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September 26, 2021
his is Campaign’s first Power List. If it looks a little familiar, it’s because it’s in some ways a new and improved iteration of our long-running Power Essays supplement. For 2021 we decided to mix it up, revising the supplement’s practical definition of power (the ‘what is power?’ question is worth a lot of pages on its own; we’ll side-step it for now). This year we insisted that the only people we would ask to contribute and agree to include would be the heads of major companies – holding groups, agencies, media reps. This gives us a real view from above. The people in the coming pages oversee thousands of staff and budgets worth tens of millions of dollars. And that’s before you even get to their experience. Many of these people have risen through the ranks of their companies, while some have been brought in especially for their specific skillsets and expertise. It might be because this editor is getting older, but it seems industry leaders are getting younger. The old guard are starting to step back and letting new faces in to run the show and take it forward. There are no women in the list, and that’s a shame. It’s an embarrassment to the industry that so few top spots are taken by women. This list isn’t comprehensive, and some people declined or were unable to take part. But even if it had every single top player in it, the list would still be overwhelmingly male. We need more women leading the industry at CEO and chairperson level. While you’ll see our ‘rapid fire’ questions are uniform, there was no set brief for the essays each person on the list wrote. We asked them to explore the issues affecting them and that they feel the industry should address. Therefore, similarities between essays are not scripted. You’ll spot some themes I didn’t, I’m sure, but here’s some things I noticed: There’s a focus on people over technology. In some cases this is manifested as a drive to make client brands more empathetic and values-led; in others it comes through as prioritising the welfare of staff. The use of empathy as a branding tool has been growing for some time as greater choice and consumer agency appear in the market, through e-commerce and more direct social conversations. Covid-19’s effect was to accelerate the growth further, as isolation and the memento mori of a deadly pandemic reminded marketers that consumers like to believe there is more to life than late-stage capitalism. Focusing on one’s own people is perhaps a more coronavirus-initiated phenomenon. The industry has been talking about employee welfare for years, but that hasn’t put a stop to the high stress and long hours. Now there’s what feels like a more genuine drive towards, or at least concern about, employee wellbeing. This could be due to humanitarian revelations about the thousands of lives these men are responsible for, or simply a more business-centric need to avoid ‘the Great Resignation’. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the industry’s people problems, and the leaders realise that neither they nor their peers can offer a panacea. As one writer says, “the days of single-format leadership are numbered”. So here you will find a lot of different ways of looking at similar problems. It is fascinating to see where the media, marketing and advertising industry’s leaders are going and how they plan to get there. Another shared trait you will see is that power players are unified in thanking their teams and families and learning from those around them. And a lot of them also say they are on healthy diets and meal plans – further proof that they are looking to put the side-effects of the pandemic behind them.
AUSTYN ALLISON Editor
Guide cover designed by Clarkwin Cruz
Motivate Media Group Head Office: 34th Floor, Media One Tower, Dubai Media City, Dubai, UAE. Tel: +971 4 427 3000, Email: email@example.com Dubai Media City: SD 2-94, 2nd Floor, Building 2, Dubai, UAE. Tel: +971 4 390 3550, Fax: +971 4 390 4845 Abu Dhabi: Motivate Advertising, Marketing & Publishing, PO Box 43072, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Tel: +971 2 677 2005, Fax: +971 2 677 0124, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org London: Motivate Publishing Ltd, Acre House, 11/15 William Road, London NW1 3ER. email@example.com www.motivatemedia.com EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief Obaid Humaid Al Tayer Managing Partner and Group Editor Ian Fairservice Senior Editor Austyn Allison Junior Reporter Sofia Serrano DESIGN Art Director Clarkwin Cruz Junior Designer Thokchom Remy ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES Tel: +971 4 427 3000 Chief Commercial Officer Anthony Milne Publisher Nadeem Ahmed Quraishi (+971 50 6453365) PRODUCTION General Manager S. Sunil Kumar Assistant Production Manager Binu Purandaran HAYMARKET MEDIA GROUP Chairman Kevin Costello Managing Director Jane Macken The publishers regret that they cannot accept liability for error or omissions contained in this publication, however caused. The opinions and views contained in this publication are not necessarily those of the publishers. Readers are advised to seek specialist advice before acting on information contained in this publication which is provided for general use and may not be appropriate for the readers’ particular circumstances. The ownership of trademarks is acknowledged. No part of this publication or any part of the contents thereof may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without the permission of the publishers in writing. An exemption is hereby granted for extracts used for the purpose of fair review. Campaign Middle East includes material reproduced from the UK Edition (and other editions) of Campaign, which is the copyright of Haymarket. Campaign is a trademark of Haymarket and is used under licence. The views and opinions expressed within this magazine are not necessarily those of Haymarket Magazines Limited or those of its contributors.
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ISSUE 295. POWER LIST 2021
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
EYAD ABDUL KHALEK title: CEO, MENA, MediaCom years in role: 5
years in company: 5
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR We have experienced another capricious year in the workplace and have had to really look at how we work and how we are structured to best serve our clients’ evolving needs. More than ever, we are really committed to the wellbeing of our people. The highlight of the year would be a shift in perspective, a learning experience, which has provided a more accommodating and flexible attitude to the workplace.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? I have just turned 50, so living longer. What are you worrying about? The future wellbeing of our people. What are you smiling at? My kids. What are you reading? A Line in the Sand. What are you watching? Whatever series my wife happens to be watching. What are you eating? Healthy food, mostly at home. What are you listening to? A broad range of music (depending on my mood). What are you playing? Tennis. What’s your hobby? Sailing. What’s your good habit? I love to talk. What’s your bad habit? I love to talk. Who are you learning from? Everyone around me.
POWER ESSAY: SHIFT HAPPENS By Eyad Abdul Khalek, CEO, MENA, Mediacom Advertising executives have long traded in hyperbole, but it’s fair to say even Don Draper would be forgiven for over-playing the impact of the last 18 months. The pandemic is a bona fide game-changer. Much like we use 9/11 as a turning point in time to define the world before and after, the pandemic will be what marketers reflect back on to identify the moment we saw a seismic shift in the way consumers behave and think. The acceleration of change brought on by the pandemic has been remarkable. The digital genie has well and truly exited the gift shop, and according to WPP chief executive Mark Read we have seen “10 years of innovation crammed into a few months”. How right he was. Yet, long before March 2020, the advertising industry had been scrambling to redefine value propositions to clients, who had become tired of legacy models that no longer served their needs. We acted by augmenting organisational structures and revenue models, and addressed the scalable shift to digitisation whilst tackling how we respond to the influence of consultancies over C-suites. As a result, the speed of transformation seemed dizzyingly fast at the time. Whilst this notion of rapid evolution is applicable to the entire advertising agency marketplace, the transformation of media agencies has been more acute than most. From our rather functional beginnings as ‘executional MBUs’ – very much the Andrew Ridgeley to the creative agencies’ George Michael – media agencies are now as central a cog in informing and developing a brand’s entire communication strategy, with their role arguably never more crucial in driving tangible business outcomes. But perception and stereotypes are hard to shift. As a client’s largest marketing expenditure, media has always been looked at predominantly through a lens of cost, rather than the value it can deliver. Procurement departments have become increasingly adept at driving media pricing efficiencies, so, as businesses became financially challenged in an increasingly tough economic climate, the view of media as a cost centre has only increased. Pitches, particularly in this region,
have become price-driven, with agencies guilty of adding fuel to the fire by committing to balance-busting media pricing and commercials that simply don’t add up. It is short-termism, which kicks the can down the road a little further but is never picked up and leads to a cycle that benefits absolutely no one. But there is hope. The shift in the media agency’s role is a silent yet tectonic morph that we are witnessing, and one that is steadfastly gaining momentum. In expanding our scope as enablers and drivers, we now have a position on the table: clearly articulating and realising for clients the incremental value we can bring holistically. This can take various forms depending on the agency head you speak to - but in our case it can be summed up very simply as ‘ACE’. While most agencies have role-played to the purist form as ‘Activation specialists’, we’ve taken our remit to the next level by developing a ‘Consulting layer’ that truly understands upstream and downstream growth white spaces; and then ensures that we deliver differentiation for the client offering through ‘Enablement solutions’, which could come in various avatars (such as business science, commerce readiness, martech deployment or even process-modelled digital acceleration). All of which nicely ties into how today we as MediaCom are engaging our clients in ‘Seeing the Bigger Picture’, an agency proposition that is innately designed to be full-spectrum for their businesses. Why should media professionals be relegated to just placements when they can have a data-informed say in creative effectiveness, messaging relevance and the next best offer to consumers. In my discourse with C-suite and senior marketing leadership, I have witnessed first-hand how much clients recognise and appreciate this. As an industry, the more we demonstrate our broader value proposition to our clients, the sooner we raise the ceiling in terms of our perceived role, delivering long-term, sustainable growth for everyone. Who knows, with a concerted industry effort, media agencies can allow people to listen without prejudice.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
LUCA ALLAM TITLE: CEO of PHD MENA YEARS IN ROLE: 1
YEARS IN COMPANY: 11
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR I continue to be immensely proud of my company and the work we produce. Our strategic planning for Saudi Tourism Authority continues to deliver outstanding international results. Equally pleasing, being able to land client transformation projects. Winning Unilever’s full media planning/ buying scope across the NAME region was a tremendous achievement. On a personal note, becoming CEO of PHD MENA was an incredibly proud moment for myself and my family.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? Preparing PHD for the next chapter of growth, ensuring it remains built on our core values and founding principles. What are you worrying about? Attracting the best-of-the-best new generation of talent to our industry. Why are you smiling? Because I’m about to become a dad for the first time. What are you reading about? How to be a good dad. What are you watching? Something light at the end of the day. What are you eating? Healthy stuff during the day, binge snacking at night. What are you listening to? My clients, my teams. What are you playing? Football, once a week. What’s your hobby? Eating out, trying new places. What’s your good habit? Exercising daily. What’s your bad habit? Not switching off easily. Who are you learning from? Everyone. My clients, my teams, my boss, and of course my wife.
