ACG welcomes new PR Account Manager

Absolute Communications Group has appointed Royston Rodrigues to the role of PR Account Manager. Royston brings with him experience in public relations and human resources having previously worked with Synergy Public Relations in India before moving to the UAE and most recently work with DAMAC Properties, where he was an integral member of the recruitment and research team. In his new role, he will be responsible for handling the day-to-day PR activities of key accounts in Absolute Communications Group.

“Being new to the PR scene in Dubai, I am quite excited and intrigued to be a part of the Absolute Family, an agency to reckon with when it comes to brand image building,” says Royston. “With my experience in PR, I believe I have a lot to bring to the table.”

Arab News makes global structural changes

Saudi Arabian-based newspaper, Arab News has launched two new bureaus in Europe and Asia as a part of its global, digital expansion plan. The new launch has been followed by the appointment of Baker Atyani to the role of Southeast Asia Bureau Chief, who brings with him experience in journalism, having covered stories on conflict zones in the region and previously worked with Al Arabiya as Bureau Chief – Asia, and most recently as its Senior International Correspondent. In his new role, he will spearhead Arab News’ coverage of Asia across print, online and video with a particular focus on India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Arab News’ digital expansion will also see the promotion of Ben Flanagan to the role of London Bureau Chief. With 16 years of experience working on national newspapers and news portals, Ben most recently held the position of Senior Editor at Arab News. He will now take on his new role to lead the operations of the new bureau in London and cover the UK and Europe from an Arab perspective, with a particular focus on politics, business and investment to serve as a digital hub for the newspaper.

“The new bureaus support the newspaper’s ‘more digital, more global’ strategy,” says Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief, Arab News. “It is a great pleasure for us to have these two exceptionally experienced and incredibly capable journalists heading up our crucial Asia and UK operations. This inevitably adds much value to our readers who will be sure to get the best relevant content and stories from across these regions.”

In The Hot Seat – Bipin Pathak

Bipin Pathak, Chief Executive Officer at Percept Gulf tells TMN what he thinks about the advertising and marketing industry as well as the role digital media has played in the region…

Name: Bipin Pathak

Nationality: Indian

Current job title: Chief Executive Officer, Percept Gulf

When did you first arrive in Dubai?


Where did you work prior?

I joined Percept in 1991 in India as Branch Manager and most recently held the role of President – Corporate Affairs (MENA) at Percept Gulf.

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

Initially, I formed the impression that brands were into the aggressive business of ‘hard selling’, which did not focus on a long-term vision for image and brand building. Push marketing was almost the need of the hour and advertising was limited to basic design, creatives, promotions and offers. The market had consumers who were enthusiastic, but they were already attuned to this practice.

Has your opinion changed much?

Yes, and I believe it is because of how the region has evolved, grown and established itself as the most important and vibrant economic region in the world. Today my teams work on campaigns, which have 360 delivery capabilities and target a very streamlined set of consumers, to draw their attention. The tone of conversations with brands has also evolved – they are more passionate about marketing and want to engage with consumers while gaining loyalty. A lot has changed, making the industry so much more dynamic and challenging.

Tell us about your current role…

I am currently involved in building the regional footprint of Percept Gulf and managing its current business relationships.

What challenges do you face?

I’m always driven by new ideas and exciting campaigns or properties. I thrive on seeing these ideas brought to life by brands. The challenge unfolds when the ideas are difficult to implement, despite ‘innovation’ being a huge buzz word around the world.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Everyday is rewarding for me, as I have built this business with a lot of passion and determination. The great opportunities, along with the eccentric and extraordinary team I work with, are the most demanding and fulfilling parts of my job.

Have cultural differences in the region created limitations or an advantage to digital content marketing?

The digital space is very cosmopolitan and enjoys less regional borders in my view. Here, content creation is completely dependent on viewers and their habits, taste, emotions and what’s being communicated, which is also the case around the world.

Has user-generated content (UGC) taken over brand promotion and marketing campaigns in the UAE? How?

We’ve seen user-generated content (UGC) get more engagement when compared to branded content. Users on an average engage more with UGC while over 93% of users find content generated by their peers to be helpful when making purchase decisions. We’ve all gone through YouTube unboxing videos, first impression videos, and videos from bloggers explaining what they like and dislike about a product, before making a decision.

Is traditional marketing still efficient in the UAE today?

