Region stumbles as Cannes kicks off

June 21, 2010

It’s been a pretty inauspicious start to the Cannes Lions festival for the Middle East and North Africa, with only 13 pieces of work making the cut in the first seven shortlists unveiled this morning.

The region has picked up no shortlists in the direct, promo and PR categories, leaving it to Y&R Dubai to wave the flag in print and outdoor.

Y&R Dubai has work for clients Harvey Nichols, Neenah Paper and Microsoft shortlisted in the press category, with JWT Dubai bagging one for its Reynolds Fine Carbure Pens campaign. TBWA\Raad has one shortlist for The Fridge and Elephant Cairo also has one for Lika Gum’s ‘Out of this world’.

In outdoor Y&R Dubai has been shortlisted for its ‘Wolves’ work for Harvey Nichols; its Xbox campaign for Resident Evil 5; and for its ‘Splitting Steven’ campaign for Paras Pharma.

There are only two agencies with a chance of winning any metalwork in media – Impact BBDO Dubai for ‘Emirates take off’, and Leo Burnett Beirut for its ‘Make a move’ campaign for Exotica.

In radio, both Memac Ogilvy Dubai and Leo Burnett Beirut made the cut, for ACDelco and Alfa respectively.

The shortlists mean that, so far, only one of the grand prix winners from this year’s Dubai Lynx – Elephant’s ‘Out of this world’ – has a chance of winning anything at this year’s festival. Starcom’s ‘Confessions of Corporate Spies’, which won the media grand prix at the Lynx, and Memac Ogilvy’s ‘Dustvertising’, which won the direct & sales promotion grand prix, are already out of the running, as is Saatchi & Saatchi Dubai’s ‘Abandoned cars’.

The shortlists for cyber and design will be unveiled tomorrow, whilst film, film craft, titanium and integrated will be revealed on Friday.

Cannes Lions glory could be out of reach

June 20, 2010

If I were a betting man and someone had offered me decent odds, I would have placed a wager on the winners of this year’s Dubai Lynx and made a tidy sum. But I didn’t. And no one offered me odds either.

I’m not going to bet on the Cannes Lions festival either – the odds are too long. But I am going to play a fool’s game and attempt to predict. Cannes, of course, is a totally different ball game to the Lynx. In the five years I’ve been in the Middle East, only four gold Lions have been won – two of them by FP7 Doha, the other two by Tonic and Wunderman. Leo Burnett Beirut won a PR Lion last year, but it was not classified as gold, silver or bronze thanks to it being the first year the category had been included at the festival.

Now, there’s obviously a distinct possibility that I’m going to end up with egg on my face, but I believe the only true chance of gold lies with Elephant Cairo. Its ‘89 Fans from ‘89’ campaign, which won the integrated grand prix at the Lynx in March, is in a tough category but it is a genuinely excellent piece of work that deserves to put Egyptian creativity on the map. Conversely, everybody’s favourite – and another Lynx grand prix winner – Leo Burnett Cairo’s ‘The Mother of All Foreign Films’, will, in all probability, walk away with nothing. It was shortlisted at the Clios, but left empty-handed. For whatever reason, the Melody work just doesn’t travel well.

Starcom’s ‘Confessions of Corporate Spies’ for Chevrolet deserves to win and could pick up gold. I am, however, opting for a silver. Similarly, Memac Ogilvy Label’s ‘Boga Cidre’ could win a bronze, but Memac Ogilvy Dubai will be left almost entirely out in the cold. The agency’s unprecedented success at the Lynx, where it was named agency of the year, will not be replicated at Cannes, purely because, although its work in non-traditional fields stands out in a regional crowd, it lacks the killer instinct necessary on a global level. I’m not saying Memac Ogilvy will not pick up anything, but the level of success will be tamed considerably.

As for print, well, in theory the region should do well. It makes up the bulk of the Middle East and North Africa’s entries and Y&R Dubai alone has submitted 55 pieces of work. A couple of silvers may be awarded, but for what is anybody’s guess. The chances are we may never have seen any of the print or outdoor work before. But if anyone’s going to win a silver or bronze, it’s Y&R, which has numbers, history and a 2010 winning streak on its side.

Anyway, now that I’ve alienated everyone, let’s hope that those who truly deserve to win, do. Best of luck.

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.

Leo Burnett Cairo and Y&R win at Clios

May 30, 2010

The region’s advertising agencies have only managed to land one silver and one bronze at this year’s Clio Awards in New York.

The silver went to Leo Burnett Cairo in the print category for its Egyptian ‘burger’, ‘hotdog’ and ‘pizza’ campaign for Heinz, while Y&R Dubai grabbed a bronze for its ‘Wolves’ work for Harvey Nichols (pictured).

The lack of any golds will be disappointing for Leo Burnett Cairo, which had seen its ‘The Mother of All Foreign Films’ campaign for Melody Aflam shortlisted.

This year’s agency of the year was AlmapBBDO, São Paulo, while the advertiser of the year was Nike and network of the year BBDO Worldwide.

M&C Saatchi buys stake in Quantum

March 28, 2010

M&C Saatchi has bought a minority stake in Beirut-based ad agency Quantum Communications, leading to the creation of M&C Saatchi MENA.

Quantum was previously known as Saatchi & Saatchi Beirut until it withdrew from the agency’s EMEA network at the end of December – a network it had been part of for 18 years.

The new move means Quantum is once again part of a global network after a period of just three months. “This was not a decision we took lightly, and was fueled by a desire for progress, knowledge and growth. Both for the partners we work for and the talented people we employ,” said Quantum CEO Eli Khoury.

“We’re confident the new collaboration will continue to set new standards, further enhance the quality of the work, attract like-minded clients and cement the agency’s reputation as one of the most dynamic and visionary agencies in the region.”

M&C Saatchi’s CEO, Moray MacLennan, added: “The Middle East and North Africa is a dynamic region and the Quantum agency is both dynamic and innovative – the culture is 100 per cent Saatchi and we are delighted to have them as part of our network.”

M&C Saatchi MENA’s offering will also include Brand Central, Fusion Digital and Vertical Media in order to “seamlessly provide clients with a full mix of skills and expertise for offline and online communications”.

M&C Saatchi was formed in January 1995 by brothers Maurice and Charles Saatchi after the two were ousted from their own agency, Saatchi & Saatchi. In 2008, M&C Saatchi announced that it was to open an office in Bahrain in order to service clients such as the Bahrain Economic Development Board.

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.”