The advertising industry is gaining ground in the Middle East as it becomes a strong focus area for global companies and their brands in the wake of the economic crisis.
This is according to the creative head of DDB Worldwide, part of Omnicom Group Inc. “With the ongoing Eurozone crisis, global companies are definitely shifting their focus from Europe to other markets such as the Middle East in terms of advertising and marketing,” Amir Kassaei, chief creative officer, DDB Worldwide, said. “If you look at the car companies in Europe, the growth for the German car companies, for instance, is not coming from Europe anymore. It’s coming from the Middle East, China, India and the United States.”
For DDB, the Middle East poses a strong future growth area, according to Kassaei, who has worked on brands including Apple, Allianz, Coca Cola and Nike. “It’s one of the regions DDB can grow in the future and I am not talking about growth in numbers, but the quality approach of growth,” he said. “For us, there are two growth regions — Asia and the Middle East and Africa.” The Eurozone is currently struggling with a serious financial crisis, forcing most companies to rethink their marketing and branding strategies.
Asked how this has impacted advertising, Kassaei said: “The one thing about the business of creativity is that it’s resilient to any crisis because without it, there would be no progress. “Europe is a flat market right now and it will remain so. However, the challenge for brands and companies is not about where they can grow, rather, it is what kind of products they should produce which are relevant for the people.”
Giving his take on the creativity standards in the Middle East, Kassaei said the industry is growing slowly. “It’s traditionally a very young region — the quality of work is getting better.” He was quick to point out that the region, however, lacks “marketing tradition”.
“The region’s advertising market is not considered the most evolved today, but is getting better. Also, you have to look at people’s culture, attitude and the whole way of their living, and how they are using creativity in the region. If you look at the quality of work here, the industry is making small steps of improvement.”
Obstacles to growth
Asked if the region’s limitations posed a hindrance to the ad industry’s growth, Kassaei said: “To me, that is an excuse for people who are not creative enough because if you have limitations, you have to be more creative. Having said that, yes, they [the limitations] affect a little bit as your breadth of choices is not that wide. But, it also offers you more opportunities to be much more creative.”
For the industry to progress faster, Kassaei says, “education” of people and talent are necessary. “The industry here has to educate the people and the talent to understand what creative international standards are and how they can apply those for this region. “There is a huge potential in this market in terms of talent. And if we unleash that and guide them in the right way, we will see a lot of great stuff here in the next few years.” Also, the clients and the marketing people are “not as state-of-the-art as they should be”, according to Kassaei.
“There was no need for it in the last 10 years, maybe, but as the world is changing, they have to be better. I believe that we can do a much better job here than we are doing at the moment. “There are talented people, but you have to build a culture where they can unleash their potential and also be allowed to make mistakes.”
Make concepts relevant
Advertising is not about awareness anymore, as Kasaaei puts it. “It’s about being relevant. And being relevant is a completely different game than spending huge marketing and media budgets and promising people to buy stuff that they don’t need.” “The face of marketing will change in the next five to ten years. At DDB, as per our view on creativity, we believe that we are not in the advertising industry. Our job is to make things relevant.”