Forbes ME to celebrate Global Meets Local study

Forbes Middle East is to hold a grand celebration party tomorrow evening to recognise the significant impact made by the MENA region’s leading executives, which is revealed in its “Global Meets Local” study of the talent leading the MENA operations of some of the most renowned global corporations. The study includes the top 100 CEOs, directors and executive management driving the regional success of global corporations with established bases in the Middle East and North Africa.

“This study honours the region’s impressive talent pool heading up the MENA operations of global corporate powerhouses,” says Forbes Middle East’s Editor-in-Chief, Khuloud Al Omian. “These individuals and the companies that they are driving into the future are playing a vital role, not only in ensuring the success of their corporations, but that of their national and regional economies too.”

With the prestigious FORBES Global 2000 — a ranking of the biggest, most powerful, and most valuable publicly listed companies in the world — as a basis for research, the findings of Forbes Middle East’s innovative study highlight the significance of the MENA region and its top executives on the global corporate stage. The study culminates in a ranking of the top 100 MENA-based business leaders and executives at the helm of their companies. Complementing the ranking is a stellar lineup of 20 well-established professionals who, although yet to complete 12 months in their roles, boast impressive track records in their respective industries.

Fake reviews – a legal or moral issue?

The New York state attorney general recently clamped down on companies proven to be posting fake reviews online as well as companies that provide “reputation-enhancement” services by posting fake reviews on behalf of clients. But is this a legal or moral issue? Legal expert Abdullah Mutawi, Partner and Head of UAE for Trowers & Hamlins LLP advises…

In an age where consumers trust one another more than they do ‘experts’, businesses are more desperate than ever to reflect a positive online presence

“The trustworthiness of consumer review websites – or indeed any advice forum – is key to their existence, but many including one of America’s largest review portals, Yelp, have recently found themselves the subject of a debate around whether internet portals can be ‘played’ in a manner which manipulates markets and consumer behavior in a negative way.

These consumer review websites rely on user-generated content, where registered users log in and post reviews about businesses and service providers ranging from Pizza delivery to dentists. The reviews undoubtedly drive consumers in the direction of the businesses in question as a direct result of the positive experiences of its previous customers. This is all fine, until the portals are abused.

Companies the world over are constantly fighting to get a foot in front of their competitors and in an age where consumers trust one another more than they do ‘experts’, businesses are more desperate than ever to reflect a positive online presence on influential sites. This has resulted in a growing practice in company owners, staff or associated marketing and PR professionals posting positive reviews in the pretense of being ‘happy customers’ in order to drive business forward.

But this leaves us at a legal and moral crossroad. Is this actually illegal or just morally wrong? The truth of the matter is that it depends on which country you find yourself in, but in general it is safe to say that this is more of a moral issue when posting positive material, as long as it is not false or misleading. In law there is a material difference between positive spin and a lie. If any consumer can prove that a complete misrepresentation or distortion of the truth induced them to buy a product or service which did not fit the description, then the brand could quickly find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The larger issue lies in the negative reviews. Some companies have concluded that by writing negative reviews about the competition, in addition to positive reviews on their own company, product or service, it greatly increases their chances of success. Again, it often comes down to the laws of each individual country but this type of activity could ultimately put the perpetrator in a position to be sued for damages. While smaller companies would be less likely to bring such a case to court, one could easily see how a multi-national business might sue a competitor if it believed that the competitor was engaged in such activities.

From both a moral and legal standpoint there is a big difference between promotion and deception and deceiving any consumer is typically a serious offence in any country and will always result in negative consequences whether legal or not.”

Is social media nibbling at the print advertising pie?

With social media advertising options becoming increasingly attractive and readily available to marketeers, will this affect traditional advertising in print publications? We ask two media industry experts to offer their opinion…

“NO” says Mark Pickup, Head of Sales, Hello! Middle East, What’s On & Hype 

Markpickup“whilst we are in the midst of a digital revolution, magazines still provide an engagement that 140 characters on Twitter can never do”

For a lot of people buying a magazine is a thrill. Feeling the weight of the magazine in their hands, ripping open the plastic, flicking through the glossy pages and inhaling that magical smell – it’s a simple treat that never gets old. Handing over money and taking home a magazine is more exciting than clicking a button that says ‘buy’ or ‘Like’.