Traditional marketing and outlets are not going to go away, at least not for some time. While we’ve seen readership drop, it also means that the publications’ readership has reached a point where only the most engaged are subscribing, which is a desirable trait, from an advertising standpoint. Depending on the target audience, traditional marketing still has its utility, but it has to develop and evolve to sustain its relevance going forward.

How has social media in the region evolved over the years to become an integrated part of the advertising and marketing industry?

Social media has taken the centre stage in the region quite rapidly given all the sensitivities that the region brings to the table. For a consumer, this has replaced calling the brand’s help line. We have seen users ask everything from store timings, to sharing their experiences, positive and negative, as well as product specific questions. This also presents a great opportunity for brands to engage with consumers on a more personal and emotional level. With advances in social technology, Facebook messenger bots for example, we’ll see social media play a greater role in marketing and advertising.

What role does digital media play in building a brand’s reputation today?

I will say a lot! Digital is the new market place in today’s world and it’s very important for any brand wishing to create its reputation, image and relevance – it’s where advertising really takes life. Advertisements are not just standard banner advertisements anymore. Augmented reality and virtual reality are going to play a huge role in the coming months. We’ve seen technology giants like Facebook, Google and recently Apple show a keen interest in using these technologies to make the user-experience more immersive and engaging.

Describe yourself in five words…

Intuitive, enterprising, passionate, focused and dynamic.

Who inspires you?

I draw inspiration from the work of business figures like Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple and Harindra Singh, Chairman of Percept, who has been my constant go-to person. A lot of new age business owners also inspire me.

What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you in your career?

I love building businesses from scratch. My journey to Dubai in 1998 to initiate and establish Percept Gulf in the region is at the top of that list.

What’s your most overused saying?

Let’s focus on finding solutions.

Five things you can’t live without?

Family, news, music, challenges and cricket.

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

I’ve actually never thought about this! I would probably be in the music industry or producing events.

What’s your favourite form of media?

Audiovisual, so essentially any kind of screen keeps me engaged.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in the advertising and marketing industry in the UAE?

Observe! Start paying attention to your environment and surroundings. Observe people and things around you, and this will give you a good insight into how people react to different things. Look at the way the industry is shaping and where it’s headed.

Meltwater promotes Christo Van Wyk

Global media intelligence firm, Meltwater, has promoted Christo Van Wyk to the role of Area Director for India and the Middle East. With over eight years of experience, Christo joined Meltwater in 2009 as Client Relations Account Manager and was most recently Client Acquisition and Sales Consultant. In his new role, he will be responsible for leading Meltwater’s sales and customer service across the Middle East and India.

“I am looking forward to my new responsibilities and helping to grow our presence in the Middle East and India, which are both exciting markets,” says Christo. “With growing internet and mobile penetration and a tech savvy younger generation, companies in these markets are looking to maximise the value of data to reach new demographics and adapt their marketing strategies based on outside insights, which is where we come in.”

Mojo PR partners with SERMO

Mojo PR has been signed by SERMO Communications as its exclusive partner in the Middle East. SERMO Communications was founded in 2009, and the global lifestyle and communications network currently has 12 partners in 17 cities across 14 countries. In addition to Mojo PR in the Middle East, SERMO has most recently appointed a partner in France, L’Agence Lorraine de Boisanger. Both new agencies will join the other SERMO partners in Mumbai, India on 30 April for the network’s fourth annual conference, organised by the founders of SERMO, Talk PR.

“SERMO is now almost five years old and I feel really proud of what we have all achieved in creating a unique PR network that offers a viable alternative to the big global players,” says Tanya Hughes, President, SERMO Communications. “One thing that really stands out is the collaborative nature of the network – the fact that the network’s built on mutual understanding and respect, not ownership. Our new partners in Dubai and Paris share the sensibility and ambition to build global relationships. I relish the prospect of taking the network to the next level.”

Tara Rogers, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Mojo PR adds “We are delighted to be part of a network of like-minded agencies with the global reach that SERMO has developed. Increasingly, our clients require support in markets around the world and to know that we have immediate access to partners with a similar approach is both exciting and reassuring. We hope to contribute as much as we gain.”

Louise Mezzine, Co-founder and Partner of Mojo PR also adds “Joining SERMO marks a major milestone in the development of Mojo PR. We are really looking forward to using the collective intelligence of the network to add value to our team, clients and partners.”