A new chap­ter for Y&R

The up­heaval of last year is be­ing re­placed by new man­age­ment, new cre­atives and a new com­mit­ment to the re­gion by Y&R’s global lead­ers, writes Iain Ak­er­man

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE -

“At the end of the day it’s al­ways been a good busi­ness. I don’t think we would’ve kept it if it hadn’t been. But you move on. There ‘was’ and now there ‘is’. And so I can tell you that the fo­cus here is on clients, the fo­cus is on work, the fo­cus is on how do we con­tinue to do our best.”

David Sable, Y&R’s global chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, talks change.

“Idon’t com­ment on his­tory. We’re not build­ing a new Y&R. We have brought in new, dy­namic, out-of-the-box man­age­ment that we’re very ex­cited about and our fo­cus lo­cally and glob­ally is still the same – we be­lieve that we are a global bou­tique whose value to our clients is that we’re lo­cal first.”

David Sable, Y&R’s global chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, is sit­ting op­po­site me at a con­fer­ence ta­ble deep within the Fair­mont The Palm. To his right is Tony Granger, the agency’s global chief cre­ative of­fi­cer. To Granger’s right is Ramzy Abou-Ezzed­dine, the newly-ap­pointed CEO for Y&R Group MENA. All are re­luc­tant or hes­i­tant to dis­cuss the past.

That past be­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Me­na­com chair­man and CEO Joseph Ghos­soub last April, fol­lowed by the de­par­ture of Ghos­soub’s daugh­ter Na­dine, who was Y& R Dubai’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, and Shahir Zag, the agency’s chief cre­ative of­fi­cer. Ash Chagla, one of two ex­ec­u­tive cre­ative di­rec­tors at the Dubai op­er­a­tion, left not long af­ter. Of the agency’s se­nior cre­atives, only Kalpesh Patankar re­mains.

It is un­clear why Ghos­soub – one of the re­gion’s most pow­er­ful and in­flu­en­tial ad­men and the in­terim CEO of Y&R MENA – stepped down. But WPP’s di­rec­tor for the MENA re­gion, Roy Had­dad, over­saw the po­si­tion un­til a Y&R re­place­ment in the shape of Abou-Ezzed­dine was found last Septem­ber. In Oc­to­ber, Ge­orges Bar­soum was also named CEO of Y&R across the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil.

The ap­point­ment of two new CEOs and the cur­rent re­plen­ish­ing of the cre­ative de­part­ment is in­dica­tive of Y&R’s re­newed com­mit­ment to the re­gion with an em­pha­sis on strength­en­ing the net­work across the Mid­dle East and North Africa and deep­en­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“We’ve had two meet­ings here,” says Granger. “We’ve had the cre­ative re­view and our man­age­ment re­view or work­shop. For the first two days – I’ve been here for a week nearly – we were look­ing at work per of­fice, look­ing at op­por­tu­ni­ties, look­ing at what clients we have, look­ing at how we can put our best re­sources against [ those] op­por­tu­ni­ties and how we can bring the very, very best work to our clients. And not only across the re­gion but now we’re tap­ping glob­ally into that as well.

“More and more over the last six months, there’s been more and more col­lab­o­ra­tion and cross-pol­li­na­tion and shar­ing of ideas, and ac­tu­ally what this has given us is an op­por­tu­nity to re­ally get in­volved in the re­gion. The fun­da­men­tals of mak­ing the work bet­ter is to col­lab­o­rate and to get opin­ions from the best peo­ple that you have. Kal’s [Patankar] start­ing to drive that.

“Of course Joe is a lovely man, so is Shahir, so is Ash, but we have a busi­ness to run and it evolves and it changes and we now have other re­ally amaz­ing peo­ple that we’re be­com­ing friends with too. And if we don’t evolve and if we don’t have peo­ple com­ing in and out the whole time then we stag­nate.”

It is pos­si­ble to ac­cuse Y&R Dubai of pre­vi­ously be­ing an agency more ded­i­cated to win­ning awards than the ac­qui­si­tion of new busi­ness or the cre­ation of gen­uinely ef­fec­tive work for its clients. It is also an agency that his­tor­i­cally has been strong in Dubai but weak in other mar­kets across the MENA re­gion.

“I think you have the wrong im­pres­sion,” as­serts Sable. “Look, at the end of the day it’s al­ways been a good busi­ness. I don’t think we would’ve kept it if it hadn’t been. But you move on. There ‘ was’ and now there ‘is’. And so I can tell you that the fo­cus here is on clients, the fo­cus is on work, the fo­cus is on how do we con­tinue to do our best.

“The point of what we’re do­ing is to make sure that our net­work is in fact a net­work and that the of­fices are all con­nected, that the peo­ple are con­nected, that the work is con­nected, that the cre­ative di­rec­tors are con­nected, the man­agers are con­nected, that the plan­ners are con­nected.”

“We’re con­sol­i­dat­ing what we have, we’re build­ing on past suc­cess, we’re try­ing to take it to the next level and as David was say­ing, try­ing to re­ally build a proper net­work,” adds Abou-Ezzed­dine. “A one-agency ap­proach that hap­pens to be lo­cated in sev­eral ge­ogra­phies – the same stan­dards, the same col­lab­o­ra­tion that Tony talked about, across all func­tions.”

So, a new Y&R chap­ter is be­ing writ­ten?

“The clear­est mes­sage that I can give you is just look at who we’ve hired,” says Sable. “The fact that we’ve brought in Ramzi and Ge­orges is pretty damn good. It’s ex­cit­ing for us, it’s ex­cit­ing for our clients, it’s ex­cit­ing for the re­gion to have guys of that cal­i­bre.”

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