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ASDA’A BCW named ‘Middle East Consultancy of the Year’ at the EMEA SABRE 2019 Awards

ASDA’A BCW cemented its position as the Middle East’s leading Public Relations firm after being named ‘Middle East Consultancy of the Year’ at the prestigious EMEA SABRE Awards 2019 ceremony in London hosted by The Holmes Report.

The SABRE Awards are the largest PR industry prizes in the world and are deemed the ultimate benchmark in PR performance. This year’s SABRE Awards EMEA shortlist included 400 campaigns selected from over 600 entries.

In recognising ASDA’A BCW, The Holmes Report said: “ASDA’A BCW’s maturity is reflected by an integrated offer that is perhaps best known for its ability to handle regional projects for government agencies, NGOs and corporations, and for its high-end corporate capabilities. But the firm also has strength in brand marketing, public affairs and tech.”

Sunil John, Founder and CEO of ASDA’A BCW, said: “We are extremely grateful for this wonderful recognition from The Holmes Report which honours not just our breadth of expertise but the strength of our creative work that moves people and delivers measurable business results for our clients. Congratulations to everyone at ASDA’A BCW for their dedication and great work. We are grateful to our clients for their confidence in the Agency’s competencies.”

The Middle East PR Consultancy of the Year award is the result of a thorough research process by a number of The Holmes Report editors, who review the submissions and travel the region to undertake face-to-face meetings throughout the year.

Paul Holmes, Founder and Chair of The Holmes Group, said: “Now in its 15th year, the SABRE Awards EMEA are all about engagement, credibility and relationship building. The jury made up of over 60 peers choose to award those agencies, corporate teams and individuals they believe to excel in those credentials.”

Since its founding in 2000, ASDA’A BCW has been a pioneer of public relations in the Middle East. With five dedicated practices – Consumer & Healthcare, Enterprise & Technology, Financial, Public Affairs and Corporate – it has grown to be the agency of record for regional businesses, governments and multinationals alike.

Proof IC, the digital and design firm, and PSB Middle East, the research arm, are fully-owned subsidiaries of ASDA’A BCW, together bringing cut-through solutions that encompass public relations, research and digital. Today, the Agency employs nearly 200 professionals across nine wholly-owned and eight affiliates – in 15 Middle East & North Africa (MENA) countries.

ASDA’A BCW to unveil findings of 11th annual Arab Youth Survey on April 30

ASDA’A BCW, the leading PR agency in the Middle East and North Africa, will unveil the findings of its 11th annual Arab Youth Survey, the largest independent study of its kind on the region’s largest demographic – its youth – on April 30 in Dubai.

This year’s survey marks the first time that the thought leadership initiative, with a distinctive new logo and brand identity, will be presented by ASDA’A BCW, following the global merger of WPP’s Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe firms last year.

The ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey underlines the agency’s ‘power of three’ model, which combines public relations, research and digital capabilities through three specialist brands. ASDA’A BCW works closely with its sister company PSB Middle East, the research firm, which conducted 3,500 face-to-face interviews with young Arab nationals aged 18 to 24 in 16 MENA countries; while Proof, the digital, data and design agency, drives digital and creative aspects of the Survey including the new logo and brand identity, and its digital and social presence.

With 65 per cent of the Arab population under the age of 30, the Survey presents evidence-based insights into the attitudes of Arab youth, providing public and private sector organisations with data and analysis to inform their decision-making and policy creation.

Sunil John, ASDA’A BCW’s President Middle East, said: “Over 11 years now, the Survey has provided credible pointers to the events shaping the region and highlights how young people here – the world’s youngest demographic – respond to them. The aspirations and attitudes of Arab youth serve as a compelling source of information and insight to help shape policies and drive business strategies.”

The launch event will be live streamed on ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey’s social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter in addition to real time updates on Instagram and LinkedIn and at www.arabyouthsurvey.com.

The Annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey has also won the coveted IN2 SABRE Award for ‘Thought Leadership in PR’ in EMEA for three consecutive years and was awarded the PRWeek Global Award for Middle East Campaign of the Year in 2018.

