“If agen­cies don’t evolve, their re­cent busi­ness model will die. Pure me­dia plan­ning and buy­ing will not be suf­fi­cient for them to sur­vive.”

For­mer Mind­share boss Samir Ay­oub is back. And he plans to make the in­dus­try a bet­ter place for all, writes Austyn Al­li­son

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE -

SAMIR AY­OUB, For­mer Mind­share CEO goes it alone with new com­pany.

Ayear ago, Samir Ay­oub was re­gional CEO of Mind­share, a role he had held for 17 years. Then the WPP me­dia agency was thrown into tur­moil. In Novem­ber, Mind­share’s star re­gional ac­count, the Ja­panese au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­turer Nis­san, put its plan­ning and buy­ing out to pitch, and in March it left its agency of six years and moved its re­gional brief to global in­cum­bent OMD. In May, one-time MENA CEO of Star­com Me­di­avest Group Filip Jab­bour re­turned to the re­gion from four years in the US to be­come the first re­gional CEO of Group M, the WPP me­dia unit that en­com­passes Mind­share, MEC, Me­di­aCom and BPG Maxus. But Ay­oub did not stick around to see many of these changes. In Jan­uary he re­signed, and dis­ap­peared from view.

Ru­mours be­gan to emerge that Ay­oub would be­come a poacher-turned-game­keeper, teach­ing clients the dirty tricks that agen­cies play on them.

Now back with a new com­pany, MedPush, Ay­oub says the re­al­ity is more pro­saic. His main clients will in­deed be ad­ver­tis­ers, but his for­mer col­leagues and peers have lit­tle to fear.

“My ini­tial feel­ing was yes, the agen­cies will get scared by what I am do­ing, be­cause I am com­ing from the kitchen and I used to do [what they do]. But the ser­vices we pro­vide to ad­ver­tis­ers will di­rectly or in­di­rectly help the agen­cies, be­cause there are ar­eas where agen­cies are not fairly re­warded and ap­pre­ci­ated in terms of the ser­vices they of­fer.”

MedPush, with the tagline ‘re­defin­ing me­dia ef­fi­ciency’, of­fers three main ser­vices: au­dit, con­sul­tancy and train­ing.

“Be­ing in the in­dus­try now for more than 25 years, I wanted to do some­thing that would be ben­e­fi­cial to the in­dus­try, be­cause we all know about the is­sues and chal­lenges in the in­dus­try,” says Ay­oub. He says the rea­son for his busi­ness model is “be­cause my ultimate ob­jec­tive is, along with the team, to help im­prove the stan­dards of the in­dus­try. This is part of our mis­sion.”

Cam­paign is speak­ing to Ay­oub in MedPush’s new of­fice. The team of five (which Ay­oub plans to grow to 11) are the first oc­cu­pants of the Jumeirah Lakes Tow­ers suite, which is vir­gin white and not yet fully dec­o­rated. Empty frames hang on the walls the day we visit, and Ay­oub tells us his of­fice man­ager is out look­ing for suit­able pic­tures to fill them.

The com­pany has so far signed only one client, Au­jan Group Hold­ing. It will work on the re­gional soft drink con­glom­er­ate’s Rani and Bar­bican brands but Ay­oub won’t say yet what the scope of the con­tract is.

If Ay­oub’s as­ser­tions are to be be­lieved, it will not only be clients such as Au­jan who will ben­e­fit from MedPush’s ar­rival into the mar­ket.

“You have the tri­an­gle of the in­dus­try: agen­cies, clients and me­dia,” he says. “They have to com­ple­ment each other. So our busi­ness model will help the agen­cies as much as the clients.”

Auditing can help keep agency-client re­la­tions har­mo­nious if clients feel they are get­ting the most from their con­tracts.

“If there is peace of mind and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the agency and the client is good, then ev­ery­body is happy,” he adds. “Agen­cies are happy, clients are happy, and the last thing any­one wants is to have a pitch.”

He ex­plains: “When there is a pitch it is hec­tic; hec­tic for the client, hec­tic for the agency. And our role is to help fix­ing the re­la­tion­ship if there is any is­sue, so there is no pitch at the end of the day.”

There are three strings to MedPush’s me­dia auditing bow. It will look at pric­ing, plan­ning ef­fi­ciency and com­pli­ance and trans­parency. This is a sim­i­lar model to the ser­vices that big in­ter­na­tional play­ers such as Firm De­ci­sion and its par­ent Ebiq­uity of­fer, but with cru­cial lo­cal knowl­edge, says Ay­oub. He would be happy to form al­liances with in­ter­na­tional play­ers, he says and is al­ready in talks with at least one.

The con­sul­tancy as­pect of MedPush’s busi­ness is fo­cused on ef­fi­ciency. It will steer clients through the pitch­ing process, and will make sure the con­tract writ­ten af­ter­wards re­flects what has been promised by the agency.

MedPush can also take the place of in-house me­dia ex­perts through­out the year, show­ing clients what is and isn’t rel­e­vant from their me­dia agen­cies’ per­for­mance, re­sults and buy­ing de­ci­sions and help­ing them drive their agen­cies harder.

