FACES TO WATch media 2016.
SANDRA ESSA 28 DIGITAL PLANNING MANAGER PHD
When PHD is Campaign's media agency of the year, it's hard to pick one star. Yet here she is. A manager in digital planning, Essa took to marketing straight after graduating with a degree in advertising and PR from Stockholm University. Born and raised in Sweden to Syrian parents, she spent her entire childhood obsessed with all things audio-visual and -- following a short stint in PR -- moved to media and joined PHD in Dubai in 2013.
It didn't take long for her to shine. The following year she was awarded the title of 'PHDer of the Year' and hasn't looked back since. "Sandra continuously demonstrates a huge amount of passion and enthusiasm for both her role on her accounts and for the company as a whole," says Elda Choucair, managing director of PHD UAE. "She always seeks new approaches to problems and challenges, and is relentless in her search for the best possible outcomes and results."
The creativity she applies to her work has contributed to the team winning several awards at the Effies and Festival of Media MENA, including a gold for Unilever, while she has also been instrumental in delivering innovative, creative and technology-led campaigns that in many cases have re- calibrated planners' expectations of what is possible in media.
BEST THING ABOUT MY JOB: Seeing the results of my work. It's a real privilege to be able to build on my passion for storytelling and make it deliver tangible results. I feel that I am equally able to deliver and be challenged. There's no room for complacency and always an opportunity to go beyond the obvious or tried and testing. It's so fulfilling.
SUCCESS IS: Successfully, and surprisingly, combining art and science. I did not expect my pragmatic side would take over and that making sense of numbers and data would become a passion point. The way we practice media today, part science-part heart, is a perfect fit and has given me a new home.
LEILA GAAFAR 24 MEDIA EXECUTIVE, STRATEGIC
RESEARCH AND INSIGHTS HAVAS MEDIA
Moving from Portland, Oregon to join Havas in 2015 and take up her first position in the media industry, Gaafar never imagined she would experience as much or as fast as she did. Since joining she has created and won pitches for entertainment- focused clients such as Disney (Star Wars) and realised the passion she has for strategic planning and creative work. "My need/love for order and organisation (some call it obsessive) has helped me achieve a lot and grow quickly, but I always find myself looking for new information and bigger challenges," she says. "The biggest fear I have in my work is stagnancy and routine activities."
"At the start of her professional career, Leila already has the most valuable qualities a strategist can have, an insatiable curiosity combined with an unyielding sense of advocacy for the consumer," says Alejandro Fischer, strategy director at Havas Media ME. "Her ability to master information combined with a personal POV has made her an invaluable contributor to Havas Media's clients, diving into the data to identify meaningful insights that address complex business challenges."
BEST THING ABOUT MY JOB: Getting to create different strategic ideas and solutions with every new project. Working with such a wide variety of unique individuals across so many different brands and industries makes each experience exciting and challenging -- great for my short attention span.
SUCCESS IS: Doing something I love that has a larger influence than what I see while I'm creating it. I hope that there is a much bigger picture to the work that I do throughout my life.
SAROSH WAIZ 30 HEBA ATTALLAH 30 JOUD BOKSMATI 25 SENIOR MANAGER DIGITAL, SENIOR MANAGER EXCHANGE AND DIGITAL
EXCHANGE EXECUTIVE MINDSHARE UAE
This trio of Mindshare achievers has plenty to smile about. Boksmati for one has been among the core drivers of originality and innovation at the agency and within less than a year has managed to win more than half a dozen awards. The most notable of these was a gold Effie for the Rani Egypt campaign 'Kees Gawafa', which he led on campaign planning and execution. Almost a year and a half since joining the agency, Boksmati is one of the strongest digital media resources at Mindshare, leading and supporting on a wide variety of accounts.
Waiz meanwhile is a solid marketing resource who has worked across mainstream media, digital marketing, ideation, social media, experiential marketing, integrated strategy, content integration and public relations. Currently leading digital strategy for several clients, his contributions on insights, strategy and ideas have led to several Effie, Cristal and Festival of Media awards.
And then there's Atallah. Known for her dedication and commitment, she joined Mindshare three years ago as one of the main leads on HSBC, Rolex and Lenovo and has proved popular ever since. She contributed to last year's Effies haul for HSBC Commercial Banking and constantly challenges herself to ensure her deliverables are outstanding and award winning.
BEST THING ABOUT OUR JOB: The long hours, the work/life imbalance, it really makes you treasure your life and free time. But in seriousness it's hands down the people you work with, because they help you get through all that. At media agencies we have the advantage of having more of a casual laid back atmosphere, and that plays a big part in building more personal rather than just professional connections. You start to look forward to work because you're not just going with co-workers, you're going to work with a group of friends.
