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Following the global restructure of Publicis Media, Alex Saber has been appointed to the role of chairman, Middle East, Publicis Media, while Steve Parker will serve as the chief executive officer. In light of this move, we caught up with Saber to see what he has envisioned for the region.

Tell us about the restructuring of Publicis Media

We are transforming to line up our end-to-end capabilities in a model that is simple, flexible and efficient. We will put client satisfaction first, thus eliminating complexity and silos.

The reorganization of Publicis Groupe’s media capabilities into a Publicis Media hub is part of Publicis Groupe’s transformation efforts.

Publicis Groupe is organized into four ‘solutions hubs’ that are connected through a chief revenue officer organization, which will deliver client impact, leveraging Publicis Groupe’s entire range of services. VivaKi will no longer be separated as a brand and will be fully integrated into Publicis Media.

When do you start in your new role and what are your responsibilities now?

The leadership appointments are effective immediately and we will now move into a period of structured transition.

Reporting in to our regional CEO, Iain Jacob, who is based in London, I – alongside Steve Parker, who will join as CEO of Publicis Media – will be responsible for the market-level delivery of scale, business transformation and client value, through the combined capabilities of Publicis Media.

As we are a brand-led organization supported by global practices, Parker and I will work closely with our brand leaders in each market to provide a foundation for our global brands, in order to deliver on a client-centric business and on growth, product and capability, excellence and culture, where talent thrives.

How will the various functions be organized?

The strategy for Publicis Media is to have four strong and distinct global media brands. They will be supported by the seven global practices, which will bring scale and ensure the consistent delivery of these capabilities. These seven practices are:

– Data, Technology & Innovation

– Content

– Trading & Buying

– Performance

– Business Development & Communications

– Business Transformation

– Analytics, Research & Insight

The existing global brands [in the MENA region] – Starcom, Zenith, Mediavest | Spark and Blue 449 – will continue to function in their respective markets to service our clients.

What about the other agencies and departments, such as Performics and LiquidThread?

We remain committed to our regional and diversified service brands, as these business units and capabilities are critical for our business. The focus of the announcement is Publicis’ market CEOs and market-level CEOs for our global brands. You can expect to hear more details regarding these divisions and more in the near future. Our immediate focus remains the same, which is delivering day-to-day value for clients.

How will the restructuring affect talent and staff?

We are beefing up our hiring at the moment and expect to add 60 new [individuals] by the end of May across our MENA offices, to bring our total head-count close to 600 talents. We do not expect any redundancies as a result of the restructure.


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In today’s day and age, it is safe to assume that no media and marketing business model will survive without digitization, which reduces the cost of production and distribution, enabling most businesses to establish direct consumer to business relationships.  To understand what digital innovations mean for large traditional companies, we first need to look at whether or not traditional companies that are older, larger and burdened with inflexible legacies have the opportunity to act like a startup, and jump on the innovation bandwagon. At this stage, most companies are either choosing to remain traditional, adapting and learning new skills required to compete with digital agencies and to complement their traditional offering, or going into specialization.

Most large traditional media companies are using technologies like social media, mobile and analytics to change their customer engagement, and even business models. But only a few have captured their real business benefits; they have the digital maturity to not build digital innovations, but to also drive enterprise-wide transformation.

Take Burberry, which was significantly underperforming against its peers. While the overall sector’s growth averaged around 12 to 13 per cent a year, Burberry’s stood at one to two percent. In 2006, the brand launched a sizeable digital transformation program, using technology to improve its in-store experience and increase operational excellence. It revamped its marketing strategy and made it digitally-friendly, connected with its target group online more than offline, and its sales and brand recognition sky-rocketed as a result.

Another great example of such digital adoption is Indian paint manufacturer Asian Paints, which grew its digital, governance and IT capabilities to become a more unified company; it repeatedly built on its capabilities to transform customer engagement, internal operations and business models, and is now reaping huge benefits.

Digital transformation is moving more rapidly in some industries than in others. For example, in the education industry, there are more than 3 million online students in the US, and 2 million in china. Online education is clearly more affordable, more active, focused and competent in comparison to the traditional education industry.  Similarly, companies in the travel and music industries were hit early by threats from digital competition, and have already undergone profound transformation.  Industries such as financial services and retail underwent major transformation due to electronic commerce in the 2000s, and are now starting to innovate with technologies in social media, mobility and analytics.

Until recently, traditional media companies had a clear recipe for success with numerous revenue streams and few mediums. For some of them, it can be a challenge to integrate digital media in a way that will enable effective functionality while pushing boundaries. With the digital platform expanding rapidly, they will need to adapt their strategies and models, actively participate in digital platforms of the future, and drive change across their business to keep on par with digital companies that address the internet, social, mobile and all other innovations that arise.

Key factors this re-adaptation require mastering a new skill set, removing the layers of bureaucracy, providing entrepreneurial freedom to managers, and developing and harnessing a culture of openness and innovation in the work environment itself. It requires a trial and error approach with flexibility to learn from mistakes, and then to firm the approaches that do work.

With regards to buying in or acquiring startups, a lot of experts believe that past track record shows clearly that M&As’ (mergers and acquisitions) performance has, on average, not been great.  For these deals to succeed, it is vital that a cultural transition takes place, where there is clear communication between people who possess the skill sets, and those who run the business. Realizing these facts and being aware that they are already strong as far as content is concerned, major traditional companies are now focusing on transforming their existing business models, broadening their skills, investing in tech talent and bringing innovation from within so that their digital opportunities can be monetized.

Before traditional companies move onto digital platforms, they need to understand their purpose and the relevance of their campaigns. Copying a competitor’s model will only take you so far, but will not help you flourish and thrive amongst competitors.

Conducting your digital transformation requires taking action in four key areas: framing, investing, engaging, and sustaining. The first step is to understand the threats and opportunities that digital represents to the organization. Will existing ways of working continue to be effective in a digital world? Are there new opportunities available in customer experience, operational processes or business models? One way or the other, regardless of what approach they take, change has to be initiated either by the client or by the agency.

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