POWER ESSAY: SAME, SAME BUT DIFFERENT By Luca
Allam, CEO, PHD MENA
‘Shift’ is my favourite word right now. There’s a sense of energy, movement, thrill even, in the word that you don’t find in ‘recovery’ or ‘rebound’. We’ve all been waiting for that moment when we can claim victory over the past 18 months. If that triumph isn’t yet fully complete, many organisations have indeed celebrated a return to pre-Covid levels. This doesn’t mean it’s a return to the same previous position, though. The positive signs are everywhere. Oil prices are returning to pre-Covid levels as rising business activity boosts demand. The rise in GDP in the Middle East this year is expected to more than offset the 2020 contraction. Multiple surveys show that people and businesses share this optimism. Even advertising investments are firming up well. While numbers may point to a return to pre-pandemic levels, they don’t tell the full story, for that journey has been transformative. The light at the end of the tunnel can be blinding and basic indicators don’t offer a 3D view of progress or the direction of travel. If we think of a ball, a rebound will return the ball back to its starting point with largely the same intensity. In our case, instead of a flat surface, we’ve hit a rock that changed the return trajectory. If anything, we’re seeing the acceleration of a far deeper trend. In the last decade or so, marketing has become complex, some would say overly so. Things moved so fast that companies throughout the ecosystem felt the need to adapt and transform equally rapidly. Whether it’s expressed by an obsession with the new, questioning past methods, or a lack of direction or understanding, the industry’s over-focus on the short-term has created a sense of mid-life crisis. For diagnosis, we can see the parallels of symptoms of a personal midlife crisis: impulsive decision-making (quick-fix short-term marketing strategies), dramatic changes in behaviour and appearance (the urge to reposition and rebrand) and even thoughts about infidelity (there was about $2.58bn of global media and creative revenue changing hands in 2020 alone). No one is spared. Clients, agencies and media are all affected. Everyone wants to be or act younger, behave and adopt in the manner of a start-up. As an industry, we must transcend this short-termism to get ahead of the change rather than just responding to it. To think longer-term, we must let go of the dysfunctional behaviours of marketing and the legacy structures, as both inhibit effectiveness. Addressing marketing’s midlife crisis is an opportunity to shatter the anxieties that are holding our organisations back. To do this, we need to engage in an organisational rethink and build for the future. Marketing departments have to reimagine the way they are structured, including how the different elements of a marketing organisation work together with the agency. Moving from a legacy of transactional to a future of advisory, agencies have to rebuild too. Both agencies and clients will rebuild on
similar foundations: technology, capability, process, insight and measurement. Fully optimised, they will allow organisations to consider what structure to embrace, depending on whether they are product- or marketingled, and centrally controlled or devolved. At PHD, we’ve already witnessed deep and meaningful changes in the last year. Our growth is apparent, but its composition is different from before. Our talent and resources are also organised differently, and we have introduced new roles and training programmes that never previously existed. These innovations were deployed to stay ahead of the curve and, today, we are more consultative in digital transformation and data deployment, and also in broader marketing challenges and branding. For me, the rebalancing of the agenda away from marketing technology and back on to individuals is long overdue. As an industry we need to apply to our people and how they’re organised the same level of advanced and precision thinking that we have applied to data and technology over the last decade. This is a vital investment in our long-term sustainability. Since our inception as PHD, we have prioritised organising our teams and systems to facilitate, unlock and empower long-term client growth through strategic thinking and creativity. This has never been more important as a priority. Predicting the future has always been a risky business and the past 18 months have made this crystal clear. Yet, we must remain alert and conscious about what roles and resources will have the greatest business impact in the coming years. For a nice change, we’ll have to turn research and analysis on to ourselves and how we operate. Now is the time for us all to anticipate and prepare for the new roles and functions that will shape the future dynamics of our ecosystem. Doing this will undoubtedly help us shift out of this marketing midlife crisis.
“For diagnosis, we
can see the parallels of symptoms of a personal midlife crisis: impulsive decisionmaking, dramatic changes in behaviour and appearance and even thoughts about infidelity.”
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
AHMED AL SAHHAF TITLE: Chief Executive Officer of MMS NUMBER OF YEARS IN ROLE: 1 (since the
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR Being an integral part of building MMS, creating a great team that already feels like a family and working with clients and agencies to grow their businesses.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? Unlocking future opportunities. What are you worrying about? Time, as we need to catch up and leap ahead. What are you smiling at? Funny jokes. What are you reading? Mostly business and social media articles. What are you watching? The football league and the short series When They See Us. What are you eating? Home-cooked meals with close friends and family. What are you listening to? Thmanyah podcast. What are you playing? Chess with my sons. What’s your hobby? Tennis. What’s your good habit? Enjoying any challenge that comes my way. What’s your bad habit? Not exercising enough. Who are you learning from? I try to learn from every person I meet.
POWER ESSAY: FULL SPEED AHEAD Ahmed Al Sahhaf, CEO, MMS When it comes to the market in the region, it’s essential to truly get intimate and genuine with your audience. Always keep their language, culture and values at the heart of all marketing and content strategies, and leverage local content for more authenticity and transparency in your message delivery. Our region is witnessing continuous growth through new projects and initiatives that present new opportunities in the market. For those who want to invest in these expanding home-grown economies, producing and distributing content that is specifically made for them is crucial. Talk local Leveraging local content for more authenticity, and transparency impacts every brand message delivery ,and brands are increasingly adapting their communication to encompass the values and culture of the people they’re targeting. They are steering away from using international campaigns to target the local market and are instead opting to create campaigns that cater specifically to their targeted audiences — building on their local insights rather than ‘global truths’. This is especially the case when it comes to the Saudi market. It can most likely be attributed to the national sense of pride amongst the people of Saudi Arabia towards the extraordinary transformation the country is undergoing. The sense of change, and the feeling that greater things are yet to come, are contagious, and brands want to be a part of that. Brands and clients want to be strategically tied to Vision 2030. They are launching initiatives and campaigns that are in line with its objectives. They are trying to do their part in supporting Saudi Arabia’s goals and vision and are reaching out to MMS to do so. One of the projects we’ve recently launched is Irbak, a reality entrepreneurship competition series, open to youth across the Arab World in partnership with the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones. The show, which aims to showcase some of the Arab World’s rising and most promising entrepreneurs and start-up owners, is in line with the directives of HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, to achieve the goals of the kingdom’s vision to seize the opportunities of the digital economy. We are also working with the Saudi Tourism Authority to launch the second season of Kiram, a show that highlights inspiring tourism experiences by embracing young talent. This also supports the country’s goal of growing its tourism sector. We are proud of being the exclusive advertising representatives for the brand-new Saudi Sports Company network of TV and digital channels, allowing us to provide brands with the opportunity to leverage the football craze taking over the kingdom this season. Leverage locally produced content Audiences relate to local productions; the core approach to achieving authenticity and relatability. Following a year of slowed production due to Covid-19
restrictions, TV networks and streaming platforms are now operating at full force to produce a strong content line-up that attracts audiences and that brands will want to be associated with. At the centre of this effort are streaming and video-on-demand platforms, including Shahid, which are investing in producing high quality local content that audiences can connect to. One of Shahid’s latest productions, Rashash, notably the biggest Arabic production by a streaming company to date, has proven to be a success; it was watched around 40 million times (and watched in every country in the world at least once). It remained the number one title in the GCC throughout the show’s eight-week duration, making it by far the most successful Shahid Original to date. Not only have originals proven to be highly successful in terms of viewership, they also present brands with unique integration opportunities that are not available in internationally acquired shows. Leveraging a local production means your brand can be present within a show that targets and represents its own audience. Shahid and MBC GROUP have launched various originals, as well as localised shows representing different countries in the region such as Egypt and Iraq, and MMS has already set up its activities to provide them with premium solutions. We believe in the power of branded content, which is why we’ve been providing our clients with integrated branded content solutions to deliver their desired messages in an unobtrusive way and without interruption. We have also introduced – for the first time in MENA – native formats on Shahid that look and feel seamless to the browsing experience using Pause Ads, which are digital static ads that appears when a user pauses the show, without interrupting his or her viewing experience. Build relations with local brands As more home-grown brands continue to grow exponentially, advertising and media solutions companies should realise the opportunities that lie in these specific nuances for these local newcomers. In Saudi Arabia, for example, we are witnessing notable growth amongst local brands, which are increasing – and in many cases surpassing – their international counterparts in media investments. Companies should build relations with up-andcoming businesses early on, as these local businesses and SMEs will eventually grow across all parameters, including their marketing efforts. We have witnessed this first-hand at MMS this past Ramadan. The top investors in the past years were international brands, but last year they were replaced by local brands with the ambition to become category leaders. The team at MMS is adopting an inclusive approach that encompasses all businesses, be they SMEs or large multinationals, by creating customised offerings that address their specific challenges to help them successfully implement TV, radio and digital solution investments that maximise their return on media investment.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
TONY BOURACHED title: CEO, Mindshare MENA years in role: 2
years in company: 11
other roles: IAB GCC Board Member
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR Working closely with our key clients to build on the shift of traditional media KPIs, which were always the core focus of our business up until a couple of years ago, to more robust and measurable business KPIs that we can now optimise based on data and actualised achievements and not a stab in the dark. Personally, having taken the lead of an agency during turbulent times, to say the least, I have learned that patience and a strong belief in myself, my business and my people makes me a better leader.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? Bringing Mindshare’s new global proposition to MENA. What are you worrying about? Forecasting for 2022 and beyond. What are you smiling at? Digital media spends overtaking offline. What are you reading? The Penelopiad by Margaret Attwood. What are you watching? The Good Doctor. What are you eating? Miso Tahini Salmon at Orfali Bros Bistro. What are you listening to? Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky. What are you playing? Building a complex and challenging Lego model. What’s your hobby? Cooking and eating, What’s your good habit? Always with a genuine smile. What’s your bad habit? Smoking, definitely. Who are you learning from? My team.
