Regime change at Fortune Promoseven

January 31, 2010

An unprecedented number of Fortune Promoseven’s senior management have been fired or have ‘left of their own accord’ following a major shake-up of the agency.

Azmi Yafi, CEO of the agency’s Dubai operations; executive creative director Peter Russell; deputy managing director Christie O’Higgins; and creative director Leslie Oakes have all gone, although the agency would not say in what circumstances they had left. A number of mid-level account managers have also ‘moved on’ from the Dubai HQ.

Russell (pictured) had been in his role for less than a month, having been appointed ECD at the end of November following the departure of Marc Lineveldt to Saatchi & Saatchi.

It is not known whether further departures are imminent, but a rebranding of Fortune Promoseven is expected within the next few months.

Kamil Najjar, regional marketing director at P&G, has stepped in to replace Yafi as CEO, while Daniel Georr has been flown in from the network’s Beirut office to take up the position of executive creative director.

Tom Roychoudhury, chief innovations officer at MCN, Fortune Promoseven’s parent company, said the agency was looking to re-model itself along the lines of McCann London, which has a ‘perfect blend of creativity, effectiveness and innovation’ according to its website. “We are restructuring because we want to be a completely different agency,” said Roychoudhury. “We want to be different in two ways. Different to what we were and different to what’s already out there. Fortune Promoseven wants to rebuild itself along the lines of the agency for tomorrow.”

FP7 is part of MCN, which is an Interpublic group company.

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arabianEye gets creatives to shoot from the lip

January 21, 2010

Visual content producers arabianEye have  launched a fun initiative to provoke dialogue within the region’s ad agency creative departments.

The project, called ‘Straight Shooters’, canvassed the opinion of 10 high-profile creative directors, filming their replies to a number of burning industry questions, while allocating only 30 seconds to answer.

Figures including Tonic’s Vincent Raffray, Y&R’s Shahir Zag and Saatchi & Saatchi’s Marc Lineveldt, do their best to come up with the goods.

The resulting series of short videos showing their responses will be aired on arabianEye’s website over the next 3 months, with a different topic tackled every week.

This week’s edition covers the thorny issue of scams, with the question: “Why have we seen so many ’scam’ ads in the past UAE advertising awards?”

Celia Peterson, managing director, arabianEye, said: “We wanted to do something different to set the tone for our new blog and show that arabianEye is more than just about pictures. ‘Straight Shooters’ is meant to build a sense of community amongst Dubai’s creative agencies by highlight issues that affect the advertising industry and those who work with visual media. It’s a fun way to bring people together, open a debate, and address these challenges.”


Ramzi Raad named Dubai Lynx advertising person of the year

January 20, 2010

TBWA\Raad’s chairman and CEO, Ramzi Raad, has been named this year’s Dubai Lynx Advertising Person of the Year.

Only the third person to receive the accolade, Raad will be handed the award during the Dubai Lynx Awards Ceremony on 17 March at The Palladium in Dubai.

The Advertising Person of the Year award, which was previously won by Joseph Ghossoub, president and CEO of MENACOM, and Tanvir Kanji, head of Inca Tanvir, honours someone who by their efforts, energy and dedication, has lifted the presence and profile of the region within the international advertising, marketing and communications community.

Terry Savage, chairman of Cannes Lions, who, with Motivate Publishing are joint organisers of the festival, said: “Ramzi has been, and continues to be, an instrumental figure in the development and growth of the advertising and communications industry throughout the Middle East and North Africa. We are delighted to pay tribute to his dedication and success.”

Raad, who founded TBWA\Raad in 1999 and has been in the industry for 40 years, said: “I am extremely humbled and flattered to be acknowledged by the Middle East ad industry with this award, which I consider only partly personal, as most of the credit goes to my TBWA colleagues who have earned this honour along with me. I am so pleased that this comes to me on the 10th Anniversary of TBWA\RAAD, confirming that we have fulfilled the TBWA mantra to ‘Change the Rules of Arab advertising’ something I had promised to do, and we have done it in record time.”

The 3rd Dubai International Advertising Festival and accompanying Dubai Lynx takes place from 14-17 March.


‘There is no UAE film industry’

January 18, 2010

By Tim Smythe, CEO of Filmworks

The question is ‘does the UAE really have a film industry’? At present, if we don’t take into account the television industry – because unlike most countries, there is really no crossover between the film industry and the television industry – to declare that we have a film industry entails continual work, whether generated locally or whether facilitated for an international market.

What actually exists in the UAE is a film industry that caters to television advertising and therefore cannot be deemed a proper industry because it is solely dependent upon the number of television commercials filmed in the country. The industry decreases or increases based solely upon this factor. So, while production values have grown quite high in the UAE, for this to continue will require the creation of an industry that is not purely reliant upon advertising. Otherwise, the trend for local productions to travel will continue to follow the best production values versus pricing.

For there to be real development and progress what is needed is the creation of a sustainable film industry. To create a real film industry requires the development of local films and the facilitation of international film on a continual basis, which results in a steady flow of work that creates employment opportunities, attracts experienced crew and offers possibilities to train and develop local crews.

