Maxus, which is part of London-based WPP, is looking very carefully in the Middle East and exploring the vast opportunities it holds for the industry.
“The Middle East, Russia and Turkey are the three areas that have significantly grown versus [certain] European countries that are either stable or going backwards,” Federico de Nardis, chief executive officer of Maxus Emea, told Khaleej Times in an interview.
He is very much upbeat for the Middle East: “We’re investing in more people in the regional level.”
De Nardis, who is based in Italy and whose main business routes are London and most of Europe, is getting to know the Middle East more, and is both excited and determined to tap into its potential, especially in Dubai.
“Here [in Dubai] there are ideas, there are people and a mix of cultures, which is not so common in the rest of Europe,” he said. “It’s really very interesting.”
De Nardis believes more and more Western companies will put their hub in Dubai. In the entrepreneurial area, he says it is more likely that people coming from France, the UK and Italy would base their businesses here. “There are areas that are growing faster in the Middle East than in most of Europe,” he added.
Print vs digital
“Working closely with BPG Maxus, we found out that we have a great opportunity here in the Middle East to grow our business,” he said, pointing out that public relations, or PR, has grown by double digits in the region, especially in the digital area, and is continuing to expand rapidly.
Interestingly though, De Nardis still sees print as a viable medium to communicate with consumers here in the UAE.
“The first thing that differs here is the role of print, especially newspapers… it’s something very peculiar because in most of the big European markets, the relevance of newspapers has declined a lot over the last decade,” he said.
Print media, De Nardis stressed, is still a “very important medium for advertisers”.
“What I’m seeing here is that the newspaper is the only medium that helps you contact the local level; today, there is still a strong local link between people and local newspapers.”
On the other hand, the growth of the digital space, he says, has given Maxus a lot more channels and opportunities to interact with people — especially when it comes to social media.
“While the growth of digital is about the same everywhere, there is excitement here [in Dubai] on the growth of social media.”
Maxus, which was established in late 2008, is younger than most of its competitors, and De Nardis says it is quite an advantage to be born in the digital era.
“The age we were born in is totally different from others [because] digital channels are [already] provided… if you were born before you have to add more channels to your competencies,” he said.
“We believe we are more agile and nimble… if you accept that things are changing faster than you can imagine, the only thing that is really relevant is to be prepared for this change and constantly adapt — and clients like that.”
De Nardis also noticed certain differences in the clients the company handles here in Dubai — something that Maxus is confident it can deal with.
“Clients here are definitely more open that I’d expected; they are very clear on their targets and objectives, and they rely on agencies or consultancies probably more than those in European countries,” he said.
“They have a real interesting understanding in what are you proposing, what are you telling them and how are you helping them to reach their target; I like this kind of openness.”
Dubai, De Nardis says, is one of the few areas in my region that is still growing and has a lot of growth potential. That is why it is important that PR agencies here is managed by people who know the region “very, very well”.
Going further, he believes that the rest of the year “looks bright”, and that the last quarter of 2013 is “growth-intensive”. He even cited that should Dubai win its bid to host Expo 2020, it will only help the emirate’s longer curve of growth.
“We really believe that this kind of growth can continue for so long,” De Nardis said. “I see more energy here in Dubai and the UAE than in other areas.”