ABDULWAHED JUMA, head of brand at Du, on hav­ing faith in agency part­ners.

As the UAE telco picks up Dubai Lynx’s Ad­vertiser of the Year ti­tle, brand and com­mu­ni­ca­tions chief Abdulwahed Juma tells Austyn Al­li­son that cre­ativ­ity needs to get more ag­ile, while stay­ing hu­man

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“From time to time you have to stretch the bound­aries and let your creative agency prac­tise their cre­ativ­ity.”

UAE telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions provider Du was this year’s Dubai Lynx Ad­vertiser of the Year. While CEO Os­man Sul­tan went on stage to pick up the prize, it is ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of brand & cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions Abdulwahed Juma who runs the mar­ket­ing side of the busi­ness.

He took on the role just un­der a year ago, hav­ing served as chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer of Abu Dhabi Me­dia since 2014, but it has al­ready been an in­ter­est­ing run. Two months into the job, Du had to pull an ad for its Du Tues­days cin­ema pro­mo­tion. Since then, it has shifted its me­dia buy­ing from Star­com to new Om­ni­com shop Hearts & Science, and its creative brief – which has been held by Leo Bur­nett for the 12 years since Du launched – is cur­rently out for pitch. An an­nounce­ment is due within the next month.

Awards such as the Dubai Lynx re­flect well on all in­volved, says Juma. “The award is not only for the agen­cies; the award is for the com­bined work be­tween the team on board and the agen­cies,” he says. “Of course, it em­pha­sises that there is syn­chro­ni­sa­tion be­tween the two. There is an un­der­stand­ing.”

He adds: “We can­not deny that Leo has been with us since in­cep­tion. For a creative agency to be with you for the past 12 years, that means a lot. They are part of the team, they un­der­stand you.”

Awards are a way to take the pulse of your work, he says: “The phi­los­o­phy of awards for me is they are just a check­point. You don’t work for awards, you don’t cre­ate your cam­paign for awards. You cre­ate your cam­paign on dif­fer­ent plat­forms, for dif­fer­ent mes­sages. If those mes­sages are de­liv­ered, they cre­ate an im­pact, they change be­hav­iour, then by de­fault they will win some awards.”

The part­ner­ship be­tween agen­cies and clients is based around the agency un­der­stand­ing what the client stands for, says Juma. And Du is clear on its po­si­tion­ing.

“We are a chal­lenger brand, we are much younger in the mar­ket [than the UAE’s other telco, Eti­salat],” says Juma. “We are dy­namic and we are youth­ful and we are fast. We want to po­si­tion our­selves as a re­li­able, fast, dy­namic, friendly brand. Once you have those cri­te­ria, the pil­lars of your brand char­ac­ter, then you take them to all of your creative work. That’s where the agency has to chal­lenge you some­times, and come up with some­thing out of the box. But that out-of-the-box should fit those main cri­te­ria.”

Al­though he won’t be drawn on how the creative pitch is go­ing, other than to say it is “very close,” Juma says that no mat­ter who wins he’d like them to help speed up the creative process. “It’s a common re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he says. “But we are a bit slow some­times in time-to-mar­ket. Some mind­sets would say don’t go to mar­ket un­less you are per­fectly there, but that is against any mar­ket dy­nam­ics. You have to go to mar­ket as quickly as pos­si­ble and then fix the wheel while you are driv­ing it. I would love to see – from both the new agen­cies and our team – quicker go-to-mar­ket tac­tics when it comes to cam­paigns.”

Leo Bur­nett is still in the run­ning to re­tain the ac­count. “Sur­pris­ingly, Leo who pitched was a younger, more dy­namic and more ac­tive Leo than we see ev­ery day. I think it is about flex­i­bil­ity,” he says. How­ever, he is quick to clar­ify that this isn’t a dig at the in­cum­bent, as much as a recog­ni­tion that agen­cies need room to breathe: “How­ever much the brands are rigid, you hin­der pro­duc­tiv­ity of the agency.

“We are dy­namic and we are youth­ful and we are fast. We want to po­si­tion our­selves as a re­li­able, fast, dy­namic, friendly brand. Once you have those cri­te­ria, the pil­lars of your brand char­ac­ter, then you take them to all of your creative work. That’s where the agency has to chal­lenge you some­times, and come up with some­thing out of the box. But that out-ofthe-box should fit those main cri­te­ria.”

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