SUCCESS IS: It's that ideal that you're always reaching for that ultimately keeps you driven and motivated. An ideal image you have of yourself towards the end of your career. Whenever you're working late or going through a tough time, you always kind of have that image at the back of your head.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
ZADI HOBEIKA 30 MELISSA MOUBARAK 28 SALMA SHEDID 29 TONY SARKIS OBEIDAT 25
DIGITAL DIRECTOR, STRATEGY MANAGER, MEDIA MANAGER AND MEDIA SUPERVISOR UM MENA
UM's four young go-getters are scattered across the region and yet are connected by entrepreneurialism and a desire to do good. A storyteller at heart and an evangelist for the importance of data in marketing, Moubarak, for example, has five years' experience operating in start-ups across London and Beirut and has been with UM since 2014. With a skill set and background in marketing research and financial analysis, her contribution to all the brand teams has been a crucial element in their campaigns' successes.
Moubarak also volunteers and fundraises for charitable organisations, as does Shedid, media manager at UM's Cairo office. A co-founder of the Ibrahim A Badran Charitable Foundation for underprivileged communities, she is actively involved in their marketing, recruitment and social activities and has participated in medical convoys, supporting the team with healthcare and medical aid. At work Shedid leads on the Coca-Cola business in Egypt across all product and media verticals. With only six years' work experience, she leads a team of 15 and has already won a grand prix, a gold and silver award for Coca-Cola's 'Crazy for Good' and 'Trophy Tour' campaigns at the MENA Digital Awards.
Hobeika, meanwhile, is based out of Lebanon and is responsible for leading the network's digital business for the Levant and Egypt. A basketball player, his directive as digital director was to set up and expand the online business and within the space of a year he has already increased the agency's client portfolio by 30 per cent.
Finally there is Obeidat. Based in the Dubai office, he is a innovation specialist and media supervisor on the Coca-Cola business and was chosen to represent UM MENA at the UAE Young Lynx after scoring the highest points in an internal talent competition. Go Obeidat!
BEST THING ABOUT OUR JOB: That it's a media industry adaption of Game of Thrones. The stakes are high, the deadlines cut-throat, and between the Dubai summer heat and the air conditioned offices, it's always A Song of Ice and Fire.
SUCCESS IS: 'Liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it' -- Maya Angelou
MOHAMED SABAA 29 ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
Sabaa has been in the communication business since he graduated with a degree in commerce in 2007. Landing at Starcom as a media manager four years ago, he headed the Samsung business before taking over the entire Starcom portfolio of clients in Egypt, including Mondele[THORN]az, Dubizzle and Souq.com. He leads a team fired by new business acquisitions and regional and global recognition, including the winning of a gold Effie for his work on Mondele[THORN]az.
BEST THING ABOUT MY JOB: The number of different brand and categories I get to work on and how fast everything evolves and changes. As a marketer you focus on one to two categories maximum, and you grow one to two brands. There is never a boring day in media.
SUCCESS IS: Achievement, and I'm a numbers guy. Numbers never lie. When a client's market share doubles -- as we've seen on Mondele[THORN]az -- or a new product launch sells out in a couple of months as we saw with Minlo, this is what makes clients tick. And that's what keeps me going.
NITIKA BHANDARI 29
CLIENT SERVICES LEAD AT AMNET
DENTSU AEGIS NETWORK
In short Bhandari is a technology and data whiz who switched from a career in financial services to media just three years ago. She is one of the founding members of Amnet MENA, Dentsu Aegis Network's programmatic media buying platform, and leads client management for the business, overseeing all digital campaigns. She is also far beyond her years in terms of experience, with an excellent academic record to match. At just 29 she holds both a bachelor's degree and master's of science, while her passion for all things digital drives the adoption of programmatic and in turn creates more value for the agency's clients.
BEST THING ABOUT MY JOB: It's truly dynamic. There are constantly new innovations and technologies that mean you have to quickly learn, refine, adapt and evolve. #PossibilitiesAreInfinite
SUCCESS IS: To be able to enjoy the journey to your goal and to never forget why you started.
HODA NEJEM 27 KARIM REFAAT 27 PERFORMANCE MEDIA MANAGER AND GROUP
ACCOUNT MANAGER SOCIAL MEC DUBAI
MEC's two bright young things are whirlwinds in their own right. Refaat is a tech enthusiast and gadget collector who represented MEC MENA at the GroupM EMEA conference held in Italy in April; Nejem is one of the agency's top six thrivers thanks to her passion and entrepreneurial drive.
