Several promotions at PHD

The Middle East offices of media and communications agency, PHD, part of Omnicom Media Group, has announced several internal promotions to accommodate their goals of regional expansion and new service offerings.

Hassan Shoker, previously the head of investments for PHD UAE, will now oversee all markets under PHD MENA, including Egypt, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Ian Dolan has been appointed as the Head of Strategy and Content and will be responsible for the network’s social media and digital solutions. Sandra Essa and Stephanie Medlege have both been promoted to the role of Associate Director – Planning. In their new role, Sandra and Stephanie will further contribute to strategic planning and execution for their client’s success.

“When I joined PHD 8 years ago, it was impossible to predict the incredible journey we were about to have together,” says Elda Choucair, CEO, PHD MENA. “Looking back, it has been a phenomenal experience of growth, not just for me personally or the agency, but also our exceptionally talented team and the brands that are like family to us. These well-deserved promotions are a sign that our collective progress is made up on individual achievements and excellence. Together, with our clients, we are dedicated to continuing this shared journey of growth for the benefit of all.”

In The Hot Seat – David Barnes

David Barnes, new Associate Director of Digital Data at PHD UAE, tells us about what he feels makes a successful marketing campaign and how he can see the media landscape changing in the UAE in the coming years…

Name: David Barnes


From: Kent, England           

Current Job Title: Associate Director – Digital Data

When did you first arrive in Dubai?
February 2016

Where did you work prior?
Before arriving in Dubai, I was working as Data Director at MEC in London.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
Refreshingly positive! The first thing that hit me was the positivity and passion of the PHD office here. On the industry as a whole; I had been told that the Middle East was ‘behind’ or ‘less progressive’, however I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to find that the work is on par with – if not ahead of – what I had experienced in the UK. 

Has your opinion changed much?
I am now in my eighth week at the company and am delighted that the passion and positivity I saw from the agency when I first arrived wasn’t just an illusion! It is embedded in the PHD culture. Every day I am impressed by my colleagues’ drive to make a difference and ensure that our clients are future-ready and ahead of the curve. 

What challenges do you face?
Firstly, the term data is quickly becoming overused in the media industry. People have started using ‘data’ as the answer to all of their problems, even though it is rarely that simple. Data on its own is useless; it must be collected, stored and managed in the correct manner before it is ready for any analysis, which can then in turn be acted upon. Often brands know that they have data, they just don’t know how it is stored or what they can do with it, so it’s my job to help map out a realistic data strategy for them to achieve their business goals.

Secondly, the people in charge of a brand’s data and the people in charge of the marketing do not often connect, so another challenge is educating both parties on the benefits of collaboration.

Lastly, brand metrics within digital have to be improved. I see this as one of my key challenges; as it is a problem within the media industry as a whole. It is no use measuring a campaign with a brand objective purely against reach and frequency, or even worse against clicks. We have to be able to measure the actual lift in real brand awareness metrics from our online advertising, which is a real challenge. In order to fairly attribute digital activity in justifiable metrics we need to relook at the last-click methodology as a whole as well.  The user journey is so complex nowadays that we simply cannot give all the credit to the final thing that happens before a conversion.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Unlocking that one insight that becomes the seed for the rest of the campaign to grow. Often, the most creative of campaigns have a simple idea at the heart, which has been unlocked through clever use of data. Today’s marketplace is so cluttered that one small piece of data can make all the difference.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in media in the UAE?
Be passionate, proactive and creative. Keep your finger on the pulse while pushing the boundaries. Also, don’t forget to work hard and play hard.

In your opinion, what makes a marketing campaign successful?
Relevance. To me, a marketing campaign can only be successful if it is perceived as relevant by those who see it. Data plays a huge role in enabling a campaign’s relevance from the outset of the original idea, right through to delivery and optimisation. One application of this is creative versioning. Any data source ­– from weather, location, time of day to recent online user behaviour – can be used to create tailored versions of a brand’s creative for different users to make it specifically relevant to them on a personal level. These tailored messages will increase the relevance of the campaign to the user and they will therefore be more likely to see the brand as providing a solution to their needs.

Another point I want to mention here is measurement – without correct KPI setting and measurement, we cannot deem any campaign to be a true success.

How do you see media changing in the UAE in the coming years?
Firstly, I see that the growth of ecommerce will provide us with data to become a lot smarter in how we do business, we can then build models based on propensity to purchase, cross-sell online purchasers and exclude users who have already purchased, etc. There is often a difference in the kind of people who visit a website and those who actually convert, so ecommerce will allow us to optimise our campaigns to those more likely to convert, which will directly impact sales.

Another development is CRM becoming more closely aligned to marketing. The first step in deciding who to market your campaign to is understanding your existing audience; CRM data allows us to do this. We can become really advanced with CRM data and use it for tactics such as cross-selling, upgrading and excluding etc.

I would also like to see the lines blurred between online and offline so that we can measure the impact of one on the other and stop looking at them as separate entities. This area of online to offline attribution is going to be a key focus for me and something I hope I can help crack in a region where so much purchasing happens offline. We have to be able to measure our online campaigns in a manner that reflects this habit of researching online but purchasing offline.

