Marketing Game Changers 2020: Peter DeBenedictis

Peter DeBenedictis

CMO, Microsoft, Middle East and Africa

Board member, Marketing Society Middle East

Board member, Dubai College

Advisory Board Member, WAX.IO (Silicon Valley startup)

Years in current position: 4

Years with company: 4

Size of department: 20+

Previous jobs

CMO, GE Healthcare

Marketing director, Philips

Marketing director, FedEx

Notable campaigns

Forward Together (2020)

Work x Life (2019)

Cloud Society (2018; Effies Gold Winner)


Leading a team of world-class and diverse marketers at Microsoft, who deliver outstanding work is a great privilege and one of my career highlights. As a boss once used to say to me, “Today is the good old days.” In other words, treat today as the best of times and usually it will be.

Do you have a guiding principle?

I have three golden rules: Marketing for marketing’s sake doesn’t work. Marketing has to have a clear target audience and desired and measurable business impact. ‘Spraying and praying’ doesn’t work.

Open and transparent feedback (positive and negative) at all levels of the organisation builds trust and fosters great teamwork.

‘Disagree but commit’ to a collective decision, even if you are not 100 per cent convinced.

What have you learned from a specific failure?

I was told ‘it’s not possible’ once and I believed the person who told me, which led to the project being delayed. In the end, it turned out it was possible and I learned from that incident not to accept that the other person is an expert and ‘knows best’. Now when I am told ‘no’, I see it as a personal challenge to make that into a ‘yes’.

What work do you wish you had done?

The work that Burger King has been doing over the last two years is really innovative, clever,and daring. It’s a shame I don’t like fast food or they would have me as a loyal customer.

Who inspires you professionally?

I have been blessed with some really great managers and mentors over the years. Linda Mahoney, the founder of Better Homes, was a big influence on me in my early years. She hired me at 19 with no work experience, and working with her helped me finance my university education. She started her company out of her garage and became the leading real estate company in the region. She never quit, even when faced with some incredible challenges, and on top of being a great business person she’s just a wonderful human being who has gone out of her way to help countless people in Dubai over the last 30 years.

How has Covid-19 changed your business?

Working from home has become the new normal for millions of students and professionals over the last year, and Microsoft Teams has enabled this transformation, with billions of meeting minutes being logged around the world and, indeed, here in the region. In the past, technology and applications on the cloud were seen by some as a novelty, whereas today, as a result of the pandemic, these are increasingly become an essential way of working and living. Microsoft is in the middle of this transformation, which carries with it our mission to empower every person and organisation on the planet.

What is the biggest challenge in marketing at the moment?

B2B marketers have historically depended heavily on in-person events to drive customer engagement. The shift to digital engagement has been a real challenge for some, as they did not have the digital marketing skills, technology platform or infrastructure to rapidly make the shift. The challenge going forward, as many organisations digitise their approach, is how to differentiate, which requires marketers to think more like television producers than event planners. 

Agency reference

Tarek Daouk, CEO, Dentsu MENA

Peter was quick to mobilise the marketing programme and respond to the unforeseen challenges businesses were suddenly faced with as a result of the pandemic. He has continued to drive the strategic vision and spearhead an ongoing programme of partnerships and collaboration.

I was introduced to Peter when I joined Dentsu two and a half years ago, when he was also relatively new to the role at Microsoft. I’m proud of the partnerships that we’ve formed between Microsoft and key global and regional players in the media scene. The hero campaigns that we’ve delivered in the past couple of years – Work x Life and Forward Together – both provide a platform for brand building and full integration, allowing us to move ever closer to an audience-first strategy, something that was completely unimaginable three years ago.

Peter is hugely talented. Not only is he a born leader and a natural communicator, but he is also in possession of an infectious, proactive approach to any problem that needs solving. This – plus his strong vision, articulation and warm character – makes him a unique talent who is absolutely fantastic at what he does. His ability to effortlessly transport us into the Microsoft world within five minutes of opening a meeting continues to strengthen our partnership. Long gone are the days of the client-agency relationship; we are, and will continue to be, an extension of his team working to deliver on the same goals and vision.

Peter is very progressive. He has an open mindset and has led the way in a collaborative culture. He is always on the lookout to test and learn, and this mindset has allowed us to explore and dive into different opportunities and yield
great results.


What are you working on? 
The 2021 marketing plan. 

Who are you following?
Seth Godin and Rachel Botsman.

What are you craving?

What are you hiding from?
Creating slides for meetings.

What are you playing?
Father-and-son indoor cricket every Saturday. And Fortnite.

What are you listening to?
70’s classic rock on Spotify.

What are you reading?
I just re-read Lord of the Rings.

What are you watching?
Money Heist (in Spanish).

Where are you isolating?
At home in my second-floor ivory tower overlooking the garden.

What did you learn over lockdown?
Working from home brings opportunities and challenges. I look forward to a more hybrid work environment for the future.

Do you want to see the future? Sign up for Campaign’s Marcomms360 Predictions 2021 virtual event on December 14-15. Registration is free.