As a graduate of the American University of Sharjah, Nejem was hired for an internship role at MEC. Six months into the job she was selected by the agency's management to put together a business plan that included the vision and growth of the social performance department. That business plan was developed, presented and approved and became a huge success. She is now spearheading MEC's initiative to expand the agency's programmatic and SEO offerings, whilst simultaneously training social media champions across the agency.
"She is invaluable to MEC and a rising star in her department," said Marc Ghosn, general manager at MEC UAE, of Nejem. "Her passion and determination was so intensely noticeable that I felt confident enough to challenge her with the launch of the paid social media offering at MEC. It brings me great pride to have such talent, especially at such a young age."
When MEC as named 'Agency of the Year' at the Festival of Media MENA in April, Refaat no doubt felt a sense of achievement as he held gold and a bronze trophies for 'Best use of YouTube' and 'Best use of communication' for Kit Kat Arabia's 'Celebrate the Breakers'. He had led the social element of the campaign and is now even keener to turn challenges into success stories.
BEST THING ABOUT OUR JOB: They say content is king but we assure you that, at MEC, culture is king. Working with diverse people of different race, age, mindset and creativity, sparks your motivation to spearhead the way forward. The flexibility that MEC provides is what nurtured us to thrive across various disciplines, integrating the lines between communication channels. Having a heard voice, as young professionals, has helped us identify the real formula of success faster.
SUCCESS IS: Like an iceberg. Everyone mainly sees the tip which does not exceed 10 per cent. The 90 per cent that people tend to oversee is that success is a long journey of persistence, perseverance and patience. Success simply put, is failing 10 times and standing the 11th. Sharing such lessons with others is what fuels success and drives inspiration.
ELIE MILAN 29 OMAR MADI 29 ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PERFORMANCE MEDIA,
AND DIRECTOR, DIGITAL PERFORMANCE STARCOM
Milan hadn't set foot in a media agency before joining Starcom in 2012, coming from the distant universe of supply chain consultancy. Yet, somehow he seemed like the natural choice to lead the agency's newly established social performance unit. Today, the unit is a Starcom success story with a dozen chic geeks providing best-in-class service to over 80 brands across the Middle East and North Africa and the world. Meanwhile, Milan is preparing to take on new challenges in native advertising and addressable media.
Madi's passion for digital performance marketing was ignited when he joined a leading Middle East dot-com in 2007, where he was responsible for generating leads and sales across different digital channels. He then moved on to join Starcom and established the search and performance unit back in 2010. Rising through the ranks, Madi is one of Starcom's homegrown talents and currently leads the performance team overlooking paid search, SEO and eCommerce.
BEST THING ABOUT OUR JOB: The restlessness. The dynamic nature of our industry and that massive rush towards innovation that gets your heart pumping day in day out. The dynamic and challenging nature of working with businesses across different industries and supporting them in achieving their business objectives through digital transformation. Understating consumer habits and how they continue to evolve with advancements in technology is extremely exciting.
SUCCESS IS: Peace of Mind. It is the satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best version of yourself while empowering everyone around you to bring out the best in themselves. Also, sharing success. Though quite the 'world peace' type of answer, the most successful people are those who catalyse the success of others. It's the greatest satisfaction.
ROXANNE GAHOL 25 AHMED ALY 27
SENIOR PLANNING EXECUTIVE AND REGIONAL MANAGER OF MEDIA PLANNING OMD
Gahol is a savvy hybrid fluent across online and offline, a high level strategic thinker and a dedicated innovator that always aims to disrupt traditional communication approaches. No wonder OMD cherishes her.
She won an OMD award for 'advancing data and analytics' and became one of the agency's rising stars for championing innovation in data, digital and all components of planning. "She is passionate, dedicated and a hard worker that doesn't settlefor the status quo," says Farah Moumneh, senior director at OMD UAE. "Her achievements go beyond just media planning excellence and into the area of communication consultancy by always aiming to provide as much data-driven insight and tailored strategic solutions as possible."
Gahol's colleague Aly may say his heart is Egyptian and his soul is French, but he has contributed to the winning of over 25 awards for PepsiCo and last year was part of the team that landed
the agency's 'advancing creativity' award for its enhanced performance on the PepsiCo account in terms of innovation. "Ahmed does not say no to any challenge, he always find a way around things, and always comes back with unexpected solutions," says Maher Ghazal, business unit director at OMD. "He takes ownership of the projects he works on -- he is not part of the process, he leads the process."
BEST THING ABOUT OUR JOB: Our work family. The support and amount of learning we gain through collaboration continues to reignite our passion because we're alongside individuals who are passionate towards achieving the same goals.
