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MENA Power List 2023: Are we ready by Mindshare’s Abdallah Safieddine

Abdallah Safieddine has been the Managing Director, Mindshare UAE for 3 years. 

Since I began writing this essay, the Middle East has changed drastically. With the announcement of a new Europe-Middle East-India economic corridor centered in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and the UAE joining the BRICS group of nations, our region will never be the same again.

These developments put the ongoing Gulf-wide transformation – the dramatic opening of KSA, the resurgence of the UAE and other regional economies – into hyper drive. Clichés aside, it really is the dawning of an unprecedented future.

There are huge opportunities here for our industry. We can contribute to growth by attracting business, talent, investment and more. We can develop solutions that optimise this growth, including harnessing new technologies to better understand and activate customers.

We can participate in the region’s sustainability agenda, contributing towards a better, more equitable and prosperous future for us all. Every one of those avenues benefits us.

But are we ready for this future? Do we have a clear sense of our own identity, who we are and who we will continue to be? Do we see the threats and challenges as clearly as we see the opportunities? Are we equipped to engage with the future, ready to adopt and adapt as needed? Are we committed?


When I first started out in our industry, many moons ago, someone said ours is the safest industry to work in. No matter what’s happening in the economy, they said, there will always be an industry trying to reach consumers to sell a product – and we make that happen.

I’m no longer sure that’s true. We have become so many things to so many people, I wonder if we have lost sight of who we truly are. Are we as close to consumers as we once were, walking in lockstep and prepared to offer deep insight and timely understanding at any time?

Are we still champions of the best of human creativity – the kind that is both affective and effective? Or has this element of our heritage dwindled?

Adopt, adapt, adept

Having a clear mindset around tech is key. We should be quick to anticipate and respond to new tech that has the potential to accelerate what we do and make us more adept – without being consumed by it. There is a line between adopting and adapting – a line that is defined by our people-first approach.

A people-first approach to advertising should, for example, allow us to build on our data points to better understand consumer mindsets.

It means developing tech-based solutions in-house that allow us to grow our business and respond quickly and powerfully to client needs and market trends. Adoption means adding to our core identity, not taking from it.

Stop flirting – commit

As an industry, I also think we need to take a good hard look at our behaviour. Many of us have spent the last several years flitting from one new thing to the next like butterflies with short life spans.

In the last few years, all our pitches have included a metaverse element: We’ll build a mall, laundry, bakery in the metaverse. We’re very good at embracing the new zeitgeist – metaverse, blockchain, NFTs, AI or other flavours of the day – but do not become experts at them.

This is a universal problem, and a universal waste of time. As long as we keep flirting, it will keep on being ideas on slide decks that waste our time, waste our clients’ time and doesn’t get anybody anywhere.

Meanwhile, there are entrepreneurs and startups who are building actual metaverse solutions for our clients and have made a mint doing it.

Let’s commit to the future by taking care of our environment and the communities we operate in by putting the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the core of our practice. Instead of flirting with the tools to measure emissions generated in executing campaigns, let’s make emissions-reduction thinking and action a mandatory part of our everyday practice.

This is how we will be ready. For those of us in this region, there is no better place to be to make the most of the tremendous future that’s unfolding at our feet. We have the opportunity of several life times to be at the forefront of a fantastic new growth era. I can’t wait.

Be water, my friend.