H+K Strategies welcomes Digital Director

H+K Strategies Middle East and Africa has welcomed Gareth Talbot to the role of Digital Director. Gareth was previously Head of Digital at Bell Pottinger Middle East, where he worked alongside the existing PR offering to implement best practices and deliver improved results across a range of sectors and clients. As Digital Director, he will be responsible for the day-to-day management and operations of client accounts with an emphasis on retaining and expanding current client business, providing strategic counsel to senior client contacts. He will also aid senior management with staff selection and the development of junior staff, as well as assist line managers in new business efforts.

“I’m excited to be joining Ed and the team at H+K Strategies to support in growing their fantastic digital offering throughout the Middle East and Africa,” says Gareth. “H+K Strategies have an impressive range of clients in the region, and it’s their unique commitment to investing in digital and building digital awareness and skills among colleagues at every level of the organisation that thrills me the most.”

Ed Poultner, Regional Digital Director, H+K Strategies Middle East and Africa, adds “Gareth brings over a decade’s worth of great experience to the role, having led in a number of digital initiatives in both the UK and the GCC. Bringing him on board will immeasurably strengthen our offering as we move into a full digitally integrated model of communications across our MENA offices.”

Omnicom wins at Sustainability Reporting Awards

Omnicom Media Group MENA has received the Best First Time Sustainability Report award for its inaugural report at the recently held Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards. The document, entitled Leaving a Mark, not a Footprint, was produced by the communications holding group in accordance with the GRI G4 Guidelines and was deemed the best introductory report to be produced by an organisation in Asia last year.

Held in Singapore and organised by CSRWorks International, the awards ceremony recognised organisations for excellence in reporting their sustainability initiatives. A gala dinner event was attended by dignitaries from companies, non-profit organisations, embassies, trade associations, advocacy organisations and academic institutions and was presided by the British High Commissioner to Singapore, H.E. Scott Wightman.

“Our first report was a deeply meaningful exercise, that allowed us to define our values, identify our priorities and quantify the impact we intend to have on a number of fronts, both internally and externally,” says Elie Khouri, CEO, Omnicom Media Group, MENA. “This recognition validates our efforts to lead the way in the area of sustainability, in the region as well as the communications industry. We will continue to adhere to the most advanced guidelines and protocols, pushing ourselves to reach the highest levels of integrity in order to contribute to a more sustainable future for ourselves, our partners and our community.”

Architectural Digest celebrates first anniversary

Held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Architectural Digest – part of APP Group – is celebrating its first anniversary in the Middle East. To underline the occasion, the publication will be curating a charitable auction under the theme ‘One of a Kind’ featuring the work of some of the leading product designers and artists from the Middle East, which will be sold with revenue donated to Dubai Cares. The event will be held in the Annex Burj Khalifa and sponsored by real estate company Wasl Properties, luxury watch brand Audemars Piguet and high-end furniture company Ethan Allen.

Architectural Digest is celebrating its first anniversary in the Middle East with a charitable design exhibition that aims to give back to the great community that has embraced this publication since its first issue,” says Manuel Arnaut, Editor In Chief, Architectural Digest. “I would deeply like to thank the 13 designers and artists that donated their work. These pieces will be sold through a silent auction that aims to support Dubai Cares. And of course, a very special word of gratitude goes to Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), for her patronage and overall support of Architectural Digest and this exhibition in particular.”

Are celebrity endorsements a good thing?

With Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman fronting new campaigns for Emirates and Etihad respectively, we want to know – do celebrity endorsements help brand image?

“NO” says Roger Hawa, Managing Partner and Strategic Communications Director, Republique Dubai

RogerHawaIt’s become so popular to see celebs tweeting and raving about brands they endorse that it has become increasingly hard to stop the cynicism from creeping in.”

Although I would usually take the pro side in a debate such as this today, I have decided to probe the perils of such endorsements. In todays’ world, celebrity endorsements don’t just take the form of adverts. Celebrities are also paid to tweet and post about the brands they endorse and this has added yet another dimension to this type of marketing. Thanks to social media, we now know what these celebrities had for breakfast, as well as what they did the night before. It’s become so popular to see celebs tweeting and raving about brands they endorse that it has become increasingly hard to stop the cynicism from creeping in.

So why aren’t celebrity endorsements necessarily a good thing? There are far more reasons than we would care to admit…

Celebrity overexposure: It would appear that certain celebrities will slap their names on almost anything and everything. David Beckham, Nancy Ajram, Amitabh Bachchan immediately spring to mind, with each personality far more recognisable than the numerous brands that they endorse. Because of this, marketers run the risk of consumers remembering such celebrities rather than the brands that they are supposed to be endorsing and this dramatically lessens the impact of supporting each brand individually and creatively.

Celebrity downfall: Stars, we are told, are only human and therefore are capable of making mistakes and creating a few scandals. I doubt anyone will ever forget the Tiger Woods scandal? And sadly for his sponsor, we also remember the brand he was associated with at the time. Again, in today’s highly wired social world, these scandals now travel a lot faster with a much higher reach and frequency, making damage control for brands much more difficult. So just as famous personalities can bring business in instantly, they can just as easily take it away.

