Nomad’s Dubai: ‘A people first’ approach to creativity

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After operating beneath the radar for a couple of years, Nomads is back in the limelight and seeking to grow its Middle East operation

Sometimes you hear nothing about an agency for years, and then all of a sudden it’s everywhere. Such is the story of independent agency network Nomads.

Just over two years ago it was busy building its new Dubai operation. It was in the news, it was talked about, it was active. Then nothing. In terms of visibility, it disappeared.

Two things changed that. First was the agency’s loss of the global Emirates account in August last year to an interdisciplinary WPP team made up of Grey’s London and New York offices, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, Geometry Global, Hogarth and TNS. Second was its subsequent appointment as lead strategic brand agency for flydubai and its winning of lead agency status for Dubai Holding. Both pushed Nomads back into the spotlight.

The Emirates loss, however, was most probably painful. The agency had set up its Dubai operation in 2013 specifically to service the account following the dissolution of the relationship between Scott Goodson and Hans Howarth, both colleagues at StrawberryFrog Amsterdam. Out of that dissolution had emerged Nomads, an agency that was formed by the management of StrawberryFrog Amsterdam and MediaCatalyst and counted Emirates as one of its founding clients.

Yet following the loss, Nomads has been busy re-asserting its Dubai credentials, winning clients and hiring new staff, including Richard Hol, who moved from J.Walter Thompson Dubai to be the agency’s executive creative director. Moving with him was senior copywriter Adam Fierman. Hans Howarth, the agency’s founder and chief executive, has also been hands on.

Whether the agency had become complacent or had made previously bad hiring decisions in the run-up to the loss of Emirates is debatable. But Nomads has the challenge of cementing its position in what is a competitive marketplace passing through a period of uncertainty.

“Nothing has actually changed,” says Howarth. “If anything we feel a lot more confident and ready to spread our wings. Our desire to establish ourselves in the region has always been of utmost importance and now that we’ve successfully completed our mission with Emirates we felt the time was right to seek out the next wave of opportunities. We took our time to look for brands to engage with who share the Nomads vision [and] we’ve been very lucky and successful in finding several inspired companies with like-minded leaders allowing us to continue our growth in the region.”

Nomads describes itself as a global agency with a footprint in key locations around the world. In such a set-up, Dubai is the base that allows the agency to build around its clients’ needs in the region, with Nomads seeking to ensure its long-term presence in the Middle East.

“There will always be one global Nomads team no matter which office location,” he says. “We’re constantly experimenting with new models and ways of working as we evolve with our clients’ needs. That’s what Nomads is about – applying our ‘borderless thinking’ methods and connecting the best talent in a seamless structure around the world to deliver the best work possible.

“We will continue to seek out those unique clients that inspire us with the potential to have a positive impact on the world whilst bringing on board the best talent in order for us to maintain the highest standards of work. We are, however, very focused on maintaining small enough teams in each location in order to stay focused on the highest standards, being responsive and flexible to our clients, scaling into other offices and our carefully selected Nomads network members when needed.”

Importantly, the agency’s head of strategy, Alex Paquin, says a ‘people first’ approach to creativity is being championed by the agency. It is via this that Nomads insists it can differentiate itself.

“We’re seeing a global shift in the way brands create value for people, and the type of relationship their customers want to have with them,” says Paquin. “More than ever consumers have a moral interest in the larger narrative behind the products and services they’re buying, and the people and places impacted by their choices.

“End-product quality has become commoditised. What will differentiate brands in the future is the role they play in the world, and people’s willingness to participate in that narrative. If brands expect to inspire loyalty in tomorrow’s world, they’ll have to recognise that people are identifying with not only their products, but rather their entire supply chain must reflect the values of their customers.

“Nomads believes that creativity with a ‘people first’ approach is the key to leading this transformation for brands, and that truly valuable agency partners must offer business solutions beyond communications and advertising. Beyond our progressive approach to solving business challenges, we truly believe that we can offer a better tier of talent than other agencies. One of the most concerning themes in the industry has been the continued ‘brain drain’ – the top creative and strategic talent leaving the industry for more progressive businesses and tech start-ups.

“In rethinking the way agency partners can create value for clients, we feel we’ve also created a viable alternative for that talent. Top brands recognise this business imperative

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