Vice to launch Arabic platform from UAE base within six months

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Youth media brand Vice should launch in the MENA region within three to six months.

Vice founder and CEO Shane Smith visited the UAE last week to “get the ball rolling on Vice’s operations in MENA,” said the company.

This is the first time Smith has been in the region since Vice and Dubai-based media house Moby Group announced a partnership nine months ago.

“We’re meeting clients, we’re meeting government officials, we’re meeting staff, we’re meeting potential staff,” he told Campaign.

Saad Mohseni, CEO of Moby Group, said the launch will be “in the next three months – give or take three months”. The initial launch will be an Arabic website, with a mixture of video and written content in Arabic, subtitled or dubbed. Eventually the site will become 50:50 local and international content.

Vice plans to have 50 staff in place by the end of the year. Some have already been appointed, including Aws Al-Jezairy, a three-and-a-half-year veteran of Vice UK, who has been brought in as managing editor of Vice Arabia.

US-based Vice is widely known for its off-the-wall reporting that has included guides to cross dressing, a reporter being embedded with Islamic State and a first-person account of injecting snake venom to get high. But, Smith said, “The sex, drugs and rock and roll era was my era, [when Vice was primarily a magazine]. Now we have more nominations for sports awards than ESPN this year.” He added: “Vice has grown up exponentially.”

The brand’s programming, all geared towards millennials, includes finance and food offerings. And it has been welcomed by leaders from Abu Dhabi’s TwoFour54 media zone and the National Media Council as it looks for a base. “Everyone we’ve met is incredibly excited,” said Smith. “We’re incredibly excited.”

A pioneer of branded content, Vice will also be “pulling a lot of our current client list with us when we come,” said Smith. “We corporately represent 10 of the 20 biggest advertising budgets in the world. So I think we’ll be in good stead.” Those include Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola and Unilever. WPP is an investor in Vice, and that holding group’s CEO Sir Martin Sorrell is on Vice’s board.

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