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Walking the thin line

: Sunday, October 03 - 2004 @ 13:23

Dahlia has recently been interviewed by MAMN magazine – an Egyptian industry magazine dedicated to marketers. The hot topic in question was how ethical are the current marketing practices in Egypt and can the Egyptian marketing community come together to establish some code of ethics that really works. Here are a few extracts from the interview.

‘I remember a big client who commissioned a research study and then cancelled the project when the designing of the questionnaire (which is copy righted) was done. Next, we found out that the client had given the questionnaire to a small agency to use and follow through with the field work. I know also of many cases of business espionage where products and services have been copied and launched prior to the launch of the company that did the original development,’ says Zayed.

The client-supplier relationship is something Zayed is especially unhappy about. And she believes the fault falls on both parties. “It is true that suppliers need the clients’ business—it is their bread and butter. But on the other hand, clients do need reliable suppliers to get good service and value for their money.

Unfortunately, practices on both sides are not promoting a win-win situation. For example, clients try to squeeze the agencies’ profit margins and agencies bad-mouth competitors to get more jobs commissioned !”

Despite many examples of un-ethical behavior, it would be wrong to over-generalize, says Zayed. Most players are not lacking in responsibility. But, she says, marketing which is a rather new discipline in Egypt has clearly not taken momentum in the right direction. And sales tactics, for instance, can be directly misleading.

“Suppliers sometimes tend to over promise. Everyone claims that they are the leaders of their industry or that they add value like no other etc.

Most of them, I think do it unintentionally out of lack of professionalism. They have to remember though that an over-promise or a bad product/service will come back eventually and haunt them.

Quick sales cannot match lost credibility over time. This industry is so small that the word soon gets out!”

Who is more responsible is often a matter of controversy. Professionals do not take time to read or question practices, especially not the younger generation in local companies, says Zayed.

Those who have had the luck to get some foreign multinational exposure are better practitioners and have better appreciation of what works and what does not.

So, would the Egyptian marketing community benefit from implementing its own code of ethics? And who could set it up?

The code could be implemented by an industry forum with key contributors to drive it, says Zayed who would very much like to see this happen. The problem is that enforcing rules that are not law could be difficult.

But, having said this, Zayed does not exclude the possibility that a voluntary agreement could change behavior. It could work if the big players and some leading marketers take it seriously and lead the way. Others may then feel obliged to follow.

“There are so many codes of ethics that are published around the world which can be adapted locally. A big part of the problem is the lack of knowledge. If these were published, localized and properly publicized in industry forums in addition to being part of the curriculum in universities, I think we can at least build a new generation with fresh thinking working towards a more reformed business environment”, says Zayed.

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Sunday, October 3- 2004 @ 13:23 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.

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