POWER ESSAY: THE NEW ERA OF GROWTH, GOOD GROWTH By Tony Bourached, CEO, Mindshare MENA The path to growth for the industry, our clients and their brands was for many years based on geography – whether it was by expanding into new markets, trying to reach more people in a given country or diversifying products and brand offerings to retain and grow market share. Nowhere is this truer than in our region, where we have seen local brands turn into regional powerhouses, regional brands challenge global brands and global brands look to the Middle East for their growth. Today’s world is a very different one. Brands are no longer confined by geographies; you can have tea at Harrods in Qatar, buy toys at Hamley’s in Dubai, stop at a Starbucks in almost all MENA markets, to name a few examples. The world went global, and brands went on the same trip. With this cross-market growth comes responsibility; brands need to build consistency in their experiences and their values. The truth is that geographic boundaries themselves are less important, as global platform ecosystems overtake geographical countries in their population numbers. These ecosystems are where our consumers live today. It is not just the youth who have adopted them as their new home, it’s everyone. In this platform-led world, consumers’ voices have been further empowered, brands win or lose based on how authentic they truly are and, most importantly, the sales funnel has collapsed. The new store is online. We are not saying bricks-and-mortar is dead. We are not saying traditional media is not critical for communication. We are saying we cannot look at the world through a historic lens. These platform ecosystems combining media and commerce in one place are set to become the new infrastructure for the next era of business. This new platform age did not happen overnight. It has evolved in front of us, and it has happened quickly, but most of us are still playing catch-up. And today this forces us as brands and agencies to align our marketing plans to the values of consumers, by analysing them on a more granular level to understand their motivations and anticipate their decisions. At Mindshare, our insight into consumers is precisely human, a balance of data-led insights with empathy. It is all made possible through the use of the latest tools and technologies, which are fuelled by global consumer insight research that includes insights from the region.
It drives our teams to understand the in-depth workings of the globally connected digital platforms that themselves sit inside their own platform ecosystems – think Facebook, Google, Amazon, Alibaba and their families of businesses and apps. Driving growth in this day and age is not so much about how to enter a new market or a new territory or expanding your product range within a market or territory. It is all about how good you are at exploiting the platform ecosystems to your advantage, and this growth is also accompanied by a growing awareness of the impact of growth on society and the planet because consumers can voice their concerns in a way not possible before, which means today your growth must be able to live: Beyond the single sale. A focus on optimising the sale is a zero-sum game. Winning means winning consumers’ trust, by being the brand they value and can align their values with. That is a fundamental shift because the connectivity of these platforms gives people more power – and they are demanding more from brands. More transparency. More value. More action. More authenticity. This means the way you communicate with people must both understand and recognise who they are as human beings as well as how they appear in digital data across platforms. It’s about marrying the accuracy of technology with the empathy required to understand human motivations and decision-making. Beyond the single moment. Valuing both lifetime customer value and short-term sales. Getting locked into acquisition churn and burn will not drive sustainable growth and you will get dumped if you don’t both deliver value and align with your consumers’ values. Beyond single platforms. Because to truly grow your business you will need to succeed across multiple platform ecosystems and owned channels. If your brand and products can adapt to these new rules, then you will drive good growth, growth that is sustainable and that benefits from the platform ecosystems. If you don’t, then you could find your brand out of step with business, the consumer, society or all three. Are you ready for this future?
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
PIERRE CHOUEIRI title: Chairman and CEO, Choueiri Group
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR At Choueiri Group, this year has allowed us to consolidate our strengths and build upon our capabilities to deliver more to our clients and brand partners, while supporting our publishers via consultative services and 360-degree products, which will enable them to thrive well into the future. The Group has focused-in on its investments in tech, data, content and service excellence, and has taken on a variety of new partnerships with best-of-breed global experts with an aim of developing new means and avenues for success, which will contribute to the sustained growth of the region’s industry.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? Improving the ad industry. What are you worrying about? Short termers (hit-and-run). What are you smiling at? My grandchildren. What are you reading? The Art of War. What are you watching? The Last Flight. What are you eating? Your guess: eternal diet. What are you listening to? Anghami. What are you playing? Building Lego. What’s your hobby? Boating. What’s your good habit? Always seeing the positive side of bad things. What’s your bad habit? I hate stupidity. Who are you learning from? Everyone.
POWER ESSAY: WHAT WE KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE FUTURE OF OUR INDUSTRY By Pierre
Choueiri, Chairman and CEO, Choueiri Group
Operating in the face of unprecedented global economic, political and pandemic-related disruptions, the region’s media and advertising industry stands at a critical turning point. With the majority of stakeholders learning to exercise greater agility and adapting to uncharted challenges in the ‘new normal’, our industry is setting aside everything we had previously known to become more reactive and creative about the solutions we provide. We have truly found ourselves centerstage in a world where change is the only constant. To peek into the future requires us firstly to take stock of advertising expenditures and see how they have fared against recent pressures.
In this transforming landscape, consumer behaviour and preferences have naturally become very complex and difficult to decipher. As marketers set out to communicate, determining how long their audiences’ habits sustain and what implications they will have on media hubs and brands is becoming an uphill task. This, coupled with the brands focusing heavily on their bottom lines, makes our jobs all the more difficult. Pandemic-induced lockdowns and social distancing also played a major role in shaping digital shoppers and highlighting e-commerce as a focal point for our industry’s future. A host of new, as well as traditional, retail players are expected to boost this sector in the coming two years by 80 per cent (from $26.9bn in 2018 to $48.6bn in 2022).
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, industry-wide ad spending (global and regional) further decreased, before gaining some stabilising momentum in early 2021, with Covid-19 vaccines and economic recovery rolling out. At this time, digital continued to gather the greater share of ad spend (48 per cent of the total industry). Television, meanwhile, recovered some of the viewership it was losing pre-Covid-19, due to an increase in stay-at-home TV consumption during the pandemic. Regaining its audience attachment, and even attracting some new viewers, TV advertising revenues and share have remained stable across 2021.
With technology-driven innovations becoming the lifeblood of our industry’s evolution, data and measurement are the undeniable keys to sustainable growth. With the media scene becoming increasingly fragmented, regional brands have long suffered from the lack of a reliable measurement system, which would allow them to see where their advertising dollars are going and to gauge effectiveness and ROI. Moving forward, cross-media measurement will lead to the power of data growing exponentially at the centre of the entire ecosystem, while ensuring that different vehicles receive a fairer share of advertising revenues. The resulting increased measurement and transparency will give brands greater confidence about their advertising investments and provide a major boost to the growth of the MENA ad market’s overall size.
measurement will lead to the power of data growing exponentially.”
Video and TV’s extension to advertising-funded video on demand (AVOD), subscription-funded video on demand (SVOD) and social media platforms, which have higher reach and impact with younger viewers such as Gen Z, have ensured that video advertising has become a much sought-after opportunity. In today’s performance-marketing-oriented environment, TV will continue to place more tools at the disposal of clients in a bid to generate enhanced return on investment. With reach no longer serving as the main metric, time spent will become the most important metric for planning, transacting and measuring media. Privacy will also be an increasingly central concern, especially as support for third-party cookies phases out and a new digital era when consumers own their data and decide who gets to use it begins.
At Choueiri Group, we are resolute in our commitment to investing in data and research, state-of-the-art technology and e-commerce, as the cornerstone foundations which will drive the growth of our industry. Our focus on content and creative, e-commerce, performance and data, as well as our consultative and servicing capabilities, has allowed us to introduce several 360-degree advertising products and solutions that enable brands to simultaneously address all the aforementioned concerns and succeed well into the future.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
TAREK DAOUK title: CEO, dentsu MENA years in role: 3.5
years in company: 3.5 years in industry: 22
other roles: Member of The Board of
Advisors for the Olayan School of Business at American University of Beirut”; Strategic Advisor for the early-stage technology venture fund Quest Ventures; Member of the global YPO leadership community
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR 2021 has been a rollercoaster. We’ve rebranded the company to dentsu, optimised our offering to six global brands and achieved outstanding organic quarterly revenue growth after an extremely tough year in 2020. For me, the highlight has been seeing how all of our people have adapted and grown, making the impossible possible through their relentless commitment and hard work.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? What my legacy should be. What are you worrying about? Losing excitement. What are you smiling at? My daughter. What are you reading? This Is What America Looks Like, by Elhan Omar. What are you watching? Delhi Crime. What are you eating? Medium rare ribeye steak, at home. What are you listening to? The Drop Out. What are you playing? Lumosity. What’s your hobby? Scuba diving. What’s your good habit? Eating well, good food. What’s your bad habit? Focus. Who are you learning from? Everyone.
POWER ESSAY: 2021, THE YEAR OF ASSIMILATION By Tarek Daouk, CEO, dentsu MENA For me, and the rest of the world, 2021 was a year of assimilation. As people, we have been settling into a balance of pre- and postpandemic behaviours and attitudes. While it will still be a long time until we fully understand the long-term and lasting impact of the past 18 months, there are a few patterns that have emerged amidst all the rapid change and disruption, and behaviours that are becoming a part of everyday life.
1. Flexi-living Covid-19 is the now-proven case study for flexible working, disrupting the traditional nine-to-six desk routine and opening new opportunities for consumers and brands alike. Many new consumer segments will emerge as people take control of how and where they spend their time. Brands need to understand this and create clear and meaningful communication that demonstrates a much higher level of emotional intelligence. 2. Wellness to wellbeing With the world experiencing a heightened sense of anxiety, we saw an accelerated focus on wellbeing which manifested in a myriad of ways. Mindfulness became mainstream, we gave ourselves permission to treat ourselves without the feeling of guilt, and wellbeing at work became a must-have as opposed to a nice-to-have. Supporting people with their wellbeing goals is a prime route for brands to tap into; however, companies must be mindful that their internal policies and practices should hold up to the standards the brand is setting. 3. Activated empathy Brands are now more than ever expected to be part of the change and conversation driving social, governmental and business change on the issues most urgent to their audiences – such as sustainability and inequality. Brands are no longer immune to criticism and their transparency and societal actions have never been more pertinent.
