Avishesha Bhojani: 'We call our current phase of growth, BPG 3.0.'
Posted on 2023 Jul,30  | By Ghada Azzi

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Avishesha Bhojani, GROUP CEO of BPG Dubai reflects on the current business mood prevailing across Dubai ad industry, as he dissects some of the biggest challenges facing advertisers today.

How has the advertising industry in Dubai evolve over the past decade, and how would you describe the current general ad business mood? 

The MarCom industry has moved from super heights a decade ago, to near extinction at the onset of Covid19 to MetaGrowth currently. The three pillars for this MetaGrowth are Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi, each for some interesting and exciting reasons.

Abu Dhabi is becoming a global power hub, coupled with spanking new infrastructure and an incredible array of attractions, both for tourists and residents. And Abu Dhabi is keen to tell its story to the world and attract more people to experience it. So, some very exciting MarCom assignments like COP 28, Etihad Rail, AlDar, Abu Dhabi Tourism and others are emerging, all seeking world-class solutions.

Post Covid19, Dubai is rising as a new global capital for Web 3.0 and as a fintech/ crypto hub, fast replacing locations like London and Hong Kong. These developments are creating unique and exciting opportunities for the MarCom industry in Dubai.

Saudi Arabia under its new leadership is the stage for the biggest, boldest and most audacious real estate developments the world has ever experienced or dared to imagine. Not to mention investments in iconic eco systems aimed at attracting millions of residents, which all need differentiated and relevant brands to appeal. From NEOM/ Trojena, AlUla to New Murabba – Riyadh’s new downtown in Riyadh and KAFD – the list is endless, as is the need for professional and strategic MarCom.


What are some of the biggest challenges facing advertisers in Dubai today, and how do you think these challenges can be overcome?

The biggest current challenges, in my opinion, are two-fold. The first is the stranglehold of archaic procurement / RFP polices prevalent in large corporations, predominantly government entities. Ours is a soft skills industry, where value gets created with orchestration of agency teams with client teams, for which a real partnership over a medium term is necessary. This is difficult to create in a 12 to 24 month-long, deliverables-driven engagement model.

The second challenge is that most MarCom is conveniently clubbed as expense items in the annual P&L, thereby the expectation of short-term returns. In reality, just like infra or tech investments, a portion of MarCom investments are for medium- to long-term benefits, and therefore need to be capitalized rather than expensed. As a consequence, while consulting fees of McKinsey, Bain or BCG as example, often are capitalized and therefore impact the client’s balance sheet over 3 to 5 years, our industry’s bills are expensed in the same year.


How do you ensure that your agency remains at the forefront of innovation in Dubai's competitive advertising landscape?

We believe in constantly re-inventing ourselves while keeping track of our true north - being totally client focused and deliver value well in excess of cost of service. We call our current phase of growth, BPG 3.0.

BPG 1.0 was on the back of the retail revolution in Dubai, with Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) in the 90’s. We were fortunate enough to have co-authored and co-executed with Dubai Inc, for which we had to fundamentally reinvent PanGulf (as BPG was known then).

BPG 2.0 (Bates PanGulf) was on the back of regional self-rule mandates we received from various global and regional Governments shortly after 9/11, for which we had to re-tool, reinvent ourselves and build an extremely agile and collaborative business model.

Today, we call ourselves BPG 3.0, as we work on being a ‘customer first’, digitally driven MarCom solutions provider. We have moved from assumption-based marketing to cohorts and tribes, to data-driven marketing. With the advances in data analytics, we can support our clients with creating highly customized offers, based on the customer’s specific point in their journey with a brand. Some brands and agencies alike have been faster to evolve their product and practice to match this change. This means that we have new teams, new profiles, and new talents, and we are leveraging new technologies like AI to generate more value for our clients and our people.

BPG 3.0 has a unique, silo-free culture that integrates our services into a unified offering built around customers' needs. Our strategic transformation is Inspired by Culture, Powered by Data-driven Insights, Human by Design and Integrated by Intent.


If there is one thing you can change in the way advertising business is led in Dubai, what would it be?

I believe the industry needs to work together to overcome the RFP/ procurement obsession and the prevailing practice of clients asking a dozen agencies to pitch at agency costs. The problem isn’t pitches that demand unpaid spec work; the problem is that these RFPs become a fishing expedition with undisclosed budgets, decision makers and processes, and participants. It quickly descends to an unproductive race to the bottom that creates more negative energy than positive gain.