Lastly, artificial intelligence (AI) is also something that really excites me and that I think the media world needs to get its head around. So much of what we do in digital is based on basic historic actions (what sites did a user visit, what did they search, etc.) but the past doesn’t always dictate the future. The media world needs to take advantage of the major leaps and bounds within the AI landscape in order to better predict what users are likely to do. PHD is already experimenting in this field which is really exciting.

PHD UAE to hold BrainScape conference

PHD UAE is set to hold BrainScape, its annual thought-leadership conference in the MENA region, on October 12, 2015. With a focus on the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the event will be held at the Armani Hotel Dubai and will host over 200 marketing professionals. It will feature a comprehensive look at the future of intelligence, as well as products that marketing professionals will be using and the advertising and data models that will support them. Key speakers include Kevin Slavin, Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT Media Lab. The conference is produced with Choueiri Group’s dedicated digital media representation arm, Digital Media Services (DMS), as strategic partner.

“This is an incredibly exciting time to work in marketing, as we undergo a revolutionary transformation of what we are capable of achieving, thanks to developments in AI,” said Elda Choucair, Managing Director, PHD UAE. “This year’s BrainScape will invigorate marketers and inspire them on how to capitalise on upcoming technology and take the marketing discipline to new heights.”

PHD welcomes new Associate Director

Media and communications agency, PHD UAE has welcomed Edmond Gebara to the role of Associate Director. Previously Planning Manager at Mindshare Dubai, Edmond brings over four years of media experience to his new role. As Associate Director, he will work on the agency’s largest planning team, managing both the digital and offline accounts for key clients.

“Joining PHD poses quite an exciting challenge for me, both professionally and personally,” says Edmond. “The synergies within the agency – both on a team and organisational level – create a highly productive environment to work in. This, along with their strong focus on personal development, has exceeded my (already high) expectations of them. I look forward to contributing to their incredible momentum.”

Staff promotions at PHD

PHD UAE has promoted five senior employees following its business growth in 2014. Firstly, Ian Dolan has been promoted to the newly created position of Strategy Director. As a Planning Director for the last three years, he will now contribute to the strategic direction of all accounts, driving business development as well as spearheading the creative and innovation agenda for the agency and its clients.

Charli Ursell has been appointed to the position of Digital Director, after leading on the development of initiatives regarded as ‘best in class’ globally by key clients as Digital Associate Director for almost two years. Rachel Maher is now Marketing Director, following the creation and deployment of a rich programme of initiatives, as well as her contribution to business development activities and account wins in the position of Marketing Manager.

Following several years of managing one of PHD’s largest accounts with consistent qualitative output, Nawal Nasreddine has been promoted to Planning Director, as well as Karen Doumet who is also promoted to the position of Planning Director, following an impeccable track record with clients.

“As an organisation, we have grown significantly over the past 12 months,” says Elda Choucair, Managing Director, PHD UAE. “These promotions are as much a reward for this performance as a promise for future success. We endeavour to nurture our talent at PHD so that we, as a team, can continue to exceed the expectations of our clients, our partners and ourselves.”

PHD partners with IPA

PHD, part of the Omnicom Media Group, has partnered with the UK’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) to localise and adapt its professional education material and examination for Middle East media professionals. Established for over 10 years, The IPA Foundation Certificate is an award-winning online learning program designed to provide junior industry professionals with the knowledge to perform their day-to-day roles with confidence and expertise. With over 10,000 executives in the UK certified, PHD are the first media agency executives in the Middle East to take and successfully pass the exam to secure the IPA’s Foundation Certificate.

“PHD is all about ‘finding a better way,’ not just for ourselves or our clients, but also for the industry in which we operate,” says Elda Choucair, Managing Director, PHD UAE. “Wherever it operates, PHD has always been a strong supporter of raising industry standards. I am very proud of the role we’ve taken in localising IPA’s Foundation Certificate for our industry and our team’s results in the examination. We’ve partnered with the IPA because we see it as part of our role to develop the future talent of our industry.”

Mohammed Halawi promoted at PHD Abu Dhabi

Mohammed Halawi has been promoted to the position of General Manager at PHD Abu Dhabi, the media agency network division of the Omnicom Media Group. Previously in the role of Planning Director and employed at PHD since 2003, Mohammed will now lead the PHD Abu Dhabi office,  spurring further growth by actively contributing to both clients and teams’ performance.

“It’s a tremendous honour but also a great responsibility to have been promoted to this role,” says Mohammed.”Based on the journey so far, I can only look forward to what is ahead of us. My ambition is to continue to create an environment that will stimulate the growth and performance of our clients, our teams, as well as all our business partners.”

Elda Choucair, Managing Director of PHD UAE adds, “Mohammed has developed an in-depth understanding of the unique features and challenges of the Abu Dhabi market and is ideally prepared to lead our operation in the capital. With his passion, dedication and commitment to drive business forward, I am confident he will sustain the virtuous circle we have seen in Abu Dhabi. On a more personal note, I am thrilled to see someone as talented as Mohammed rise through the ranks to ultimately assume leadership. It’s hugely gratifying and a vivid expression of our focus on talent.”