STARZ PLAY appoints ASDA’A BCW as communications partner to drive leadership in subscription video on demand services in MENA

STARZ PLAY – the MENA region’s fastest-growing subscription video on-demand service – has appointed ASDA’A BCW as its corporate communications partner.  The agency competed against several notable firms to win the competitive pitch.

STARZ PLAY is a subscription video on demand service that streams Hollywood movies, TV shows, documentaries, kids’ entertainment and same-day-as-the-US series – plus dedicated Arabic and Bollywood content – to 19 countries across the Middle East and North Africa. The Dubai-startup clinched leading market share since launch of services.

ASDA’A BCW will manage STARZ PLAY’s strategic PR and communications function and outreach throughout the GCC, North Africa and Levant.

Maaz Sheikh, Co-founder and CEO of STARZ PLAY, said: “Given the growth in subscription on demand video service in entertainment, STARZ PLAY was created with the aim to become the go-to choice for premium family content. We are a local platform for the region that strives to innovate in the digital space, and it was important for us to find a communications partner with strong regional presence that challenges convention. With the appointment of ASDA’A BCW as our communications agency, we look forward to an exciting period of growth.”

Sunil John, Founder and President of ASDA’A BCW, said: “This is an important win for us, as it demonstrates the strength of the agency’s position at the forefront of communications for leading tech and media brands within the region and beyond. Now is an exciting time to work alongside disruptive brands such as STARZ PLAY to act as a key contributor to building the firm’s presence in the Middle East and North Africa’s technology and media sector.”

ASDA’A BCW has won more regional and international industry awards than any other PR agency in the Middle East and has an unrivalled portfolio of globally-renowned and retained client accounts.

Sunil John: CEOs should take a stand on relevant social issues but authenticity is key

If ever an industry was to have earned a reputation for conservatism and playing it safe when it comes to communications, it would be oil and gas. That goes double for the oil giants in the Middle East, whose operations are tied so inextricably with the economies and governments of the countries in which they operate.

So, it came as a complete surprise to me that one of the few articulate corporate voices to emerge after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and the subsequent boycott of Saudi Arabia’s flagship Future Investment Initiative by dozens of international companies in October last year, was that of Amin Nasser, the CEO of Saudi Aramco.

He appeared live on CNN to express his regret over the killing, and to say that he believed the Kingdom was fully aware of the gravitas of the situation, and was investigating the case.

It struck me that this single appearance has changed the communications landscape in the Middle East, where most business leaders suffer from ‘tall poppy syndrome’ and are afraid to speak out in fear of being cut down to size by peers or, more likely, governments. Here was a businessman unafraid to speak out on an issue on everyone’s lips, but which every regional CEO wanted to avoid at all costs.

It sparked an article I wrote at the beginning of the year, where I argued that, in this day and age, CEOs in the Middle East have a duty to stick their heads above the parapet, and a subsequent industry panel session I hosted on this issue: Should CEOs, and the companies and brands they represent, take a stand on policy-making and political issues?

Ultimately, the panel, comprising CEOs and communications professionals from government and multinationals based in the region, agreed that now is the time to take a stand – but with some caveats.

CEOs that do take a stand can reap rewards when their values connect strongly with their audience. Ultimately, though, a CEO’s responsibility is to the business, and the risk-reward strategy needs to be properly ascertained, especially in a region where social issues and politics are frequently indistinguishable, and governments can exercise significant power over the business world.

CEOs that want to engage on social media need to know what they’re signing up for. Where once a public-facing CEO would act through a spokesperson, today’s outspoken executives have direct access to stakeholders through social media. There’s no filter, and once released, the genies aren’t going back into the bottle.

In an era of #fakenews, more people are looking to CEOs. Brands aspire to foster trust; today’s CEOs are more and more expected to embody their organisation’s brand values, and, when a trusted connection is made, then these CEOs have a responsibility to act in the interest of consumers to maintain that trust, even in areas not totally related to the business.  

And, related to that, the panel agreed that authenticity is key. I would even take that a step further: I firmly believe that authenticity will be the new measure of successful communications.

As PR practitioners it is our job to work with CEOs to ensure they emphasise the truth, broadcast the facts and present an image of unimpeachable honesty. We need to make the CEO more human, more authentic and more transparent – that will be the new measure of effective communications.