PHD expands into Saudi Arabia

June 20, 2010

Media agency PHD is expanding into Saudi Arabia with the opening of an office in Riyadh.

The move has been made following the capital’s rapid rise to prominence in terms of media spend, with parent company Omnicom Media Group (OMG) saying the expansion reflects not only Saudi Arabia’s political status but also its financial and economic role.

The agency, whose sister company OMD already has offices in Riyadh and Jeddah, will support regional and global accounts as well as seek to grow its portfolio of Saudi-based clients. PHD already manages several Saudi accounts, including Bank AlBilad, Mazola Oil and Domino’s Pizza, as well as regional ones such as Arla Foods. The new office will be headed by Jean Jabbour.

“An office opening is a sign of optimism and confidence at any time but particularly now, as the region begins its recovery after the global downturn,” said Elie Khouri, OMG’s CEO for the Middle East and North Africa. “Our operations in the kingdom have proved their mettle in 2009, managing to maintain their lead and business performance overall, in spite of challenging conditions. This has confirmed our optimism and ambition for the kingdom, making the launch of PHD there not only a move for the future but also for the present.”

Choucrallah Abou Samra, OMG’s managing director for Saudi Arabia, added: “We know that Saudi Arabia is turning a corner and is now ready for something different to better communicate with today’s consumers and manage the challenges of tomorrow. PHD is the fresh approach advertisers are looking for.”

PHD launched in the UK in 1990, was acquired by Omnicom in 1999 and entered the Middle East with an office in Dubai in 2005. It has 70 offices and over 2,000 staff globally.


Media Insight and MediaCom to merge

June 20, 2010

Media buying and planning unit Media Insight is to merge with Grey Worldwide’s MediaCom in the Middle East and North Africa.

Media Insight and its clients are in the process of being folded into MediaCom’s operations across the region, with the new entity retaining the MediaCom moniker. Both agencies are part of the WPP network.

MediaCom is fully owned by Grey Worldwide in the region, whilst Media Insight is a 50/50 joint venture between Memac Ogilvy and JWT and does not have a presence outside of the MENA region.

The new venture will be 40 per cent owned by Grey, with Memac Ogilvy and JWT holding a 30 per cent share each. A spokesman at Grey Worldwide was unwilling to comment on the merger, insisting that a full statement would be issued by WPP within the next few weeks. However, it is understood that a holding company is currently being registered in Bahrain that will take ownership of all of the regional offices belonging to MediaCom and Media Insight. Where there is a duplication of offices – such as in Dubai – the two offices are merging, with no loss of jobs, according to a reliable source.

It is proposed that the CEO will come from Grey, while the CFO will be from JWT. The head of Media Insight will take a backroom role across both MediCom and Mindshare.

The future of MediaCom in the Middle East had been the source of some speculation, especially after the worldwide head office decided not to defend its hold on Nokia’s estimated $415 million global media account. Locally, chief operating officer Hisham Tannir left in October to take up the position of CEO at Initiative. His departure was followed by the loss of other members of staff.


Starcom retains Saudi Telecom media account

May 9, 2010

Starcom has retained Saudi Telecom’s media planning and buying account following a review of the marketing business of the region’s most important pan-Arab advertiser.
Saudi Telecom (STC) called a review of its media and creative advertising accounts earlier this year, with a decision yet to be made regarding the advertising side of the business. JWT and Leo Burnett are the incumbents on the creative accounts.
The STC media account is one of Starcom’s most important pieces of business and its retention has been cause for celebration at the agency.
Ramzi Ghanem, general manager of Starcom Riyadh, said: “This is fantastic news for us, a testament to our nine-year partnership that has generated business success and creative excellence in this marketplace.”
He added: “It is so rewarding working with STC, the 2010 Dubai Lynx Advertiser of the Year; an advertiser that is committed to driving innovation and raising industry standards in a highly dynamic telecom sector. We’ve got a highly enthusiastic team in place, a wealth of category experience, digital capabilities and determination to continuously provide STC with best-in-class services and solutions.”
In 2009, STC was the most important pan-Arab advertiser, spending $70 million according the Pan Arab Research Center, putting it in the number one spot ahead of the likes of Mobily, Coca-Cola, Dove and Zain.


