One of the Gulf's oldest marketing companies, the BPG Group, has undergone a makeover to respond to a sector radically altered by the economic crisis. Changes include removing private offices for senior management, new titles for everyone, more accountable payment structures, greater collaboration between departments and layoffs.
All are designed to make the staff think less like a team on retainer offering services and more like high-powered consultants delivering solutions as needed, according to Avi Bhojani, the group chief executive. "Client relations are far more promiscuous today," Mr Bhojani said. "Gone are the days when you would work for a client for 20 or 30 years, so we realised we needed to recalibrate. "We are happy to be remunerated based on the level that we solve a client's problem; not 100 per cent, because we are not venture capitalists, but as much as possible."
The recalibration began early this year, when the advertising and marketing sector was reeling from the effects of the crash in the property and financial sectors. Like many of its fellow companies in the vast WPP international network, the BPG Group shed staff, tightened travel budgets and looked for ways to be flexible for clients with shrinking marketing budgets. But the process did not become official until last week, when it gathered staff at an annual workshop in Ajman to announce the new direction of the company, from services to solutions.
At the same time, it also laid off five staff members, bringing the company's total number of job losses since last year to about 35, Mr Bhojani said. The company now employs 170 people. The leaner team has also been restructured to encourage more integration between advertising, branding, public relations, activation, public advocacy and media asset management, and a strategy department has been added.
"Where we excel is when a client asks us to do everything," Mr Bhojani said. Senior executives have also been given new titles: partner, instead of executive. And the account executives have been renamed programme executives, with the idea being that they will take a more proactive approach to serving their clients. "It's not just a title change. It's a mindset change as well," Mr Bhojani said. While advertising still makes up the largest single share of BPG's revenues, at 38 per cent, the segment is down 20 per cent this quarter compared with the same quarter last year, making diversification essential.
"Next year we will be focusing on digital," Mr Bhojani said, adding that he expected advertising to only bring in 20 per cent of revenues five years from now. He said he expected this year to be "a flat year" after six years of more than 50 per cent growth, but he did not expect the cultural change that the recession accelerated to revert back once the economy perks up. "It's no more that, whether you are good or bad, the client has got you for five years," Mr Bhojani said.