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Five Minutes With… Reda Raad, COO TBWA\RAAD

Five Minutes With… Reda Raad, COO TBWA\RAAD

The regional advertising industry still needs to mature, says Reda Raad.

What is your company focusing on this year?

2013 is all about business growth, staff retention and a focus on quality. We are firm believers in the service-profit chain. To deliver quality added value and growth to our clients, we need employees who are satisfied, loyal and productive. To achieve this we need to look after our team and create a culture of belonging to something bigger and greater than the individual. When you walk into our office, you will see a mini-basketball court, giant beanbags, Create Lab and an indoor garden. This may not seem like a business environment to some people, but for us, creating a culture is all part of making a serious top line.

Will you be launching any new services?

2013-2014 is going to be a very busy and exciting time for our communications group as a whole. We will be focused on expanding and developing DAN, our digital agency, and Integer, our shopper marketing service. Under the TBWA\RAAD group, DAN creates, develops and implements all our digital offerings. Thankfully, DAN has witnessed phenomenal success since we founded it in 2011.

Moving forward, we want to encourage digital industry growth in the region through activities like our Digital LAB at this year’s Dubai Lynx Festival of Creativity. Shopper marketing in the Middle East has some distance to go to catch up to global best practice. This is mainly because its importance is not fully understood in the region yet, but we have a very focused group of experts in place who will be working towards closing this gap.

Are you planning to expand into new territory?

Yes, we announced a formal affiliation with one of Tunisia’s leading communication agencies, Point Carré earlier this year. Now operating under the name TBWA\POINTCARRE, Point Carré is the 15th agency to join our network. North Africa is a key growth market for us, with strong existing agencies in both Morocco and Algeria.

In 2014, we will expand both DAN and Ketchum across the MENA region.

Will you be hiring this year?

Definitely, we are always on the lookout for talent. If we want to expand, we need to invest.

What are the main challenges faced by the regional advertising industry?

We’re achieving impressive growth in this region, but the main challenge is that we’ve not yet matured. Maturity is achieved when industry players have a long-term vision rather than a limited commercial agenda. Sadly, this wider perspective is still lacking.

Some of the inhibitors to growth have been low literacy rates across the region, a tribal mindset where competition was based on knocking the other players rather than on the quality of your own product or service and a sense of conservatism towards new practices. Billings growth may have picked up in recent years, but we have still not put these factors behind us. Stronger revenue streams are welcome, but there is no guarantee they will assure the development of a mature industry wedded to world best practice.

How can they be addressed?

Happily, many people are striving for a new beginning in which narrow self-interest is replaced by a wider vision. The first step is constructive dialogue – this applies to our industry as well as other spheres.

We are at a unique moment in time. Our business is more complex, interesting and more sophisticated than ever before. Growing momentum over 50 years or more has brought the MENA industry to a crossroads and huge opportunities beckon.

Competition, agency versus agency, will intensify. This is to be expected. But some gains can be better realised at a faster pace if we collaborate in areas such as professional standards and governance.

It won’t be easy. But it’s the grown-up thing to do and we should at least make the attempt.

What are the growth areas currently for your industry?

From a UAE perspective, the economy is rebounding, both our ad and non-ad revenue is on the increase and our industry is going through regional expansion in many areas.

What’s your leadership style?

I’m approachable and open to new ideas. I lead a team; I don’t lead a set of underlings. I don’t like rigid structures and bureaucracy. I stay down to earth and try to keep things simple. I am passionate about what I do and love the challenge of tackling something new. I approach challenges with a lot of energy and try to think outside the box. Creativity is central to everything I do and the agency does. My job is to communicate that passion, energy and commitment to creative solution-finding to the rest of the team. To me, leading by example and leading from the front make more sense than leading from on high.

Three tips to becoming the boss:

Work hard. Set goals that stretch you and make you grow. Doing just enough to get the job done is not good enough. Look for ways to add value. Show loyalty; that means loyalty to those in senior positions, to colleagues and to subordinates.

Bring passion to your work. Putting ticks in the right boxes is not sufficient. Put your heart and soul into what you do.

What makes the perfect employee?

A good employee works hard, shows loyalty and is passionate about the job. Those qualities are the price of entry. In addition, a really valued employee shows initiative, takes responsibility, contributes new ideas and helps build team spirit. Going the distance is fine; going the extra mile is better.

Define success in five words:

Simultaneously achieving goals and happiness

READ MORE: MENA Ad Industry At A Crossroads

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