CHANGE Mo­ti­vate Me­dia Group’s founder and man­ag­ing part­ner looks back on a tu­mul­tuous 10 years

Ian Fairser­vice

Campaign Middle East - - NEWS -

The past decade has been the most dis­rup­tive pe­riod I can re­call in my 40 years in re­gional me­dia. Oc­to­ber 2008 was only weeks af­ter Lehman Broth­ers had col­lapsed in the US, and although the first rip­ples of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis were spread­ing, the crash had not yet come.

2008 was still a record year for the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try in the Gulf, and par­tic­u­larly for us at Mo­ti­vate. In the last quar­ter we recorded our high­est sales in 30 years.

It was an en­tirely dif­fer­ent story as 2009 dawned. In Jan­uary the dol­lar value of our can­cel­la­tions out­stripped sales. It was time for us all to face up to a new re­al­ity, and it would take four years to get back to the level of our 2008 busi­ness.

But when we launched Mid­dle East, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try was still push­ing for­ward. New agen­cies were launch­ing, while in­ter­na­tion­als were ex­pand­ing into the re­gion through af­fil­i­a­tions and part­ner­ships.

Re­gional agen­cies had be­gun to earn recog­ni­tion at in­ter­na­tional shows such as the Cannes Lions, and in 2007 we cre­ated Dubai Lynx for the re­gion and are proud to have part­nered with Lions Fes­ti­vals and the IAA-UAE, cham­pi­oning world-class com­pe­ti­tion and tal­ent in recog­ni­tion of the re­nais­sance of Arab cre­ativ­ity. The fes­ti­val and awards have grown in stature and ma­tu­rity in the decade since.

As the world of mar­ket­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and ad­ver­tis­ing was de­vel­op­ing at such a rapid pace, we saw the need for an in­de­pen­dent, in­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­form that could match its qual­ity.

Cam­paign Mid­dle East was des­tined to march in lock­step with the in­dus­try as a cu­ra­tor of creative ex­cel­lence, an or­gan of record and a firm friend along the way. It gained a foot­ing as the con­science of the in­dus­try and the voice with which Mid­dle East ad­ver­tis­ing spoke.

As we look back and cel­e­brate the past decade, I’m re­minded of some of the things that make us proud. Our part­ner­ship with UK pub­lisher Hay­mar­ket has given my good friend Michael He­sel­tine’s com­pany an en­vi­able pres­ence in this re­gion, while we have been able to share in and am­plify the suc­cess of world-lead­ing ti­tles, in­clud­ing Cam­paign.

Next year Mo­ti­vate will cel­e­brate 40 years since the launch of What’s On, our first ti­tle and the UAE’s first English-lan­guage mag­a­zine. The cel­e­bra­tions come at a time when the me­dia in­dus­try is see­ing diver­si­fi­ca­tion, frag­men­ta­tion and in­no­va­tion com­pletely shake up the ways we have pro­duced and con­sumed me­dia for decades.

At Mo­ti­vate and among our in­dus­try peers, this up­heaval sees us grow­ing new busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, and fos­ter­ing new part­ner­ships and strate­gic al­liances. Mo­ti­vate was best known as a pub­lisher of high-qual­ity books and mag­a­zines. Now we own a series of mar­ket-lead­ing web­sites; our con­tent di­vi­sion, Mo­ti­vate Con­nect, is grow­ing and our part­ner­ship with in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing agency Vamp is ex­pand­ing the brand even fur­ther. Events are an­other string to our bow our brands be­come much wider part­ners to our clients and con­sumers than ever be­fore.

We have re­cently formed a joint ven­ture with Zakti, global spe­cial­ists in the de­sign and pro­duc­tion of ex­hi­bi­tion pavil­ions. That part­ner­ship will stand us in good stead as Dubai’s am­bi­tious plans for host­ing Expo2020 con­tinue apace.

Our most re­cent part­ner­ship is with Lor­ton Films, with whom we have em­barked on pro­duc­tion of our first fea­ture film, based on the life of UAE founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sul­tan al Nahyan. The film is due for the­atri­cal re­lease in 2019. Also in 2019 we will ex­pand our long-run­ning part­ner­ship with Emi­rates to pro­duce two In­for­ma­tion, Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, En­ter­tain­ment (ICE) TV chan­nels ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in Dubai and the UAE.

Our cinema ad­ver­tis­ing arm, Mo­ti­vate Val Mor­gan, man­aged 44 screens 10 years ago. Now it has 488 and no plans to slow down. Ex­ist­ing GCC mar­kets will con­tinue to ex­pand, and the wel­come ad­vent of cinema in Saudi Ara­bia will see 2,500 screens open­ing in the king­dom by 2030.

There is plenty of dis­rup­tion in the mar­ket but it can­not come purely at a cost to print me­dia, and our ti­tles still lead the mar­ket. We have in­tro­duced and stood by print au­dit­ing while most pub­lish­ers de­serted trans­par­ent fig­ures in favour of in­flated and fic­ti­tious cir­cu­la­tion num­bers.

Con­tent is king, the cream of the in­dus­try rises to the top and we would not be mar­ket lead­ers with­out fan­tas­tic con­tent – across print, dig­i­tal, events, video and more. The ris­ing tide of new tech­nol­ogy lets us de­liver all our con­tent in a hy­per-tar­geted fash­ion, mean­ing ad­ver­tis­ers can get the best ROI they have ever seen.

But qual­ity con­tent and au­di­ence de­liv­ery do not come cheap. In­no­va­tion re­quires in­vest­ment on the part of me­dia own­ers, agen­cies and clients alike. Change comes hand-in-hand with risk, and we must not be afraid to em­brace both. We will make mis­takes, some­times costly ones. And we must be brave enough to ad­mit this, learn from our ex­pe­ri­ences and grow stronger. To cut costs and play it safe will only be a los­ing strat­egy in the long-run.

Agi­tat­ing for change is part of the Mo­ti­vate story. It is also the story of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try, one of the most thriv­ing and ex­cit­ing busi­nesses in the world. Cam­paign Mid­dle East has been telling this story and will con­tinue to chron­i­cle it for many years to come.

We would not be mar­ket lead­ers with­out fan­tas­tic con­tent

Cam­paign Ian Fairser­vice with HE Noura Al Kaabi, Min­is­ter of Cul­ture, at a meet­ing to dis­cuss Mo­ti­vate’s forth­com­ing biopic of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sul­tan Al Nahyan

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