Shifting base to a bigger setup in Dubai Media City, securing account wins and winning at several awards including Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity, Epica Awards and the Lories Awards, 2016 seems to have ended well for Cheil Worldwide in the MENA region. This is not to say the journey was not tough, given that 2016 was a year of struggle for most agencies in the region.
“There is no doubt that 2016 was a challenging year in terms of numbers and growth for the entire MENA region. Qualitative speaking, we won several awards including a Grand Prix at Dubai Lynx. In terms of business, we wouldn’t say it was a great year but I would say we performed better than other agencies,” said Wassim Daniel, Chief Growth Officer, Cheil Worldwide MENAT.
Elaborating on why Cheil Worldwide MENA was one step ahead of other agencies, Mr Daniel said that the agency provided a ‘one stop shop’ service for its clients. “We have different services which you wouldn’t find in other integrated agencies. Our one stop shop policy offers services across advertising, digital, social media, retail experience and experiential marketing, all under one roof.”
Markets That Performed
The Samsung Group’s in-house advertising agency opened up an office in Saudi Arabia last year in June. Unsurprisingly, the Kingdom proved to be tough in 2016 for Cheil MENA too, while smaller markets performed better. “The growth was positive on a regional level. Some markets were more sustainable such as Turkey and Jordan, despite the instabilities. Saudi Arabia was a shock, due to the oil price crash. With the Saudi 2030 Vision, we are hoping that the market will pick up eventually,” said Mr Daniel.
With competition getting tougher, Mr Daniel explains how its an idea that sells and wins the pitch, more than anything else. “Whether you are an ad agency or a traditional media agency or a PR agency, the pitch is more or less the same. It is more about ideas and integrated services that interest clients. Good idea makes the difference and there is always room for that.”
Predictions & Plans For 2017
The year 2017 does not look much different from last year, but there are positive ways of looking at the slow down, says Mr Daniel. “If you are rightly equipped and you know what the client wants, you will be able to survive and thrive the year,” he said, adding, “We are looking at possible merger and acquisitions in the region along with introducing new services in 2017. We would also be exploring new territories along with expanding our base in Iran.”
After the lifting of sanctions on Iran, domestic businesses rushed to capitalize on lucrative opportunities. The Iran boom will in turn provide business opportunities for advertising agencies, including Cheil. “We have set up our office in Iran and are already servicing our client Samsung in the region. There is potential for local Iranian brands that would need to rebrand its image, to match to the international level. The proximity of Dubai and Iran will work in uplifting the advertising landscape in Iran.”
Giving his advise to marketers and brands, Mr Daniel says that being tolerant is the way to sail through 2017. “As a Chief Growth Officer, and with personal experience in the Levant region including Iraq and Lebanon, the solution is not always to cut the marketing budget. Brands need to be more tolerant, keep investing in people and maintaining the brand level, that the brand has earned over the years.”