The announcement of Ogilvy & Mather’s majority stake acquisition in Memac Ogilvy coincided with the latter being crowned Network of the Year; its Dubai office, Agency of the Year; and its founder, Edmond Moutran, Advertising Person of the Year at the Dubai Lynx Awards 2014. Our sister publication Communicate sat down with Moutran to find out the reasons behind selling the majority stake.
The subject of WPP and Ogilvy & Mather buying more shares in the agency was opened quite a long time ago and I agreed to it. Since then, we’ve had a world economic recession that affected everybody and kept our eye off the ball a bit, [and] our numbers went backwards in the area like the rest of the world. However, there was serious focus on this [acquisition] issue over the past four to five months; we both felt it was the perfect time to do it. The fact that so much happened on the same day and within the same week was simply coincidence. You can look at it from three different perspectives: WPP’s, Ogilvy & Mather’s and the Moutran family’s. WPP wanted to expand its reach in the Middle East region; we, as a group, have a lot of interest in Ogilvy, Mindshare, Mediacom and in the Kantar research organization through our involvement with Arab Market Research Bureau. So it made sense for a group such as ours, that has been working with WPP since it bought Ogilvy, to be more engaged with them and for them to have a bigger say on the way things are run in our part of the Middle East region. Ogilvy was probably the only global agency left in the area that did not have a majority [stake in its regional network]. The others did and were consolidating the numbers of the region with the numbers in Europe and Africa. In a way, Ogilvy was at a disadvantage, especially in the beginning, during the benchmarking of the WPP companies. Secondly, Ogilvy wanted to benefit from the buoyancy in the Middle East region and make sure that its numbers looked better. When [worldwide chairman and CEO at Ogilvy & Mather], Miles Young, took over four to five years ago, he made it clear that his objective was to be in charge of his own brand in every part of the world. As for the Moutrans, we’ve been good partners to them and they’ve been fantastic partners to have. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for Ogilvy or WPP, and I’ve got to show my appreciation by exchanging loyalty. I am also getting on in life; I am 69 years old, my three sons are involved in the business, my daughters and stepdaughters are not, but they’re quite close and all of my children were born in the Ogilvy culture. For us to maintain that, we had to give up something. I felt that the kids, our employees and I, would feel safer if Ogilvy had a bigger share and say in the business.
It bought 20 per cent. Today, it owns 60 per cent.
Our name is Memac Ogilvy and will continue to be so until the partners decide otherwise. However, I can guarantee you as long as the Moutrans are shareholders, the decision will be taken by the Moutrans whether the name stays or not. Ogilvy has enormous respect for the Memac part of the name and we have enormous respect for Ogilvy. There would be no change in management. I’m still running the company as chairman and CEO; I signed two contracts the day I sold [the stake], one was the sale agreement and the other was an employment agreement. I now work for WPP. First, I’ve got to let the dust settle and then I’ve got to sit with my counterparts at Ogilvy to see if the strategy I wrote in October is exactly the way they want things, and we’ll carry on.
Not at the moment. It’s not my decision. I don’t own the shares; the remaining shares are with the children.
Should we say involved? The word could mean more than I want it to. I will work as long as I am useful, and as long as I have a job, which I believe is contributing to the success of the business. The day I feel that I’m becoming a burden, or that my experience is no longer playing a part, I will go home. I’m not the sort of guy that will hang on to power. I’ve had my days and I’ve seen my glory.
The weight of the respect I have for the Lynx and the people behind it makes the award even bigger. I cannot describe the feeling of sitting there waiting for the results; I know my competition very well. The minute we heard BBDO came in second, I screamed. This year, we had Riyadh, Bahrain, Beirut offices pick up the Bronze and Silver awards. I think we will see more of the other offices coming through. I said to someone this morning that my dream now is to be one, two, and three; to have three offices competing with each other for the Agency of the Year title, and I’m going to do it. I hope to God that the other agencies have a similar objective.
Wednesday, April 9- 2014 @ 9:35 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.