ASDA’A BCW appoints industry expert Rami Halawani as Executive Vice President – Client Services

Rami Halawani, formerly ASDA’A BCW’s Regional Director – Levant & North Africa, joins back from Dubai Chambers, where he was Director – Marketing & Communications

Rami Halawani, EVP – Client Services, ASDA’A BCW

Dubai, UAE; January 25, 2023: ASDA’A BCW, the region’s leading communications consultancy, has appointed Rami Halawani, a strategic communications and marketing professional with over two decades of experience, as its Executive Vice President – Client Services.

He will focus on strengthening key client relationships, delivering counsel to elevate campaigns, provide reputation and crisis management counsel, and build new business partnerships.  

Rami was an integral part of the Agency’s regional growth from 2002 to 2009 as Regional Director – Levant and North Africa, managing wholly-owned and affiliate offices in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, in addition to leading the Consumer Marketing and Healthcare practices.

He joins the Agency from Dubai Chambers, where he was Director – Marketing & Corporate Communication for over 12 years, responsible for implementing the Chambers’ global communications strategy and engaging internal and external stakeholders. 

Welcoming Rami, Sunil John, President – MENA of BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, said: “It is such a delight to welcome back Rami, who has played a key role in building our regional network. Rami will provide in-depth counsel to our clients with his demonstrated skills in integrated and digital-first communications as we chart a new growth strategy in 2023 focused on delivering exceptional client service.”

Rami said: “This is a true home-coming for me. With the communications industry evolving at a tremendous pace, it is important that Agencies focus on real value addition through service diversification and innovation – and ASDA’A BCW has been at the forefront especially with the region’s most quoted thought leadership initiative – the annual Arab Youth Survey and the recent launch of the innovative ESG advisory OnePoint5”.

Rami started his career with Weber Shandwick PR in Dubai as Account Manager and Arabic Media Relations Manager. A graduate in Literature with Post Graduation in Translation and Interpretation and is fluent in English, Arabic, French and Italian.

Having won ‘Best Agency – UAE’ – a historic recognition for a PR firm – at the Campaign Agency of the Year Middle East awards and the 2022 Best PR/Communications Agency, ASDA’A BCW is enhancing its value offerings for clients through innovative approaches to Public Relations.

ASDA’A BCW celebrates historic win as ‘Best Agency – UAE’ at the Campaign Agency of the Year Middle East Awards

  • Recognition marks the first time any PR firm is honoured as the ‘Best Agency’ triumphing over creative, marketing, experiential and media buying firms
  • Agency also wins PR/Communications Agency of the Year
  • Managed by Haymarket, the UK-based publisher of Campaign, the awards were audited by PwC, the Global Process Integrity Partner of all AoTY awards worldwide

ASDA’A BCW, the region’s leading communications consultancy, has marked a historic first winning ‘Best Agency – UAE’ at the Campaign Agency of the Year Middle East awards, which celebrate the best minds in advertising, marketing and media. ASDA’A BCW was also recognised as the Best PR/Communications Agency of the Year.

The ’Best Agency – UAE’ honour marks the first time any Public Relations firm has been honoured as the best in the industry, triumphing over creative, agencies, digital, integrated marketing agencies, events and experiential, and media buying agencies.

The prestigious Agency of the Year Awards was managed by Haymarket, the UK-based publisher of Campaign, in consultation with PwC, the Global Process Integrity Partner of all Campaign Agency of the Year awards worldwide.

PwC evaluates entry evaluation, jury selection, jury voting, and the selection of the final winners of the agency awards. The awards were adjudged by a panel of eminent client marketers and communications professionals from the region.

Sunil John, President – MENA of BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, said: “Winning the Best Agency – UAE is an inspiring testament to our digital-first, integrated and creative approach. For a PR firm to be honoured as the best in the industry is also a big win for Public Relations highlighting its impactful role in delivering truly integrated communications and delivering value across the paid-earned-shared-owned ecosystem.”

