In The Hot Seat – Jerome Mouthon

Founder of Buzzeff, Jerome Mouthon, tells Team TMN about his views on the media industry in the region, as well as the things that he believes make a successful leader…

Name: Jerome Mouthon

Age: 45

From: France

Current Job Title: Founder of Buzzeff

When did you first arrive in Dubai?
I’ve been here since 2013, when we first opened a Buzzeff office in Dubai, after establishing the company in Morocco in 2011. I split my time between both locations, in order to oversee the business in the region. Dubai has opened up so many opportunities for Buzzeff – it’s a very exciting market and I’m glad to be a part of its dynamic advertising industry.

Where did you work prior?
I have been a serial entrepreneur for approximately 20 years and initially founded JMO and Clarsys Corp in the computer services industry in Europe. Those start-ups were sold in 2002 to Firststream, a Pan-European group, and I moved to North Africa later that year. I then founded Sysnek Media Group (offshoring web & business processing outsourcing), which successfully merged to become part of the Finatech Group in 2008. In 2010, I was strongly involved with Solorun investment fund, which was an incubator for internet start-up companies. Finally, in January 2011 I founded Buzzeff Corp MEA.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
When I first began working in the Middle East in 2012, I was impressed with the development of the media industry as well as the vast number of international publications that had moved to the region. The quality of journalism here is on a similar level to other key playing markets, especially as the Middle East is becoming a hub for businesses in a variety of industries, including media.

Has your opinion changed much?
If anything, my opinions have been solidified, with news outlets such as Sky News Arabia and Khaleej Times having established themselves as leaders in the region. Furthermore, the growth of the industry has been tremendous, with more agencies and better quality publications starting up as well as more creative and exciting advertising campaigns being run.

Tell us about your current role…
As the Founder & Chairman of Buzzeff, I oversee the company’s growth strategy in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region while driving expansion in specific markets such as those in Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the Ivory Coast. This is achieved by partnering and building relationships with publishing houses and advertising agencies to ensure we are continuously growing our premium inventory at scale and providing a wider demographic of audience to view the targeted adverts.

What challenges do you face?
The challenges I face are similar to those faced by most fast-paced companies in the industry. The environment and technology is constantly changing, the competition is tough and it is often difficult to educate the market about outstreaming advertising opportunities. In addition, usual business challenges also apply including general personnel management, cash management, customer satisfaction management and more. It is thanks to the help of my team, that
I am able to manage all of these elements.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?Firstly, I find it extremely rewarding that the business is up, running and growing at a promising rate. My day is made when we receive positive feedback from clients who are happy with our service because the technology has made their brand’s advertising more effective. Also, the team’s hard work is something I deeply appreciate because their efforts have helped the organisation grow; it is highly rewarding to watch their skill sets and careers develop.

What do you think is the secret to successful leadership?
Leadership is not about capabilities, leadership is about responsibility. It requires good judgment, predictability acumen and the ability to make effective decisions, deliver results and lead by example.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in media in the UAE?
The constant growth of businesses in the UAE brings forth many opportunities to start a career, especially in the media industry. I would advise people entering the market to do their homework and become well-acquainted with publishing houses, agencies and most importantly, with consumer trends – the better you understand what makes the consumer tick, the more value you will be able to add as you enter the industry.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
The quality of reporting in the Middle East is of a very high standard with many of the reputable publications. However, I would also like to see more start-up magazines with great writing and reporting, as well as unique story ideas that showcase different perspectives.

In your opinion, what makes a marketing campaign successful?
For an audience to truly engage with a marketing campaign and in order to make it successful, a well crafted story, context and good narrative is necessary. Targeting campaigns through the right channels is also key, you need to research and know where your audience is consuming content.

Would you rather be contacted by phone or email?
I like both, unless I’m traveling and am affected by time zone differences. Generally, e-mails are the best form of communicating while I’m on a flight. Otherwise, I enjoy the discipline of sharing a short memo after a business call for follow-up needs.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
Either, as long as they bring business opportunities! I also enjoy daily contact via social media networks.

Describe yourself in five words…
An emotionally intelligent, communicative, entrepreneurial individual.

What’s your most overused saying?
Let’s try it or do it first. The meeting and the process can come later.

Five things you can’t live without?
Family, my close friends, connected smartphone, multicoloured sport shoes and entrepreneurship.

On a more personal note, what agency online faux-pas make your ‘digital’ self cringe?
Brands are being too generic with advertising and not treating their targeting methods with an individual approach. Content needs to be created with clear messaging and relevance so that the consumer will be more inclined to it. The core creative idea of the ad should be short, aesthetic and musical.

If you could change one thing about media in the UAE, what would it be?
I would create a wider exchange between parties. Advertisers are busy with their business, agencies are focusing on optimisation and publishers and other third parties are also dispersed. Getting all of them around the same table more often and in a qualitative way would definitely be beneficial to all, including consumers’ audiences.

How do you see media changing in the UAE in the coming years?
I see a larger push for publishers to go online, with an increased digital and social presence. As a result, I think there will be more digital adverts and campaigns in order to reach a larger and more targeted audience. The GCC region has a high potential for premium inventory growth.