Insight is delighted to speak to Samir Ayoub, Founder & CEO at MEDPUSH.
Please tell us about yourself. Why did you choose to pursue a career in the media business? What inspired you to launch MEDPUSH?
I’ve been in the media and research business for over 30 years. I spent about six years at the Pan Arab Research Center, and then I moved to the media and advertising business. I have spent the past 17 years running Mindshare across the MENA region. We started in 1999, and it was the first media agency in the Arab world. We began with fewer than 15 employees and two offices and when I left the company, Mindshare had more than 350 employees and 13 different offices across the Arab world. when I resigned from Mindshare I had several options ahead of me, and I decided to launch MEDPUSH which provides media auditing, media consultancy and media training services as I wanted to do something different. The type of services that we offer are available globally, but not in the Arab world because the concept of media auditing, consultancy and training is still in the infancy stage. This is the new trend to some extent. Our mission is to maximize efficiency and help improve the standards of the industry. Auditing on its own doesn’t do it, so we have all three, auditing, consulting, and training. Our training program is catered for both advertisers and media suppliers as there is a gap between the media vendors on one side and media agencies and client on the other side. In order to improve that standards of the industry, we need to narrow that gap through training and consultancy.
Could you tell a bit more about the media audit services that your company offers? What is a media audit? What advantages does it offer to clients?
When we talk about media audit, people get scared. I am not here to affect the business of media agencies. On the contrary, I want to help them to get more rewarded and appreciated. There are three areas that our audit services cover. One is the trading aspect. The second is planning efficiency, which is crucial. The third is compliance based on the contractual agreements between agencies and their clients. So, an audit is not limited to one aspect; it covers three different elements. If you go back to the slogan of the company, we talk about re-defining media efficiency. Under the “media efficiency” umbrella are other pillars and auditing is only one of them.
Could you tell more about your training services?
The way we are positioning ourselves in the market is that we are practical media experts. There is a big difference between theoretical and practical experts. I was among the first people who started the media agency industry in the region, and the people who are currently on board with me started at the junior level and over the years they have built extensive experience in the media field. We know well how the market operates and what the requirements are. As such, we have developed a very comprehensive training program, which covers theories, processes, and practical examples and briefs across all aspects of media planning and buying . We have a developed a very comprehensive training program. Every person who attends our program will surely realise its impact.
There is somehow a misperception – or this is the reality – that media audit firms globally focus on traditional media more than digital media. We know digital very well and it’s at the core of our offering, for example digital represents about 40% of our training programs. We need to keep in mind that digital is very fragmented – we have SEO, SEM, social, programmatic, display, content, etc.. we cover them all in great details.
Could you tell more about your consultancy services?
We offer several consultancy services. One is, handling the entire pitch process right from developing the brief until the scoring and decision stage. A second service we offer stems from the advertisers across the region who, today, do not have a media expert on board. We offer support as media experts throughout the year to ensure maximum efficiency of both planning and buying. A third service we offer under our consultancy umbrella is facilitating and managing relationships between advertisers and the agencies. Most clients today evaluate their agency, but there are very few cases when agencies evaluate the clients. We have developed a very comprehensive 360-degree evaluation system that covers the evaluation of both client and agency and reflects a partnership spirit. This is how it should be – based on very clear KPIs and knowledge of what the expectations are. At the end, if everything is clear and each party knows what is expected from them and what is expected from their counterpart, then everyone has peace of mind.
You mentioned that digital media is very important these days. To what extent do marketers in this region use digital channels? What would be your recommendations for ensuring that they maximize the impact of digital channels?
Let’s take a step back. People say that digital is evolving and changing the media scene. For me, what is driving the changes and the evolution in the media scene is technology. Technology is creating these changes, not only across digital but across everything else, and we, as day-to-day consumers, are affected by the developments in technology. In the past couple of years, digital has evolved a lot, driven by technology. More than five years back, digital was thought of as a niche channel used mainly to build awareness. This has changed. As digital is measured and monitored properly, we can track the activity or journey of a consumer in the digital realm, so digital is becoming increasingly performance-led. Moving forward, maybe one or two years down the line, the KPIs of using digital as a medium will change. Awareness will not be a part of the KPIs, it will be about call of action. This is on one side. On the other side, there is another space under digital called “social media.” where people interact with each other or with brands. As I said earlier, digital is a fragmented medium. So we put in place, clear guidelines and benchmarks to evaluate the performance of each medium within digital and hence ensure that the investment is in the right place.
The slogan of your company is “Redefining Media Efficiency.” Based on your extensive experience in the industry, what would be your recommendations for maximizing media efficiency and ROI?
First of all, there are gaps in terms of measurement and monitoring. Take outdoor media as an example. it’s very important for communication yet it lacks not only measurement, but also a basic monitoring system. What we do is encourage different players, particularly outdoor suppliers, to put into place monitoring and measurement systems. This is one of the areas where we are going to ensure we maximize efficiency. Training is another area that helps improve efficiency. The third element that helps to improve efficiency is identifying the holes in the relationships, or the market between agencies, clients, and media vendors, and putting in place proper and adequate benchmarks to push the bar higher.
What is the current geography of operations for MEDPUSH, and what are your expansion plans?
Currently, we are in Dubai, but we cover the MENA region. We just started with Aujan Coca Cola Beverages Company as our first client, who have regional activities. Our plan is to open offices in other key markets in the coming few years starting with Saudi Arabia.
When we speak about our region, there are challenges, but there are also many positive developments at this stage. What do you see as the major opportunities for growth? What is your vision for MEDPUSH?
There is no doubt that people say that the market is going down, and there are many challenges in the market. Advertisers are cutting budgets, but this is not the first time that we faced such challenges. Back in 2008–2009, we faced far more severe difficulties. The question remains – are we learning from our past experiences?
Unfortunately, if we see now what different players in the industry are complaining about, these things could have been avoided if we learned from what happened in the market at that time. So, the market is now down, and I see it as an opportunity. Why is it an opportunity? I hear now that many organizations are in the midst of re-structuring. If you have an efficient system in place, you will be in a far better position not to be affected as much as if you had a fat structure or inefficient systems in place. We are here, now, to help improve our clients’ efficiency. Yes, many people feel somehow annoyed or unhappy, but I always believe in being happy go lucky. We need to think about the future and believe it will be bright. Currently, there are some political issues, and the economy is not that great, but sooner or later we are going to get out of this. Once we get out of this, ideally, we will be much stronger because we will have learned our lessons the hard way.