By Richard Abbott
Mediaedge:cia is one of the biggest buyers of ad space in the region. Richard Abbott meets EMEA boss Dominic Grainger
Rising to the challenge of a developing market|~|DomonicGranger200.jpg|~|Grainger... ‘We are a global agency and we need to be as strong as possible across all areas’|~|Dominic Grainger loves a challenge. In the course of our interview, the Mediaedge:cia boss for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) uses the word almost a dozen times.
“What attracted me to this industry was the dynamism and change. The challenge of building a business across different markets is a great one,” he says.
“My focus used to be the more developed markets now the challenges of getting into more developing markets is exciting.” Just for good measure, he adds: “Our clients needs are changing all the time, which makes it challenging.”
Grainger, it seems, is not a man to shy away from getting his teeth into something.
Luckily, in the Middle East his agency is well represented. The regional arm is one of the leading buyers of print and outdoor and can count on the clout of Joseph Ghossoub, who runs the holding group and is soon to become president of the International Advertising Association.
“The Middle East is a real development opportunity,” he says. “My job is to grow the region and to make it stronger.
“We are a global agency and we need to be as strong as possible across all areas.”
And his clients are waking up to the potential within the region.
“It is a region that many more of our clients are talking about. It has really come on to the radar of our international clients,” he says.
“The investment that is going on there and the consequent effect on the advertising market is huge. We can provide more services to our clients than we have before.
“It is still a very entrepreneurial market. There is a lot you can do there that you can’t in other markets. We are creating new mediums all the time. In the ambient market we have done things that no-one has done before.”
This, he says, is in contrast with Western Europe, where the ad markets may be bigger but are well developed, so growth is slower.
Grainger has taken an odd route to the top of the WPP-owned agency. He trained as an accountant and studied languages, spending time in France and Italy in his youth. It was whilst working on mergers and acquisitions that the opportunity came along to work full-time at one of his clients —Chris Ingram Associates, otherwise known as CIA.
After a spell as chief financial officer, his company merged with The Media Edge three years ago to create what is now known as Mediaedge:cia, and Grainger became CEO across the EMEA region.
Grainger points to several media owner moves that have enhanced the advertising market in the Middle East, most notably the reduction in the number of minutes of advertising per hour on TV, which creates less clutter from the media buyer’s perspective.
He says: “Clutter is a big issue. Because these markets have been so unregulated in the past there was advertising on constantly.
That is getting better now and there is better quality advertising time available.”
He also highlights the launch of new newspapers as a sign of health and talks enthusiastically about the emerging media opportunities.
“Advertising is appearing everywhere. Look at ambient, there are now banners that you can put up in different places. Certain sectors are growing really fast too — retail, construction, real estate.
“What we have is a more entrepreneurial environment to work in, which is interesting for our clients because they can do new things, test new ideas.
“When I talk to them now they are genuinely interested in the Middle East market, what they can do, maybe test some new ideas and grow their business.”
But not everything is smelling of roses. When asked what he would change about the Middle East, some familiar, and thorny, subjects raise their head. “The overall instability that there has always been in the Middle East has not been helpful,” he says.
“The reason things have picked up is because people are now more comfortable with investing in these markets. There is much more confidence.”
While most people baulk at the cultural issues that affect advertising in countries like Saudi Arabia, Grainger sees it as an opportunity.
“This is where we can help. We have good coverage — we can be our clients’ agent and their business partner across these countries.”
Grainger admits that his job means he is “spread very thinly” so he visits the Middle East only about two to three times a year. He tends to be travelling about two to three days a week, working with the local market teams, meeting clients and looking at other companies to buy.
“Our ambition is to create the first true communications planning and implementation agency — more of a media communications business. From the foundation of media, which is still our core business, we are expanding and broadening our offer,” he says.
And does the growth of the Middle East mean that it is taking up an increasing chunk of his time?
“We already have a lot more focus on the region than we had even two years ago,” he says.
“We are looking now with our other partners in WPP at what we can do in terms of Group M — because obviously we have got MindShare and Mediacom — to create more resources.
“I think we will drive more investment into the region. Now that we have established a strong brand we can strengthen our offer.
“But I think it will always need to be very connected with Europe operationally just because of how clients are organised.”
The agency is looking to transfer people from Western Europe into the Middle East, to bring skills that have been honed in a developed market into a developing one.
“We are looking for people around the network who can transfer,” he says. “It is a young developing market. For someone who has grown up in a more developed market it is quite an interesting place to go for two or three years’ experience in a much more entrepreneurial market,” he says.
And for the challenge, of course.||**||