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Edmond Moutran poses with Memac Oglivy staff.
Regional unrest, global downturn hit advertising industry: Moutran Edmond Moutran named ‘Advertising Person of the Year’

I came, I saw, I conquered.” It took these famous words immortalized by Julius Caesar to describe the moment when Edmond Moutran was declared the Advertising Person of the Year award at the Dubai Lynx Festival last month.  Edmond Moutran is the Founder Chairman and CEO of one of the largest PR and Advertising networks in the MENA region, Memac Ogilvy.  He was talking to the Arab Times on the sidelines of a recent Red Breakfast event held in Kuwait.
 
Talking in general about the advertising scene in the region, Moutran said the recent upheavals in the Arab world and the global economic downturn that preceded it have hit the advertising industry in the region quite hard, and the per capita spend is at an unimpressive $ 5.5 billion or thereabouts.  Following the economic crises, countries in the region are rebounding at different paces. Dubai came back very quickly, while Bahrain has taken a little longer.
 
Moutran added that advertising industry is the first casualty during such times. “The per capita spend in the Arab region is among the lowest in the world. USD 5 billion spread over 400 million Arabs is not an impressive figure. Compare it with a few countries not far from here, with a population of 6 million, and an advertising spend of USD 5 billion.”  Talking about some of the outcomes of the recent upheavals in the region, Moutran said that while markets like Egypt have taken a beating, “true to the country’s ethos, it evened out the downside in revenue with an upswing in creativity. The country has started winning a lot of awards post revolution like never before.”
 
Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and to some extent even Kuwait has been affected.  Kuwait was the first country in the Gulf to join the modern world. But that has kind of slowed down a bit after that initial take off. “Historically, over the last 40 years, the biggest advertising market here was Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait was the second biggest. “Today, Kuwait has slipped from that position to the fourth or fifth position.” The biggest market in terms of creative output is Dubai and in terms of destination is Saudi Arabia, where some of the best ads are being released. Many ads are being produced in Dubai for the Saudi Arabian market.
 
Memac Ogilvy won the Lynx ‘Network of the Year’ in Dubai last month. Ogilvy Dubai won the ‘Agency of the Year’ award. However, the crowning glory came with Moutran himself winning the ‘Advertising Person of the Year’ award at the Lynx Festival.  The triple crown was never received by the same group in the past. .Memac Ogilvy bagged a total of 46 awards at the Dubai Lynx Awards 2014, 2 Grand Prix, 14 Gold, 23 Silver and 7 Bronze awards on top of the 72 shortlists. Moutran said the Arab world has started getting recognized worldwide for creative advertisements. We are winning a lot of awards. 
 
Five years ago, we would have been extremely lucky to see a single Gold at the Cannes. The first Arab Gold at Cannes came from Kuwait.  Then there were several after that. Last year, 7 Golds at the Cannes belonged to the Arab world, and that’s not a small number, given the fact that there are not less than 30,000 entries at the festival.  As far as the latest developments in media are concerned, Moutran forecasts that we are headed the social media way. “I wouldn’t say social media is the future, it is the ‘today’. If you don’t speak or work social, you’re dead.”
 
The consumer is the biggest factor that’s affecting this change. Consumer doesn’t want a monologue anymore. The consumer wants answers now, because two-way communication is possible. It’s a dialogue with the brand. And if the brand is not ready to speak, then it’s going to lose the consumer.
The consumer loves this enriching experience, because he is made to feel important. And the next big thing is e-commerce. Research says the smart phones are going to be single most influential gadget in the history of man. In the next five years, walking without a smart phone is going to be like walking naked. 
 
The mobile phone today is 15% data and 85% conversation. In two years, it’s going to be 85% data, and 15% conversation. By 2017, the phone is going to become a data bank. There will come a point where you will sit in a restaurant and order your food on a mobile phone, and not by calling a waiter.
“I have already experienced it. I was in a big restaurant in Lebanon, and we were left unattended for some time. So, I sent an email to the restaurant saying that I am customer on such and such table and that I want someone to place my order. Immediately, a waiter showed up.”
 
To a question on the fate of newspapers in the digital world, Moutran said the print will not die as some people foresee. “What must happen for it not to die is that it’s got to become better. That’s true of all businesses. If we remain where we are, we are dead in five years. Our clients know social media better than us.” Further on his views on print, Moutran felt it will not die because there’s a charm about waking up in the morning and flipping through the pages. The print had gone down recently, but it came back. “It might weaken, but will not die.”
 
Moving on to the recent honors he won at Dubai Lynx Festival, he billed it an indescribable feeling. “It is the height of pleasure, where you cannot control your tears. These two enormous forces are clashing.”
Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to be chosen as the best from among hundreds of brilliant people? Professionally, you are at the pinnacle, and personally you are overwhelmed by the achievements. It’s a feeling of, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Talking about his goals for the Kuwait office, Moutran said there is a lot of business in the government sector, for which the client is seeking the help of advertisement agencies. “I want to get that business. We will be ready to deliver first-class social media, PR and applications services. We would have geared up for all of that by September.”
 
On the subject of the recent acquisition, Moutran added that WPP & Ogilvy has acquired another 20% equity in the Memac Ogilvy group in the MENA region, which puts the ownership at 60% WPP & Ogilvy and 40% local equity. This shift of majority will not change the local management but it will simply strengthen the ties with Ogilvy and Mather worldwide and WPP, which will immediately translate into better training and more career prospects for our people regionally and internationally.
 

 By Valiya S. Sajjad

Arab Times Staff

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