Wednesday, 28 October 2020
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.


In the last 24 hours, five new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County.

These new cases are one male and three females from Dubrovnik (an epidemiological connection has been established for two) and one female person from the borough of Župa (an epidemiological connection has been established).

Eight people have made a full recovery - four from Dubrovnik, two from Metković, one from Ploče and one from Ston.

11 people tested positive for coronavirus are currently hospitalized in the Dubrovnik General Hospital. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 14,906 samples have been analysed.

There are 289 people in self-isolation, and in the last 24 hours no case of violation of the self-isolation measure has been determined.


The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was clearly moved by the historic Old City of Dubrovnik during his one-day visit on Friday. And as many of the top politicians in the US he took to Twitter to write his impressions. After visiting Dubrovnik, where he met with Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, and Foreign Minister, Gordan Grlić Radman, the US Secretary of State filled his Twitter account.

“What a step back in time. I enjoyed a walk along Dubrovnik's famous Stradun with Foreign Minister Grlić Radman. Thank you for showing me the history and future potential of this beautiful city” wrote Pompeo.

And quickly followed this with “What a view. A wonderful lunch by the sea in Dubrovnik, where the historic Republic of Dubrovnik was one of the first countries to recognize the young United States about 240 years ago. Our partnership remains as strong as ever.”


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Dubrovnik once again has a Game of Thrones feel as one of the actors from the hit HBO serial is back in Dubrovnik to film a new movie.

Pedro Pascal, the Chilean-American actor, known for his role as Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones arrived in Dubrovnik yesterday for the new project together with American actor Nicholas Cage. Pascal, who also starred in the Netflix biographical crime series Narcos, is shooting the film “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.”

Nicholas Cage will play himself in the upcoming movie, which is set to be released in the spring of 2021.


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The growth of product placements in movies has been outstanding in the last 10 years. With growth rates doubling year upon year in the form of revenues, it is a multi-billion dollar industry that helps brands get in touch with specific target demographics. Brand integration and product placement are firmly established marketing tactics that are used by at least 89% of Fortune 100 companies. Year 2020 be remembered first by global pandemic. All business segments have stagnated. All you could read in the media was the new Covid world wide situation. cancelled Cancelled flight, events, bad economic trend … this was all you are reading these days. New beginning is a chance for a fresh start, these are the words our interlocutor Morana Petričević starts this interview. Petričević, founder of many projects in Croatia, after 15 years of international wine career in management and marketing she has recently became part of Sphots team.

Few months back you mentioned that you are working on a global project in the movie industry. At that time you only gave me a small hint, a name Sphots and that we will be hearing about it in very near future.

Yes, it was during lockdown. My collaboration with Sphots came very spontaneously. I got an inquiry from CEO of Sphots, Nadiya Bezhnar who was forming a team. Inquiry was more directed towards my collaboration with Vantguard group from Spain where I was listed as contact for this part of Europe. After a few emails exchange and one zoom meeting, she scheduled one more meeting together with her international partner. My ex boyfriend is European movie director so I have quite a widequite wide knowledge of the industry. This and other business aspects have made it easy for us to want to collaborate more widely. In a week her HR team contacted me and signed a contract.

What is Sphots and who is behind the name ?

Sphots is a company established beginning of the year. It's main focus is virtual product placement (VPP) in international movies. It's CEO Nadiya Bezhnar has wide knowledge in marketing and IT. Till this day SPHOTS has signed multi contracts with companies from the whole world from the movie production and distribution sector. Traditional product placement is a quite well known marketing tool that global brands have been using for years not only in movies but also in other forms of visual content. SPHOTS offers a new way of the process that is more accessible and affordable for the smaller brands. Our business model allows brands to feature the products for a price that can be compared to a printed leaflets campaign, or a paid ad campaign in a magazine. But with SPHOTS, Your Brand gains long-term wide exposure either locally, or on the targeted territories in the international movie that will be circulated for numerous years. With virtual product placement, we eliminate traditional logistical hustle. Our top-level VFX and CGI team recreate your brand look and message it seamlessly into the film. It is affordable, simple, prestigious, targeted.

How does VPP works ?

VFX technology allows a product to be „drawn“ into the scenes and showcased on selected territory of the film distribution. Take for instance Croatian coffee brand, Franck. If your main market is Croatia then it is logical to choose for your brand to be shown only locally. But if you plan to expand ( export or franchise ) to let's say Germany and would like to increase consumer perception on that market, you can buy a spot for that market as well, without paying for the rest of the world like in traditional product placement. To be very brief VPP offers for your brand to be in an international movie that will be shown on your local/target market, and where we will see a Lead Character drinking let's say Franck coffee while in England he will enjoy Starbucks.


