Filip Jabbour, CEO, GroupM MENA, on what’s the best and worst thing that can happen in 2016, and his mantra to make it through the year.
What’s the best thing that can happen in 2016?
Well, world peace! The whole sentiment of the region changes dramatically, whether it’s consumers’ confidence or marketers’ willingness or ability to invest [or] the Middle East government’s ability to operate and thrive in tough economic conditions. However, these are macro factors that everyone wishes for and that are beyond our control.
For us as an industry, I would love for us to be able to improve the way we take care of our talent in terms of education, empowerment and getting them to areas where they can be held accountable based on proper training, exposure and development. This is an area we can always do better in but, specifically here in the region, it is something we need to do more of.
In the race to the bottom line, we tend to forget the people who got us there. We try to become commercially more attractive to new business propositions and it limits our ability to continue to invest in talent that supposedly got us the business in the first place. We need to have the right mix of people across demographics, ethnicities’ specialisms and backgrounds. We’re not selling bricks and mortar where things haven’t changed. In our industry, things change by the day. People who get too comfortable in their chairs might not find chairs to sit on.
Having said that, as [with] everything, it’s about someone’s own prerogative to learn, but employers need to be able to facilitate that and provide the right environment and opportunities for people and that’s on us, the management.
The second thing – and it’s a shame that we still talk about this – is that we as an industry need to elevate the level of and create enough reliable data sources. You’d imagine that things in the digital space are measurable and accountable, but we need to be able to better leverage the technologies and expertise available, set better objectives and effectively use data to inform our decisions in a meaningful manner that adds value to our clients’ businesses.
What’s the worst thing that can happen in 2016?
The worst thing would be that none of these happens, because one is the flipside of the other – especially with macroeconomic and political conditions standing in the way. The lack of data and accountability is an issue and, if we’re not investing in our future now, the repercussions might not be felt immediately but over longer periods of time. I know it can’t be cracked in one day but, as long as there is an acknowledgement of the areas we need to work on, any effort is an effort in the right direction. We’ve been known to be a data-poor region and we can’t afford to continue like that anymore, especially with growing digital media options.
I entered [the MENA region] in 1994 and we were talking about TV meters in the UAE. It’s 22 years later now and we’re still talking about just the possibility of it. Now that we’re driving toward almost everything being bought programmatically, delaying this conversation is a moot point.
We can’t wait for the political situation to settle down. Peace in the Middle East… really? You just have to work with what you’re given, do what you can do and control what you can – and that’s a lot of elements. Unless there’s complete chaos and no one is spending money, at the end of the day, advertisers and marketers are still selling to consumers and still need to communicate to them. We just have to make the best out of the resources we have and we cannot wait for factors beyond our control, because our job is to be in areas ahead of our clients; it’s not the blind leading the blind.
Mantra: You miss a 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.