It goes without saying that this year has been one of the hardest for our industry in this region. And the outlook for 2016 and 2017 is predicted to be just as tough, if not more.
We’re a part of the world that is very heavily dependent on the success of the world economies. So, the slowdown in Asia hurts. China Brazil, India and Russia, along with other emerging markets faltering, also hurts. A refugee crisis in Europe that questions the sustainability of a modest recovery in a scarred Europe (still suffering from high unemployment and high public debt), hurts too. Especially that the refugees that get into Europe are only a fraction of those that enter some of our ‘more stable markets’. And finally, the forecast of a 2.4 percent economic growth rate in the US suggests that ‘Flat is the new up’ as Money Watch quoted in its September 29, 2015 issue. A little more hurt.
To compound this, in the Middle East, most of our income is from oil. And although the GCC has made huge strides to diversify the economy, a drop in oil prices quickly translates to a further dent in our growth, and the concept of ‘Flat is the new up’ becomes one that we share. The GCC governments are putting major projects on halt, and using their buffers carefully, to tread water hoping that things will return back to the USD 100-a-barrel days.
All that aside, there’s that silly every day stuff that is happening across our part of the world – a war in Yemen, a lack of a Government in Lebanon, a ‘little’ tit for tat in Iraq and Syria, a spray of bronzed bullets on the beaches of Tunis, a plane taken down over Egypt, and all that sort of never-ending Middle East stuff that discourages business and confidence.
Yet, with all of that said, I wouldn’t be representing my industry well if I believed that all was doom and gloom. I’m as positive as ever, and probably that’s a mix between an unforgiving optimism and a conscious deliberate naivety that keep me going.
The truth is, that the harder the planet is challenged economically and politically, and the harder our part of the planet is hit, the greater the need for creativity. Great Creativity is always the result of solving a Great Problem or Challenge. We’ll need to apply great creative thinking to keep our business moving forward, and focus our efforts on solving the ever-increasing challenges faced by our clients.
I’m not saying that 2016 will be the year that our shareholders celebrate our financial performance, But 2016 will be a year where we see some brilliant creativity as an outcome of many ‘Big Problems’ to solve. We’ll see significant unique thinking, much experimentation in the digital space, and a series of small bets placed that just might yield high returns, and set new standards.
The other thing that we’re bound to experience is the fact that marketers will be putting a greater focus on effectiveness. Marketers are always under pressure to demonstrate results. And again, in the hardest of times, unless marketers demonstrate the value of any investment that they make, business owners, who are always under pressure to deliver numbers, will start to pull funding. This will force marketers to seek short-term results before considering long-term impact. And that’s alright. Those will provide us with the quick wins that we will need to realize the longer-term ambitions.
As George Lois, an infamous industry veteran says, “Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.”