1. Brand safety to societal safety There is a greater emphasis on brand safety in all its forms. Advertisers and agencies are moving from brand safety to societal safety, looking to not only ensure their advertising does not appear in inappropriate content, but
to ensure that it does not fund inappropriate content or publishers. 2. State of subscription We have seen the explosion and diversification of new paid content services launching in MENA with entertainment and media becoming more virtual, streamed, personal and more centred on the home than anyone could have anticipated. With the influx, more questions are being raised around existing ad-funded models, with consumer revenue now overtaking advertising revenue, and the sustainability of these subscriptions as financial strain and fatigue kicks in. 3. One-stop shops As the big technology companies consolidate their power, they are building synergies between their different services, making life easier, quicker and more seamless for consumers – and in turn shortening the traditional consumer purchase funnel. Integrating their services means that these companies are becoming one-stop shops for all of your needs, rather than a disparate group of apps and sites. This will continue to impact the smaller players with more specific specialities. 4. Virtual in-person (VIP) access As Covid-19 put an abrupt end to in-person events and live entertainment, new spaces and venues were created through virtual experiences. We became privy to artists live-streaming intimate acoustic sets, were welcomed into chefs’ home kitchens, and elite fitness trainers’ backyards. While in-person events are now recovering, there are still a myriad of new opportunities for brands to play a role in providing access to, or enhancing, such content with the added benefit of a level of scale not afforded by physical events. Today, the world feels like a very different place than it was at the end of the previous decade. For brands, the volatile times mean a greater need for emotional intelligence; listening to and understanding how their consumers feel and helping people navigate the new world through their products, services and actions. As we prepare for 2022, our focus will be on helping our clients create a more meaningful value exchange with people by adapting to the long-term societal trends that will continue to shape the 2020s.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
SALEH GHAZAL title: Managing Director, OMD UAE years in role: 3
years in company: 15
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR Despite the pandemic, I am proud to say that OMD UAE has seen one of the most successful years to date. Not only did we win big with Expo 2020 and OSN, but we managed to honour our high client retention rate. Consequently, OMD was awarded the Media Agency of the Year in EMEA as per the 2021 COMvergence report. This is an achievement that makes us all proud at OMD; it is a true testament that hard work, passion and innovation pay off.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? Myself, always. What are you worrying about? Social media’s effect on human interaction and self-image. What are you smiling at? Growth. What are you reading? The Return of The Economic Naturalist by Robert H Frank. What are you watching? Formula 1: Drive to Survive and Start-Up. What are you eating? Comfort food, at home. What are you listening to? Sumatra by Nora Van Elken. What are you playing? Hide and seek with my two kids. What’s your hobby? Running and football. What’s your good habit? Running, too, and being an early bird. What’s your bad habit? Being an eternal optimist and being a Real Madrid supporter. Who are you learning from? My mistakes, the pandemic and constant change.
POWER ESSAY: KEEP IT REAL AND HUMAN By Saleh
Ghazal, Managing Director, OMD UAE
We live more isolated lives, away from our traditional communities and in algorithmically optimised social media bubbles that reinforce our own biases rather than enrich us with different views and opinions. In fact, it is becoming harder for brands to connect with overwhelmed and jaded people short on trust, patience and attention. Empathy needs to make a comeback. Despite the pandemic, which brought relationships and care for others into a sharp focus, most brands have failed to step up to the plate. A recent YouGov survey has highlighted that 69 per cent of brands and companies
us to create brand affinity and valued experiences, through a better definition and prioritisation of audiences across a range of interests, mindsets, needs and moments.” are delivering similar and interchangeable messages, which 42 per cent of respondents are tired of hearing. Clichés and platitudes, like “we’re all in this together”, have lost their meaning and are no longer cutting through. For empathy to work, it has to be true and meaningful, otherwise it’s a cheap plaster that quickly cracks to reveal a less desirable reality. And today, people see through this better than ever before. In an industry like ours, which is all about creating connections and persuasion, empathy with consumers and creating value for them every step of the way should be top of our agenda. Empathy guides us to create brand affinity and valued experiences and interactions, through a better definition and prioritisation of audiences across a range of interests, mindsets, needs and moments. By all means, brands should ‘feel’ and express empathy too, but that’s not enough when everyone, including their key competitors, does it. Empathy, not sympathy or emotionality. The response this situation calls for is distinctive empathy. Distinctive empathy is about recognising situations for what they are, warts and all, good or bad, genuinely,
authentically and honestly. There’s bravery in this approach too, because truth hurts sometimes. It’s about being grown-up and mature about things, and talking to consumers as adults, something they recognise and appreciate. By addressing consumers like a human would, brands build a unique and real rapport, separating themselves from others and creating a distinctive and lasting impact. Distinctive empathy planning has certain rules: 1. Be prepared to take risks. Genuine empathy should form part of a longer-term brand ambition, rather than be a reactive tactic, to be authentic and therefore effective. 2. Don’t just follow the crowd. There is no safety in numbers here, so create empathetic comms that set you apart from the competition while staying true to your brand. 3. Understand and get closer to each phase of the consumer’s journey by identifying signals to deliver the right message. Think beyond environments and timing, and focus more on moods and mindsets. 4. Ride the cultural conversation. Embrace the cultural context, positive or negative, and form and share a position for your brand on one or more causes. Be proactive in your planning, rather than reactive. 5. Speak human-to-human. Being more authentic, human and likeable will help to bring your brand closer to your consumers. Creating value for potential customers through empathy can take many forms, from simple frequency capping to more tailored and relevant messaging. Distinctive empathy doesn’t stop or start with media planning; it can be built across the business from fundamental pillars of the proposition itself, including pricing, packaging or distribution. As the meaningful point of difference increasingly becomes the full multi-sensory brand experience, it is the systematic and structured application of empathy across each interaction that can generate value for both customers and businesses. This is why we’ve aligned our process, OMD Design, and our precision marketing and insights platform, Omni, to identify and act on opportunities to create value across the entire customer experience. As we advance further from one-to-many to one-to-one targeted comms strategies, we need to be able to see the world through the eyes of the consumers we’re trying to reach. Covering the entire funnel, empathy planning considers the full consumer experience as well as unmet needs and untapped desires to determine how a brand should use communications and media to fulfil them. Not only does the consistent practice of empathy in all areas of our business unlock growth and improve performance, it also enriches consumers’ lives. If this pandemic taught us anything, it is that for humanity to thrive, true empathy ought to prevail.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
AHMAD ITANI title: Founder & CEO of Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy years in role: 16 years in company: 16 other roles: Chairman of PRCA MENA and ICCO Middle East President
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR 2021 has been an exceptional year of recovery, during which Cicero & Bernay expanded its portfolio of key government clients, automotive and pharmaceutical leaders, real estate giants and premier tech brands. This was made possible through the efforts of our dedicated, impassioned team, who took up every challenge they faced and ensured our growth.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? 2030. What are you worrying about? My kids’ futures. What are you smiling at? My team, who make me proud every day. What are you reading? Everything, but I recommend Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Sapiens, and Ikigai. What are you watching? The Loudest Voice, again, and I am really looking forward to Succession. What are you eating? Salads, salads, salads. What are you listening to? Everything. What are you playing? Chess; always have, always will. What’s your hobby? Chess, reading, and Lego. What’s your good habit? Yoga. What’s your bad habit? Stress. Who are you learning from? Everyone.
POWER ESSAY: 2021 TILL INFINITY By Ahmad Itani, Founder & CEO of Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy Much has been discussed of the challenges over the past few years that have fundamentally changed the way we regard one another and the way the world operates. Yet, what are most overlooked are the lessons that are established as a result, which paint a brighter picture for posterity and create a roadmap upon which future generations can reflect and progress. The MENA region, led by the UAE and KSA as two of the first nations to re-energise their respective economies post-pandemic, presents an ideal platform for advancement. From this standpoint, it is fortunate that we are in a region that is continuously adapting and evolving to keep pace with the world, and, at times, lead conversations of change and progress. This is a fact that is made all the more relevant by a report published by PWC Middle East that positions artificial intelligence (AI) as a game changer in business, contributing $15.7 trillion to the world economy and $9.6bn to the UAE economy by 2030. In Egypt, for example, the information and communications technology (ICT) sector is extremely robust, with a growth rate higher than the county’s overall level of GDP growth, equivalent to 15.2 per cent in the fiscal year 2019/2020.
relations efforts, expanded our team with a complement of digital-native professionals, and conceived and offered 360-degree, holistic solutions to transcend our modus operandi from an agency to a communication consultancy. We also integrated and diversified our tools to further understand permeating trends across strategic digital platforms and supported this growth with a production team to present turnkey solutions. While the pandemic was reaching concerning thresholds, we were advancing our techniques to adapt to a world whose frequency of change had no precedent. Among the many services we developed, we employed programmatic innovations and processes to take advantage of artificial intelligence and deliver optimal results for clients through an intrinsic navigation of the digital world.
“The MENA region,
led by the UAE and KSA as two of the first nations to re-energise their respective economies, presents an ideal platform for advancement.”
All this presents a breeding ground of technological advancements that not only caters to the fast-evolving digital present, whose overarching effects we are still learning to grasp, but also packages itself as a protracted language that Gen Z is consistently proving more versed in. The true balance of power is in the hands of this current, younger generation as the excavators of the future who, unlike millennials and baby boomers, are more independent and financially sustainable, given the tools they have and their outwards mentality. For us at Cicero & Bernay, we recognised this shift and had begun addressing it in anticipation of the present. We pre-emptively introduced a digital chapter to our public
Could this have been done somewhere else in the world? Perhaps. However, the region, and the UAE specifically, presented an environment through which such growth is not only facilitated but encouraged, with features including world-class infrastructure and excellent healthcare services. What all this means is that – coupled with our need to continuously advance and attain new knowledge – the MENA region is presenting a quintessential environment that nurtures innovation and progress across all industries so that the future is made all the more closer and the next evolutionary step can be predicted and worked towards. But without the potential to realise our own and one another’s dreams, all this change would be restricted to papers and studies that only project the path that we are on. We sought the guidance to inspire the change we want in ourselves and our children; little did we know that we would be actively drafting the blueprint for a new beginning that has retconned what we know in lieu of an unpredictable yet more rewarding tomorrow.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
MAZEN JAWAD title: President, Horizon Holdings (Hori-
zon FCB MENA, BPN MENA, GolinMENA, Blue Barracuda and FuelContent).
years in role: 2
years in company: 27
POWER ESSAY: UNLEASHING CREATIVITY FUELED BY TECHNOLOGY AND DATA By Mazen
Jawad, President, Horizon Holdings
Over a decade ago, Dubai was the catalyst in the region with its vision and incredible transformation.
