Egypt Ad industry.. The MENA region's best? or the natural product of its biggest country?

There is no doubt the Egyptian marketing industry has grown tremendously over the past 5-10 years, and we went through a long evolution cycle that eventually got us to be more or less at par with international standards. 
Throughout that evolution process, we have passed by hideous 1980s roll-on-voice-over "announcements" (I'd like to call them announcements rather than commercials), through 1-minute-jingle ads of the 1990s (that comprise a decent portion of the childhood memories of a lot of us today), passing by some poor graphic ads in early 2000 (hey, at least we gave it a shot).. To finally arriving to where we are today.

From where we stand now, Egyptian ads have become very sophisticated, well thought and insight-based rather than just getting a hot model or composing a cool jingle that would "click" with people. Over the past 5 years, participations of Egyptian agencies in Regional/International competitions (be Creative or Media Festivals) is on the rise.. Winning or losing is not the point here, its the international exposure and the learning stream of working world-class projects is what we're looking for. This is what would put us on the global map, just to tell people “WE’RE HERE”!!
If we look at this year's 2010 Cannes Lions Festival, we'll see that most of the winning entries are from countries that are not as "developed" as we would've imagined (Argentina, Venezuela...etc). 

So what does this tell us, that we don't need to be the country with the highest resources, or the biggest budgets to be able come up with interesting ideas for an ad/media execution.

But we are indeed starting to lead the region in some angles, ad spends for starters.. In a study conducted by Pan Arab Research Center (PARC) and published in a UAE newspaper sometime last month, Egypt has surpassed UAE in dollar value spent on ads in semester1 2010, with 708 Million USD VS 680 Million USD.. This definitely says something!

For years now, the UAE (Dubai specifically) has been considered the hub of the advertising industry in the region, which was fairly true to a very large extent. Big clients, Big budgets and a diversity of nationalities definitely brings in a fresh perspective of thought and in doing business. In my view, diversification is not always a good thing, having worked in Dubai and seen how the business goes, it is not always smart to look at things from a global perspective, sometimes its better to think INSIDE the box, rather than outside.. Because there’s no point in having 10 people sit in a room (only 2 of which are Arabs), thinking about a Ramadan campaign for a UAE citizen.. Where is your cultural understanding, where is that void in the society that you’ll fill with your idea??
This is what I believe Egyptians do best, we think like the target audience we want to talk to, add to that a twist of good old Egyptian humor, and you’re made! J

So it looks like the table is starting to turn, as Egypt is entering the scene with a bang.. Egypt always led on advertising in this part of the world (with pioneers of this business; such as Tarek Nour, Hazem Dera…etc), but then the Dubai-bubble started to inflate and attract the region and world’s top executives in the field in the late 1990s-early 2000s; at that time the Egyptian market was still fighting a battle of bureaucracy, MNCs licensing issues as most importantly; client education.
In the last 10 years, Egypt has been taking baby-steps to be at par with Int’l standards, slowly but surely. Now we’re nearly there.. So what do we need to do next?

  1. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH…. The most brilliant ideas come from the most trivial insights, but because if this trivial insight is true, Bang on!
  2. We need to understand that clients don’t hold our leash.. A huge misconception in this market is that client-agency relationship is more of a master-slave relationship… by achieving point one properly, agency staff would be standing on concrete grounds to walk up to a client and say “You know what, F*** off…This is what will work for your brand.. Even if you or your friends don’t think so.. because we know our shit better”
  3. Client education; sometime clients don’t know what exactly they’re looking for/how to find it… It is always our role to educate our clients with what’s happening around us. This way we’ll be speaking our language, thus they’d be more receptive and open to our recommendation/suggestions.
  4. Always be informed; always keep an eye on what’s out there… Being a third-world country is not that bad after all, because you see technology and executions from all over the world. Maybe you can use that, or combine some of these ideas, mix it with a local flavor/understanding.. and you got yourself an award winning idea. Its not always important to do things FIRST, maybe if you do it RIGHT, people would appreciate it more.

Anyways, these are just some thoughts worth sharing.
We’re ahead of an advertising fiasco in the next 30 days, so lets see what this hold in store for us.



hkhalifa said...

Thats really quite interesting and informative. keep it up

Shakankiry said...

7elwa :)
matakhodlak 3amood yabny fel ahram wla el wafd wla 7aga..

Mariam said...

Ur finally getting ur big mouth to say things that are interesting :) :) i like i like even if i slightly disagree i believe diversity is essential for any real horizontal growth to occur, its the way we handle the other 8 ppl in the room of ten that matters - OPEN MINDS !!! we need to listen, understand, and disagree .. out of the box needs to come from somewhere, yes we have what it takes if we were all the same background in one room but true freedom of thought is one that doesn't discriminate between the ppl voicing them :) no ?? :) anyway Im glad to c ur thoughts somewhere else besides freaking FB ! keeeepp it up im ffolloowwing u :p :p

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