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August 29, 2021






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August 29, 2021


Impact BBDO Dubai appoints Syed Azeem Afzal as its new CEO and Samantha Stuart-Palmer as COO Impact BBDO Dubai is expanding, with the appointments of Syed Azeem Afzal as CEO and Samantha StuartPalmer as chief operating officer. The agency has recently added more than 50 specialists from the team at Impact Proximity, to offer an end-to-end consultancy for its clients. Dani Richa, chairman and group CEO of BBDO MEAPAK, said: “Our job is to help our clients create demand for their brands and accelerate their digital transformation. To deliver on that, we need to be constantly evolving ahead of the change by curating and incubating talented people with tomorrow’s skillsets.” With the announcement of his CEO role, Afzal will be heading Impact BBDO Dubai, continuing his record of growth delivered at Impact Proximity. Afzal started his career at Impact Proximity 18 years ago, growing from a developer to an account man to a business leader. He has built and led more than 150 multidisciplinary teams across a variety of international and regional clients at Impact Proximity. “I am thrilled for this next step in building out our extraordinary depth of data and creative talent at a time when CX and personalised brand experience are primary strategic priorities for brands,” said Afzal. “Aligning platforms, experiences and

From left to right: Syed Azeem Afzal, Dani Richa and Samantha Stuart-Palmer

brands together is a natural evolution. It will allow us to deliver powerful creative solutions and demonstrable growth for clients current and future.” In her role as COO, Samantha Stuart-Palmer will continue the agency’s growth agenda, designing and operationalising Impact BBDO’s

client offerings. Impact Proximity was one of the first digital agencies in the region, and has since become a key player. Its focus is on innovation and building specialism within customer experience and digital transformation, said the agency.

Richa said: “I am proud to task two of our agency veterans to lead the ongoing evolution within the UAE group of 350 people. With Azeem as CEO and Samantha as COO, I’m confident that we have the team in place who will help us deliver on our ambitions for our clients.”

The MediaVantage wins WSJ account

ALFARDAN PREMIER MOTORS QATAR LAND ROVER DEFENDER The Film House has created a dance film for Land Rover’s Defender. The car and choreography move in kinetic symmetry in the short film for the latest Defender. The Film House created the film for Alfardan Premier Motors in Qatar. Joining forces with dancer Nicole Nyemi-Tei from Brava Studio in Doha, the ad celebrates the invisible energy, power and control that resides between human and machine. The director and executive producer was Omar Khalifa, the producer was Nic van der Bijl and the DOP Christopher Moon. Art direction was by Alleine Nadal.

Wall Street Journal – Barron’s Group, part of Dow Jones & Company and The MediaVantage have announced a new partnership aimed at bringing Dow Jones’ advertising solutions to clients and media agencies across the Middle East. The partnership will allow The MediaVantage to promote display, content and live event advertising opportunities within (but not limited to) Dow Jones’ portfolio of titles including The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch, Mansion Global and Financial News. Under the terms of the partnership, The MediaVantage will assist regional clients and agencies with their digital and content strategies on behalf of Dow Jones & Company solutions. Anna Foot, SVP international media and marketing solutions, Dow Jones, said, “We are excited to be working with The MediaVantage to bring our solutions to new clients across the GCC region.”


August 29, 2021

PopArabia launches ESMAA music rights licensing organisation Abu Dhabi-based independent music company PopArabia has announced the launch of ESMAA, a new UAE-based music rights management entity (RME), to facilitate music licensing in the Gulf region. ESMAA works broadly with both global rights holders and regional businesses to provide Gulf markets with the ability to license music domestically for the first time. ESMAA has concluded agreements to represent the rights of global collecting societies including the UK’s PRS For Music and Canada’s SOCAN, representing more than 25 million musical works and more than 150,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers respectively through these deals. In addition, ESMAA has signed agreements to license iconic UK record label Chrysalis Music and Global Master Rights, the neighbouring rights company representing the rights of more than 300 record labels and more than 2,500 performers including Rihanna, Billie Eilish, Imagine Dragons, DJ Snake, Metallica, Migos and David Guetta, among others. ESMAA, which is the Arabic word for ‘listen’ has also recently become a

client rights management entity of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC). Founded in 1926, CISAC is a global not-for-profit organisation that protects the rights and promotes the interests of creators worldwide through the largest international network of collective management organisations, including 228 member societies in 120 countries and territories. ESMAA’s status as a client of CISAC marks the first and only time an organisation from the Gulf region has ever been able to benefit from CISAC’s technical tools and solutions for authors’ rights administration. ESMAA has already begun developing a comprehensive music repertoire database for the Gulf territories. ESMAA founder and CEO Hussain Spek Yoosuf said, “We’re very pleased to have already begun working with rights holders to license music in the market and meet the needs of regional businesses who have needed a local solution. After many years working on music rights issues in this region, I can say with confidence that the work we are doing at ESMAA represents a historic step forward for music licensing in the Gulf.”

Rihanna is one artist whose rights holders ESMAA has agreements with

ESMAA is a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi-based PopArabia, an independent music publisher in the Middle East and a partner of twofour54, Abu Dhabi’s media and entertainment hub. Michael Garin, CEO of twofour54 Abu Dhabi, said, “Enabling content creation in Abu Dhabi and building

the emirate into a leader within the creative industries is twofour54’s ultimate goal. Through our investment into PopArabia a decade ago, we have supported the local music industry and enabled homegrown artists. As the latest step in this journey, ESMAA will elevate music licensing in the region.”



Jessica Alba and Zac Efron star in a spy thriller-style spot for Dubai Tourism. The campaign uses the city as the backdrop for the movie-trailer-like ads, inspired by film genres, giving a preview of what time spent in Dubai could entail. Although it’s probably inadvisable to get up to any illicit activity. The 'Dubai Presents' campaign, created by Mother, is being launched with the spot 'Spy', which stars Alba and Efron as a sparring couple, featuring dramatic espionage-style sequences with some added humour. Directed by Craig Gillespie through MJZ, it takes viewers on a journey through destinations such as Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Al Naseem.

The animated film titled ‘Majd and the Librarian’ was crafted by Serviceplan Middle East for Al Etihad Credit Bureau (AECB). The campaign uses the metaphor of borrowing books from a library for applying to a bank for credit. This is Serviceplan Middle East’s first brand film for the AECB, and was made for the web as a content piece to raise awareness about the brand using a subtle narrative approach to the responsibility of borrowing. The opening sequence features a young man finding a dust-covered copy of The Arabian Nights in a box whilst clearing out his attic, taking him back in time to the library where he borrowed it as a child and reminding him of the kind librarian who encouraged him to read.

Agency Mother Director Craig Gillespie, MJZ Agency Serviceplan Middle East Art Directors Kenneth Barnes Kunal Gagwani

August 29, 2021

Saudi Sports Company appoints MMS as exclusive advertising representative MBC Media Solutions (MMS), the in-house commercial advertising and sales unit of MBC GROUP, has been appointed as the exclusive advertising representative for Saudi Sports Company (SSC) network. SSC is set to air the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s top sporting competitions for the 2021-22 season, including the Prince Mohammad bin Salman Pro League, the King Cup and the Saudi Super Cup. SSC will also broadcast regional and international tournaments, such as the AFC Asian Cup. Rights include the broadcast of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar, the 2023 AFC Asian Cup to be held in China, and the AFC Champions League, among others. Under this agreement, MMS will provide marketing and advertising in both digital and broadcast, providing solutions for local and regional businesses to assist their goals for the coming period. Muhammad bin Abdallah Al Khuraiji, chairman of the board of directors at MMS, said: “This special agreement with SSC will provide a wealth of opportunities for businesses in the region to reach sports viewers better than ever before. The marketing and advertising sectors in the kingdom and the rest of the region are rapidly

SSC will broadcast AFC Champions League matches, among other events

developing and advancing, and MMS’s offerings are in line with the most innovative broadcast and digital solutions in the market.” Ahmed Al Sahhaf, CEO of MMS, said: “We are very happy that MMS is part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s sporting history through this latest partnership with SSC.” He continued: “This agreement will provide a fantastic opportunity for brands to be part of the top

sporting content in the kingdom, the region and beyond.” An official spokesperson for SSC welcomed the agreement with MMS, adding that such partnerships will open “exceptional opportunities” for media companies and others to contribute to the development of television production of sports content, plus access to satellite broadcasting rights for upcoming global sports events.


Horizon FCB & BPN win Asharq News service Asharq News has announced that it will partner with Horizon FCB Dubai & BPN MENA to lead the region across all campaign communication pertaining to Asharq News and its multiple platforms. Asharq News is an Arabiclanguage multiplatform news service owned by the Saudi Research and Media Group. SRMG, established in 1972, is a large and well established media conglomerate and family firm, specialising in publishing, printing and distributing various publications, in a number of languages, across multiple platforms, as well as operating several TV news networks. SRMG has more than 30 publications and digital platforms providing political, financial, sports and lifestyle news. Creative agency Horizon FCB Dubai & its sister media agency BPN MENA won the pitch amongst leading communication networks from the region. Mazen Jawad, president of Horizon Holdings, said: “We felt an immediate connection with Asharq News, as a media organisation, as a brand and with the people behind its screens. It was magic since we received the brief and hence we were able to demonstrate that creativity can be an economic multiplier.”



#WeAreUnbreakable is a joint initiative between TBWA\RAAD and the Lebanese television channel MTV, in collaboration with Swiss artist Simon Berger. Simon (who created the famous portrait of Kamala Harris upon her election as US vice-president) spent 10 days in Lebanon creating portraits of the victims using the force of his hammer onto sheets of glass recycled from the August 4, 2020 Port of Beirut explosion. During his stay, he visited the explosion site, as well as several of the victims’ family members to pay his condolences and find out more about the stories that hid behind the faces he was bringing to life.

This ad marks one of the highest ads ever filmed, according to Emirates, and was directed by Emirates’ in-house brand team with Prime Productions AMG, helicopter and drones filming company Choppershoot and TECS Event Services. The ad opens with a close-up of cabin crew member, skydiver and stuntwoman Nicole Smith-Ludvik. She holds message boards commenting on the recent addition of the UAE to the UK’s amber list of countries with Covid-19 travel restrictions in place. As the camera zooms out we can see she is actually on top of the Burj Khalifa. The ad and the behind-the-scenes video are on the Emirates YouTube channel and across the airline’s other social media channels.

Agency TBWA\RAAD Artist Simon Berger Production house Prime Productions AMG Filming company Choppershoot Event company TECS Event Services


August 29, 2021

ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT Kamilla Bakytova not only represented the UAE at the exclusive Cannes Lions Robert Hatchuel Student Academy, but was also part of the team that won its annual creative competition. By Austyn Allison

K Kamilla Bakytova, UAE representative at the Cannes Lions Robert Hatchuel Student Academy

“We had this amazing opportunity to ask industry leaders questions, to learn about their life stories, and it surprised me when all of them shared not only their successful life stories but also their failures.”

amilla Bakytova, a former student at the American University in Dubai (AUD), was part of the winning team in the annual Roger Hatchuel Student Academy (RHA) competition at the Cannes Lions. The Academy, named after the founder of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, is a multi-day programme for 40 students selected from around the world. Attendees are taught and mentored by some of the leading figures in international advertising, and work in teams to produce a creative project at the end of the week. This year, the Academy partnered with the World Woman Foundation (WWF) for a brief around gender equality. Bakytova says of her time with the RHA: “I’ve learned from the leaders of the industry, the most fascinating insights from them. We had this amazing opportunity to ask them questions, to learn more about their life stories, their experiences, and it surprised me when all of them shared not only their successful life stories but also their failures.” That theme of learning from both the good and the bad is a principle embraced by the Academy. “We champion learning by doing, and we believe that it’s OK to learn from your mistakes because there is no success without failure,” said Maksimilian Kallhed, innovation consultant and founder of Amongst Friends, Hyper Island AI chairperson and board member of the World Woman Foundation, when the WWF’s partnership was announced. “This virtual classroom is a space everyone belongs to, no matter their background or previous experiences; we believe everyone is creative.” In the UAE, the admissions process for the Academy is run by Motivate Val Morgan (MVM), the cinema advertising arm of Campaign’s parent company, Motivate Media Group. Bakytova’s lecturer at AUD, professor of advertising Dina Faour, encouraged her students to apply. To do so they had to make a two-minute video that represented their “inner voice”, says Bakytova. She adds: “In my video I shared childhood images and videos and started from the beginning, basically, sharing how as a child creativity has always been in my life throughout the years, how I managed to explore the advertising sphere specifically and found this niche for myself, something that I’m passionate about and something that I want to explore more and share with the world.” Three students from the UAE were shortlisted and interviewed by MVM’s deputy marketing and PR manager, Dumindrini Ratnayake. Bakytova showed her portfolio and explained what she expected to get from the Academy. She says it was “honestly one of the best meetings I’ve had. It was super open and we shared what we’re passionate about.” She was selected to represent the UAE at the Robert Hatchuel Academy. But as the Cannes Lions

advertising festival was held virtually because of Covid-19, the Academy had to take place online. “I’m still surprised how we managed to do that,” says Bakytova. “Although the whole experience was virtual, we still got a chance to get a lot out of this experience, and to receive all the knowledge we needed to. And sometimes it really felt like we were all sitting in one classroom talking to each other. I feel like although we are so different, we all had one main goal, our passion for creativity. That helped us connect with each other and learn more about each other’s background and culture.” The brief for the competition was to create an advertising campaign in three days for the World Woman Foundation. It was focused on gender equality in business, and specifically on how women can be empowered to connect with other female entrepreneurs. Baktytova was put on a team with fellow Academy attendees from Spain, Sri Lanka and Nigeria, and they spent hours each day brainstorming over Zoom and WhatsApp. Working with students from different cultural backgrounds was eye-opening, she says. “We all came to the conclusion that gender inequality within business is everywhere. … It’s a worldwide problem.” The team came up with the idea of an app for WWF that would allow female entrepreneurs to connect with one another and to potential investors. They then created a video with a call to action to sign up and become part of the movement of businesswomen around the world. During the project, Bakytova caught Covid-19 (she has since recovered), and says her team helped her through. “It was a really nice surprise when I realised how my team was so supportive about it,” she says. “They were so helpful, they tried to cheer me up. I was isolated, but when we had meetings I didn’t even feel that I was like alone in my apartment.” Even for the non-infected team members the whole process was cathartic. “The amount of times we just cried during a session, I can’t even count them,” says Bakytova. “It was so emotional and everyone was able to share. No one was left out.” Bakytova has now graduated from AUD, as well as from the RHA, and is working in social media for Toh PR in Dubai. She is keen to thank not only the Academy itself and MVM’s Ratnayake, but also her professor, Dina Faour. “She is so supportive and challenging and always pushes her students in the right direction,” says Bakytova. “She teaches not only academic lessons but life lessons as well.” On top of meeting mentors from the industry and fellow students, Academy attendees were connected with previous graduates who are now making their way in the global advertising world. “RHA is definitely a family of the most creative, fascinating changemakers,” says Bakytova.

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August 29, 2021

A COMMON PURPOSE Sustainability seems to be everywhere these days, embedded in CSR and brand purpose. Sofia Serrano explores how some companies in the region are reacting to the cause in practical ways


he idea of companies having a social obligation to contribute to society has been around for years, but it was given a formal term in the mid-1950s: corporate social responsibility (CSR). In the 2000s, CSR became fundamental instead of a trend. According to Cicero & Bernay Public Relations’ MENA CSR Survey Report 2020, CSR is “a process that seeks to integrate social, environmental and consumer concerns into business operations, philosophy, and strategy”. The report highlights how, by following global trends, companies in the Middle East have started to implement societal causes and create a responsible business ecosystem that commits to acting ethically in business relationships. CSR is now growing and has become central for some companies as they search for purpose. Purpose has been a recurrent topic in the past few years and can be a significant anchor through changing times, as well as a reason for customers to choose a brand. Last year presented novel and peculiar challenges, resulting in some brands responding with empathy, unity and the common motto, ‘We are in this together’, as well as other common jargon that took a hold in these ‘unprecedented times’. Brands such as Coca-Cola emphasised this new search for purpose with poetry and charity. Others took a stand for major movements like Black Lives Matter. Brands are embracing the impact they have on people’s lives and are working to meet the expectations of increasingly aware consumers, who would choose a brand over another according to the positive impact it has in society. In recent decades, the sustainability cause has become part of companies’ purpose as our generation has witnessed the effects of climate change. Scientists, governments and organisations including the United Nations have called on people to take action against the negative effects of global warming. Brands and private companies have responded to these challenges

and implemented different strategies to cope with the challenge of sustainability. In the Middle East, companies such as Unilever have advocated for the sustainable cause with actions like raising conversations around the environment through events such as the annual ‘Building Back Better’. Sustainability has become a top cause in businesses agendas. It has been called an untapped business opportunity and a ‘megatrend’, as responsibility is becoming a cornerstone of corporate reputation today. Majid Al Futtaim, one of the largest holding companies in the Middle East, with shopping malls, communities, retail and leisure outlets, has also opted for a ‘circular economy’ strategy, which proves that big corporations have started to make the switch and redirect their purpose towards sustainability. Beverley D’Cruz, chief brand officer of Pizza Hut Middle East and Africa, quotes Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever: “Brands with purpose grow, companies with purpose last, people with purpose thrive.” D’Cruz says brands that have purpose are growing better than brands that don’t. Also, purpose is a really important component of any marketing plan, since more people are seeking to associate with brands that have a deeper purpose and standing in society. Especially during these challenging times, consumers are choosing to be more discerning and make better choices. D’Cruz says: “At Pizza Hut we take pride in being a responsible brand. … We ensure our pizza boxes are 100 per cent recyclable and made of recyclable material. We are currently exploring and building know-how on plant-based products in order to ensure our menu evolves to ensure a better footprint on the world.” She adds: “At Pizza Hut our employees come first. We care deeply about their stability. We invest in great health care, have resources available for employees to engage in and we deeply invest in diversity and inclusion. We are investing more in localisation of ingredients so our own regions can benefit, building energy-friendly stores, ensuring our packaging is recyclable and exploring how our menu can be more plant-based for the future.”

‘‘SUSTAINABILITY HAS BECOME PART OF COMPANIES’ PURPOSE AS OUR GENERATION HAS WITNESSED THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE.” Sustainability has also been a part of other companies’ strategies, with innovative projects like The Plant a Tree Project from Dubai coffee brand Coffee Planet. This initiative is part of the Eden Reforestation Project, and consists of Coffee Planet planting a tree for every purchase of its new Nespresso-compatible, biodegradable capsules. This new offer is available online via the Coffee Planet website, Amazon, Noon and supermarkets across the UAE. The capsules come in different blends and origins. The Eden Reforestation Project is a non-profit organisation with a mission to reduce extreme poverty and restore healthy forests by employing local communities to help plant millions of trees each year. With deforestation at an all-time high, Coffee Planet is dedicated to supporting the rebuilding of forests. “As one of the region’s first and most experienced speciality coffee roasters, we are acutely aware of the impact we have on our planet,” says Robert Jones, CEO of Coffee Planet. “Over the years, we have worked hard on being an ethical and responsible coffee company always ensuring sustainability plays an important part in our business strategy. Here at Coffee Planet, our passion and livelihoods are deeply connected to Mother Earth and her incredible biodiversity. We are always looking for ways to become better at protecting and restoring earth’s biodiversity, ensuring sustainable livelihoods for the entire coffee community and serving the best tasting coffee we can. Coffee Planet will be using this campaign as a tool to educate our customers on how to we take our social responsibility seriously.” Using its power for good, Coffee Planet is proving that larger brands can spearhead sustainability with its vast resourcing to create an impactful difference. This trend keeps growing in the region with more innovative projects coming along.

August 29, 2021



AD SPEND PREDICTIONS Global spend is bouncing back, driven by e-commerce and video investment. The MENA region is recovering too, but oil and conflict are holding it down, writes Sofia Seranno

MENA advertising expenditure at current prices ($m)

Percentage of MENA adspend 2013


Internet 11%


Newspapers 13%

Magazines 2%

5,000 Outdoor 26%

4,000 3,000

Television 41%

2,000 Cinema 3%






2016 Magazines

2017 Television

2018 Radio

2019 Cinema





Radio 4%



Percentage of MENA adspend 2021 Annual MENA adspend growth at current prices (%) 30.0


Newspapers 7% Magazines 2%


20.0 11.0



Internet 43%

Television 26%


0.0 2013












-4.8 -9.8 -15.2




Outdoor 12%

-20.0 Cinema 2%



fter a rough year with a global pandemic and times of uncertainty, the economy seems to be re-establishing itself. This is reflected in global adspend. According to Publicis media agency Zenith’s latest Advertising Expenditure Forecasts report, this year expenditure will total $669bn, which surpasses 2019’s expenditure by $40bn. The Middle East and North Africa is forecast to see strong adspend growth of 15 per cent in 2021. Global growth in advertising expenditure is expected to stay strong in the medium term with a 6.9 per cent growth forecast for 2022 and 5.6 per

Radio 8%

cent for 2023. The pandemic gave e-commerce a boost and it continues to bring revenues to the ad market, driving 13 per cent growth in social media and 12 per cent growth in search in 2022. Online audiences keep growing, as well as video viewers, which shrinks television ratings and results in advertisers valuing online video to maintain reach while television declines. E-commerce and online video will fuel an 11 per cent recovery in global adspend for 2021. Television remains an effective form of brand communication in its own right, as it will still

represents 26 per cent of the total MENA adspend in 2021. Back in 2013 television took the biggest slice of total MENA adspend with 41 per cent, a role the internet has taken over in 2021 with 43 per cent of the total. Overall, the MENA region’s adspend has been decreasing for years as a result of conflict, political instability and volatile oil prices, with the pandemic exacerbating this trend. Zenith forecasts that adspend in MENA will still be 4.1 per cent lower in 2023 than it was in 2019. All graphs represent MENA data. Source: Zenith.


August 29, 2021

THE GROWTH OF AN INDUSTRY As the Middle East PR Association celebrates its 20th anniversary, those who have chaired the industry body talk about its inception, challenges and growth By Sofia Serrano

The germination of MEPRA W By Jack Pearce, CEO, Matrix Consulting MEPRA Founder & Chair 2003-2005 & 2007-2008

hen I tried to set up my own PR firm in Dubai in 1998, I initially did what most PR firms did, which was to set up under the aegis of an advertising agency’s trade licence – in my case a well-known multinational. However, about a year later my former employers, seeing me as an increasing threat to their business, complained to the Department of Economic Development, who duly summoned me for a reprimand. I had done consulting work for them in the past, so rather than admonishing me, they talked me through setting up my own consultancy. This required me flying back to the UK and getting a letter from the Foreign Office certifying I had a university degree. My degree was as a Bachelor of Education, so I was able to set up as an educational consultancy, a category that was recognised as a legitimate profession in the DED’s booklet listing all such recognised economic activities. However, there was no category for public relations. I explained to the patient bureaucrat that we did for private sector companies exactly what Department of Commerce and Tourism Marketing did for the Dubai government. Eventually we came up with a compromise: a consultancy that

specialised in education, research, marketing and advertising. When I had joined Gulf Hill and Knowlton (GHK) a decade earlier there were only two PR firms in the Gulf region, GHK and Bain Communication, but by 2000 the industry was growing at a tremendous speed and it kept bugging me that we still didn’t exist as a recognised economic activity. I thought, perhaps if the PR industry banded together as an association, we could bring some influence to bear on the government. With the added advantage that we could define it by its new definition as ‘reputation management’ rather than as ‘publicists’ and numerous other pejorative epithets. My dining room table sat eight, so I invited the managers of the seven other PR firms I considered the most reputable to come around for dinner and to discuss the idea of a regional association that adhered to best ethical practices with the long-term hope that we could influence the relevant authorities. We eight became the founding members, including my old friends Sadri Barrage as chairman (we thought it would be best if the chairman was Arab), myself as vice-chair and Tony Lewis as secretary. One year later we exceeded 20 members. Fond memories.

August 29, 2021


MEPRA Chair 2001 – 2003 & 2005 – 2007

Sadri Barrage

Senior Advisor – Communications, Expo 2020 Dubai How has the PR/communications landscape evolved in the past 20 years? From less than five PR agencies back in the early 80s, the PR industry has witnessed tremendous growth across the Middle East region with most top international networks well established in our region and a steady increase of between 20 and 30 per cent in billings year-on-year. What are the milestones you have seen in the PR community during these two decades? Increased professionalism and more students choosing PR as a career. Today the media scene has evolved, and the PR industry has adapted accordingly. What was your title when you were chair of MEPRA? What is your current title? I was honoured to be elected by my colleagues as founder chair of MEPRA when I was managing partner of Headline PR (four offices, with 50 practitioners across the Middle East) today I am also honoured to work as senior advisor – communications at Expo 2020 Dubai. What did you learn from your time heading MEPRA? We are only able to address issues common to the industry by working together in order to find possible solutions. What were the biggest challenges when heading MEPRA? Have these been resolved? What are the challenges now? Our initial mission at MEPRA was to increase professionalism by meeting international standards and abiding to a strict code of conduct, attract youth to the PR industry (Arabs in particular) and get governments across the Middle East to recognise PR as a separate economic activity. Unfortunately, PR is still not recognised as a separate economic activity in most countries across the Middle East. In my view, PR spend is still negligible compared to advertising spend and the industry is set for further growth once we agree on common measuring tools that are internationally recognised, similar to gross rating points (GRPs) in the advertising industry.

MEPRA Chair 2008-2009

David Robinson

President & CEO, Hill+Knowlton, Australia, Middle East, Africa, South and Central Asia A tribute by Mazen Nahawi, MEPRA Treasurer & CEO, Carm and Socialeyez: A few words will not do justice to Dave Robison, the late president and CEO of Hill & Knowlton, former chair at MEPRA and a beloved friend to me and countless others. Dave’s greatest accomplishment was pushing PR and communications to the forefront of strategic thinking in the MENA region. He put our profession, when delivered with quality, culture sensitivity and data-led insights, at the centre of planning for many of the region’s best companies and government entities.  He articulated this vision at MEPRA as well, helping elevate the association by establishing a form of engagement with members which created a new sense of ambition and purpose among us, while having fun and working together, even when competing. Dave was a big man and left a big legacy which endures until today: authentic character and world-class competence which made our industry, and the world, a better place.

MEPRA Chair 2010-2011

Guy Taylor

Managing Partner, Taqarabu How has the PR/communications landscape evolved in the past 20 years? The easy answer is ‘digital’, but this is just a channel, albeit one that moves at pace and often at the exclusion of considered thought and quality output. How people get news and their appetite for visual content are probably the most significant developments. From an industry perspective, ‘PR’ has improved and is treated with greater respect. However, so long as it’s still represented by a two-letter acronym and not the broader context of strategically important communications, its perception will be incompatible with its value. What are the milestones you have seen in the PR community during these two decades? The often volatile geopolitical landscape of the Middle East is used to change, and media has reflected and accelerated this process. The milestones of our industry reflect the environment in which we operate. In an increasingly joined up world, the gaps between these milestones narrow. Plotting a timeline from the first Middle Eastern newspapers in the 19th century to the present day reflects an exponential curve over the past 20-30 years, from satellite TV to the internet. Communications is constantly evolving and, unlike the wheel, always being reinvented. What was your title when you were chair of MEPRA? What is your current title? Then, CEO, Grayling ME/APAC. Now, managing partner Taqarabu. What did you learn from your time heading MEPRA? To separate good intentions from positive action; to get a job done efficiently, ask a busy woman or man. What were the biggest challenges when heading MEPRA? Have these been resolved? What are the challenges now? The key challenges were, and probably still remain, building value for members and maintaining revenue streams. MEPRA is not a one-trick pony based upon its Awards, but regional guardians of an increasingly important industry. Inspiring an interest in communications, nurturing talent and influencing standards remain central to its duty of care.


August 29, 2021

MEPRA Chair 2011-2012

MEPRA Chair 2014-2015

Founder, Tim Harrison Communications


Tim Harrison

Nicola Gregson

How has the PR/communications landscape evolved in the past 20 years? This is best answered with a story. In 2005, I issued a press release of a company’s annual results in PDF format. My office received a call from a national daily newspaper journalist asking if we could re-send it in Word format so he could cut and paste it straight into the business section. 15 years later, the region’s shares are held by global investors, covered by international media, and scrutinised by global analysts. The Gulf is a global player, and with that role comes scrutiny and responsibility. What are the milestones you have seen in the PR community during these two decades? First, the creation of a professional, qualified and dedicated population of GCC national PR professionals. Second, the spread of best practice communications to every country in the region. MEPRA can claim some of the credit for this. What was your title when you were chair of MEPRA? What is your current title? Regional head of communications, HSBC. Now, founder, Tim Harrison Communications. What did you learn from your time heading MEPRA? Communications can be a real force for social good. A trade association can enable and amplify that potential. What were the biggest challenges when heading MEPRA? Have these been resolved? What are the challenges now? Maintaining robust finances and broadening MEPRA’s reach. Yes, these have been achieved. Today’s biggest challenge is for the communications industry to play its part in the radical change underway in the region’s economies.

