To marry or live together?

Active’s Louay al-Samarrai explains why his agency has finally decided to settle down with a permanent partner

Managing partner of Active (Digital. Marketing. Communications) partnering with Hotwire
Louay al-Samarrai: Managing partner of Active (Digital. Marketing. Communications) partnering with Hotwire

With the advent of social and digital media and data-driven everything, it’s become even more trendy for independent agencies to not only evolve their service offerings to survive and compete, but to also remain open to the advances of a bigger network looking to have representation in the region, to be able to offer what the other global networks or affiliations are offering their clients: coverage across the globe.

Partnerships provide a platform to access the very best of communications from various industries as well as from what each region has to offer. They help to effectively tap into a much wider network of prospects, services and skills and provide regional clients with a broader range of solutions to their communications needs and, simultaneously, support in increasing their visibility.

Some agencies in the region have recognised the need to widen their appeal and offer existing and potential clients the benefits of an independent agency combined with access to a larger international network, opening up an active pipeline of new business opportunities across the globe.

So when we were small and independent – or even not so small, but still independent – we enjoyed the advances of these larger players and the various dates we went on with them in the search for new business, insight we didn’t have or couldn’t afford, and the promise of added expertise and training.

We dated for nearly eight years and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We were complimented, we were courted and we went to places and met clients we would not perhaps have met while sitting here in the Middle East. For us, this meant being the most favoured agency in London circles for some time, meetings and calls with various senior management people in European cities and here in the region, and getting involved in big pitches in London and Paris, where we gained knowledge, experience and contacts.

In the end though, it came down to a choice, and it wasn’t us that delivered the ultimatum – it was our partner, Hotwire. So we had to decide, we had to evaluate the benefits of getting married versus just living together and occasionally ‘seeing other people’.

So what are the advantages of married life?

Well, to start with, expertise and support. Today we benefit from the breadth of talent that our global network has and we have access to, in order to better service existing clients, put forward much stronger integrated marketing proposals and strengthen the new services and solutions we now offer.

And talent. While this region can be a tough place to recruit and retain talent, there is a great deal of mediocrity out there and, believe me, we have had our share. However, we now have the opportunity to offer our teams global training that addresses the true challenges of our industry. This is a great card to hold and one that our teams now enjoy experiencing.

Technology. In a data-driven marketing environment, we could only afford the very basic tools to analyse, research, listen and evaluate markets and audiences, offering unsophisticated and often free-to-market tools to talk to and engage those audiences. However, with our partner’s resources, we can and do stand up to any of the offerings now being used by agencies and clients in this region.

Business development. As an independent agency, we would have some 10-15 leads in our new business pipeline every month, and no real means to evaluate the seriousness of each one. Today, we have more than 500 and, although not every one of them is a global opportunity, with Hotwire we are fully supported to market and expose our presence, experience and ability to prospects from Silicon Valley to Beijing. That means a much greater chance of winning new business and even bypassing some of the regional teams that can allow cronyism and politics to enter their decision-making, rather than value addition and professionalism.

There are more tangible – and intangible – benefits, but these are the core. For us, marriage has worked and, like any marriage, it’s about the personality, the culture and the ambitions of the partner. We have been fortunate to have found these in Hotwire. But we still dated for eight years before we got married and, like I said, dating was fun.