A magazine is a style accessory. In buying it you are making a statement: “I read Emirates Woman/Hello/Hype – this is who I am. I believe in this brand and this brand reflects me”. A magazine is an emotional attachment. It’s a relationship. People get sentimental about magazines and buy them for years, never missing an issue. Magazines shape people’s youth, their style, their tastes and set a blueprint in place for the rest of their life. People can’t bear to part with them. There are piles of magazines in corners of bedrooms all over the world – people don’t collect Facebook accounts.

New mediums will always appear – TV didn’t kill radio just as DVDs didn’t kill the cinema – and whilst we are in the midst of a digital revolution, magazines still provide an engagement that 140 characters on Twitter can never do.

When it comes to advertising, social media platforms are great for getting instant interest on short-term offers and they also work well as part of a larger marketing campaign. But just like everything, it’s all about balance. With magazine advertising, there is a certain prestige associated with it, and also an instant trust factor for the reader who has grown with the magazine and values its judgment.

With each print magazine’s instant reader reach increased further via its own social media platforms, as well as associated online publications, advertising in print is no longer just one-dimensional. We are able to offer a fully rounded platform.


“YES” says Managing Partner, The Qode

ayman-fakoussa“Smaller brands who in the past may have taken the next step to advertise in print media will most likely take longer to make that transition”

Social media is now deep-rooted in our way of life and has increasingly become an essential part of any brand’s marketing mix. Brands are developing their social media accounts to allow them to engage and communicate directly with their customers, something that traditional media advertising has not allowed them to do. And with the low costs associated with social media advertising and the benefits of retaining long-term Fans and Followers, it is definitely a high priority when it comes to dividing the marketing spend.

Budgets are being re-allocated to accommodate these new mediums, which in turn does mean a decrease in spend on existing mediums like print publishing. Having said that, the role of traditional media is still an essential part of many larger brands’ marketing spend. So does it affect print advertising? I would say yes, as any new form of advertising does take away from another. Will it be a big enough chunk to have a detrimental effect? I doubt it.

For smaller brands, online advertising and social media are likely to be the only forms of advertising affordable to them. Smaller brands who in the past may have taken the next step to advertise in print media will most likely take longer to make that transition. The tendency is to turn to less expensive alternatives like public relations in conjunction with their social media platforms.

Interestingly, many magazines have seen this pattern evolving and having realised the importance of social media advertising. Many magazines are building up their own followers, not only to promote their publications, but also to offer an additional platform for advertisers to gain more exposure and followers – therefore offering brands an additional incentive to keep advertising.

So with print and social media advertising – does one supersede the other? Definitely not, there’s room for both.

Taxi Media Middle East

As Taxi Media Middle East accelerates towards launch, Team TMN catch up with Managing Director, Brett Pearson, to find out more about the region’s newest advertising platform…

When was Taxi Media Middle East established?
The company was formed in Twofour54 in March 2013 after being awarded the contract for Abu Dhabi by TransAD (The Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi). This had followed six months of presentations and bidding to win the contract.

What does Taxi Media Middle East do exactly?
We provide in-taxi entertainment and advertising for passengers travelling in the back seat of a taxi. The units are installed in the back of the headrest and have an interactive touchscreen display.

What territories will you cover?
Initially Abu Dhabi Emirate as our franchise partners have bases in both Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. We are also in advanced discussions for Dubai, Sharjah and Qatar currently.

What makes you different to the options already available in taxis in the region?
The only taxi advertising currently available is the traditional external wrap-around, which is only available in Dubai, as Abu Dhabi do not permit external advertising. What makes us truly different is we have a fully quantifiable captive audience and can adapt creative executions more quickly and cost effectively than any other Out-of-Home platform.

For example, Subway have recently used the external taxis in Dubai to promote their “Sandwich of the Day”, but how do consumers know what sandwich is on offer on any given day? These adverts are generic. With our system they could – and have elsewhere in the world, winning a Mobius Award for the execution – actively promote every day’s specific sandwich. This allows our clients to be highly targeted with their advertising to maximise their ROI.

