'Where is the Love?' wonders Firas Mghames of Feer McQueen
Posted on 2021 Sep,27  | By Firas Mghames

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Firas Mghames, managing director at Feer McQueen and CEO of Flag M Group, Lebanon, wonders where is the love upon expanding the agency footprint into the KSA. He also elaborates on the evolution of the hybrid model, as he discusses clients' needs and the results beautiful communication lead to.

Where is the Love?

Stepping into the KSA ad world as “newcomers” was refreshing and exciting. Although we’ve worked with a lot of Saudi Arabian clients before, all of that work had been from our offices and studios in Lebanon, so when we recently opened a branch in the KSA, we were the new kids in town again. Soon enough, we were able to get a glimpse into the ins and outs – something that stood out dramatically was the client-agency dynamic. It’s safe to say there is some bad blood there, and from an outsider’s perspective, we can openly say we’ve discovered it’s all about communication.

We are coming from a market built on collaboration and relationships, and like many other agencies, we have this mindset at the center of our culture at FEER McQUEEN. So, naturally, when stepping into KSA, we took that culture with us and started digging new grounds with all of that as our foundation. To our surprise, a lot of clients we met up with were very open about this being a brand-new situation for them. Apparently, they had been facing an issue for years when it came to the relationship with their agencies, previously thinking it was just a culture difference – the divide between KSA and other countries in the Levant who have influenced the Levantine marketing mindset, like Lebanese, Egyptian, and Jordanian creatives, to name a few. What they hadn’t realized up until that point was this gap stemmed from the method, and not the mindset.

What do clients want?

The method of pushing to win accounts and make money works, but on the long run, it isn’t a pleasant ride for either party. Our partners and clients in KSA have shined the light on this clearly and have expressed the irritation related to not being heard. Clients want to be heard. Clients want to be treated as partners. Clients want to learn in the process of everything they do for their own brands. On the other hand, from this same observation and narrative shared with us, agencies feel like they receive the short end of the stick with demanding clients that only ask for results and don’t care about the cost.

The evolution of the Hybrid Model in KSA

Furthermore, the cost factor is an excellent place to start with improvement. KSA is the ideal situation for agencies and creatives, with most clients dedicating a huge budget to their marketing endeavors– that’s the dream, right!? The need here though is for quality over quantity. Let’s show our clients a good deal by taking that huge budget and giving them real numbers and tangible results that they can see unfolding before their eyes as their brand soars high, and while we’re at it, let’s explain it to them so they can truly grasp what is happening. For this, the fully integrated marketing model, or what we always call the Hybrid Model, is essential. How else could one agency provide all the traditional services along with what’s high in demand now, like Growth Hacking and Digital Marketing that is always evolving?

The Hybrid Model is claimed by many, but truly executed by few. There is so much that can be said about this model – but we’ll sum it up in just a few words: You need to try it to see the results. You need to try it. You need to go for it. You need to jump on the bandwagon because this is the future of the agency world. Due to the ongoing and escalating crisis in Lebanon, local Lebanese agencies have popped up around KSA, and it is clear as day that those with a hybrid model are thriving because this is the desperate need! They stepped into the market in this manner because they had listened to their clients and their needs. They listened to them and treated them as partners – taking this knowledge and same heartfelt way – and now they’re harvesting their results. Consequently, this presents an opportunity to agencies who are already in the KSA realm to move things forward and go hybrid, unleashing their creativity and imagination to its full potential.

Modesty is key

As you know, clients have always had a certain respect for ad agencies. We were surprised at the fact that this idea of respect is no longer widespread in KSA. We discovered that in KSA today, agencies no longer have leverage and convincing power over their client. And it’s not just about not listening to the client. It’s all related to one last major aspect, which also relates strongly to communication, and that is modesty. Modesty is key. Whether it’s convincing them of the right path to go for, or advising them on their next step, being down to earth and talking to the client like an equal and a partner can really get that relationship growing and blooming, resulting in much more fruitful meetings, conversations, and an overall feeling of mutual trust and positivity that will definitely carry on into the work at hand. So, let’s get our clients involved by being modest, communicating, prioritizing quality and hybrid offerings, and just building relationships that matter.

And what does beautiful communication lead to? Love, of course

We might sound cheesy, but really, in order for things to work out, the agency and the client do have to share mutual love. We were so surprised not to see love there! How can creativity thrive without it? Love is communication. Love is patience. Love is modesty. Love is trust. Love is so many things... so many key ingredients to the perfect client/agency relationship – to an exquisite creative marriage. So, where is the love?