Pinpoint Media group welcomes Thomas Billinghurst

Pinpoint Media Group has appointed Thomas Billinghurst to the role of Deputy Editor of Debonair and Watch 1010. With a wealth of experience in the media industry, Thomas previously worked for titles such as Arabian Aerospace, SportAccord Daily, Gulf News and tabloid!. In his new role, he will further develop Pinpoint Media Group’s reputation for quality journalism and content that defines the image of luxury men’s lifestyle in the region and beyond. He will also be responsible for overseeing all print and online content for both Debonair and Watch 1010

“I share a deep-rooted affinity with the core ethos of Debonair: prioritising enduring style over ephemeral crazes,” says Thomas. “We seek to present narratives that will stand the test of time. From our cover stories to our fashion pieces, we highlight those aspects of rarefied living that set us apart from the rest. I think it’s this symbiotic connection that makes this role the most natural of fits.”

Jennifer Gibson goes freelance

Jennifer Gibson, former Editor of good magazine, part of Motivate Publishing has gone freelance. Having joined Motivate in 2016, Jennifer has over 15 years of experience in journalism and has worked on as well as contributed to a number of titles including VIVA, Hello! Middle East, What’s On Dubai, Emirates Man, Emirates Woman, Jumeirah, The National, The Telegraph and Gulf News. She also worked in broadcasting as News Presenter and Commentator on Dubai 92 as well as Dubai Eye. Following her relocation to the UK, she will continue to work across publications in the UAE and UK as a freelance Editor.

“It has been an honour to edit good magazine since August 2016, to work with an incredible team of brilliant people and to meet so many of the innovators, entrepreneurs, environmental activists and charity campaigners who are doing so much to take community life here in Dubai forward,” says Jennifer. “The time has come for us to make a move to be closer to our families, but I look forward to continuing to work with so many of the brilliant editors and journalists I’ve met during my time here – and to the opportunities my continuing work here will allow for lots of visits to escape the Scottish weather!”

In The Hot Seat – Caroline Dickin

We chat with Caroline Dickin, CEO at Red Blue Blur Ideas (RBBi), who talks about her current role and offers her thoughts on the digital marketing industry in the Middle East…

Name: Caroline Dickin

Age: 33

Nationality: UK

Current job title: CEO, Red Blue Blur Ideas (RBBi)

When did you first arrive in Dubai?

In 2014, exactly four years ago

Where did you work prior?

I previously worked with LBi in the UK, where I held the role of Senior Digital Search Manager and later PPC Strategy Leader. I later moved to the UAE and joined RBBi as Director of Media and most recently held the role of Managing Director – Performance Marketing & Analytics.

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

In a lot of ways, there are a lot of elements that are very different from Europe. In particular, I found a greater spectrum of the level of knowledge – there are some really smart people here, but also I found that I was working with a lot of businesses whose understanding of digital was minimum. The proportion of the budget spent on digital was also lower vs offline.

Has your opinion changed much?

It has changed – but mainly because I’ve seen a lot of change in these four short years. Digital budgets are growing, and more and more companies we deal with have a proper digital strategy in place, which is great.

Tell us about your current role…

As the CEO of a Digital agency spanning UX, research, SEO, media and analytics every day is different – one moment I might be meeting a client to discuss their digital challenges, to scouting out the next rbbian to join the team, to even reviewing the balance sheet and developing our own marketing strategy.

What challenges do you face?

Working with businesses who don’t fully understand or appreciate the digital landscape means we spend a lot of time on education. Also, the market and therefore the talent pool is smaller – finding the right people can be a real challenge.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Knowing that we are making a difference. We strive to partner with our clients to really understand their business challenges and objectives. In turn when we help them take steps to achieve their goals you really feel like their success is also our success.

How has consumer behaviour in today’s digital community influenced the marketing industry?

To be successful in this day and age you need to have a user-focused approach throughout the business. Marketing is now more about conversations not pushing out messages. Attention spans have also reduced – if you aren’t engaging with your audience in the right way, or have less than optimal online experience, you are going to lose them.

Has user-generated content taken over brand promotion and marketing campaigns in the Middle East?

It’s growing, but I wouldn’t say it’s taken over. Many businesses are cautious about negative sentiments, which often causes a roadblock.

