Houbara Communications – Independent Agency of the Year: PR continues to diversify to new platforms

Campaign Middle East hosted its first edition of Agency of the Year awards to celebrate the best minds in advertising, marketing and media. Houbara Communications won the award for Independent Agency of the Year.

We spoke to Loretta Ahmed, founder and CEO of Houbara Communications, who shared her views on shorter planning and campaign cycles.

Tell us about your journey to the award.

Our journey to this award has been one based on authenticity and action. We are driven to bring about real change with the work we put out for our clients in the way we operate our business and by the role we play in the community we serve.

Houbara Communications was founded in 2019 following a local management buyout of Grayling Dubai from parent company Huntsworth plc. We retained our deep global experience as well as the rigour that comes from being part of a global network and combined that with entrepreneurial energy, personalised service to our clients and a family-focused approach to our team in terms of support and flexibility we offer. This approach has resulted in over 50 per cent of our clients staying with us for over five years and a consistently high staff retention rate.

How will the award help your agency to navigate forward in the industry?

Awards such as Campaign Middle East allow us to build our profile and reputation – we are very good at telling people how good we are but it helps when some of the most reputed leaders in the sector judge our agency and put it on record that they think so too.

Why should other agencies enter these awards? 

These awards are unique as they are judged by client-side marketers and are fully audited. The process of entering awards is rigorous and it also forces you to judge yourself first in a hyper-critical way.

How are your customers’ demands changing?

The planning window has compressed even further – there is now a need to keep the long-term horizon in sight but to shift the priority to ever shorter planning and campaign cycles. Along with that clients are more willing to experiment with new platforms and new ways of working. We are far more agile with our resources, forging fast partnerships and on-tap skills alongside trusted account teams. We identify partners that add depth to our existing client relationships and ensure we are meeting our clients’ wider needs. We are also leading the wave on ESG reporting by being the first PR agency in the UAE to undertake a carbon footprint audit as part of our commitment to reducing our impact on the planet. We put out our first ESG report last month to ensure we hold ourselves accountable and report annually on our progress.

What does 2023 look like?

The trends we see coming in 2023 are centered around transparency, authenticity and purpose-driven action. The focus on quality over quantity will be bigger than ever – be it in campaigns, media pitches, influencers or coverage.  Data isn’t necessarily a new trend but using data to inform content is a concept that will continue to play an integral role in communications in 2023 and beyond. With team strength shrinking at most media outlets, media will rely more on contributed articles. PR will continue to diversify to new platforms and content mediums including podcasts, newsletters and more.

View all the winners here.

Campaign also runs Agency of the Year in the UK, Asia-Pacific and the US, and a global scheme, the Global Agency of the Year Awards, which is now open for entries.