Advertising Agency of the Year 2015: J. Walter Thompson Cairo

Standout work, innovation, a titanium at Cannes and a string of new business wins ensured that J. Walter Thompson Cairo stood out from the crowd in 2015

It’s been a tough year for creative agencies, with a shrinking market, lower budgets and pressure to produce more with less. Yet J. Walter Thompson Cairo hit the sweet spot this year, producing a winning combi- nation of great work and important new business wins. Not only did the agency create some of the best cam- paigns of the year, it also landed the region’s biggest award – a titanium at Cannes – and won the largest advertis- ing accounts available in its market. The Egypt Tourism Authority busi- ness alone, which it picked up in August after a highly competitive pitch, is valued at $68 million and is the single most important piece of business in Egypt and the wider North Africa region. All of which took place in one of the Middle East and North Africa’s most challenging markets, with Egypt’s economic outlook at the beginning of the year poor and its political reality unstable.

WPP policy does not permit an agency to disclose growth figures of any sort but the Egypt Tourism Authority win combined with the win- ning of Egypt Air, the New Suez Canal brief (as part of Team WPP – see page 20), Beko and a handful of other pieces of new business ensured an extremely healthy year. There were also no account losses.

The winning card in the agency’s bid for the Egypt Tourism Authority account had been NewsLab and Shopaholic, two newly introduced ser- vices that put social media, public relations, and consumer-generated, earned and owned media at the heart of content-rich strategy. Such innovation helped in the agency’s winning of this year’s title as did the establishment of ‘analytics hub’, which experiments with the application of data and technology to produce new marketing ideas. The agency launched Content Hub, which created three television series for Ramadan – Haret Al Yahood, TA7T Eksayyara, and Been Elsarayat. It also launched the ‘Abla Fahita’ show Live from el Duplex with the show now in its second season.

It is ‘Abla Fahita’, of course, that J. Walter Thompson Cairo will probably be most remembered for this year. The brainchild of JWT Entertainment in Cairo, the female puppet turned pop star and chat show host won Egypt’s first ever titanium Lion at Cannes in June. Described as an “entertainment brand that has created an entirely new business model in advertising”, she went on to win gold at the MENA Effies and has been visible across online, social media, mobile, TV and outdoor. The agency also picked up a further silver at the Effies and two bronze awards at the Dubai Lynx.

The puppet, which sits atop Campaign’s Top 10 integrated campaigns (see page 27), was just one in a long list of great campaigns created by the agency this year – not least Crunch Egypt’s ‘Skenshayzar’, directed by Ali Ali and Campaign’s number one film of the year (see page 23). It also produced standout work for Vodafone Egypt and launched #ThisIsEgypt for the Egypt Tourism Authority.

All of which has been driven by executive creative director Mohamed Hammady, with a new managing director in the shape of Mai Azmy taking over in January following the departure of Mohammed Sabry – who left to take charge of the network’s Dubai operation.

The agency has continued to develop and build its agency culture and has also worked with both the American University in Cairo and the German University in Cairo to support the development of local talent. This year it also partnered closely with the Rise up Summit in Cairo to develop and support the entrepreneurship ecosys- tem in Egypt.

Whichever way you look at it, 2015 was a standout year for J. Walter Thompson Cairo with the team’s output overturning perceived limitations in the marketplace and proving that innovation pays.