BEIRUT: Staying on top of the game in advertising is surely not an easy task, said a pioneer in the industry. “Advertising is a very challenging industry because it is a very creative and volatile business that is easily affected by economic downturns,” said Edmond Moutran, CEO and chairman of Memac Ogilvy, a leading advertising firm in Lebanon and in the region.
Moutran spoke in an exclusive interview with The Daily Star about the challenges facing the advertising industry in Lebanon. “Whenever you have an economic crisis, the first budget to be impacted is that of advertising while it is also the last to come back,” he said.
Moutran explained that advertising should not be considered as an expense but an investment and a long-term strategy for brand and business building. “This is why when you invest in advertising you need to do it with peace of mind and with security in place for you to make sure that your investment will yield good results,” he said. “But unfortunately, in Lebanon you can never know what tomorrow will bring.”
In addition to economic issues, the lack of proper Internet infrastructure poses a great challenge to this industry in Lebanon. “Internet connection is too slow and expensive and it is driving away a lot of business,” he said. “This is driving us crazy. It is a waste of time for my people.”
Although the Lebanese advertising industry is characterized with its excellent talent and remarkable achievements throughout the years, it still lacks a competitive edge because the market is too small and therefore investments in the country are low compared to the rest of the region.
“It is one of the smallest markets in the world so there are not enough budgets for agencies to pay and train their employees,” he said. “Training has to be unbelievably quick and good while it costs a lot.”
As in many other sectors as well, advertising is highly affected by the political and security instability in the country.
“Agencies do not have the spirit and ongoing motivation to work in such a difficult situation. This is why they go to places where there is a systematic pattern of growth,” he said.
Memac Ogilvy has accounts for more than 150 brands and employs over 900 people in 15 offices.
With such a huge network, one of the main challenges facing Moutran is maintaining an excellent level of performance all over Memac’s 15 offices. “I am always working on making sure that all our offices in each and every market are as good as our best office,” he said. “This is not easy at all.”
“You have to maintain a fantastic level of understanding of the different economies in which you are operating. You should make sure you stay in business where 5 out of 15 markets have got revolutions on their hands,” Moutran added.
His great efforts bore fruit as his agency won several awards throughout the years, including 46 awards at this year’s Dubai Lynx Awards, the Oscars of the advertising and communications industry in the Middle East.
They included two Grand Prix, 14 Gold, 23 Silver and seven Bronze awards on top of the 72 shortlists and underpinned an amazing night for the agency as Moutran received the prestigious Dubai Lynx Advertising Person 2014 Award.
The evening was wrapped up by the unprecedented achievement of winning the Network of the Year while the company’s Dubai office being named Agency of the Year.
With such a rich portfolio, Moutran stands as a perfect model to follow for anyone who is planning to pursue a successful career in advertising.
“My advice for our youths who are willing to specialize in advertising is to have passion for the industry and to stay away of it if the main purpose is to get rich quickly,” he said. “Working hard is key to success.”
“If you are not willing to cancel your wedding because there is a big meeting for a client, then do not go for this industry,” Moutran added. “That’s what I personally did before.”
The advertising guru encouraged future advertisers to integrate social media into every aspect of their careers.
“Today, if people do not understand digital and social media we do not hire them,” he said, adding that his agency does not keep old-fashioned people who are not willing to change their mindset and adapt with the changes imposed by the digital media revolution.
“I personally spend two hours a day learning about social media and how it works.”