In the past six years Filmworks has only been involved in producing three notable films, with a few other production companies involved in some others. This hardly constitutes an industry. During the same period of time we have been involved in more than 40 feature films that could have come to the country but didn’t, of which some really high profile studio films were turned away. This has resulted in an international loss of confidence in bringing productions to the UAE, coupled with limited funding for local filmmakers, which has led to negative growth for our industry.

In reality, a country can only develop a sustainable local film industry if there are enough cinema screens and a large enough population for a film to recoup its investment in its country of origin – both from cinema and second tier releases on TV and DVD. As with many countries throughout the world, this is not a possibility. Therefore these industries are subsidised through government incentives directed towards subsidising local production and incentivising international production. This is very common throughout Europe.

This is done for two main reasons. Firstly, to ensure the continuation and development of local culture, and secondly – and just as importantly – a healthy film industry contributes greatly to the GDP of a country. It needs to be noted that every dollar spent through incentives can translate to up to a $5 return on investment for the local economy. This is the main reason that nearly every country with an existing feature film industry has incentive programmes.

At present there are some positive indicators coming out of Abu Dhabi, but until there is a structured road plan that focuses on both key factors of developing local talent (this can include expatriate talent) and incentivising international production,
the opportunity for the development of a viable local film industry remains bleak. While one must recognise that there are
developments like Dubai Studio City, Imagenation in Abu Dhabi and the recent Al Noor Film Fund in Qatar, it will take far more than this to create and sustain a film industry for which we can all be proud of.

Until then, we need to continue to do the best with what we have, because no matter what, it is still possible to make films. It
is not a matter of handouts in order to get films made, but it is a different matter to discuss the creation of a ‘film industry’ versus the making of films.

So, to all directors and producers, persevere and you shall succeed as long as your work is good and you are committed. And for us in advertising, production values rule so keep improving your production standards and the future for 2010 should not be so bleak.


WPP and VCCP make next round of Emirates pitch as independents join the fray

January 17, 2010

The field of major players in the Emirates global advertising pitch has been whittled down to a final two, but the brand has unexpectedly invited unnamed independent agencies to participate in its final round.

“We are progressing to the next stage of the pitch for a global lead agency with WPP and VCCP. In addition to these two agency groups, we have invited selected independent agencies whom we felt would be able to provide a fresh view on our requirements, to participate in the pitch process,” said Emirates. “We are planning to complete our evaluation by March. As stated previously, we are seeking a lead agency to create a new global brand campaign for the airline that will impact all touch points. For our existing global agency network, it is business as usual.”

The pitch has been underway since June of last year and has seen Publicis, Omnicom and the Interpublic Group knocked out in its earlier rounds. Emirates clarified that even though the networks of some of its regional partners – Impact BBDO and Leo Burnett – were no longer contenders for the lead agency, it did not necessarily mean they had no future role.

This is not the first time that the pitch process has taken an unexpected turn. In the early stages Emirates handed its UK advertising account to VCCP’s London office without a pitch. UK-based VCCP also has an office in Abu Dhabi.


Ashkar out as Saatchi pushes ahead with expansion plans

January 10, 2010

Another day and another announcement from Saatchi & Saatchi MENA:

Having been installed as the regional network’s CEO in October 2008, Elias Ashkar ‘resigned’ his post  late last week as the agency finalised its restructuring plans for 2010.

Ashkar’s departure represents the latest manouvre in what has been a fundamental re-jig for the operation in the Middle East; the Dubai office’s entire top tier of management has been replaced over the past 12 months.

Simon Francis, Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “Elias came in to instigate the restructuring of Saatchi & Saatchi in the MENA region. Thanks to him, this initial phase is now complete and our strategic objectives have been fulfilled. I want to personally thank Elias for his tremendous contribution to the region. We are now in an excellent position to move forward to the next phase.”

Marc Lineveldt, formerly executive creative director  at Fortunepromoseven Dubai, took up Saatchi & Saatchi’s regional creative director post in September 2009.

He now forms a managerial trio, including  Kristine Varma, regional CFO, and Ben Roberts, regional human interests director, that will push ahead with the MENA network’s strategy from its base in Dubai.

Only last month the network announced it was to end its 18-year association with Quantum Holding, its partner in what were formerly its Beirut and Amman offices.

The plan is to create new, wholly-owned Saatchi & Saatchi offices across the region.

It is is believed the first of the new outposts will be known as Saatchi & Saatchi Levant, based in Beirut.

It is not yet known whether Ashkar will be replaced.


UAE begins process to ban all types of tobacco sponsorship

January 7, 2010

Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed, president of the UAE, yesterday signed a legislative bill which restricts smoking venues across the country and bans all types of advertisements and the promotion or sponsorship of tobacco products.

The European Union enforced similar legislation in 2005, which brought an end to all tobacco-related advertising in consumer print titles and newspapers. Outdoor, TV and radio advertising had already been outlawed due to their potential to influence children.

Tobacco companies have since sought new opportunities in sporting events such a Formula 1, branding cars with their livery. The practice has been banned at races in countries affected by the anti-smoking laws.

Despite a fall in popularity elsewhere in the world, brands from tobacco giants such as British American Tobacco and Philip Morris still hold strong appeal in the Middle East.

An anti-smoking commitee will be created to implement the law in the UAE, though a start date for its enforcement is not yet established.