Regional Strategy Director, Tom Hardstaff

Name: Tom Hardstaff

Age: Young at heart!

From: Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.

Current job title: Regional Strategy Director, UM MENA 

When did you arrive in the UAE?
I first arrived in the region in September 2014, and I was very pleased to see that the summer heat had begun to subside. Before this, I was based in London. 

Where did you work prior?
I worked at Mediacom in London across several key agency clients in the automotive, travel and FMCG markets, and have worked with brands such as Volkswagen, TUI, Kenwood and DeLonghi.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
Mixed! Some areas of the region are obviously more advanced than others, but at the same time I was pleasantly surprised. The driving forces behind advertising are consumers and no matter where you are from, the demand for consumption is the same and this feeds media evolution.

Have these impressions changed much?
My impressions have naturally developed over the last few months as the opportunity and potential to deploy creative strategic execution is huge. I’ve now got to meet and spend time with many inspiring people, so the outlook for the future is very exciting.

Tell us about your new role as Regional Strategy Director…
As the title suggests, I am responsible for strategic direction across the MENA region with UM key clients, but mainly Coca Cola. I am currently working with the regional offices to create and implement strategies to be activated in local markets. Pitches also play an important and exciting part of my role, and there’s no better buzz than working with a great team to develop unique approaches and outshine the competition. 2015 is also a big year for UM, as not only do we need to build on the successes of 2014 but we are also upgrading the strategic approach in line with the ever-changing audiences to deliver real-time consumer campaigns. 

What challenges do you face?
Initially, you presume the challenge will be your new team but this has not been the case. The level of cooperation, smart thinking and hard work has surpassed my expectations. While understanding new markets and consumers is a challenge, it is one that even with time won’t sit still. This continues to change and shift for us all in the industry and if this isn’t a challenge then I’m not doing my job properly!

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
This is twofold and not in any particular order! Working with new people and different thinking, as it is the people that set us apart form other agencies; and of course, delivering a campaign that not only exceeds expectations but also creates moments of client and agency euphoria.

What’s the most exciting thing to happen so far?
Well, moving to a new country and working in a totally new region has been quite exciting. But what makes this move to Dubai even more exhilarating is my involvement in the launch of new initiatives at UM MENA 2015, as this is going to be a pioneering and iconic year for us.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
As a newcomer to the region, the need for titles and their content has been vital in my learning and understanding of the practices in this market as a whole and who’s doing what. I see a similar quality in the titles here versus the UK. 

What sets you apart from other industry professionals?
Growing up I wanted to be either a football player or a lawyer; I wasn’t good enough at football and needed to ‘try harder’ at school to take the Bar. However, combining my interest in people and their thinking, or in a work context ‘understanding consumer behaviour’ coupled with a passion for brands and their evolving philosophies; I naturally gravitated into the world of media and advertising and have never looked back. It’s that passion that sets me apart while at the same time connecting me to many like-minded individuals where I continue to learn and grow.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
Either, it’s nice to talk.

What’s your most overused saying?
Not so much a saying but the word ‘stim.’ Love a bit of ‘stim.’

Five things you can’t live without?
My iPhone because it keeps me connected (but not at dinner!), sports, my VPN, friends and last but by no means least, my wife.

If you weren’t a Regional Strategy Director, what would you be?
A failed football player!

Aziza Communications welcomes PR Executive

Charlotte Tuohy has joined luxury PR agency Aziza Communications as a PR Executive. Charlotte has previously worked as a freelance journalist for the Blackpool Gazette, before moving to Dubai. In her new role, Charlotte will be working across a number of luxury lifestyle and fashion brands such as Toni&Guy, Rami Al Ali and Jelena by J. Bin Drai.

“I am thrilled to be joining Aziza Communications,” says Charlotte. “I can’t wait to get started, and begin contributing to the success of our clients.”


STEP Conference

With the STEP Conference taking place tomorrow, Team TMN sit down with Founder Ray Dargham to find out what we can expect from this year’s event…

Tell us a little more about the concept behind STEP…
STEP started in an art gallery in Beirut, where I’m from. I ran workshops on emergent trends and it was really a space for creative people to connect and was something very organic. I then moved to Dubai and saw an opportunity for STEP to become bigger and better.

Even though STEP has grown since it began in Beirut, the core element has stayed the same – it’s essentially a cool hub for like-minded people to connect

What can we expect to see and how will this year’s conference differ from previous editions?
To get a real feel for STEP Conference you really have to come and experience the fun for yourself. It has a real festival feel and is so much more than a conference.

Aside from the action packed schedule, we have a food fest area with eclectic local food. Music will be provided by Freshly Ground Sounds and we will have an art area, which keeps the spirit of our beginnings alive.

We know people in the media like to socialise, so we will be having a warm up barbeque the night before and an after party at a top-secret location for all attendees.

This year will be bigger, bolder and better. We have tripled in size, there are three main stages instead of one, and we have leading speakers and attendees from around the world, putting us on a global platform.

There will be more announcements for STEP Conference right up until the event and we will also have a few surprises in store on the day itself.

How does STEP Conference differ from other technology, design and gaming events in the region?
We provide an engaging and disruptive format, and it’s very experience-led. We’re the only conference in the region that mixes entertainment with the commercial side of business for these industries. And most importantly it’s lots of fun!

What can we expect to see from this year’s line-up of speakers?
Three of the top 100 most wanted tech speakers in the world will be there – Dave McClure, Mike Butcher and Jeremiah Owyang will share their stories and reveal the latest trends in their sectors.