How has the PR/communications landscape evolved in the past 20 years? PR has become much more strategic and moved from a ‘poor relation’ to advertising to a respected voice for driving integrated communications. Specifically over the last 18 months, PR has led on many Covid-19related topics. What are the milestones you have seen in the PR community during these two decades? 15 years ago, in the UAE and wider region, anyone and everyone was opening a ‘high street’ PR offering and ripping off companies with crazy launches and spending. Independent PR agencies with true credentials and the international agencies cut through all this and helped set global PR benchmarks for the MENA region. What was your title when you were chair of MEPRA? What is your current title? When I took up the MEPRA chair I was managing director of Ketchum Raad – MENA. I left the region four years ago and now have a dual role. I still consult and take on PR projects but have established and own an amazing cafe-bistro in the UK. I’m now owner/ operator/marketing and I opened the business without even sorting out my branding. What did you learn from your time heading MEPRA? What an amazing multicultural, powerful journey we are all on with people from phenomenal backgrounds; what can be achieved in the MENA region would be difficult to achieve anywhere else due to the brands and opportunities.

MEPRA Chair 2012-2013

Sconaid McGeachin

Senior Vice-President, Communications, Expo 2020 Dubai How has the PR/communications landscape evolved in the past 20 years? To name but a few, the growth in social media and influencers and the integration of social channels within communications plans; the need for speed in communicating across all channels with communications now 24/7; the importance of data and analytics to understand the audience and the increased sophistication of measurement (and hopefully the end of the advertising value vquivalency – AVEs). What are the milestones you have seen in the PR community during these two decades? Development and growth of the PR sector across the region; increase in experienced talent (local and expat); increased reliance on PR advisory work at board level; greater emphasis on creative campaigns that are recognised by winning global awards, highlighting the calibre of the work created in the MENA region; the importance of the MENA region to international agencies and the increase in excellent specialist boutiques and PR freelancers. What was your title when you were chair of MEPRA? What is your current title? Then, CEO, Hill+Knowlton Strategies – Middle East, India, Africa and Turkey. Now, senior vice-president communications, Expo 2020 Dubai. What did you learn from your time heading MEPRA? Collaboration is key. It was excellent to have such collaborative support from fellow board members (who were often competitors) who came together to drive change in our sector. We could only achieve results with the amazing drive of the executive directors of MEPRA – in my time, Carine, and latterly Sabrina, who worked tirelessly and passionately. They have been integral to the success of MEPRA over these 20 years. What were the biggest challenges when heading MEPRA? Have these been resolved? What are the challenges now? Speed of decision-making for any committee-based organisation is a challenge. True representation across MENA remains a challenge with the UAE remaining dominant – greater focus is needed on other markets, particularly Saudi and Egypt. Retaining top talent within MENA – whether they be local or expat, we need them to stay in MENA and help develop the PR sector further.

What were the biggest challenges when heading MEPRA? Have these been resolved? What are the challenges now? I used to get CVs from people who still thought PR equals ‘press release’. MEPRA has done an amazing job of bringing passionate people together to raise the regional and global communications bar. I’m very proud to have been among such talented peers.

August 29, 2021

MEPRA Chair 2015-2017

Brian Lott

Chief Communications Officer, Mubadala Investment Company

How has the PR/communications landscape evolved in the past 20 years? We’ve seen a significant shift to digital, obviously, placing it at the heart of all enterprise communications. That has accelerated the pace of interaction with stakeholders in a way that we couldn’t have really imagined in 2001. It’s also ‘personalised’ communications in a way that makes everyone both accessible to, and responsible for, various methods of communication (written, video, audio). New skills are required, and more sophisticated ways of managing and measuring communications. Yet at the heart of this evolution, the key principles of truth, authenticity and narrative are more important than ever, which is reassuring. What are the milestones you have seen in the PR community during these two decades? I think the public relations profession is being taken more seriously than ever, and by the C-suite, as evidenced in the greater numbers of executivelevel chief communications officers around the world. We are seen as the central nervous system of an organisation, at a time when communication has become pervasive, and that’s exciting.


What was your title when you were chair of MEPRA? What is your current title? I was executive director of communications for Mubadala when I was chair of MEPRA; now I’m Mubadala’s chief communications officer. What did you learn from your time heading MEPRA? There is a growing sophistication of our profession in this region. Both long-standing entities, think of Saudi Aramco, ADNOC, DP World or Investcorp, as well as new start-ups and sovereign entities – say, Careem, Noon and ADQ – have embraced the need for experienced, well-structured communications teams to serve their business. And as the new leadership of MEPRA exemplifies, the abundance of Emirati communications talent has grown and expanded significantly. What were the biggest challenges when heading MEPRA? Have these been resolved? What are the challenges now? The biggest challenges remain, how to evolve and grow the profession in a region where communications as a discipline is relatively (by global standards) new. How do we develop talent and grow our own best practices here, to share with the world? How do we continue to work with our academic partners, to expand opportunities for new graduates? We have amazing organisations and case studies to share with our colleagues in the West and East – something I am passionate about and will continue to share.

MEPRA Chair 2017-2019

Ray Eglington

Group Managing Director & Founding Partner, Four Communications. How has the PR/communications landscape evolved in the past 20 years? Bigger, better, smarter! The discipline has really matured in this region, developing into a core strategic tool for many entities. When you combine that with the vision and ambition of many Middle Eastern nations, it is a truly compelling mix. What are the milestones you have seen in the PR community during these two decades? One of the best has been this, MEPRA has become a really important forum for our industry – of the region, for the region. What was your title when you were chair of MEPRA? What is your current title? Then and now, group managing director & founding partner, Four Communications. What did you learn from your time heading MEPRA? Just what a brilliant, diverse, constructive group of practitioners

we have in the industry here. It is generally a really positive dynamic. What were the biggest challenges when heading MEPRA? Have these been resolved? What are the challenges now? I’ve always thought MEPRA’s biggest strength is that it is ‘of the region, for the region’ and I was keen to find ways for more of the region’s best practitioners to get involved. So, we

established new more inclusive board structures, we had a real push to encourage in-house and government communicators to join and we welcomed the first Gulf nationals onto those boards. That inclusive approach has been continued under subsequent chairs and the mix of MEPRA’s leadership and boards of all levels today is the strongest ever, I believe.


August 29, 2021

What are the milestones you have seen in the PR community during these two decades? A recent milestone would be the significant shift in the importance of internal communications due to Covid-19. It’s been a cornerstone for most organisations during the pandemic with most people working from home. The approach of 10 years ago – an annual town hall and an occasional note from the CEO – would have never stood up with employees last year. Leaders increasingly acknowledge that employees are primary ambassadors for their organisations and have embraced internal communications much more. What was your title when you were chair of MEPRA? What is your current title? I was and I am still managing director of Hanover Middle East.

Jonty Summers

What did you learn from your time heading MEPRA? That in times of uncertainty you can take strength from your community. We are fortunate in the public relations community to be surrounded by people with wonderful qualities that were, and continue to be, a source of strength and inspiration.

How has the PR/communications landscape evolved in the past 20 years? In the 13 years I’ve lived in the region, it’s become much broader and deeper, moving from a low-level function pushing out media announcements and organising events to one where executives are significantly more involved around the decisionmaking table, stewarding brands, engaging broad communities of stakeholders, and championing social issues.

What were the biggest challenges when heading MEPRA? Have these been resolved? What are the challenges now? In 2020 Covid-19 side-slammed the world. As a not-forprofit, MEPRA relies on memberships, events and sponsorships for income. In 2020 we couldn’t hold any physical events and significantly reduced prices on our virtual programme to ensure members could participate. That hit cashflow hard, but we created a range of member programmes that delivered real value to the PR community. I was greatly heartened by the support we received from members and from the board.

MEPRA Chair 2019-2021 Managing Director, Hanover Middle East

Current MEPRA Chair 2021-2023

Taryam Al Subaihi

Director of Corporate Communications, EWEC How has the PR/communications landscape evolved in the past 20 years? The biggest fundamental change in the PR landscape has been the evolution from the traditional approach to the present-day integration where digital is at the forefront of everything that we do. What are the milestones you have seen in the PR community during the past two decades? Key milestones for me would be: 1. Decline of print and the rise of digital media (as much as it hurts me to say, as a print journalist); 2. Introduction of social media; 3. The importance of bite-size video content; 4. Closer integration with PR and marketing to form a wider spectrum of communications. What is your job title? Currently I am heading MEPRA and my title is director of corporate communications at EWEC. What have you learned so far from your time heading MEPRA? As the MEPRA chair, my time thus far has been nothing but rewarding. As a

regional authoritative body, MEPRA seeks to grow and develop the communications industry in the region – something that I personally have always been very interested in. My time as chair has given me a unique in-depth view of MEPRA’s numerous collaborative workshops and training platforms, which I quickly learned are truly making a difference in the Middle East communications industry, and at a rate that I had only hoped for as a communications professional in the UAE. What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far, while heading MEPRA? As the current MEPRA chair, the biggest challenges I have faced thus far are the ones on the road to MEPRA achieving its targets for this year, which I admit are ambitious, but very achievable largely due to the noble efforts of our board and MEPRA members. I have the utmost confidence that all our challenges will be managed and addressed as a team at MEPRA.


August 29, 2021


Loading… Digital Transformation

MMPWW’s Deputy GM, Nader Bitar explores what it means to truly transform a business today


wonder at what point we’ll be able to just use the word ‘transformation’ without the ‘digital’ preface? After all, how many innovations are analogue-driven at this point? Maybe it’s us. Maybe, even though we talk the talk when it comes to a digital-first mindset, in reality, we’re still struggling with the follow-through. Or, even worse, going in headfirst without any real thought of strategy. Digital transformation is more than just updating technology and processes; it needs to secure the longevity of the business. Few CEOs are ignorant of this. In 2019, Accenture surveyed 1,350 senior executives across a range of industries and found that between 2016 and 2018, these companies had spent over $100bn scaling digital innovations to drive new experiences. It’s an impressive investment, only marred by the fact that 78 per cent then struggled to reach expected earnings as a result. The learning here? Digital transformation is hard to get right. There is a stark difference between understanding what needs to be done and actually delivering something that meets advertiser KPIs, exceeds consumer expectations and, most crucially, doesn’t infringe on anyone’s privacy. There are brands that have succeeded well in this area. Hasbro, the toy and game manufacturer, now combines video, social and digital storytelling to better understand and anticipate its consumers’ needs. Microsoft, once lagging behind more innovative competitors like Apple and Amazon, pivoted to create a more forward-focused cloud business, building relationships with other technology companies and earning a $1 trillion market cap as a result. Then you have Nike, a company that uses design and brand to digitally connect its products to a community of people. Over the past few years it has doubled down on data analytics, updated its e-commerce strategy and created stronger digital marketing campaigns, helping its direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales account for an estimated 33.1 per cent of revenues in 2020. It’s true that not everyone has the resources that the big guys do (Hasbro increased its ad spend by 1,100 per cent) but in terms of what they did and how they went about it, there are lessons to be learned here. Firstly, we need to recognise the importance of data. It is still underserved in

this market. Data fatigue is also very real, especially now it has punctured the consumer consciousness, causing people to ‘opt out’ at every turn. Thank you, Apple. Beyond the cookie conversation, there is so much more to say and do with data. It’s not static. It is constantly evolving. It needs to be managed and optimised for it to perform at its best. Every business should be data-fluent to compete at scale. Secondly, let’s enhance the experiences we offer. Technology is the cornerstone of most things today; however, we still need to understand the value of this beyond using it as a quick pathway to virality or sales. McDonald’s is often overlooked when we talk about transformation, but it was quick to recognise that an increase in competition meant a change in tactics was required. Its investments in personalisation tech startup Dynamic Yield (AI-powered technology for real-time personalisation of menus for drive-thru) and conversational AI startup Apprente (helps to power mobile ordering) shows how it has put consumer experience high on the agenda. It’s paid off too. In 2020 McDonald’s was the most valuable fast food brand in the world. Lastly, consider brand affinity over sales as the first priority. I browse my phone multiple times a day looking for engaging content. I’m looking for a brand that can weave a compelling narrative into its offering; one that makes me want to invest my time (already at a premium) into finding out more. Making a connection is powerful. Emotions resonate. Storytelling is an important part of the marketer’s toolkit. TikTok recently published research by a neuroanalytics firm that looked at emotional response measurement on its platform. It suggested that TikTok ads are more likely to drive purchase response based on key triggers, and when compared against all other video-based media, it came out on top for higher-detail memory. Immersive experience. Personalised content. The joy of discovery. It’s so much better than the hard sell. It’s easy to get caught up with the idea of transformation. It sounds good. It’s exciting leading your team into the unknown, forging the next stage of company growth together. It’s terrifying too. But everything starts and ends with purpose; why we want to change. Market conditions can only dictate so much; mindset is what will ultimately decide if you fail or succeed. To me, experience is the first word in marketing today. Data a close second. Our job is to make sure we deliver both to ensure value and ROI where it matters most.

“It’s true that not everyone has the resources that the big guys do, but in terms of what they did and how they went about it, there are lessons to be learned here.” By Nader Bitar, deputy general manager, MMP World Wide



August 29, 2021

Yas Island boogies into holidaymakers’ hearts The Abu Dhabi destination has reinvented staycation holiday goals with its Bee Gees-inspired Stayin’ On Yas campaign that is taking social media by storm


as Island Abu Dhabi, one of the world’s leading leisure and entertainment destinations, has launched its new marketing campaign. Stayin’ On Yas is based on the 1977 Bee Gees hit single Staying Alive and encourages staycationers and vacationers to ‘break like you mean it’ in a new integrated roll-out. The campaign had already taken social media by storm, being viewed more than 3 million times on Yas Island’s Instagram account and more than 1 million times on its YouTube channel within the first 10 days of its release. Add TikTok and Facebook into the mix and it was viewed more than 15 million times. Users shared memes across social platforms, proving just how ‘talkable’ the campaign is proving to be. “The UAE staycation market is flooded with the same imagery of luxury hotels and beaches,” said Liam Findlay, general manager of Experience Hub, Yas Island. “As the region’s leading leisure and entertainment destination, we saw an opportunity to inspire people to demand more from their time off by telling them, ‘Break like you mean it.’ Instead of settling for the same old staycation, Yas Island lets you, your family and friends enjoy everything from record-breaking theme parks, racing, climbing and flying to world-class shopping, dining, golfing and luxury hotels, all packed into one 25-square-kilometre destination.” The Stayin’ On Yas creative executions feature three-holiday makers channeling the Bee Gees on a

staycation like no other as they experience the wide range of activities on Yas Island in style. The campaign is styled in the format of a music video, taking viewers on a lyrical journey with the new Yas Island anthem, Stayin’ On Yas, a modern-day tribute to holidays. Set against a backdrop of Yas Island’s most iconic attractions (including world-class theme parks Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi and Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi; shopping haven Yas Mall, Yas Links Abu Dhabi golf course and record-breaking adventure hub CLYMB Abu Dhabi), the campaign redefines what it means to be on a staycation. “A staycation on Yas is unlike any other staycation, so our campaign needed to be unlike any campaign,” said


August 29, 2021

“As the region’s leading leisure and entertainment destination, we saw an opportunity to inspire people to demand more from their time off.”

Findlay. “This is why we decide to elevate the conversation from offers and beauty shots to a full-blown musical journey that turns staying on Yas into a hit music video. To achieve this we took the Bee Gees’ classic Staying Alive and turned it into a Yas staycation anthem. The lyrics have been rewritten to celebrate how cool and fun it is to be stayin’ on Yas. The video has been reimagined to tell the story of three super-cool travellers stayin’ on Yas and enjoying all the island has to offer. In style.” With a range of safety and wellness guidelines firmly in place, the 70s-inspired ode to fun celebrates the rejuvenating power of staycations and reminds audiences of how important it is to take a break, whilst providing a message of positivity and hope as well as a snapshot of holidays past, present and future. Released to complement summer holiday packages, the campaign brings fun-starved holidaymakers a glimpse of blue skies, sunshine, wave machines, theme parks and other iconic holiday experiences, all found right here in the UAE. Findlay said: “We hope this campaign inspires people to look forward with hope and positivity to a time when carefree holidays, staycations and vacations are a reality and people can truly staycation like they mean it. Highlighting the best of Yas Island, the Stayin’ On Yas campaign showcases the destination’s award-winning

theme parks, record breaking attractions, outstanding motorsports and golf venues and world-class hospitality. Stayin’ On Yas highlights Yas Island as a destination like nowhere else, where visitors can experience bucket-list attractions and tick off their holiday goals.” Creative agency Momentum, media agency Starcom and production house Dejavu Dubai are behind the campaign. The hero film has been made in 60- and 70-second versions and adapted for different social and digital platforms, and there are 6- and 15-second cut-down versions, along with static and carousel-format social assets and display banners. As well as being released on Yas Island’s own social channels, there are placements on Facebook, TikTok and YouTube, paid partnerships with media titles, programmatic banner placements and cinema advertising. There is also a social media competition and influencer marketing, on top of an email drive. The first phase of the campaign will run from July 25 to August 31; then phase two will introduce out-ofhome activations and will run through till October. Commenting on the early success of the campaign. Findlay said: “We are delighted to see the positive response that our campaign has received and believe that this video really captures our passion for providing unforgettable experiences to our visitors in a safe environment. We hope that this campaign enables people to look forward to taking a ‘break like they mean it’ this summer, at a destination like nowhere else.”



August 29, 2021



We asked: Are brands in the region using the right digital transformation tools and strategies?

August 29, 2021

Mazen Jawad

Jérôme Mouthon

President, Horizon Holdings We see many brands that have started their digital transformation, at times partially starting with specific business processes or services, at times gradually, and therefore it is not always the ideal approach. First, the digital transformation has to be successful from the inside out, where the organisation needs to have the right digitally savvy leader in place with the appropriate plan, strategy, culture, alignment and tools to implement. Second, any digital transformation has to be customercentric, leverage effective digital technologies that people would like to interact with and ideally be implemented holistically, taking into consideration the entire organisation, or all parts that face the customer interaction. We’ve seen brands implementing successful digital transformations – especially within the financial sector, lately in the media sector and surely more to come. It is a never finished process.


President MENA, Most brands are already beyond the concept of ‘digital transformation’, as they understand that if they are not digital they will struggle to exist. This is why, every day, we are working to support our partners on understanding how to adopt the best technological solutions able to keep up with market changes, the latest example of which is the depreciation of third-party cookies that will come to an end in 2023. Teads recently released a 'cookie-less translator', a tool that we released in exclusive partnership with OMG to enable programmatic media buyers to discover actionable insights for clients and build custom audiences that do not require third-party cookies for activation. It specifically helps brands transition to the privacy-focused era by building predictive audiences seamlessly and translating pre-defined cookie-based audiences, including advertiser first-party data, to new segments that do not rely on cookie-based technologies.

Shyam Sunder

Marketing consultant Yes, as far as using the right tools for targeting, retargeting and analytics are concerned. No from an overall digital transformation strategy perspective. Too many brands, especially those in pure-play e-commerce, tech and start-ups are limiting their efforts to bottom-of-funnel objectives. Almost all their strategies are focused on the in-market audience. This is hurting their business and slowing their growth. Top-of-funnel needs of the brand are being ignored due to ignorance or pressure to demonstrate quick wins or just sheer lack of funds. An excellent paper published by WARC on this topic of Brand Building in the Age of Digital Business says that, “brand-building can be considered the creation of future demand. Future demand is created when new customers become aware of a brand and add it to their consideration set. At this point they become more likely to respond to performance marketing efforts. Before this point, converting them can be difficult and expensive.” It’s time for the CEOs to be aware of the need for consistent demand generation and re-start their marketing strategies to ensure full-funnel marketing for growth.

Karma Bou Saab

Senior media planner, Dentsu X The pandemic, work-from-home and markets’ fast-growing digital needs have accelerated regional brands to think and act more digital. To ensure continuity, listening to consumers’ needs and fulfilling their expectations is crucial. Current transformation is led by digital-centric customers across industries. For that reason, brands are shifting more towards e-commerce, leveraging on first-party consumer data, using AR, operating chatbots and building more on CRM systems to reach potential and loyal users in a more relevant and personalised manner. As a result, the improvement of digital infrastructure is leading to better operational efficiencies and long-term capabilities. The more effective this transformational mindset continues to be, the more it will keep growing across practices and regions.


August 29, 2021

Maxime Menant

Brand strategist, TikTok For Business People have outgrown brands’ ‘rush to innovation’, and that’s because they were tired of just being a pretext for it. Brands now understand that digital transformation is not about the creation of endless digital shelves or using AI to facilitate sterile customer experiences. Today, brands are focusing on leveraging tools and partners that bring their customers closer to them by expanding and solidifying their relationship through joyful discovery and meaningful co-creation. The ultimate strategy is not to think of the customer as the end benefiter but as the driver of your digital transformation.

Rony Skaff

Digital account director, TBWA\RAAD Digital transformation is a disruptive technology which transforms the existing business model and redefines the ecosystem that sits at the core of the strategy and operation of an organisation. But brands cannot achieve digital transformation on their own; they need the support of their communities and governments. Digital transformation is still not yet very well implemented across all industries in the region and varies from one brand and industry to another. The main reason is that most businesses think of it as the adoption of one technology, as the solution to one problem that they have, instead of placing it at the heart of their strategy.

Abdallah Safieddine

Managing director, Mindshare UAE But the level of adoption of tools and strategies differs across industries. At Mindshare, we have seen CPG clients implementing organisational and process changes to drive digital transformation, while on the other spectrum our performance-driven clients are more advanced when it comes to data and technology adoption. Although Covid-19 accelerated digital transformation, we are still scratching the surface. The upcoming couple of years will witness an even shorter time between innovation and adoption. This will drive brands in the region to expand their tool sets and harness platforms and their cloud services to grow at speed. Brands who don’t embed it in their culture and way of working are the ones that are going to be left behind.

Rabih El-Khoury

Head of agency development – MENA, Twitter The intent and the investment to deploy tools and strategies are surely on the rise, if not already under way – yet execution, central to any strategy, still lags. Ultimately digital transformation is about (revolutionary) implementation, not just design. Across MENA, a large number of clients continue to stick to their comfort zone (from playbooks to KPIs), and seek insights but don’t leverage them, and above all suffer from present-moment bias. We’ve come a long way and the do-or-die situation brought on by 2020 surely accelerated the adoption of transformation programmes, which is all very promising.

August 29, 2021


Yves-Michel Gabay

Managing director, Gamned MEA When brands consider digital transformation, they are most often talking about digital marketing. But digital transformation is greater than the marketing field. Thus, brands should start by doing a digital capabilities assessment, using models developed by consultancy firms and website analysts. In this way, they will know where the strong and weak points within their organisations are and what they need to strengthen before developing the right strategy. This is because there is no point in generating accurate leads at the best cost when your sales department is unable to follow up with the right tracking tools, or because your e-commerce website is not able to handle all the demand because there is a glitch somewhere in your website conversion pathway.

Karim Masri

Digital director, Magna KSA Some brands have tested the waters on digital transformation and generated effective business results. Others progress more aggressively toward transformation, without necessarily scaling initiatives at optimal levels due to variable factors. The latter remain on the side-lines, contemplating their action plans in the face of modern digital challenges, such as convincing major decisionmakers to go all-in on digital transformation tools. Moreover, digital experts may face limitations in upscaling the internal digital and analytics know-how of their companies. This lack of knowledge can hinder achievements of the right partnerships and consultations.

Brendan Walsh

Regional markets head of strategy, DMS (Digital Media Services) The region has developed a pattern of ‘leapfrog’ technology adoption, which can act as a double-edged sword. A heavy reliance on intender signals and customer acquisition has contributed to a fleeting brand loyalty movement, associated with irrelevant and inconsistent brand storytelling. Investing in your customer's content experience is now more important than ever, with users having more control over what they see. Achieving a balanced approach to customer experience is where art and science meet. From activating relevant audience data to drive better experiences in a suitable context, it is possible to nurture lasting relationships that drive a long-term return for brands.

Sachin Mendonca

Regional strategy director, VMLY&R Commerce Any brand worth its salt knows the power that digital can play in accelerating growth. But we’ve blown past impressions and engagement. Today digital is a powerful tool to drive your brand's commerce agenda. This level of digital transformation must be embedded within the culture and across the eco-system. Sadly, most brands are under the impression that this can be achieved by hiring a person or two, and the rest… Inshallah! It’s simply not going to cut it. Ask yourself if your current digital transformation is on the ‘Inshallah’ spectrum and be honest about your answer.


August 29, 2021

VEGAN DO IT FreshToHome’s Anushé Ramzi tells Sofia Serrano about the growing trend of plant-based living and why customers are making the transition to this lifestyle


cruise around the region’s supermarkets will show the number of vegan products is growing. Veganism is a philosophy that “excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”, according to The Vegan Society. The community of vegans is constantly innovating animal-free alternatives to support the causes of cruelty-free options and health-conscious products, as well as environmentally friendly options. People choose this lifestyle to support a cruelty-free world, while maybe enhancing their health. (There are mixed views on this last point, one considering non-meat-eaters healthier and the other considering non-meat eaters prone to deficiencies.) People also choose the vegan lifestyle to help the planet, because there is a tendency for some brands – such as Sydney Brown Shoes – to combine cruelty-free with eco-friendly options. Lately, a number of vegan products have been launched in the UAE, including the vegan cheese Violife and the plantbased butter and cream Flora Plant. Recently, the e-grocer FreshToHome launched a vegan food product range. FreshToHome offers a range of plantbased products to help people who want to make a smooth transition into the meatless

and dairy-free world. The products are preservative-free and plant-based, at affordable prices, for those wishing to eat less meat or who are already fully vegan. Ramzi explained the addition of the vegan options to Campaign. Is FreshToHome trying to convert people to veganism? (FTH) caters to a diverse customer base, offering products that are free from all chemical emulsifiers, preservatives and additives such as E471 and E472. We offer a ‘fresh, never frozen’ money-back guarantee on our products, which are handpicked and 100 per cent natural. Our poultry, seafood and meat products are completely free of chemicals and antibiotics. Our aim is to provide fresh and healthy food to all our customers, whether they are meat lovers, vegetarians or vegans. Who is the audience for these products? FTH’s vegan food is meant for anyone who wants to add more plant power to their meals, is curious, is looking to make a transition to the meatless and dairy-free world, is 100 per cent vegan, is a lacto-vegetarian, is cutting down on meat and dairy due to health reasons or food allergies, and/or who wants something different.

Anushé Ramzi, head of marketing and communications at FreshToHome

What media are you using to tell the stories of these products? To raise awareness of our vegan range, we use all our digital platforms, including our Facebook and Instagram channels, website, app and emails. We also keep our audiences updated via articles, press releases and reviews as well as print, outdoor and radio ads. In addition, we regularly collaborate with health-conscious influencers, bloggers, journalists and fitness professionals, and participate in community events to spread the word beyond our existing customer base. Why is FreshToHome implementing this now? Veganism is one of the fastest growing lifestyle movements worldwide, and even in the UAE we see many of our customers making the transition to a plant-based lifestyle. While we had a small vegan-friendly offering when we launched in 2019, market research and demand have led us to invest more in this segment and make sure we have a variety of products suited for different dietary needs. It is also important for us to sell products that are tested for good taste and quality, as we want to offer our customers flavourful options across all our categories. For example, we started a collaboration with Future Farm, a leading Brazilian company that has allowed us to provide clean label [less processed] plant-based burgers, minced meat, meatballs, sausage and chicken, made with 100 per cent natural ingredients but with the texture, juiciness and taste of real meat. We found that, among other providers, Future Farm achieved the best results in terms of taste tests, quality and variety, and we have received great feedback from our customers as well. What is the message behind creating this section on your website? We highlight the vegan category on our website and all our marketing collateral in order to let our customers know that they have a variety of vegan options available and do not need to look elsewhere for tasty vegan food. Originally, our focus was on fish and seafood and we came to be recognised as a leading brand for this category. Now, with a diverse mix of products, including the vegan range, our aim is to be a one-stop shop for all customers, irrespective of their dietary preferences. Are vegan products more expensive? This is a long-standing perception, and correct in many cases. However, FreshToHome firmly believes that healthy and high-quality food does not have to be expensive. All our products, including the vegan range, are pocketfriendly as we firmly believe that cost should never be a barrier to leading a healthy lifestyle.


August 29, 2021


The future of loyalty The battle is on between tradition and precision, writes RAPP’s Curtis Schmidt


“Financial crises and a global pandemic have made consumers smarter, thriftier and more willing to shop around.” By Curtis Schmidt, MENA president and chief growth officer, RAPP

one are the days when shoppers had a lifetime commitment to brands or products – regardless of convenience or price – because, why would they? Successive financial crises and a global pandemic have made consumers smarter, thriftier and more willing to shop around. As markets have globalised and boards have focused on penetration and overall market share, companies have defined success in terms of pure acquisition, often at the expense of total customer lifetime value or the holy grail, customer loyalty. The trend is clear: brands need people more than people need brands, and to truly build loyalty, brands need to understand what value really means to consumers.

Loyalty has a new face, and it is pre-purchase preference

Traditionally, loyalty programmes

have given customers a reward post-purchase. With just 37 per cent of customers saying that this will drive repeat purchase from them, the return on investment from these often extremely costly and human-powered programmes doesn’t add up. Driving preference prepurchase is the golden ticket to retail survival. Preference lives and dies in the end-to-end experience your customers have with your brand. CRM alone, a points programme in a silo or a killer campaign by itself just won’t cut it anymore. The best marketing in the world can’t undo a bad experience, and a single great touchpoint isn’t enough for customers to return time and again. It’s about learning who your customer is, and why they are currently exploring your brand. In our post-cookie world, ethical and transparent profiling of your customers as they experience your owned platforms, to understand behaviour pre-purchase, is more important than ever before.

