Rafic Saadeh, chairman and CEO of Horizon Holdings, explains BPN’s introduction to the region and his massive plans
IPG Mediabrands includes Universal Media,
Initiative, and now BPN. IPG wanted a third global media arm, in order to face the fast technological changes and also because they believe there’s enough global business for that. Brand Connection was also part of Mediabrands, but it only existed in Europe and the Middle East. So wherever there’s a Brand Connection, BPN will take over and where there isn’t any Brand Connection, a new BPN office will be established. They’re launching region by region; BPN already has 24 offices operating around the world, including in the US, Europe, Asia, Latin America and now the Middle East.
Does Brand Connection cease to exist as of now?
For a transition period of probably three to six months, we will use both names, simply
because some clients will need reassurance that this is the same company. Then Brand Connection will disappear.
How rapidly do you plan to expand the number of BPN offices in the region?
Wherever we have an office operating, we are planning to have all of our other companies under one roof: Horizon Draftfcb, BPN, GolinHarris, Frontline Shopper and Blue Barracuda. For example, we’re moving to Doha in the coming three months with Horizon Draftfcb, and all of the other brands will follow; in Riyadh, we have Brand Connection and GolinHarris, so Brand Connection will become BPN and soon Frontline Shopper and Blue Barracuda will follow. This could be completed within 18 months. What we need, and what will be key to our success, is the talent.
What will the BPN introduction imply in terms of structural and strategic changes?
BPN is a global agency and a new model, that has to become part of our culture in the Middle East; we have to abide by its global tools and processes. These new tools are more focused on social media, real-time evaluation. Clients won’t have to wait for the end of the month to post-evaluate their campaigns and adjust anymore; which is a great change. BPN will benefit our clients in the region more and it will perfectly complement our group’s strategic capabilities. What drives our company is the power to change and the power of optimism, we always have a good outlook of the region’s future and we know we have to adapt to face the challenges.
One of BPN’s approaches will be to introduce a pay-per-performance system. How do you expect clients to react to this innovation?
In my experience, some clients deal with their agencies as partners, and with clients like these, you can definitely work on a fee based on performance. But not all clients are ready to reveal their sales figures, even though it’s in their best interest if we contribute to their sales. We’ll be discussing this on a client basis.
What is the state of the regional market today?
This market has passed through many wars, upheavals and revolutions, and it has survived.
I’m a firm believer that it will even flourish. Whatever affects us is a transition; on the long term, the regional resources, the population, the people will take us to greater heights. As for our company, we were very optimistic at the beginning of the year; then we were worried by mid-year because of all that was happening. But at the year’s closing, we’re meeting our budgets, and 2013 should be an even better year. On a consolidated basis, I expect a 10 to 12 percent growth in 2013.
GolinHarris London was named PR Agency of the Year at the PRWeek Awards held in New York in October. Does this set a benchmark for its offices in the region?
We joined forces [with GolinHarris] seven years ago. It’s a global company that has won many awards. It’s based on ethics and trust, and on that basis they keep winning year after year. It shows its consistency.