SUCCESS IS: To keep moving forward and taking all the lessons from past challenges and applying them to the challenges that come next.
ALEXANDRA DE SMET 27 ALI BERJAWI 28
DIGITAL MEDIA SUPERVISOR AND ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR INITIATIVE UAE
Initiative's de Smet lives a double life. One as a digital supervisor leading digital media activities across the region for one of Initiative's key accounts. The other as a dancer. While her passion for media is reflected in her desire to go beyond traditional boundaries, resulting in excellent campaigns over the past year, her passion for dance is reflected in salsa.
She co-owns one of the leading dance schools in the United Arab Emirates and has travelled the world to perform at some of the most prestigious salsa events out there. Whether she's dancing on stage or giving a media presentation, she owns the floor, telling a story beyond orchestrated choreography and straight from the soul. "Alex's passion and dedication are second to none, and this can be felt by both her team and her clients," says Saad Nahas, associate media director at Initiative.
Berjawi, on the other hand, joined the Initiative team after graduating from American University of Beirut eight years ago and has since become one of the key team leaders at the agency, servicing a wide portfolio of global and regional clients. He was the youngest professional to be awarded the certification of creative leadership via a one-year study programme conducted by MCN for top executives in the network and is the only team member who chased an MBA degree while remaining full-time in his job.
BEST THING ABOUT OUR JOB: Being exposed to creative and outside-the-box thinking, which inspires us both at work and in our daily lives. The opportunity to work with people both from within and outside the company, keeping the work interesting and stimulating, and pushing us to constantly come up with new ideas and perspectives.
SUCCESS IS: Being happy and satisfied doing what you do. Even if you work long hours and sometimes under stressful conditions, as long as you feel satisfaction in your job, you will be successful. Then of course, there is always that cherry on top of the cake when you receive some sort recognition for the work you've done and the amount of time and effort you've put into it.
ZAHER HATOUM 29 DIGITAL MANAGER MINDSHARE SAUDI ARABIA
Hatoum joined Mindshare in September 2013 as a senior executive in the digital department. Within three years he had become a senior manager, leading on the agency's main accounts, and has made something of a name for himself in Saudi Arabia.
His work includes the Al Nahda first municipality women's election campaign, which resulted in one million video views in five days and exceeded participation projections by 12 per cent; a campaign for the Gracie Barra martial arts school in Saudi Arabia, which overshot subscription targets by 650 per cent; and an online auction mechanism where the price of an item was lowered with every customer tweet and bypassed auction restrictions in the kingdom.
"Zaher's adaptive thinking and approach that he always applies when dealing with challenges ahead is a testament to his hard work and dedication," says Tony Bourached, regional head of digital at Mindshare MENA. "A true representation of what Mindshare's employees' spirit is all about."
BEST THING ABOUT MY JOB: That I get the chance to communicate to the public about the consumer choices that they have. I do that in different forms, and no period is the same, as our field is the most susceptible to evolution and change.
SUCCESS IS: I define success at our job when we construct a win/win situation. Creating a connection with the right individual for the product at hand is what we aim for. That way both consumer and client are happy and advertising and media has lived up to its full potential.
ALA' HIJAZI 27 HAMEED YOUSUF 27 DIGITAL MANAGER AND SENIOR DIGITAL
MANAGER BPG | MAXUS
"Hameed is everywhere and into everything," says Satish Mayya, chief executive at BPG | Maxus. "He symbolises the digital era well and also gets recognition in whatever he does. Curiosity and adventure inspire him and he will truly do well in the ever-changing dynamic media landscape."
Yousuf is a BPG phenomenon and a digital obsessive. Not only did he represent the agency's Dubai office at Maxus Endeavour 2014, a global Maxus programme, but was the winner of the BPG X Factor challenge and will be representing the agency at the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity in June. Not bad for a man who is still only 27 years old.
Hijazi, meanwhile is a Saudi national who last year handled the digital business for BPG | Maxus's biggest luxury brand -- Omega and Swatch Group. "Ala' is a Saudi national, and despite all odds she has emerged as a curious learner," says Mayya of Hijazi. "An avid social media consumer herself, she enjoys breaking set boundaries in her work. As a digital specialist, not acknowledging boundaries is an attitude that will take her places."
BEST THING ABOUT OUR JOB: The fact that we work in a dynamic industry where we are exposed to a different set of clients. And these clients keep us looking forward every day to ensure we find more opportunities and take on different challenges. There is always something new to learn with
the bandwidth to ideate and interact closely with website representatives and clients from various industries, with the aim of driving set KPIs in the online space. In short, learning never stops.
SUCCESS IS: Exceeding expectations. Making a difference.
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