Chief Operating Officer, Eymard Saldanha

Name: Eymard Saldanha
Age: 45
From: Mumbai, India
Current job title: Chief Operating Officer, Percept Gulf MENA

When did you arrive in the UAE?
I first came to the UAE in 1997, having previously spent my career working in marketing and advertising in India.

Where did you work prior?
Prior to joining Percept Gulf MENA, I was with Ogilvy & Mather MENA where I was Regional Director EEMEA – BAT and Head of Advertising MENA. 

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
It felt quite small and contained. The opportunities for principal business are never limited to a country but a geographical cluster, so just getting it right in one country’s market was never good enough. If you’ve not expanded regionally you will never reach critical mass. I felt that about media as well.

Have these impressions changed much?
Individual markets have evolved significantly, and there are many more opportunities for certain industries to prosper with a single country specification. But in general, my view that principals need to have a geographical spread remains unchanged. Media should follow their brands’ expansion.

Tell us about your new role at Percept Gulf…
I have come on board as COO of the NEW Percept. We have been reasonably advertising focused in the past and my ambition is to embed the PerceptOne ideology into our genetic code. PerceptOne is our interpretation of how a flat, multi-disciplined organisation delivers superior business results to our resident brands; through a combination of understanding the product, as well as consumer and business challenges, and culminating in a consumer or customer facing business solution. The new multi-discipline Percept Gulf offering now includes advertising, media, public relations, social and digital, and event marketing, which I oversee. I also want to engage the PerceptOne ideology with new, ambitious and like-minded business groups.

What challenges do you face?
I see the MENA region as a huge opportunity and do not see any challenges in embedding our ideology. I will always push myself hard to hire bigger and better people so that giants surround me. Getting the right team is always a challenge, but we in Dubai are better off than most with our location offer – and I believe PerceptOne will be a natural magnet.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I have only been a part of the Percept group for the last few months, but I already have a love for our enthusiasm and commitment. We are a very entrepreneurial agency and believe that ideas can develop anywhere – inside or out of the agency. Helping my teams disseminate rich thinking is the more rewarding part of my job. In addition, I love teaching and mentoring our talent, as well as directly engaging with clients on business problems.

What’s the most exciting thing to happen so far?
I am yet to meet a single client (and I have met a lot in the last few months) who doesn’t believe in the PerceptOne ideology. That signifies opportunity to deliver the best to our brands and is hugely exciting to me.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
‘You have come a long way baby’ is a radio mnemonic that comes to mind. The media publications were static and boring for a long time and have truly come into their own over the last few years. The trajectory is just right. 

What sets you apart from other communications professionals?
I believe that every solid marketing communications professional should keep their brands and consumers as their primary focus, and not get distracted by obsessive strategising, irrelevant creative and an inflated ego. I have managed to balance all three over the years, and I think I’m a better, more professional person for it. It allows me to drive my teams to:

  1. Disrupt the status quo
  2. Think beyond the traditional norm
  3. Develop rich and campaign-able ideas
  4. Display infectious energy
  5. Think and live the media neutral PerceptOne.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
I am happy with both.

What’s your most overused saying?
Currently it is ‘PerceptOne and Brand Evangelist’, but historically it has been ‘We sell or else!’ and ‘The consumer isn’t a moron she is your wife’ (both from David Ogilvy – RIP).

Five things you can’t live without?
My wife, daughter, my IT fix (my gadgets), Wifi and my sense of humour.

If you weren’t in media and communications, what would you be doing?
A top end car and bike shop owner, who would terrorise owners for not loving their vehicles the way they should be!

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