x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The creatives with business minds

A branding agency with operations in Dubai is looking to invest in Middle East companies as part of what it believes is a more business-orientated approach.

A branding agency with operations in Dubai is looking to invest in Middle East companies as part of what it believes is a more business-orientated approach. The Amsterdam-based agency DAY, which recently opened an office in Dubai Media City, said creative agencies could work more effectively when they had a financial stake in a business.

DAY is looking to link up with Middle East start-ups and larger companies on a "part fee, part equity" basis and claims to be in negotiations with one regional company, which it declined to name. "We happen to be creatives with business minds," said Dennis de Rond, the general manager of DAY in the Middle East and Africa. "A lot of agencies do their work and they do it well but it's really like a factory. But we try to sit down and really understand a client's business. I think creative people are often seen as people who only want to make pretty pictures. But we want to make pretty pictures that sell."

Mr de Rond said when working with start-ups the company often took a share in the client's business, which accounts for half of its total remuneration, with the rest paid in cash. With larger companies, it seeks to work on a profit-share basis. "Sometimes we have a share in a company and in return we deliver our creative skills. Most of the time it's a combination in that we receive a fee and also receive a share in the business," said Mr de Rond.

"The percentage [we take] depends on the company and how much time and resources you invest in it. It can vary from 10 to 20 per cent for start-ups. For big companies, [we often take] a percentage of their profit." The company, which employs 30 people in Amsterdam, New York and Dubai, has worked on this basis elsewhere with clients including the ISyou footwear brand and Greenland, which produces skincare products. "It's [necessary] for these companies to partner with you. They have to be honest with what is going on with their team and product. Otherwise, you are only a supplier," said Mr de Rond.

Rivals claim DAY's business model could be problematic. While creative agencies sometimes work on a performance basis, if they become shareholders in a business then it dilutes the client's "right to disagree", said Christopher Bell, the managing partner at Face to Face, a creative agency based in Dubai. "[DAY's approach] comes with an intrinsic watch area. If you have a share in a company you are doing the advertising for, it becomes a question of, who's the client?" said Mr Bell.

DAY says its ambition is to work with 50 per cent of its clients as financial partners. The company also works on a regular remuneration basis with Unilever, Coca-Cola and Masafi in the Middle East and Africa region. It undertook advertising creative work for Coca-Cola in Sudan and is working with the JustKidding retail chain in Dubai. bflanagan@thenational.ae