Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
Vesna Beganović founded the Via Media agency twenty years ago in Sarajevo. When the agency settled in the market, it started pushing the boundaries. What we today call “thinking outside the box” has been Vesna’s way of thinking right from the start. A couple of years ago, she courageously opened an agency in Dubai. Because of the recession, she froze the agencies work, and this summer she re-activated it.
This is her story about a very inspirational market and a way of work completely foreign to us.
MEDIA MARKETING: Via Media had its agency in Dubai before. A couple of years ago you froze the agencies activities, and now you’ve returned to that market. Why?
Vesna Beganović: We had been present in the UAE market for about three and a half years. During the recession, we had some challenges that, as foreign nationals, did not go to our favor. In order to alleviate the effects of recession on our business, we had to focus on Via Media Sarajevo, which is always our priority. I knew it was a matter of time when we would return so we just froze the status of Via Media Dubai for some better times. It looks like that better time has come. Large development projects in UAE have received more significant resources since March, and we have decided again to be part of that market, where we now don’t have to start from scratch. We have the experience, contacts and understanding of local culture.
MEDIA MARKETING: During your two-months stay there, you often had up to four meetings a day, which is quite an engagement for the dynamics of work in the countries of the Islamic world (and not only them). With whom did you meet?
Vesna Beganović: We used the summer period for research, organization of the Dubai office, as well as for strategic negotiations with partners with whom we want to build long-term relationships. We were planning a slower summer, but were met by astounding pace. The ‘slow summer’ in the Emirates is as intense as some dynamic period in BiH. The team has already presented creative concepts and communication strategies to clients, with whom we will be actively working from September and October. I can only mention some of the most important meetings, such as those with Energy Summit organizers, manufacturers in the FMCG sector, several real estate companies, association of entrepreneurs, Dubai Holding, EXPO2020, Dubai Municipality, hotel chains, international and regional agencies, media, Dubai International Finance Center, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, AUS Enterprises and Her Majesty Sh. Noora Al Khalifa from Bahrain.
MEDIA MARKETING: How acquainted are you with the way of working in the Emirates, and how much does it differ from ours?
Vesna Beganović: The market is open to innovation, and the business environment is incredibly motivating. The information is timely, accurate and accessible to everyone. Communication is open and concrete, and the state is always at your service – totally different from what we are used to. One of the main characteristics of business in the Arab world is the construction of long-term partnership relationships. Clients are rarely interested in collaboration on only one project. Building trust and credibility is key. Such a process of course requires time, but once confidence is established you become the main external support. Recommendations are also of crucial importance, that is, the confirmation of credibility by the relevant local people, to which they attach immense importance. The UAE market is multicultural given the fact that there are more than 100 nations present there, all with a clear purpose, a life plan, open to communication and support, and people are selfless and positive. Business people in the Arab world follow global trends, they are modern and predominantly communicate in English, but continue to cultivate their tradition and highly appreciate brands that timely recognize that.
MEDIA MARKETING: You’ve participated in several pitches. How different are their rules from the ones applied in our region?
Vesna Beganović: Agencies in the UAE on an average day have up to 6 pitches, and they choose the ones they want to go for knowing their strength and expertise. The pitches are different – local for the area of UAE, regional for the GCC region, or for two countries, the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Government’s central procurement portal offers an option of annual membership which enables you to choose and apply for up to 50 tenders per year, which would be one each week. The competition is big, and sometimes even seems to be the biggest in the world. Everyone is present there, from the world’s largest agencies, to some Indian agencies that offer the lowest prices of services. What’s specific about this market is bargaining, and it goes for everyone, big and small agencies alike. I’m still trying to get used to that. We are currently working on a pitch for a financial investment fund in Oman, where we are the only shortlisted agency from Dubai, the second one is from Qatar and the third from Oman. We are optimistic and expect good news next week.
MEDIA MARKETING: Via Media Dubai covers Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, all except Qatar (for now). How is the communication going?
Vesna Beganović: The GCC region is economically linked, synergy is strong and opportunities are great, if you understand the local culture and integrate your communication into local setting. Clients are serviced by experts mostly from Europe, and smaller advertising agencies have more than 10 employees from different nations. Conference calls with other continents are an integral part of daily brainstorming and presentations, involving people from many countries. The official business language is English for all countries, precisely because people from different cultures work in all departments. At this time, only the copywriter in our team speaks Arabic, which helps us to integrate creative and communication solutions and connect them with the Arab culture. With a time difference of 3 hours, the team in Dubai starts their working week on Sunday, so it always seems that they are one step ahead.
MEDIA MARKETING: How big are the campaign budgets? How big are the costs and what are agency prices like?
Vesna Beganović: You can find all price levels in the market, from high to low which are charged by Indian agencies, and which are far below the prices in the Bosnian-Herzegovinian market. However, European expertise is always appreciated, and the agencies always highlight that. The smaller one-month social media campaign costs €25,000. Monthly integrated campaigns in the FMCG category, with media mix including TV, print, OOH, Internet and radio (including production) range from €1mil to €2mil. The portal dubizzle.com (OLX) had a marketing revenue of €41,669,500 last year, which is more than our total media market. The biggest agency costs are the people. If they have employees who are Brits, Germans, the Dutch, they pay the highest salaries. Then there are the costs of business space, marketing, and events, on which agencies spend a lot of money. The agency fee ranges from 5 to 20% depending on the services that are billed. The total media market value, according to IPSOS, in 2016 amounted to $24,843,681,808.20.
MEDIA MARKETING: You told me that even in 20 years from now we will not have projects like the ones implemented there. What exactly did you mean by that?
Vesna Beganović: Currently, a center for innovation and development covering area of 3×1 kilometers is being built in Sharjah, with the latest technological achievements, robots and equipment that will enable the most up-to-date research projects. Events that will be implemented there need creative and innovative agency support. It’s about the latest trends, technologies and knowledge sharing. They are making the prototype of the world’s fastest train, which is being tested in the desert. Botanical gardens and jungles are being opened, which will enable the growth of trees and botanical species in places that have no natural wealth as we do. We could devote an entire interview to this question alone, but everything is truly fascinating and inspirational.
MEDIA MARKETING: Agency Via Media Dubai is being led by your daughter Medina. Given her young age (24) you believe that she can cope with all the obstacles and lead business well.
Vesna Beganović: After returning from Austria, where she stayed in the past five years, Medina decided to work on the development of the agency in other markets. In her opinion, after her experience in Austria, the BiH market is too slow, without much opportunity for innovative projects. Working with clients in the UAE market is a real challenge for her every day, in which she immensely enjoys, and she shares information with the team in Sarajevo that will join her soon. She has strong support from local partners with whom we have developed a good relationship in a short time. The team was also joined by Ivan Bartulović from Zagreb, who has three years of work experience in the UAE market, and for the last 17 years he has been supporting the leading world brands on the production side, implementing their creative campaigns. Within Via Media Sarajevo, we have created a team dealing with strategy, development of new product for UAE market and support of Via Media Dubai in full capacity.
MEDIA MARKETING: In two days, you will participate at the conference Creative Republic in Bihać. What will you talk about?
Vesna Beganović: About authenticity, and what it is that we need to do before robots replace us. Those who want to hear more details will have to visit Bihać from 08 – 09 September, 2017.