Bruce Clay Middle East makes new appointments 

Dubai-based digital marketing agency, Bruce Clay Middle East (BCME) has made structural changes to its team as a part of its expansion plans. Afsha Walele has been appointed to the role of Senior Account Manager – SEO. With over seven years of experience, Afsha most recently worked in India where she handled various clients around the APAC region including J&J. In her new role, she will manage the team on a day-to-day basis and handle the agency’s clients across multiple verticals. Joining the team from Egypt, Khalid Semary has been appointed to SEO Executive. In his new role, he will support the SEO Managers, provide support for the Arabic team and run SEO campaigns. With a wealth of experience in client servicing, BCME will also see the appointment of Rifa Thanvi to the role of SEO Executive. In her new role, she will balance client needs and the technical knowledge to make it happen. Sana Ashraf, a recent graduate, joins BCME as Bilingual Copywriter. In her new role, she will aid the team in delivering client content requirements.

“In a very short time, we have managed to capture a sizeable market share, acquiring some very prestigious and respected names,” says Neal Patel, Managing Director, BCME. “We believe in providing industry-leading knowledge to our clients, and this means that our team needs to be top notch. Partners, old and new, have seen that our level of knowledge in relation to SEO and digital on the whole, is second to none, hence we have seen a sharp increase in pitch wins during 2018. We expect this trend to continue and for the SEO team to double in size by the end of the year.”

In The Hot Seat – Neal Patel

We chat with Neal Patel, Managing Director at Bruce Clay Middle East, who talks about his current role and offers his thoughts on the digital marketing industry in the Middle East…

Name: Neal Patel

Age: 31

Nationality: British

Current job title: Managing Director, Bruce Clay Middle East

When did you first arrive in Dubai?
Nearly five years ago and I quickly realised I needed to stock up on shorts and t-shirts!

Where did you work prior?

I have only had a few jobs in my career. I spent most of my time building my own business. The last role I had was with a start-up technology company that is now doing great things with artificial intelligence (AI) and is now a strategic partner of Bruce Clay.

What were your first impressions of the digital marketing industry in the Middle East?
To be honest, I was slightly shocked and on many occasions I still am. I found agencies selling solutions that were outdated to clients that didn’t know any better – which was pretty sad. I often found myself having some awkward conversations with people about technology and innovations I was accustomed to using years before, back home. Outsourcing was also very prevalent – which is not a business model I like. Clients should know their team and have access to them as and when they need.

Has your opinion changed much?
It has to an extent. There is a clear gap, which is widening, between agencies after a quick buck and those that are doing a good job and retaining clients year on year. This goes for small, local agencies and large multinationals.

Tell us about your current role…
I am currently the Managing Director of Bruce Clay, which is pretty exciting as we have massive plans for the agency. At the moment, I am restructuring the agency to concentrate on our core strengths – SEO, social media and PPC. This involves getting the right people in place as the foundation, then pushing on and getting results for the awesome clients we already have on the book as well as for those that want to win in digital spaces! It is definitely not easy running an agency, but I believe you can do anything with the right people and culture.

What challenges do you face?
The biggest challenge is talent, no doubt. I do not believe there is a lack of talent out there, rather the cost of that talent is something that remains a burden on any new or growing company. Competition in the market is also getting better, as agencies look at focusing their services, rather than taking on anything and everything they can get their hands on.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Simple­ – building an award-winning agency with awesome people.

Is traditional media still relevant for effective branding in the region today?
To be honest, I am probably the wrong person to answer this – I have never worked with traditional media, but I will give it a go as I do get hit with traditional media.
I never pay attention to huge billboards on SZR, nor do I remember the last time I watched TV, other than for the football or to fire up Netflix. So, I can’t say these are effective, personally. I drive to work and listen to the radio – and I find this the most relevant and effective medium. I know I have personally listened to ads on the radio and performed an action.

This then brings me to why I don’t think traditional media is a very effective – attribution. Everything we do, digitally, needs to be and should be attributed or at least have some sort of key performance indicator (KPI) – ad recall lift for example. With traditional media, other than paying huge sums to research firms, you may struggle to attribute effectively, which poses a problem for me.

Has user-generated content (UGC) taken over brand promotion and marketing campaigns in the Middle East?
No, not at all – I don’t think that brands use UGC enough or even try to promote the generation of content from advocates. I see too many brands going down the route of influencers, which is not all bad, but I always ask about the impact and transparency of numbers – which is always a sticking point. It would be good to see more UGC strategies within campaigns – we always try to work these in where possible for SEO campaigns, which ultimately help build expertise, authority and trust for clients, something that is really important for better ranking and traffic.

How has social media in the region evolved over the years to become an integrated part of marketing today?
Within the region, social media has become a crucial part of any marketing strategy. All platforms have sky high usage, when we compare to other markets.
When I initially came to the region, social was really seen as a separate channel that could just stand alone, especially when PR companies were trying to take on social media accounts, but didn’t understand how to integrate business objectives into a successful social media strategy. Luckily, brands caught on and started using specialist agencies to support integrated strategies.

What is really great now is that agencies are starting to use technology available to them in order to take social experiences further – like us, where we are using bots with built in AI to provide life like conversations between brands and customers then leveraging data collected through pixels to take second stage communication to a much more personal level. The evolution still continues, but it is great to be in such a thriving region for social media!