Morana Petričević

Why choose to pay for virtual product placement and what are theirs advantages ?

There is one simple goal - that moviegoers (or movieViewers) will see the product in the movie, remember it, and then choose to purchase it. The prospective consumer is positively influenced by the brand, without overtly noticing the advertising of that brand. Product placement is a long-term marketing tool, which can be an alternative to traditional advertising in print or “TV”. It also can work as a good supplement to digital marketing tools, some of which are short-term and can easily be blocked, skipped, or clicked by the wrong audience. VPP is much more effective because of the ability to direct the relevant marketing message (or show interaction), to the selected audience group on the right territory.Statistics on existing product placement cases show about a 20% increase in brand. Higher brand recognition will benefit business to immediate and/or long-run sales. It's not one-time exposure. As long as the movie is circulated, viewers will be interacting with the brands in it. It's a long-term reach that traditional marketing and advertising doesn't provide. During whole process of production the client will be given all the updates that can be used for marketing purposes. Average price for VPP for Croatian market is about 1000 USD.

How to measure the ROI ( Return on investment ) from Virtual Product Placement?

If you compare product placement with other forms of advertising, you should always take all parameters and dimensions into account. But there is no accurate approach and calculations can be misleading at the end. That's why it is advisable to consider product placement as a complementary component of the marketing mix and not directly compareing it with traditional marketing activities. Before the movie is distributed it's difficult to give an accurate number of TMV (Total Media Value), a traditional impression-based metric. With our distribution agreements the movie will be broadcasted at least on one of the public (Free TV) channels on the target territory. That varies in different countries which in many cases can cover about 50% of the TV audience. Though, the real number of viewers can be extensively higher due to the multiple runs on different platforms (we will aim for the widest possible distribution).

In how many countries does SPHOTS offers it's services, why form a company now and what is your role in company?

Sphots operates in 60 countries worldwide. It is global team of professionals that helps local brands to do targeted placement of their products in international movies. I am in charge of Croatian market but also working on global develpment strategy with Nadiya. Why form company now … it sounds very brave. But as I say, this is a new chance for a fresh start. It is always easier to except positive changes rather thaen to adjust to uncertain new reality. I have learned during last few years we need to approach constructively always looking good that can be achieved from it. Yes there were a lot's of tears, anger, shocks but there is not point in feeling bad about what we had. We had it good. Maybe even too good, ignoring simple life values. We got a chance to slow down, think about many things and move forward. Now is a time to give maximum. We are here to help with reconstruction of businesses, to help local brands accomplish leading positions on their markets. We are giving opportunity for some local sparkling wine producer from Plešivica to be in an international movie for affordable rate instead of the global Champagne brand. I would say this is a very smart marketing approach for any Croatian brand. In a year of science and technologytechology, with all the changes around us, marketing and it's investment in it needs to be significantly different.

For more info please do to or contact directly This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">


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Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, visited Dubrovnik on Friday and apart from announcing an upcoming end to the requirement for Croatians to have a visa when visiting the US, he also discussed the issue of double taxation. This financial restraint has made it difficult for American investors to come to Croatia, and for Croatia businesses to start work in the US.

Pompeo stated that this double taxation issue could be resolved soon and that the aim was to strengthen “economic co-operation between the two countries."

"I believe that an agreement to avoid double taxation will be concluded, we can now amend the drafts, and that is a very good sign. There is a lot in common and I believe it will be completed," added Pompeo in Dubrovnik.

The Secretary of State stressed that relations between the two countries are strong and that the American side wants to be sure that "every time there is an opportunity for an American company to invest in Croatia or a Croatian company in the United States, nothing stands in the way."

On Wednesday, the Croatian government launched proceedings to conclude a Convention with the US government on the avoidance of double taxation, reported HINA. Although the biggest obstacles to the faster development of economic relations are visas and a double taxation agreement, the investment climate is also not unimportant.

"Whenever we come to Europe, to places we know share the same values of fair market competition - which we also count on - when we watch the Chinese Communist Party come here and be treated differently from European or American companies, it doesn't help. It discourages people from investing their capital in Croatia. I am optimistic that things will improve. We want to be here; we want to be active. I believe that good things await our two countries," concluded Pompeo.


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On Friday in Dubrovnik, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković met with the Prefect of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Nikola Dobroslavić, on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy and specific aid measures for the south of Croatia.

The meeting was also attended by the Vice President of the European Commission for Democracy and Demography, Dubravka Šuica, and member of Parliament Branko Bačić.

