Agency ‘dinosaurs’ under fire

Middle East advertising agencies are the “dinosaurs” of the marketing scene and the discipline is rapidly becoming a devalued commodity, according to a UK PR agency head.

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By  Tim Addington Published  December 18, 2005

Middle East advertising agencies are the “dinosaurs” of the marketing scene and the discipline is rapidly becoming a devalued commodity, according to a UK PR agency head. Allan Biggar, CEO of International Insights, an affiliate of Dubai-based agency Asda’a, said the advertising model was “fundamentally flawed” and claimed only PR offered a comprehensive approach to client communications. Speaking at the first Public Relations Congress held in Dubai last week, Biggar said: “There is just not the creativity left in the advertising sector. Advertising in the region is rapidly becoming a commodity. When it becomes a commodity, it is devalued and unfortunately I think that’s where it is going.” He added: “I do think the advertising model is fundamentally flawed because it is true an awful lot of advertising is bought as a commodity. You would like to think there is great creative talent around, maybe there is, but they are buried in these machines that are all about profit margin.” Biggar, who previously worked as the Middle East head of global PR agency Burson-Marsteller, told the conference that the time was ripe for PR in the region to make its voice heard. “People have said that advertising is dead, long live PR before, but the difference now is that the sources of information for consumers are so diverse and people are made to choose their source of information, that advertising can no longer dominate by flooding the market. PR is capable of straddling the communications mix. “It is only PR that can grapple with the diverse range of media. Advertising on a channel at two in the morning may get you frequency but it is not going to get you penetration.” He also described working in an agency network office as a “soul destroying experience”, adding: “Where are the big names of advertising that we used to see? We don’t see them anymore.” Issuing a rallying cry to delegates, Biggar said: “I want you to be more arrogant in what you do. We need to make sure that our voice is heard in these organisations. Advertising is part of the communications mix but not the leader of it.” But he warned: “Ad agencies are not stupid. They may be the dinosaurs of the media scene, big and stuck in their ways, but they are dinosaurs who have watched the end of the movie. If we are not careful we could easily become the dish of the day on the lunch menu.”

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