He added: “In 2006, just six years after ASDA’A was launched, we won Campaign’s PR Agency of the Year – Middle East. It has been a rewarding journey since, as we evolved tremendously, and continue to set industry trends through innovative offerings such as OnePoint5, the first Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) advisory by a communications firm, and Proof, our specialised digital, design and social agency. Across all these years, one aspect has remained constant – the gold standard that we ensure in everything we do. We dedicate the recognitions to our great clients and fantastic team of professionals.”

2022: A Record Year of Client Wins and Double-Digit Agency Growth

In 2022, ASDA’A BCW achieved record revenue growth in its 22-year history. This was driven by near 100 per cent client retention and record new business wins. Surpassing our new business and organic growth targets, the agency’s strategic reset, following the pandemic, spurred revenues to record highs, underpinned by two consecutive years of double-digit growth.

In 2022, the agency further highlighted its industry thought leadership with the 14th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, which demonstrates the value that the PR industry brings to governments, businesses, and civil society by providing evidence-based insights on the hopes, attitudes, and aspirations of MENA’s largest demographic, its over 200 million youth. This year’s edition was launched with great global/regional impact, reaching over 500 million people within the first week of its launch in September 2022.

The agency continues to be the industry’s talent magnet, welcoming more than 50 new professionals in 2022. Serving over 100 clients in the region, ASDA’A BCW ranked high in the 2021 BCW Global Client Satisfaction Survey, where 68% of respondents rated its overall performance at ‘8 or higher’ on a 10-point scale, and 83% said they are more likely to recommend us.

Nearly Two-Thirds of Businesses in the UAE and Saudi Arabia Lack an ESG Framework: ASDA’A BCW Survey

Exclusive research conducted to mark the launch of OnePoint5, ASDA’A BCW’s new ESG advisory dedicated to the MENA region

Dubai, UAE; June 30, 2022: Nearly two-thirds (60%) of businesses in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia do not have a framework governing their environment, social and governance (ESG) standards, and around half of those who do are not sure their employees fully understand it.

These were the top findings of an exclusive study of 200 decision makers in the two countries commissioned by ASDA’A BCW, the region’s leading integrated communications agency, to mark the launch OnePoint5, its new ESG advisory dedicated to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Its name is inspired by the world’s most important sustainability goal – limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

OnePoint5 aims to strengthen the voice of the MENA region on ESG issues while helping clients to adopt more sustainable business practices. The new advisory arrives as Egypt prepares to host the UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, in November, to be followed by COP28 in the UAE in 2023.  

Out of the 200 opinion elites interviewed, 41 per cent said their business already had an ESG framework in place, while a third (33%) said they were developing one. A quarter (26%) admitted their company had no ESG policy. Underscoring the need for raised awareness of the benefits of ESG standards, over half (52%) of respondents who said their company had introduced an ESG framework said they did not fully understand it.

Sunil John, President – MENA of BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, said the research indicated that the Middle East’s business community had work to do to meet the high expectations of their governments on sustainability best practice.

Developing a strong ESG proposition

“OnePoint5 can help client develop a strong ESG proposition to deliver greater value for their shareholders and stakeholders,” said John. “The specialist advisory will be led by Stephen Worsley, Senior Vice President at ASDA’A BCW. A communications professional with more than 25 years’ experience, he has advised clients in the sustainability and energy sectors, including Masdar, Total, Zayed Sustainability Prize, Engie and First Solar.”

OnePoint5 offers four key services: Advice & counsel to client decision makers to ensure sustainability thinking is central to their business planning and disclosure; auditing and gap analysis to understand a client’s sustainability impacts; designing operational plans to help integrate best practices; and communications strategies and plans to help clients inform and motivate employees and internal stakeholders, as well as amplify external stakeholder awareness of their sustainability commitments.

Bridging the ‘say-do’ gap

“The gap between awareness of the acute need to advance sustainable development and action on the ground by much of the business community needs closing,” added John. “Consultancies like OnePoint5 can help clients address this so-called ‘say-do’ gap, by combining the skills of experienced communicators with the technical abilities of sustainability specialists.”

He said: “The UAE, Saudi Arabia and several other countries in MENA have pledged to go Net Zero and are enacting a wave of reforms aimed at raising the bar for transparency, good governance and sustainability – that is not to mention the massive infrastructure projects being undertaken, from The Line in Saudi Arabia to Expo 2020 in Dubai, the most sustainable Expo ever staged and the planned venue for COP28 next year. The message is clear: all of us need to raise our game.”