Personalisation is here: use it or lose

Brands that have taken to increasing their offers and soft benefits based on the lifestyles and behaviours of their customers are blurring the lines between loyalty programmes and digital services or customer experiences. Interactions, linked to data, linked to content, linked to context and pushed through various digital channels require a new level of automation and, increasingly, machine learning to enable real-time delivery of information, offers and experiences that customers actually choose to engage with. This requires brands to have a technology investment roadmap that supports business objectives and achieves executive sponsorship.

The future is relationship commerce

It’s time to shift gears: from data

collection to data generosity, and from push communication to pull preference management through consensual data and engagement triggers. We need to stop doing what we’ve always done, and creatively differentiate ourselves by driving tangible and emotional customer value. Recurring revenue models – such as membership and subscription programmes that have technology and data at the head and customer experience at the heart – are examples of innovations that are gaining traction right now. Future-proof organisations are moving towards value exchanges based on better experiences (think Amazon) in return for consensual customer data that makes experiences better. This has one huge residual effect: it helps internally democratise business intelligence through customer-centric reporting, providing a granular view of mutual value exchange between consumer and company.

Experience. Experience. Experience.

This is the mantra of the future of loyalty. As part of that framework, RAPP has developed ‘The Five Cs’, five core value levers shown to shape new customer loyalty: control (don’t back me into a corner); choice (help me navigate my options); community (I want to be part of something); clarity (be clear more than you are clever); convenience (do the hard work for me). RAPP’s prediction is that those who don’t future-proof their businesses to deliver personalisation at scale are leaving themselves extremely vulnerable. We marketers need to realise that as the region, and the world at large, settles into a new normal, there’s a new loyalty normal, where the key competitor is your brand’s ability to drive repeat purchases through engaging human experiences. Are you ready for it?


August 29, 2021


igital transformation has been with us for quite some time, and hoteliers are truly embracing it. Due to its structure, hospitality had always been slow to adapt or lead the way in technological advancements. However, this is slowly changing. Simply put, we adapted digital technology to change the existing processes of doing business, replacing manuals with digital procedures. Interestingly, this journey is also affecting our business culture, our people and our guests.  One of the most critical decisions we implemented under our digital transformation strategy was to go gung-ho, to become a reliable mobilefirst hotel brand. Today, the average human attention span is believed to be 8 seconds; that’s a second shorter than a goldfish. We have no time or patience and are constantly being exposed to a copious amount of data. If you think about the mediums and how we consume information, the answer is: mobile. MOBILE-FIRST Guests can book hotel rooms quickly and easily via the mobile app or our mobilefriendly corporate website. Much more can be done with mobile devices, from checking in to ordering room service, selecting your room upon arrival and unlocking your hotel room’s door keylessly, and checking out without actual interaction with the front desk. Competition with online travel agencies (OTAs) to increase direct bookings is also every hotel’s concern. There’s so much to learn from sophisticated sites, like, as they have perfected this process. If your guest can finish a booking on an OTA site in less than a minute, and if it takes more than 10 minutes on your hotel website and still requires a phone call to the reservations department, you are definitely doing something wrong. 

UNIFIED COMMUNICATION AND IOT Internet of things (IoT) will need more time, investment, innovation and, most importantly, stakeholders’ confidence to advance the hoteliers in this area. IoT is the network of interrelated computing devices and digital tools connected through the internet to enhance user experience. A quick example would be the good old PMS (property management system) device, the heart of a day-to-day hotel operation. Today this has changed slightly. PMS is still a vital operational tool; however, the bigger picture is all about a fully fledged customer relationship management (CRM) solution. Many other third-party tools like central reservation system (CRS), PMS, the hotel’s loyalty programme, spa and restaurant reservation systems, social media tools, etc., could also be connected to the main machine. This would bring a unified approach to a hotel ecosystem.



ROOMS Rixos Hotels’ Ali Ozbay looks at how Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation within the hospitality industry

GUEST JOURNEY Technologies such as facial recognition, artificial intelligence, chatbots, and data analytics are relatively modern innovations within hospitality. Still, we are only able to see the tip of the iceberg. Machine learning will be applied to bring a variety of external factors into pricing our rooms, and personalisation in the booking process is going to be taken to the next level by doing things like pointing AI at people’s social media profiles. Guests are already controlling things like lighting and temperature and connecting to their Netflix and Spotify accounts inside their rooms. Screens of

all sizes appear everywhere, and more and more hotels are offering tools like Alexa, so guests can talk to their rooms instead of touching them. Touchless payment systems were adopted by many trendsetters a few years back, yet it took a worldwide pandemic to make them mainstream. We are getting rid of paper menus and replacing them with barcodes to scan and go through digital menus with a single click.  Overall, there is a proper revolution happening in the hospitality sector. It is a digital revolution that requires today’s and tomorrow’s leaders in hospitality to adapt to it.  At Rixos Hotels UAE, we are truly embracing the digital transition, and we are trying first to observe and understand then predict how things might shape up. On top of all the above points, we’ve adapted many other initiatives in the last six months. Some important ones worth mentioning are: the chatbot technology we implemented on our social channels and expanded to WhatsApp business to have a watertight communication strategy. In terms of hotel revenue, we’ve managed to shift a considerable chunk from the legacy tour operators to digital channels through the help of Google ads, social sponsored campaigns, etc. We can even see changes within our internal communication and work-life balance. Zoom meetings and other video conferencing solutions have changed how and where we work. In fact, office hours are no longer needed for some businesses. I think it would be fair to say that some things will never be the same again for hospitality and travel. The technological shift has gained momentum during a pandemic. Intelligent voice-activated controls, smart mirrors, keyless entry, contactless check-in and payments, no plastic policy, meat alternatives in F&B and remote work procedures are just some things that will keep us busy in the post-Covid era. By ALI OZBAY, regional director of marketing and communications, Rixos Hotels UAE


August 29, 2021




The Middle East is accelerating its digital agenda to realise tangible business value across the region, writes Du’s Andy Ward


ll organisations across the UAE are adopting digital transformation (according to market intelligence firm IDC’s annual research, UAE Directions, published in January). As a result, digital innovation and customer experiences improve massively. Covid-19 has led the world into new ways of working and serving customers. Organisations across the UAE have significantly brought forward their digital roadmaps to automate, introduce new digital business models and deploy digital enablement of remote work. They generally want to ensure a higher level of digital resiliency and automation. Migrating organisational workloads to the cloud is the norm, as cloud is becoming the foundational platform enabling organisations to digitally transform. Nearly 80 per cent of organisations expect to have a multi-cloud strategy across public and private cloud environments. Private clouds are preferred for customer and personal data, ensuring a high level of security and control. However, public cloud environments provide robust solutions that are secure and cost effective, support a variety of workloads and enable organisations to leverage cloud-native services. The acceleration to the cloud brings cloud management skills and infrastructure challenges to the fore. With these transformation advancements, organisations across the UAE need to ensure they have the core competences to manage the everchanging IT environment. Therefore it makes sense to collaborate with a trusted partner to help migrate, manage and monitor their entire cloud estate as a managed service that offers continuous improvement and development. In addition to adopting higher levels of cloud maturity, organisations need to ensure their multi-cloud is secure. Government and enterprise organisations across the UAE are continually looking to strengthen their security posture, ensuring their data is protected and privacy is assured. Many businesses today outsource their security operations to providers offering a remote security operations centre (SOC) for ultimate protection. The remote SOCs are run by experts who have a great depth of skill in the cybersecurity area and are dedicated to staying current in understanding how to prevent the latest threats and attacks. Cybersecurity protection expands beyond the prevention of hackers to core data hosted on the cloud. Building a trustworthy organisation in today’s world covers four key digital trust pillars: vulnerability; identity; trust; and threat management.

Vulnerability management is proactive and constant assessment of the IT environment, integrating automation and orchestration tools to reduce risk. Identity management is management of digital identities within an environment by clearly assigning or revoking access rights to resources. Trust management is focused on improving governance, demonstrating compliance and ensuring confidentiality and integrity of end-user data. And threat management focuses on people, processes and technology supported by threat intelligence tools to detect, analyse, respond and recover from cybersecurity incidents. The sum of these four domains working together in a cohesive manner ensures an organisation has a robust security posture and ensures digital trust. The internet of things (IoT) is another major contributor to digital transformation. About 60 per cent of organisations in the UAE today have either started or are about to deploy IoT to drive new business models and revenue streams. Organisations remain challenged in managing overall cost, complexity and security, and generally there is a lack of skill and understanding. Most organisations look for a technology partner who can help them navigate the uncharted IoT waters. 5G technology will continue to evolve and emerge as the backbone connectivity layer that will accelerate and expand in the coming years, ensuring communications between the ‘core’ and the ‘edge’ become significantly faster and more intelligent. The core is the central cloud infrastructure; the edge is the numerous devices and touch points based at the fringe of the transaction. The core and the edge communicate to pass information back and forth to digitally transform the interaction. Think of an automated taxi service where you use an app on your mobile phone to hail a cab, or an internet banking app; these functions happen at the edge and communicate back to the core to source your information and complete the transaction. 5G will positively enable smart mobility and intelligent transport systems, aid hyperconnected sites such as stadiums and campuses, and better enable drone-based applications, augmented reality and virtual reality cloud-based applications. Consumer adoption of 5G is rapidly growing, while exciting future enterprise use cases are in the early stages, since they are reliant on future standards. 5G will be the power of the future.

As digital transformation continues to evolve, technologies such as 5G, cloud, digital trust, IoT, data analytics and artificial intelligence will become more paramount. Data will be key as organisations race to access it at super speeds and glean immediate insights as it moves between the core and the edge. Operational excellence will always remain important, but customer experiences will be more critical as organisations across the globe will use digital transformation to drive greater competitive advantage with unique and outstanding digital customer experiences. By ANDY WARD, head of NBI products & solutions, Du



August 29, 2021

Driving inclusion Al Masaood and Nissan’s partnership with the Abu Dhabi Special Olympics World Games were not only a case study in 360-degree marketing, but helped bring about social change within the company and UAE society


n March 2019 the Special Olympics World Games came to the Middle East for the first time, hosted in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi. The event is an international sporting competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities. It has been described as ‘the world’s largest humanitarian event’, and attracted more than 7,000 athletes, 3,000 coaches, support staff, VIPs, international media and more. Al Masaood Group, the authorised distributor of Nissan in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Region, supported the Games’ transport logistics, supplying a fleet of more than 300 Nissan vehicles. The Nissan Patrols were used to help transport Special Olympics athletes, delegations and coaches for the duration of the games, and for events across the UAE in the run-up to the games. They were on the road for more than 12 weeks over all. Al Masaood’s involvement with the Special Olympics ran deeper than just supplying cars, and its activations around the sponsorship are a case study in integrated marketing.


Al Masaood and the Special Olympics were natural partners for a number of reasons, including Al Masaood’s history in the UAE and Abu Dhabi, its connections with sports and its commitment to supporting good causes. The Group is Abu Dhabi’s oldest trading establishment, with operations dating back to the 1960s, before the foundation of the UAE. Its earliest chairman, Masaood Ahmed, was also the first chairman of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, and the group holds Abu Dhabi trade licence number 1. Al Masaood Group was born of a quest to bring the world’s best brands to Abu Dhabi. In the late 1960s it introduced the first water desalination plant with Weir Withgard and the first gas turbine through British company John Brown Engineering. In 1990, Al Masaood donated 4,000 cars to the UAE government to support it during the Iraq-Kuwait war. Abu Dhabi has a vision of becoming a global hub for international sporting events, and Al Masaood shares this passion. Before its Special Olympics sponsorship, the group supported events including the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open Golf, the Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Championship and the World Judo Championship. Al Masaood Automobiles recently collaborated with Nissan to become the automotive sponsor of the Al Jazira Football Club. In 2018, Al Masaood brought the iconic Italian football club Juventus’s football academy to the UAE capital. The Group also has a long track record of supporting pupils from the Rashid Centre for People of Determination and other local institutions that extent support to the less privileged.


As the official automotive sponsor of the Special Olympics, Al Masaood did more than just supply the cars and their drivers. As well as providing, running and servicing its cars, Al Masaood had to register the fleet, licence the vehicles and drivers (who it needed to hire and train) insure its operations, remunerate the transport team of 500 people, set up a logistics centre and pay for fuel. On top of its transport obligations, Al Masaood also created a ‘Unified Safari Adventure’, bringing together deaf and mute athletes and influencers to offer them offroading adventures in the Nissan Patrols. It organised friendly football matches between the UAE’s athletes and members of the Juventus Football Academy Abu Dhabi. At the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre it hosted a win-a-car promotion where it gave away a 2019 Nissan Sentra and other prizes to promote the


August 29, 2021

Games. MTM Marine, part of the Al Masaood Group, hosted sports activities at Zayed Sports City. Al Masaood hosted a volunteering drive at its service centres to get its own staff and the public more involved, and successfully recruited more than 200 volunteers to help with the event. Employees were paid their full salary while volunteering for the games, and board members and senior managers joined staff and customers in signing up. The company itself also implemented a more inclusive HR policy as a result of working closely with disabled people, and hired employees of determination to its own staff. The investment of money, resources and manpower was large – the project was worth more than AED20m – and Al Masaood earned its own medal, a Silver in the SPIA industry awards in the Best Sponsorship Activation category.


To help with its marketing around the Special Olympics, Al Masaood hired specialist sports marketing firm, Wasserman. The LA agency’s brief was to put together a campaign that would tell the story of the partnership. The campaign included a thematic film that showcased Al Masaood and the many industries (including automotive) it is active in, and built awareness around the event. The 360-degree integration of the campaign included online, social and above-the-line placements such as television, radio and outdoor media. Wasserman helped organise activations such as the safari, the football match and a golf game, and involved a brand engagement drive using local athletes and a win-a-car competition. It also ran a spot-the-fleet competition on Al Masaood’s social media channels, and managed events such as the partnership signing ceremony and volunteering drive.


With a branded fleet ferrying athletes around, on top of the activations and marketing drive, it’s little surprise that Al Masaood and Nissan had the highest share of voice among car dealerships and car brands in Abu Dhabi for three consecutive months, from February through April 2019. Nissan sales for the first half of 2019 were up 29 per cent over the previous five years. And the company was also recognised by the UAE’s rulers, along with the other organisations that also sponsored the Special Olympics World Games. And what happened to all those cars? The whole fleet was refurbished and put on sale through Al Masaood’s certified pre-owned department. It was entirely booked and sold soon after the end of the Games. The vehicles were bought by individuals, government bodies and private companies who wanted a bit of history as well as great vehicles. Al Masaood’s Group Head of Marketing and Communication Marwa Kabbour explains: “Car dealers often place a badge of their own logo on the back of every vehicle they sell, which is a dynamic branding tool that creates solid brand awareness. For the Special Olympics fleet we created a special badge for Al Masaood/Nissan, and placed it on the cars as an endorsement of the cause. The badges turned out to be a success and are still widely recognised by crowds and customers. Sometimes the smallest and simplest branding efforts can yield big rewards.”



August 29, 2021


ompanies responding to digital disruption inevitably focus on speed first. They make changes quickly where it matters most – launching apps, forming agile squads, deploying new analytics and testing innovative digital business models. The primary objective is to stay one step ahead of the change. Yet, after an initial phase of success, these promising digital transformation initiatives too often lose momentum. On the way to scale and lasting impact, they run aground on legacy issues such as aging technology infrastructure, mismatched operating models, old ways of working or cultures resistant

STEPPING STONES Bain & Company’s James Anderson and Tom De Waele outline four essential components of digital transformation

James Anderson

Tom De Waele

to change. This shows up in our annual survey of more than 1,200 business leaders around the world. Three years ago, when we asked respondents to prioritise what it takes to establish digital leadership, their answers boiled down to making faster decisions and executing quickly to create differentiated offerings. Today, there is a growing realisation that speed on its own isn’t enough. While moving quickly to differentiate remains essential, capturing the full value of digital transformation involves scaling a company’s best initiatives across the organisation for broad impact. That typically requires retooling the technology architecture while also building digital fluency and capabilities throughout the organisation. The advantage that digital disrupters have over incumbent companies is that they were built for purpose. Not only is their underlying tech infrastructure tailored specifically to their digital ambition, but so is the way they operate, how they make decisions and the way they use technology in their everyday approach to business. Competing in a digital world

ultimately means transforming both hard capabilities (the tech stack) and soft capabilities (the operating model) to create a business environment in which change can take root at scale and strategy is fully enabled by digital technology. Yet, that presents a fundamental risk: How do you avoid disrupting your business when you can least afford it? Leadership teams undertaking digital transformation are starting to figure that out. Companies have enough experience at this point that they are seeing creative ways to build new bridges to the future without creating traffic jams in the legacy business. Looking at the most effective efforts, we’ve identified four patterns of digital transformation that allow companies to rebuild and compete at the same time. 1. LAYING DOWN THE DIGITAL FOUNDATIONS The first pattern involves companies that are under pressure to develop new digital capabilities and are essentially starting from scratch. The threat is clear and evolving steadily but has yet to produce a burning platform for change. Many industrial companies find themselves in this situation. Large manufacturers, for instance, have long used technologies such as robotics to automate and optimise the production process. But the industrial application of data and analytics is evolving into a new basis of competition. Companies are using advanced analytics and predictive models to improve everything from supply chain management to maintenance and service. Implementing a new digital infrastructure requires an entirely new set of foundational capabilities, particularly around sensors and analytics used to collect and interpret relevant information across the company.

legacy conundrum in the core business, but the problem in this case is different. Rather than a fragmented IT architecture, these companies have years of accumulated systems that were built on top of each other as the business evolved. The resulting tangle of tech infrastructure ends up being inefficient and inflexible, slowing down the company’s reaction time. 4. LAUNCHING A NEW DIGITAL ATTACKER Sometimes, the magnitude and pace of disruption in an industry require more change than an incumbent company can support. Its size, complexity or resistance to change might prevent it from moving fast enough to remain competitive. Increasingly, the answer is to launch an entirely new business to attack opportunities that the core business cannot. This can be a bold bet that involves substantial risk. But it’s probably no riskier than hunkering down behind the moat and hoping that incremental improvement will be enough to fend off insurgent competitors. A digital attacker is both an offensive and a defensive bet. On offence, it allows companies to enter a new market with a tailored, lightweight solution that is free of legacy baggage. On defence, it gives the company a fresh value proposition to attract new customers within its existing market – for instance, aiming at millennials, students and young professionals to build the customer base of the future.

2. INTEGRATING A FRAGMENTED DIGITAL LANDSCAPE Companies that fall into this next pattern suffer from digital fragmentation – that is, they have no shortage of digital projects bubbling up across the company, but they lack the ability to prioritise the most promising initiatives and scale them across the organisation. This is common among global consumer goods companies with legacy IT systems that vary from one geography or function to another. While they may be doing lots of innovative things locally to serve customers, mismatched technology makes it difficult for the entire company to learn from those ideas and deploy them.

These four patterns, of course, can’t capture the myriad risks and challenges companies face as they contemplate how best to transform themselves to compete in a digital world. They are meant as broad archetypes that highlight the interplay of practical realities that any transformation journey entails, especially during a time of accelerated disruption. They encourage corporate leaders to consider two critical factors: What is the nature and immediacy of the digital disruption our industry is likely to face? What must change within our technology stack and operating model to enable the company to move fast enough to keep pace? The companies that fall into our four patterns recognise that any successful digital transformation depends on a balancing act – namely, the ability to scale meaningful change without disrupting the core. Every company finds its own path, but all winning digital transformations share one thing in common: a willingness to be bold.

3. DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION FRONT-TO-BACK The third pattern also confronts the

By JAMES ANDERSON, partner, Bain & Company, London and TOM DE WAELE, managing partner, Bain & Company Middle East

August 29, 2021



APPLIED IMAGINATION The pandemic pushed the industry into a more integrated work environment. But creativity is still at its core, writes Havas’s Fabio Silveira


istory is full of examples of how technological transformation has reshaped societies. It can create new jobs, while making others disappear completely, redistribute wealth and even rebalance the weight of power amongst nations. We are still going through the impacts of the ‘industrial revolution’ of our time and, while the digitalisation of our world already feels like ancient history, we find ourselves planning against the impacts of new waves of digital transformation. The tools for a more integrated world – for a work environment free from ‘physical’ constraints, for deeper and better knowledge sharing, measurement and data-inspired strategies – have been available for years, perhaps even decades, but with low incentive to become mainstream. While a few challengers, start-ups and early adopters were experimenting and pushing boundaries, mass adoption was still timid. And although a revolution starts with a few, it is mass adoption that makes it truly revolutionary. It took a once-in-a-generation event – that locked us in our houses and made many businesses virtually impossible without the adoption of new ways of collaborating – to bring the creative industry one step closer to a more integrated work environment, with more efficient knowledge-sharing and use of data, and clear, actionable intelligence that can inspire creativity and drive communication effectiveness. Although we are still far from reaping, and perhaps even from understanding, the full benefits that the digital transformation will bring to our industry, advertising agencies find themselves exploring the boundaries between creativity, data and performance, leveraging their networks on global platforms of collaboration and tapping

into world-class talent wherever it is. The agencies of today that are building a fit-for-future business are the ones that, while maintaining creativity at the core of this business, embrace data, measurement and the agility that it demands. Never in our history have we known so much about the way that we consume products and media, about how we relate to peers and friends, and about our likes and dislikes. Never before were we able to measure results in real time and adapt our messaging, media and ideas, accordingly. Don’t get me wrong – we’re still as passionate about ‘that original idea’ as anyone that has come before us. Creativity is still the driving force that moves hearts, wins minds and connects cultures. We just need to be a lot more agile on how we connect the dots between our observations and that improbable insight, or that breathtaking execution. And in the land where technology is king and agility is queen, the right team fills all other pieces on the board. Creatives and strategists that understand the insightful value of data; data scientists that know how to brief and


assess good creative ideas; a structure based on trust and empowerment of talent, wherever it is; a set of tools and processes in place that creates a much quicker learning curve, leading to fast implementation, testing and, then again, more learning; decision makers, from all actors involved, willing to try, sometimes to fail; others get it right, but we are always learning in the process. We are, however, stuck in a continuum: We shape our tools and, thereafter, our tools shape us. This means that, as we’re just starting to absorb the impacts of digital transformation on our business, we should expect to be remodelled after it – as an industry and as a society. And while we don’t know for sure how we will be fully transformed – and we will never know, as it’s an eternal continuum of shaping and being shaped by technology – we should invest in what is immutable in our, or any, line of business: the people that are behind it, the human element behind data points and numerical variables. Data always has inspired and always will inspire creativity, and creativity always will be and always has been validated by data. The essence behind ‘that original idea’ has not changed; the motivation that brought us to our field remains the same. We believe that imagination and inventiveness are tools to solve problems, to drive innovation, to connect with other people and to express a point of view. Originality, ingenuity and artistry are all part of it and will remain as part of it. And while the media might change, requiring more agile turnaround times and connecting more data points to different consumer behaviours, the essence of what defines us as part of the creative industry does not change. We are still in the business of applied imagination. By FABIO SILVEIRA, general manager Havas Creative Dubai


August 29, 2021


OMG’s Chris Solomi goes off-topic to find the right answers to the wrong question


he lovely folks at Campaign wanted to know: Are brands in the region using the right digital transformation tools and strategies? So they reached out to all the brightest minds in the Middle East to help with an answer. They were all busy so the honour falls on me to take a crack at this. [Editor’s note: 1) Not all of them were busy – see page 18. 2) Solomi is only being modest – see below.] I’m honestly not sure how anyone could confidently know the answer to this without having knowledge of the inner workings of the hundreds of brands and companies that operate in the region. The truth is that any answer other than “I don’t know, maybe” is likely to be of the Dunning-Kruger variety. Answering a question like that isn’t helped by the lack of mutually agreed language. One person’s digital transformation is another person’s “we

updated our laptops to the latest version of Windows”. It’s a point the fantastic JP Castlin talks about in reference to strategy in his wonderful self-titled 2021 Castlin Manifesto and it’s no different with digital transformation. It means so much and so little to so many. You rarely see two physics grads talking over each other because they each have their own personal definition of pi (although the same can’t be said for everyone else’s painfully liberal interpretation and use of words like ‘quantum’. Take a bow, Deepak Chopra). This level of standardisation of language just isn’t there in the softer sciences and humanities, marketing being no exception.   Alas, I digress, but the point is the phrase digital transformation is ill-defined and can mean so many things to so many different people. The question is hard to answer because there is little to no consensus on what the question itself is asking. What is being transformed exactly, and what was it before? Have all parts of the company been transformed or just the logo so it works better on the company app? Hopefully, it hasn’t changed so much to the point that they’ve just thrown away all their distinctive brand assets and years of mental build-up because ‘digital’. I’m pretty sure it was William Gibson who said the future is here it’s just not evenly distributed. I could very easily Google this to check, but the internet at Omnicom towers is painfully slow, barely 5G. (It’s actually not slow at all, we digitally transformed the IT department years ago, our Internet speed is fantastic.) It was Gibson, I don’t need to Google it, but the point is I imagine that many companies have digitally transformed but done so with the same level of uniformity as the future is here. Acme Inc, the famous widget maker, may have fully automated AI-enabled, demand-sensing supply chain management but still hasn’t got around to implementing a customer date platform (CDP). Shocker. What were they thinking? Don’t they know how important a CDP is? This is, of course, not always a bad thing. Ways, means and resources are limited. They probably haven’t got around to speaking to their analytics vendors because they really needed to make sure they had enough material to make widgets. Seeing as this is Campaign, however, I’m

going to take an educated guess and assume the question refers to digital marketing transformation. I genuinely don’t know the right answer to this question, and it’s very likely you don’t either, but perhaps a good place to look for a glimpse of insight, would be the database of clients that have taken Google’s Digital Maturity Assessment. Lots have taken this assessment, I’m led to believe, but precious few rank as ‘Connected’ (the second-highest tier, Silver medal), and far fewer still have achieved the Godlike status of ‘MultiMoment’ (the best rank, top of the podium). That doesn’t answer the question of whether or not brands – and lots of them, for that matter – are investing in the right tools and strategies for digital transformation. But it does hint that perhaps the answer leans towards the negative. If they were investing right, we’d probably see a lot more of them ranking higher. Now, I can practically hear the eyeballs rolling as some of you read this. I get it, it’s a Google assessment, it’s all part of a master plan to get brands to spend more with Google. That may be true or not, but that doesn’t mean the assessment itself has no value in measuring digital maturity. You can have a profit motive but still be right. One of our clients, KFC, is painfully close to Multi-Moment status, one of the few in MENA (a shameless plug for us and them), but only after a great deal of time, effort and willingness was invested in people, talent and projects. It’s been a long journey and one that involved a roadmap of projects that have enhanced measurement, automation, digital asset usage, how media is planned and bought, and how we target consumers. Each of these delivers better efficiency, effectiveness or the ability to measure this. Helping clients with digital maturity projects is a service area we have been focused on developing, and also where we’ve seen huge growth in demand over the last year. This growth does seem to show there’s an appetite for marketing transformation, but also an appreciation that brands know they have a bit of a way to go, and that’s OK. Does that answer the question? If not, I still managed to shoehorn in William Gibson and JP Castlin, and that means I just won a bet. By CHRIS SOLOMI, chief digital officer at Omnicom Media Group MENA

Oh my Pod, have you heard this? REC

Listen to Campaign’s latest podcasts to join in the debate and discussion of the latest developments in the region’s media, marketing and advertising scene


August 29, 2021





Communication is going digital, and Sherpa Communications’ Anastasiya Golovatenko explains how brands can avoid missing the boat of digital transformation and reinvention


igital transformation is the top priority for many manufacturers, retailers, healthcare companies, banks and pretty much every industry – a generalisation borne out by research from IDC. And digital transformation is an ongoing priority for marketing firms and public relations agencies in the UAE as well as overseas as much as it is for any other organisation. While it’s hard to predict exactly what the

future of marketing and communications will look like, there are some predictable trends that can help brands and their marketers prepare for the future. The impact of mobile communication and social media are there for all to see. There is no shortage of examples to demonstrate how these technologies are omitting old business models by creating new customer experiences and raising customer expectations, enabling and underpinning digital transformation. Strategic communication has never been so important for brands, and with so much information being posted daily, digital transformation enables specialists to go further than before. These developments have given rise to a whole new dimension of PR: digital PR. It embraces search engine optimisation (SEO), content marketing, social media and influencer marketing to create new strategies for cross-channel engagement. Now huge data files and insights can be analysed and used for the creation of actionable metrics, right brand positioning, lead generation, understanding of audiences, competitor analysis and much more. To drive digital transformation and reinvention within their organisations, brands can strategically leverage the power of digital marketing, social media and SEO, nicely blended together with digital PR.

current algorithms and achieve optimal results with the inclusion of the key messages and positioning triggers. On top of strategic copywriting, additional blending between digital marketing and PR happens when securing quality backlinks as well. It’s good to have backlinks, but more is not always better. Your site’s ranking is likely to get more of a boost with a few links from high-quality sites (such as media platforms) than lots of links from business directories or yellow pages. While SEO specialists focus on clicks and other metrics, communications pros can influence brand awareness, positioning and understanding of the product or service and can also increase a brand’s success on Google rankings by presenting a content strategy that is in line with the most researched words in their sector.

EXPLOITING SOCIAL MEDIA Social media has supercharged marketers’ abilities to reach, connect with and learn from customers. Digital interactions on social media also generate data that can be used to assess the effectiveness of campaigns, understand customer behaviour and preferences, and focus on initiatives across multiple channels. It’s one of the more effective ways to help brands drive web traffic to their official platforms or websites. According to Hootsuite, people spend close to seven hours a day using the internet – more than twice the amount of time they spend watching TV. This is a massive audience to influence and direct through personalised campaigns that are consistent across all the verticals where a brand has its presence and interacts with its customers.

