Overcoming Obstacles: The Creative9's Strategies for Maintaining Inspiration and Attracting Top Talent
Posted on 2023 Mar,04  | By Ghada Azzi

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In this exclusive interview with ArabAd, Rola Ghotmeh, Founder, CEO and Chief Creative Officer at The Creative9, shares insights on the agency's performance in 2022 and the challenges they faced in the midst of a harsh business environment. From maintaining peace within the team to expanding into new markets and attracting new clients, Ghotmeh discusses the strategies and efforts implemented to overcome obstacles and maintain inspiration.

How did the market perform in 2022 compared to the previous years, and what were the main achievements of your agency during that year?

The biggest achievement of the past year was maintaining peace within the unit, despite various challenges that arose. Though said playfully, the sentiment is genuine.

One of the most positive developments of the past year was a resurgence in confidence in marketing budgets in Lebanon. Brands emerged from a period of fear and began investing in their marketing again, though still not at pre-crisis levels. Additionally, new brands emerged, demonstrating a continued spirit of entrepreneurship and creativity despite difficult circumstances. Enterprises of all sizes, including SMEs and local brands, began expanding into new markets both within the GCC and Europe. This was accompanied by an increased demand for communication services and a greater sense of certainty in business planning and forecasting.

Another exciting development for TheCreative9 was the expansion into new markets, including the establishment of a physical presence in Dubai and the growth of a dedicated team. The agency experienced increased interest from new clients and industries, such as tech innovation and healthcare, as well as from governmental entities. Social media services remained in high demand, with Instagram still being on top of the list and a new hot contender, TikTok taking center stage.

The main challenge faced by the agency was the shortage of talented individuals in Lebanon. Despite a demotivating socio-political atmosphere, the team worked to keep morale high and attract new talent to meet the demands of new clients and maintain the satisfaction of existing ones.

Overall, the past year was a mixed experience, with both challenges and successes. It is hoped that this year will mark a new era where talents are more readily available and ideas are given the opportunity to flourish.


How have you managed to keep your business operational and maintain inspiration in a challenging environment where multiple crises have occurred throughout the year? Can you share the specific strategies and efforts that have been implemented to overcome these obstacles?

We installed inverters!

Jokes aside, it can be a challenge to maintain motivation in the face of daily obstacles. As a leader, it is important to exhibit strength and inspire your team to push through and produce work that is not just okay, but truly impactful, and to enjoy what they do. However, this task can become even more difficult when you struggle to keep yourself motivated.

To combat this, we have implemented "Drumroll Fridays" at theCreative9. These inspirational sessions are held every Friday and serve as a time for brainstorming, venting, celebrating successes, hosting speakers, sharing trends, and more. These sessions have made a significant difference in elevating morale and bringing new ideas to our clients. In addition to these sessions, we have also implemented perks, flexible work conditions, competitive compensation, and other team activities in 2022 to help us thrive as a team.


What are your observations on the current talent crunch in Lebanon, and how do you ensure that your agency continues to attract top talent despite the challenges of brain drain and less than optimal working conditions and salaries?

The issue of a talent crunch in the industry has been widely discussed, but it remains unclear whether this is primarily caused by a brain drain or by individuals choosing to leave the country for better opportunities. Some individuals may be actively seeking opportunities abroad, while others may be working as freelancers or being quickly recruited by competing agencies. Despite this, TheCreative9 has been able to maintain competitive salary packages that are above the market average, even in the wake of the recent economic crisis. At TheCreative9, we recognize that our employees are the backbone of our business and as such, we offer attractive compensation packages. However, we understand that money is not the only factor that motivates individuals to stay with a company. That's why we have also adapted to the current needs of our employees by offering flexible working hours, the opportunity to travel and work remotely, as well as perks such as birthday and wellness days, upskilling courses, and more.


Does your company, as well as other network agencies and local ones, currently service the Arab region from their Beirut offices? Additionally, do you believe that companies in the Gulf are taking advantage of the cost-effective creative services offered by these agencies?

In 2022, we established our offices in Dubai and built a small team to expand our brand portfolio in the UAE and GCC. Our headquarters, located in Beirut, remains a vital part of our operations and we maintain a close working relationship with our team there.

I firmly believe that companies that value quality work understand that such talent should not be underpaid or exploited. I am personally against taking advantage of any situation. While we may adapt to a particular business climate, we always adhere to an ethical approach by paying fairly and we expect the same from the companies and talents we work with.


How can local independent agencies mitigate the impact of economic and monetary challenges and what are some potential solutions, such as relocating operations to the Gulf? 

We have already taken the initiative to expand our reach by opening an office in Dubai. We are currently in the process of discussing opportunities with potential partners to expand to another city within the GCC. The details of this expansion will be announced at an appropriate time.