x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Advertising agencies in the Middle East need to take risks

Companies in the Middle East should get more daring with their ad campaigns, says Memac Ogilvy boss Eddie Moutran.

Eddie Moutran wants to see companies take more risks as greater creativity could lead to more memorable ad campaigns. Jaime Puebla / The National
Eddie Moutran wants to see companies take more risks as greater creativity could lead to more memorable ad campaigns. Jaime Puebla / The National

Companies should be more daring in their use of advertising, says one of the Middle East's most prominent communications executives.

Regional brands are playing it safe with their marketing because they are too wary of confusing consumers, said Eddie Moutran, the chairman and chief executive of Memac Ogilvy in Mena.

"Some of the advertising [has] no creativity because the client, the brand owner, does not allow it," said Mr Moutran.

"He doesn't want to take the risk of the consumer not getting it. But the consumer is a lot more intelligent than we realise."

Mr Moutran said companies should take more risks as greater creativity could lead to more memorable ad campaigns.

"Clients should help us become a little more creative by giving us a bit more creative licence," he said. "Advertising needs a spark, it needs an idea ... It doesn't have to [just] say, 'Buy me for Dh1.'"

Mr Moutran cited the creativity of an advertising campaign called "The Return of Ben Ali" developed by Memac.

The ad, which ran last year in Tunisia, was commissioned by a local NGO to encourage people to vote in the elections.

The provocative campaign did something counter-intuitive given the revolutionary fervour of the time: it consisted of a giant billboard image of the deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

"All they wanted us to say was, 'Please vote, it's your democratic right, if you don't vote then all this revolution was without any effect,'" said Mr Moutran.

"What we did we do? We put a picture of [Mr] Ben Ali up and we knew that they were going to come and tear it down."

The twist to the ad campaign came in the form of a message displayed beneath the poster, which was revealed when the image of Mr Ben Ali was torn down by members of the public.

"There was another ad behind it that says, 'If you don't want dictatorship to come back, go and vote,'" said Mr Moutran.

The ad campaign won several awards at the Cannes Lions advertising event held in June.

Such campaigns stand out from the crowd because they are not representative of the "safe" work that Mr Moutran says defines much of the industry.

He started his career in advertising in 1973 and launched Memac in 1984. The agency was later renamed Memac Ogilvy and is 40 per cent owned by WPP, a UK advertising group controlled by Martin Sorrell.

Memac Ogilvy claims billings of more than $700 million and its clients include IBM, Coca-Cola, American Express and British Airways.

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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