When will the advertising platform roll out?
We soft launch in December for communication system testing with Etisalat, and then the first phase will roll out in January 2014.

What languages will the advertising platform be available in?
We will initially offer English and Arabic as standard to clients, but the beauty of our system is we can technically host any language that does not involve a three-tier alphabet – Hindi for example, as this causes some programming issues. If you look at the top 10 nationalities that visit the UAE, we can host nine of the 10, if required.

Why is this advertising option more effective than traditional print advertising or broadcast?
There are several reasons, but first and foremost, audience size. On full fleet exposure we would deliver a monthly audience of nearly 10 million eyeballs just in Abu Dhabi; to put that into perspective the monthly figure for Facebook or Google in the whole of the UAE is roughly 3.3 million.

Next comes cost – we are extremely cost effective as we are a fraction of the current rate for taxi advertising on a rate card-to-rate card basis. The reason for this is we do not have high production costs eating into a media budget. If you are a venue looking to promote a restaurant or sporting event or concert, our monthly rates are comparable with current listing magazines’ weekly costs whose number of sold copies are a couple of thousand compared to our seven figure viewing stats.

But undoubtedly, one of the best arguments for using our system, besides the previous reasons, is full accountability. Because our system is touchscreen, every single interaction is logged and we will be sharing this data with every client regardless of how big their campaign is, so they can accurately judge whether we are offering great ROI or not.

How much does it cost?
It depends on what you want to do but every single option is extremely cost effective when compared to alternative media offerings. There is an affordable option for every size of business, from your local restaurant right up to a global FMCG brand.

How can you track the success of advertising campaigns for clients?
As the unit is coordinated with the taxi meter, we know exactly how many journeys are done by each taxi everyday and how long they last. Each individual interaction with the unit is logged so we can give accurate data on how many people have seen an advert, interacted with a brand icon, played a game, downloaded a discount voucher, completed a survey or entered a competition. Think of your computer keyboard and every time you hit a key think of that as an interaction on our media unit and our system automatically logs each and every touch.

What else can we expect to see from TMME in the near future?
Well, our core business is engaging customers with brands via taxis in a fun and useful way and we have expansion plans across the UAE and further within the MENA region. But to compliment the Taxi Media units we will also be launching a City Living App so that for no extra cost to clients we offer a continuation of their promotions outside of the taxi cab environment.

How can advertisers get involved?
That part is easy, interested parties can contact myself, / 055 822 4829 or Stuart Matthewson / or 050 558 8467. We are both happy to go through all of the options available.

Senior PR Executive, Charles Santhakumar

Name: Charles Santhakumar
Age: 32
From: Chennai / India
Current job title: Senior PR Executive

When did you arrive in the UAE?
I’ve only just arrived. I landed in Dubai on October 10, 2013.

Where did you work prior?
Back in India, I worked for various leading PR agencies including Edelman, Vaishnavi Corporate Communications, Hanmer MSL and Good Relations.

Had you been to Dubai before accepting your new role?
No, I had never been to Dubai but I had heard a lot about it. This is my first visit and I am excited to explore.

What are your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
Before I decided to move to Dubai, I had done a lot of research about the Middle East media industry and it is growing rapidly when you compare it to India. This is what really sold it to me and gave me a good feeling about moving here.

Tell us about your new role…
Well, I have only been in the role for one week and already, it has been a great learning experience. I am involved in client servicing, media relations, social media branding and many more exciting areas.

What challenges are you facing?
As I am still very new, the only challenge that I have faced so far is sometimes a difficulty with the language, as I do not speak Arabic. Hopefully I will pick this up in good time.

How do you plan to make your mark?
I am focused on the current work, no dreaming, just concentrating on the work I do. I want to make sure I give it my best shot to deliver what my clients expect.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I would say the most important and rewarding aspect of any job is when you work with a great team and in a good working environment.

What’s the most exciting thing to happen so far?
I think it’s too early to say as I have been so focused on work, but each day when I get to interact with new contacts – journalists, clients etc – this is exciting for me.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
I am very impressed with the quality – it is very good. It is a mixed community even in the media industry, so it’s really healthy.

