How do you see the Middle East region faring, when compared with the rest of the world?
Clearly, the US has the biggest growth [in the industry] right now – North America is very strong. Europe is stable, but not really progressing, while Asia continues to grow, albeit at a slower pace than it used to. The Middle East region is stable and we are growing here; however, it’s not as fast as Latin America, for instance. It’s the same with Africa as well, which is another growth market for us.
How is the global clients’ perception of the region evolving?
We are seeing a lot of global clients investing here. Obviously, there are geopolitical issues right now and it’s still recovering from the financial crisis [that occurred] five years ago. To a certain extent, the whole world has seen some difficulties in the past couple of years. When we look at some of our global clients, they actually have a pretty good interest in the Middle East region.
Each year has gotten better. I suspect 2014 will be better than 2013. What we have here is a larger marketplace, with a young population. It is also a place that is moving slowly, but surely towards the middle class. For most of our clients, this is a huge plus. They are focusing more and more on the Middle East region.
When it comes to international clients, does McCann prefer to operate at a global level, or focus on the local perspective?
We prefer using both. Given our size and presence in every market, we are well-suited for global clients. We are able to service them in a way that requires the depth of resources that we have. But, at the same time, in almost every market that we are in, approximately 50 to 70 percent of our business is local. So we pride ourselves on being able to do both. Here, in the Middle East region, we have a combination of global clients, such as L’Oreal, Coca-Cola and MasterCard, but we are also very local.
Europe and the Middle East region were often tied together, in terms of budgeting and ad spend; is this changing now?
All markets have a connection, so, by definition, when you have a global slowdown, a lot of companies lower their spend in marketing. Having said that, whether Europe is growing or not, it has an impact, but I wouldn’t overstate the issue.
Companies are looking now for areas where they see investment opportunities and can get good growth. They are also becoming more sophisticated, in terms of looking at country by country and region by region. Consumer-driven companies, in particular, are still looking for markets that have expansion capabilities. The Middle East region fits the bill in most cases.
What do you think of the recent trends of massive mergers and acquisitions?
I don’t think mergers necessarily get you better [media buying] deals, I think that is a bit mythological. At the end of the day, McCann competes against BBDO and TBWA. That competition will still continue. In the end, that is how clients buy our services too. So when I look at our business, we are one of the largest, if not the largest, companies in the world. Our competitors are other advertising-centric organizations. I think that will continue, so I don’t perceive the need to do anything different from what we are doing right now.
What are your thoughts on the Publicis Omnicom merger, in particular?
I’m not a stockholder. I spend a lot more time focusing about what I think of McCann.
How do you see the agency of the future?
‘There are blurred lines today between media and advertising agencies. Nowadays, I think clients are looking for marketers with specialized skills. Fundamentally, they are looking for a group that can bring all of this together. Here, in Dubai, for instance, what Akram [Miknas] has managed to build is an incredible entity that has all of the services under one roof. They work together and share intellectual capital and specialized skills. Clients are looking for such people who can bear all of the marketing disciplines and reorganize it into a multi-platform world.
We need media agencies to find and give us opportunities. We need creative agencies to create content for all of those opportunities. Then we need specialized agencies to exploit those ideas. I think the agency of the future and, frankly, the agency of today is one that can bring all of the skill sets and intellectual capitals together on behalf of exploiting an idea in a multi-platform world.
Today, most people don’t consume media from one place – the average person looks at his/her phone, computer, TV and even outdoor. Consumer habits of the past might have been traditional, but now they are non-traditional. We need to be on all of these platforms. Clients are looking for an agency that can do that.