Expanding your agency into new markets

Typical Christmas party conversation this one. Specially for those in Dubai, where in spite of the city being the metaphor for all things biggest, loudest, longest, proudest, there’s always an yearning for beyond. There is always a need to rue the grass that’s greener on the other side. “More of”, syndrome. Dubai has come back from the ashes of a financial crisis pretty well, thanks to the astute leadership of this emirate, but ad agency folks aren’t happy. They would like a slice of the pie from the other side. From beyond.


“Should we expand into Iraq?” or “We’re thinking about Libya with an open mind” is the hot topic these days. Both big and small agencies are seriously considering expanding their Middle East options. FP7, one of the largest in the region, have already opened shop in Iraq, and the news from their office at the MCN Hive is that FP7/Erbil is alive and kicking, hard at that. Doing well. Good on them. For smaller agencies, and ad world entrepreneurs, it’s a tougher question to ponder. If you diversify and expand too soon into a new market, or a volatile one, chances are you’d fail.

New markets in the Middle East and North Africa are alluring. They are inherently an oasis in the Sahara, but we forget, that they – like many imagined oases are often optical illusions. The best way to examine this is to see if you have an unfair, first to market or unique to market advantage. It is never a good idea to look at a ‘frontier’ market adventure because you need a bailout here, and you see Libya or Southern Sudan as a rescue rope. Outbound expansions are for the secure, not the silly.

Also, since it’s difficult to create a whole supply chain right away, make sure you can ‘post in’ some work, transfer assets across the cloud. Oh, of course, check the availability of the cloud. The internet connection there will be a lifeline. Ensure you are subscribed.

Digital specialized agencies, the ones that create websites, mobile apps and solutions, work on user experiences and are Social Media maniacs are lining up. Their pool here is intensely competitive, so they need to see what’s out there. That’s typical of digital. Zero and one bravado. And there just maybe room for some of it out there. Because not too many people are really designing mobile apps out in Benghazi, there may be a great new door to open for someone now relegated to Media City basement bargains now.

If your agency or parallel adworld-related offering is something above and beyond what’s available, go for it. And, specially, in markets where no one’s really going into (Libya?), you may have a where-angels-fear-to-tread advantage. Go in, but wear your “fool” proof gear tight. Or stay safe here. And aim for another bigger, stronger, further Guinness Book record.