Who is your target market and how does your marketing strategy reflect this?
It’s a mix of people, which keeps it interesting. We target the start-up community, including the mentors and investors. People in the digital space in general, as well as gamers, designers, brands and agencies.  Our marketing strategy is targeted, digital centric, with content at the heart to appeal directly to our audience

How can communications professionals get involved?
STEP Conference will reveal the latest trends in digital and will showcase leading global speakers, so it’s ideal for any professional in the media and communications sectors to learn what’s hot in this exciting space.

Are there advertising opportunities?
There are still opportunities for advertising, or as we call it, brand integration. Our sponsors aren’t just names with logos – they get engaged and provide something experiential and meaningful to the audience.

How can members of media attend the Conference?
They can register through the website or go direct to our PR agency – Brazen – who will help. The media lounge is the same as the speaker lounge, so media will get direct access to everyone taking part, which is pretty different.

Are there any future plans for STEP Conference?
Absolutely. Our vision is 10,000 attendees by 2017 and for it to become a global platform in showcasing tech, design and gaming talent and trends.

Dubai is the perfect city to host STEP and get us to that vision. Not only does it have the connectivity and infrastructure, but it’s also a hotbed for the creative and digital scene in the region. The weather and beach help too of course!

The Indian Trumpet magazine appoints Copy Editor

The Indian Trumpet magazine has appointed Mona El Samna as its new Copy Editor. Mona will be responsible for editing and proofreading all articles submitted by contributors, freelancers and staff members. Before joining The Indian Trumpet, she worked with Clarity Editing and Communications in writing, editing and translation – a role which Mona will continue to do alongside that of Copy Editor for The Indian Trumpet.

“I am looking forward to being a part of this insightful and engaging magazine,” says Mona. “Its stories will give me a chance to learn about the Indian culture from an insider’s perspective. The vibe behind the magazine, of celebration and contribution to the community, is also great.”

New Carat offices appoint General Manager

Carat, part of Dentsu Aegis Network, has announced the appointment of Martin Boot as General Manager of Carat Qatar and Kuwait. Martin will report to both Ramzi Haddad, newly promoted Managing Director UAE & Lower Gulf, and Michael Nederlof, CEO Dentsu Aegis Network MENA. In this newly created position, he’ll be responsible for developing, driving and executing Carat’s strategy across these key growth markets for the business. Based out of Kuwait, Martin will look after Carat’s new fully-opened office in Kuwait, and oversee the transition of the existing business from Dubai to a new office in Qatar.

Martin has previously worked as Business Development director and Regional Account Director for Publicis Group Worldwide in Dubai, as well as Business Director for WPP group in Europe. More recently, he has worked on a consultancy basis for brands and agencies such as The Thought Factory, PIM Bahrain, Next Generation Caravans and The Commercial Bank of Qatar.

“Within MENA, Qatar and Kuwait are two markets where we expect to see continued economic and population growth,” says Michael Nederlof, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network. “As a result of this, these two countries are becoming of increasing interest to advertisers and we are very pleased to have a dedicated General Manager who will be able to move our businesses there forward. Martin has a proven track record in improving corporate efficiency and generating effectiveness.”

Commenting on his new appointment, Martin adds “It is with great pleasure that I take on this new challenge and I am confident that we will continue to build on the momentum that has fuelled Carat’s success in the region to date.”

Viva welcomes new Fashion and Beauty Editor

Alexandra Venison will join Viva magazine as Fashion and Beauty Editor, following her previous role as Junior Fashion Editor at Emirates Woman.

Alexandra graduated from London College of Fashion with a first-class Honours degree in broadcast journalism. In her new role, she will be utilising her previous experience gained over the past few years at Motivate Publishing as she oversees all fashion and beauty pages for Viva.

Region’s talent honoured at MENA digital awards

The region’s top digital advertising talent has been honoured at the second ever MENA Digital Awards ceremony, the only awards programme in the region dedicated to celebrating marketing in the digital industry. The event concluded the two-day Digital Media Forum (DMF) 2015, which attracted 500 industry stakeholders from across the MENA region and beyond to discuss the latest developments taking place across the digital landscape.

Big winners were Leo Burnett MENA, who won the Grand Prix Award as well as a number of awards across several categories including two golds in Digital Cause Marketing, a gold in Best Digital PR, a gold in Best Use of Social Media, a silver in Best Performance Campaign, a bronze in Best Use of Video and a bronze in Best Use of Mobile. Omnicom picked up the Network of the Year award, and OMD picked up the Agency of the Year.

Other notable winners included Initiative MENA, who garnered two silver awards for their work for KFC, under Best Application Mobile/Tablet and Best Use of Mobile, as well as two bronze awards under Best Integrated Media Campaign and Best Use of Video. Socialize Agency received two gold awards, BBDO collected one gold, three silvers and a bronze and Proximity picked up a gold, two silvers and a bronze. Other awards under different categories went to UM MENA, Ogilvy, Buzzman, OMD MENA, PHD and Sama Dubai.

“The MENA Digital Awards is the only marketing industry awards programme in the region that focuses solely on the digital sector,” says Najla Semaan Mazboudie, Managing Director of Spot On Media Services and Events, owner and founder of DMF and the MENA Digital awards. “It was established last year to honour success and excellence in the sector, thereby helping to promote the best in digital marketing planning, creativity, innovation, and effectiveness.”

Motivate welcomes new Senior Sales Manager

Motivate Publishing has appointed Rami Jamal-Eddine as Senior Sales Manager. Rami will be responsible for the advertising sales of Business Traveller Middle East.

Rami has worked for nine years in sales, most recently as Relationship Manager for NPIMedia in Abu Dhabi, where he was account manager for five-star hotels and luxury brands. Before moving to the UAE, Rami worked as an Account Manager/Sales Rep at CCH Australia.