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Marketing Game Changers 2019: Anthony Ward

Anthony Ward

VP marketing, Expo 2020 Dubai

Years in job 3.5

Size of department 40

Agencies Ogilvy, Face to Face, Create Media, Socialize, Latitude, Starcom

Recent jobs

  • 2005 – 2016: Head of brand and events, Red Bull Racing
  • 2002 – 2005: Brand manager, Honda Formula One Team

Recent campaigns

Welcome the Future – April 2019

Career highlights

With Red Bull we achieved so much and we were constantly pushing the limits in trying to capture content that instantly grabbed you. A highlight that also has local essence was an off-the-cuff remark to Red Bull UAE that we should put an F1 car on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab and do ‘doughnuts’. Two years later it happened. And the other nice link was that Dubai was bidding to win the Expo and at the last minute we added some branding to the F1 car to support the initiative. It’s amazing how things happen for a reason..


What is your objective in your current role?

Deliver 25 million visits to Expo 2020 Dubai.

What is your guiding principle?

Do it properly or don’t do it at all. There’s no middle ground.

What is your advice on working with agencies?

Don’t treat them as an executional team; embed them in your own team, listen to them and remember it’s a partnership.

What do you look for in agency partners?

A team that isn’t prepared to settle for second best and never follows the norm. The agency needs to believe in that strategic nugget they’ve found and act on it.

What have you learned from failure?

You have to fail to do great work. At Google in California they reminded us of all the Google products that failed and find their way into the ‘Google Graveyard’. To achieve their undoubted success they’ve had to go through all these failures, pick themselves up and carry on. I admire that.

What work do you wish you’d done?

It has to be ‘The Hire’ by BMW. A class act. Four years before You Tube was released, BMW launched a series of branded content short films starring Clive Owen and directed by John Woo, Guy Ritchie, etc. Talk about completely out-of-the-box at that time. Basically it challenged how you could deliver advertising in branded content form. It ended up being so good that consumers were basically buying BMW adverts on DVDs from HMV.

What qualities do you look for when deciding who to work with?

I strongly believe in surrounding yourself with incredible talent and you should never fear employing someone that may challenge you in every aspect.

What is the biggest challenge in marketing at the moment?

It’s an obvious one, but cutting through the clutter. So many people are vying for your time. It needs to be stunningly creative content that’s relevant.

What is the next big trend in marketing?

Advertising on voice search and business through social messaging apps are two big things on my radar.

What can we expect to see from Expo 2020 Dubai in the next year?

In the next six months we’ll launch two significant campaigns rolling out across 29 markets as well as two international sponsorship deals that will help bring global awareness to the brand. It’s going to be busy as we build towards event time and our objective of 25 million visits.


Agency reference

Patou Nuytemans, CEO, Memac Ogilvy

Anthony is leading the marketing team for the region’s most prestigious initiative – Expo 2020 Dubai – and hence all activity regarding the brand, brand communications, brand activations, partner marketing and digital and social. His main achievements of the last 18 months include the development of the new Expo 2020 brand, the roll-out of the first international marketing campaign, the collaborations built with commercial partners such as Emirates to amplify the Expo message, and the creation of naming and brand strategy for the Expo 2020 legacy: District 2020.

As with any marketer in his position, it is obvious that Anthony knows the ins and outs of how to build a brand and how to assure marketing drives business results. But what makes him remarkable is the clarity of his vision, the courage to pursue it against all odds, and the meticulousness to operationalise that vision in a plan that delivers. He is extremely passionate and motivates his teams and partners to champion their ideas and never settle for mediocrity.

Anthony treats his agency as his partner, through thick and thin. So many clients treat agencies in this region as suppliers, merely executioners of tactics. Thanks to his vast experience, Anthony knows that agencies, beyond the producers of communication assets, are first and foremost there to provide brands with strategic and creative thinking. He seeks, challenges and motivates the agency to be the best in this. He celebrates us when we do well and picks us up when we fail down. By making us feel like a true extension of his team and his success, we go the extra mile for him always – and not just because we have to, but because we want to. But do expect to get a call from Anthony at 4am if he has an idea and wants to get it done. He won’t take no for an answer. Ever.

What collaboration are you most proud of?

The roll-out of the Welcome The Future international launch campaign for Expo 2020 Dubai. It ran regionally and internationally for a duration of three months, in seven languages and 14 countries, across different touchpoints such as TV, cinema, social media, out-of-home, radio, interactive digital media, Emirates in-flight entertainment screens, etc. The campaign resulted in a 33 per cent increase in brand visibility, 15 per cent increase in brand understanding and a 100 per cent increase in brand awareness on an international level. Engagements and reactions to the campaign significantly outperformed industry benchmarks. It also resulted in behavioural change with 85 per cent of the UAE residents taking an action after seeing the campaign. The strength of the creative and universality of the message led HH Sheikh Hamdan and Lionel Messi to proactively share the film through Instagram. We were also proud to see the campaign style and message influence the Expo 2020 partners to produce their own iterations of the film, a sign that we created a cultural movement that others wanted to be a part of.

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