Climate Change Already Impacting Middle East Businesses

The survey further revealed that Middle East businesses need to pick up the pace on climate action, with about two-thirds (61%) of decision makers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia saying that global warming was already having an impact on the way their business operates.

While governance standards also show room for improvement, 40 per cent of businesses in the two countries claim to have robust policies to combat bribery, corruption and unethical behaviour. Forty-six per cent of respondents in the UAE and 43 per cent in Saudi Arabia said they had a whistle-blower policy in place to expose corruption.

The survey was conducted by PSB Middle East, the wholly owned data and analytics subsidiary of ASDA’A BCW, from May 22 to 29, 2022. The interview sample, comprising decision makers directly involved in ESG affairs, was evenly split between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

See all findings here

IATA must step up communications to boost confidence in air travel: Arab Aviation Summit panel

The rise of private charter and the challenges in business travel will have a decisive influence on the industry, but the key is to boost passenger confidence, says Sunil John

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) must step up its communications efforts, provide common guidelines and rally all industry stakeholders to boost confidence in the aviation sector, observed a panel on ‘Airline Strategies versus today’s reality’ at the eighth Arab Aviation Summit in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.

Describing the aviation sector’s response to the crisis emerging from the pandemic as ‘timid’, Sunil John, President – Middle East of BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, said the aviation sector’s current challenges can’t be addressed by airlines, airports, or tour operators alone but “global organisations such as IATA that must bring a commonality of approach and an industry-wide response regarding the safety and vaccine protocols to benefit the sector.”

Moderated by broadcast journalist Eithne Treanor, the panel discussion was also addressed by Linus Benjamin Bauer, Founder & Managing Director of Bauer Aviation Consultancy; and Peter Morris, Chief Economist at Flight Ascend Consultancy.

Sunil John said there is pent-up demand for travel now, but the key is to “build confidence among people who are not ready to fly, assure them of their safety and how they can navigate the various protocols. Aviation is sentiment-driven. Right now, the sentiment is all gloom and doom. Building confidence will happen when the aviation sector has clear and honest communication that addresses passenger anxieties. They must lead from the front. A proactive, courageous stance is needed for the aviation industry today.”

“The United Arab Emirates will take a lead role in driving the recovery of the aviation sector,” added Sunil, “with Expo 2020 Dubai, playing a decisive role in boosting the prospects of both the aviation and tourism sectors. The nation is at the centre of the world and we have the opportunity to convert the pent-up demand for people to get on planes and travel.”

He cited the success story of Ras Al Khaimah in driving domestic tourism as “a smart strategy’ that led to near 100 per cent occupancy at hotels in the emirate during the pandemic year, and the RAK International Airport gaining market share despite the pandemic through “flexible pricing attracting low-cost airlines.”

Sunil said an emerging trend for the sector will be the rise of private jet charters that will eat into the business travel segment of commercial airlines. “The ‘Uber of the skies’ will be a real trend offering the opportunity for people who had never had the opportunity to get on a private plane to charter their travel with an App. You are looking at a whole new market that is going to impact commercial airlines, which will likely lose market share in the lucrative first/business class passenger segment. In addition, private companies are increasingly going to look at business travel for essential or unavoidable purposes only.”

Linus Bauer reiterated the need to build confidence in the industry’s ability to “carry passengers from A to B safely.” He said the decline in business travel was a key challenge, while adding that the opportunities in the Middle East were tremendous, leading to increased appetite for aviation services.

Peter Morris said the success of the industry calls for commercial solutions. “Only business models that meet the needs of customers will be successful. You cannot force people to travel and there are different sets of parameters for business and leisure.” Top priorities include ensuring the continued viability of airlines, airports and tourism providers, he added. “A coherent response by governments is lacking and air travel patterns remain complex. The hit to global GDP is another factor that influences the ability to travel.”

The eighth Arab Aviation Summit is organised by Air Arabia and hosted in collaboration with the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). The event is held under the theme, ‘Arab Aviation in the New Normal.’