The celebrity may eclipse the brand: Some celebrities are really popular and, although they might bring in immediate awareness and wide recognition to the brand, they can also outshine the brand/product. There are two brands – the personal brand as well as the product itself – that are then at play through this approach and the two will be fighting for the same eyeballs and hearts. Sadly for marketers, consumers tend to fall for the celebrity in this type of competition.

Celebrity brand matching: It is crucial for a brand to choose a celebrity that best matches the values and attributes of the brand being endorsed, or the consequences can be disasterous. An example of mismatching was the use of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in a recent Balmain campaign. This was definitely a subjective choice, but in my opinion matching a timeless and successful fashion house with a much ridiculed and controversial couple is highly questionable. This is a brand that prides itself on taste and class… can we say the same things about these two endorsers?

I’ll end it on that note.

“YES” says Olga Kudryashova, Head of Strategic Planning, Cheil Worldwide

 OlgaCollaboration, such as that between Pharrell Williams and adidas Originals, not only elevates the brand image, but builds a unique, undeniable bond between the brand, the endorser and the people”

Across many languages, there is a saying: “Tell me who your friends are and I can tell who you are.” If we look at celebrity endorsers as “friends” of the brand then there is no doubt they can have an imprint on a brand’s image – adding a premium touch, fueling ‘talk-ability’, strengthening credibility and more. The difference between now and the pre-social media age is that today celebrity endorsements, as a marketing tool, can be exploited at more depth and a larger scale.

To thrive in the so-called human era, brands need to build more trusted connections by adopting behavior that is more human than institutional. Getting closer to consumers is impossible without being genuine, interesting and relevant. The days of “fans” are gone. Friendship is what counts now. This shift is very clear, especially in social media and messaging apps. The popularity of friends and family groups is growing rapidly. The new players in the messaging business, such as Line, allow you to add celebrities to your friends list.

But the success of an endorsement, and consequently its impact on the brand’s image, depends on how genuine the friendship appears to the consumers. The moment people feel the relationship is fake they stop believing. Influencers can be considered a new form of endorsement. But their credibility fades away if people realise that they are saying nice things about a brand or a product just because they are being paid for it. How believable can a friendship between a haute couture fashionista and Shoe Mart be realistically? The same applies to product placements. While Aston Martin and James Bond have a life-long affair, the producers are obviously paid a fortune to feature a Sony smartphone.

The secret of an effective endorsement at all times has been the personality fit. Friendship is about common values, about knowing and complementing each other, sharing the social context. If the connection between the brand and the endorser is deep-rooted and obvious, a broad arsenal of tools is available for that brand to tell the friendship story and create talking points around the brand in the circles of its endorser.

It is worth noting that a new form of “friendship” between brands and celebrities is evolving that does not require any proof of authenticity – collaboration. Rather than endorsing the final product as it goes to market, celebrities are invited to co-create value at a much earlier stage. Collaboration, such as Pharrell Williams and adidas Originals, not only elevates the brand image, but builds a unique, undeniable bond between the brand, the endorser and the people. In these instances, it can clearly be seen how celebrity endorsements can help boost a brand’s image.

TishTash welcomes new Account Executive

TishTash has welcomed Dalal Al Sadhan to the role of PR Account Executive. Having previously worked at WSF Creative in Dubai as a PR Executive across a number of luxury clients including Singer Porsche Design Car, Jaguar, Land Rover and Chopard, Dalal also has experience with Khaleejesque magazine and Medium Rare Marketing and Advertising. As Account Executive, she will work primarily on the agency’s beauty portfolio accounts including Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, Lipstick Queen and Hershesons.

“This region has hidden gems around the clock, TishTash is great at seeking those gems and I can’t wait to be a part of it,” says Dalal.

H+K Strategies promotes Iman Issa

H+K Strategies had promoted Iman Issa to the role of Deputy General Manager, Dubai. Formerly Group Account Director, Lead on Corporate and Technology, where she was responsible for securing new business, team motivation, creative campaigns and overall division performance, Iman has over 10 years of experience in PR and communications. As Deputy General Manager of the Dubai office, she will be co-responsible for driving new business and talent development across the division, as well as leading accounts and teams in delivering creative programs across the corporate and technology practice.

“Having started my career at H+K Strategies 10 years ago, riding up the ranks to Deputy General Manager has been a very rewarding experience,” says Iman. “My personal philosophy throughout my career has always been to think and do things differently and to create increased impact for our clients businesses. 2016 is a year where we are witnessing growth in brands investing in creative communication campaigns that are led by the marketing division. In my new position, I look forward to enabling H +K Strategies to play a more significant role in this exciting phase for the communications industry.”

Ahlan! on Dubai Life goes live

Top selling celebrity magazine, Ahlan! – part of ITP Publishing – has launched a new weekly TV show, Ahlan! on Dubai Life. Hosted by Deputy Editor JJ Anisobi and TV presenter cum vlogger Anika Morjaria, the show airs every Saturday at 9pm, on Du Channel 423. Giving an insider overview on the latest celebrity gossip, fashion mishaps and must-see videos, Ahlan! on Dubai Life will complement the print title and online platform, while also giving a more in-depth look into VIP events and happenings in the UAE.

Ahlan! on Dubai Life can also be streamed live on dubailife.tv/live