Advertising Agency of the Year 2013 – Memac Ogilvy Dubai

Remarkably, Memac Ogilvy Dubai and sister agency OgilvyAction managed to improve on last year’s performance, bringing them global acclaim and substantial new business

If it was difficult determining Advertising Network of the Year, imagine how hard it was to pinpoint a single agency office that had shone brightly during the course of the past 12 months.

At least five networks did well – JWT, Leo Burnett, Impact BBDO, FP7 and Memac Ogilvy. However, when you narrow your vision to individual agencies, it gets tough. For example, JWT Cairo in theory should have been in with a shot thanks to its all-conquering ‘Fakka’ work for Vodafone and the quality of some of its earlier campaigns this year. Yet its new business record is poor, with only three new account wins. The situation is similar for pretty much all other agencies, including Y&R Dubai.

The one agency that bucks the trend is Memac Ogilvy Dubai. Hence it is our Advertising Agency of the Year. Remarkably, the office managed to produce a performance even better than last year, when the Dubai operation made it into the Ogilvy cadre (Ogilvy’s top 15 creative agencies around the world) for the first time ever. Then – when Memac Ogilvy was named Campaign’s Advertising Network of the Year thanks in part to the unstoppable performance of Memac Ogilvy Label – Memac Ogilvy Dubai was placed 15th in the cadre. In 2013 it has risen to 11th thanks to a year that has seen the agency haul in a substantial number of awards.

Perhaps more importantly, OgilvyAction, which had such an impressive 2012 that the Dubai operation became the most celebrated OgilvyAction office in the world, has repeated the feat, achieving the number one spot for the second year running. In short, it is the best performing OgilvyAction office of all time. It has achieved this via 67 awards in 2013, including wins at all the five majors  – Cannes, D&AD, One Show, the Clios, and the London International Awards.

Indeed, Memac became the first agency in the UAE to win a grand prix at the London International Awards (LIA), winning the radio grand LIA and scooping four gold and two silver awards for its ‘Rescue Radio’ work for charity Sawa Mninjah, which supports abused domestic workers. “We gave the grand to the one that saved lives,” said Chris Smith, radio jury president and brand creative group head at The Richards Group. “It’s been proven that they saved several dozen women who were in these situations who called and they rescued them. It was so brave on so many levels.”

One of its greatest accolades, however, was achieving gold alongside JWT Cairo at the APG Creative Strategy Awards in October. As Craig Mawdsley, chair of the Account Planning Group and joint chief strategy officer at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, said: “We have become distracted by charity and public-sector planning. Many of the presentations we saw suggested that planners are searching for meaning outside of the day job. Creativity is reserved for the side project for a charity or government department. Are we bored by business? Have we lost our appetite for the challenges of proving commercial worth and opted instead for easier wins? We need to find meaning and inspiration in commerce – the gold-winning cases for Banco Popular in Puerto Rico, Sprite Cricket Stars in the UAE (Memac Ogilvy), Polident in Malaysia and Vodafone in Egypt (JWT Cairo) show how.”

Yet awards were only one component of Memac’s successful year. It won a total of 25 new accounts, including Al Jazeera, GSK, Rani Refreshments, Audi, BP Castrol, Goody and American Express, leading to substantial growth, although it did lose two pieces of business – Samsung and Cisco.

Importantly, it also created some of the most memorable advertising of the year, most notably the UN Women work (see page 26) that went on to become Facebook’s most shared campaign of the year. “People wanted to know and talk about a piece of communication, and a print ad for that matter,” said Ramzi Moutran, creative director at Memac Ogilvy, of the UN Women executions. “Adweek called it the most shared ad of the year. Its been in Time, the Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Times of India, The Huffington Post three times and on CNN and Fox. It’s no longer a campaign. It’s a phenomenon. That is viral. That is the power of a good idea that strikes a nerve. An idea people not only want to share, but want to talk about. That’s the power of creativity.”

Let’s see how the two sister agencies get on next year.

Recent winners: Leo Burnett Beirut (2012)


FP7 Dubai
FP7 has spent most of the past four years fighting its own demons. But 2013 is the year it began to come out on top. Much of this is due to the leadership of CEO Tarek Miknas and managing director Sasan Saeidi, both of whom live and breathe the rejuvenated brand on a minute-by-minute basis. They have been ably assisted by executive creative director Paul Banham.

In April the agency underwent a major rebrand as part of a move to further cement its ties with McCann Worldgroup and alter its image. All of the network’s offices now use the FP7 name, with Fortune Promoseven consigned to the past, while the additional qualifier ‘Part of McCann WorldGroup’ was added for the first time. The agency also unveiled a new slogan, ‘Truth & Dare’, which it says was chosen to represent the new FP7, with truth defining “who we are” and the dare defining “who we want to be”.

It appears to have been successful. FP7/DXB was named Agency of the Year at the Effies last month on the back of work for clients such as Coca-Cola, Emirates NBD and Sky News Arabia, whilst it picked up  eight Dubai Lynx awards, including a gold for Sony’s ‘Say it like Bond’. Other awards were forthcoming, as were a sizeable chunk of new business wins. Chief amongst these was Harvey Nichols, which it poached from Y&R Dubai, Daman and Majid Al Futtaim Group. If it continues along this track, FP7 could rise completely from its slumber.

Y&R Dubai
To not include Y&R Dubai in the top three would probably be criminal. It did, after all, put in a dominating performance at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, winning four golds and 14 Lions in total. In the process it became the most awarded regional agency in Cannes history.

It also became the first agency to win three gold Lions in the same evening – a feat that surprised even the agency itself – and won a whole host of awards at the Dubai Lynx, the New York Festivals, the Clios, One Show, D&AD, the MENA Cristals, the London International Awards, the Epica Awards and the Effies.

However, it has struggled in terms of business growth and didn’t do so well in the new business stakes, winning just three accounts and losing Harvey Nichols (see page 22). If it is to win agency of the year it will have to opt for growth over awards.


the authorCampaign Staff
Campaign ME is the Middle East edition of the UK’s leading magazine for the advertising and media industry.