Marwan Arban: ‘We're not just another run-of-the-mill digital agency’
Posted on 2023 Jun,20  | By Ghada Azzi

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ORIGIN is an independent communications agency that was established in Lebanon in 2014 and has since expanded to other countries. Marwan Arban, founder & CEO, discusses the agency's growth and its expansion across the Middle East region and beyond. He emphasizes that ORIGIN is driven by “ambition, talent and love. Call it what you want. We call it ORIGIN,” stresses Arban.

How “good” was the first quarter of 2023 for ORIGIN and what would you consider your main achievement as an agency during the past year?

ORIGIN's performance during the past year and Q1 of 2023 was exceptional, exceeding the company's targets. We collaborated with numerous PIF companies, which significantly increased our agency's presence in KSA. Furthermore, we established a representative office in the U.K.


Expanding your business to new markets is understandably to reach potentially a greater number of new customers and grow revenue massively. What can you tell us about ORIGIN operations in the Middle East and how smooth would you say your expansion in the region has been?

Our expansion into the GCC began in 2017. Expanding into new markets is always a challenging endeavor, as it necessitates adapting to new logistics from a legal standpoint and understanding the culture from a communication perspective. Despite these challenges, we find the process of expanding into new markets exhilarating. As humans and enthusiastic problem solvers, overcoming obstacles and finding solutions is a crucial aspect of our journey.


Could you describe in short what specific struggles or challenges are you facing in each market?

Our greatest challenge lies in finding the ideal talent that shares our industry passion and possesses the essential creativity and mindset required to assist us in crafting award-winning websites, innovative brands, and successful advertising campaigns. We constantly aim for the next major success, and our main hurdle is locating individuals who possess the perfect combination of talent and passion.


How would you describe your agency competitive edge? In other words, what sets ORIGIN apart from competition since digital agency space is crowded?

We're not just another run-of-the-mill digital agency. At ORIGIN, we consider ourselves a communications agency that pioneers communication psychology in the region. Our unique approach involves the establishment of a Brand Lab, a dedicated laboratory that delves into the psychographics of our audience, enabling us to genuinely comprehend their needs and decision-making processes. This revolutionary approach is the driving force behind our growth and success. Our ultimate goal is to redefine the standards of communication and set the paradigm for the new era ahead, creating impactful campaigns that connect with our audience on a deeper, more personal level.


Many agencies currently service the Arab region from their Beirut offices. Is this the case with your agency?

We currently have multiple operational offices, with our headquarters located in Beirut. However, we plan to relocate our headquarters to Riyadh within the next 12 months.


How does your agency handle challenges such as cultural nuances and sensibilities when creating advertising campaigns for such diverse audiences?

We believe that utilizing local talent is crucial for effectively adapting content to cultural differences. It extends beyond language, encompassing visuals, imagery, behaviors, preferences, clothing, habits, and every intricate detail that connects with the target audience. This approach holds particular significance in the Gulf region, where the audience consists of Arab people as well as expatriates, depending on the campaign's target. We prioritize cultural relativism and meticulously consider every aspect of our visuals, copy, and all elements that aid us in effectively communicating messages to a diverse audience.


How do you foster creativity and innovation within your agency to ensure that your team consistently delivers fresh and compelling advertising concepts to clients?

We adopt a multifaceted approach to ensure our team consistently delivers fresh and compelling concepts. This involves analyzing market trends and competitors, promoting idea-sharing, and conducting weekly workshops with both internal and external talent. Team building activities are also organized to strengthen our team's cohesion.

Moreover, we prioritize the mental well-being of our employees by fostering an open-door policy that encourages them to share their thoughts and feelings and take care of themselves. To celebrate our achievements, closed deals, positive feedback, and fresh ideas, we have introduced our own internal celebration known as the "ORIGIN clap."

As part of our commitment to communication psychology, we recognize that cultural knowledge and diversity are key catalysts for creativity. Therefore, we have recently launched a new initiative where we gather every week to discuss various non-work-related topics. This encourages our team to engage in deep thinking and effective communication while broadening their cultural knowledge.

In summary, our goal is to empower each individual to reach their maximum potential prior to their association with ORIGIN.


“As humans and enthusiastic problem solvers, overcoming obstacles and finding solutions is a crucial aspect of our journey.”


How do you make sure that your agency is still attracting brilliant people?

The most challenging aspect for an agency is not attracting talent, but attracting the right talent. At ORIGIN, we position ourselves as the agency for niche creatives – daring individuals who want to push boundaries and break free from traditional agencies and factory-like firms.


What do you think will be your biggest challenge for 2023?

The advertising industry is in constant evolution, presenting its own set of challenges. However, at ORIGIN, we thrive on challenges and embrace them wholeheartedly. Our financial and business development departments are working diligently to achieve our goal of moving our headquarters from Beirut to Riyadh by 2024, and we are eagerly anticipating the move.


How do you ensure your agency's agility and adaptability to meet the evolving needs of clients and stay relevant in the markets you operate in?

Since our establishment in 2014, we have adopted a hybrid approach that combines both internal and external talents. This approach allows us to rapidly scale up and penetrate new markets efficiently. We actively collaborate with talents from diverse geographical locations, ensuring that we have access to a wide range of perspectives and innovative ideas. The diverse backgrounds and unique personalities within our team enable us to tackle challenges from various angles and consistently gain new insights.


What is your vision for ORIGIN in years to come?

Our vision for ORIGIN is both short-term and long-term. In the short term, we aim to be pioneers in communications psychology in the region and beyond. This means setting the foundations for a deeper understanding of how people interact with brands and messages, and using this knowledge to create more effective and impactful campaigns for our clients.

In the long term, our goal is to become the first independent agency to operate on a 24-hour continuous operation around the world. This involves expanding our presence to key locations such as Sydney, Riyadh, and the Americas.

By staying true to our values of creativity, diversity and excellence, we can achieve this ambitious vision and continue to make a positive impact in the industry.