Has the role of marketing professionals changed in today’s digital community?

Absolutely and it’s continually evolving. Gone are the Mad Men days of working on a single ad campaign for days at a time. Deadlines are tighter and with the plethora of data available, results are more readily available and therefore, expectations more demanding. It’s no longer just about having a great creative campaign, it’s more about understanding the technology, knowing how to turn data into action and having a strong strategy to personalise your message across your audience.

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

These days, most people use social media to some extent – so it’s become a critical element for most businesses. It’s also blurred the lines between marketing and customer service in a lot of ways – meaning that businesses cannot afford to not monitor what conversations are taking place on social channels.

What are the most common digital marketing mistakes companies make?

Trying to do what their competitors are doing rather than what is going to drive their business. I’ve heard too many requests such as ‘We need 50,000 YouTube views because our competitor does, or 100,000 website visitors. These are often not the KPIs that will drive your bottom line. And they can cause more damage than good – if you end up with thousands of followers, for example, without the strategy in place to be able to generate engaging content – you could end up with a less than favourable experience of the brand.

How would you describe yourself at work?

RBBi is more than just a job for me – it’s an integral part of my life and I’m acutely aware of the importance of trying to do the right things to help us realise our goals. Therefore, I try to stay disciplined. I’m also constantly looking for ways we can do things better – I’m always open to chatting with anyone in the business who has an idea or suggestion.

Who inspires you?

So many people – I tend to be more inspired by people I know than celebrities. My family and friends have been a huge inspiration to me and I’d have to also say that I’m inspired every day by everyone here at RBBi. It’s such an awesome group of people from so many different nationalities who, when they all come together, are able to do really fantastic work.

What’s your most overused saying?

“It will be fine”

Five things you can’t live without?

My mobile phone, my laptop, my pet bird, my bed and my friends

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

I think moving to Dubai and RBBi has been the most exciting thing. Experiencing a new city while joining a younger agency (RBBi was just 2 at the time), which I could really help grow was an immense challenge but also insanely rewarding.

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

I’d love to say something really interesting like travelling the world, but I don’t think I’m the kind of person who could be content without a project or challenge. I’d see myself in another small to medium business where I could really make an impact.

What’s your favourite form of media (i.e; TV, radio, print)?

Depends on what time of the day it is – in the morning I’m most likely to be listening to things, on my commute to work reading and TV in the evenings.

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

As budget weight continues to move towards favouring digital I think there will be increased focus on data – understanding results, customer segments and moving towards more data-driven marketing strategies. Most brands and organisations want to ensure that they are squeezing the most bang for their buck from their marketing activity and becoming more data-led is the way to really achieve this.

New appointments at IHC

Integrated communications agency, IHC has promoted Alexandra Williams to the role of Managing Director of its Dubai office. Having joined IHC in 2016, Alexandra most recently held the role of Associate Director, where she was a part of the growth period of IHC particularly within the construction, engineering and technical sectors. In her new role, she will focus on growing the business, agency operations and overall client delivery.

The new appointment will also see the promotion of Ian Hainey, most recently Managing Director to take on the role of CEO. In his new role, he will remain strategically engaged with IHC Dubai, while focusing on continued global expansion, after client wins in the UAE and Brazil.

“I’m proud to take on this role, which I see as the very beginning of where we are taking this agency,” says Alexandra. “Having been at IHC for a relatively short period of time, the synergy was instant from joining and we have moved forward at an incredible rate. I’m under no illusions as to the importance this office will play over coming years, as the Dubai team should remain the creative engine behind our ambitious global expansion plans.”

Hainey, adds ”Word of our services has spread quickly between business decision makers, because we deliver hard-PR for clients targeting specific industries, supported by quality social media, digital advertising and powerful content. This has put IHC in an exciting position, where we are winning top clients across other geographic areas, with recent client wins in the UK and now Brazil, where we are launching our services in May 2018.”

Alex Bowen joins TishTash

Dubai-based marketing and PR agency, TishTash has appointed Alex Bowen to the role of Senior PR Account Manager. With over eight years of experience, Alex previously worked in the UK before moving to the UAE and working across brands such as Ralph Lauren, Jaeger and In her new role, she will manage a number of accounts under TishTash and family focused division, TishTashTots such as Rossano Ferretti Hair Spas, Mums and Bumps and Champion Cleaners.

