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The economic boom, new technologies and the maturing of the market are all contributing to new challenges for advertising companies in the region. International media houses such as Mindshare offer global standards of professionalism, but delivering the same is not as easy as it may seem. High expectations from clients and cut-throat competition in the market creates conditions that call for new strategies by advertising companies. Elie Haber, Managing Director of Mindshare UAE, talks to Emirates Business about the challenges ahead for advertisers in the region.
The UAE’s economy has grown by leaps and bounds. Has this been a boon to the advertising industry and created new opportunities?
The UAE’s economic boom has certainly complemented the industry. As economic growth has multiplied, so has the need to advertise and communicate with the target audience. More products, more brands and many platforms in the market have all contributed to the growth of the industry.
And what challenges has this rapid growth brought about?
Everything has two sides to it, and the increase in demand has lead to a large influx of small- and medium-scale advertising firms that are not exactly up to the standards of the market. Yes, in the long run, only the best will survive. And sooner or later a balance will be achieved with large advertising companies handling big brands and corporate portfolios and smaller firms seeking niche work.
Does the cynical approach of people who keep saying that the “bubble is going to burst”, create any apprehensions for media houses that have decided to invest for future growth in the region?
We have been hearing this for the past five years and in fact, I personally feel that I have missed out on the opportunity to cash in on one of the fast-growing economies in the region. I wish I had not listened to such cynics and made some wise investments.
On a serious note, we are confident about the economic growth of the region and certain that our investment in the region will be purposeful. In the past nine years that we have established Mindshare here in the UAE, our portfolio has been expanding and Mindshare’s presence in the region is part of its strategy of international expansion.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said what the country has seen as economic growth is only five per cent of his vision, so you can imagine what is yet to come in the future. The industry has faith in his vision, as an individual I have full faith in his capabilities and I believe, what we are now seeing as economic development in the region is only the tip of an iceberg.
What would you define as the biggest challenge for the industry?
Today, the biggest challenge for any establishment, especially for the advertising industry is the ability to retain staff, I mean quality staff.
The Indian economic boom is luring the best creative minds from the advertising industry in the region. To begin with it is a challenge to uproot them from the comforts of their home country and work here.
The salary packages that are available to them are astonishing and once you convince them to come here, it is an even bigger challenge to retain them. Creative minds get burnt out fast and feel suffocated after they start working for quantity over quality. Clients push for deadlines and delivering them on time takes more prominence than creativity.
For an industry that depends on people, this is surely the biggest challenge. Thankfully, clients are also realising this challenge and are open to added financial investments that call for creative teams of international standards. The industry as a whole has realised that it is no more a matter of number crunching, but delivering quality with creativity.
Are you taking steps to retain quality manpower?
The problem affects the entire industry and collectively we are all concerned about it. At Mindshare, we are attempting to make a pool of creative minds and grooming them as our investment for the future.
Two other areas that we are investing in are technology and globalisation. To address the role of media moving online, we have launched Mindshare Interaction. This new segment of Mindshare will help us to move on to the digital and mobile mediums of communication. Mindshare is investing in digital, virtual, mobile and personal segments of communication to move into the next phase of advertising.
Is there any calculated division in attention to these segments?
No. They are all equally important to us and all the segments share the same concern.
Dubai has emerged as a brand. As an advertiser, what do you think has contributed to Dubai’s image as a brand?
Dubai in the recent past has emerged as the hottest and most sought-after brand in the region. Emirates has contributed the most to positioning Dubai as an international brand.
Emirates carried the brand message of Dubai to far corners of the world. Of course, the airline itself has gained from promoting Dubai, which makes it a win-win situation for both sides.
What is the brand value of Dubai today?
Dubai, over the years has undergone a massive change in brand value. In the past it was simply known as a “trader’s paradise” fit for trading business. This was the reason why the authorities initially invested in Jebel Ali and other ports in the emirate and developed them as trade free zones.
But now, Dubai is emerging as the “Monte Carlo” of the region with tourism and business fast replacing trade as the major source of income for the country.
What does Dubai offer to an advertising professional?
Dubai extends a platform to every aspiring professional to start his or her business. This is the biggest advantage of Dubai. Apart from the fact Dubai is growing into a world-class metropolis, it remains very conducive to anyone’s ambition of starting up their own business and that remains true for an advertising professional too.
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