PLAYING WITH THE CONTENT IN A SMART WAY Some of the most effective tactics to leverage a brand’s presence and recognition in the new reality will be sharing newsworthy content with media and other platforms to ensure quality mentions and publicity. To build trust and authority, brands should leverage the expertise of their executives producing analytical reports, whitepapers or op-eds, spiced up by relevant keywords that are smartly in line with their SEO strategy.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SEO SEO is a fine art. Not only does it require a detailed understanding of how to get brands as near to the top of Google search results as possible, but it also requires constantly evolving techniques to keep up with the frequent changes Google makes to its algorithms. Content needs to be constantly reviewed to align with

LEVERAGING MULTIPLE CHANNELS While marketing has always used multiple channels, in today’s digital world marketers are taking an omnichannel approach – tracking customers’ journeys with digital technology to understand what kind of communications resonates and to refine and target communications initiatives. This could involve, for example, taking a long-form piece of content and reworking it as short, sharp social media posts, or infographics, blogs or online articles.

MAKING THE MOST OF METRICS Everything that happens in the digital world creates data, which means it can be measured. Data analytics and the smart use of these metrics will provide brands with the full picture as well as help optimise their strategies in the real time. These could include the traffic generated by online outreach initiatives, changes in how a brand is being perceived and referred to, quality of brand awareness, website traffic, mentions on social media and much more. By ANASTASIYA GOLOVATENKO, account director, Sherpa Communications


August 29, 2021


Beyond data Ad-Lib Digital’s Janira Hernandez explains how creativity can help drive business results


reativity has been a big topic in advertising for a number of years. There have been many debates and panel discussions dissecting the importance of both creativity and data, along with the roles they each play in successful marketing campaigns. But which one is more important? The industry’s obsession with data always seemed to answer that question long before anybody ever stepped on stage. In more recent times, and over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen the amount of data available deplete, as third-party cookies disappear, Apple makes changes to IDFAs, and data privacy regulations are implemented all over the world. Now, creativity is being looked at as one of the ways that the industry can overcome the lack of data available to it. “It’s not going to work in the same way that it used to. There is no longer that opportunity to gather conversions through low quality, below-the-fold creative or serving of ads. You’ve got to think about your messaging, and you’ve got to be able to control your messaging,” says Oli Marlow Thomas, founder of creative management platform was created four years ago after we realised that the industry paid a lot of attention to media, data, and targeting, but wasn’t really interested in the messaging side of things. Over the years, studies have been conducted proving that while media, data, and targeting do provide a small uplift in performance when optimised, creative has actually driven around seven times the performance of the others. With this insight, a next-generation creative management platform that goes well beyond standard templates or message customisation was born. The thinking was that everyone understands that good creative drives business results, but no one really understands how to deliver good digital creative. has been built with five pillars in mind: creative governance, reusability, greater scalability, greater media alignment, and creative agility – and all of that is underpinned by data. This all means that

everything is built to best practice, it’s built with fixed and flexible elements, it has tools to build and automate cross-channel production, it’s about leveraging the media agency’s work to inform the creative messaging framework, and it enables brands to talk to consumers at the right time, in the right place, with the right message. Even with these pillars in place, the team at is always looking for new and better ways to improve our tech and help brands drive the best business results. So we decided to overhaul our platform. The latest release aims to provide marketers with an easier, faster and better way to deliver hyperrelevant digital creative at scale. The process for getting ads from ideation through to activation has been streamlined and there are code-free tools for marketers to produce and activate ad variants across channels, formats and media platforms. The updated platform was trialled by the likes of Nestlé, Estée Lauder, and Shell. “Our customers are super engaged in our journey. They want to help us, and we want to

help them. We spend a lot of time with senior management absorbing their feedback. For example, L’Oréal has us involved at all levels of the customer journey trying to help their business, because everyone understands how important this is,” says Marlow Thomas. “Media spend is accelerating in digital rapidly. But no one has really spent time thinking about digital creative. It’s probably time to think about how we allocate some of that TV budget to thinking a bit more about how we manage content more holistically for digital.” Looking ahead as a business, we are super interested to see what happens with the walled gardens and will be keeping a close eye on whether creative can be a consistent thing across platforms like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and TikTok. Essentially, the audiences are going to be largely the same within the media buying platforms but, if the creative is working on Facebook against ‘X’ audience, could it be activated in a simple way on Google against ‘Y’ audience? The idea of having those levers to optimise and adjust the content in real-time across many different platforms and many different formats is so powerful for brands. is giving advertisers the tools to truly manage their messaging, aiming to simplify and streamline the processes involved. We are determined to prove that creative data can be just as powerful as media data, especially to creative agencies. We have a responsibility as a company driving this to go out to the market and show just how well creativity can improve business results, and we are doing a lot of work on that at the moment. While continues to expand in the region, working with some of the largest global brands in the world, its presence has also grown into further markets. The opening of the latest office in the DACH market has also been recognised by Google following the seventh Google Partner Certification in Germany alongside MENA, UK, USA, Australia, Singapore and Spain. To find out more about Ad-Lib, reach out to or visit the website at for more details.

“The thinking was that everyone understands that good creative drives business results, but no one really understands how to deliver good digital creative.” By Janira Hernandez, Head of MEA, Ad-Lib Digital


August 29, 2021

Big data is not always the answer to digital transformation challenges – it’s what you do with the data that counts, writes MediaCom’s Burt Reynolds


IT Sloan’s George Westerman, the author of Leading Digital, wrote: “When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. But, when done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.” If you are still reading this thought-piece, then at some point over past the two years you will have definitely googled the phrase ‘digital transformation’. While we can all appreciate that there has been a lot of talk and walk in this space, it is easy to get lost in parlance and not appreciate the systemic changes and challenges that we are witnessing, in what is remarkable, record time. This leads in nicely to the fact that by 2023 digitally transformed organisations across the world will contribute about $53.3 trillion to the economy, according to Statista. That’s more than half the world’s nominal GDP. In our consulting and greenfield projects, we have seen several underlying themes (or opportunity areas, if you will) that have become cornerstones in pivoting from ‘still figuring it out’ to ‘seeing incremental value’. In that recipe of agility and success are two ingredients that are not just significant as change drivers for brilliant digital design, but fundamental to drive momentum. We call this formula C2D2. That is, empowerment through the right calibration of culture, and enablement through data dexterity. Too often the first hurdle in transformation is when we begin the process with a search for leaders who can envision the roadmap or iteration and execute it to fruition. The barrier here is that effort is spent in revolutionising top-down. This is akin to asking your five-year-old, who has just taken off the training wheels from his bicycle, to go in-line rollerblading. Both sports rely greatly on body balance, but to generalise is the first fallacy. An extreme example? Yes. But that is the underlying sentiment across most departments, unless you are IT. There is the fear of automation, which will inherently have impact on headcounts and potential growth prospects. And then there is the human scepticism towards change; this reticence gets accentuated by the organisation’s domain and legacy and whether it encourages cross-cultural thinking.

‘‘WHEN DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IS DONE RIGHT, IT’S LIKE A CATERPILLAR TURNING INTO A BUTTERFLY. BUT, WHEN DONE WRONG, ALL YOU HAVE IS A REALLY FAST CATERPILLAR.” There is no easy answer to orbit around this troika, but we have seen that our change management delivery framework, when deployed to its full intent, has helped allay these fears and resultantly made transformation less of an internal friction. Here are the core components that lead into what we call the ACID framework: a strengths-mapping audit that investigates your value-chain through ‘now’, ‘near’ and ‘far’ lenses; criteria to identify change agents within the value-streams, and then bucket them on a spectrum, while forming sub-committees to drive specific agendas; identify micro-gains and cross-functional synergistic opportunities for these change agents; and deploy in a step-phase manner (show success before commencing on the next milestone, which in itself should be an expanded scope to the previous one). Applying this to your transformation workflow, should help navigate your talent pool from where you are to your next leapfrog, while addressing




tension points. Have you realised that the literature on data tends to turn most marketing practitioners bipolar? And this is even though it has been part of our lexicon for more than two decades now. Let’s go back to basics – evolution in technology has accelerated the volume, veracity and velocity of data and, reciprocally, data has helped define and refine the next big thing in tech. The problem we have today is not the capacity to hold this data together in an operational space (we have the AWSs and Azures of the world to thank for this), but separating the rice from the chaff. Why? Because the core principle of data since the 1980s has been simply GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. Instead of reeling in the past, let us take a leaf from how successful tech start-ups (who, no contest, are the ones ahead on the change curve) have dealt with this. Generally speaking, they go through several phases of product evolution before that app gets updated on your mobile device. And all throughout those wireframes, proof-ofconcept, DEV and beta versions there is only one consistent guardrail to how they see their product or service change their industry. It is called minimum viable data – in simple terms, clear, signposted data that is usable and testable without spending significant time and effort on cleansing, manipulation, migration and maintenance of the data that is not core to functioning. I am not suggesting that there is no place for the valuable insights in big data (especially when you have finessed a level of automation in collection and flow), but to make digital transformation a data-first and informed journey, speed and efficiency is the mantra. By BURT REYNOLDS, regional lead – data, technology and consulting, MediaCom

August 29, 2021

TAKE MY MONEY Amazon Payment Services’ Amira Aboushousha is reimagining payments beyond the new norm


hen we see a successful person or business, we often fail to appreciate the many obstacles that have been overcome to achieve that success. Success usually requires innovation and reimagining the way things are done to come back stronger. As businesses around the world consider how to bounce back from the turmoil inflicted by the pandemic, these tales of business turnarounds provide food for thought. How has the past year affected the way consumers behave? How have businesses and their customers’ needs changed because of Covid-19? What will it take to reimagine payments beyond the new norm? Hygiene concerns caused by the Covid-19 crisis have prompted consumers and businesses to rely more on digital and contactless payment options. This trend towards cashless transactions has led to an increasing number of digital payment gateways and service providers, with early e-wallet services like PayPal now joined by hundreds of cashless payment options today. Today, 80 per cent of young Arabs shop online frequently, compared with 71 per cent in 2019. In addition, 50 per cent of those aged 18-24 in MENA are shopping more online after the pandemic. As a result, the sector reached a value of $22bn by the end of 2020, according to research from the MIT Legatum Center and Wamda. Holding on to these newly converted customers is now a priority as vaccination campaigns take effect, lockdown measures ease and consumers partially revert to old habits. A recent survey by research company Sunstream Research & Consulting found that six in 10 consumers in the UAE still prefer to buy their groceries in person, with only two in 10 people opting to buy their food online. This brings us to a critical element of the relationship between customers and retailers: the ‘payment experience’. While many companies will spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising, branding and PR campaigns, and yet more on the user experience (UX) of their online shopping portals, many do not give equal consideration to that most crucial stage of the customer journey, the decision to pay for a product or service. How can you ensure that your payment processes are part of a strong customer experience?



In the past, it was necessary to offer cash-ondelivery (COD) to enable e-commerce due to low credit card penetration rates and a general lack of trust in paying online. Nowadays, fintech and e-commerce exist together in a symbiotic relationship. The right fintech solutions ensure a smooth and seamless experience for consumers. E-commerce, in turn, drives disruptive innovation in the fintech industry. The sheer volume of digital transactions taking place around the world creates fertile ground for start-ups looking to cash in on the action. From buy-now-pay-later services, which offer quick and easy payment plans for consumers making a big purchase, to instant access to business loans for merchants based on their digital cash flow projections, fintech innovators are identifying and addressing the needs created by e-commerce activity at an ever-increasing rate. However, there are many ways the customer journey can falter at the payment stage, all of which reflect poorly on the brand they’re attempting to engage with. What if the customer is unable to pay

for their chosen product with any of the options provided by the merchant? What if the payment fails, or is taken from the customer, but doesn’t reach the merchant? What if the customer wishes to make a purchase on a big-ticket item, but doesn’t currently have the funds to pay for it? Any of these issues could cause the customer to walk away from the transaction entirely, rendering all the other investments in branding and customer engagement entirely pointless. At the very least, a clunky and onerous payment process does not encourage a customer to return for repeat business. It’s essential to ensure that the payment experience is truly ‘zero friction’. Customer expectations are rising for digital payments along measures such as convenience, security, affordability and familiar payment methods. Your customer’s trust is the most valuable commodity today, so if you don’t guard it tightly, you could face a ruinous backlash. The ideal payment services provider removes these hassles by managing all aspects of the financial transaction for their merchants. They ensure that customers can complete transactions by offering a wide variety of international and local payment options that are familiar to customers. In addition, maintaining round-the-clock vigilance with advanced fraud detection systems is key to ensuring that transactions are seamless, safe and secure, and that any issues are resolved swiftly to the customer’s satisfaction. This, in turn, maximises conversions and decreases the risk of chargebacks. Your relationship with the customer doesn’t end with a purchase. Hopefully, they enjoyed the shopping experience, and they’ll wish to make further purchases from you. Customers are more likely to remain loyal to online stores that make it easy to transact and engage with them. There are also invaluable insights to be gained from data collection and trend analysis that can be used to improve other services your business offers. You can get to know your customers better through detailed reports, expert analysis and real-time monitoring of their payment activities. The next normal is still taking shape, and customer expectations will continue to shift in response. Retailers that focus on customer experience and respond with agility and innovation in their omnichannel experience will fare better and strengthen their ties to consumers. The right digital payment service provider can empower a business to take its relationship with their customers to the next level and create a seamless experience from start to finish. By AMIRA ABOUSHOUSHA, head of marketing at Amazon Payment Services


August 29, 2021



For any transformation – digital or otherwise – to be successful, leaders need to ask the right questions, writes Behavioral Management Consulting’s Basmah Omair


aving lived in the United States for more than 23 years and then moving back home to Saudi Arabia, I have witnessed many attempts at organisational transformations, including culture, digital, HR, you name it. And yet, despite the cultural difference between two continents, all transformations shared similar road maps and obstacles. In 2004 I witnessed computers being introduced for the first time, only to become a decorative piece on a desk. Email was being established in 2010, yet employees continued to perform their duties using hard copies. Expensive HR systems developed, but employees continued to call or walk in to HR to discuss their situation. KPIs and balanced score cards were introduced, only to be manipulated by managers and employees alike. Women were employed for the first time, only to be excluded from meaningful discussions. All these transformations and more triggered my intuition early on to analyse the situation and answer the ‘Why’. Why do most transformations fail, and only a few succeed? Why does a plan fall apart during execution, and any attempt to put it back together creates superficial results? After years of experience, I found that successful transformations were human-centric in nature. What do I mean by human-centric? I mean that human behaviours were taken into account throughout what we call the six blocks of a comprehensive human-centric solution. UNDERSTANDING THE BEHAVIOURS OF ALL STAKEHOLDERS. A mistake some leaders make is to build a transformation plan skewed toward understanding the needs of a few stakeholders while ignoring others. For example, some plans address the needs of the investors, boards or customers while dismissing the employees who will execute the transformation. Once all stakeholders’ behaviours are understood, then a more realistic plan can be designed in the following building blocks. It will also help identify the behaviours of those who will resist, those who will bully others for wanting to adapt to the changes, and those who are passive enough to follow the stronger camp. All these insights will aid in creating a mitigation plan that will not only save you time but will be cost-effective.  POLICY DESIGN. Using the behavioural insights gained can direct choices influencing behaviours toward a specific desired action supporting the transformation. 

USER EXPERIENCE. Some leaders believe that a better user experience will occur if a digital transformation happens. They don’t realise that, if policies and procedures are not reformed and redesigned more efficiently to match the desired behaviours of stakeholders, all digitalisation does is automate bureaucracy. To create a successful user experience, ask the ‘Why’. Why is it being done this way? You will be surprised at the silence in the room as most people don’t know why; it’s just how it’s always been done. And remember, in mapping out a user experience it’s a different map for every relevant stakeholder and not a one-size-fits-all. MEASURING SATISFACTION.  This is a crucial yet tricky block. Most leaders make the mistake of allowing the head of the department undergoing the transformation to also report on stakeholder satisfaction. Leaders need to distinguish between reporting on progress and reporting on satisfaction. The latter needs to be measured by an independent third party. The third party should objectively measure the stakeholders’ satisfaction against the transformation’s original goals, uncovering any superficial results.  SELECTIVE INTERVENTION.  Any leader who claims they have the perfect transformation plan is obviously a new leader and hasn’t implemented one before. There are no perfect execution plans, but there are more realistic ones. The latter acknowledges that human behaviours are not always rational and can be influenced by outside factors that weren’t present during the planning phase. Therefore, modifying some of the components of any of the blocks above is a normal and healthy process. However, if you find yourself putting out fires 24/7, you know that you need to go back to the first block and better understand the behaviour of all your stakeholders.

COMMUNICATION AND ENGAGEMENT. Go beyond the moment a leader announces the transformation plans or meets with employees in a workshop. Communication is about continuous engagement; it’s about engaging each stakeholder using the language and messages they understand and that matter to them. This can only be possible if the first block is done correctly and the leader is in front and centre of all communications and engagements. This task should not be delegated.

Before you approve the budget for your next transformation plan, ask your team: Do we understand the behaviours of all our stakeholders? Do we have a perfect execution plan or a realistic one? Who will measure the success of the transformation? It’s best to delay the launch till you have the correct answers than to delay delivery because you never asked the right questions. By DR. BASMAH OMAIR, certified board director, founder and CEO of Behavioral Management Consulting

August 29, 2021


HARD TO HACK Soumaya Prajna, of cybersecurity specialist Help AG, explains the practicalities of protecting the customer in the age of big data


s Gary Vaynerchuk rightly said, the best marketing strategy is care. I believe this becomes ever more pertinent as we evolve marketing and communications in the hyperconnected world. It is important for us to understand the concept and criticality of data and take the right decisions as part of a sustainable and successful marketing strategy. Customer data is an invaluable resource for marketers, enabling us to target specific audiences with highly personalised content. The digital transformation of the marketing industry has unleashed the potential for highly effective and context-aware outreach that creates better results for the business. However, big databases of customer information are a veritable goldmine for cyber attackers. Additionally, today’s consumers are highly tuned in to the issues of data privacy and security. Increasingly concerned with what data companies are collecting from them, and how that data is being used and stored, the growing frequency of high-profile data breaches is only making consumers more wary. Data-driven marketing must be combined with robust cybersecurity measures to protect customer data and minimise the risk of breaches that can damage a company’s reputation, disrupt business and lead to customer attrition. BEST PRACTICES FOR PROTECTING CUSTOMER DATA Marketers should deploy moderation when it comes to gathering customer data, which should be collected and used in compliance with regulations and governance frameworks on a local and a global scale (such as GDPR) as well as industry best practices. It is crucial to limit employee access to customer data by defining access on an individual level, based on an employee’s role and the information they require to do their job. Even within the marketing team, not every member requires equal access across the board; for example, a market research expert will not need the same data as a copywriter. This strategy reduces the number of endpoints that can be compromised. It is also best to avoid spreading data across lots of vulnerable storage media, as this opens up a multitude of access points to hackers. Other best practices for protecting customer data include regularly updating software to install security patches; always using strong and unique passwords (consider using a password manager); and using encryption technologies. A wise option is for companies to rely on a trusted managed security services provider (MSSP) to protect their data rather than doing it themselves, which involves a huge investment in terms of time and resources and forces them to extend themselves beyond their core business. In tandem with these security measures, marketers should proactively inform customers about the organisation’s data privacy and cybersecurity policies and practices, as consumers value corporate transparency, especially when it comes to personal data. COLLABORATION BETWEEN MARKETING AND IT TEAMS Cybersecurity efforts should not be limited to the IT department. A ‘people-first’ approach that places employees at the centre of the cybersecurity strategy with a focus on promoting end-user best practices is key to turning them


from the weakest link in the security chain to the organisation’s first line of defence. There needs to be ongoing active communication and alignment between the marketing team and the IT department to ensure the right security decisions are made. Adoption of any new technological tools or platforms should be done in conjunction with the IT and/or cybersecurity department. This should be coupled with continuous monitoring and patching of vulnerabilities, adoption of the right security measures, utilisation of the right data protection methods, and constant efforts to minimise exposure points that could be leveraged by bad actors as a doorway to harm the organisation. Marketers should also continuously educate themselves on cybersecurity and data protection best practices, with the guidance of the IT team. In the event of a breach, marketers bear the responsibility of managing crisis communications and coordinating disaster management to ensure business continuity. They should have a solid understanding of cybersecurity and data protection as it pertains to their work, as well as of the company’s security and privacy policies. Cybersecurity is invariably important to all employees in an organisation, so there should be regular training on how to spot and evade cyber-attacks such as social engineering and malware. Marketers are especially at risk of being targeted by attackers, as they are often in charge of sensitive customer data. The marketing team should work hand-inhand with the IT department to create ongoing internal security awareness initiatives that are customised depending on behavioural analysis and aim to educate employees about the best practices around cybersecurity and data protection in an engaging, useful way. For example, mock phishing campaigns of different levels can spot weak links within the organisation and identify where additional training and awareness is required. BEST PRACTICE IS KEY The digital transformation of marketing has enabled practitioners to target individual customers in highly personalised and effective ways. However, the accumulation of personal customer data by organisations creates a lucrative target for cybercriminals. By implementing cybersecurity best practices such as only collecting necessary data, limiting access to data and centralising data storage, companies can prevent disastrous data breaches, hence avoiding downtime and associated losses to assets, including but not limited to brand reputation. Organisation-wide awareness of cybersecurity risks and best practices must also be created through employee training programmes and other internal initiatives. To maintain customer trust and organisational reputation, marketers must combine their data-driven strategies with proactive cybersecurity efforts. The world is only going to get more connected. Data is the new oil, and analytics is as good as the purpose it is used for. It is not about if, but rather when you might be the next victim, and the best solution is to adopt a proactive approach and focus on creating a smart and secure digital culture in organisations. By SOUMYA PRAJNA, head of marketing & communications, Help AG

hat are the first thoughts you get when you hear the term ‘digital transformation’? Probably highly specialised virtual programs, the sort that you need a team of computer scientists to operate and that look like a black screen running indecipherable code. Or maybe you picture state-of-the-art, expensive hardware – sensors, motion detectors, even lasers. The idea of digital transformation has been used so many times in so many different, even contradictory, contexts that we are at risk of losing track of its meaning. So we set out to find out what it means for the community in MENA through a deep dive into our own digital sphere. After looking at all publicly accessible conversations as well as traditional media outlets, our research uncovered a total of 175,000 online public mentions between January 2019 and July 2021 with terms associated with ‘digital transformation’. The sheer mention volume is huge, marking a significant growth rate of 286 per cent compared with the previous period. If this could tell you only one thing it is that this buzzword is worth all the buzz and is here to stay. EVENTS, PROJECTS, AND MORE EVENTS ‘Digital transformation’ has been slowly but surely gaining popularity even during the initial part of our analysis. The first peak was spotted in October 2019 and was largely driven by the hype around #GITEXTechWeek, with several companies showcasing their digital transformation projects. The spike in mentions in February 2020 is largely attributed to the concept of smart cities, from Dubai introducing Smart Dubai, to Saudi Arabia hosting the Smart Cities Summit & Expo, and finally Qatar launching its TASMU Smart Qatar Programme – all of which indicates the region’s growing recognition of digital transformation as the key to unlocking prosperity. Additionally, and with the downside of the pandemic settling in, the third peak during July 2020 pertained to the evolution of digital transformation technologies in the health sector. The final and most recent spike in mentions, in June 2021, was related to awards and initiatives such as HH Sheikh Mohammed’s launch of Dubai Digital Authority to digitise life in Dubai.

WHO DRIVES THE CONVERSATION? Looking at the conversation trends reveals that the GCC (with the UAE taking the highest share of voice of 41 per cent) is the main driver of the digital transformation conversation in MENA. As for organisations, it comes as no surprise to see that Microsoft is leading

Netizency’s Ala Shashaa and Carlos Estrada-Ruiz analyse who is talking about digital transformation, what they are saying and what it all means



August 29, 2021



the discussion, with Huawei, Google, SAP SE, Oracle Corporation and IBM coming next as the main industry organisation leaders. EVEN THE DIGITAL SPHERE HAS FEELINGS, TOO Due to the nature of the content the conversation is predominantly neutral, which means there are neither positive nor negative feelings expressed in those mentions. Albeit minimal at 5 per cent, positive sentiments were about successful case studies and highlights of best practices, along with awards and recognitions. Negative sentiments, on the other hand, were at a rate of 1 per cent, coming from highlights of wrong practices, lack of understanding of the term, automation mistakes and process complexity, as well as cybersecurity. DE-PROBLEMATISING THE PARADIGM The bulk of the conversation, as we found, is being driven by either tech enthusiasts flexing their technical knowledge or large organisations demonstrating their technological prowess. Naturally, the sources of the discussion are no other than sprawling business centres, like the UAE and KSA. Thus, the conversation shows that ‘digital transformation’ is still associated with specialised processes, complicated tools and high budgets. But are giant companies and wealthy institutions the only organisations able to digitally transform? The answer is no. Complex doesn’t always mean better – especially given the tighter financial constraints due to the pandemic. Big brands and small businesses alike will benefit if, instead of approaching digital transformation as a problem that needs to be solved, it is conceptualised as a philosophy. And, as a good philosophy, it needs to imbue every business decision you take, not the other way around; you need to start thinking digital first. Now, if only we had free, easily-accessible, and massively-used platforms in which most of our potential customers spend sizable portions of their time. SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT ONLY LIKES AND SHARES That is right. As preposterous as it might sound, mainstream social media can be a catalyser of digital transformation for brands and businesses of any size. Long gone are the days when the most you could do on Facebook was to play Pet Society with your friends. For the past few years the Menlo Park giant has been building an astoundingly robust multi-platform ecosystem that allows businesses to do way more than manage their communication and advertising needs.

August 29, 2021


IN CONCLUSION Contrary to much of the conversation and associations in MENA’s digital space, digital transformation is neither technically obscure nor prohibitively expensive. Brands can, and should, approach it differently and think digital-first. Mainstream social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, messaging apps like WhatsApp, and even search engines like Google can provide comprehensive solutions that do not require more than an email address. By ALA SHASHAA, senior data analytics manager, and CARLOS ESTRADA-Ruiz, digital analyst, Netizency

Conversation time 12000 10000 8000 6000 4000 2000

































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Sy ria


So m ali a Ye m en


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M or oc co Tu ni sia Pa les tin e


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Jo rd an Ba hr ain



LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Do not let all this talk about the digital sphere make us forget that physical locations still exist and are as important as ever. The pandemic’s social distancing policies did not, paradoxically, eliminate the demand for brick-and-mortar spaces. Instead, they highlighted the need for more accurate geographical information. Snapchat is beginning to show business promise, advertising listings on its Snap Map, but it is Google that is single-handedly leading millions of potential customers to fulfil their consumption demands. Arguably the most popular map app, Google Maps is the lens through which the world interprets physical space. If your

brand is not literally on the map, it doesn’t exist. Yet, existing is not enough. Does your business listing show if you have curbside pickups available? Accurate and up-to-date hours of operation? Has active messaging channels? If your business is inside a crowded mall or in an atmospheric back alley, then augmented reality directions are also at your disposal. You can also upload your product catalogue to Google and integrate your digital listing of your physical location with your physical inventory and services. Who would have thought you could digitally transform and search for cat pictures on the same site?


WhatsApp is a great example of that work. At the end of last year, and building on the momentum from the pandemic, the Facebook-owned messaging platform overhauled its business capabilities to host and administer, from product catalogues to sales. Websites are great, and your brand should probably already have one (and a decent one), but what is more efficient and simpler than shopping right from a chat? With Facebook’s tight integration, you can even create ads on Facebook and Instagram that lead your potential customers to your points of sale – whether your WhatsApp for Business or a Facebook mini-site – and control payments and fees directly from Facebook’s unified Account Centre. There, you can also manage private messages from all your brand’s Facebook platforms. Alternative tools exist, and are useful, but the foundations do not require any obscure proprietary software or extensive set ups.



