Amr Dar­wish: it’s hardly busi­ness as usual

AMR DAR­WISH, CHIEF OP­ER­AT­ING OF­FI­CER OF LEO BUR­NETT EGYPT, SHARES HIS HARDHIT­TING VIEWS ON THE CUR­RENT STATE OF EGYPT AD BUSI­NESS.

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How would you as­sess the cur­rent state of the ad in­dus­try in Egypt?

The po­ten­tial for growth is ex­cit­ing but it’s hardly busi­ness as usual as the mar­ket has been very chal­leng­ing and ev­ery day comes with a new set of chal­lenges.

Clients want more for less, slash­ing mar­ket­ing bud­gets at the ex­pense of long term brand build­ing and cut­ting costs is on ev­ery­one’s mind.

The cre­ative out­put has also suf­fered over the past few years, but that’s an­other dis­cus­sion. Has this been a good or bad year?

It was a good year con­sid­er­ing the eco­nomic “rollercoaster” we’re all rid­ing. The busi­ness of ad­ver­tis­ing has enor­mous po­ten­tial in Egypt and has a pos­i­tive growth out­look but only if the right kind of poli­cies take shape help­ing for­eign in­vest­ment and lo­cal pro­duc­tion. What is the qual­ity of the work like?

Un­for­tu­nately, I be­lieve the cre­ative prod­uct in the mar­ket has been in de­cline for sev­eral years and the qual­ity of the cre­ative work is driv­ing the mar­ket in the wrong di­rec­tion.

Egypt’s cre­ative work was the best in MENA 10 years ago. Creatives were

The in­dus­try hands out se­nior ti­tles with­out real merit to creatives and ac­count man­age­ment peo­ple who are QRW TXDOLÀHG or ex­pe­ri­enced enough to de­serve these ti­tles.

pas­sion­ate about what they did and were com­mit­ted to their pro­fes­sion, but now, ev­ery cre­ative wants to be a film di­rec­tor af­ter four to five years. Se­nior ex­pe­ri­enced creatives are very im­por­tant but also very rare. We’re lucky to have some of the most ex­pe­ri­enced creatives on board.

The in­dus­try hands out se­nior ti­tles with­out real merit to creatives and ac­count man­age­ment peo­ple who are not qual­i­fied or ex­pe­ri­enced enough to de­serve these ti­tles. I as­sure we don’t fol­low the same trend.

As a con­se­quence of the lack of ex­pe­ri­enced se­nior peo­ple in the mar­ket, young tal­ents are not get­ting enough or the right kind of coach­ing. Agen­cies must in­vest in their young tal­ents but should not be too hasty to give them se­nior ti­tles be­fore they grow into these roles and men­tor­ship has to be a cri­te­ria to eval­u­a­tion and re­ward.

To cut it short, what’s hap­pen­ing now is a type of slow self-de­struc­tion to the en­tire in­dus­try in Egypt. How can they be over­come?

Go back to the way we used to work. Let’s re­gain our “PAS­SION” to­wards cre­ativ­ity. The way we used to coach, to cre­ate and to pro­duce our work. Clients also have an equal role to play, we should re­ceive bet­ter briefs, that are thor­ough and well writ­ten, with clear un­der­stand­ing and deep think­ing. I am not re­fer­ring to a spe­cific client here. It is a gen­eral ob­ser­va­tion from the mar­ket. Great briefs lead to great cre­ative work if you have the right peo­ple on the agency side. What trends have you no­ticed in the Egyp­tian mar­ket?

I’ve no­ticed that some lo­cal agen­cies have re­sorted to giv­ing their cre­ative work and pro­duc­tion for free in re­turn for the client’s me­dia bud­get. This is a disas­ter for the in­dus­try. The im­pres­sion that the cre­ative prod­uct can be given for free de­creases its value to clients in the long run.

I’m speak­ing as a man who loves this ca­reer and cares a lot about the in­dus­try. It is un­fair for ev­ery­one to give your cre­ative work for free. This ap­proach makes us our worth­less. I am sure they can pack­age it dif­fer­ently. For sure we are work­ing in this field to make money, but we also have an obli­ga­tion to cre­ate ex­cel­lent work that builds our client’s busi­ness and that can’t be per­ceived as free, even if you make your money in other ways.

An­other trend, is the trans­for­ma­tion of the Tv/dig­i­tal land­scape into a “jin­gle jun­gle”. I am not against mu­sic driven work, but I am against cre­at­ing work with clearly no idea or thought sim­ply be­cause the client wants a jin­gle. We are turn­ing our busi­ness of com­mu­ni­ca­tion into mu­sic video pro­duc­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, we are all com­mit­ting this crime. Agen­cies have to keep push­ing back against this trend by sell­ing “Ideas”. This is what we should be get­ting paid to do. We have to keep the brand at the cen­ter of all of our com­mu­ni­ca­tion. We have to ask our­selves can­didly if we are build­ing brands and grow­ing the busi­ness for our clients or we are just cash­ing in money to keep go­ing. What ma­jor chal­lenges does the in­dus­try face?

The big­gest chal­lenge in Egypt is how to trans­form from the TV cen­tric world to the dig­i­tal one. Dig­i­tal and so­cial me­dia are now rul­ing. Egypt is fol­low­ing but at a slower pace be­cause clients go to dig­i­tal to save money or to fol­low the lat­est trend. Un­for­tu­nately, most dig­i­tal agen­cies lack the cre­ative and strate­gic edge, but they have the right at­ti­tude and the cheap of­fer­ing. What does the out­look look like for the year ahead?

It looks like no ma­jor dif­fer­ences in 2018. The same chal­lenges will con­tinue till we start wit­ness­ing im­prove­ment in the eco­nomic state of the coun­try. What are your hopes for the fu­ture?

I hope that all agen­cies in Egypt de­velop their home­grown tal­ents. This will en­rich the mar­ket with new tal­ent and en­ergy and cre­ate healthy competition. It is an in­vest­ment that we have to make to re­vive the cre­ative in­dus­try. I am sure if we all com­mit to do­ing so over the com­ing five years, most of our “cre­ative” tal­ent is­sues will be re­solved.

I also wish that clients take more risks and do projects that are con­cep­tu­ally strong and creatively dis­tin­guished. A tip for any client: if you like an idea and your gut­feel says so, even if you feel it is risky, go ahead with it. Dis­tinc­tive ideas make you feel out of po­si­tion, be­cause your mind is not used to it. Don’t worry, you will reap the fruits at the end.

Fi­nally, I wish that all agen­cies sit on the same ta­ble and start truly col­lab­o­rat­ing on how to im­prove the in­dus­try, how to fix our mar­ket is­sues and de­velop tal­ents, etc.

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