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14 Q&A
30 November 2008
The Flip side

Martin Diessner has packed a lot into his 33 years.
Since spearheading sportswear giant Adidas’s global
web strategy he has struck online gold, first with
Impact Proximity and now as CEO of Flip, the region’s
foremost e-marketing agency. He tells Media Week
about the joy of wearing board shorts to work and
how digital is going to take over the world
Q: How did you end up in Dubai? A: We [Diessner and business partner Di-
A: I got an offer from BBDO, the agency nesh Lalvani] knew that we wanted to con-
in the Middle East handling centrate 100 per cent on digital. We saw the
[where I was working], back in 2001. I was potential of a small, yet powerful region
brought down to work alongside a very that would grow over time. We were betting
small team to build up Impact Proximity, on achieving a good share of the market
early enough, which we did.
The way we envisioned ‘smart’
agency business was compara-
ble to a supermarket where cus-
tomers come every day and buy
bread, butter and milk without ar-
guing at the till about a discount.
To translate that into proper busi-
ness thinking, we realised that de-
spite being a creative, tech-driven
agency, a more product-oriented

approach would be key to a con-

tinuous revenue stream—to flat-
ten the ups and downs of the

‘typical’ agency.
MAKE THE SWITCH: An environmental awareness site
Q: What makes Flip different
created in partnership with Ecobility
from other online agencies?
A: I believe that our size (around
which has gone on to become a signifi- 200 staff ) and geographical spread over 4 Q: Do you think online agencies will be-
cant player in the online industry in the timezones (India, Middle East, Europe/ come more influential in the future and
Middle East. Africa) helps us to balance business. We do you see competition getting more in-
also value our own employees a lot, which tense in this part of the world?
Martin Diessner, group CEO,
Q: What were your initial impressions of is—of course—what everyone says, but not A: Digital will rule the world, of course!
Flip Holding Ltd
the city—and the industry—here and how many practice. On more than a few occa- Outdoor and radio is moving into digital
Nationality: German. ‘Anally
have they changed since? sions we have let go a client that was abus- replacement media, and even print will
German’ as they say
A: When I came to Dubai, there were 80 ing timelines, creative freedom and the eventually become digital. True digital
people at BBDO sharing a 512kbps inter- overall relationship with our agency and full service agencies such as Flip will have
Age: 33
net connection that was more down than people, in order to protect our ‘Flippers’. a significant advantage over traditional First job: Marketing
up. Today every kid has a connection eight manager, Adidas, Germany
times that speed. Most of my corporate cli-
We need more talent and continual education on both Lives: Emirates Airlines,
ents were using company-name@hotmail.
seat 7K between Cape Town,
com as their corporate email address, then
the agency and client side. It’s pathetic that less than
Dubai and London
the emails would be printed off for the var-
1 per cent of all regional media spend goes to online.
ious departments. That was back in 2001!
Motto: Life is like a book.
As for Dubai, it used to be a small city
If you don’t travel, it’s like
where you would meet most of your mates I also believe that we are extremely in- global media conglomerates or advertis-
reading only one page
when you went to the movies. There was no novative when it comes to new technolo- ing agencies that try to ‘become’ digital by
In five years time, Flip
traffic. It was far more relaxed. And people gies. As far as I’m aware, we are one of the adding a fifth wheel to their offered mar-
will be: Still the leading
were friendlier. few—if not the only agency—in the Middle keting mix.
independent digital agency in
East that has more than 10 per cent of its Networks, typically, do not provide the
the Middle East
Q: So what was your thinking when it staff working on internal R&D projects. required understanding of the individual
came to founding Flip? market, technologies and diver-
Q: What do you personally enjoy sity of what is required in web
most about the job? marketing, whereas the small to
A: In times of recession and de- medium size players have that
faulting bad payers, you should advantage and the flexibility to
ask what I am enjoying the least! lead the digital invasion into
I guess the thing I most enjoy is the future.
the freedom to do what me and But in this region, we need
my business partner think is right. more talent and continual educa-
We are not driven purely by bal- tion on both the agency and cli-
ance sheets like many of our glo- ent side. I think it’s pathetic that
bal competitors, and we take the less than 1 per cent of all regional
liberty to say ‘no’ to projects or media spend goes to online. But
clients where we don’t feel chal- it will grow, like everywhere else
lenged. I also enjoy coming to the in the world. I believe that mo-
office in board shorts and flip- bile platforms—driven by new
flops, knowing that our clients devices and location-based con-
pay for our brains, not expensive
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: An interactive microsite designed
tent—will be the next ‘big thing’
THE DUBAI MALL: A useful guide to the monolithic
to take the ‘Cirque experience’ online
Armani suits! in the Middle East.
mega mall
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