Serge Dagher: The industry needs regulation
Serge Dagher, Rizk Group General Manager gives his evaluation of the Lebanese market and clearly identifies the black spots that are causing a seemingly state of chaos within the ad industry.
We at Rizk Group have been WKH ÀUVW DQG PD\EH WKH only ones not to fall into the trap of breaking the agency to a number of smaller totally independent specialized entities
How would you describe the general atmosphere of business in Lebanon compared to the previous year?
Well, it is clear that the country is going through tough times on all economic levels. And that is due to a variety of reasons: The whole region is going through tough times, started with the biggest markers like KSA (participating in a regional war, drop in price of oil, political turmoil…). Locally, the lack of serious planning by local government, the unmatched level of corruption in the country, the uncertainty facing the economic sectors (banks, real estate, the Lira…) are all contributing to an unrest making clients like people resistant to investment and spending.
What about the state of the ad industry in the country today?
Speaking of the industry itself, both media and agencies are suffering, and desperate to meet financial obligations, as the word “rate” and “system” have become virtual. What is really the cost of anything today (TV or radio spot or a outdoor panel)? What is a good deal and is there really a good deal--when media rates could vary between $1000, $100 or even $1 for the same spot depending on how desperate the media is at that particular moment. As for agencies, start-ups, boutiques, man/ agency… what do they really stand for? What is the value of the advice and the quality of the service they are giving and how do they charge for it? Is it better for clients to book through an MBU or would they get a better deal if they go directly to the media?
What’s the one thing you’d like to see regulated within the industry?
The industry has to regulate itself very quickly (fixed rates, no direct booking, specifications of an agency…) otherwise we would be all contributing to the death of our industry.
Everyone seems to agree that the days of the classic ad-agency business are gone. What’s your take?
We at Rizk Group have been the first and maybe the only ones not to fall into the trap of breaking the agency to a number of smaller totally independent specialized entities.
Separating the brand agency from the media-buying unit means a lack of coordination and a media plan that does not fit the creative work. It also means double the cost to service the same clients with the same budgets. When all agencies now have their own MBUS, they are mostly practically booking for their own brand agencies.
Separating brand agency from digital agencies means totally different creative and positioning platforms and brand confusion.
Separating PR from media buying means PR agencies have no leverage over the media and are unable to ensure coverage for their clients.
In short, what are the priorities or main key areas of focus your agency has set for itself ?
We at Rizk Group and instead of fragmenting ourselves into totally independent units, have kept it all under the same roof for ultimate efficiency, however, recruited specialized talents in different disciplines, coming together to offer our clients the best in every discipline in total coherence and fusion.
There is a new wave of marketers who have a very different take on advertising than traditional marketers and prefer doing things in-house. Other marketers prefer using smaller agencies and vendors on a short-term or/and project-by-project basis. In parallel, more and more small entities and start-ups are cropping up. How this is affecting the business?
I can see that happening all around us however, we as an agency are not really affected by it and I am sure that this won’t last long as the results will prove to be mediocre.
In-house has a variety of limitations. That means a small team with limited experience. You will end up lacking an external view on your business, a limited and repetitive pattern in creative, a team with poor experience and exposure to fit the in house format budget.
Working with vendors on a project-by-project basis will mean an inconstant brand vision and interpretation, hence would never build a real brand, a real platform that lasts for years and builds equity over time. While many think these methods are good means to save, it ends be to be an absolute waste.
Serge Dagher General Manager - Rizk Group