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR Coming back stronger than ever. After sitting on countless reviews and assessments last year to counter the impact of the virus on another year, our people challenged the expectations and came back with countless stories that make us the Never Finished network, maintaining healthy relationships, winning new ones, creating economic multiplier ideas, expanding into new territories and adding new offerings – all while upholding a motivated and brave team.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? Myself. What are you worrying about? Global warming. What are you smiling at? New horizons. What are you reading? My daughter’s homework. What are you watching? Asharq Bloomberg. What are you eating? Fewer burgers. Who are you listening to? Our people.
Today, while Dubai has not taken its foot off the pedal, we’re witnessing several nations across MENA bring in new visions, ideas, imagination, transformational plans and opportunities that never existed before. While working with big, international and powerful brands is exciting, more attention is being given to small, new, local and regional marketers that have the potential to become the famous brands of tomorrow. Our creativity should be applied against opportunity and problems, not the next big brief or the next big TVC. While we used to invest most effort in the best known or highest couture brand, today we’re investing more time, attention and effort on the upcoming, challenger brand that will become and transform to its full potential with our guidance, creativity, partnership and care. In the next two months alone, we’re launching five new brands stemming from our local Arab culture that will touch the hearts and minds of millions, engage with them and become part of their lives. We succeed only if we can engage, impact, change or create behaviour for a purpose that exists today and will remain tomorrow. To achieve this, we need to consider bringing together three forces that might have previously felt opposed to each other: technology, creativity and data; together forming a new kind of equilibrium. This works best when you don’t sacrifice creativity for the sake of tech or data. Rather, the tech and data should be used to power insight for creative ideas. And of course, this wouldn’t be possible without those three forces working in harmony. The tech is how the platform exists and to ensure that people have access to it; second you need to humanise the data and the insight. And finally, you need creativity to find the idea itself, because at the end of the day creativity needs to be an economic multiplier. People are seeking more and more high-quality personalised and unique content. While the amount of information and entertainment on the internet is huge, it’s becoming harder to get the attention and engagement of consumers. We’re driving more educational, relevant and meaningful content, making it more interactive with games, quizzes and thought starters that can better engage with consumers. We’re also witnessing an increase in micro-influencer partnerships that will remain in the years to come and play an important role adding further value to our equilibrium. Micro-influencers might not have the huge quantities of followers that macro influencers do, but they certainly have loyal and engaged ones. With their clear and authentic niche offering, they allow brands to reach audiences interested in their products and services quickly and effectively. With the rise of influencer communication, user-generated content has also become one of the most authentic and reliable forms of virtual word-of-mouth strategies. A lot of this user-generated marketing is being delivered through video content. Video is one of the most powerful marketing tools in our region – informing, entertaining and generating phenomenal leads again when the equilibrium is applied. Video content will keep thriving while diversifying, whether it’s your informative podcast, entertaining content, thrilling series and movies or the growing ephemeral content and livestreaming which has grown exponentially since the pandemic to create online and hybrid events, to entertain and engage, and to showcase your brand in innovative ways.
What’s your hobby? Travel and discovery.
Last but not least, e-commerce in the MENA region is still growing exponentially and is offering opportunities on multiple levels for our industry, whether in strategy, technology, SEO, creativity, content creation and marketing or just brainstorming with our clients to import or sell new products and services that never existed in traditional retail in the region. Nevertheless, the merging of data, creativity and technology remains essential so that our work becomes an economic multiplier taking advantage of a platform that’s worth close to $50bn in value.
What’s your good habit? Daily workouts. Fitness infuses positive energy.
Never Finished, we’re at home in an exciting region that’s always manifesting potential. Today it is doing this through the eyes of a young generation that is driving the transformation we always wished for.
What are you playing? The ‘Never Finished’ game.
What’s your bad habit? Eating too many burgers. Who are you learning from? Our Founder, Rafic Saadeh. Always.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
SUNIL JOHN title: President, MENA, BCW and Founder of
years in role: 21
other roles: Member, Global Board of BCW;
leads ASDA’A BCW’s wholly-owned subsidiaries - Proof Communications, PSB Middle East and GCI Health Middle East; Member, Dubai International Chamber Advisory Board PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR Shaping our agency to be truly integrated, creative and digital-first, which contributed to strong double-digit growth in 2021. Personally, I am honoured to have been named by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, as a member of the Advisory Board of the Dubai International Chamber.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? The 2021 edition of our annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, to launch on October 12. What are you worrying about? Talent, talent, talent. What are you smiling at? Friends, and its enduring ability to make you smile even after 20 years. What are you reading? The Anarchy by William Darlymple, the shocking story of plunder by the East India Company. What are you watching? Succession – what a comedic drama with shades of the Murdochs. What are you eating? Mostly a combination of salads and Japanese food at Rōhen in The Arts Club Dubai. What are you listening to? The Weeknd (and looking forward to his live performance soon in New York at the Anghami Nasdaq listing). What are you playing? The wonderous game of public relations. What’s your hobby? Happy to have none. What’s your good habit? Staying true to my values of fairness and equal opportunity. What’s your bad habit? Being too much of a perfectionist. Who are you learning from? My daughter Sasha and my son Philip.
POWER ESSAY: PR WILL THRIVE IN THE NEW ‘EARNED-PLUS’ ERA By Sunil John, President – MENA, BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW These are exciting times for the public relations sector. Despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, continued economic uncertainty around the world and the fallout of persistent regional conflicts, demand for PR services in the Middle East and North Africa is proving extremely resilient. And the real differentiator of the region’s most successful PR companies is, I believe, their new ‘earned-plus’ mindset. Let me explain. The reputation of the PR sector is anchored in our ability to earn clients the endorsement of media and other influential stakeholders. That will, and should, never change. However, the market is evolving at breakneck speed and our paymasters are rightly demanding something more, hence the approach of earned-plus. Donna Imperato, CEO of BCW Global, first talked of this concept in an interview with PRWeek in April this year.
increasingly platform-agnostic. Newspaper journalists were once our primary ‘content creators’; today, our storytelling must appeal to social media experts, podcast creators and digital natives, and be adaptable to their particular channels. As Harold rightly explained, the core of our business, the message, will never change. But today we must repurpose it to the fragmented, always-on media environment that serves an evergrowing and increasingly distracted audience.
2. Put digital first to cut through the clutter The mandate of PR has expanded as clients have pivoted towards digital communications. With social media engagement growing, traditional media shrinking and audiences becoming ever more digitally-savvy, data analytics and evidencebased research are central to successful strategising. To cut through the clutter, place digital at the heart of your thinking.
is evolving at breakneck speed and our paymasters are rightly demanding something more.”
Earned-plus is multi-layered: It is earned-plus data – which refers to the additional strategic value generated from data analytics. It is earned-plus digital – denoting the importance of integrated, multi-channel campaigns in influencing customer behaviour. And it is earned-plus performance – shorthand for the amplification gained through targeted paid promotion across multiple media platforms.
Earned-plus is a creative, integrated and digital-first philosophy, which builds on our industry’s proven ability to add value to the C-suite at the highest levels of business and government. It promises sustained commercial growth, behoving the PR industry to adopt a multiple-agency service model. But how can our sector, including both agencies and in-house communicators, apply this new earned-plus mindset? Here are some suggestions:
1. Don’t forget the basics
Firstly, PR has always been about storytelling. As the late Harold Burson, the father of modern PR, observed “We are being paid to tell our clients’ side of the story. We are in the business of changing and moulding attitudes, and we aren’t successful unless we move the needle.” That fundamental insight is as relevant today as it was before the advent of online and social media. However, in the earned-plus era, we need compelling content strategies that are
3. Build subject expertise
PR agencies must understand the fastchanging business landscape of their clients to build relevant narratives that resonate with specialised audiences. While crisis management and internal communications were crucial during the pandemic, now clients demand advice and counsel on sustainability, purpose, behavioural science, and health and wellbeing. All of these need subject-matter experts.
4. Deliver measurable impact
With multiple conversation channels and new ways of customer engagement emerging, clients demand 360-degree measurement tools. These days, the impact of PR campaigns is not only judged by share of voice but also by ‘share of heart’. Accordingly, PR firms must invest in additional performance indicators to build a compelling earned-plus offer. These include omnichannel analysis, qualitative and quantitative attitudinal research, reputation dashboards, competitor benchmarks and real-time tracking.
5. Make it simpler, not simple
Notwithstanding the sweeping changes brought about by digitisation, the primary task of PR remains moving people. And the best, and indeed only, way to do this is to make our communications simple. As Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, once said, we must work hard to make our thinking clean and simple – because when we do, we can move mountains.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
BASSEL KAKISH title: CEO, Publicis Groupe Middle East
years in role: 1
years in company: 20
POWER ESSAY: NAVIGATING THE PLATFORM WORLD By Bassel Kakish, CEO, Publicis Groupe Middle East & Turkey
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR The pandemic has changed so many aspects of our world over the past two years. Economies have shifted, our clients’ priorities have been tested and consumers have evolved their demands and expectations of brands, which will have a lasting impact on society and industry. It is in this context that I have taken on my new role as Publicis Groupe CEO. It is this new dynamic that has dynamically changed how we do business and how we provide growth to our partners in the new ‘platform world’.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? Transformation for tomorrow. What are you worrying about? The next four years. What are you smiling at? Speed of change. What are you reading? Digital Business Transformation: How Established Companies Sustain Competitive Advantage from Now to Next, by Nigal Vaz. What are you watching? The Usual Suspects, Star Wars, anything Marvel. What are you eating? Everything except seafood. What are you listening to? Pearl Jam, Metallica, Post Malone, Travis Scott. What are you playing? Fortnite. What’s your hobby? Travel. What’s your good habit? I keep my promises. What’s your bad habit? Ask my wife. Who are you learning from? Everyone.
