Roger Halaby Interview
The founders of Quse have created an agency with a philosophical and inspirational edge
Chatting with Roger Halaby is more a philosophical experience than a marketing and communications one. Jean-jacques Rousseau, Descartes, the Greek muses of ancient mythology. All feature heavily in his conversation.
A former Memac Ogilvy, Intermarkets and AGA/ADK staffer, Halaby is sitting in the office of Quse Qommunications in Business Bay, the agency he co-founded with Nina Shibly Chamlian and Leopold Ajami three years ago.
“We are cracking the proper concept of communication,” he asserts. “The way communication is done in this region is so wrong. So wrong in terms of respect for the communications industry. You learn communication at university, either with a master’s degree or a PHD. It’s not ‘I take you out, we have lunch together and you give me the business’. It doesn’t work like this.
“Before we launched we did our homework, going back to the inception of communication. Where did it start? We talked to professors, we talked to philosophers, we talked to novelists, we talked to psychologists. We travelled to the US, we travelled to Europe. Some people thought we were losing it, until we fine-tuned the concept and launched it in the market.
“Surprisingly enough, after six months we had a huge portfolio of clients. Simply because we were doing proper communication. No nonsense.”
By no nonsense Halaby means delivering novel solutions and asking the right questions, all while using the muses of Greek mythology as inspiration. After all, Quse is simply a play on the ‘questioning muse’. That is, the one unusual question that will define everything related to a brand.
“What we found out after a lot of research is that, yes, the muse of ideas exists, but it has to come to you in the form of a question.”
For Halaby, René Descartes created rational marketing; Jean-jacques Rousseau, emotional marketing. Both, including David Ogilvy, are an inspiration.
“We always say, ‘what would happen if a philosopher or a novelist questioned your brand from their own perspective?” asks Halaby. “If I tackle it from a traditional marketing perspective I’m going to end up with the same outcome that all other companies are doing. When you start applying the ideology and use the tools of those thinkers, you will see that the brand will start giving you hints.”
With 12 people in Business Bay and a further 14 in Media City thanks to an affiliation with Publiscreen, Quse offers creative strategy, consultancy, media and production, and coaching.
In the Business Bay office the staff have intriguing titles. There’s a socionovelist who plots all the communication for social media and a visual novelist who works with imagery, while Halaby himself is chief exequtive muse, with the ‘c’ replaced with a ‘q’. Similarly, Chamlian is public engagement muse and Ajami qreative muse.
“At Quse Qommunications we don’t do anything that falls under classical communication. Never,” says Halaby. “We’re not competing with anyone. It’s about doing the work differently.”- I.A.
The way communication is done in this region is so wrong. So wrong in terms of respect for the communications industry…