August 29, 2021

are increasingly essential for every business. In most industry verticals, the adoption of DT to drive new business models, operational capabilities and to solve complex and diverse problems is accelerating. As mentioned earlier, digital transformation is a multifaceted term with various aspects but one of its primary drivers in this day and age is artificial intelligence. We are going through a technological revolution where AI is playing a key role in shaping the future of how we work and interact with technology. AI is no longer a niche; it’s now mainstream. It is being researched and adopted across a whole spectrum of industries including healthcare, finance, retail, manufacturing and even hospitality. Several emerging technologies are being woven into AI. While this may seem somewhat futuristic right now, it is pretty apparent that AI is here to stay and offers the possibility to transform your company’s business processes and performance for the better. One of the industries rapidly transforming is retail. Especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, which has reshaped not only consumer behaviour but also how the retail industry does business. In the pre-digital world, teams of buyers and executives travelled the world to visit far-flung accounts, but such practices have become a relic of the past.

reach a greater audience with an e-commerce website and to complement its physical presence in the region, understanding the need of the hour that demands retailers go hybrid. We created a React Javascript and Laravel website that provides a seamless buying experience. Moreover, it connects with other known e-commerce platforms to ease the customer journey and increase sales. Another industry that has welcomed digital transformation with open arms is the hospitality industry. Hotels are investing in technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and business intelligence to improve efficiency and provide superior client satisfaction. The concept of smart rooms is becoming increasingly popular. It involves supplying air conditioners, media sets, lights, window shades and other amenities via compact internet of things (IoT) hardware and software with the ability to communicate through an app. Hotel chains are opting for property management systems such as Oracle Opera that also include accommodation management tools. The platforms allow scheduling bookings, cleaning of rooms, and keeping track of inventory as well. Many hotel chains are using new technologies that allow for things like digital check-ins, automated concierge services, voice-activated ordering from in-room smart devices, and chatbots. The reason is that


Prism digital’s Lovetto Nazareth examines the digital transformation of traditional businesses


igital transformation is one of the hottest topics in today’s business world and executives across almost all industries are paying increased attention to it. However, the concept is not new. It is a term that has been around for several years now, maybe even more than a decade. But it is still a term that many people feel they don’t really understand. Digital transformation (DT) is a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional phenomenon, which makes it hard to pin down. To put it simply, digital transformation is the integration of digital technologies into business processes. Gone are the days when digital transformation was only about big data, mobile and social trends. Today, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)

Digital transformation is the only way forward for traditional retailers in order to stay relevant. It has been understood by executives, which has given rise to newer models such as peer-to-peer sales, selfserve kiosks, contextual advertising and business-to-home, to name a few. As more and more people use e-commerce to shop, some predict the eventual death of physical storefronts. However, experts believe that the solution is not in closing physical stores, but rather in turning these stores into ‘smart’ outlets. That includes having smart fitting rooms, self-serving kiosks, RFID-enabled tags, etc. Many retailers have already incorporated these into their physical stores and are leveraging technology and data to provide elevated omnichannel customer experiences. In a world of overt competition and promises in excess, it is essential that retailers understand the value of transformation and take steps to make it a concrete reality. Pigeon Arabia, a traditional brick-andmortar store in the Middle East, opted to

more and more people are moving towards using apps to book travel and for getting personalised interactions. And this is going to be the case for a long time. One recent example is a hotel chain in Seychelles, Fishermans Cove. We built a progressive web application website for the hotel. It provides a seamless integration with mobile to reduce the hotel’s dependency on online travel agents and increase on-site bookings. Digital transformation can help hotels increase revenue, reduce operational costs and improve service quality. However, the process needs to be broken down into small steps, all heading towards achieving the objective. We can safely say that we will see an increase in the implementation of digital transformational strategies. However, companies will have to overcome numerous challenges like altering organisational structures, budget allocation and regulatory issues in order to make the most of this transition. By LOVETTO NAZARETH, director, Prism Digital

August 29, 2021



PRINT Xerox Emirates boasts a specialist catalogue of services to drive the convergence of paper and digital workplaces


he Covid-19 pandemic has fasttracked digital transformation within the UAE, underpinned by the implementation of automated workflows and digital strategies for a remote workplace. The transition from paper-based processes to a more productive, secure digital workflow is helping organisations lower costs, increase revenue and support business continuity. With the hybrid work model here to stay, it is imperative that companies start mapping their digital transformation journey in an increasingly competitive world. As we embrace the ‘new normal’, Xerox Emirates is helping organisations implement their digital transformation strategies by providing solutions that can digitise data, automate workflows and create highly efficient processes for a productive workplace. Robotic process automation (RPA) is being used to streamline repetitive tasks, freeing skilled workers to focus on higher value actions. Xerox Emirates has upgraded the document environment for multiple companies with the latest Xerox ConnectKey Technology cloud connector apps creating efficient workflows, digitisation of documents, cost reduction and elimination of waste within a secure environment ratified by McAfee and Cisco. During the pandemic, Xerox Emirates worked closely with a leading automotive company as a strategic partner to design a comprehensive roadmap identifying areas of cost saving while driving efficiencies. The Intelligent Workplace Services (IWS) solution delivered security, analytics, cloud technology and software. This enabled employees to work seamlessly across paper and digital platforms, producing immediate cost savings.

Xerox Emirates has continued to support several government and semi-government entities with consultation and business process automation driving a paperless office roadmap. Archiving and imaging services provide outsourcing and facility management services to scan and digitise existing physical documents for both backlog and future requirements. These have been delivered with agility, both on and off-site. Enterprise Information Management (EIM) provides specialised solutions for content services platforms, Business Process Management (BPM), Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics. Xerox Emirates continues to expand its portfolio of solutions and services with third-party partnerships that offer greater flexibility and accessibility while boosting security. This is a build-on to the current service stack, in which teams already partner with the likes of Iron Mountain and OpenText. The partnership with SigniFlow offers market-leading virtual signature technology, ensuring total compliance with global and UAE local digital signature laws. SigniFlow is one of only a few digital signature services available within the UAE that meet the TRA’s regulations. Xerox Emirates’ most recent partnership is with VST Enterprises to offer V-Health Passport, a secure global mobile solution


built on VST Enterprises revolutionary patented VCode and VPlatform technology. It has a one-step registration process via the V-Health Passport portal or app (available on both Android and iOS) and uses an ID system to provide a chain of evidence displaying a range of health information about the user, such as vaccination status, recent tests and other items such as boarding pass, travel and event tickets. Globally, Xerox has acquired CareAR, an augmented reality platform that enables remote service agents and experts to see a situation and visually guide onsite support to a solution using a suite of augmented reality tools via desktop, mobile and smart glasses as if they were there in person. This software platform integrates directly with ServiceNow, and has a plethora of benefits for many industries, not least oil and gas. With Xerox’s heritage in innovation, it has now built an enviable suite of solutions for customers that address key requirements for collaboration, communication, security, automation and more. Xerox Workplace Suite delivers authentication, print management, cost control, content security and mobility workflows. Designed for installation on a server for a private, secure on-site deployment, the modular approach allows organisations to license the features that fit specific business needs, regardless of the number of devices. The Xerox Team Availability App is an intuitive subscription-based platform that enables employees to communicate their availability every day and provides senior leaders with a daily overview of their teams’ working hours and locations. This drives better informed resourcing decisions and optimised planning. The Virtual Print Management Service allows companies to rapidly replace legacy, on-premises print servers with Xerox’s secure cloud infrastructure. Digital Hub and Cloud Printing Services (DHCPS) is a one-stop-shop for all transactional, promotional needs both in-house or for the growing remote workforce. Xerox Workplace App is a mobile app that acts as a remote control to multifunction printers (MFPs). Workers can scan, copy or print from their smartphone while avoiding the need to touch the user interface of shared MFPs. When used in conjunction with Xerox Workplace Cloud print management solution, the same app can also act as a secure print release terminal for all jobs sent from the PC or submitted by email. Xerox will always be at the forefront of digital transformation, due to the breadth of support that can be delivered to clients across all verticals. Xerox Emirates is entrusted with planning and delivering a roadmap for many organisations, that takes them from their current state to the targeted paperless world with security, efficiency and cost savings as the pillars of success. By SIMON HOWELLS, general manager, Xerox Emirates


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Digital transformation is less about the software and hardware, and more about the talent an agency has at its disposal, says Starcom’s Ralph Adaimy. The challenge is building the right workforce


his article will most probably be posted online for you to read. But roll back the calendar 15 years, if your age permits – and if not, you can just read another electronic article about the impact printed magazines had on brands at the time. This is an absolute embodiment of a digital transformation that went through numerous and radical changes to become what it is today. Changes spanning infrastructures that enabled disruptive technologies to bloom, or even shifts in demand to certain types of jobs, which in turn led to shifts in university programmes and curriculums. The most important, radical change, however, that is the backbone of this transformation is mindset; consumers, brands, leadership teams, service providers, agencies and every other stakeholder along this chain had to adopt a transformational mindset to support it. Although the optic used to depict the above transformation is somehow generic, brands can be trained to incrementally inject the right mindset into tech investments, harnessing data, retaining talent and eventually nurturing a Silicon Valley culture that can adapt to change as the shift into digital transformation matures. Digital transformation does not start with you becoming a tech pioneer in your industry, but rather with having a foundational awareness of technology and the possibilities it opens up, coupled with a willingness to pursue new opportunities based on that awareness. This builds up the first interpretation of how mindset constitutes a key pillar in transformations. Technology starts by decreasing the cost of doing business, which in turn unlocks opportunities in infrastructure investments, and together with other liberalisation efforts gives birth to global chains across geographies. This change does not necessarily have to be accompanied by a human-resource cost burden, as the transition from a start-up to a giant is now feasible with a few exceptional talents and some tangible assets.

Technology will continue to evolve and support change; however, talent is the entity that will lead this change – and it needs to be talent that can most adapt to and embrace change. This brings up the next challenge, which is injecting the right transformational mindset into talent acquisition and retention. We will take a step back to shed some light on two categories of talent that constitute a critical success factor for transformations. When a brand kicks off its digital transformation process, it needs to realise it is on the verge of giving birth to a completely new entity, and it will now have to take care of and nurture two businesses with relatively diverse objectives. The first one is the core business – that used to be the bread and butter – and the second one is the new-born digital entity. This is where the leadership team mindset can make a difference through envisioning a strategy to acquire and retain talent that can take care of the core business as well as foster the interactions between the core and new digital business. This talent should have an agile mindset that is lean and adaptable to change, as change will become the new normal. Campaigning about digital transformation without a bold data statement for marketers is like pineapple on pizza for Italians; it doesn’t make sense. It was in the recent past when the perceptions around data revolved around it being a cost-centre and storage burden. Today, data is perceived as the currency of a digital transformation; at least for brands that have successfully nurtured a datafriendly culture. In a marketing context, data piles are turned into insights that improve prospect targeting. In HR they can be used to screen and identify the right talent; in production they can be used to streamline time and resources. The attitude correlated with any of this success is the one that uninterruptedly works to harness data, structure it and make it accessible. While structure and accessibility can be highly dependent on technology, harnessing data is more a mindset than a technology. Successful digital transformations start with cultivating a culture that drives talent to keep thinking of what additional data needs to be harnessed as the business progresses. The ultimate goal is to have a datadriven work force, and building this workforce, although a difficult task, will produce the highest long-term value for this transformation. Silicon Valley is famous for being home to the world’s largest innovators and disruptors – alongside top-ranked educational institutions, abundant venture capital and an extra competitive yet collaborative culture that celebrates risk and failure. The virtues of a Silicon Valley culture revolve around three pillars: being a curious, lean, and adaptable organisation. It has become a necessity for organisations to empower the workforce to become innovation hubs in every discipline and hold it accountable for the role, switch to a more agile set-up that tolerates adaptive learning, integrate data in every form and from every source, and instil a curiosity culture that is well fed by clearly communicating why the organisation must transform (be it responding to emerging competition, changing consumer preferences or even playing catch-up before the digital transformation train kicks off and leaves the organisation behind). By RALPH ADAIMY, associate business director, Starcom KSA




The power of four.

When insightful research and deep capabilities in digital, data and design come together with the leading public relations consultancy in the Middle East and North Africa, the result is an integrated creative and digital-first team geared to address the challenges of our clients today and tomorrow.


August 29, 2021



f you are someone who reads magazines in order, from front to back, you will already have read our feature on 20 years of MEPRA, the Middle East PR Association, on page 10, where former chairpeople of the industry organisation look back on the past two decades of PR. If you’ve not read it, take a look. More than one former chair says that Covid is giving new purpose to the industry. The bitter joke always used to be that ‘PR’ stood for ‘press release’, and many practitioners were justifiably infuriated that much of their art was underused by clients. But Covid has meant not only more crisis comms work, but also a lot of internal messaging, and more. And it’s hard to argue that PR can handle complex and nuanced messaging better than above-the-line advertising campaigns. And as well as refining their art, PR agencies are also broadening their scope. Look at the services they offer – content production, advertising, events and more. We also have specialist events agencies listed, also with new-found digital skills and raring to go as physical gatherings return. On page 46, Zaib Shadani writes about how her agency – a startup boutique five years ago, doing ‘traditional’ PR – has now pivoted to a focus on video production – and white-label video production in collaboration with other agencies, at that. Flexibility is key to the PR and events agencies listed here. And they are making changes internally as well as to their client-facing services. On page 51, Louise Jacobson talks about the measures her agency, Brazen, has put in place to look after its staff members’ mental wellbeing. Elsewhere in the industry, Active DMC has introduced a four-day week and TishTash gives its staff an extra half-day off on Thursdays. These are bold moves, but PR and event firms are making them, rather than just talking about them. They are transforming internally and externally, adapting to the times, and – we can argue about this one, I’m sure – it looks like they are doing this better than their counterparts in other parts of the media, marketing and advertising industry. Or perhaps they are just PR-ing themselves better.

AUSTYN ALLISON Editor @maustyn

Front cover and guide cover designed by Thokchom Remy

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August 29, 2021


Zaib Shadani explains why she has no problem letting others white-label her team’s videography work


he pandemic has made us all re-evaluate how we do business and what we can do to pivot or stay relevant. In my case, it has meant launching a full-fledged production house that oversees content creation, commercials and short films. Having started the PR firm Shadani Consulting five years ago, it may seem like a nobrainer to add in-house video production capabilities to the mix, but when one realises the huge investment that is required – in cameras, lighting equipment and infrastructure – it’s understandable why smaller boutique agencies tend to shy away. Having made the leap, and hired experienced and award-winning directors, sound engineers and colourists to join our team, I quickly realised that it’s impossible to maintain the momentum of new clients that is required to offset the level and quality of production that we offer. Moreover, the market is flooded with videographers and directors, spanning a range of abilities, who are approaching clients directly. So, rather than trying to undercut on prices or compromise on quality, we opted to go another route. We decided to offer collaborative services whereby boutique PR agencies can white-label our whole video production outfit and rest assured that we won’t try to poach or influence their clients in any way. This addresses one of the biggest hurdles that independent PR agencies have: how to be able to fulfil the growing video production requirements of their clients, without in-house capabilities. And that’s where we come in – we bring in expertise, skill and professionalism, but most importantly we leave our egos at the door. Collaboration is really the only way that smaller boutique agencies will

‘‘ THAT’S WHERE WE COME IN – WE BRING IN EXPERTISE, SKILL AND PROFESSIONALISM, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY WE LEAVE OUR EGOS AT THE DOOR.” survive. The last year has wreaked economic havoc and, as a result, clients have higher expectations but have shrunk retainers, reduced budgets and lengthened payment periods. To operate successfully in such an environment, we have to recognise the pain points of our industry and try to bridge them, and that’s why we choose to work with other boutique PR agencies, rather than compete for their clients’ business. At Shadani Consulting, we are extremely lucky that we have a roster of our own agency clients that help us push our creative boundaries, and it’s our ambition to support other agencies in pushing the same creative boundaries with their clients. One such example of in-house client video work is the ‘Trailblazer’ campaign that we conceptualised, directed and shot on behalf of Canon Middle East (and that you can find on Campaign’s website). The industry is changing and the lines between competing and rival agencies are blurring. Undoubtedly one of the best decisions I ever made was to replace the word ‘competition’ with ‘collaboration’ and let go of needing to ‘claim’ our work. I have learned that my responsibility lies in ensuring that we put our heart and soul into creating something special, and that ultimately the work will speak for itself. By ZAIB SHADANI, managing director of Shadani Consulting

August 29, 2021


CULTURE SHOCK How culture and language influence public relations and communications in the Middle East, by W7 Worldwide’s Abdullah Inayat


he Middle East, and particularly the GCC, has gripped the world’s attention with its transformative growth. Sustainable development is the goal of all Arab nations in all aspects of life, be it politics, economy, health, environment or education. Compared with the rest of the world, PR is a relatively new discipline in the Middle East, traditionally focused on media relations and events. However, the last 10 years have seen a dramatic rise of strategic communications as a discipline. With the region considered as a growing business hub, more and more international organisations from across the globe are ready to make ties with its countries. It is clear that the biggest challenge facing international brands looking to succeed in the Saudi and wider GCC market is the lack of a good, localised strategy, as they tend to build a single regional or global strategy without consideration for each country’s unique culture. Therefore, localisation and creating communication strategies that

appeal to the various publics of the Arab world are a main focus of W7 Worldwide’s business model. We know that communication is influenced by and influences culture; it is therefore essential to understand the culture of the Middle East and each individual country when developing a communications strategy. The most important consideration is language, which determines reaction. There is always something lost in translation of public relations communications from English to the Arabic language. Equally, it is extremely difficult to translate between Arabic and other languages, which produces sentences that are a paragraph in length, without punctuation and full of adjectives. It is best, therefore, to avoid translation altogether. Companies wishing to establish a foothold in the region should instead build either internal or external partnerships with local partners to ensure communication messages are relevant, understood clearly and in the right tone of voice.

While Western audiences expect public communications to be emotionally cool and reserved, in the Arab world a variety of factors contribute to a preference for emotionally expressive and engaging communications. Demonstrating emotion in media interviews is vital in gaining the trust of stakeholders and target audiences. The cultural value orientations that influence Arab culture, such as commitment to religion, devotion to the group, attachment to history and recognition of hierarchal order, all influence the public relations strategies in the region. Arabic press releases are generally produced as position papers, providing background on events or ideology. Most of the corporate news coverage is consequently still press-release-driven. Therefore, establishing close relations with reporters and journalists is essential for successful public relations strategies in the region. The shift in supply of both regional and global media in the Middle East is driven by audiences that demand more media content from other parts of the world, whilst also reflecting their own culture. Today the Middle East PR industry has evolved and grown from a handful of local agencies a decade ago to a choice of agencies of all sizes and specialities that offer the full range of modern communications services and advice. As one of the most innovative regions in the world, with forward-thinking visions and huge ambitions, the GCC in particular has mastered the art of communications to project a successful and appealing image on the global stage. This is a new era for the region, as it undergoes rapid transformation, moving into one of the most exciting times in its modern history, and the most successful businesses will recognise PR and communications for the important role the industry plays in driving business strategy.


By ABDULLAH INAYAT, co-founder & director, W7 Worldwide


August 29, 2021

STOP, COLLABORATE AND LISTEN Katch’s Georgie Woollams explains how even unlikely brand partnerships can provide big benefits for all involved


hen you put two things together, great things can happen – that is what happens when two great brands strategically partner. When two brands come together, extraordinary partnerships can be birthed, and you can catch both brands’ audiences. It also creates a yin-yang effect, where the best elements of each brand merge to create something new and exciting. Let’s be honest, when we see two brands collaborate, we get excited, but what we also know from a communications perspective is that this is a great tactic to create a larger campaign to tap into a new segment and explore the brands’ expansion plans. Moreover, some of these large commercial campaigns can be so successful that these partnerships can be an ongoing effort to generate retained enthusiasm around the collaborations. In the past year, we have seen some great examples of this – from Kenzo and H&M, Lego and Adidas, Uber and Spotify, Dior and Air Jordan, and Travis Scott and McDonald’s. These collaborations showcase both brands’ attention to consumer trends and being able to formulate partnerships that will tell a story and have significance, which is of the utmost importance to consumers in a world struck by Covid-19. The most important thing about a brand collaboration is that the brand you are partnering with already has its own fan base and loyal customers, therefore they bring trust and impact within their current community. The partnership also must make sense – especially now, when Generation Z wants to see genuine marketing and real passion for what the brand does. While some pairings may seem unusual at first, the alliance should be underpinned by authenticity and an idea that’s captive and immersive to drive participation. For example, Spotify has paired Kuwaiti-Saudi artist Bader AlShuaibi and Korean-US artist AleXa for a K-Pop track called ‘Is It On’, which is coming out as part of Spotify’s emerging artists ‘Radar’ initiative. Partnerships like this allow younger generations to see their favourite industry giants extend a hand to niche, emerging artists or brands, to create an exciting and somewhat humbling change of pace for companies like Spotify. If you’ve ever felt excitement over the announcement of a partnership between two brands you love, then you know just how powerful brand collaborations can be. The sky is the limit when it comes to what companies from different industries can come together to create. Some of the most iconic brand collaborations have come from the most seemingly unlikely partnerships.

‘‘SOME OF THE MOST ICONIC COLLABORATIONS HAVE COME FROM UNLIKELY PARTNERSHIPS.” For instance, the Katch team oversaw the unlikely yet innovative, thrilling, and mutually beneficial collaboration between ethical burger brand Neat Burger (led by Formula 1 superstar Lewis Hamilton) and its partnership with electric offroad race series Extreme E. The stimulating campaign revolved around fast-track racing while boldly highlighting the sustainability agenda to do our bit in curbing global warming. Another great example of collaboration is of the Rove Hotels and Nikon. This partnership brought together two iconic brands, enabling customers to experience and interact with the Nikon cameras to explore a new vision of Dubai’s cultural hotspots. The partnership saw a huge uplift in sales and social media engagement. For example, there were more than 1000 registrations to take part in the campaign within just 24 hours of launching the partnership. When brands successfully execute partnerships, a company can also formulate a trend where it decides to take on a partnership every year, so consumers and followers of the brand are often anticipating the next powerful collaboration. One company that continually achieves this is Levi’s

Jeans. Levi’s has a massive, dedicated following across all ages, but in recent years its collabs have particularly resonated with younger generations, and Gen Z specifically. Some of its most unique and successful partnerships have included Off White, popular streetwear brand Aries Arise, Super Mario Bros, Mui Mui and more. These collaborations combine the classicism of Levi’s jeans with vibrant, playful brands to generate successful partnerships from both sides. Great brand partnerships aren’t created through luck. They come about after deliberate foresight and strategic action and – perhaps most importantly of all – being realistic about the execution. The most successful partnerships forecast trends and foresee what each brand can bring to the table to make a harmonious alliance. Unique and mutually beneficial partnerships will not need to invest huge amounts in paid social campaigns or expensive advertising, as the perfect collaborations will naturally attract huge social followings through genuine organic interest in the products. Revenue is of course one of the core benefits of embarking on a brand collaboration. The ongoing partnership between Adidas and Kanye West saw Adidas’ net annual earnings rise by 19.5 per cent to $1.9bn in 2019. Such a huge collaboration has a direct impact on brand trust and support. If the consumer trusts the brand you partner with, they gain trust in you as an entity and the brand itself. People might have bought a pair of Yeezy’s because they have faith in Adidas as a trainer brand and understand how reliable they are, as well as being attracted to West’s sense of style. Even smaller collaborations can prove to fans of a brand that it is continually innovating and looking to seek meaningful partnerships. Everyone loves the underdog story, and the media will too. So, it’s time to think big, get out there and capitalise on all of the partnership opportunities for your brand just waiting to happen. Our experience at Katch suggests three tips: Firstly, always select a trustworthy brand. The most important element of any partnership is to enhance consumer trust in both your brand and your partner. Secondly, be original. An amazing partnership will maximise creativity for both brands involved and offer something unlikely and unique to existing customers. And third, make sure it makes sense. Although you should always aim to be unique, a random collaboration will never resonate with the public. Make sure it’s special and well thought out. By GEORGIE WOOLLAMS, managing director, Katch International


August 29, 2021


RedPeg Middle East, the Kitchen Where Magic is Made W Group provides the ultimate recipe to uplift brands

RedPeg Middle East benefitting from Hypermedia’s acquired in-mall spaces to push for one of its partners’ activations


Interactive virtual gaming is a key asset in many of RedPeg’s activations.

n an age driven by social engagement and interactive brand awareness, RedPeg Middle East stands out as a hub that has been catering for its clients’ needs since its foundation in Washington DC in 1995 and Dubai in 2018. Falling under the umbrella of W Group, RedPeg Middle East joins forces with its sister companies Hypermedia and DigitAll to provide a full spectrum of services that vary from strategy and creative content creation all the way to production, social media outdoor advertising and measurement where a real ROI can be achieved. The complementary relationship between RedPeg and Hypermedia enables both companies to undertake major projects for premium clients, including Expo 2020 Dubai, Dubai Metro and General Motors. After Hypermedia won a 10-year exclusive media representation for Dubai Metro, RedPeg Middle East focused on making all the Metro media spaces ready for transforming touch-points into interactive experiences across 53 stations, 125 trains and Expo Route 2020, reaching more than 600,000 riders per day. As a prominent part of the winning pitch presentation, experiential marketing spaces have been introduced and designed for Dubai Metro, which can be utilised for any partner and advertiser brand. In addition to the Dubai Metro, RedPeg Middle East utilises Hypermedia’s assets in 36 nationwide malls, attracting more than 306 million shoppers annually and generating over 5 million impressions monthly. Hypermedia’s presence also spreads over more than 53 prime outdoor locations to target people on the move and 280 hypermarkets, reaching more than 24 million shoppers per month in the UAE alone. RedPeg Middle East focuses on a strategic approach to design creative concepts that support brands in further building their KPIs and delivering on their desired ROI. In addition to that, RedPeg Middle East provides its partners with measurable solutions that would enable them to track, monitor and improve their brands’ performance and market reach. It’s a new concept, although one might find many event companies using that experiential marketing label. The company plans and executes a variety of creative solutions for countries participating in Expo 2020 Dubai, according to their needs. All design elements and production ideas are developed to build the six-month visitor journey.

On the UAE’s 49th National Day, RedPeg Middle East collaborated with ALDAR Malls and created a four-day experiential journey at Yas Mall and The Mall WTC with multiple interactive engagement touchpoints that led to impactful PR and word-of-mouth reach. This included the world’s largest sand art structure – from conceptualisation to full production and submission. RedPeg Middle East broke the record on behalf of Yas Mall. The structure was displayed in Yas Mall Town Square along with another art installation. This activation was the ideal example of how successful experiential marketing and engagement with the target audience is. The activation’s press release reach went above the 50 million barrier, more than 5,000 focused interactions and 534 augmented reality experience interactions. DigitAll, being the DOOH tech arm of W Group, supports RedPeg Middle East with several aspects. It provides smart consultancy, integration, content management and creation. It delivers both programmatic and DOOH tech solutions. Through its data analytics, it optimises data management and usage through DOOH advertising. RedPeg Middle East always aims to create unique and engaging experiential deliverables for all its partners. It keeps this pledge through all challenging variables and conditions. The new age of out-of-home marketing is led by social interaction and direct engagement with the target audience, taking them through the full journey and creating the bond that the brand is seeking in order to maximise its market reach. In this same spirit, RegPeg Middle East tailor-makes each deliverable to best suit the brand’s needs, utilising the assets of all of its sister companies in the group. This dynamic between the three entities forming W Group provides brands with a full-fledged ecosystem that can both change and optimise the market potential of its clients and partners. This in turn results in higher return on investment on every project we undertake, resulting from the measurable long-term solutions we provide. RedPeg Middle East always aims to create unique and engaging experiential deliverables for all its clients.

“RedPeg Middle East focuses on a strategic approach to design creative concepts that support brands in further building their KPIs.”