Maxus enters the Middle East with BPG Media

March 22, 2010

Global media agency Maxus has launched a new strategic affiliation with BPG Media that gives the GroupM agency its first presence in the Middle East and North Africa.

The new alliance, called BPG Maxus, will offer media services including strategic planning, implementation and buying, analytics, and digital communications throughout the Middle East and North Africa regions.

BPG Media is the media planning and buying arm of the Dubia headquartered BPG Group. Maxus is one of four global media agency networks within GroupM. Its three sister agencies are Mediaedge:cia, MediaCom and Mindshare, all of which are already present in the region. Both Maxus and BPG Group are part of WPP.

“The Middle East and North Africa are critically important regions for many of our clients, and we need a strong presence there” said Kelly Clark, Maxus Worldwide CEO. “This partnership allows us to tap into the considerable demand for more creative and accountable media communications in the Middle East and North Africa.”

Avi Bhojani, group chief executive officer of BPG Group, said: “In the light of tough market conditions, BPG Group made a paradigm shift in the way we engage clients. Our affiliation with Maxus will further enhance our integrated marketing communications model.”


Where are the results, asks media juror

March 16, 2010

Agencies’ inability to provide proper results for media campaigns has led to some work being marked down during the judging process at this year’s Dubai Lynx.

Kate Cox, head of creative communications at MPG and a juror on the media jury, said the region needs to work on proving the effectiveness of campaigns.

Speaking following the completion of judging in the media category, she said: “Some amazing ideas were judged down simply because they just did not have the effectiveness results. It’s sort of a tricky balance to make between the clients not investing in research to prove it, and getting results from other areas.”

However, she added that some categories had entries that should be internationally awarded. “There were some campaigns that Cannes would be proud of – innovative campaigns that were smart and inventive and had comparable creative ideas that I would be proud of in Europe if I could’ve executed them.”

This year saw a 10 per cent increase in the number of entries in the media category, with 230 in total – 70 of which were shortlisted yesterday.


News International’s paywall won’t work, says rival

March 15, 2010

Rupert Murdoch’s decision to erect paywalls around News International’s portfolio of newspapers will not work and goes against the grain of all that’s happening in media, said the Guardian News and Media’s Mark Finney.

Speaking at the Dubai Lynx today, Finney, who is GNM’s head of client sales, said: “We don’t think it will work. In fact, we can get benefits of scale from News International charging for content.

“We do not believe in asking people to pay for content on the point of desktop. It’s not in keeping with developments that are happening around the world at the moment, and we believe it goes against the grain of what’s happening digitally.”

Finney was echoing similar views expressed by Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of UK newspaper The Guardian, who last month described Murdoch’s decision to erect paywalls as “completely antithetical to the way everything is going”. In August last year, Murdoch announced that all News International titles, which include The Times and News of the World, would begin to charge for access to online content by this summer. The Times is expected to begin charging in May.

Finney added, however, that GNM could change its mind if it was proven wrong. “It won’t work, but if it does work obviously we reserve the right to change our thoughts at the last possible minute and start charging for content because we are, after all, interested in continuing to exist,” he said.

 GNM reported an $85 million pre-tax loss last year.


Rotana nabs Saudi private radio license

March 1, 2010

Rotana has landed one of four new private radio licenses being awarded in Saudi Arabia after paying $18 million for the rights to broadcast in the country.

The win follows last year’s decision by the country’s Ministry of Information and Culture to open up the kingdom’s radio market to private competition, bringing to an end MBC’s 15-year monopoly on private radio in Saudi Arabia. The MBC Group’s MBC FM and Panorama FM had previously been the only two private stations in the kingdom.

Nine companies are understood to have bid for the license won by Rotana, including the Saudi Specialized Publishing Co, ART and the Al-Jazirah Newspaper alliance.

Two of the four new private radio licenses have already been won – the first going to Alf Alf alliance and the second to Ghaya Innovation Holding Co earlier this year.

The Saudi government’s initial request for proposal to create four additional FM stations last year was met by 30 applications.