That Isn’t Really a Start-up

Aiga has a great deal of experience in working with start-ups, so it’s interesting to discover that despite Httpool’s position as the largest global partner of major media platforms, she regards it almost as a start-up itself. Why? “Because we are moving so fast and the team is growing tremendously fast”, she explains, “and [because of] the innovations we have within the company to excel and give the best service”.

Httpool’s biggest asset, she believes, is its multicultural workforce. “They’re so talented and so experienced”, she enthuses. “The knowledge they bring to the company is incredible. One thing that I really value is that you receive people’s energy, especially in this digital environment, when all of the calls are still happening online. After the call, you have the energy and drive to work”.

After speaking to Aiga herself, I know exactly what she means.

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Kate Kremere, Regional HR Manager for Nordics, and Poland

In an international company, with staff spanning across multiple countries, each with its own labour laws and cultural expectations, working in HR takes on a whole new layer. Kate takes this in her stride, laughingly commenting when asked “of course it’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge”.

Kate's story

Kate explains that “the Nordics region includes Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, although more similar than other regions, they still come with cultural variations and of course legislation differences, which need to be taken into consideration. Poland however can feel like a polar opposite!”. Working across these various countries means Kate needs to be able to not only understand, but also adapt to various cultures and behaviors. With Poland for example, Kate points out their vast behavioral differences when compared to the Nordics. She comments “unlike the Nordics, where get togethers, lunches, and general socialization is important, Poland is more structured and can be considered to be more by the book”.

To keep up to date with country expectations and trends, Kate has daily catch ups with the regional managing directors, who’s HR tasks she oversees from her Base in Riga Latvia. Together, they discuss how to attract the right talent to the company and consider necessary strategic decisions. A couple of candidate interviews might follow, along with some administrative tasks. Keen to bring together employees from across the Nordic countries and Poland, Kate is currently focussing on global employee engagement initiatives. “For example, we just had a health initiative” she explains, “for which we promoted health and fitness, competing against one another to get the highest level of Kilometers, whether this be through running, cycling and/or swimming etc. For every kilometer done by Httpool, one tree was planted in Senegal Africa”.

A Smorgasbord of Ideas Fuels Creativity

Creativity happens when you think outside the box, and for Kate, working in a multicultural company like Httpool offers unparalleled opportunities to gather a wide range of ideas and viewpoints. This, in turn, means the company can reach a larger and more diverse audience.

Kate believes in opening the doors to creativity and letting it flow between teams and regions, with the hope of then increasing the outcome. She explains “when you complete multicultural team building, the ideas and perspectives are far more varied”. “As a Latvian, I can communicate in a way which would be more understandable to those from my region but including a wide variety of people allows the message to be expanded further”.

H is for Human

If there is one business function that aims to hit home that we as global citizens and employees, have more similarities than differences, it’s that of a Human Resources Manager. Having worked in Malta and Canada before joining Httpool, Kate has been struck by this pivotal truth time and time again.

Kate comments “regardless of whether it’s Poland, Nordics, or Africa, listen closely to the conversations of the inhabitants. Most people are struggling with some form of the same issue, whether this be regarding relationships, financial issues, or family complications”. For Kate these daily struggles are all the same “we are all human and we love to be listened to, respected and heard”.

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By Adam Bezeczky, Regional Communications Manager

Boris Zatezalo is the Facebook Lead in Croatia, located in Zagreb. Boris spoke to us about his experience, following a brief delay due a positive Covid-19 result and isolation period.

Boris Zatezalo

Hi Boris, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. How are you feeling?

My family and I are feeling well, we were lucky, and only experienced some minor symptoms.


How did you participate in the challenge?

It came naturally to me, and I didn’t consider it a sport. I already have made a habit of going to the office on foot, so participating was easy.


How long does it take you to walk to the office?

I am relatively new at Httpool and have been here for 3 months. It’s 11 kilometres in one direction, approximately 1 hour 40 minutes, and I have 35 traffic lights along the way so this can introduce some variation in the time. When I’m in a rush I can do it in 1 hour 15 minutes. 

I try to average 15 km a day, even when I’m not walking. 


What do you listen to while walking?

I try to use the time to be productive, I take calls and participate in telephone meetings where possible and I am not required to be in front of the computer. Otherwise, I will listen to music or podcasts.


How did the quarantine influence you? Have you missed walking?

Of course, I missed walking outside a lot. I started to do some simple exercises indoors to maintain my fitness. 


What kind of equipment do you use daily?

I purchased specialised shoes from a Japanese company, they are expensive, but they are worth the money as my legs don’t hurt after the walks. In the office I just change my socks and shoes and I’m ready to go.


