The Dabo-Edelman deal and what it means for the Gulf’s communications industry

What does the Dabo-Edelman deal mean for the region's PR industry?

What does the Dabo-Edelman deal mean for the region’s PR industry?

It’s rare to see any big changes, any mergers and acquisitions, in the region’s public relations sector. The region, especially Dubai, is the home for hundreds of PR agencies and communications consultants. But every now and then a piece of news shakes up the status-quo. The last big acquisition of a Dubai-based agency was in 2008, when Grayling Huntsworth acquired its regional partner Momentum.

Edelman, the world’s largest independent communications agency with 5,000 plus employees and 2014 revenues of 780 million dollars, announced last month that it would acquire Dabo & Co. Founded by sisters Camilla and Lucy d’Abo, the agency has around 65 staff and its clients have included the likes of BMW, Unilever, Canon, DHL, HSBC, Hilton Worldwide, Qantas, Nokia and Rolls-Royce.

The media coverage has focused on what Dabo brings to Edelman. Here’s what Matthew Harrington, global chief operating officer, Edelman, was quoted as saying.

“Globally Edelman looks to invest in firms that are committed to reshaping the focus of the communications marketing industry, and Dabo & Co demonstrates this vision through its highly creative, client-centric approach. As the industry develops in the Middle East, this partnership will position us to create engaging and innovative communications programs that support our clients’ needs.”

For Dabo, the acquisition is the next step in their development. The agency has done a number of things which have set it apart from other regional agencies:

1) The investment in local talent – Dabo has focused on developing the skills of its staff, including everything from regular opt-in lunch and learns to offsites for the whole agency. Dabo does more than this, and provides young, talented executives with the opportunity to stretch their abilities. They’ve had one MEPRA young communicator of the year, Jamal Al Mawed, and another who was the runner-up last year, Rijosh Joseph.

2) Self-promotion – Despite us being in the business of communications, PR agencies are not well-known for promoting their successes. Dabo has bucked this trend and has focused on showcasing its successes through awards and nominations. The agency has won MEPRA, Dubai Lynx, and Campaign ME awards for its communications work, as well as other recognitions such as Great Place to Work.

3) Full-service provision – Dabo was quick to spot the opportunity presented by working with clients to offer a range of services including both digital and events thus making themselves a one-stop shop for all of their clients’ communications needs.

What I’m still trying to understand is what this will bring to the table for Edelman. This isn’t a case of Edelman entering the market – they’ve been in the UAE for a number of years with some high-profile accounts such as Mubadala. Plus, Dabo is UAE-based and so won’t give Edelman a foothold in new geographies. However, the argument being made in the media is that Dabo will allow Edelman to expand its consumer reach – Dabo’s clients are primarily B2C brands which are household names. But again, Edelman globally works with the likes of Unilever, Starbucks, Samsung, and Johnson & Johnson. Has Edelman under-delivered on its business potential in the Middle East to date?

It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out for both agencies. Dabo are the rising star, and they’re an example of how those with experience in the industry and some regional know-how can establish an agency in an already-crowded market that will grow and be successful. As for Edelman, will Dabo give them the momentum they need to become one of the top three agencies in the Middle East? I can’t wait to find out!

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