x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Flip Media expands into capital

One of the largest digital marketing agencies in the Middle East opens a regional office in Abu Dhabi's media zone, twofour54.

Yousef Tuqan Tuqan, the chief of Flip Media, said an increase in opportunities meant the company needed staff in Abu Dhabi full-time.
Yousef Tuqan Tuqan, the chief of Flip Media, said an increase in opportunities meant the company needed staff in Abu Dhabi full-time.

Flip Media, one of the largest digital marketing agencies in the Middle East, opened a regional office in Abu Dhabi's media zone, twofour54, yesterday. The move is part of an accelerating shift of the UAE's marketing industry towards Abu Dhabi. Its large government-backed advertisers helped keep the industry afloat during a difficult time for the advertising business last year.

"Abu Dhabi is an important market for us," said Yousef Tuqan Tuqan, the chief executive of Flip Media. "The brand of Abu Dhabi is finding its voice, with Mubadala [Development], Sorouh, twofour54, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, and it matters how they project that voice to the outside world. We want to be a part of that." Flip was formed in Dubai Media City in 2003 with a staff of two. It has grown to a business with 155 employees and offices in Dubai, Cape Town, Doha, Manama, Mumbai, Leipzig, London and Trivandrum, India. The Dubai office remains the hub, with 65 employees.

Since 2005, the company serviced its major Abu Dhabi-based clients such as Mubadala and Finance House from its Dubai office, but as opportunities in Abu Dhabi increased there was a need to have staff in the capital full-time, Mr Tuqan said. Flip has worked for twofour54 in the past, as the digital specialist with its other advertising and marketing vendors and staff. The opportunity to operate with like-minded people was part of the reason for the move, he said.

"It gives us a chance to really be surrounded by other creative people and hopefully feed off each other." Similar reasoning was given last week by Ramzi Raad, the chairman and chief executive of TBWARAAD, the advertising agency that has plans to open its regional creative hub in Abu Dhabi in March. Like Flip, its regional headquarters will remain in Dubai, but it seeks both access to Abu Dhabi clients and a sense of community at the new campus in Abu Dhabi.

Twofour54 was founded in October 2008 with partners including CNN, the BBC, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Thomson Foundation, the Financial Times and HarperCollins. It has since grown to include about 60 companies, an increasing number of them in the marketing and communications fields. While the advertising industry is not yet entirely out of the woods following the global financial crisis, signs of hope have appeared recently. The latest data released by the Pan Arab Research Center shows that advertising spending, although down 27 per cent last year compared with 2008, was only down 1 per cent last month.

Mr Tuqan said his recent experience with clients supported the notion of recovery. "The clients who had already started to invest in digital media are spending a lot more," he said. "People in the travel and tourism industry, media industry and service industry are starting to realise its potential." Still, online advertising spending represents less than 1 per cent of total advertising spending in the region, despite the fact that the number of people with broadband access in key markets such as Saudi Arabia has grown by a factor of 30 between 2000 and 2008.

"It staggers me that in this day and age we spend less than 1 per cent of our media money on the internet, when more and more of our customers are spending their time there," Mr Tuqan said. @Email:khagey@thenational.ae