“I am thrilled to be joining the TishTash team, they have a fantastic reputation within the industry and a strong, exciting client portfolio that really aligns with my interests and experience,” says Alex.

New joiner at House of Comms

Dubai-based integrated communications agency, House of Comms has appointed Paula Peralta to the role of Account Executive. With over three years of experience across consumer lifestyle and corporate brands, Paula most recently worked with agencies in the UK and with accounts such as Brand USA, Philippines Department of Tourism and World Land Trust. In her new role, she will work with clients and support the team on campaigns within the UAE.

“I’m seriously excited to have joined such a dynamic and respected integrated agency, that works with incredible clients across a wide range of sectors,” says Paula. “I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in and supporting the team on campaigns across the region.”

Dubai Lynx 2018 Jury Presidents announced

Dubai Lynx 2018 jury presidents announced Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity has invited ten high-profile international jury presidents to lead the juries at the Dubai Lynx Awards 2018. Set to take place from March 11-14, 2018 at the Madinat Jumeirah Arena, the award aims to honour creative excellence and communications across 18 categories including PR, film craft, media and the newly launched healthcare award. Leading the panel of jurors will be John Mescall, Global Executive Creative Director and President Global Creative Council at McCann Worldgroup – Global, Nadja Bellan-White, EVP and Global Brand Management at Ogilvy & Mather, EMEA, and Sue Daun, Executive Creative Director at Interbrand, UK.

“Our juries are at the heart of the Festival, reviewing work from across the MENA region and the jury presidents play an extremely important role in guiding the discussions that define and award the most creative campaigns,” says Jose Papa, Managing Director, Cannes Lions. “Over the past number of years we’ve worked tirelessly to include highly talented women as leaders of these juries and I’m honoured to say that this year we have managed a 50 – 50 split of male and female jury presidents.”

VICE Arabia launches operations

Global media brand, VICE Arabia has launched operations across the region. Headquartered in the UAE, provides a mix of locally and internationally produced video programming, as well as editorial and social content targeted at the region’s youth population.

Islam Alrayyes takes on the role of Editor-in-Chief and brings a wealth of experience in the Middle East media industry, having previously worked as Editor-in-chief at Sport360 and Head of Digital Content at, part of Abu Dhabi Media. In his new role, he will lead the team of writers, editors, directors and producers to launch its digital operations across the region.

VICE Arabia’s Managing Director, Jason Leavy will handle broader operations and comes with over 20 years of media, communications, publishing and marketing experience. Jason most recently worked with Edelman DABO as Managing Director and will now work alongside the editorial, content and commercial teams. He will be responsible for VICE Arabia’s creative and strategic development across all mediums as a part of the brand’s expansion plan across the region.

Reporting to Jason Leavy is Firas Breais – Head of Sales, Ciaran Bonass – Creative Director and Anas Al Hakim – Senior Creative.

Also joining the new team from its UK office is Aws Al-Jezairy who holds the role of Managing Editor, having helped launch VICE News in the UK. Emma Hill is Head of Production, Badar Salem and Wael Mamdouh are Online Editors, Ameer Daou is Social Editor and Majd Abi Ali is Audience Development Manager.

“VICE Arabia will bring together pan-Arab youth and stand out as the platform for them to tell their own stories and talk about what matters to them,” says Islam Alrayyes, Editor-in-Chief, VICE Arabia. “In a region woven in a rich cultural fabric and with increasingly prominent new voices and talent – from innovators to artists – VICE will showcase the work of those making an impact.”


In The Hot Seat – Natalie Johnson

The Y Project’s Founder, Natalie Johnson tells TMN about her role and what she thinks about the PR and marketing industry in the Middle East…

Name: Natalie Johnson

Nationality: British

Age: 28

Current job title: Founder, The Y Project

When did you first arrive in Dubai?

In September 2013, which feels like a lifetime ago.

Where did you work prior?

