Omnicom MENA CEO Eli Khouri casts his industry predictions for 2019

31 December 2018 4 min. read
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Elie Khouri, the CEO of Omnicom Media Group in MENA, has forwarded his annual market predictions for the coming year, with agencies predicted to keep the management consulting upstarts at bay for the foreseeable future.

In what is now an annual tradition, the well-regarded MENA CEO of Omnicom Media Group Elie Khouri has shared his industry forecast for the year ahead in an article for leading marketing and communications publication Campaign Middle East – at a time when the traditional advertising industry continues to face radical market disruption and increasing encroachment from the likes of Accenture and Deloitte.

First things first. Last year, following a 35 percent decline in media spend in the three years to 2018, Khouri cheerfully forecast the market to have bottomed out, with moderate growth predicted for this year rising to double-digit growth thereafter. The reality has been somewhat different,* with Khouri now anticipating a drop of 6 percent at the close of 2018. Despite this, the Omnicom exec remains buoyant.

But Khouri’s positivity shouldn’t be mistaken for naivety, as the savvy, thirty-year industry veteran is in no denial about what’s coming; “What’s absolutely certain is that the transformation of our business is picking up pace and the trends reshaping it are getting stronger and more acutely felt,” Khouri writes. “Data-driven, content-driven, customer-centric marketing will quickly move from the exception to the norm.”

Starting with data-driven, such transformations of the marketing landscape have provided the opportunity for traditional business and (now) tech consultancies to muscle in on the lucrative advertising industry, through sizeable investments and an aggressive M&A strategy; Accenture alone spent more than $1 billion on agency buy-outs last year, and shows no signs of a weakening appetite for digital media acquisitions with another flurry of activity just this month.Elie Khouri - CEO - Omnicom Media Group MENARegardless of the evident threat – which has variably led to outright defiant responses from leaders at some of the world’s largest ad firms, and a range of counter-moves into consultancy – Khouri in his forecast believes media and advertising agencies will continue to dominate in the marketing services domain, with consultancies and a growing trend for in-housing certain marketing requirements to “complement, not threaten, agencies”.

While noting the growing commonality in the type of services being offered by both the media agencies and management firms, Khouri argues that consultancies will still take time to adapt to the ‘brands and consumer’ territory even with an acquisition-led approach, and will still need agencies to execute their recommendations. “Agencies will learn to let go of their inferiority complex and focus on the value they demonstrably add to their clients’ business,” writes Khouri.

Elsewhere, among other predictions, Khouri expects recent underlying transformative trends to continue to impact the market and thus industry, including a more prudent approach to consumer spending due to pressure on incomes (backed by a recent McKinsey survey report which outlined a move away from top-end brands in the region), and a doubling of the $10 billion local e-commerce market, again backed by recent McKinsey analysis.

Khouri finishes with a stirring message for an industry confronted with multiple challenges in the year ahead; “We’re being presented with bigger briefs, with higher goals and ever more daunting challenges. And we successfully address them. We have an innate curiosity, ingenuity and resourcefulness that allow us to prevail in such conditions. For all the clouds on the horizon, if we aim high enough we’ll eventually find the sunshine.”

*In fairness to Khouri, this was only one of the two out of a dozen predictions (self-)assessed to have not panned out this year, the other being a flat local media M&A market as a consequence of the first.