What are the common digital marketing mistakes companies make?
The most common mistake I see is around attribution – not many clients take the time to understand what is working and what is not. After that, another fundamental mistake companies make is not picking the right partner. You don’t go to the butcher to buy vegetables. Finally, the worst mistake a lot of companies make is not owning their own digital assets or accounts. I really don’t understand when a client mentions they cannot provide account access to adwords for example, because the last agency won’t give it to them! You need to own your own assets and hold agencies accountable. The best agencies will always be willing to do this for you and even insist on it – like we do. We are pushing for a transparency within digital media, let’s hope it happens.
How would you describe yourself at work?
Firm, but fair and fun. I love a good joke and a meme!
Who inspires you?
Right now, Satya Nadella. What he has done to Microsoft is incredible and I especially love the way he went about his business – it was all about the culture, people and right product. The right people with the right culture will make your business and product thrive – I believe that 100%.

What’s your most overused saying?
‘Think’. I come across a lot of people that try to be ‘outside the box’, but the most effective solutions are the result of just thinking.

Five things you can’t live without?
Family, friends, pizza, phone and credit card.

If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?
I am a finance grad and most of my early years were spent creating risk management programmes for financial markets. If I didn’t do a marketing rotation in my first role, I presume I would be in a cubicle somewhere figuring out some gammas and deltas no doubt.

What’s your favourite form of media (i.e; TV, radio, print, social media?)
Social media, 100%. It is a place where you can and should be you. If you follow my handles, you could never tell I am the MD of an agency. Or maybe you can?

How do you see the digital marketing industry changing in the Middle East in the coming years?

The biggest thing I want to see is transparency – if nothing else and we are very much leading this change, to my belief. Other than that, I believe there will be a huge shift in where budgets are spent and measurement of their effectiveness will be questioned by all parties – if, as an agency, you cannot provide effective solutions, just stop, time is running out. All too many times I hear people talk about being efficient – “We will spend your money efficiently to get you results”, but so many things can be efficient without being effective – so there is going to be a shift in mentality in relation to this. Bring it on!

In The Hot Seat – James Gaubert

James Gaubert, CEO at Bruce Clay Middle East tells TMN about his current role and what he thinks about the marketing industry in the Middle East…

Name: James Gaubert

Age: 37 I think, I tend to lose count!

From: London, United Kingdom

Current job title: CEO, Bruce Clay Middle East.

When did you first arrive in Dubai? 2010

Where did you work prior?

Since living in Dubai I have primarily worked for digital agencies. I previously worked with LBi and most recently with MRM//McCANN. Now I’m heading up Bruce Clay Middle East.

What were your first impressions of the marketing industry in the Middle East?

To be honest, not great. When I first listened to radio advertisements, watched advertisements on television and saw some of the websites large companies have in place, I was shocked. It was like stepping back in time – thankfully that has changed.

Has your opinion changed much?

Yes, massively. The Middle East has turbo-charged its marketing efforts, particularly on a digital front. I think this is largely due to influence from overseas, particularly if I look at some of the talent we have here now, the adoption curve for things like mobile and social media in this part of the world is incredible. We as a region should truly embrace technology!

Tell us about your current role…

I currently head up a digital marketing agency, Bruce Clay, and I love it! We work with some amazing clients and employ a great bunch of people who genuinely care. I love the variety – within one week I can be helping out with automotive, retail, electronics, F&B, financial services, pharmaceutical and e-commerce clients – as well as managing and growing an agency – it’s definitely a full-time job!

What challenges do you face?

Finding good digital talent in this part of the world has always been a problem. Having said that, this is becoming easier. The other issues, I’m afraid to say are all driven from clients – payments coming in on time and cashflow is certainly one of the things that keeps me up at night.

How would you rather be contacted at work?

Telephone – we don’t use that enough anymore – I always think you can achieve far more over a quick call than over the back and forth of email and messenger.

Has social media taken over the marketing industry in the UAE?

Yes, we actually started life as a pure play SEO agency. As it stands today, we have more social media clients than anything else. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s the number one way to communicate with your consumers. Brands are embracing it in this region and it’s really exciting.

How has content become a marketing strategy in the UAE?

I think content has always been at the core of any marketing strategy. What excites me is that the way consumers are digesting content has changed. Thanks to channels like Snapchat, Facebook Live and Instagram stories, content has to be live, it has to be now – we as consumers no longer want to find out about something after it has happened, we want to be there and experience it now!

Has the UAE target audience redefined digital marketing strategies and success compared to other countries?

I’m not sure it’s got anything to do with the specific target audience here, it’s just a sign of the times – things are changing, not only in the UAE.

How would you describe yourself at work?


What inspires you?

Creativity, pushing the boundaries, being different and making people say wow!

Five things you can’t live without?

My mobile phone, my dog, dark chocolate, exercise, back catalogue of the TV series, Friends.

If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?

Backpacking around the world, without a care in the world.

If you could have one work wish granted, what would it be?

To have clients who don’t ask for a discount and who pay on time – the rest is a piece of cake!

What’s your most used social media platform?

This is a hard one! First thing in the morning, I look at Facebook for anything business or work related, then I’m all over LinkedIn and when I’m taking photos of my lunch, it’s Instagram!

Bruce Clay Middle East opens new office

Dubai-based digital marketing agency, Bruce Clay Middle East has launched its first office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as a part of its expansion plan across the Middle East. Following the launch of its new office, Bruce Clay Middle East has appointed Bassam Khaiwi as the General Manager of its Saudi office to help manage and expand operations for the agency in the country and build a strong team as well as offer regional and local clients personalised services to suit their requirements.

“We welcome the addition of Bassam Khaiwi to the Bruce Clay Middle East family,” says James Gaubert, CEO, Bruce Clay Middle East. “Bassam brings a wealth of experience and local knowledge to our team and we are looking forward to replicating our success in the UAE and go beyond that, in Saudi Arabia in the coming months.”