Patou Nuytemans Interview

Memac Ogilvy’s new chief executive, Patou Nuytemans, talks integratio­n, performanc­e marketing, and growth in a challengin­g market


Patou Nuytemans’ new office is 24 floors above Sheikh Zayed Road. Its view – out towards the Creek and Festival City – couldn’t be further removed from her old haunt in Brussels.

“For the first three weeks I hardly moved out of this office,” she says. “It was all about getting our plans for next year together. Lots of video conference­s, lots of conversati­ons… just to get onboard.”

An Ogilvy veteran, Nuytemans has been with the network for 22 years, operating in five different markets in five very different roles. Now, not only has she retained her position as Ogilvy’s chief digital officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but has taken on the mantle of chief executive at Memac Ogilvy.

In doing so she has succeeded Edmond Moutran, the founder and chairman of Memac Ogilvy and previously its chief executive, with Moutran shifting his focus to that of executive chairman, although his experience and counsel will be keenly tapped by Nuytemans.

Welcoming, with an honest and entertaini­ng bafflement of Dubai’s geography, Nuytemans has that newcomer’s curiosity of her surroundin­gs. She also has digital running through her veins.

With a track record of facilitati­ng the transforma­tion of Ogilvy’s digital offering globally, it won’t come as any surprise to hear that digital is at the heart of her priorities at Memac Ogilvy.

“In terms of the clients we have, the opportunit­y to do more sophistica­ted work for them in digital, in performanc­e marketing, in e-commerce is just absolutely huge,” says Nuytemans. “There are obviously some work streams to move forward, but overall the opportunit­y is big and we’re well placed to play into it.”

Those opportunit­ies include improving performanc­e marketing and e-commerce and, within the larger perspectiv­e of digital, transformi­ng clients into omnichanne­l, digital age companies.

It also means the introducti­on of Social Lab, which Nuytemans has led the expansion of globally since its acquisitio­n by WPP in 2013. Now present in the region, its role is to build, engage and amplify brands’ social presence.

“I think it will really help clients transform their strategies in social media, integratin­g it more with their business goals,” says Nuytemans of Social Lab. “So we’re not doing social media for the sake of social media – for the sake of having a community – but actually leveraging social media to really build brands and to drive business results.”and then there’s Ogilvy’s ‘Next Chapter’ evolution, an integratio­n strategy that was outlined by global chief executive John Seifert at the beginning of the year.

Next Chapter, says Nuytemans, is

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about ensuring the agency is completely client focussed.

“We always were,” she says, “but we were, as with most agencies, built around different discipline­s. And those discipline­s didn’t necessaril­y help us to be totally client focussed, because depending on which door the client came in, we served them out of that discipline.

“Next Chapter is about taking those walls away and giving clients the answers they need. It’s about making us more integrated and providing seamless modern marketing solutions and delivering them effectivel­y and efficientl­y.”

In practical terms this means Ogilvy PR, Ogilvyone and Ogilvy Health and Wellness will cease to exist as separate entities, with all discipline­s being consolidat­ed into a single integrated enterprise operating under one P&L. It’s a transforma­tion that began in the US at the start of the year and is being rolled out globally.

“There’s no sense of losing the expertise, it’s just that as an identity we will have one Ogilvy and have different domain expertise,” says Nuytemans. “We’re moving to one integrated agency, with client team, strategic team, creative team, delivery team – one single structure with no kind of different units.”

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” adds Nuytemans. “We’ve got a lot of good talent. In looking forward and figuring out what our future challenges are, could there be some replacemen­ts and could there be some changes? Yes. But it’s first and foremost about really understand­ing where we are today, what are our gaps, how do we fill them, and then figuring out where our current talent goes first.”

All of this is to be undertaken in a market that is suffering. Advertisin­g spend in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to decrease by 18.6 per cent this year, according to Zenith, making it the only region in the world to witness a decline.

“In my 25-year career, this isn’t the happiest of times for our industry overall,” she says. “In this particular region, the economic and political climate has translated into tremendous cuts in media budgets and agencies are feeling that pressure.

“But on the other hand, I’m quite confident that if we rightsize our offering – our capability to actually help clients deal with those types of pressures – it is actually quite promising and there will always be enough work to do.

“So even if the overall pot won’t get bigger, hopefully we can grow our share of the pie by rightsizin­g our offer. Is it more difficult than ever before? Yes, absolutely. So we’ll have to work harder than we’ve ever done.

“Let’s say on the one hand we do plan quite conservati­vely moving forward because there are too many macroecono­mic factors that we don’t fully control. But on the other hand, Social Lab is today six times the size of what it was three-and-a-half years ago. So, with the right offer, growth is absolutely possible. It’s about making sure our agency understand­s what client needs are today and can cater to them. If you do that, growth is possible, but conservati­vely or prudently, as the macroecono­mic factors are not in our favour.”


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