How did the walking start? How did #HttpoolGrows motivate you?

One of my physicians gave me a good scare about my heart a while ago, and that motivated me to start with walking. HttpoolGrows was nice because I was able to walk with a purpose. I felt good that by going one or two additional kilometres, I could help people in Africa and the planet. 


Have you ever participated in any event like #HttpoolGrows?

In former jobs we took part in a ‘citizens days’ at which point staff can help a social organisation, but this was never organized by the company, so Httpool planning and executing this was new for me.


What do you do in winter or bad weather?

There is only one answer for that, it’s not down to the ‘bad weather’, only bad equipment. But yes, I adjust to the season and of course having a raincoat in autumn helps to stay dry while outside.


Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?

Taking care of yourself is easy, you just must ‘do it’, as said in the famous tagline. Everyone must do this for themselves, but you will also meet like minded people to enjoy it with, therefore sport is a great way to socialize while doing something good for yourself.


Boris Zatezalo Purpose

By Adam Bezeczky, Regional Communications Manager

Peter Bodnar Grows Challenge

Peter “Catchmeifyoucan” Bodnar, please tell us who you are and what you do at Httpool?

I have been with the company for 5 months now and I’m the client partner in Chechia for Twitter and LinkedIn. 


So you are new to the company. Have you ever participated in something like #HttpoolGrows?

No, it was my first time. I actually never counted my kilometers before, I started counting when I decided to crash the #HttpoolGrows challenge. I was curious where I would land in terms of ranking, as I also commute to work by bike. But I did not only bike, I did some jogging too, so my results were a combination of both types of exercises.


How did #HttpoolGrows influence your motivation? With almost 500 kilometers tracked in less than a month, you seem to enjoy sports?

Yes, I love to be active and push my limits. It’s good for inner balance and it was a nice competition after I saw that others were putting in a lot of effort. 

Peter Bodnar 1

You and Filip are from the same office. You’ve told me you are planning to have a tour together?

Filip showed me some new routes around Prague. I like to explore new areas by bike, so that’s definitely a nice additional outcome of the #HttpoolGrows Challenge.


Have you got any advice for biking beginners?

Don’t be intimidated by kilometers. Just enjoy how you feel after your bike ride. And I also can only emphasize what Filip said, that the proper equipment is key for enjoying biking.


What kind of bike are you riding?

I have a road bike with a light frame, that’s beneficial if you are going uphill with your bike. Fortunately I can store my bike in the office, and I don’t have to leave it locked in the street.


Do you have anything to share with your colleagues?

I would like to take the time to thank the team for putting together this challenge! And a huge congratulations to everyone who participated! 

Peter Bodnar

By Adam Bezeczky, Regional Communications Manager

Filip Kec

Filip Kec, please tell us who you are and what you do at Httpool?

I’m the managing director of Httpool for Czech and Slovakia. I have been working for Httpool for 3.5 years now.

Filip you constantly topped the charts of our #HttpoolGrows challenge with cycled kilometers. How did that happen?

I have a strong background in sports, I have played ice hockey and baseball but with age I switched more to endurance based sports like cycling or cross country skiing. I cycle around a thousand kilometers a month as I commute to and from work by bike.


Wow that is quite a distance! How did the #HttpoolGrows challenge influence your motivation?

My commute is actually just around 50 kilometers a day, but with the challenge I put in an extra effort. It was nice to see how many employees of the company participated and it of course became a challenge to stay on top. I was surprised how active the people in the company are!

Filip Kec 2

What do you enjoy most about riding the bike? Are you riding in every weather?

I think it’s a very healthy way to start your day – I have a nice route to the office alongside a river. I ride even in winter and rain, I only dislike riding when it’s windy. 


What did you enjoy most about the #HttpoolGrows challenge?

It motivated me to go on longer rides on my way home. And it was a good excuse to allow myself a beer after a good workout. That’s the Czech energy drink.


What advice would you give to new bikers who have started biking because of #HttpoolGrows?

The key is to dress properly for the season. Then you won’t get wet or cold. Also it’s important to keep up the routine, so participating in the challenge was only the starting point. 


What kind of bike are you riding?

I have both a mountain bike and a road bike, both Cannondale top of range carbon fiber rockets.


What is your secret? What advice would you give to your colleagues?

Cycling, just as any kind of healthy workout is beneficial for mental and physical health. I hope that thanks to the #HttpoolGrows challenge more people will keep their routine up. For me, it’s pretty easy to keep it up. Thankfully, my whole family is into sports so it’s not uncommon for us to be cycling together on the weekends.


FK Grows