Five Minute Focus – Top CEO Conference and Awards

With the Top CEO Conference and Awards coming up, Team TMN sit down with Julien Hawari, Co-CEO at Mediaquest Corp., to find out what to expect from the upcoming event…

Tell us about the Top CEO Conference and Awards…

The Top CEO Conference is a very unique concept – It brings together people from across the region to discuss the important issues that are making an impact today. This year’s theme is ‘Adapting to disruption: New Roles, new realities’. Regionally, low oil prices have had a huge impact on businesses and governments, leading to a tremendous number of changes, including new laws, regulations and taxes, plus a more open market. In addition, businesses and governments in the region have had to adapt to the introduction and impact of new technology and the fourth Industrial revolution. Attracting businessmen and women from the region, as well as key government officials and top academics, the Top CEO Conference discusses all of these topics and more, to help find solutions and drive businesses forward. Meanwhile, the Top CEO Awards celebrate the region’s best business leaders.

When did the Top CEO Conference and Awards launch in the Middle East?

The Top CEO Conference and Awards were launched almost four years ago, the result of a very simple premise, which was that the region was transforming and we needed to acknowledge and celebrate the people and companies that are helping in this transformation, creating growth and enabling good corporate governance and transparency in the region.

What were the challenges you faced when you first launched the event?

The first event was quite a challenge, because we did it in order to change things, to bring transparency to the awards and bring in-depth conversations to the conference. It took a lot of energy to ensure that our message was clear and the execution, perfect.

As a Co-CEO at Mediaquest Corp., why did you feel the need to launch Top CEO in the region?

The idea of starting the awards came more than four years ago, following a conversation with a friend. He mentioned how the GCC and Middle East are transforming and said the future is about the people, companies and CEOs that are creating value for shareholders and growing the regional business landscape by creating jobs, and also ensuring more corporate governance as well as more transparency. Along with the team behind TRENDS media, we created an awards ceremony that was very unique. There is no opt-in or opt-out, all publicly listed companies are evaluated and there is no fee for this evaluation. The Top CEO Awards were launched to put forward and celebrate the companies and their CEOs who are taking the region to the next level. The awards are based on hard facts and the listing is arrived at using a formula that was developed by us in collaboration with INSEAD Business School. We also worked with Hawkamah to find out how best to measure some of the corporate governance transparency criteria. One of the Big Four auditors help ensure that we have the same level of rigor and transparency on our side.

When and where will this year’s event take place?

The event will take place from April 10 – 11, 2017 in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.

Why did you choose Saudi Arabia?

For the past two years, Saudi Arabia has been going through a magnificent transformation, economic regulation and a complete uplift of the economy that is helping make the fantastic Vision 2030 a reality. Saudi Arabia is also the largest market in the region, so it makes sense for a conversation that looks into the future of the region to be held there.

How will 2017’s conference be different, compared to the previous years’?

The conference this year takes the best of the previous years and builds on it. We have a very strong conversation that will discuss not just the challenges the region is facing, but also the opportunities being created, from the consequences of slow growth, to adapting to the new technology that is transforming business. Other additions this year include round-table sessions, as well as private sessions and meetings that will take place on April 10. These sessions will help the region formulate some answers to the question of what is going on globally in the world of business and how this impacts business in the region. These sessions will also look into anti-dumping and anti-trust laws.

For the media industry, one of the most important conversations that we will have at the Top CEO Conference looks at the need for the region to put in place some regulations to create a more level playing field, in terms of competition between global digital players and the regional ecosystem.

What has been your advertising strategy in the Middle East?

The Top CEO event is very particular. It reaches a very specific audience in the region, CEOs, board members, C-level executives and managing directors. It was extremely complicated to find a cost-effective way to reach this entire population – we relied on many different approaches such as, direct marketing and direct shipment, thanks to the help of our partner DHL, TV advertisements on several TV channels across the region, advertisement on print media, as well as regular above-the-line advertisements, digital advertisements and social media campaigns.

Please elaborate on the topics of discussion.

As mentioned, this year’s discussion is on adapting to disruption, what businesses and governments need to do in an age of complexity, where every single part of business is being disrupted by new challenges and how this should be done while maintaining and growing the customer base.

Can you tell us about the speakers at the event? Will it feature speakers from the media/communications/advertising industries?

There will be more than 40 different speakers at the Top CEO Conference and Awards. What makes the list very special this year is that all of the speakers, both from the region and abroad, will address fundamental disruptions that are impacting the market and share ideas on how best to adapt to these changes. They will also touch upon digital disruption and the fourth industrial revolution, as well as some other, more fundamental issues impacting the region and how all of these are modifying the way business is being conducted. The full list of speakers and agenda is on our website,

How will Top CEO benefit businesses and professionals in the media industry? Why would you recommend that leaders from the industry attend the event?

One of the topics being addressed at Top CEO Conference, which is particularly important for the media industry, is how to regulate the media industry, especially in light of global events impacting the region. Is it time for the region to implement the equivalent of anti-dumping laws? Are global players selling at a fair price or have they amortised most of the infrastructure and selling at discounted prices in the region? These are fundamental questions that the region needs to address. China has put a Chinese twist on different media, Europe has looked into more legislation and taxation. So the region perhaps needs to consider a mix of both. This is an important conversation that needs to take place, and naturally, it is important that the media and communication industry are part of the conversation.

Who is your target audience?

The target audience for the Top CEO Conference and Awards comprises of decision makers, CEOs, C-Level management and managing directors, people who have important business in this part of the world and look into ways to improve the overall economies in the region.

What is the reaction you expect, following the event?

The greatest result following the Top CEO Conference and Awards would be that important conversations essential for the future of the region take place between industry players, with a focus on improving each region at the heart.

Can anyone attend the conference and awards ceremony?

The conference is open to all decision makers from across the region.

What is the registration process?

Simply log on to our website, for full registration details, the full agenda and speaker biographies.

What should the press and media expect at the event? How can they get involved?

Media and press are welcome to the Top CEO Conference and Awards. They are an important part of the conversation and the event is a great opportunity for them to meet decision makers and speak with them on the future of the region. Media and press can log on to to register.