August 29, 2021

IF YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW Gambit’s Jamal Al Mawed examines Carole Baskin, Keanu Reeves, Ross from Friends and the power of shared references


ou’re scrolling through Twitter and you see some funny banter going on between a variety of global fast food brands. You casually click on KFC’s Twitter, and something catches your eye – the official KFC Twitter follows eleven people. You’re curious so you scroll through the names and get very confused. Geri Halliwell, Melanie Brown – aren’t those the Spice Girls? Yes, all five of them actually, but then who is Herb Sendek? And Herb Waters? In fact, KFC follows six random guys, all called Herb. Then it hits you, and a smile slowly creeps across your face. Eleven Herbs and Spices – that’s KFC’s famous recipe for fried chicken. Genius. It’s clever social media, and crucially it makes you feel clever because there is a bit of work required to figure out the joke. But what makes this work so well is the concept of shared references. What are shared references? Think of your siblings, and how sometimes you only need to give one of them a look in a certain situation and you both burst out laughing when no one else does. They are the inside jokes that come from sharing certain memories, experiences or types of knowledge that are not commonly known to the general public. Shared references can be everything from greeting your friend Jonathon with ‘Here’s Johnny!’ (Reference to The Shining, which in itself was referencing The Today Show’s Johnny Carson), to understanding why May 4 is Star Wars Day (Reference to the line ‘May the Force be With You’, hence May the Fourth). The power of shared references in marketing and comms is threefold. First, it’s relatable content, which creates a connection between the audience and the brand based on a feeling of mutual understanding. Second, it subconsciously divides consumers into those who ‘get it’ and those who ‘don’t get it’, with the former feeling a sense of superiority for being part of a select crowd that is in on the joke. Last but not least, the references can be localised as narrowly as you want, allowing you to create connections that transcend geographies, languages, and cultures. Think Chips Oman, a

passion point for residents of the GCC, but probably unheard of outside the region. The phenomenon of shared references is most evident in memes, probably the biggest purveyor of shared references in social media today, and a visual language that can be surprisingly expressive. Not far behind are gifs, which generally don’t have the text overlay that a meme does but are excellent for showing reactions. Brands can have a lot of fun with memes and gifs, as the cleverer and more obscure they are, the more satisfying it is when you work them out. A gif of Carole Baskin? Be ready to discuss whether or not she killed her husband. Keanu Reeves with a pencil? You’re being threatened with violence. Ross from Friends saying he’s fine? Things are absolutely not fine. My favourite example of a shared reference was a few years ago on the Tottenham Hotspur FC Twitter page. The club was announcing the signing of Victor Wanyama, a Kenyan footballer, and needed a creative way to do it. Now, Wanyama had opened himself up to light-hearted teasing years earlier when he used his (at the time) new Twitter account to announce that “I had spaghetti and it was very nice I enjoyed it”. The deadpan phrase spread and evolved for all kinds of jokes (“I just fell off my bike and it was very nice I enjoyed it”) among football fans to poke fun at Wanyama, and became an inside joke for football fans on Twitter. So how did Tottenham make the announcement? You guessed it. They tweeted “We signed Victor Wanyama and it was very nice we enjoyed it”, accompanied by a picture of the footballer posing with spaghetti sticks in hand. The tweet went viral and crucially it created a sense of camaraderie between the club and its fans, as a creative way of

‘‘IT’S CLEVER SOCIAL MEDIA, AND CRUCIALLY IT MAKES YOU FEEL CLEVER BECAUSE THERE IS A BIT OF WORK REQUIRED TO FIGURE OUT THE JOKE.” making an otherwise routine announcement. The best part? Last month, a full nine years after the tweet, Wanyama was playing for Montreal Impact in the MLS, and spotted a fan with a sign offering to trade spaghetti for his shirt. He walked over and duly obliged. Many in the stadium were confused, but it was a private joke between them. By JAMAL AL MAWED, founder and managing director, Gambit Communications

August 29, 2021


FAMILY FORTUNES Brazen’s Louise Jacobson says company culture is her priority and always will be


ompany culture is a hot topic in the comms industry right now. The pandemic forced things like flexible working and mental health to the forefront of business discussions and policies. This is great news for the comms sector, but I hope this isn’t a fleeting thing, and companies aren’t jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of it and really do commit to culture long-term. It’s not only essential for a thriving business, but vital for the future of the PR industry. PR is one of the most exciting sectors in the world. In my 20-year career I’ve found that no two days have ever been the same. We bring brand stories to life, we create impact and make a difference every day. But it can also be stressful. The long hours, client demands and ever-changing media landscape can be testing, even for seasoned practitioners like me. Of course, throw in a global pandemic and we have a very challenging working environment. However, that said, a strong company culture should enable you to weather these storms, and I know it has helped me on more than one occasion. A strong company culture needs to be lived and breathed by your entire team every day. It’s a set of core values, ideals and truths for you and your colleagues to live by. At the heart of Brazen MENA’s company culture is our ‘family feel environment’. We support each other, we encourage growth, and we win and we lose together. I launched a company wellbeing policy in 2019 which included things like mental health checkups with professionals, duvet days and a budget and time for individual wellbeing pursuits. Since then, we’ve upped the ante with an external life coach, monthly team socials, motivational trainers and speakers, flexible hours and a hybrid working model. I’ve also seen counterparts have recently reduced working weeks – this will be an interesting one to watch, as from an agency point of view we are a multisector client-services business, but I whole heartedly applaud them in making this bold move. But isn’t this PR ‘fluff ’? Well, no. We’ve all heard the famous quote from Sir Richard Branson: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Richard is speaking about the importance of culture and valuing your team, which is particularly important in a peopleorientated industry like PR. There are also many studies linked to a positive culture and employee satisfaction,


increased productivity and staff retention – major wins for any business. I can also vouch that my investment in terms of financial, time and ressources has well and truly paid off. I have a happy, highly motivated team and we’re having a brilliant year. But aside from our own businesses, we also must instill a strong, positive culture as an essential part of the PR industry for future generations, and here’s the proof: The 2021 MEPRA Youth Board Talent Barometer revealed that 38 per cent of respondents said workplace culture was most important when considering a job switch, beating things like salary. Talent retention was found to rely heavily on workplace culture, with it being ranked as the top deciding factor when selecting a workplace. Mental health is also to play a vital role in PR company culture, as the survey revealed that respondents expect mental health and wellbeing to be prioritised more heavily in a post-pandemic world. MEPRA’s 2020 Covid-19 Mental Health Impact Survey revealed that for almost half of respondents, mental health had often interfered with their ability to complete work-related tasks, and a third asked for direct support in training for management and leadership to better equip them to handle employee issues. Yes, we’re well on the road to economic recovery, and we’re in a much better situation regarding the pandemic, but the effects of the decreased human connection we experienced and huge uncertainty that faced us all will still be here for a while yet, and it’s the responsibility of businesses to help employees in any way they can regarding mental health. In summary, company culture is key for a happy workforce, it’s important for business growth and the future generations of the PR industry. It’s part of my company’s DNA and it will always be my business priority. I hope it can be yours if it’s not already. By LOUISE JACOBSON, managing partner, Brazen MENA


August 29, 2021



chose comms as a profession not despite being an introvert but because of it. Being an introvert taught me to communicate only when necessary, to be concise and effective, lay out the facts and use logic behind reasoning. As an introvert, I seldom go on ranting about my point of view without having the audience for it or making sense. Growing up, it never made sense to me why people spoke so much. I always wondered: How do they string all their thoughts together? Now, as a professional, I use everything that being an introvert has taught me and channel it into my work.

In the past decade, the channels of communications have diversified extensively, there are too many brand touch points, audience segmentation and preferences are hard to keep track of, constant and consistent dialogue is important, and you have to be on top of all this while staying true to brand values. There are so many interlinked and complex factors that need to be considered before putting out a single piece of content. The lines have blurred between content channels, PR, social media, digital and influencer marketing, SEO… the list goes on. There are overlaps and overlays to reach the relevant audience in the right place at the right time, and with the right message to capture their attention. We have built journeys through experience to convert potential customers to actual customers, right down to publishing time and platform. In the hullabaloo of all this, one thing still stands out to me: the role of effective communication. Irrespective of the channel and audience, the message you drive makes all the difference. Know your audience, understand the language they speak, find out what resonates with them and how they consume content, then build a relationship. It’s quite simple: From the relevance of the narrative to the people

INNER EFFECTIVENESS Entourage’s Manoshi Banerjee’s introverted personality has taught her how to make sure communications work

you are talking to, to the channels you use to communicate, everything needs to be mapped out to actually make an impact and for the brand to find its own space in the minds of customers. Today, most content is consumed digitally, whether it is an article, a social media post or a digital ad. People use multiple channels simultaneously and follow their interests. Channels are not shy of each other anymore, and what we say in a long-format content piece can very well be expressed in short-format content pieces. It all depends on how you make your content stand out. Solution: ask the right questions to get the right answers, and be the means to the end. Are you talking about something people need? Is your product or service making things more streamlined for the customer? How is it bringing value? In simple economics of demand and supply, there is supply because there is demand, there is a product because customers want it. If there isn’t, then we need to create the demand by communicating the value and the need. For example, marketplaces and social channels have become a haven for small businesses. Showcasing products, finding relevant audiences and selling directly on the platforms have been made easy. This has given a major boost to young entrepreneurs and side-business owners to diversify revenue streams and pursue their passions. But what they may not be aware of is that there are solution providers like that will create a fully functional e-commerce website for them, integrating all requirements. There is a clear need and a simple solution available, and communications will play the role of connecting the dots between the two. Showing the features relevant to the need of the customer, tapping into the benefits and values, creating demand for the managed e-commerce solutions provider. Marketing and communications professionals have found a way to optimise everything with key words, rankings, user experience, best practices, benchmarking and the works. Each blog, article, press release, interview, post, tweet, video or piece of sponsored content is published with the intent of attracting and engaging the audience. But consumption and readership and impressions are all still influenced by what the user wants. We can tick all the boxes on our check list and still not see results, maybe because we did not ask the right questions. We are not what they are looking for or, more often than not, the content is not direct. Building a story and beating around the bush are completely different from one and other. Circling back to my main argument, that is the need for and importance of effective communications. By MANOSHI BANERJEE, PR manager, Entourage Marketing & Events

Exclusive paintings, sculptures and photography from award-winning international artists.

Painting by Jassim Al Awadhi

The 50th Anniversary Arabian Falcon Navigator Clock by David Galbraith Photograph by Anthony Lamb

Liddington Clock by David Galbraith


August 29, 2021

Absolute Communications Group


Founded: 2011 Headquartered: Dubai; regional office in Mumbai Head of company: Victor King +971 4 399 7297

Founded: 2008 Headquartered: Dubai Heads of company: Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal (founder) and Vilma Jurkute (director) +971 4 333 3464

SPECIALISMS: Public relations, media relations, corporate communications, events, social media KEY CLIENTS: Nikon, BenQ, TP-Link, MGD Lifestyle Jewellery, Global Indian International School, Institute of Chartered Accounts of India (Dubai Chapter), Leva Hotels, Dial-A-Battery

SPECIALISMS: Creative venue services, cultural consultancy and content, bespoke experiences, event management, exhibition production, brand advisory and strategy KEY CLIENTS: Google, Burberry, Rolls Royce, Sephora, Facebook, Mckinsey, Victoria & Albert Museum, Hayward Gallery

Acorn Strategy Founded: 2010 Offices: Melbourne (Australia), Perth (Australia), Abu Dhabi (UAE), London (UK) Head of company: Kate Midttun SPECIALISMS: Public relations; strategy (brand, marketing, public relations and digital); integrated marketing, public relations and digital campaigns; marketing operations & consultancy KEY CLIENTS: National Central Cooling Company (Tabreed), Miral Asset Management, Mubadala, Australian Pavilion (Expo 2020 Dubai), World Future Energy Summit

The Amanqi Consultancy Founded: 2019 Headquartered: Dubai Heads of company: Manal and Amani Waqi SPECIALISMS: Emerging fashion, jewellery and lifestyle brands; digital communications; PR; bespoke events

APCO Worldwide AKQA Founded: 2010 Regional offices: UAE, KSA, Egypt Holding group: WPP Managing director MENA: Bassel Sawy SPECIALISMS: Brand activation/events; creative communication; data & media; technology/digital solutions; content production KEY CLIENTS: Americana Group, Louis Vuitton, Majid Al Futtaim, Mondelez, Al Futtaim Automotive, African + Eastern

Alisa PR Founded: 2017 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Alisa D›souza

Founded: 2005 Regional offices: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Manama, Amman President, MENA: Mamoon Sbeih SPECIALISMS: Strategic advisory & advocacy; corporate communications; creative, storytelling, digital & AI analytics; crisis, issues and litigation management; government relations KEY CLIENTS: G42 Healthcare, TECOM, Emirates Diplomatic Academy, Cruise Saudi, Ministry of Transport

Atteline Founded: 2016 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Sophie Simpson SPECIALISMS: Fashion & retail; health, beauty & wellness; art & design; consumer; corporate KEY CLIENTS: Careem, LIWA, Forever Rose, Peacefull, Gulf For Good

SPECIALISMS: Public relations; digital marketing; social media; advertising; integrated marketing KEY CLIENTS: Eros Group, Herman Miller, AdColony, Adam Vital Hospital, YouGotaGift

AllDetails Middle East Founded: 2011 Headquartered: Dubai CEO and founder: Isabel Tapp SPECIALISMS: Public relations; social media management; event management; marketing; trade Relations; brand partnerships KEY CLIENTS: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Aurora, The Agency Founded: 2013 Regional headquarters: Dubai Head of company: Iona Al Suwaidi +971 55 7149694 SPECIALISMS: Lifestyle PR; corporate PR; hospitality; retail; education; energy; semi-government; reputation management; strategy KEY CLIENTS: Sofitel Dubai The Palm; Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, Maldives; Burjuman Centre; Forrey and Galland; Emirates Maritime Arbitration Centre; Titan Watches, Middlesex University Dubai, Jysk, Smart Automation Energy; Abu Dhabi Department of Culture & Tourism (DCT); Les Mills

August 29, 2021

Borouj Consulting


Founded: 2006 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Randa Mazzawi

Founded: 2014 Headquartered: Dubai, United Arab Emirates Head of company: Florence Janin +971 4 551 9212

SPECIALISMS: B2B; financial; media relations; media training; issues and crisis communication; issues and crisis training

BPG Orange Founded: 1980 Headquartered: Dubai Ownership: Abdulla Majed Ahmad Al Ghurair; WPP Group;Avishesha (Avi) Bhojani Heads of company: Ketaki Banga (COO) & Arif Ladhabhoy (general manager) +971 4 506 5555 SPECIALISMS: Content marketing; communications strategy; public relations; creative campaigns; social and digital

Brazen MENA Founded: 2015 Headquartered: Dubai, with a sister company in Manchester Managing Partner: Louise Jacobson, +971 4 240 8395 SPECIALISMS: Public relations; PR strategy; social media; influencer engagement; events KEY CLIENTS: Dubai Tourism, The Walt Disney Company Middle East, Atlantis, The Palm, Madame Tussauds, RELX International

KEY CLIENTS: Sony, HMD Global, Booz Allen Hamilton, KPMG, Innoventures

Action Global Communications Founded: UAE 1994; Global 1971 Offices: UAE (MENA hub); Russia (hub); Nicosia; Cyprus (HQ) Managing director, UAE: Euan Megson +971 4 390 2960 A fully independent and integrated marketing and communications network spanning 40-plus countries, Action Global Communications provides hands-on local insights and expertise to help organisations in dozens of industry verticals advance their agendas in target markets. Delivering game-changing ideas and tactical executions that shape perceptions, build awareness and protect reputations, our teams create meaningful connections between companies and audiences by leveraging the full spectrum of

modern communications. Committed to driving our clients’ brand engagement and enabling sustainable business growth, Action UAE employs more than 40 people across its public relations, social/digital, production, finance and administration departments across Dubai and Abu Dhabi offices. SPECIALISMS: Public relations; digital marketing; social media; video production KEY CLIENTS: Abu Dhabi Department of Culture & Tourism, Abu Dhabi Department of Education & Knowledge, Dubai Retail/ Dubai Holding, Dubai World Trade Centre, Formula 1, Informa Markets, Intel, Messe Frankfurt Middle East, Mubadala, Sony PlayStation, UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation AWARDS: PRCA MENA 2017: Best PR Campaign – Media Relations (British Airways); MEPRA 2018: Best Use of Influencers (P&G); SPIA 2019: Best Use of PR in Sport – FIFA Club World Cup UAE; MEPRA 2019: Best Use of Limited Budget – Museum of Illusions; MEPRA 2019: Best Sports & Recreational Campaign - FIFA Club World Cup UAE


Barry King

Euan Megson

General Manager, UAE

Managing Director, UAE

Gavril Mankoo

Rayan Ahmed

Digital Director

Social Media Manager



August 29, 2021

Bridge of Minds

CoCo Communications Consultants

Founded: 2016 Headquartered: Beirut, with office in Dubai CEO: Marina Araigy +961 1 567 764 +961 1 568 764

Founded: 2017 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Caroline Holmberg SPECIALISMS: F&B; entertainment; fashion; wellness & beauty; travel

SPECIALISMS: Branding; communications; creative; digital design; Google Ads; marketing; public relations; web development KEY CLIENTS: Castania, Resense Spa, HiCart, La Siesta Beach Resort, Joseph Events Dubai ,Bou Melhem Restaurant, House of Marmalade, Dr. Grace Obeid, Pergola Kits

Custard Events Founded: January 23, 2010 Regional offices: Dubai, Abu Dhabi Head of company: Michelle Quinn, general manager +971 4 361 8850

Catch Communications Founded: 2018 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Injeel Moti SPECIALISMS: Public relations; social media; influencer marketing; personal branding; content creation KEY CLIENTS: Al Ghurair Retail, Gargash Auto, Apparel Group, Royal Group, Hayawiia

SPECIALISMS: Brand activations; product launches; public events and entertainment; conferences; award ceremonies; gala dinners; exhibition stands; sports events; press events; team building KEY CLIENTS: Meraas; Flash; ADNOC; Tesla; Home Centre; Lenovo; Oppo; Yas Marina; Berkeley Assets

Founded: 2003 Headquartered: Dubai Heads of company: Sawsan Ghanem, Louay Al-Samarrai +971 4 433 5226 Active DMC was founded in 2003 with a vision to revolutionise the marketing industry and be innovative with every campaign, big or small. It is a vibrant agency that challenges itself every day to leverage best practices through creativity and a diverse set of communication disciplines to deliver excellence. A founding member of the PRCA Middle East chapter, it is committed to upholding the code of ethics and putting continuing professional development programmes in place. SPECIALISMS: Public relations, influencer relations, social & digital marketing, lead generation, video production, content consultation, community management, event management, webinar & podcast support KEY CLIENTS: Aspentech, Attivo, Citrix, Commscope, EATON,FireEye, Forcepoint, InterSystems; Michigan Ross Executive Education, Arab Esports, HyperX, Callsign, Genetec, JP Morgan Private Bank, NETSCOUT, SentinelOne, Zoom, AMD, Crown Relocations, Group-IB AWARDS: Best Arabian Company & Best PR Company - Arabian property Awards 2008, Best International PR Company - International Property Awards 2008, Best PR Company - Arabian Residential Property Awards 2009, Arab Entrepreneur of the Year - Stars of Business Awards 2011, Best SME Support Partner and Best SME Technology & Online - SME Stars of Business


Sawsan Ghanem

Louay Al-Samarrai

Joint Managing Director

Joint Managing Director

Nora Zriak

Tarek Hakim

Acting Account Director

Communications Consultant

Nauf Mawla

Mechelle Manuel

Communications Consultant

Operations Manager

August 29, 2021

Cosmopole Consultancy Founded: 2018 Headquartered: Abu Dhabi Managing director: Claire Micheletti SPECIALISMS: Public relations; digital marketing; social media; strategic planning; branding KEY CLIENTS: Aldar Education, Thailand Pavilion – Dubai Expo 2020, COYA Abu Dhabi, Luxembourg Trade and Investment, Chestertons MENA

Definition Founded: 2010 Headquartered: Dubai Ownership: Privately owned Head of company: Adil El-Aouad +971 4 390 1996 SPECIALISMS: PR & reputation management; media relations; blogger outreach and influencer marketing; web development & content marketing; social media KEY CLIENTS: Winston & Strawn; Sensus; Thales; Veritas; Wyndham; GP Global

Entourage Founded: 2009 Headquartered: Dubai Ownership: TGW New York Founder & CEO: Mohammed Tayem +971 4 338 8834 SPECIALISMS: PR & social media; creative and advertising; corporate event management; content strategy and development KEY CLIENTS: Google, YouTube, DEWA, G20 Saudi, Egypt Tourism Authority, Ideal Standard, Jordan Tourism Authority and Discovery Networks

FleishmanHillard Middle East Founded: 1946 Headquartered: Dubai Holding group: Omnicom Group Head of company: Lucy O’Brien, general manager & partner +971 4 330 4010 SPECIALISMS: Corporate and brand communications; healthcare communications management; reputation management; employee engagement and internal communications; crisis communications; stakeholder mapping; strategy development; regional campaign coordination KEY CLIENTS: Agility, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bosch, Bose, Fitbit, Medcare, Signify, UBS, USDEC, Western Union

Edelman Middle East Founded: 2008 (Middle East operations) Regional headquarters: Abu Dhabi, with offices in Dubai and Riyadh and a network of affiliates across the MENA region Ownership: Family-owned Head of Company: Omar Qirem, CEO +971 2 234 4718 (Abu Dhabi) +971 4 568 2540 (Dubai) +966 11 261 1540 (Riyadh) SPECIALISMS: Communications strategy; brand & reputation management; digital; crisis; training; content; business transformation; internal communications; public affairs

Eleven PR Founded: 2020 Headquartered: Dubai Holding group: Omnicom General manager: Dan Leach SPECIALISMS: Government relations; corporate PR; consumer PR; crisis & Issues; social media KEY CLIENTS: Abu Dhabi Investment Office, Kempinski, Catrice, Essence, Womanity Foundation

Four Communications Group Founded: 2001 in London; 2004 in MENA Regional offices: Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Riyadh Head of company: Ray Eglington, group managing director +971 2 447 2774 +971 4 362 5129 SPECIALISMS: Integrated campaigns, social analytics & engagement, brand strategy, public relations, marketing, media planning & buying, creative & design, digital marketing, media training. KEY CLIENTS: Etihad Airways, UPS, UAE Space Agency, Marriott International, Honeywell, Infiniti, Abu Dhabi Department of Culture & Tourism, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature; Daman

GES Founded:1939 Regional offices: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia Holding group: VIAD Head of company: Steve Moster SPECIALISMS: Brand experiences; events; exhibitions; marketing; digital KEY CLIENTS: Cisco, Aramco Group including SABIC, Abu Dhabi Tourism, Tetra Pak, GE Healthcare



August 29, 2021

Hanover Middle East Founded: Hanover Group founded in 2008; Middle East office launched in 2017 Heads of company: Jonty Summers, managing director, Middle East Offices: London, Brussels, Dublin, Dubai, Abu Dhabi Holding Group Hanover, part of Avenir Global +971 4 433 6122 SPECIALISMS: Corporate communications; crisis and issues management; financial communications and special situations; healthcare communications

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Founded: 1927 Regional offices: Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Doha, Dubai, Manama, Riyadh Holding group: WPP Head of company: Bashar AlKadhi, CEO, EMEAx (Continental Europe, Nordics, Middle East, Turkey, India, Africa) SPECIALISMS: Content & publishing; data & analytics; issues & crisis; behavioral science; The Studio (creative)

Houbara Founded: 2002 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Loretta Ahmed +971 4 390 1630 We are an integrated communications consultancy that applies a creative and insight-led approach to reputation management and marketing communications. We live by our values (agile, inventive, committed) and want to bring about real change – for our clients and by the role we play in the community we serve. We are proud to be an independent agency with a 30-year presence in the UAE and long-standing partners across the Middle East. SPECIALISMS: Brand and corporate storytelling; campaigns; media training; crisis comms; CSR KEY CLIENTS: CNN, Virgin Mobile, Volkswagen Middle East, Kearney, Thales

KEY CLIENTS: Huawei, Coca-Cola, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), Masdar, Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS)


Founded: 2000 Ownership: WPP Group; Sunil John Offices: UAE (Dubai & Abu Dhabi), Saudi Arabia (Riyadh & Jeddah), Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan. Affiliates in Oman, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Iraq, Palestine Territories and Pakistan Head of company: Sunil John +971 4 450 7600 ASDA’A was founded in 2000 as an independent agency by Sunil John, who leads the agency in its 21st year. In 2008, WPP acquired a majority stake in the firm and ASDA’A became a part of the Burson-Marsteller global network. After the merger of Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe in 2018 to create BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), the firm is now ASDA’A BCW. The agency employs more than 160 professionals across eight wholly-owned

offices. A further nine affiliates provide the agency coverage in 15 Middle East & North Africa (MENA) countries. The agency serves over 100 retained clients and is the leading PR consultancy in MENA. SUBSIDIARY COMPANIES: GCI Health Middle East - specialist healthcare consultancy Proof Communications - Digital, data and design agency PSB - Research and analytics firm KEY CLIENTS: Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, ADNOC, Amaala – Saudi Arabia, Asharq News, AstraZeneca, Crown Prince Court-Abu Dhabi, Emirates NBD, Ford Middle East, General Electric, G42 Healthcare, Gulf Craft, Gulf Marketing Group, Jumeirah Group, Mohammed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), Nestle Middle East, Ras Al Khaimah Government Media Office, Raytheon Technologies, SHUAA Capital, Smart Dubai, Snapchat, The Red Sea Development Company – Saudi Arabia, UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth, VISA International.

Sunil John President – MENA, BCW and Founder, ASDA’A BCW

Sameh Hamtini Executive Vice President – MENA

Geoff Beattie Executive Vice President – Strategy & Operations


The boy who changed Betty Crocker Betty Crocker, the 100-year-old brand of General Mills, a US Fortune 500 company, was challenged by an Emirati boy, Sultan Abdullah Mohammed Soumr, on Twitter. He had a question: why were baking instructions on Betty Crocker’s packs only addressed to women? Betty Crocker is a brand that prides in empowering women and promoting gender parity. It responded to the tweet with real commitment: To create progressive, genderless cooking instructions by working with a linguistic expert. Betty Crocker took an even bolder step – to change over 20 million packs of 100 products to prove to the world that ‘The Kitchen is for Everyone’. Strategy



Bayer, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, set out to grow the number of Saudi nationals employed in Saudi Arabia. But there were challenges to address such as attracting top Saudi talents, who preferred government jobs; and motivating them to join the pharma sector. ASDA’A BCW and Proof Communications, created an integrated omni-channel campaign to attract Saudi nationals for careers at Bayer.

While COVID-19 impacted businesses of all sizes, small and micro businesses (SMBs) were hit exceptionally hard. For many merchants, survival hung in the balance because they had limited online presence or struggled to meet sudden changes in customer expectations to transact in a contactless/low-touch manner. Recognising the urgency for SMBs to go digital, Visa stepped in to provide merchants with business insights and support.

Strategy #MoveForwardWithBayer - a campaign to resonate with young Saudis and underline the value that being part of Bayer offers them for personal and professional development. We created two virtual young avatars – a Saudi female Mouna and a Saudi male Youssef. They were the voices of the campaign, narrating Bayer’s story to young Saudis. In phase two, we launched Bayer’s Middle East Twitter profile as well as emotive, engaging video content that showcased Bayer’s ‘Rising Stars’ – high performing Saudi employees.

Working with VMLYR Dubai, our PR strategy focused on making Betty Crocker’s values clear to all audiences – that the kitchen is a creative and open space, no matter their age, gender, or expertise. The campaign took life online and on social media. It was shared by influencers, reached schools, talk shows and cooking shows. The story was covered by news channels, sparking real conversation about equality in the kitchen.


Sultan’s tweet gained 450,000 impressions, 8,500 likes and was retweeted over 3,500 times. And Sultan became The Boy Who Changed Betty Crocker! The PR activation took the message across multiple media with a total reach of nearly 35 million, generating a PR value of about half a million dollars.

Our integrated approach delivered tangible results for #MoveForwardWithBayer, not only in terms of recruitment but also reputational management. By the end of 2020, the total number of Saudis within the field force had grown from 46 to 84 per cent. The campaign achieved significant results online with over 773,000 engagements on social media.



The campaign won two honours for Public Relations at Dubai Lynx: A Silver for Corporate Image, Communication & Reputation Management, and Bronze for Social Behaviour & Cultural Insight.

The campaign was the Winner of Best Meme/Viral Campaign at IN2SABRE EMEA 2021 and was short-listed for the 2021 EMEA SABRE Awards in the category ‘Best Specialist Audience – Marketing to Youth’.



Telephone +971 4 4507600


Strategy Visa's WYSM campaign involved multiple agencies and was implemented in multiple regions. Through powerful storytelling, ASDA'A BCW helped Visa inspire community support in MENA by spotlighting hero SMBs, telling customers why 'Where You Shop Matters’ (WYSM). Communication goals included driving awareness for the campaign by sharing Visa's research and thought leadership, spotlighting hero SMBs, and facilitating access to capacity building tools to help SMBs navigate the crisis. Impact The campaign generated strong media coverage and increased traction on social and digital channels, successfully positioning Visa as a company that empowers SMBs. The videos reached a total of over 1.34 million users. The campaign proved effective in raising the visibility of SMBs and shifting consumers mindset to think and shop locally. Recognition The campaign won the Gold SABRE EMEA 2021 Award in the category ‘Best Consumer Services - Financial Services’ and serves as a great example of the innovative integration of PR, research and digital. The campaign was also short-listed for PRWeek Global Awards 2021 in the category ‘Best Campaign in the Middle East'.



August 29, 2021

Hive PR Middle East

In2 Consulting

Founded: 2010 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Neil Tyrer +971 50 653 2854

Founded: 2010 Headquartered: Dubai Managing director: Anne Bleeker +971 4 455 8499

SPECIALISMS: Press relations; marketing; branding; events; automotive Key clients: INEOS Automotive, INEOS Grenadier

SPECIALISMS: Communication strategy; internal communications; content strategy & creation; positioning & messaging; training & capacity building KEY SECTORS: Hospitality, technology, government, B2B

House of Comms Founded: 2012 Regional offices: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia Co-founders and managing partners: Abby Wilks, Kaja Evans and Jamie Wilks +971 4 275 4900 SPECIALISMS: Automotive; government; F&B and hospitality; retail; tech

Innovative Advertising & Marketing Founded: 2012 Headquartered: Dubai +971 4 259 3572 SPECIALISMS: Branding, digital print and production, exhibition stands, events, acrylic works, designing; advertisement campaign development (BTL), activation, brand building, brand activation KEY CLIENTS: Versace, Estee Lauder Group, Chalhoub Group, Paris Gallery, Al Futtaim, Juma Al Majid, Al Tayer, Clarins, Emaar, MAF

The Idea Agency Founded: 1996 Regional offices: Dubai / Beirut Ownership: Aviamost Advertising Managing partner: Rita Boustany SPECIALISMS: hospitality, tourism, retail, services, food & beverage KEY CLIENTS: Millennium Hotels & Resorts, Ajman Tourism, Ajman Media City Free Zone, Natuzzi & Western Furniture

Imagination Founded: 1979 (Dubai office founded in 2013) Regional headquarters: Dubai, with office in Riyadh Head of company: Patrick Reid (general manager, Dubai) SPECIALISMS: Consulting; destinations; content; live experiences Key clients: Expo2020, Ministry of Culture Saudi Arabia, Jaguar Land Rover, Major League Baseball, Shell

Insight Discovery Founded: 2007 Offices: UAE and UK CEO and co-founder: Nigel Sillitoe SPECIALISMS: Strategic communications; market intelligence; event optimisation (moderating and managing virtual events) KEY CLIENTS: State Street Global Advisors, Amundi, Bank of Montreal GAM, UBP, RL360

Inspiratus Group Founded: 2012 Headquartered: Dubai, with offices in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Cairo, Toronto, London and Washington DC +971 4 392 6610 SPECIALISMS: Strategic communications; PR; media relations; media training; crisis communications KEY CLIENTS: Disney, National Geographic Partners, National Geographic Abu Dhabi, FOX Networks Group, ADNOC Logistics and Services, Shell

Impact Porter Novelli Founded: 2000 Regional headquarters: Dubai, UAE Ownership: BBDO Worldwide, an Omnicom holding company Head of company: Fouad Bou Mansour +971 4 330 4030 SPECIALISMS: Corporate communications, brand communications, technology, reputation management KEY CLIENTS: Al-Futtaim, P&G, Amazon, Seddiqui Holding

ISD Founded: 2005 Headquartered: Dubai, with offices in India, UK, USA, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia and Mauritius Founder: Suresh Dinakaran SPECIALISMS: Brand strategy; creative services; media; AI & digital marketing; PR & ORM/events KEY CLIENTS: Toshiba, Kioxia, Grand Stores, University of Bolton, Nikon

August 29, 2021


Ahmad Itani

Tariq Al Sharabi

Founder & CEO

Managing Director

Founded: 2006 Headquartered: Dubai and present in four continents Ownership: The Publicity Network (Publinet) Head of company: Ahmad Itani +9714 334 1140 +971 56 163 3162 Cicero & Bernay is an award-winning communication consultancy that delivers bespoke traditional and new media strategies and campaigns to some of the region’s most prominent brands. Cicero & Bernay is headquartered in Dubai and has 29 offices around the world, covering the MENA region, Asia, Russia, Europe, and North America. Its team comprises industry veterans and professionals who work closely with clients and anticipate the future of the medium. SPECIALISMS: Contributor relations; thought leadership; online reputation management; new-age media; corporate reputation management; content development; strategic planning and counsel; influencer marketing; CSR; crisis comms

Bahaa Merheb

Taima Al Farouqi

Director of Operations

Head of Strategy


A constant in a sea of change AHMAD ITANI Founder & CEO of Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy


hange is a fundamental attribute that is at the heart of all progress and without which new knowledge cannot be attained. Where many other fields have had to transform over the years to maintain relevance, public relations, representing the timeless asset that it is, has remained relatively unchanged; it just adapted to contemporary communication mediums. PR practitioners have, in turn, expanded the industry’s offerings with skill sets, such as technology by way of AI, and holistic services, including creative concepts and strategies that best connect with stakeholders.