What sets you apart from other PRs?
I don’t have a right to compare myself with others, but as a PR person, I set goals for myself and I try to achieve that. I like to be measured by my deliverables… I work hard to prove my skills and I always try and put my experience to good use. That’s what drives me every day.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
I am always contactable – it’s part of my job. So I am happy to be contacted on both mobile or landline.

Describe yourself in five words…
Jovial, sporty, energetic, a team player and flexible.

What’s your most overused saying?
Everything is possible for those who believe.

Five things you can’t live without?
God, my parents, my sweet wife, food and water. Really.

If you weren’t a PR, what would you be?
I would be a Sports Journalist – it was my first choice after my Masters in Electronic Journalism, before I chose PR.

Joelle Mardinian wins “Businesswoman of the Year”

The Arabian Business Achievement Awards organised by ITP’s Arabian Business magazine awarded media personality Joelle Mardinian “Businesswoman of the Year” for her continuous success and achievements in the Middle East. The ceremony was held at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai in the presence of Mr. Tony Blair, Former UK Prime Minister, who appeared as the guest of honour and keynote speaker.

“This award is an important milestone in my life and reinforces my passion for the beauty industry,” says Joelle Mardinian, a renowned TV personality. “I will keep on pursuing my dreams, work hard to overcome challenges, and hopefully celebrate further success with my family, friends, and fans” she added.

Joelle Mardinian is the owner of the “Maison de Joelle” chain of beauty salons present across the region including UAE, KSA and Qatar. Joelle recently opened her first cosmetic clinic “Clinica Joelle” and launched her professional skin and hair care products.

New Regional Managing Director for UM MENA

Middle East Communication Network (MCN), has announced Chris Skinner as the new Regional Managing Director of UM MENA. A British national with more than 18 years’ industry experience, Skinner has worked in senior level positions at global agencies in some of the world’s most important media markets, including London and Hong Kong. He joins UM MENA after a six-year tenure at IPG’s Mediabrands in Hong Kong, where he led UM and Initiative as Managing Director and led integrated campaigns for The Coca-Cola Group, Boots International, Cathay Pacific, Exxon Mobil, MasterCard, CNN International and Microsoft, among others.

“Chris has an impressive track record of success and his key strengths of developing strategic campaigns, building diversity and additional services – including digital assets – as well as pushing the boundaries of service, content and integration will prove great assets to MCN,” says Ghassan Harfouche, Group CEO of MCN. “The high-level appointment is further proof that the keystone to MCN evolving its product offering is acquiring the best human capital available.”

Paul Katrib, who has been leading UM MENA for the past three years will be moving on to pursue other professional projects. “MCN would like to thank Paul for all his efforts and achievements during his longstanding tenure at the company and offer him their very best wishes for his future,” added Harfouche.

International recognition for McCann Worldgroup

McCann Worldgroup was recognised in Advertising Age & Creativity magazine’s Annual Awards Report as the third most “Creatively Awarded Network,” with McCann Melbourne ranked as the most “Creatively Awarded Agency.”

This recognition comes in a year in which McCann’s creative awards performance netted it honours as “Agency of the Year” in New York and as “Network of the Year” in both Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific, along with other major creative awards recognition globally. The Advertising Age & Creativity magazine report also recognised McCann Melbourne’s “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign for Metro Trains Australia as the “Most Awarded Campaign” of the year and its creative leaders John Mescall and Pat Baron as the two highest-ranked creative directors in the entire global advertising industry.

“This is a terrific achievement for the entire McCann network, highlighted by the tremendous success of our Melbourne office,” said Harris Diamond, Chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup. “The recognition across categories from digital to integrated, film to design, is a testament to the great work all of our staff has been doing around the world. This is work that not only continues to win the admiration of our peers, but also drives our clients’ businesses forward.”

Along with this record of creative recognition, McCann this year added several new global and regional clients, including the consolidation of the Chevrolet business globally, the addition of Zurich Insurance and SABIC to the network’s global roster, and new U.S. clients including the U.S. Postal Service, Lockheed Martin and Jose Cuervo.