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A day in the life of Alex Malouf

Alex Malouf, Corporate Communications Manager, Arabian Peninsula, P&G talks about about his creative routine, the trends and challenges he sees for the year ahead and his perspective on creativity in the region.
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We got in touch with the Cannes Lions jurors who represented the MENA region at the 2018 Festival to get their thoughts on creative transformation. In the first in our series of features, we talk to P&G’s Alex Malouf  about his creative routine, the trends and challenges he sees for the year ahead and his  perspective on creativity in the region. 

Former journalist Alex Malouf has carved out a niche as a lively voice in the Middle East's burgeoning media scene, combining razor-sharp observations with a keen understanding of the forces that underpin the region's digital transformation. Much of which, no doubt, is informed by his day job at P&G, where he manages reputational affairs for the Middle East's largest FMCG. Alex’s experience and roots in the region are not the only things that set him apart — he is also a highly visible advocate for modern public relations, serving in senior roles on numerous industry organisations.

Hi Alex, thank you very much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us and the rest of the industry in the MENA region. We wanted to know what a typical day looks like for you, as a creative director.
 
Let’s start. What time do you wake up?  What does your morning routine look like? 
I get up at 5 am (way too early), do a couple of emails, think about doing exercise but then watch the news (usually, the wrong choice), and then wake up my little one and spend the next 30 minutes doing everything to make her eat her breakfast. We leave home at 7 am, I’ll do the daddy school run, and then I’ll leave to work at 8 am. I spend a fair amount of time commuting, and I use that time listening to podcasts and either relaxing or learning. Work officially begins at 9 am, with a coffee on the desk.
 
What is a typical day for you?  How do you balance your responsibilities and manage your time? 
I am blessed that there’s no such thing as a typical day in our industry; we are constantly creating and executing new campaigns and ideas. I do balance out my time focusing internally and externally, and I make a habit of getting out of the office every other day, to visit my partner agencies, government and NGO stakeholders, and media who I work with. I also feel it’s important to get out and see what my consumers are doing in-store.
 
Tell us something that not many people know about you. 
I’m a rescue-certified scuba diver who dreams of taking up the profession full-time on an island in the Maldives. And I used to spend my teenage weekends dressing up as an English Civil War actor years ago in the UK. I was a medic and a plumber in the traditional sense of the word (google The English Civil War Society).

Where do you get your inspiration from? 
From my family, especially my daughter. Children see things differently to adults, and what she says constantly surprises me. Also from consumers, and how they both think about and use our products. Others in the industry who I work with, and also fellow professionals abroad. I feel it’s important that we keep looking outside our own organisations, to learn about new experiences and insights. That’s why I always encourage others to join a professional industry association like the IABC.
 
How do you get your team inspired? 
We look at the big picture and the role we play in making everything happen. We then think about how we can have the biggest impact on how we achieve that vision, and then work backwards. What’s so enjoyable about our jobs is that there’s no set formula, there’s no single template to get things done. What’s important is to understand our consumers, consider what’s possible (and what we can make possible), and then create campaigns that they enjoy. And if they do enjoy our work, it’ll drive business.

What did you learn from Cannes Lions in 2018 ? Did you see any trends in the work? 
The two big trends globally were sustainability and gender equality. Every single region was focusing on these two issues, which is understandable given that no country or industry has the answers. I saw a couple of entries on these two from the MENA region, but, honestly speaking, we have to do more on both. We’ve got to be brutally honest as to how we as brands are promoting a positive dialogue on change and development. I don’t see brands doing enough in our region.
 
What is the most fascinating thing about the MENA region?
The opportunity to make a real impact. I look at some of the work done in the US and Europe, such as the recent Nike campaign with Colin Kaepernick, or Trash Isles from LADbible. These campaigns got people emotional, they captured the attention. We’re a passionate people here in MENA. And yet there’s so much marketing here which is instantly forgettable. I want to see brave brands, and brave marketers who are willing to tackle hard issues. For me, that’s the opportunity.
 
What does Dubai Lynx mean to you?
Dubai Lynx means inspiration. Dubai Lynx means engagement, networking, and listening to the best in the industry globally. Dubai Lynx is exciting, it’s full of potential and possibility. Make the most of the event.
 
How are you preparing for 2019? What do you see as the creative challenges and opportunities that we’re facing? 
Budgets will most likely be an issue for many brands, as will the amount of noise on social media and digital. I can see governments introducing more regulation as well. There’ll be lots of buzz around technology, about how it can be used by marketers, as well as the usual suspects like influencer marketing and artificial intelligence. I feel the biggest opportunity is through partnerships, especially when it comes to cause-marketing. Consumers want their brands to stand for something, and we can best do through engagement with governments, NGOs, and the public.
 
And finally, could you give us a piece of advice for ambitious people looking to thrive and become more creative?  
Get out of the office! Be brave, listen and observe, ask tough questions. Use data, but also use your emotional instincts. Keep looking at what others are doing, keep working to understand your consumers and their psychology. And, if you truly believe in them, stick with your ideas.