I don’t think that anyone can get through these essays without touching on the pandemic. The past 18 months have changed the world, and 2022 will continue to challenge us all. It will accelerate business innovation, highlight new consumer behaviours, and drive the need for direct relationships with customers. Today, our clients’ brands live in a platform world; six out of 10 of the most valuable global corporations are platform companies. These have fundamentally transformed how brands grow and have changed the nature of what and who should be considered as competition. Our goal is to help clients unlock growth in a platform world. Help our clients solve the biggest challenges in the most efficient, effective, and sustainable way possible. This means we must navigate the disruption from platforms and apply creativity, in all its forms, to solve business problems. As Publicis Groupe, we have a comprehensive strategic approach to prepare for category disruption and protect against potential margin erosion. We are not just a creative agency, or a media company, or a consultancy. We are all of that, but our main goal is to be our clients’ partner in growth. We believe that to unlock growth in the platform world, we must embrace four guiding principles: 1. Real identity. Data wealth is a foundation for growth. As the industry marches into the cookieless world, first-party data becomes one of the most valuable assets our clients have. It is our responsibility to help brands unlock the data they already have, unite it in a way that becomes actionable and prepare brands to own observed human desires and behaviours so they can act with knowledge, harness insight and deliver meaningful exchanges for every consumer. The platform proposition of data wealth places real identities at the core of decision making. It’s not a numbers game, it’s a human storyline. 2. Network effect. The ‘network effect’ is the value that platforms deliver to consumers through the scale of their networks. Because of this, platforms have the inherent ability to connect with consumers on multiple levels, creating engagements that dynamically deliver personalisation to individuals. It is critical for all brands to understand the importance of this scaled connectivity, and for agencies to enable it. 3. Personalised ecosystems. Each brand interaction – on shelf, in content, through influencers, during product use – continually evolves and optimises for the best next action
of the consumer. Gaining data points through each and every engagement to improve quality and attention, more relevance, continually optimised, driving toward the best next action. 4. Open and direct. Marketers must prioritise direct relationships with their customers. This is critical not only in communication to ensure that brands speak directly to a real customer, but also through the entire value chain, from consideration to commerce to community. Creating and delivering premium branded experiences in owned and earned environments is important today. Just look at what happened recently when Safilo Group signed Instagram star Chiara Ferragni. The announcement of a brand collaboration on an eyewear line sent Safilo Group’s stock up 14 per cent. The value of the direct communication with consumers has a legitimate business effect and this will carry across entire ecosystems as consumers demand open and direct brand engagements. There are many routes agencies can traverse in order to unlock growth in a platform world. We choose to partner and to build. Our smart partnerships create new value within platforms, identifying audiences across broadcast, digital, paid social, search and commerce. We leverage human data and create predictive models where we can guarantee outcomes for our clients. Our talent is what enables us to build sustainable growth. This was reinforced over the past two years as we navigated the toughest time for all industries across the world. Publicis Groupe is an organisation that delivers on our commitment to be a talent-first organisation. At the peak of global lockdowns, we accelerated our scope through Marcel, our AI platform, enabling our 84,000 staff across the world to seamlessly collaborate, continue to learn and share their skills to bring greater value to client business. Remote working only reinforced that locally, regionally and globally, we are one community, and Publicis Groupe is our home. We are all accountable in driving a culture of respect, inclusion, trust, empowerment, collaboration and a growth mindset. We created an ecosystem that delivers on being the best organisation in nurturing talent. As Groupe CEO, I see my primary objective as one that cements this and develops the next generation of change agents, who will shape the future of our industry and create a positive impact on society.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
DANY NAAMAN title: CEO Havas Group Middle East years in role: 3
years in company: 16
other roles: Member of the Board, IAA
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR I don’t think any of us would have believed in January 2020 that we would be pitching in a remote environment, yet here we are in September 2021, and we have managed through a series of local, regional and global pitches all through Zoom and Teams. It is amazing how flexible the teams have been and how they have adapted to this new environment. Not only have we adapted but we have been successful. We added many clients to our roster around the region. We’ve proven we have a product that works and, critically, we’ve got the team that can do this.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? Making a meaningful difference to our industry. What are you worrying about? Children who live in conflict zones. It’s on a dangerously upwards trend. What are you smiling at? Happy moments. What are you reading? The Chain. What are you watching? Casa Del Papel. What/where are you eating? Italian, of course. Who are you listening to? My team. What are you playing? Football. What’s your hobby? Playing sports. What’s your good habit? Regular physical activity. What’s your bad habit? Eating fast. Who are you learning from? My twin boys.
POWER ESSAY: CULTURAL RELATIVITY By Dany
Naaman, CEO Havas Group Middle East
The media and entertainment sector in the Middle East has been vital to the region’s growth and visibility. Although local providers have made considerable strides in developing media and content, and although they have produced considerable revenues, global platforms continue to dominate the market, restricting local players’ prospects of capturing a larger share of the pie and denying local economies billions of dollars. We have been seeing multiple government initiatives aimed at building a more knowledgeable and better trained workforce and boosting a variety of businesses. Programmes such as Human Capability Development, Nationalisation and Project HQ, among others, indicate that nation leaders realise the market potential and are taking further steps toward improvement. However, stringent policies could weigh on growth and diversification if they get in the way of knowledge transfer, learning and exposure. At this stage, a multi-cultural approach would yield the best results, a strategy that the UAE continues to develop and successfully deploy. The path to success is to draw on global experience while investing, nurturing and encouraging local progress. The digital era has revolutionised the media content and entertainment field, and people have now placed entertainment at the centre of their existence. A study by Havas Group, in partnership with Cannes Lions, on the future of entertainment revealed that 83 per cent of people consider entertainment as having a vital role in their lives. That number has risen since the pandemic, with consumers going out less and looking for content to fill their time. While global platforms and tech dragons have almost monopolised the business, local flavour and relevance are still in great demand. However, it’s not merely about localisation and adaptation; it is more about the breadth and depth of local content and the quality of the production. According to the Havas Prosumer survey, 78 per cent of respondents agree that platforms should include meaningful local content in their
native language and 81 per cent say that it’s important that artists promote their national culture. In that context, there is a notable shortage of local content in native languages. PWC’s MENA Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020-2024 report forecasts that entertainment and media revenues are expected to increase faster than the global average within the coming couple of years. The potential here is to retain the industry revenues in the region’s economy. A great opportunity for the industry to cultivate national and regional champions in entertainment, content and production, and support the growth of local talent.
era has revolutionised the media content and entertainment field, and people have now placed entertainment at the centre of their existence.” Whether it’s in terms of skill or experience, the region has plenty to offer. The abundance of talent in Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi and Syria, in combination with the GCC’s financial and technological advancements, has the potential to help the sector strive, but there is still hard work to be done in meeting global standards. It remains crucial to keep the business in the market and develop the industry further, allowing more jobs, attracting more talent and participating in efforts to drive economic diversification. We have the money and the resources to build the future, we just need a new operating system.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
NEZAR NAGRO title: President, Rotana Media Services years in role: 19
years in company: 25
POWER ESSAY: EVOLUTION OF MEDIA AND THE COVID ACCELERATOR By Nezar Nagro, President, Rotana Media Services
PROFE S SIONAL PROFILE Nezar Nagro has been president of Rotana Media Services (RMS) since 2003. RMS represents Rotana’s TV stations, OOH, RDE (digital, social media and programmatic), Rotana Stars (influencer marketing) and Deezer (music application). The role expanded in 2013 to cover marketing and research for Rotana Group. Previously, Nagro was named executive manager for administration in 1998 and general manager for projects and development in 2000.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? RMS’s transformation to stay abreast of the latest trends and technology in our industry. What are you worrying about? The gap between what was and what will be in our industry. What are you smiling at? What I was thinking of before is happening today. What are you reading? History books. What are you watching? Action movies. Where are you eating? Trying newly opened restaurants in Riyadh. What are you listening to? Classic songs. What are you playing? Skiing in the desert. What’s your hobby? Challenges. What’s your good habit? Helping others achieve their dreams. What’s your bad habit? Eating sweets. Who are you learning from? Successful people.
Over the last few years, we were witnessing a shift in the media consumption. This affected the way advertisers communicate with the public. The changes affected radio, TV, and print, to name a few. New ways of consuming videos were introduced, and on-demand grew exponentially. The same happened to other media. Covid-19 accelerated the change, and what was expected to happen in few years was realised in few months.
“Adapting to the
new norms is not enough anymore. Companies need to always challenge and disrupt the norms to survive and thrive. This is what RMS is doing.” Video is not limited to TV and broadcast via satellite anymore; it has become multiplatform. Watching is not set in a specific time; it became on-demand. This expanded the reach in terms of delivery and time. Today, we have the possibility to watch what we want, when we want, on any device we want, and brands can reach their consumers in a more personalised approach. The push on technology to ride the times of Covid also expanded the way video advertising is planned and bought. Programmatic, once linked to internet advertising, is now expanding to TV. Smart TVs with internet-based video streaming applications, and the various devices that allow for video viewing, will make programmatic the next obvious step for advertisers. The increased activities on the digital social platforms also affected video. Now, everyone can have their moment of fame. Anyone can launch a ‘TV channel’ and have their own audience. A strategic partnership between TV
stations and these platforms is a becoming a necessity to survive and expand your audience. The next front of major change is out-ofhome (OOH). Although it will not see the shift that video has, there is still room for major changes: the evolution from printed static layouts to digital screens; the ability to change the message quickly; and the possibility to take advantage of the programmatic technology. OOH can be split into two major areas: the ‘on-the-move’ and ‘destination’. The former is the different sizes and shapes that are all around our cities, and we drive by them; the latter is limited to areas where people go to and spend time, such as malls, tourist areas, airports and the likes. Destination OOH provide a more direct connection between advertiser and consumer. What it lacks in geographical coverage can be compensated by the application of technology and programmatic. Covid accelerated the internet’s penetration and adaptation. This increased exponentially the role of influencers and influencer marketing. This added another layer of communication to what we have and there are no signs that influencer marketing will lose its significance. Music listening and radio were the first to see a change, from the moment the first music channels were launched. The limitation on radio listenership to driving has been with us for some time. What changes, and is evolving quickly, are the music applications like Deezer. Audio, like video, is now on our own time. With millions of international and Arabic pieces of music, songs, and podcasts available to us, even drive-time radio listening will suffer. The paradigm shift has become more of an earth-shattering phenomenon. Adapting to the new norms is not enough anymore. Companies need to always challenge and disrupt the norms to survive and thrive. This is what RMS is doing by building strategic partnerships with the social platforms, adding destination OOH to its portfolio, expanding its digital arm, RDE, and introduced programmatic, launching Rotana Stars as an influencer marketing agency, and adding Deezer to its portfolio.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
REDA RAAD title: CEO, TBWA\RAAD years in role: 6
years in company: 21
other roles: Chairman of the Syracuse
University MENA Alumni Board; Chapter Chair, Young Presidents’ Organisation (YPO) Emirates Chapter PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR It’s impossible to over emphasise the magnitude of what we’ve been through these past 18 months or so. So, when I’m asked what the highlight of my year has been, the answer is simple: It’s the way we’ve rallied, the way we’ve communicated, the way we’ve risen to the occasion. How we’ve transformed, not just as an agency but as individuals. How our mentality of wanting to produce great work has never been stronger. How our culture has carried us through the roughest of seas. This is what has made me prouder than I’ve ever been.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? TBWA\RAAD. What are you worrying about? Our industry. What are you smiling at? These questions. What are you reading? Hit Refresh. What are you watching? Turning Point and Modern Family. What are you eating? On a meal plan – ekhhhh! What are you listening to? Nothing. What are you playing? Paddle tennis (trying). What’s your hobby? Spending time with my wife and facetiming my kids. What’s your good habit? Working out. What’s your bad habit? Food. Who are you learning from? Everyone.
