Rola Ghotmeh: ‘Reboot, repeat, keep going’
Posted on 2022 Feb,16

Listen to the article

Lebanon has had very difficult years, following the Beirut port blast, the many lockdowns and an economic crisis that keeps worsening. ArabAd talks to Rola Ghotmeh, founder/ chief creative officer of the independent young boutique agency The Creative 9, to understand how the agency and team have managed to thrive throughout such a tumultuous time.

How would you describe in one word the year that past?

Minefield / Hela Odinsdottir’s rule


Were you able to find certainty despite all hardships and adversity crippling businesses in the country?

Certainty? Not really, surprises kept crawling up on; the only thing certain was our determination to keep pushing against the odds.


Did you feel at risk at some point of getting pulled out of the game?

Yes we absolutely felt at risk, if we didn’t feel it for one reason, we’d feel it for the other. The challenges were way too many for us to navigate safely or worry-free whether they were triggered of the banking limitations, the insane fluctuation of the exchange rate, or the exodus of talents outside of Lebanon, to name a few. We also lost a good number of talents at the beginning of the year and this could’ve had its impact, but we overcame it smoothly.


What helped you reinforce your team’s belief in Lebanon and strong commitment and dedication to sustaining the business?

How we reinforce their belief in Lebanon? It’s a tough one. We strived (and still do) to sustain a positive internal environment. Our agency’s life is the only thing that we have some sort of control over when we feel powerless over the country’s decline.

Since the beginning of the crisis, we were keen on offering our teamwork facilities and payment adjustments that were implemented swiftly and helped them sustain within the dominating hostility. Together with our team, we nurture a positive environment at work, one that we all “escape” to and try to forget the problems outside of the walls of NINE. We nurture talks of positive change and “hope” and avoid feeding desperation.


How have you managed to channel your energy into keeping up? 

Focus on the positive! The small little things I love about Lebanon, the little things I like about us as people too! The long way we’ve crossed as an agency. I refuse to give up easily.


What has been the most important thing you’ve learned over the last 12 months?

  1. I can overcome some pretty bad situations (and I wonder, could it be because we’re “Lebanese” and gotten used to being served lemons? sigh).
  2. Everything you’ve worked so hard for can disappear in a minute.


“Our agency’s life is the only thing that we have some sort of control over when we feel powerless over the country’s decline.”


Has your passion and energy remained intact in such a gloomy climate?

“Wreaked havoc” would be an accurate description. But reboot, repeat, keep going.

The Lebanese crisis —and the global sanitary crisis —have challenged managers and marketers to rethink the way they do business and plan the future of their organizations. Where the biggest opportunities lay mostly for you? Where does “new business” typically come from today?

We have always worked with clients remotely, the global pandemic simply helped prove that working remotely CAN work successfully. So we continue doing more of what we did from day one, but with more confidence that we can work with anyone and anywhere around the world, be it a brand or even a talent. Our clients remain based in Lebanon and GCC to-date.


What are the shifts that you foresee taking place in the year ahead?

I can’t say without a doubt that I foresee what might happen in the year ahead given all the above J and the dominating climate in Lebanon. I do, however, can say that we expect Nine to grow its presence in Dubai especially that we are seeing substantial growth this year.


What do you think will be your biggest challenge in 2022?

My personal challenge will be managing both offices now that I personally relocated to NINE Dubai, and making sure we set the agency on the right track in new markets.

Interview conducted in November 2021 and first published in ArabAd print issue of Dec/Jan 2022