Sasan Saeidi joins J. Walter Thompson

Global communications agency, J. Walter Thompson has appointed Sasan Saeidi as the new CEO for the agency’s gulf operations. Having previously worked with FP7 as Managing Director, McCann group in Dubai since 2011, Sasan brings with him 18 years of experience in strategy, account management, business development and has led teams in North America as well as the MENA region across many sectors. In his new role Sasan will be leading the Dubai, Kuwait and Qatar teams on network projects, leading group pitches and driving the agency’s development agenda in the region as well as leveraging best practices and talent performance in the interests of clients and their brands.

“J. Walter Thompson is a pioneering communications agency both globally and locally and I’m truly excited about the work and positive transformation we are going to be doing,” says Sasan. “I look forward to working with some great talent, and ensuring we create a castle of world-class ideas that are responsible, innovative, drive our clients’ businesses and shape culture. Throughout this journey my plan is to help implement a culture that positions the agency as the best “creative consultancy” in the region for brands and businesses, one which will also compete globally.”

In The Hot Seat – Sasan Saeidi

Sasan Saeidi, Managing Director of FP7 UAE Group gives us his opinions on the UAE’s changing media landscape…  

Name:Sasan Saeidi
Age: 40
From: I’m a global citizen – Iran, Canada and the UK           

Current Job Title: Managing Director- FP7 UAE Group (part of McCann Worldgroup)

When did you first arrive in Dubai?
I arrived in Dubai around nine years ago.

Where did you work prior?
I started my career in North America, with FCB Canada, I then moved to Saatchi Canada & US. I have also worked with BBDO Dubai prior to joining FP7 McCann around six years ago.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
I found it intense, fast and very competitive. There was also a lot of money being spent. 

Has your opinion changed much?
I believe that our industry of media and communication has not changed. Although it will always remain competitive and tactical, the evolution of trends in tech and digital has been a big influencer in the way brands communicate their messages across platforms. Media in general, I feel, has gotten smarter and more impactful.

Tell us about your current role…
I work at FP7 DXB, part of McCann Worldgroup. I’m proud and delighted to say that it’s a lovely place to work – our culture is great, our people are wonderful and our ambitions are lofty. We have so far done a stellar job, so our reputation and name speaks for itself. This has really been the result of the hard work and determination from a lot of likeminded folks working together and coming to work everyday with the mission to exceed expectations for our clients, their brands and themselves. I am humbled to be part of it all.

What challenges do you face?
The challenges that we’re facing are those that everyone is facing. It’s a tough year for marketing and communication brands – we’re all trying to make our dollars and efforts go further this year, which has not been easy. But it’s a cycle, which will pick up again. The key is to ensure that we continue to invest in our creative and strategic product in whatever way possible. We also must keep the culture of our agency brand strong and ambitious – yes, we need to be cautious of so many factors but we must also remain focused on the fact that even during times of difficulty there are a lot of opportunities to seize. We must be long-term but agile in our business decision-making in order to ride the waves. If you plan for the worst and hope for the best, you’ll be ok.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Making people feel they belong. Of course there are so many things that need to be done to achieve this – from leading the charge, to inspiring and mobilising talent, to building capability, then bringing this all together by creating a culture where people feel included and that they matter. 

What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in media in the UAE?
Get into the business if you have passion for creativity and ideas, don’t get into it because of a paycheck – there are definitely easier ways to make money. 

What’s your pet advertising peeve?
What I hate more than anything is when we think a creative communication concept is ‘too smart’. Who are we to judge a consumer as stupid or say they won’t ‘get it’? There is a great saying by David Ogilvy: “The consumer is not a moron; the consumer is your wife”. It’s one of the best quotes for our business. Try telling your wife she’s stupid next time. Let’s please not dumb things down.

Describe yourself in five words…
Curious, strategist, a reader, passionate and a lover.

What’s your most overused saying?
Sir or Madam. It’s respectful.

Five things you can’t live without?
I think if we have to, we can live without anything. But since you’re asking: my family, my blackberry, wine, reading and coffee.

If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?
I would be running an antique business or something to do with interior design and galleries. 

If you could change one thing about media in the UAE, what would it be?
In terms of creativity in media, I would love for brands to do fewer one-off concepts and instead focus on more creative concepts that can build a long-term relationship with their audience. This would ensure that our work is playing a meaningful role for the brand and, in turn, the consumer.

How do you see media changing in the UAE in the coming years?
Media is becoming more and more fragmented. There will definitely be more of a push in digital and social, though traditional media will always remain relevant. Targeting ever-changing attention spans across multiple platforms (especially online) will be the ultimate test for us all, it will require a robust strategy driven by insights and research, as well as proper, fit-for-purpose content that can really engage. 

If you could have one work wish granted, what would it be?
Be nicer to the creative agency community and value the creativity this industry provides. We must understand that creativity will save the world and the people who are behind it should be, in-turn, respected.