POWER ESSAY: LIVING A BALANCED LIFE By Reda
Raad, CEO, TBWA\RAAD
As we begin to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, I’m also reflecting on whether we as an industry have wasted a perfectly good crisis. Whether we’ve collectively returned to the status quo, ignoring all the valuable lessons we should have learned. After all, we are faced with what Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, refers to as ‘The Great Resignation’. That is, an avalanche of ‘I quit’ letters, all winding their way to an HR department near you as the effects of the pandemic begin to diminish. Microsoft says 41 per cent of the global workforce is weighing up leaving their current employers this year. Jobs site Monster.com believes that figure is more like 95 per cent. Even here in the UAE, an estimated 70 per cent of employees are reassessing their careers post Covid-19, according to global recruiter Robert Half, while stress among UAE employees is among the highest in the world (at 88 per cent), according to the 2021 Cigna 360 Wellbeing Survey. And while those aged 18 to 34 are the most willing to leave their current occupation (55 per cent), it is the 35 to 59 age bracket that has the highest rate of job insecurity (45 per cent).
How do we respond? Well, that’s the million-dollar question. Working from home is only the beginning. Does it mean a hybrid model where some employees return to the office and others continue to work from home? Does it mean a reduction in the working week from five days to four? Does it mean three days in and two days out, or four days in and one day out? Do we reduce working hours to, let’s say, 10am to 4pm? Do we increase the number of weeks available for vacation? Do we provide onsite childcare and access to sabbaticals? These are the types of questions we have to grapple with. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have answers to all of these questions, but the pandemic did teach us extremely important lessons. And it is those lessons and learnings that we’re making bets on. Firstly, it was culture and a sense of purpose that helped us navigate our way through this crisis and into a leadership position. It was culture that enabled us to drive business impact when our clients needed it most, to innovate and to negotiate uncertain terrain during an entirely new shared reality.
negotiating The Great Resignation will be one of the toughest challenges of the coming year. ”
These numbers are staggering. They are also a warning to our industry. We have to understand that people really do care about living a life that’s more in balance with their beliefs. A life that enables them to feel fulfilled and to contribute to a better world. And if they feel this is being compromised, they will leave. It’s as simple as that. Because, as Rebecca Newton recently wrote in the Harvard Business Review, all many of us want to do is simply rediscover joy at work. Something that is not only vitally important to our own wellbeing, but to our performance in the workplace as well. Successfully negotiating The Great Resignation will be one of the toughest challenges of the coming year. But it’s also an opportunity to reflect on what we stand for as an industry. In this time of great questioning, just as we are querying our own decisions, so agencies must reflect too. What meaningful or purposeful value are we offering our talent? What reason are we giving them to turn up every day?
This is our challenge. How to create a work/life balance that does what it’s supposed to do: give life back to those who enable our agencies to thrive. Because when we talk about striving for a real work/life balance, it’s got to mean more than an extended coffee break, nutrition workshops, pool tables or a 15-minute neck massage. It’s got to mean growth and learning, a safe environment to be ourselves, a culture of collaboration, a sense of belonging, and the opportunity to shine and grow as individuals. But perhaps most importantly, it’s got to mean fewer hours and an end to a culture of lost weekends.
Secondly, this isn’t the end of the office. We’re still an in-person experience, one that is capable of consistently producing great ideas thanks to a level of creative camaraderie that can only be produced in shared spaces. But there’s no reason why a sweet spot between the office and remote working can’t be found. One where the office and added flexibility co-exist. If we find that, the path towards a new normal will open up before us. Thirdly, our importance within the business ecosystem has been heightened. We have built stronger and more dynamic relationships and solidified our partnerships, connecting more than ever with our clients. Now is the time to build on those partnerships and the value proposition of agencies. Finally, we have to recognise that the days of single-format leadership are numbered. We have been handed a golden opportunity to transform agency life, and this is as much a leadership challenge as it is a staffing one. That’s why multi-dimensional management has to be embraced. The relationship between employer and employee is changing and it is our job to satisfactorily respond to that shifting dynamic. That will mean nurturing and growing entry-level talent, helping them feel safe, confident, accepted and challenged, and helping them to grow their craft. It will also mean providing new challenges for senior members of our team, allowing them to grow into new roles rather than remaining stuck in ones they already know. We must offer coaching, empowerment, trust, inspiration and opportunities to grow. If we get all these things right, we will remain employers of choice and the home of choice for a whole new generation of talent.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
RAVI RAO title: CEO, GroupM MENA years in role: 2
years in company: 13
other roles: Member, X-Media
PROFE S SIONAL BIO GRAPHY Ravi Rao has a track record in marketing, account and media management in Asia and MENA. A management graduate with a career of more than 30 years in advertising and media, engaging with top clients like P&G, Unilever, PepsiCo, Henkel, Mars and Dubai Holding, he came back for a second stint in MENA in 2015. Prior to his GroupM role, he led Mindshare in MENA and South Asia and contributes regularly to the promotion of research in the region.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? Budgets and five-year plan. What are you worrying about? Upskilling talent. What are you smiling at? The industry’s challenges. What are you reading? The script of Indus Valley Civilization – 16 in Academia.edu. What are you watching? Netflix. What are you eating? Festive savories. What are you listening to? Of course, the Beatles. What are you playing? Badminton. What’s your hobby? Painting, philately and history. What’s your good habit? Learn from everyone. What’s your bad habit? Give 100 marks to any newcomer I meet. Who are you learning from? My colleagues and peers.
POWER ESSAY: A PAYING HOBBY WITH TWISTS By Ravi
Rao, CEO, GroupM MENA
Advertising is a great paying hobby. I joined by accident like most people, but I made a career out of it! I have enjoyed every moment of my career for the past 30 years. The Middle East, with its myriad mosaic of differences, attracted me the second time around in 2015. In the advertising industry, there is nowhere like Dubai. Dubai offers more opportunities and development both professionally and personally. This made it more attractive than London and New York. Not a single day is the same, this has made me stay in my profession despite all the challenges that we witness in the region. One can gain a lifetime of learnings working with 30+ nationalities, cultures across 13 markets.
real estate to tourism. A healthy competition exists between Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Egypt across airwaves and digital platforms opening up globally. Skill sets in a continuously evolving media landscape require more attention. Generalists need to understand specialists, specialists need to have strategic macro views. Data, analytics and tech are increasingly at the heart of all we do. Today our teams need to match this with a world view and be well versed in media beyond MENA geographies. A star talent embodies the art and science of planning. Consumers are demanding that brands do better. We need to be responsible for shaping the next era of media, where advertising works towards a better society. Agencies should now adapt their business, services and products in their portfolio so they are woven into clients’ processes. The ultimate goal is to make your campaigns as ethical and effective as possible. Industry responsibility: Working as one industry is no longer a nice-to-have, it is a necessity for the MENA industry specifically to continue to thrive. How are we as an industry building credible market-sizing data, tracking market growth? How are we working as one to build a legacy of talent to lead the industry here and globally? What do we need to do to reinvent our industry to be futurefocused?
in our profession helps us gain knowledge of industries and sectors that most other specialists yearn for.”
Client-centricity in our profession helps us gain immense knowledge of industries and sectors that most other specialists yearn for. From tissues to tech companies, one learns how the consumer journey varies as well as what influences them to buy one brand vs. another. Or imagine the creativity that combines with data while formulating strategies for growth. Having seen the era of manual work change to AI-infused models, one can’t ask for more in any profession. If you are curious, you will always enjoy working and make the most out of it. No wonder, it is a great paying hobby.
No wonder, it is a great paying hobby with real twists: Client dynamics: For many years, top clients in the region were dominated by global MCGs including the likes of Unilever, P&G and Nestle. This has given way to increased Government spending across the region– for all sectors from investment to
A parallel that I can draw is how new discoveries in archaeology continue to change history. This is a hobby of mine that has changed over the years. It continues to evolve in ways that require nothing but us to adapt and change every day. Of course, it continues to pay. Enjoy the ride!
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
DANI RICHA title: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, BBDO Middle East, Africa and Pakistan years in role: 12 years in company: 33 other roles: Member of the Worldwide Board of BBDO; Group Chairman and CEO of Impact BBDO Group of Companies; Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of Omnicom Media Group MENA; Former Non-Executive Chairman of ABC Malls and Department Stores; Knighted by the National Order of the Cedar, Lebanon; Dubai Lynx Advertising Person of the Year 2018; Arab Ad’s Man of the Year 2017
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR This year we’ve had a good run. We were named the No.1 MEA agency on the Drum 2021 rankings, the best-performing agency network from MENA at Cannes Lions 2020/2021 and the Agency and Network of the Year at Dubai Lynx for the fifth time in six years. We won the first One Show Grand Prix for MENA, the first Gerety Grand Prix and the first Immortal Award in Asia, as well as being the best performing MENA agency at The Loeries. BBDO Pakistan completed a hat-trick of Grand Effie wins for the third year in a row, the only agency in APAC to do so. But most rewarding is that the work has generated great business results for our clients.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? 2031. What are you worrying about? 2032. What are you smiling at? 2021. What are you reading? Data. What are you watching? Consumers. What are you eating? Negative people. Who are you listening to? Positive people. What are you playing? Chess. What’s your hobby? Talent spotting. What’s your good habit? Impatience. What’s your bad habit? Impatience. Who are you learning from? The interns.
