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Top 10 News Stories 2016


This year marked the end of an era as Etihad Airways dropped M&C Saatchi as its global creative agency after five years. The partnership, ended after a contractual review, put Etihad in the headlines around the world with its campaign featuring Hollywood star Nicole Kidman. In consolation to M&C, Etihad did not re-pitch the account and instead absorbed it into its own in-house team and that of its digital agency Cheil.

‘All under one roof’ was a phrase bandied around frequently throughout 2016, though no more so than in February. As the Middle East appeared to suddenly catch up with the waves of agency streamlining seen in Europe and the US, February saw the Publicis Groupe social and digital agency Holler dissolved into Leo Burnett and out of existence. Meanwhile, Omnicom Media Group also embarked on its own re-structuring drive with the integration of its smaller agencies Resolution, Fuse, Accuen and Annalect into the lead agencies OMD and PHD.

The global Publicis Media restructure hit the Middle East smack in the face this year, causing major shifts throughout the offices, hierarchies and disciplines that have still to be ironed out eight months later. The resulting breakdowns of the agencies Zenith Optimedia and Starcom Mediavest, plus the disintegration of VivaKi and smaller agencies including Performics and Liquid­Thread, led to numerous changes in leadership and staff reshuffles, and will eventually see the remaining agencies literally ‘all under one roof’ as Publicis Media opens a super office in Media City within the next two years.


One of the more lighthearted moments of 2016 came in the form of King Tut’s Playground’s cute, but ever so slightly creepy ‘Talking babies’ Ramadan campaign. One advert featured three baby boys ‘talking’ about how they had outgrown ‘dondou’ or breast milk and were now manly enough to drink from Juhayna Dairy. After the campaign went viral on social media, Egypt’s Consumer Protection Agency, appalled at the ‘sexual innuendo’ in the word ‘dondou’, pulled the advert from air. However, it was soon reinstated with the controversial word bleeped out. King Tut founder Mohamed Hamdalla remarked that, “[Juhayna’s] brief was ‘we want to be the talk of the town’. They got what they wanted.”


Once the adland party bonanza that nobody wanted to miss, the MENA Cristals has become a more restrained affair in the two years since it moved from the Lebanese hill town of Faraya to Dubai. However, for 2017 the festival looks set to re-capture some of its old spirit after it was announced the two-day event will be held in Egypt when it returns next February.


Cannes was largely a disappointing affair for the Middle East and North Africa this year, but there was some joy for podium regulars Leo Burnett Beirut, which scooped a Glass Lion for its controversial ‘Legally Bride’ campaign for the Lebanese NGO Kafa. The staged wedding shoot between a young girl and a grandfatherly looking gentleman, and resulting video, was aimed at gauging the country’s reaction to child marriage, causing a stir both during filming and then on social media.


From the ashes of Y&R Dubai’s former leadership arose a new boutique agency called Science & Sunshine. It was founded by Nadine Ghossoub, Shahir Zag, Ash Chagla and Farid Hobeiche, who all walked out of Y&R when its CEO and Menacom chairman Joseph Ghossoub inexplicably resigned
last year. Together the four of them have 65 years experience in advertising and can all boast of being born and raised in Dubai.


2016 wasn’t entirely bad for M&C Saatchi, despite the loss of Etihad. The agency finally entered the Dubai playing field with the acquisition of boutique agency Expression, thereby expanding the M&C Saatchi MENA network beyond Beirut and Abu Dhabi. Expression’s MD Scott Feasy rose to the rank of CEO for M&C’s UAE offices, while Ryan Reed joined as creative partner.

Following a merger between US agency Mullen and Lowe & Partners, the new entity of MullenLowe was formed in the Middle East. The Interpublic-owned agency’s new brand identity has been created to reflect the positioning of MullenLowe Group as a global creative boutique with a challenger
approach delivered through a hyper-bundled operating model.


10 The Middle East was not to be left out when OMG’s third agency network Hearts & Science embarked on its global expansion. However, the agency was launched six months ago on the back of winning Procter & Gamble in the US – an account it does not hold in the MENA region. It is not known at this stage what account the data-driven agency will handle at this stage.