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New Lowe MD: be bold or else

Lowe’s new managing director has vowed to ditch clients that are not prepared to be creative with their advertising.

Lowe’s new managing director has vowed to ditch clients that are not prepared to be creative with their advertising.

In his first interview since being hired to head up the agency for the Middle East and North Africa, Justin McCarthy told Campaign that he wanted to produce campaigns that create a “healthy discomfort” and has set his team a mission to become the best in the Middle East.

“I want clients to feel uncomfortable with work because it is going to challenge them,” he said. “I am probably going to be one of the more unpopular guys in adland. But I relish that. I didn’t come here to be liked.

“I will walk away from any clients that don’t want to push the bar.”

When Lowe Worldwide chairman Tony Wright visited Dubai earlier this year he passed a damning verdict on local advertising. He described it as patronising, linear and reminiscent of work that came out of the West in the 1950s.

The new Lowe agency is the result of an agreement between Lowe Worldwide and the Middle East Communication Networks (MCN). Lowe will come under the MCN
umbrella but will be independent of Fortune Promoseven, pitching against its sister agency in some cases.

Lowe Worldwide previously had a franchise agreement with Dubai-based agency BrandCom, which used Lowe’s name and serviced its global clients, Unilever and Johnson & Johnson until the agreement was terminated last month.

McCarthy, who was previously deputy managing director at TBWA Johannesburg, is currently interviewing local and international candidates for the position of creative director. Among those already on board are creative group heads Sanjay Mathur and Clinton Manson, who have joined from Lowe Cairo and Grey Dubai respectively.

McCarthy’s pledge to put creativity at the top of the agenda echoes that of Fortune Promoseven Dubai managing director Phil Lynagh, who recently announced he was putting creativity to the top of his agenda.

“There is nothing near the respect for creativity that there should be,” said McCarthy. “I needed a challenge where I could take everything that I had learned into a region that is bluntly lagging when it comes to creativity.

“I want to put the Middle East on the global creative map by creating an advertising culture that is recognised globally. I want to get the attention of the judges at Cannes.”

He added: “I want everyone who works for me to think three times before they put a piece of work down in front of anybody. I want them to ask ‘is this good enough?’.”

McCarthy was born in Ireland but raised and educated in Johannesburg. The former restaurant manager has worked in South Africa with Bates, DDB, Publicis, Y&R and TBWA.

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