POWER ESSAY: NEW FULCRUMS FOR A NEW BUSINESS WORLD By Dani Richa, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, BBDO Middle East, Africa and Pakistan I think there has never been a more exciting time to be in this business, as technology has irreversibly changed people’s relationships with business and brands, pulling down the barriers. This means our clients have to factor in not only aggressive competitors but also empowered customers. With barriers crumbling down and a change in buyer and seller power dynamics, we had to focus on re-invention, which has identified liberating fulcrums – fulcrums that amplified our problem-solving creativity so that we no longer only address big campaign ideas but also ideas for new products and services, new avenues that have and will generate new growth opportunities. The first fulcrum is the fact that we are not in the marcomms business but in the growth business, driven by our expertise in business and communications and powered by creativity. A new focus then is on the intersection of our growth with our clients’ growth – by helping them shape their business, which is intrinsically linked to the progress of people’s lives and how they grow. Client growth is measured by goals and metrics such as profit, revenue, share and penetration, but more fundamentally how a client’s business enhances a person’s life. for without that person buying, repurchasing and recommending the client’s products and services there will be no success. The second fulcrum is that making this business shift has up opened new, exciting ways of thinking about and organising our own business. We aim to forecast the future and invent it, keep raising the bar on the work, make plenty of business bets, favour action over perfection and prioritise speed with an eye on results, to always test and evolve. Thirdly, make it personal and be on the customer’s side. Without that there is no progress. We know what they love, what they read, when they read, when they get up and go to bed. Customer analytics are crucial for driving growth, but you must go the extra mile and build empathy and synthesise that evidence into something memorable and defendable, something that touches them deeply in the most relevant way, as this is how behavioural change is triggered. Fourthly, organisational transformation can liberate our creativity for our clients. The old market forces pushed us into a box and limited us to the market of communications. Now we organise around colliding data and insight with the power of creativity that transforms markets and client businesses. We are shaping and creating new products, services and
platforms that drive unmet needs and new markets, and we have started to measure our success on the number of unicorns we help create as well as the shares we increase and reputations we enhance. Our BBDO model of focusing on The Work, The Work, The Work, based on the magic of a simple idea that breaks through the nanosecond threshold, is still our foundation. We have used this foundation to springboard into new ways of
crumbling down and a change in buyer and seller power dynamics, we had to focus on re-invention.” building ideas that know no bounds. It drives both our client relationships and their relationships with their customers beyond that of just the transactional to the relational. A relationship where they keep on coming back time and time again, willing to pay a premium and stay loyal despite the commoditisation happening at all levels of distribution from e-commerce to the hypermarket. And finally, something that if you don’t have, none of this will work: the relentless focus on the growth and evolution of our people. To create a learning environment where we unlearn as well as learn, take risks and leave obsolete ideas to one side because to get stuck is to stultify. We merge the skill sets of business acumen, intelligence and curiosity with a successful creative track record of more than 100 years, with the right partnerships and clients who share our ideal of wanting to make better. To give our people the chance to turn their ideas into action and watch them create better – not just for brands, governments and service organisations, but for progress and cultural change. And there is no better place to be than in this vibrant region where we are inspired by the leadership of a powerful agenda for progress, where the impossible is being made possible. The world is watching our region as we create new ideas, products, services, technologies and dreams for a better world. What thrills me every day is having the chance to take part in all this.
September 26, 2021
September 26, 2021
HABIB WEHBI title: Chairman & CEO, W Group – Hypermedia, Digitall & RedPegME years in role: 24 other roles: Chairman, W ventures Holding the owner of: W group Holding (Media and Communication); W Invest Holding (Angel Investment); BMI Holding (Industrial Investment ); YPO Member( Dubai Chapter), IAA Member (UAE)
PROFE S SIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE YE AR To meet the challenges posed by the pandemic, W Group has reacted in agile and decisive ways. As we move into the next phase, we seek out and seize the opportunities emerging in the recovery. This involves more partnerships and more investments in tech solutions for the three entities of the group.
RAPID FIRE What are you working on? Continuous growth and expansion. What are you worrying about? Growth of technology and adaptation of the market. What are you smiling at? My work competition. What are you reading? Economics, technology and finance books and articles. What are you watching? Netflix What are you eating? Healthy food, though not at the weekend. What are you listening to? Lounge music. What are you playing? Starting my golf lessons. What’s your hobby? Driving cars, travelling, beach. What’s your good habit? Going to the gym. What’s your bad habit? Don’t sleep long hours. Who are you learning from? Learning every day from life experience.
POWER ESSAY: CHALLENGES ARE GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES FOR THOSE WHO DARE By Habib Wehbi, Chairman & CEO, W Group – Hypermedia, Digitall & RedPegME My journey can be summarised in three key words: ambition, passion and opportunity. Ambition to have a clear vision of where I would want my path to take me; passion to paddle through the waves of difficulties that I came to face; and the right opportunity to make all of this possible. What started as a small investment opportunity in selling media placements on supermarket trolleys back in 1999, the first in-store media network in the UAE, eventually grew to become W Ventures Holding, which owns W Group, a key player and media powerhouse in the region. Ever since its inception, W Group’s vision has been aligned with that of the UAE. It was a strategy that helped our companies grow in reach, engagement and technology, and naturally expand and lead in the media sector in the MENA region. This strategy set us on an onward and upward path in the marketing, media and communications market and allowed us to further engage with our community through numerous awareness and experiential campaigns. Internally, W Group strives to provide 360-degree marketing solutions, all under one roof. It started with Hypermedia, the leading digital out-of-home (DOOH) media company in the region, that managed – through its several partnerships with governmental entities such as the Road and Transport Authority in Dubai – to display unprecedented growth and return on investment (ROI) resulting from the outcome of the privatepublic sector partnership. The recent agreement to take over Dubai Metro’s media assets and provide brands and partners with a unique DOOH experience, raised the bar for our market competitors and delivered an experientially paved journey for its designated target audiences. DigitAll, on the other hand, the tech arm of the group, provides smart solutions and content management for innovative interactions on DOOH and mobile media, empowered by data analytics and real-time measurements. The third entity of W Group is RedPeg Middle East, an independent Experiential marketing and brand engagement agency. RedPeg ME brought the concept and the experiential
marketing know-how to the region from our sister company, RedPeg Marketing, based in Washington, DC. This allowed us to move the mindset of the market towards a more international outlook on engagements and tailor-made consumer journeys. In our recent history, we were faced with several global ‘forces majeures’ that put us at an inevitable crossroad. We either had to pack up and go home or adapt and survive. But possessing the challenge-driven mindset, we carved our own third lane and decided to expand and grow. We drove-in new business opportunities, expanded our team – our biggest asset – and went head-first to tackle our obstacles that ranged from the Covid-19 pandemic all the way back to the global financial crisis in 2008. One should be a firm believer in the people to face any crisis. When deadlocks occur, they force us to think and look for great opportunities that lie in every crisis. In this fast-progressing age that we live in, we are forced to be extra creative in our business development process and bring to the table that which only we can cater for. This is why our next big step will be expanding into programmatic DOOH. We live in a data-driven era, and data is vital when it comes to smart-targeted media campaigns, narrowing down potential target audiences and maximising on assets and resources, ultimately for a higher ROI. In such an aggressive market, we need to be ready to venture into new, uncharted territories. We have to keep up with upcoming technologies and solutions that can distinguish us among our peers. In this transformative phase, DigitAll will be spearheading the charge in revolutionising this industry with the eventual aim of positioning W Group, with its three entities, as the leading tech company in media in the MENA region. Emphasising on the importance of strategies in the way we do business, we are where we are now – and heading towards where we aspire to be – because our vision has always been aligned with that of this great nation and its visionary leadership. Eventually, this is the land of equal opportunities, and if you dare to have the ambition and passion to follow through and grind away at your dreams, you will eventually land exactly where you aspire to be.
September 26, 2021
INDEX BY SURNAME Eyad Abdul Khalek, CEO, MENA, MediaCom
Luca Allam, CEO of PHD MENA
Ahmed Al Sahhaf, CEO, MMS
Tony Bourached, CEO, Mindshare MENA
Pierre Choueiri, Chairman & CEO, Choueiri Group
Tarek Daouk, CEO, dentsu MENA
Saleh Ghazal, Managing Director, OMD UAE
Ahmad Itani, Founder & CEO of Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy
Mazen Jawad., President, Horizon Holdings
Sunil John, President – MENA, BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW
Bassel Kakish, CEO, Publicis Groupe Middle East & Turkey
Dany Naaman, CEO, Havas Group Middle East
Nezar Nagro, President, Rotana Media Services
Reda Raad, CEO, TBWA\RAAD
Ravi Rao, CEO, Group M MENA
Dani Richa, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, BBDO Middle East, Africa and Pakistan
Habib Wehbe, Chairman & CEO, W Group
BY COMPANY ASDA’A BCW – Sunil John, Founder (and President – MENA, BCW)
BBDO Middle East, Africa and Pakistan – Dani Richa, Chairman and CEO
Choueiri Group – Pierre Choueiri, Chairman & CEO
Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy – Ahmad Itani, Founder & CEO
dentsu MENA – Tarek Daouk, CEO
Group M MENA – Ravi Rao, CEO
Havas Group Middle East – Dany Naaman, CEO
Horizon Holdings – Mazen Jawad, President
MediaCom – Eyad Abdul Khalek, CEO, MENA
Mindshare MENA – Tony Bourached, CEO
MMS – Ahmed Al Sahhaf, CEO
OMD UAE – Saleh Ghazal, Managing Director
PHD MENA – Luca Allam, CEO
Publicis Groupe Middle East & Turkey – Bassel Kakish, CEO
Rotana Media Services – Nezar Nagro, President
TBWA\RAAD – Reda Raad, CEO
W Group – Hypermedia, Digitall, Redpeg ME – Habib Wehbe, Chairman & CEO
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THE MENA POWER LIST 2021