COVER STORY

Publi­cis Groupe Mid­dle East’s first ever chair­man, Raja Trad, talks in­te­gra­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tion and agency un­der­cut­ting

ArabAd - - CONTENTS -

“Tough? Yes it’s tough. When you talk about a drop in ad­ver­tis­ing ex­pen­di­ture of 45 per cent in four years, it means it’s tough,” says Raja Trad, the chair­man of Publi­cis Groupe Mid­dle East. “But let me be very hon­est. If we lose op­ti­mism, it’s go­ing to be detri­men­tal to us all.” Trad is sit­ting qui­etly in the Dubai Me­dia City of­fice he has called home for years and, on the sur­face at least, noth­ing ap­pears to have changed. He is still well dressed and ami­able, still suc­cinct and to the point, and still si­mul­ta­ne­ously pos­i­tive and re­al­is­tic. But of course ev­ery­thing has changed, not least his job. “It used to be sim­pler,” he says with a smile.

In­dus­try-wide trans­for­ma­tion and

...THERE ARE SOME AGEN­CIES THAT ARE WILL­ING TO GO AND TAKE THE BUSI­NESS AT BREAK EVEN OR AT A LOSS, WHICH I DON’T UN­DER­STAND. I’M A BUSI­NESS­MAN AND, FOR ME, IF THE CLIENT IS EX­PECT­ING ME TO LOSE MONEY OR BREAK EVEN, I DO NOT WANT THE BUSI­NESS.

re­gional eco­nomic un­cer­tainty have meant the Dubai-head­quar­tered ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try has strug­gled in re­cent years, not only in terms of growth, but in terms of rel­e­vance. Com­pound­ing these con­di­tions has been a ten­dency for some agen­cies to un­der­cut their com­peti­tors, thereby killing the in­dus­try, says Trad, and un­der­min­ing the value of com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

“We need to be re­spect­ful to our­selves first of all,” says Trad. “In so many cases we know for a fact that we came num­ber one in the tech­ni­cal [as­pect of a pitch], only to dis­cover later that we lost the busi­ness. Why? Be­cause of the fi­nan­cials? Why? Be­cause there are some agen­cies that are will­ing to go and take the busi­ness at break even or at a loss, which I don’t un­der­stand. I’m a busi­ness­man and, for me, if the client is ex­pect­ing me to lose money or break even, I do not want the busi­ness. “It’s my right to make money. If I want to make 5 per cent, or 10 per cent or 15 per cent; it’s okay; this is a free mar­ket. But we will be killing the in­dus­try if we go and buy our busi­ness. Buy­ing busi­ness will not make you able to re­tain the most im­por­tant thing in our in­dus­try – peo­ple. If you want to at­tract good tal­ent, if you want to re­tain the tal­ent that makes a dif­fer­ence to your clients’ busi­nesses, you need to recog­nise their per­for­mance. And to recog­nise their per­for­mance you need to make some money. So to break even or to lose money… it doesn’t make any sense.” Is it a big is­sue?

“It is an is­sue. And be­cause the mar­kets are get­ting tougher some agen­cies are will­ing to lose money, but don’t ask me how they com­pen­sate for it. I need to make peo­ple feel that there is hope for the fu­ture. That I can in­crease their salaries, that I can give them bonuses, that I can ap­pre­ci­ate what they are do­ing. But if I go and set­tle for losses that’s not pos­si­ble. Maybe they are ma­gi­cians. I’m not a ma­gi­cian. I’m a prac­ti­cal busi­ness­man.”

For­merly chief ex­ec­u­tive of Publi­cis Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Mid­dle East, Trad was ap­pointed to his new role as chair­man in June last year and now sits at the top of Publi­cis Groupe’s re­gional em­pire. That means over­see­ing Publi­cis Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Publi­cis Me­dia and Publi­cis Sapi­ent, with the com­mu­ni­ca­tions hub alone in­clud­ing Leo Bur­nett, Saatchi & Saatchi and Publi­cis Mid­dle East. All three agen­cies now re­side in the same build­ing in Dubai Me­dia City.

When he first took on the role of chair­man Trad was tasked with driv­ing greater in­te­gra­tion across the group’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties, with the aim of trans­form­ing Publi­cis Groupe’s re­la­tion­ship with its clients, cul­ti­vat­ing and at­tract­ing the best tal­ent, and im­prov­ing its re­sources man­age­ment across dis­ci­plines and so­lu­tions. This has not only meant more work and more re­spon­si­bil­ity for Trad, but con­sid­er­able change in terms of how the group op­er­ates.

Like all other groups it has un­der­gone con­sid­er­able trans­for­ma­tion, bring­ing in new skill sets and new pri­or­i­ties and fre­quently go­ing to mar­ket with a unified, group-wide of­fer­ing. For the Mcdon­ald’s ac­count, for ex­am­ple, it has cre­ated one team that is drawn from all dis­ci­plines. Sim­i­larly, the be­spoke agency Publi­cis Emil has been cre­ated for Mercedes-benz glob­ally.

How far will this in­te­gra­tion go? Could Leo Bur­nett be merged with Saatchi & Saatchi, for ex­am­ple, just as WPP’S J.wal­ter Thompson has been merged with Wun­der­man? “No, we will re­spect all the brands that we have,” replies Trad. “There is a place for Saatchi & Saatchi, there is a place for Leo Bur­nett… and there’s no rea­son why we will not pro­tect and even en­hance what we have in our dif­fer­ent of­fer­ings.”

“This year will be a con­tin­u­a­tion of what we have al­ready started,” adds Trad. “Where we will bring all the of­fer­ings and all the brands that are work­ing un­der Publi­cis Groupe closer to­gether so that we can give our clients a com­pet­i­tive edge that they do not see with other groups. Hon­estly, this is my pri­or­ity. Seam­less col­lab­o­ra­tion.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bahrain

© PressReader. All rights reserved.