MENA Advertising Network of the Year 2015: Impact BBDO

With strong growth in a challenging market and a host of international and regional awards, Impact BBDO proved that ‘the work, the work, the work’ does matter

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 The winner of Advertising Network of the Year was far more clear cut than Advertising Agency of the Year. Impact BBDO had a hugely successful 12 months, easily beating all others in terms of growth and new business, and topping it all off with an impressive 193 global and regional awards.

In his end-of-year communiqué to staff, Dani Richa, chairman and chief executive of Impact BBDO Group MENA, Pakistan and Africa stated that at a time when more and more multinational clients are centralising their work globally, it is crucial to win more business locally and to strike a balancing act between local and global clients. This Impact BBDO achieved with bells on. The network added 57 new clients and achieved 33 per cent growth in billings. No small feat in such a challenging climate. Among its new clients were Dubai Tourism, Tecom, Dubizzle in Egypt, Etisalat Misr, HTC in Saudi Arabia and Saradar Bank in Lebanon.

New business added a total of $73 million in billings in 2015, while the importance of Dubai as a strategic hub increased further. It became the head- quarters for all African markets as well as the Middle East and Pakistan region. The agency also implemented its ‘centre of excellence’ hub model for Visa, utilising network centres of excellence to deliver campaigns across the wider CEMEA region. In doing so, it created stronger work and geographic efficiencies. The network also expanded and innovated its offering, adding new services covering data mining, social media listening and content develop- ment, design and curation.

In terms of awards, it was one of the most recognised regional agencies of the past 12 months, winning 44 more pieces of metal than the previous year. With 193 awards in total, the network’s performance was what Richa described as a “testament to our absolute focus on ‘the work, the work, the work’”.

Alongside Leo Burnet Beirut, Impact BBDO Dubai also became the first Middle East agency to win a glass Lion at Cannes, thanks to its promotion of gender equality in Egypt via UN Women’s ‘Give mom back her name’. The network also picked up a gold and two silvers via Impact & Echo BBDO in Kuwait; the first ever wins for 3SG-BBDO in Tunis (gold, silver and bronze); and BBDO’s first ever health gold. At the Dubai Lynx it landed eight golds in total, while it walked away with the grand prix at the MENA Effies thanks to its work with OMD Egypt on the Sting launch campaign for PepsiCo.

All of the above, combined with the network’s service evolution strategy, led to a growth in headcount of 12 per cent in 2015. Kuwait’s Impact & Echo in particular implemented a restructuring initiative, with the agency opting for heavier investment and localisation in the planning department. This led to an increase of 75 per cent in Kuwaiti planners versus last year. In Saudi Arabia the network also invested in greater cultural diversity within the creative department, with the inclusion of new South American talent.

The network as a whole, however, sought to raise the skill level of every agency office. Its integrated talent pool became deeper and stronger, while it committed to nurturing an ‘unbeatable’ creative culture geared towards delivering BBDO’s mantra of ‘the work, the work, the work’ across all clients, offices and disciplines.

RUNNERS UP

 J. Walter Thompson

Despite turmoil in the network’s Dubai office (see page 16), it was a suc- cessful year for J. Walter Thompson, landing 70 new pieces of business across the network and creating some of the region’s greatest work. As well as the campaigns by J. Walter Thompson Cairo mentioned on page 7, the network also produced grand prix-winning campaigns and diversi- fied its offerings substantially.

It was, in essence, a year filled with firsts. Cairo scored a first ever for Egypt with a titanium Lion at Cannes; Riyadh landed the first ever grand prix for Saudi Arabia at the Dubai Lynx; Amman scored Jordan’s first ever Lynx gold for its retro execution of the

Toyota Corolla; and the Cairo office led the Egypt Economic Development Conference, a first-of-its-kind land- mark event for Egypt.

It was the network’s strategic business initiatives and innovation, however, that made it stand out. Its list of initia- tives is impressive, including NewsLab, a fully integrated content production offering routed in social listening. It also rolled out Shopaholic, a strategic shopper marketing offering that aims to develop shoppers into brand addicts; JWT Innovation Group, an in-house creative think-tank; and Analytics Division, which experiments with the application of data and technology. The network also established a division for government practice work in Iraq and in November acquired Cleartag, a lead- ing regional digital agency based in Lebanon. Meanwhile, J. Walter Thompson Intelligence MENA also took a first ever look at the untapped regional consumer aged over 50 in its report Generation BOLD.

The network flourished across all its geographies, creating bold work in new categories such as entertainment, con- ference and event management, and air transport and operations. It grew geo- graphically by setting up a satellite office in Ramallah and winning its first business assignment to promote reli- gious tourism in Bethlehem. Overall, a great year for J. Walter Thompson and one that saw offices come together suc- cessfully as one.

FP7

By most measures, FP7 had a good year. It was named the most effective network of the year at the MENA Effies, saw billings grow by 8 per cent, and created notable work. As with FP7/ DXB, its biggest strength lay in its commitment to agency culture and its focus on work that matters. Although, its list of new business wins was far below the other two networks, while its strategic business initiatives and innovation were also overshadowed by those of Impact BBDO and J. Walter Thompson. Nevertheless, a good year for FP7 and one recognised substantially by regional and global awards.

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