The MENA Power List 2021: Navigating the platform world, by Publicis Groupe’s Bassel Kakish

By Bassel Kakish, CEO, Publicis Groupe Middle East & Turkey.

years in role: 1 | years in company: 20

I don’t think that anyone can get through these essays without touching on the pandemic. The past 18 months have changed the world, and 2022 will continue to challenge us all. It will accelerate business innovation, highlight new consumer behaviours, and drive the need for direct relationships with customers.

Today, our clients’ brands live in a platform world; six out of 10 of the most valuable global corporations are platform companies. These have fundamentally transformed how brands grow and have changed the nature of what and who should be considered as competition.

Our goal is to help clients unlock growth in a platform world. Help our clients solve the biggest challenges in the most efficient, effective, and sustainable way possible. This means we must navigate the disruption from platforms and apply creativity, in all its forms, to solve business problems.

As Publicis Groupe, we have a comprehensive strategic approach to prepare for category disruption and protect against potential margin erosion. We are not just a creative agency, or a media company, or a consultancy. We are all of that, but our main goal is to be our clients’ partner in growth.

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We believe that to unlock growth in the platform world, we must embrace four guiding principles:

1. Real identity. Data wealth is a foundation for growth. As the industry marches into the cookieless world, first-party data becomes one of the most valuable assets our clients have. It is our responsibility to help brands unlock the data they already have, unite it in a way that becomes actionable and prepare brands to own observed human desires and behaviours so they can act with knowledge, harness insight and deliver meaningful exchanges for every consumer. The platform proposition of data wealth places real identities at the core of decision making. It’s not a numbers game, it’s a human storyline.

2. Network effect. The ‘network effect’ is the value that platforms deliver to consumers through the scale of their networks. Because of this, platforms have the inherent ability to connect with consumers on multiple levels, creating engagements that dynamically deliver personalisation to individuals. It is critical for all brands to understand the importance of this scaled connectivity, and for agencies to enable it.

3. Personalised ecosystems. Each brand interaction – on shelf, in content, through influencers, during product use – continually evolves and optimises for the best next action of the consumer. Gaining data points through each and every engagement to improve quality and attention, more relevance, continually optimised, driving toward the best next action.

4. Open and direct. Marketers must prioritise direct relationships with their customers. This is critical not only in communication to ensure that brands speak directly to a real customer, but also through the entire value chain, from consideration to commerce to community.

Creating and delivering premium branded experiences in owned and earned environments is important today. Just look at what happened recently when Safilo Group signed Instagram star Chiara Ferragni. The announcement of a brand collaboration on an eyewear line sent Safilo Group’s stock up 14 per cent. The value of the direct communication with consumers has a legitimate business effect and this will carry across entire ecosystems as consumers demand open and direct brand engagements.

There are many routes agencies can traverse in order to unlock growth in a platform world. We choose to partner and to build.

Our smart partnerships create new value within platforms, identifying audiences across broadcast, digital, paid social, search and commerce. We leverage human data and create predictive models where we can guarantee outcomes for our clients.

Our talent is what enables us to build sustainable growth. This was reinforced over the past two years as we navigated the toughest time for all industries across the world. Publicis Groupe is an organisation that delivers on our commitment to be a talent-first organisation. At the peak of global lockdowns, we accelerated our scope through Marcel, our AI platform, enabling our 84,000 staff across the world to seamlessly collaborate, continue to learn and share their skills to bring greater value to client business.

Remote working only reinforced that locally, regionally and globally, we are one community, and Publicis Groupe is our home. We are all accountable in driving a culture of respect, inclusion, trust, empowerment,  collaboration and a growth mindset. We created an ecosystem that delivers on being the best organisation in nurturing talent.

As Groupe CEO, I see my primary objective as one that cements this and develops the next generation of change agents, who will shape the future of our industry and create a positive impact on society.

Professional highlight of the year

The pandemic has changed so many aspects of our world over the past two years. Economies have shifted, our clients’ priorities have been tested and consumers have evolved their demands and expectations of brands, which will have a lasting impact on society and industry. It is in this context that I have taken on my new role as Publicis Groupe CEO. It is this new dynamic that has dynamically changed how we do business and how we provide growth to our partners in the new ‘platform world’.

Rapid fire

What are you working on?
Transformation for tomorrow.

What are you worrying about?
The next four years.

What are you smiling at?
Speed of change.

What are you reading?
Digital Business Transformation: How Established Companies Sustain Competitive Advantage from Now to Next, by Nigal Vaz.

What are you watching?
The Usual Suspects, Star Wars, anything Marvel.

What are you eating?
Everything except seafood.

What are you listening to?
Pearl Jam, Metallica, Post Malone, Travis Scott.

What are you playing?

What’s your hobby?

What’s your good habit?
I keep my promises.

What’s your bad habit?
Ask my wife.

Who are you learning from?