I worked in three different agencies in the UK – one very traditional, one an integrated advertising agency and one solely digital. When I first moved to Dubai, I was with DABO & CO (now Edelman DABO) for just under two years before taking up roles in marketing for CrossFit and fitness company, InnerFight, and most recently working with hospitality company, Bull & Roo.

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

It was very different to the UK! I had been working in a digital agency before I made the move and when I arrived here, traditional print media was still king.

Has your opinion changed much?

Absolutely – we’ve seen a total shift change as the region continues to play catch up with progressive markets elsewhere in the world. Brands and agencies alike are becoming much savvier about digital and its role within the marketing mix – and we’re seeing some fantastic video-led content as well as some stand-out social-first campaigns.

Tell us about your current role…

I founded The Y Project with a mandate to work on projects that I found truly exciting – both so I was completely fulfilled, but also so my clients would get the absolute best out of me and the talent I choose to work alongside. Fast-forward almost one year and The Y Project has remained true to this ethos – with a key focus on developing creative online-first campaigns that ensure cut-through.

What challenges do you face?

As a start-up, the biggest challenge is fulfilling every single role of the business – from the creative and strategic to finance, HR and business development. I’ve called upon some amazing people to help assist and have learnt so much about sourcing talent, business forecasting and Excel formulas, as well as what I absolutely suck at. Rule number one: know what you don’t know and never be afraid to ask for help!

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Realising true business objectives for clients – a creative campaign is a wonderful thing, but it’s meaningless unless it drives bottom line.

How would you rather be contacted at work?

Email, WhatsApp, Instagram and I’m quite partial to the good old-fashioned telephone call as well!

How has clients’ expectations in today’s digital community influenced PR and marketing in the UAE?

The penetration of social media, growth of influencers and closure of magazines and newspapers in the region has meant that clients and agencies alike are now placing a core focus on digital. Only a few years ago, most agencies had small, separate digital teams, whereas now many have developed unified integrated content and communications teams – with a focus on delivering holistic strategic campaigns that drive business objectives both on and offline.

What role has digital media played in redefining the relationship between PR professionals, journalists and bloggers?

It has ensured a more tailored approach to communications as well as one that is mutually beneficial. However, this only applies to those PRs considering how they can best help and assist journalists and bloggers create the most stand-out content i.e. those that ask questions such as: Can we provide them with a specifically shot video purely for the purposes of their publication? How can we bolster this with a social-led edit? Should we shoot something in portrait to supply them with content for Snapchat or Instagram Stories? And of course not forgetting, how can this best be represented in their offline publication? etc.

How has content marketing influenced consumer behavior today compared to traditional marketing?

Content marketing can be much more readily targeted to relevant consumer groups and in markedly more cases, individual consumers. As a result, consumers feel much more aligned with, as well as an emotional connection to, brands taking advantage of this fact i.e. even something as simple as targeted language rather than dual-language posts on Facebook ensures that Arabic speaking audiences see Arabic language posts. 

How has social media in the region evolved to become an integrated part of the PR industry?

Despite great leaps forward, there is still some way to go. Some agencies still adopt the separate ‘PR’ and ‘social media’ teams model – why isn’t it yet integrated across the board?

Describe yourself in five words…

Not afraid to break the rules.

What inspires you?

People with big goals and a strategy in place to achieve them.

What’s your most overused saying?

‘Many thanks’ – it’s an affliction.

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

There have been so many amazingly exciting things – too many to mention, but I think it’s probably my first successful pitch under The Y Project – that was pretty special.

Five things you can’t live without?

Phone, laptop, charging devices for said phone and laptop, orange juice (obsessed), dog (equally obsessed).

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

For my entire Inbox to be readable on a single screen…

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A professional Ice Skater. I skated from the age of five until I was 16, training five times a week and competing across the UK.

What’s your favourite form of media (i.e.; TV, radio, print)?

Right now, podcasts. TED (of course) but also the likes of S Town and Undisclosed. My first experience of working on one was the ‘InnerFight Podcast’ when I was handling the gym’s marketing – and I’m looking forward to incorporating the medium in relevant future projects.

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

Embrace it and soak up the opportunity to work with some of the best brands in the world, as well as learn from some of the top global communications talent who have come armed with a wealth of knowledge from their home markets. And don’t be afraid to colour outside of the lines to continue to push the market forward.