And it also of­fers a 360-de­gree eval­u­a­tion, a process that might be un­think­able with­out an ob­jec­tive mid­dle man. In this time of squeezed bud­gets and squeezed agen­cies, few me­dia plan­ners would be pre­pared to tell their clients to up their game. But agen­cies of­ten have just cause to com­plain that they are not be­ing ad­e­quately briefed, that they are not get­ting ap­provals on time, and lapses of process are ham­per­ing

“My ini­tial feel­ing was yes, the agen­cies will get scared by what I am do­ing, be­cause I am com­ing from the kitchen and I used to do [what they do]. But the ser­vices we pro­vide to ad­ver­tis­ers will di­rectly or in­di­rectly help the agen­cies, be­cause there are ar­eas where agen­cies are not fairly re­warded and ap­pre­ci­ated in terms of the ser­vices they of­fer.”

their abil­ity to do their jobs well. “So far, the vast ma­jor­ity of clients eval­u­ate their agen­cies based on set key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors,” says Ay­oub. “But agen­cies don’t value the clients. So we de­vel­oped a 360-de­gree eval­u­a­tion sys­tem to make sure that both par­ties are do­ing what­ever is needed from them.”

No one en­joys crit­i­cism. But, says Ay­oub, “com­ing from a third party and at equal dis­tance, it gives more cred­i­bil­ity”.

Train­ing is the third weapon in MedPush’s arse­nal, and can in­volve the third side of the me­dia-buy­ing tri­an­gle: the own­ers and ven­dors.

“There is a huge gap in the mar­ket be­tween what agen­cies and the clients talk and what me­dia ven­dors talk,” says Ay­oub. “Be­cause, whether you like it or not, most of the me­dia ven­dors talk the lan­guage of trad­ing.”

How­ever, the ques­tion of whether in­ven­tory and me­dia space are help­ing the brand can only be mea­sured with re­sults: does that me­dia build brand val­ues or eq­uity?

Train­ing across the board can help en­sure every­one – agen­cies, clients and ven­dors – speaks the same lan­guage, and this will im­prove the stan­dards of the mar­ket.

Af­ter 25 years of work­ing in re­gional me­dia (17 with Mind­share and, be­fore that, another eight with Ogilvy, which along with JWT formed the me­dia agency in the late 1990s) Ay­oub will be trad­ing on ex­per­tise, rep­u­ta­tion and con­tacts. His team are also from within the in­dus­try (one came with him from Mind­share), and he wants to lever­age their prac­ti­cal ex­per­tise.

“What the in­dus­try needs is prac­ti­cal me­dia ex­perts, not the­o­ret­i­cal ex­perts,” he says. “There is a big dif­fer­ence be­tween prac­ti­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal. The­o­ret­i­cal you can find any­where, any mar­ket, any place. But [the MedPush team comes from] the prac­ti­cal mar­ket, from within the in­dus­try, who know the in­dus­try very well. They tai­lor-make what we have in the pro­grammes to suit the in­dus­try,

based on the mar­ket dy­nam­ics.”

Ay­oub knows every­one in the in­dus­try. “I am a very hon­est man,” he says, and this is how peo­ple within me­dia agen­cies know him. He adds: “I am trans­par­ent. I don’t hide be­hind every­thing. This is my rep­u­ta­tion in the mar­ket.”

That mar­ket is chang­ing fast as agen­cies mu­tate ever fur­ther from their ori­gins as me­dia buy­ing units.

“If agen­cies don’t evolve their busi­ness model, their re­cent busi­ness model will die. And many agen­cies have al­ready started to evolve,” he says. “Pure me­dia plan­ning and buy­ing will not be suf­fi­cient enough for them to sur­vive. So they need to di­ver­sify their ser­vices. And it will be driven more by fee rather than by com­mis­sion. The ef­fi­ciency and added value they will pro­vide is what will make them.”

Pric­ing and num­bers will cease to be the cur­rency of me­dia, he pre­dicts: “It will be more qual­i­ta­tive over quan­ti­ta­tive and more di­ver­si­fied over fo­cused ser­vices.” For ex­am­ple, so­cial me­dia and other cre­ative of­fer­ings will be­come more im­por­tant.

Such over­laps be­tween in­dus­try prac­tices mean cre­ative and me­dia agen­cies need to “go back and re­con­nect”.

“There are many peo­ple glob­ally talk­ing about this, that cre­ative agen­cies say we need to bring me­dia back on board,” says Ay­oub. “For me it is not about bring­ing me­dia back on board; it is prob­a­bly about hav­ing me­dia ex­perts on the cre­ative agency side, be­cause they will help them to de­velop the com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­egy.”

The ‘con­tent and con­nect’ of cre­ative and me­dia, re­spec­tively, must work hand-in-hand.

MedPush can help agen­cies as they de­velop their new models. They are cur­rently be­ing squeezed on their buy­ing mar­gins, but ef­fi­ciency needn’t equate to aus­ter­ity. In­deed, says Ay­oub, “there are ar­eas where agen­cies re­quire a higher fee for them to be able to of­fer bet­ter ser­vices”. Tech­nol­ogy means much more is now mea­sur­able, and agen­cies have more to show clients than the vol­umes and reach of me­dia they can pro­vide.

“In the past few years, clients are will­ing to pay agen­cies more if they feel they are get­ting the re­turn on in­vest­ment,” says Ay­oub. “So clients are not about pay­ing less; it’s about get­ting more value and ROI.” In other words, it all comes back to that driv­ing prin­ci­ple of ef­fi­ciency. Less waste and more fo­cus in the agency-client-me­dia melange can mean every­one comes out on top.

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