"We talked about how to overcome the problems in the County, which is one of the most developed. It needs to function normally, and its revenues are much lower, so we will continue with the policy of interest-free loans," said the Prime Minister on this occasion.

Prefect Nikola Dobroslavić stated that they spoke about the difficult situation of the County's government and all local self-government units, especially those in the far south. “Our local governments have had a huge drop in revenue, and they have their obligations, utilities and institutions that need to finance and overcome this crisis. We will look for a way to borrow that would then be paid off in a few years. We have an index of overnight stays of 34 percent compared to last year, while all other coastal counties achieved 46 to 59 percent. It is clear that we are in a much more difficult situation than the others," said Prefect Dobroslavić.


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Emirates has cancelled flights between Zagreb and Dubai for the entirety of 2021. According to a report on Croatian Aviation the airline planned to operate on the Dubai to Zagreb route in this year's summer flight schedule, but due to the global pandemic, the start of operations on this route was first postponed, and then it was completely cancelled for this year.

Emirates had offered flights for sale on their Zagreb to Dubai line for 2021 summer flights schedule, but now these flights have been taken down and are not for sale. Not only has Emirates cancelled all flights to Zagreb for next year but have also closed down the Zagreb office and made all the staff in Zagreb redundant. This will certainly be a financial setback for Zagreb for 2021.

The arrival of this airline in Zagreb was truly a success for the management of Zagreb Airport, but its complete withdrawal can certainly be considered a failure. Emirates connected Zagreb with the rest of the world on a daily basis, offering excellent service to passengers on its flights on which it operated modern equipped aircraft. The departure of this airline is a step backwards for Zagreb Airport.


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Here’s a strange but true fact. The average Croatian pays more income tax annually than the President of the United States of America. Not just a little bit more, but a lot, lot more. When new broke this week that President Trump paid a mere $750 in income tax in the year that he was voted into the White House and in ten of fifteen years from 2000 didn’t pay a cent in income taxes his Presidential campaign took a nosedive. So, yes you are paying more tax every year than Mr. Trump.

Although the revelations by The New York Times were shocking, I can’t really say I’m that surprised. There is a saying that my old boss in London told me “If you owe the bank £1,000 then that’s your problem, but if you owe the bank £1 million then that’s the bank’s problem.”

And even a global pandemic can’t stop the rich from getting even richer. Whilst 90 percent of the population is panicking about either losing their job, running out of savings, not being able to pay their mortgages or even where their next meal is coming from, the other 10 percent are seeing the perfect time to make money.

Just open Njuškalo (the Croatian version of eBay) and search for Mercedes and BMW cars and vans for sale across Croatia. Whereas once these vehicles would have transported tourists up and down the Adriatic this year they have just been gathering dust and expense. If you have money now is the time to buy.

Now that’s down at the low end of the world’s global financial market, but the same thinking and indeed theory is true for the top end. Airlines, real estate, cruise companies and car manufacturers are all standing on the edge of a cliff, a Covid-19 cliff, and the view down is a long way. And as their stock market values plummets like a pebble in the Adriatic investment funds in tax havens around the world are seeing the carpe diem moment.

I’m not really a conspiracy theorist, but this is getting more and more suspicious. During the pandemic the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, has seen his fortune increase by almost $50 billion, the owner of Zoom pocketed $2.5 billion in the same time. And these billionaires are as likely to avoid paying taxes as Trump. Now this could just be a happy coincidence, it could be taking advantage of the situation, being in the right place at the right time, or it could be something much more sinister.

Countries around the world are busily printing more money to save their economies whilst at the same time driving interest rates down and of course causing inflation. But what is the point of low interest rates if the banks aren’t lending money to the average person to buy a home, using Covid-19 as an excuse. However, the ten percent, the super-rich, aren’t your average person looking to put a roof over their heads. Whilst governments are promising to do “whatever it takes” to save their economies they are conversely aiding the rich.

The Covid-19 pandemic can be stopped from resurging in two ways, either sixty percent of the world’s population have been infected and therefore have built up an immune system, or a vaccine is created and the global population is inoculated.

The second scenario would mean billions of vaccinations, roughly 7 billion, which would in turn lead to trillions of profits for pharmaceutical companies. Maybe the Swedish model of herd immunity doesn’t look so radical now. So whilst some rich are only paying peanuts annually in taxes, or avoiding paying taxes at all, the 90 percent is worrying about paying their electricity bill on time. And all this is happening in when we have yet again more corruption cases and the two most powerful politicians in the country fighting like school boys in the playground about who cares what!

I have a felling it is not only going to be a long winter, but also a long few years before some form of reality, whatever that may look like is returned, and in the meantime the rich will continue getting richer and the poor will get poorer.


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