Current Clients: During his 15 years of advertising and communications experience in the Middle East, Reda has worked with Nissan, Axiom, Rothmans of Pall Mall International, Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airlines, Virgin Megastore, Tag Heuer, CNN, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and Master Foods, among others.
Born: Beirut, Lebanon
Worked in: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Lebanon, Egypt, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Morocco, South Africa, Kuwait, Jordan and more
Name an innovative idea or business solution for which you are most proud. Reda is proud of his time spend in Saudi Arabia establishing TBWA\RAAD’s business in the Kingdom. The market was pivotal to the company’s long-term strategy of developing three key hubs in “hard-to-win” markets within the region: Dubai, Cairo and Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia represented not only the biggest market, but the biggest challenge. Reda went to Jeddah without a sponsor, a partner, a client, or an office.
Le Meridien in Jeddah became his first home and office. Later, he moved to a 3-bedroom villa in a
compound, and found a Saudi sponsor. The living room became the creative department, two bedrooms were for account management and the third bedroom was where he slept. He then established Nissan as his client and moved into more permanent headquarters. As he spent more time in the Kingdom, Reda was realized that a lot of what he’d heard about Saudi may not have been true. “Saudi Arabia is really a great country. You have to live it to appreciate it, though, there are a lot of myths about the place. So many things are acceptable in Saudi; it’s just knowing to what degree they are acceptable.”
One such example was Reda’s decision to hire Saudi women to work in the agency. “Staying true to our ‘changing the rules’ mantra, we were one of the first agencies—if not the first—to hire Saudi females. We insured that the women had a separate, private entrance and individual toilet facilities, and everything was fine.”
The insights provided by our team of women were fantastic. Women have huge purchasing power
in Saudi Arabia and are vital in the decision-making process—even for electronics and cars—because their livelihood is shopping. And having the women working there made our work much more compelling. “It’s always been our belief that we have to disrupt the status quo. It’s in our DNA. We welcome difficult challenges—we want to be able to achieve difficult, different things. That’s what it takes to succeed.”
In its first year of existence, this new start-up won 3 awards in the Swords, Saudi Arabia’s first advertising awards show, including the best print ad for Nissan. Not only had the company quickly established itself as a local creative shop in a place considered difficult to do creative work, but it even generated a small year-one profit.
What role does innovation play in your marketing strategy today? Everything… being in the creative business, innovation is a must to survive. Disruption, a TBWA belief and personal practice of Reda, has evolved and matured as communities around the network use, adapt and reinvent Disruption tools for specific market or client needs. The methodology and process can be employed universally to answer just about any challenge that a brand or company may have. Disruption is not limited to marketing and communications but can be applied to deeper levels of an organization including products and services or the core business offering.
What is the biggest challenge you face in applying innovative thinking to international projects? Factoring in local culture to the overall thinking is the biggest challenge. We need to develop innovation that operates at the speed of culture. This means moving beyond 360-degree channel integration to a continual conversation every day of the year. We must create cultural conversations
Dictionary definitions aside, how would you characterize innovation in the work you do? Simply: Staying away from convention and disrupting the status quo.