KEY CLIENTS: Every one of them. AWARDS: 2008 International Stevie Award; 2014, 2018 Guinness World Records; 2016, 2017, 2018 MEPRA Awards; 2018 MENA Digital Awards; 2020 PRCA MENA Awards

However, a complete shift in the media landscape brought forth by the pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital innovations and processes. Consumption of online information and the meteoric rise of digital footprints and e-commerce activities made certain that tools and platforms changed to digital-centric methods almost overnight – especially as more consumers are searching for information and sharing opinions online than ever before – and the next integral development that has taken precedence from an industry-wide perspective is human connection. Placing people at the heart of campaigns is, of course, not new, but where they were mere customers we communicated with, they are now keystones whose happiness is the primary metric. In PR, new-age, advanced machinations now rule the day and help articulate and manifest the purpose of each campaign or strategy towards that end as an extension of their values. Agencies and their clients, therefore, are no longer operating in tandem or in concurrence; we are now in the age of intertwined efforts where the success of one leads to the growth of the other. Progress, however, across all fields is not easily achieved in an ecosystem that does not support growth and innovation. We can speak of global PR as a subject of discourse, but our collective regional experience presents adequate relevance to postulate and project about the industry. Being among the first nations to recover from the

pandemic and the fastest to re-energise their respective economies, the UAE and KSA present an ideal platform for advancement. Businesses here are granted a breeding ground for innovation through stalwart vision and leadership, bringing about heightened confidence in the region to embrace and adapt to changes on the path towards the future.



It’s not easy communicating in the age of social media. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a platform, and anyone can have a hidden agenda. You might be the king of your board, but kings can only move one space at a time. If you’re being checked, it’s already too late. Protecting your reputation is not a defensive tactic, it’s a proactive strategy that begins with how you set up your team. It’s about putting the right pieces in the right places.

Looking for a change? Make us your opening gambit.

August 29, 2021

Founded: 2019 Headquartered: Dubai Founder and Managing Director: Jamal Al Mawed +971 4 578 6446 Gambit Communications is an independent public relations, social media management and influencer engagement agency that aims to bring together the brightest young talents in the Middle East region. The word ‘gambit’ comes from chess, the ultimate game of planning and strategy, and is defined as a set of actions you carry out in order to gain an advantage in a situation or game, or a remark made to start a conversation with someone. We take our inspiration from this because the best comms agencies are the ones that know how to give your brand an advantage over the competition, and the best type of press is the one that starts conversations. SPECIALISMS: Public relations (thought leadership, media relations, crisis communications, media training, CSR strategies, event management, editorial services, strategic planning); social media (content planning, campaign management, monitoring & analysis, page management); influencer engagement (content development, creative executions, visual communication, brand ambassador management) KEY CLIENTS: Ferrari Middle East & India, Stellantis (Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Abarth, Mopar), Amazon Payment Services, The Ritz-Carlton, Sharjah Sustainable City, Help AG, Swissquote MEA, Veolia Middle East AWARDS: Nine wins across the 2020/2021 awards season including runner up for Small Agency of the Year at both the MEPRA Awards and PRCA Awards, and further gongs in categories for automotive, hospitality, B2C, media relations and influencer relations.


Jamal Al Mawed, Founder and Managing Director of Gambit Communications, is a multiple award-winning Emirati/British/ Palestinian hybrid with a celebrated agency background and previous senior director roles on the client-side at RollsRoyce Motor Cars and the Dubai Properties Group. An industry thought leader, Al Mawed has also been selected in prestigious lists such as The Holmes Report’s EMEA ‘Innovator 25’, The Huffington Post’s ‘Ten to Watch’ series, and the PR Week Power Book for three consecutive years.


Tony Sidgwick, Account Director, heads up the corporate, government, B2B and consumer tech practices at Gambit Communications. He is also a content development specialist with over 15 years’ experience in the region on both client and media side, including senior editorial roles at multiple GCC lifestyle publications.

Kathleen Burbridge, Account Director, brings a decade of experience in roles at international communications agencies in Toronto, Chicago and Dubai. She specializes in automotive, luxury, beauty and fashion communications, having worked on brands such as Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, Jergens, L’Occitane and Bioderma in her career.

Mirna Tamimi, Senior Account Manager, is a Riyadhraised automotive comms expert with experience on a suite of iconic automotive brands including Ferrari, Pagani, Maserati, Jeep, Dodge, Alfa Romeo and Fiat. She has been nominated for ‘Rising Star of the Year’ at the PRCA 2021 Awards and selected in Campaign Middle East’s ‘Faces to Watch’ 2020 list.

Dalia Baddar, Digital Account Manager, leads on social media and influencer engagement at Gambit. A nominee for the PRCA Digital Professional of the Year 2020 and member of Campaign Middle East’s ‘Faces to Watch 2020’ list, Dalia is a creative force with experience on brands such as Samsung, Ferrari and Pinar.



August 29, 2021

Instinctif Partners MENA

Leidar MENA

Founded: 2013 Regional headquarters: Dubai Ownership: Instinctif Partners (Global) Head of company: Samantha Bartel, CEO & managing partner, MENA +971 n4 369 9353

Founded: 2018 Regional headquarters: Dubai Ownership: Leidar SA Heads of company: Rolf Olsen, founder & CEO; Andreas Keller, managing partner; George Kotsolios, managing partner

SPECIALISMS: Financial PR & investor relations; capital markets communications; corporate communications & public policy; corporate reporting (print/digital); ESG strategy & reporting; crisis communications

SPECIALISMS: Communications strategy; positioning & messaging; content development; crisis management; training KEY CLIENTS: Al-Futtaim Engineering, Al-Futtaim Commercial Vehicles, DC Aviation, Mondia, ZIINA

KEY CLIENTS: National Bank of Kuwait; Almarai; Mobily; Habib Medical Group; Amlak International; Jupiter Asset Management; ENBD REIT; Alwaleed Philanthropies; ADES International; Shaker Group

LinkViva Jack Morton MENAT Founded: 1939 Regional HQ: Dubai Holding group: Regionally held under the Middle East Communications Network (MCN) and globally part of the Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG) Managing Director: Rebecca Amey

Founded: 2003 Headquartered: Dubai Managing director: Alexander Bendiouis +971 4 442 0743 SPECIALISMS: Experiential; festivals; MICE; activations; government events KEY CLIENTS: Department of Culture & Tourism, Department of Tourism and commerce, Dubai Festival City, Emaar Malls, Nakheel Malls

SPECIALISMS: Brand experience; event & experiential marketing; integrated campaigns; strategic & experiential design; experience innovation in data, content and technology KEY CLIENTS :Saudi Aramco, Ericsson, Siemens, adidas, Uber

M&C Saatchi Public Relations UAE Katch International Founded: 2011 Offices: Dubai and London Ownership: Woollams Public Relation Management Head of company: Georgina Woollams SPECIALISMS: PR; social media management; branding; digital marketing; creative design KEY CLIENTS: Rove Hotels, Live Nation Middle East, Dubai World Trade Centre, Canon Middle East, Alstom

Founded: 2017 Offices: Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with its global HQ in London, with eight offices worldwide, as well as a network of international partners across Asia-Pacific and Benelux. Ownership: M&C Saatchi Head of company: Amy Brill, head of PR UAE; Molly Aldridge, global CEO +971 4 446 3209 SPECIALISMS: Public relations, experiential, social media,corporate/B2B, design, consumer/B2C, editorial, content creation, media relations KEY CLIENTS: Discovery, Rolls-Royce Abu Dhabi Motors, Pizza Hut, Disney Destinations, Benefit Cosmetics, United Nations

Kekst CNC Founded: 2006 (Dubai office) Headquartered: Munich and New York, with 15 offices around the globe, including Dubai Holding group: Publicis Groupe Head of company: Ben Curson, partner SPECIALISMS: Corporate comms; financial comms; crisis management; internal comms; digital and social media

Manara Global Founded: 2019 Headquartered: Dubai Heads of company: Teri O’Donnell and Robin Gordon-Farleigh SPECIALISMS: Reputation management; purpose; strategic communications; leadership communications; creative campaigning

August 29, 2021

Market Buzz International Founded: 2001 Headquartered: Fujairah Head of company: Mita Srinivasan +971 6 7409793 SPECIALISMS: Technology, start-ups KEY CLIENTS: ChannelHub, EasyPick, Jackys Business Solutions, Pagero, Nokia, Qafila, TiE Dubai, Metallicoin

Markettiers 4dc MENA Marketing Management Founded: 2015 Offices: Dubai, London, Manchester CEO: Howard Kosky SPECIALISMS: Broadcasting; podcasts; public relations; media KEY CLIENTS: Jumeirah Group, Audi Volkswagen Middle East, Serco Middle East, Mubadala Investment Company, Mohammed bin Rashid Global Initiative

Matrix Public Relations Founded: 1999 CEO: Hilmarie Hutchison +971 4 343 0888 SPECIALISMS: PR; social media; influencer marketing; digital marketing; crisis management; media training; content marketing; reputation management; website and app development. KEY CLIENTS: Al Masah Capital, Regulus Capital, Allied Investment Partners, Himalaya, India Gate, Diva Abaya Couture, Steve Madden, ECCO, Ajman Sewerage, Oxford Business Group

Memac Ogilvy Founded: 1984 Regional offices: Abu Dhabi, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, GCC, Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait City, Manama, Riyadh, Tunis Holding group: WPP Heads of company: Patou Nuytemans (Chief Executive, MENA), Ghassan Maraqa (COO, MENA), Ashraf Shakah (Regional Director, PR & Influence, MENA) +971 4 332 0002

Motivate Events Founded: 1979 Headquartered: Dubai Heads of company: Anthony Milne, chief commercial officer; Stuart Norbury, events manager +971 4 427 3000 SPECIALISMS: Motivate Media Group has a thriving events division, with numerous high-profile events staged throughout the year. From glamorous award ceremonies, to all-day music festivals, a dedicated marketing and events team ensures that all events are a valuable extension of our clients’ brands.

MSL Group ME Founded: 2001 Offices: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Riyadh, Jeddah, Cairo Holding group: Publicis Groupe Head of company: Ajit Ramaswami SPECIALISMS: Corporate communications; crisis management; strategic media relations; consumer & influencer management; public affairs KEY CLIENTS: Samsung, Procter & Gamble, Ericsson, Aramco, Global Village

MVM & Co Founded: 2015 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Morgan Venison, founder +971 4 261 6334 +971 50 843 9826

SPECIALISMS: Public relations, influencer endorsements, social media management, content creation, event organising, talent management, digital marketing, consulting KEY CLIENTS: Tips & Toes, Tania’s Teahouse, 1004 Gourmet, Kaffe Bloom, Lamise Beauty, Protein Bakeshop

Performance communications Founded: 2009 Headquartered: Dubai, with offices in Abu Dhabi Head of company: Ian Drinkwater SPECIALISMS: PR; digital; content creation; events; social media management KEY CLIENTS: Bentley, Bell, Continental, Lamborghini, SAIC Motor (MG)

Pop Communications

SPECIALISMS: Brand strategy and advertising; customer engagement and digital; social media performance; consulting; PR and influence (reputation protection, C-suite advocacy, brand influence, employee engagement and media influence)

Founded: 2017 Headquartered: Dubai Heads of company: Zainab Imichi Alhassan, Sarah Curtis

KEY CLIENTS: Adnoc Distribution, American Express, Arab Bank, The Coca- Cola Company, Expo2020 Dubai, IBM, IKEA, Mondelez, NCB, STC (Bahrain and Kuwait), Yahsat, Zain Iraq

SPECIALISMS: Public relations; social media; influencer marketing; events KEY CLIENTS: Kcal, Bosch, Chattels & More, NRTC Fresh, Electrolux



August 29, 2021


Founded: 2007 Offices: Dubai, Los Angeles Head of company: David Balfour, Co-Founder +971 4 341 1128

David Balfour

Craig Borthwick



We are a creative experience agency. Human first, technology empowered, operating at the forefront of culture. We innovate, inspire curiosity, embrace courage and create opportunities for creative minds to thrive. Proactively living, breathing and driving forward the industries in which we specialise. To be the trusted partner, always aspiring to deliver unforgettable moments with authenticity, meaning and impact. Based out of Dubai and Los Angeles, we operate at the intersection of culture, entertainment and technology, delivering business growth and award-winning campaigns for some of the world’s most recognisable brands.

Joseph Aquilina

Lizzie Howitt

Head Of Partnerships

Group Account Director

Member of Tribe Global, an independent global network of 40+ agencies in 54 cities across Europe, North and Latin America, Middle East, Africa and Asia. The network is a curated collection of world-class multi-disciplinary agencies and business partners with an unmatched global footprint. Combining scale with the spirit of strategic and creative independence. SPECIALISMS: Strategic consulting; live brand experience; film; creative services; digital experiences; original IPs

Simon Walsh

Jemma Cassey

Design Director

Executive Producer

KEY CLIENTS: TikTok, Sony PlayStation, Mastercard, Burberry, Porsche, Estée Lauder Companies, Sephora, Power Horse, PUMA and MDL Beast


PlayStation 5: Middle East Launch In anticipation for the regional launch of PlayStation 5, LIGHTBLUE conceptualised a series of world class stunt executions with a diverse audience in mind to bring to life the limitless possibilities of PS5. Each execution was developed in consideration of the current limitations with a strong focus on stunts that are shareable by design, gaining maximum exposure for the launch on social media and digital channels across the Middle East. LIGHTBLUE’s longstanding partnership with Sony PlayStation has spanned 14 years.

Mastercard: Expo 2020 Dubai As Dubai prepares for Expo 2020, LIGHTBLUE is gearing up for the experiential execution of the event’s partnership with Mastercard as Official Payment Technology Partner, connecting businesses and consumers with the Mastercard universe and passion points. As a Premier Partner to Expo 2020, Mastercard will redefine the payments experience through the use of technologies from virtual reality to face and fingerprint recognition and voice shopping. Representing the beginning of the next era of innovation.

Burberry Landscapes: The Olympia Bag LIGHTBLUE’s latest collaboration with Burberry introduced the evolution of awe-inspiring takeovers of global landscapes – showcasing #TheOlympiaBag and its story of artistic precision and craft. The exaggerated, commanding sculpture took centre stage as a jewel in the iconic Dubai skyline. In a supporting film series, LIGHTBLUE explored the process and journey of the Olympia, from its industrial beginnings to its destination. The larger-than-life Olympia also set sail along London’s iconic river Thames.

We are a creative experience agency. Human first, technology empowered, operating at the forefront of culture.






August 29, 2021

Pencell PR & Events Founded: 1999 Offices: Dubai (HQ), Beirut, Cairo, Jeddah, Riyadh Holding Group: The Network Communication Group Chairman: Roger Sahyoun Sister companies: AGA ADK Advertising & Marketing; Equation Media; WetPaint Creative Digital Solutions +971 4 445 8383 SPECIALISMS: PR strategy; event management; experiential solutions; creating digital conversations; brand ambassadorship KEY CLIENTS: BBAC, Bosch, Siemens, Hersheys, Hasbro

PRCO Dubai

Prism Marketing Management LLC Founded: 2007 Offices: Dubai, India, Canada Head of company: Lovetto Nazareth +971 4 332 0808 +971 55 850 0095 Prism is a 360-degree digital marketing agency in Dubai, and public relations agency in the UAE. We are specialists in digital marketing and creating digital experiences for our partners and the brands they work with. Rated as one of the top three digital marketing agencies in the region, Prism is a leading e-commerce consulting and advisory firm in the Middle East, having more than 40 e-commerce clients from the region. We are award-winning specialists in turning prospects into customers and customers into friends. SPECIALISMS: PR & advertising; lead generation (PPC display and programmatic campaigns); digital marketing (SEO, social media, content marketing blogging, content creation); brand and graphic design (integrated branding exercises); website/mobile app design; social media management and content production

Founded: 1990 Headquartered: Dubai, UAE Head of company: Jonathan Rivlin SPECIALISMS: Strategic consultancy; media and influencer relations; content creation; digital marketing KEY CLIENTS: One&Only Resorts, Radisson Hotel Group, Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Dubai Golf, One Wall Street, The Towers at Waldorf Astoria New York

KEY CLIENTS: Landmark Group, Ghobash Group, Bin Hendi Enterprise, Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, Prime Medical Group, IFFCO, Etisalat, Du telecom, Jumeirah Group, Ferring Pharma, 2XL Furniture,Sharjah Asset Management, Mubadala, VPS Health Care Group

Plus 1 Communications Founded: 2013 London, 2015 Dubai, 2015 Mumbai Offices: London (HQ), Dubai, Mumbai Chairman: Ricky Ghai +971 4 326 1133 +971 55 240 5752

Plus 1 Communications is a fully integrated PR and digital solutions agency with offices in Dubai, London and Mumbai. We are expert storytellers who make brands stand out from the crowd by developing the perfect story to reach their target consumer with the right message at the right time, via the right channel. We have an influential senior team to ensure high calibre delivery, focusing on integrated delivery so that we never miss an opportunity. We build our client relationships on a balance of trust and transparency and will only promise excellence where we can truly deliver it.


Ricky Ghai Chairman

Karen Lane, Group Managing Director

SPECIALISMS: PR; social media; content creation; creative design KEY CLIENTS: Bloom Education, Cognita, Dubai Parks & Resorts, Power League Gaming, Sole DXB, Waterfront Market Anna Hope Managing Director, Middle East

August 29, 2021

PS Events & PR

Quill Communications

Established: 2009 Headquartered: Beirut +961 3 066 337 +961 3 102 659 +961 1 290 390 ext.1212

Founded: 2010 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Maan Abou Dargham, owner +971 4 439 0490

SPECIALISMS: Public relations firm catering to a select clientele – art, fashion, hospitality, real estate, entertainment and media

SPECIALISMS: Public relations; social media management; event management; digital advertising; creative design

KEY CLIENTS: CMA CGM, ABC Department Store, Pikasso, Pikasso d’Or, Medco,

KEY CLIENTS: Damac Properties; UAE Exchange & Unimoni; Foreign Exchange & Remittance Group (FERG); Emirates Defense Industries Company (EDIC); Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation (MBRF); International Institute for Tolerance; Zakat Fund; Al Fardan Exchange; Federal Electricity & Water Authority (FEWA); Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU)

Depeche Mode, 6:05

Q Communications Founded: 2010 Offices: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, UK Heads of company: Elsa Roodt & Katie Harvey

Raee Public Relations Founded: 2003 Headquartered: Dubai +971 4 450 6870

SPECIALISMS: Public relations; social media; digital marketing; influencer marketing; content development

SPECIALISMS :Strategic PR consultancy; media relations; reputation management; blogger engagements; crisis management; media training; corporate social responsibility.

KEY CLIENTS : Aldar, Reebok, Repton School Dubai, Soneva Maldives, Sunset Hospitality Group

KEY CLIENTS: Ajman Free Zone, Citizen, Cityland, Repton & Foremarke Schools, Aster

Founded: 2001 Regional offices: UAE, OMN, KSA, KWT, QTR, EGP Ownership Structure: Havas Middle East Head of Agency: Dana Tahir, General Manager Red Havas and Dany Naaman (CEO Havas Middle East) Contact: Tel: 6000 455 04 At Red Havas, we choose courage over comfort: We are fearless in our pursuit of transformational communications. Our mission is to deliver passionate, ambitious, incredible work that sets a new benchmark for the clients, industries and categories we work with. stablished in 2001 with its regional HQ in Dubai, Red Havas Dubai’s PR arm provides clients a fully integrated public relations offering, including social, digital PR, and influencer relations. Having established itself as the region’s premier and award winning luxury, fashion, and beauty agency, Red Havas has recently widened its sector expertise and expanded its portfolio to include insurance, government, finance, FMCG, tech, retail to oil & gas and pharma industries.


Dana Tahir

Mathilde Montel

General Manager

Communications Director, Corporate

SPECIALISMS: Brand communications strategy & consulting; influencer marketing; corporate communications; media & influencer relations; executive branding; event management; stakeholder relations; internal communications and reputation management KEY CLIENTS: Adidas, Infinity Des Lumières, L’Oréal, Nakheel, Swvl, CH Carolina Herrera, Salvatore Ferragamo, COTY, Hershey’s, Tory Burch, Cofrex, Idemia, Vivo AWARDS: Middle East Public Relations Association Awards 2020: Best use of traditional media – Al Ain Plant Bottle Launch – Gulfood 2020 – Bronze; Consumer goods category – Weetabix – Bronze; Middle East Public Relations Association Awards 2019: Best Fashion or Beauty campaign – CH Carolina Herrera Insignia Campaign – Silver; Best use of influencers CH Carolina Herrera Insignia Campaign – Bronze

Razan Karim

Nermeen Salama

Communications Director, Fashion & Lifestyle

Communications Director, Beauty & Wellness



August 29, 2021

Redhill Communications

S Factor Agency

Founded: 2014 (Abu Dhabi 2020) Regional headquarters: Abu Dhabi Global HQ: Singapore Holding Group: Redhill World Heads of company: Jacob Joseph Puthenparambil, CEO, Anit Kurian, managing director, MEA

Founded: 2019 Head of company: Sharon Fernandes SPECIALISMS: Media relations; content development; digital; product launches and events; brand-building KEY CLIENTS: Indigo Living, Nexthink, Levtech, Futures Abroad

SPECIALISMS: Public relations; corporate communications; marketing communications; creative & design; integrated campaigns KEY CLIENTS: Emirates, Nokia, 500 Startups, Expo Dubai 2020, Radisson Hotels

The Revelation Consultancy

Shadani Consulting

Founded: 2016 Headquartered: Dubai, with affiliates in the GCC and MENA, partnering a global agency covering all international geographies Head of company: Urvashi Kadam. +971 50 357 0206

Founded: 2016 Headquartered: Dubai, with affiliate agencies in Saudi Arabia Head of company: Zaib Shadani, founder & managing director; +971 50 911 6138

SPECIALISMS: Reputation management;, PR strategy and outreach; crisis management; CSR; influencer marketing KEY CLIENTS: Tech Mahindra, Sennheiser Middle East, SAMENA (South Asia Middle East North Africa) Telecommunications Council, Lukoil, GfK

Founded: 2018 Regional offices: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Beirut Ownership: Subsidiary of W Group, a company owned by W Ventures Holding Managing Director: Ghada El-Kari +971 4 390 2293 +971 55 508 5381 We are the creators of extraordinary experiences that delight inspire, and instantly make an impact. Fiercely independent from the US since 1995, we are a full-service award-winning experiential marketing agency, specialised in the design and execution of brand-engagement experiences, establishing meaningful and relevant relationships between brands and their audiences through measurable ROI and KPIs. We ensure that fleeting moments become long-lasting memories, which resonate with our clients and their audiences. RedPeg Middle East

SPECIALISMS: PR outreach and strategic planning; events (including press conferences, product launches, etc.); content creation and copywriting; media interviews, features and in-depth profiling; crisis communication; reputation management; influencer activations and engagement; training through The Comms Room sister company; video production

covers the MENA region through its headquarters in Dubai with offices in Abu Dhabi and Beirut, along with its strategic partner RedPeg Marketing in Washington DC. SPECIALISMS: Experiential marketing; event management; content creation; creative concept; strategic planning and brand strategy; scenic production; sponsorship management; retail and in-store planning; PR & social media management; website & app development; consumer research and ROI measurement; talent & influencer management; photo/video shooting; venue management; brand engagement KEY CLIENTS: RTA, Aldar, Expo 2020 Dubai – General Motors, Chanel, Hala, GMC, Government of Dubai Media Office, Cipriani, Azadea Group, Patchi and Hypermedia AWARDS WON: Chief Marketer 200 Top Marketing Agencies of 2020; Fast Company’s Global Top 10 for Live Events, 2020; The 2020 IT List Top 100 Event Agencies; Gold MarCom Award for “Chance for Life Event”; Gold MarCom Award “RedPeg Middle East Launch Event”


Habib Wehbi

Philip Matta

Chairman & CEO of W Group

Chief Operating Officer of W Group

Khaled El Far

Ghada El-Kari

Chief Financial Officer of W Group

Managing Director of RedPeg ME

August 29, 2021

Shakespeare Communications Founded: 2014 Headquartered: Dubai Founder: Ananda Shakespeare SPECIALISMS: Public relations, media relations, strategy, content and branding. Sustainability, innovation, vegan FMCG, hospitality and travel KEY CLIENTS: Eurofragance, a.k.a Media, The Devmark Group, Swiss International School Dubai, House of Pops

Social Shop by Aurora Founded: 2016 Headquartered: Dubai Heads of company: Annie Meikle and Iona Al Suwaidi +971 4 456 2921 SPECIALISMS: Content creation; B2B; social media strategy; influencer outreach; digital PR; thought leadership; social listening; community management; social advertising KEY CLIENTS: Injazat; Fuji Instax Middle East; Julphar Life; BurJuman Centre; Viva Supermarket; Smart Automation Energy; Titan Watches; Forrey and Galland

Tales & Heads Founded: 2021 Headquartered: Dubai Heada of company: Margaret Flanagan and Lisa King +971 4 770 9670 Tales & Heads was born from a desire to do things differently. After decades with big firms in London and Dubai, its founders wanted to set up an independent agency where strategic consultancy and creative storytelling go hand-inhand. Balancing trusted counsel and insight with engaging and effective content, the agency’s team crafts campaigns that work across channels, create human impact and bring brands closer to their audiences. SPECIALISMS: Strategic consultancy and creative storytelling KEY CLIENTS: Dubai Tourism, Euronews, NBCUniversal, Squint/Opera, Action Aviation

Sociate Communications Founded: 2015 Headquartered: Dubai, with a branch in the UK Head of company: Rosa Bullock SPECIALISMS: PR; blogger/influencer activations; social media management and advertising; content creation (photography and videography); copywriting and arabic support KEY CLIENTS: ACE, Noor Takaful, Sofitel Downtown, PRO Partner Group, Jafferjees

Spread Communications Founded: 2014 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Shamim Kassibawi +971 4 551 7285 SPECIALISMS: Corporate PR; healthcare PR; B2B PR; personality profiling

sweetTalk Founded: 2019 Regional offices: Dubai,Jeddah Social media manager: Luanne D’Souza +971 4 552 0565 SPECIALISMS: social media (social commerce, omnichannel integration, community management, content creation, ad campaign management); PR (guest list management, media outreach, product seeding); influencer marketing (analysis & selection, strategy and consultation, KOL management); culture marketing (hype launches, insights & trends, brand partnerships) KEY CLIENTS: adidas, American RagCie, Pukka, Reebok, Vuse, Westin Hotel & Resorts, Sunsilk, Ray Ban, Seven Sisters

Story Public Relations Founded: 2018 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Laetitia Tregoning, owner +971 56 724 2154 SPECIALISMS: Extraordinary individuals, design & culture, luxury hospitality (senior advisory, thought leadership, CEO communications, brand development, strategic partnerships) KEY CLIENTS: Dr Reem el Mutwalli, Manal Omar, Mango Tree Restaurants Worldwide, Delivering Asia Communications, Flint Cultures, FCM Travel Solutions

Tell it Founded: 2013 Offices: Dubai, Beirut Head of company: Dalia Ghawi SPECIALISMS: Digital marketing; PR; events; content development; integrated marketing communication. KEY CLIENTS: Ipsos,



August 29, 2021


Founded: 2007 Regional Offices: Dubai, Jeddah, Riyadh Head of Company: Steven Hetzer +971 4 552 0565

Steven Hetzer

Tom Gray

CEO & Founder

Executive Director

We are one of the region’s leading experience agencies. We create insanely disruptive + shockingly effective experiences across mediums, with a relentless focus on people. Some call them the target audience, we see them as co-creators - and make sure brands inspire them through insights, investments in the culture, and authenticity. By marrying traditional advertising craft, big picture brand strategy, and a relentless focus on giving people amazing experiences they want to talk about, we’re a rare beast that’s got both the vision to dream big, and the hands to actually make it happen. SPECIALISMS: Experiential marketing, live events, brand experiences, retail engagement, social media, digital and content, PR and culture marketing, sponsorship activation, conferences and exhibitions, virtual events and interactives

Usman Saleemi

Das Baby

Head of Creative

Patron Saint of Disruption

KEY CLIENTS: adidas, Pernod Ricard (Absolut, Jameson, Chivas Regal), British American Tobacco, Unilever, Marriott Group, Cerner, Netflix, Vans, Mashreq, Al Nahdi Pharmacy


SWEETWATER HELPS SAUDI TALENT GAIN GLOBAL RECOGNITION Arwa Al-Banawi’s collab with adidas was a big “first” for the Arab fashion world; an iconic adidas shoe, reimagined by a Saudi designer for global release. We were tasked to launch the drop, celebrating the historic importance of Saudi talent having a global audience. Thanks to restrictions, a live sneaker hype drop wasn’t an option. Since we couldn’t bring the world to Saudi in person, we did it virtually, going live from legendary AlUla - an iconic Saudi site to celebrate a local legend becoming a global icon. We housed the live drop in an iconic art installation that juxtaposed contemporary style codes with stunning desert landscapes and farm goats - elements that played a key role in inspiring Arwa’s design. We switched on a “Now Available” sign,

opening sales via a special ecomm page before it sold out. But that wasn’t all – along with the pre-sale live from AlUla and the global campaign photoshoot, we brought the drop to a Dubai Souq pop-up and multiple stores in the region. sweetwater was the chosen agency for ideation, design, content creation, and retail, hype, and influencer activation in KSA, Qatar, and Dubai. In the end, the bespoke installation in the middle of the desert paired with retail activations and stylized video content generated tremendous hype around the launch and resulted in numerous PR features in global publications such as Hypebeast, Highsnobiety and more. With love from Arwa Al Banawi, adidas, and sweetwater – to the world.

