The MENA Power List 2021: New fulcrums for a new business world, by BBDO’s Dani Richa

By Dani Richa, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, BBDO Middle East, Africa and Pakistan.

years in role: 12 | years in company: 33 | other roles: Member of the Worldwide Board of BBDO; Group Chairman and CEO of Impact BBDO Group of Companies; Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of Omnicom Media Group MENA; Former Non-Executive Chairman of ABC Malls and Department Stores; Knighted by the National Order of the Cedar, Lebanon; Dubai Lynx Advertising Person of the Year 2018; Arab Ad’s Man of the Year 2017

I think there has never been a more exciting time to be in this business, as technology has irreversibly changed people’s relationships with business and brands, pulling down the barriers. This means our clients have to factor in not only aggressive competitors but also empowered customers.

With barriers crumbling down and a change in buyer and seller power dynamics, we had to focus on re-invention, which has identified liberating fulcrums – fulcrums that amplified our problem-solving creativity so that we no longer only address big campaign ideas but also ideas for new products and services, new avenues that have and will generate new growth opportunities.

The first fulcrum is the fact that we are not in the marcomms business but in the growth business, driven by our expertise in business and communications and powered by creativity. A new focus then is on the intersection of our growth with our clients’ growth – by helping them shape their business, which is intrinsically linked to the progress of people’s lives and how they grow. Client growth is measured by goals and metrics such as profit, revenue, share and penetration, but more fundamentally how a client’s business enhances a person’s life. for without that person buying, repurchasing and recommending the client’s products and services there will be no success.

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The second fulcrum is that making this business shift has up opened new, exciting ways of thinking about and organising our own business. We aim to forecast the future and invent it, keep raising the bar on the work, make plenty of business bets, favour action over perfection and prioritise speed with an eye on results, to always test and evolve.

Thirdly, make it personal and be on the customer’s side. Without that there is no progress. We know what they love, what they read, when they read, when they get up and go to bed. Customer analytics are crucial for driving growth, but you must go the extra mile and build empathy and synthesise that evidence into something memorable and defendable, something that touches them deeply in the most relevant way, as this is how behavioural change is triggered.

Fourthly, organisational transformation can liberate our creativity for our clients. The old market forces pushed us into a box and limited us to the market of communications. Now we organise around colliding data and insight with the power of creativity that transforms markets and client businesses. We are shaping and creating new products, services and platforms that drive unmet needs and new markets, and we have started to measure our success on the number of unicorns we help create as well as the shares we increase and reputations we enhance. Our BBDO model of focusing on The Work, The Work, The Work, based on the magic of a simple idea that breaks through the nanosecond threshold, is still our foundation. We have used this foundation to springboard into new ways of building ideas that know no bounds. It drives both our client relationships and their relationships with their customers beyond that of just the transactional to the relational. A relationship where they keep on coming back time and time again, willing to pay a premium and stay loyal despite the commoditisation happening at all levels of distribution from e-commerce to the hypermarket.

And finally, something that if you don’t have, none of this will work: the relentless focus on the growth and evolution of our people. To create a learning environment where we unlearn as well as learn, take risks and leave obsolete ideas to one side because to get stuck is to stultify. We merge the skill sets of business acumen, intelligence and curiosity with a successful creative track record of more than 100 years, with the right partnerships and clients who share our ideal of wanting to make better. To give our people the chance to turn their ideas into action and watch them create better – not just for brands, governments and service organisations, but for progress and cultural change.

And there is no better place to be than in this vibrant region where we are inspired by the leadership of a powerful agenda for progress, where the impossible is being made possible.

The world is watching our region as we create new ideas, products, services, technologies and dreams for a better world.

What thrills me every day is having the chance to take part in all this.

Professional highlight of the year

This year we’ve had a good run. We were named the No.1 MEA agency on the Drum 2021 rankings, the best-performing agency network from MENA at Cannes Lions 2020/2021 and the Agency and Network of the Year at Dubai Lynx for the fifth time in six years. We won the first One Show Grand Prix for MENA, the first Gerety Grand Prix and the first Immortal Award in Asia, as well as being the best performing MENA agency at The Loeries. BBDO Pakistan completed a hat-trick of Grand Effie wins for the third year in a row, the only agency in APAC to do so. But most rewarding is that the work has generated great business results for our clients.

Rapid fire

What are you working on? 2031.

What are you worrying about? 2032.

What are you smiling at? 2021.

What are you reading? Data.

What are you watching? Consumers.

What are you eating? Negative people.

Who are you listening to? Positive people.

What are you playing? Chess.

What’s your hobby? Talent spotting.

What’s your good habit? Impatience.

What’s your bad habit? Impatience.

Who are you learning from? The interns.