August 29, 2021

Those Guys Events

Toh PR

Founded: 2015 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: MonBelle

Founded: 2011 Headquartered: Dubai Holding group: PRCO Head of company: Sophie Toh +971 4 382 8900

SPECIALISMS: Event project management; conference and exhibition management; corporate branding; event production and décor; audio-visual event production & stage management KEY CLIENTS: Meraas, Dubai Sports Council, KHDA, Tecom Group, Chalhoub Group

SPECIALISMS: Consumer brand building; collaborations and partnerships; media and Influencer relations; event management; photography and digital content generation KEY CLIENTS: Ferrari Middle Easta and India, Viacom, Savills, Tata Group, Patek Philippe

TRACCS Founded: 1998 Regional offices: Dubai (regional HQ); Riyadh (corporate HQ); network offices in Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat, Manama, Doha, Cairo, Beirut, Amman; affiliate offices in Casablanca, Istanbul, Tunis, Algiers President & CEO: Mohamed Al Ayed SPECIALISMS: Strategic advisory; media engagement; content development; crisis management; CSR; digital; Enrich (communications training); internal communications KEY CLIENTS: Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia, Toyota Motor Corporation, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Huawei Technologies, DHL, National Bank of Bahrain, Boursa Kuwait, Amazon KSA and UNICEF

Umami Communications Founded: 2016 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Colin Hutton +971 52 487 0923 SPECIALISMS: Press/media management; marketing/PR – campaign creation; social media advertising; content creation; social media management; brand synergies; bespoke events; F&B advisory services KEY CLIENTS: Zuma Dubai & Zuma Abu Dhabi, Remy Cointreau Group, Pickl, LPM Restaurant & Bar (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), ROKA Dubai, London Dairy Cafe, THREE Coffee, The Roost, Sausage Fabrique


TishTash Marketing and Public Relations Founded: 2012 Headquartered: Dubai Founder and CEO: Natasha Hatherall +971 4 341 4679

Natasha Hatherall Founder and CEO

SPECIALISMS: PR and communications; digital and social media marketing; events & activations; graphic design & content creation; brand strategy and planning. KEY CLIENTS: The Body Shop, Medcare, Lighthouse Arabia, Kibsons, ASICS, Al Tayer (various brands including Mamas and Papas, Gap and Banana Republic), Landmark Group (various brands including Lifestyle and Shoemart), Bath & Body Works, Neal’s Yard, Victoria’s Secret, Faces Beauty Middle East, Lego Retail Stores, Sukin, Filorga, Herbal Essentials, Zoflora and Champion Dry Cleaners. AWARDS: PRCA Middle East Best Medium Consultancy 2021; PRCA Middle East Best PR Leader 2021 (Highly Commended) and Best Ethical or Good Cause Initiative During COVID-19 – TishTash for THE SME RISE COLLECTIVE

Polly Williams Managing Director



August 29, 2021

VMLY&R COMMERCE MENA Founded: 2021 Headquartered: Dubai, overseeing teams across UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), KSA, Qatar and North Africa CEO: Nick Walsh +971 4 305 0408 VMLY&R COMMERCE (formerly Geometry MENA) sits at the centre of WPP’s Commerce and Experiential pillars, offering brands future-fit solutions that lead to conversion. We focus on the inseparable relationship that binds CX/UX with Shopper XP to deliver tangible solutions at the moments that matter. Building on our legacy of expertise in retail, design, and innovation, we marry the best of VMLY&R’s creative & digital capabilities with VMLY&R COMMERCE’s deep understanding of people and shopper behaviour to generate conversion-orientated experiences, both physical and digital. We are the ultimate end-to-end creative commerce agency. SPECIALISMS: Connected digital and physical experiences (LDX); experiential brand activation; retail activation; Expo and cultural builds; design product innovation; next-gen commerce unification; brand & business creative consultancy KEY CLIENTS: Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Arena, Adidas, British American Tobacco, Twitter, Colgate, Goody, Americana, Nestle, Kone, Saudi German Hospital, Porsche, Dubai Digital Authority, The Galleria Al Maryah Island Abu Dhabi, Roads & Transport Authority, BP Castrol, Global AI Summit, Dubai Taxi Corporation

Via Media Dubai Founded: Internationally 1997, UAE 2017 Heads of company: Medina Beganovic, Vesna Beganovic SPECIALISMS: Experiential; creative; digital;strategy KEY CLIENTS: Oracle, Zomato, SRTIP, Sheraa, Rotana

Viola Communications Founded: 2001 Headquartered: Abu Dhabi Head of company: Ammar Sharaf, CEO and board member SPECIALISMS: Event conceptualisation; event design; event production; event management; media relations and communications; crisis communications and issues; content creation and distribution; internal communications and government relations KEY CLIENTS: Abu Dhabi Municipality, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, Department of Community Development, Dubai Holding Asset Management, Department of Energy, Biznet, Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Federal Tax Authority, Teslam Enec, Al Ain Zoo

Co-founders: Abdullah Inayat, Abdulrahman Inayat +966 12 661 4579 +966 56 720 1039 W7Worldwide is an award-winning independent marketing communications consultancy that has established itself as a prominent agency in Saudi Arabia. Our understanding of the local market combined with our global reach and knowledge gives us the edge and unique ability to bridge our clients with their audiences. Communicating effectively with audiences has become essential for the survival of brands the world over and we utilise our local insight of the market as an innovative solution to this concern. We have extensive national and international experience in the technology, healthcare, government, corporate, consumer, and entertainment sectors and their various subdivisions. SPECIALISMS: Corporate communications and reputation management; crisis management; stakeholder mapping & engagement; media outreach & media relations; research & data analytics; executive positioning; public affairs; brand solutions AWARDS: 55 nominations in 2020; ICCO Awards 2020; MEPRA 2020; PRCA MENA Digital 2020; PRCA MENA Regional Awards 2021


Abdullah Inayat Co-Founder

Abdulrahman Inayat, Co-Founder

August 29, 2021

w2w Events

Yardstick Marketing Management

Founded: 2010 Head of company: Zareen Khan, owner +971 52 765 5525

Founded: 2012 Headquartered :Dubai Head of company: Anishkaa Gehani +971 4 351 8584

SPECIALISMS: Art exhibitions; artist management; PR management; creative events; film scripting & production; content writing; fashion shows & conferences KEY CLIENTS: MECSC – Middle East Council of Shopping Centres; The Ballet Centre Dubai; Mad About Dance; ABRA VM SD – Visual Merchandising & StoreDesign; PT Explores – Wildlife & Nature Preservation

SPECIALISMS: PR; social media; digital marketing; events and activations; corporate gifts; media buying; copy writing; design, podcast, influencer marketing KEY CLIENTS: Al Wahda Mall, Plaza Premium Group, Motorola, B&O, VAIO, Fluke, Landmark Leisure, Thrustmaster, Hercules, RSM International, Habib Bank AG Zurich, BNI, doramakaba, Scott Safety, Semmco Ltd., IBM, MENALAC, Bedaya General Trading LLC, Organic & Real, Cambridge, King’s Traders, Gifto’s of London, Abicalçados, Jabra, Precious Paws, QNA International, Banks Legal, Al Rostamani Communications

Weber Shandwick MENAT Founded: 1983 CEO: Ziad Hasbani SPECIALISMS: Corporate reputation; banking and financial services; consumer marketing; government communications; integrated communications KEY CLIENTS: Mastercard, Farah Experiences, Netflix, General Motors, First Abu Dhabi Bank

Yugen Public Relations Founded: 2015 Offices: Dubai and Manila Head of company: Josh M Yugen SPECIALISMS: Fashion; luxury; beauty; tourism/hospitality; real estate KEY CLIENTS: AMATO Couture, Dubai Autism Center, Aston Martin Residences Miami c/o City First Realty, Smile Train, The Miss Universe Organization

White Label Media Founded: 2013 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Shraddha Barot Amariei SPECIALISMS: PR & marketing; launches & events; brand development & strategy; influencer marketing; digital marketing KEY CLIENTS: Mohalla, Marea, Berri’s Café, Manolo Blahnik and Ascots & Chapels

Z7 Communications Founded: 2007 Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Zeina El Dana, owner +971 4 477 2389 SPECIALISMS: Brand consulting & strategy; PR & communication; events & experiential; digital & social strategy; content creation & production KEY CLIENTS: Salvatore Ferragamo, NET-A-PORTER, MR PORTER, Ermenegildo Zegna, Kristina Fidelskaya, Charlotte Tilbury, Aesop, Messika, Vacheron Constantin, Bagatelle

White Water Public Relations Founded: 2008 Headquartered: Dubai, with affiliates across the globe Head of company: Prem Ramachandran +971 50 453 7253 SPECIALISMS: Communication strategy for Expos; strategic communications; media training; CEO positioning; social media communications; launch campaigns; event conceptualisation KEY CLIENTS: Multinationals including local, regional and international brands

Zia Creative Network Founded: 2009 Offices: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Halifax Head of company: Waseem Yakdi SPECIALISMS: Advertising; marketing; photo/video production; PR and events KEY CLIENTS: Ministry of Interior, Dubai Police, Jaguar Land Rover, Abu Dhabi Pension, ADNEC



Launching October 2021



August 29, 2021

M AT T E R OF FAC T Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy


MATTER OF FACT News, views & trends from across the spectrum


THE ART OF LETTING GO The ebb and flow of communication tactics is one that is anticipated but often unpredicted. The goal has always been to nurture a loyal audience, but every few years a modernised approach is introduced that changes the rules of the game but never the players. In the Olympics of industries and sectors, the communication field is a gold-medal winner of fluidity.

There is much talk of building communities, creating engagement strategies, and establishing ways to better target audiences, and though brands are no strangers to social media presences and promotions, they have technically only just begun to realise the value of truly connecting with consumers and treating social as more than a channel for promotion. In 2012, following was the primary metric for relevance, with brands simply acting as catalysts to drive engagement. Heading into 2022, the power has shifted into the hands of consumers, who have successfully reined online conversations and trends to cater to their own – and companies are taking note, encouraging their own employees to generate their own content about their workplace as an advertising 5.0 tactic. Will it persist? Only time will tell, – or ,rather, customers will tell.



Believe in social media’s power to connect people

Say they feel connected when a brand’s values align with their own



Will be loyal to a brand if they feel the connection

Trust a brand more when employees share information about it online

Source: - Sproutsocial





Take it at face value

Bold is not always beautiful

Choose-your-own-adventure books and video games have been around for quite some time; it was only time until the movie industry caught up. Starting 5 August, VOX Cinemas is giving you the chance to decide the fate of the lead character of the movie ‘CTRL’ using a simple voting system on an app. This is the region’s first interactive movie experience.

Earlier this month, Emirates airline posted an ad on its social channels that had a flight attendant standing atop Burj Khalifa. Detractors were loud, claiming visual and editing trickery. A few days later, Emirates came back with a behind-the-scenes video that proved the ordeal to have been true, resulting in more than 3 million views on Instagram and 10 days of engagement. Moral of the story? Always come prepared to the party.

Tiffany and Co.’s most recent marketing campaign targeted the younger generation as an attempt to give the brand a modernised facelift. While it may have expanded its influence among younger adults, the brand’s loyal customers and enthusiasts were left out in the cold due to the campaign’s divisive language that sidelined them as relics of the past.


August 29, 2021





TikTok partners with Shopify Andy Nairn is founding partner at Lucky Generals

f you have a quick google, you’ll find loads articles from “What can marketers learn from Gareth Southgate?” to “What can marketers learn from the Olympics/HR/ engineers/physicists/the porn industry/Harry Potter/Genghis Khan, etc?” You might even find one or two from me because I believe we should fill our lives with diverse stimuli, to increase our odds of making happy accidents happen. However, there comes a point when looking to others for inspiration betrays a lack of self-confidence, rather than a relentless curiosity. If you’re not careful, the sub-text becomes: “We’re hopeless at everything, so we’d better learn from these much smarter types.” I fear we might be reaching this point in our industry. We are obsessed by the supposed “threats” posed by AI, management consultants, in-housing, offshoring, usergenerated content and so on. We’re intimidated by other creative sectors, such as gaming, music, fashion and technology. We’re even increasingly questioning our ability (and moral right) to sell stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots wrong with our world and many things we can learn from elsewhere. But sometimes we should remind ourselves that we have lessons for others too. So I’m going to go all WCEELFU for a change: “What can everybody else learn from us?” Well, for starters, good marketers really understand people. At a time when many businesses are chasing after the latest technological fad just for the sake of it, this remains our trump card and we forget it at our peril. Many other disciplines could learn from this. Then there’s our knack of creating big ideas that can galvanise whole organisations across every sector imaginable. We don’t just analyse data or produce interminable reports, we turn our thinking into something clear, simple and highly actionable. Many consultants could up their game on this front. These ideas don’t always work, but when they do they can be staggeringly effective (and efficient). A couple of words or a simple visual asset can generate immense value over the long term. Likewise, a smart adjustment to one of marketing’s other four Ps can make a huge difference. We know this because (contrary to the tired criticism of marketers as lacking substance) we’ve accumulated an enormous body of knowledge on ‘how brands grow’ (thank you Byron Sharp, Les Binet, Sarah Carter, Peter Field, the IPA et al). Our fiercest critics (and some of us) could do with a quick refresher. We can actually make the world a better place too. I’m not saying this should be the purpose of every brand, but there are many instances where clever marketing has been at the heart of social change: from getting people to stop smoking to making them wear a seatbelt, from encouraging greener behaviour to nudging healthier eating. Traditional economists, politicians and lawmakers don’t always have the answers and could learn from our many success stories in this field. Finally, we still manage to have fun. At least some of the time. For sure, the past 18 months have been really tough for our people – as they have been for the whole world. And, of course, we must take urgent action to address some horrendous practices of inequality, harassment and discrimination – like every other industry. But at their best, marketing departments and their various agencies offer stimulating homes for curious minds and creative spirits. Ask your friends in more corporate careers for a comparison.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots wrong with our world and many things we can learn from elsewhere. But sometimes we should remind ourselves that we have lessons for others too.

TikTok has announced its partnership with Shopify in the region, which will help thousands of merchants create and run campaigns directly geared towards TikTok’s highly engaged community. Brands are an important part of the TikTok experience, and the TikTok community in the region loves connecting with the brands they’re passionate about, said the video-sharing platform in a release. In a recent global study, 88 per cent of TikTok users said that they discover new content that they enjoy while

using the app, and about half of users said they discover new products through advertisements posted by a product or brand. Through this partnership, TikTok is making it easier for Shopify merchants to tap into the creativity of the TikTok community in the Middle East, be discovered and optimise their marketing campaigns. Shopify merchants will now be able to benefit from the core functions of the TikTok For Business Ads Manager without leaving the Shopify dashboard. TikTok’s suite of ad products empowers businesses to unleash their creativity and tell their stories with spontaneity and authenticity, grow their audiences and ultimately generate higher results with fewer costs. “We are very excited to announce this partnership with Shopify in the Middle East, giving merchants a unique platform to reach new audiences in an engaging and creative way like nowhere else”, said Shant Oknayan, general manager, global business solutions, Middle East Africa Turkey and Pakistan at TikTok. “As we continue to develop our platform to bring businesses of all sizes innovative and fun ways to connect with new customers, as well as get the best out of their campaigns, we are confident this partnership with Shopify is a big step in this direction and the start of a promising future in the e-commerce arena.”

August 29, 2021


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Tech


ouglas Adams, the author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio play and series of books, set down some rules for technology. You’ve probably seen them before, but in case you haven’t, here they are: “Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. “Anything that is invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. “Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.” I suspect these rules explain a lot of the struggles around digital transformation, which is a topic many of our writers focus on in this issue. Let’s imagine professionals from two age groups (I’ll willingly concede that there are more factors than age alone, but we’ll stick to Adams’ version for now): a twenty-something tech consultant and a fifty-something CEO. The CEO might have just about embraced Facebook and YouTube and the iPhone, but TikTok videos and blockchains have him frantically smiling and nodding and hoping no one asks him anything specific. The consultant has always had multiple social media accounts and can’t even remember the first time she used a laptop or a smartphone – those tools have been there forever. Not only could she find a career in technology but she actually has one, and her services are in high demand. But sometimes it seems these two speak such different languages that it can be hard to make anything happen. The CEO knows he needs to make changes, and will bring in the consultant – but then spurn her ideas out of either fear of the new or the feeling that it’s not necessary to change systems that have worked fine for years. The consultant will get frustrated because there’s so many new ways to do things, and people aren’t prepared to do them. And neither the CEO nor the consultant is entirely wrong. I recently recorded a podcast (that’s like a taped radio show, if you’re an oldie) with Facebook’s head of marketing, Rana Bouri. You can find it

on Anghami (that’s like the world’s biggest record shop for the internet… I’ll stop now). We discussed recent research into consumer attitudes to holiday shopping, which found that there are certain sentiments – such as community and connection, anticipation and occasion and engagement and entertainment – that are timeless. The astonishingly powerful tools created by Facebook and its peers must Editor complement these themes and not try to replace them with a new paradigm – new solutions to eternal problems. @maustyn So it is with digital transformation. Some of our writers address the nuts and bolts of what digital can do. And others look at the overall challenges that digital transformation addresses. These are two different ways of examining the same challenges, and should be treated as complements not opposites. Digital technology can do amazing things to help us tackle the problems we have always faced – and that we will most likely continue to face. If we all listen to each other, no matter what age we are, we might make some progress. Digital transformation can be the answer to a lot of problems, but it might not be the only answer. There are other types of transformation – and even the occasional non-transformative answer. Adams was the first man in Europe to buy an Apple Macintosh computer, so he had genuine digital creds. But he did also write: “We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.”


Toolbox in a spray can M



Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three

y art director partner, Gordon Smith, once told me he was driving through flood water in the country when he saw someone he knew, stuck. It was Andrew Cracknell, executive creative director of WCRS, who was also in a Range Rover. Andrew said his engine was wet and wouldn’t start. So Gordon took Andrew’s spark plugs out and sprayed WD-40 on them, then he put them back and Andrew’s engine started. I said that was amazing, I didn’t know WD-40 could do that. Gordon said the name WD-40 stood for Water Displacement, 40th formula. So it dispersed water, which was why it got the wet spark plug to work. WD-40 was developed in 1953 to protect the Atlas missile from rust and corrosion. I was online recently when an ad came up: Get Gum Out of Your Hair with WD-40. I thought that’s amazing – I thought the only way to get gum out of hair was with scissors. A bit later I saw another ad: Stop Your Windscreen Icing Up with WD-40. I thought that’s a great idea, it would save me scraping the ice off every morning. Then, later still, I saw another ad: Get Paint and Scratches off Your Car with WD-40. I’d previously bought a bottle of

Liquid Scratch Repair Kit on the internet – it didn’t work. So I sprayed some WD-40 on the scratches on my car and rubbed, and it came up perfectly. Next time I saw a WD-40 ad in my feed, I clicked it and went to a site with 58 different uses for WD-40. Everything from cleaning stains off the toilet bowl, to fixing cracked screens on iPhones, to getting burns and stains out of carpets, to destroying wasp nests, to dissolving Super Glue, to cleaning BBQ grills, to removing coffee or wine stains, to getting crayon marks off the wall, to removing oil stains from the driveway, to protecting leather sofas, to getting rings unstuck from fingers, to making your fridge gasket last longer, to cleaning your hands. There are several brilliant pieces of thinking here. First, everyone has at least one can of WD-40 in their house, shed or garage. They bought it once and only use it when something is rusty or stuck. They’ll never replace it unless it runs out, and it won’t run out unless they use it. So this is a great way to get people to think of new uses for their existing can of WD-40 and need to replace it. Which makes it a great campaign for high-involvement consumers. Second, it speaks to all the people

who never bought a can of WD-40. This tells them that it’s so much more than just oil. The 58 different uses show something for everyone, from teenagers to old ladies. So it’s also a great campaign for low-involvement consumers. Finally, the media is a terrific fit. Instead of a brand ad on TV, online media gives them the flexibility and the ubiquity to target their users and deliver much more information than they could get in 30 seconds of TV, at a fraction of the price. This is a really smart use of online media because it uses the media for everything other media can’t do. Instead of just using TV commercials online, as pre-rolls that get skipped after five seconds. This way, cookies track your audience and you know which messages to serve individuals. Each of the uses is a 10-second read to an interested audience. The cumulative effect is like a long infomercial full of useful information. You’re talking to someone who actually wants the information you’ve got to tell them. So the emotional build you’re left with is a powerful brand campaign. Now that’s using online for something you couldn’t do in any other media.


August 29, 2021

Adidas… ‘Fresh, real, meaningful and brave in a way.’ (CT)

STC … ‘Kudos to the team for pulling this off.’ (VK)

Porsche… ‘This is next-level. Top-notch production with zero compromises on ambition.’ (VK)

Pampers … ‘The role of the brand is not clear or meaningful.’ (CT)

Pepsico… ‘An Expo partner film that has the usual suspects.’ (VK)

August 29, 2021




Group account director, FP7 McCann Dubai

Group creative director MENA, Memac Ogilvy

ADIDAS (1) This one has already done the job of grabbing everyone’s attention. The headlines around the first liquid billboard may have only scratched the surface. I had to go beyond to realise that there’s a powerful insight behind the idea about being inclusive and not body shaming. This message upfront would have made a much stronger point, but it’s still a great idea that is brilliantly done. It remains to be seen how the brand will take this communication forward to keep up the feel. I hope this is not a one-off stunt. 

I like ideas that are new, fresh, real, relevant, un-skippable and brave. Because when you see something that could have gone dramatically wrong, but surprisingly didn’t, it gives you hope and motivation.

STC (2) In an ever-growing desert of exciting stunts by telecom companies, this one stands out for its refreshing narrative around tech and art/culture. Perhaps the content piece could do with a bit of trimming, and the testimonials from the photographers were unnecessarily pedantic at times. All in all, though, kudos to the team for pulling this off. (Hopefully no camels were harmed during the shoot.)   PORSCHE (3) This is next-level. Top-notch production with zero compromises on ambition. This has better action than the recent Fast & Furious. And to have an all-electric car demonstrate its prowess in extreme conditions, captured beautifully, in an exciting way, made me want to watch it again and again. The slow-motion sequences and muted sounds while flying through the sand were the real high points. The production team should be stoked (no pun intended). Flawless, in my opinion. My pick of the five. PAMPERS (4) Always a fan of real-life inspiring stories. Great job of selecting the individuals who have done us, and the nation, proud. These stories deserve more love and effort for them to travel, and that would make the role of the brand even more significant and credible. PEPSICO (5) An Expo partner film that has the usual suspects: a link to the Expo, challenging limits, and a promise of a sustainable future – it all makes sense. Hope the brand lives up to its promise of delivering sustainable food and beverage practices, complemented by recyclable packaging.

ADIDAS (1) I love the insight, the campaign and the special billboard. Fresh, real, meaningful and brave in a way. STC (2) I like this idea. It demonstrates the capability of the 5G in a cool way. Fresh? Yes. Meaningful? Yes. Real? Perhaps. Brave? Sort of, because everything seems under control. Too much under control. Maybe they could give the control to the viewers online and bring it closer to the people. Maybe the video could be crafted better, and the story could have been told in a more interesting way, but I can still watch beautiful scenarios. PORSCHE (3) Always difficult to do something fresh in automotive. Probably, it is one of the first times Porsche wanted to demonstrate off-road capabilities. Is this fresh? Not in general, but probably yes for the brand. Meaningful? Sort of. Brave? No. But the execution is excellent. Just a little too long. PAMPERS (4) Not brave. Not fresh. These are stories of people who did something extraordinary. For sure they are relevant for the parents, but the role of the brand is not clear or meaningful. We have seen this kind of content many times and it isn’t un-skippable. PEPSICO (5) It’s clear that this video didn’t have the right budget. It lacks freshness and bravery.


Title: Liquid Billboard Agency: Havas Middle East Production: Jack Morton


Title: S arha, the Content Creating Camel Agency: Wunderman Thompson Saudi Arabia


Title: Drive2Extremes Agency: Keko Dubai ECD: Sandy McIntosh Production house: Stoked Director: Nicholas Schrunk Producer: Julie Debbas Executive producers: Charbel Aouad, Rita El Hachem


Title: Behind Every Hero Agency: MSL Middle East (Abla Nari Bennoud, Farah Nezam) Director: Abdelkarim Djennaoui


Title: Challenge Today. Change Tomorrow Agency: Nomads


August 29, 2021

The Spin The Spin is sure you already had your diaries marked for 19 August. It is, of course, International Potato Day. It’s also International Photography Day, which you might think would be more widely heralded. But after undertaking a rigorous scientific study, we can dispel that assumption. This 19 August we received twice as many (two) emails about potatoes as about cameras (only one). However, there is a mobile phone brand that has been bragging in its releases about its photography creds. Its agency sent us a mail claiming, “There’s no denying that front cameras have paved the way into self-expression and happiness in people’s lives.” The Spin raised an eyebrow when we read this – surely selfie culture is famous for breeding envy and discontent – but our eyebrows left our head when the next press release suggested the phone is “your best companion for a late-night drive”. The Spin worries that although “users taking a video or photo in a moving car will not have to worry about a shaken result” (thanks to image stabilisation) they might have to worry about crashing (due to trying to take photos while driving). At least the accompanying photo of a lake looked pretty. If you are going to take photos of things with your phone (while not operating heavy machinery), then perhaps you could point it at Dubai’s Meydan. It is, according to a press release from Hollands Country Clothing, the seventh most Instagrammable racecourse in the world. What a claim to fame. In non-photo news, we present this ad for a UAE cake delivery service without comment.

Appointments UM has appointed MARIA POULTON as managing director, UM UAE, as the global network embarks on a new journey to futureproof its clients’ businesses. Poulton has a strong track record of leading across large agency networks, building key international clients within a wealth of industries, including, Kellogg’s, Kimberly Clark, Dominos, Allianz, American Express, HSBC, Reckitt and Tourism NZ. The digital agency Like Digital & Partners has announced the appointment of PRADEEP SHUKLA as director of technology. Shukla brings with him more than 15 years of experience accumulated from leading agencies and organisations such as TATA Consultancy Services (TCS), General Mills, Wunderman Thomson, Hexagon and Mirum. Sofitel Dubai The Palm has appointed YELIZ HISMAN as

director of sales and marketing, bringing extensive regional experience in hospitality with excellent credentials in the sales and marketing department of luxury hotels. SAAKSHI KHUBANI has been made a full-time junior PR executive at SOCIATE. She first joined the agency as a PR intern in 2020. We Are Social has named BRITTANY WICKERSON as its first global head of media. For the past two years, Wickerson has led the media team at Socialize in Dubai, part of the We Are Social network, and will continue to do so in her new role. She will continue to be based in Dubai and will report to We Are Social’s global board. GES Middle East has appointed MOHAMMAD AL-MOULKI as marketing manager. An expert in experiential marketing,

content and technology, Al-Moulki will drive the interactive activations business forward. Rain has welcomed RAMY LEWIS, who joins the planning team from Nielsen UAE, where he was doing market sizing, usage and attitude and concept tests for telecom clients across the region. Rain also welcomed VIDHI GUPTA, who is joining the account management team from Lowe Lintas India, where she was managing brands including Pepsodent and Close Up (Unilever), and Hershey’s. JOHN DEFTERIOS has joined APCO Worldwide, bringing in-depth insight and unique perspectives on emerging markets strategies based on international and intergovernmental collaboration, with a particular focus on the Middle East, global energy issues and sustainability.

Profile for Motivate Media Group

Campaign Middle East - 29th August 2021  

PR and Events Guide 2021 Digital Transformation Issue

Campaign Middle East - 29th August 2021  

PR and Events Guide 2021 Digital Transformation Issue

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