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30 November 2008
A Dubai stalwart of over 15 years, The Media House’s CEO John Deykin has seen—and will tell—more than
most. Media Week talks to the erudite brand champion about City 7, the Atkins diet and finding himself
eware of getting into conversation with
John Deykin. Throw-away comments
become impassioned tirades; secrets
are divulged with all the deadpan de-
livery of a Ritalin-ready stand up and—
in between being indiscrete about some of Dubai’s
most high-profile media players—he talks, at length
and with great passion, about the branding indus-
try in the city. He’s not just fun to listen to; he’s fun
to watch. He fidgets in his chair, drums on the table
to punctuate points and his face is a trampoline of
emotions; stretching into a five year old’s grin at ev-
ery available opportunity.
Right now, though, the CEO of branding agency
The Media House is concerned with finding him-
self—and his agency.
Dubai has incredible
short-termism. It’s
an issue that tears
out your heart. There
is so much shopping
around when it comes
to accounts. It had
better change in light
of the impending
financial collapse.
“We’re undergoing a re-engineering process to
try and find out who we are,” he says in his rich Glas-
wegian burr. “We employed this company called Eat
Big Fish to get to the heart of what the company is
and what it should be.” But, isn’t this something that
the 12-year-old TMH, an agency that takes a holistic
approach to branding and leaves no metaphorical
stone unturned, could have done in-house?
“The idea is to get someone with objectivity to
come in and lead you through the process,” counters
Deykin. “It’s allowed us to better realise who we are,
what our core strengths are. Instead of driving peo-
ple into global solutions, we’ve found that localised
solutions can have a lot of value and that it’s good to
work as part of a homegrown team.” And, as Deykin
points out, in a “geo-politically, socio-economically
and demographically fractured market” that makes
perfect sense.
Deykin is well placed to muse on the Middle
East. He arrived in 1991—“the minute the Gulf War
ended”—and has worked in journalism, advertising
sales, television production, advertising and brand
management. He joined TMH in 1999. And it was,
says Deykin, a timely move.
“Like so many start-ups it had succeeded to an
extent. It had two very big accounts and it looked re-
ally promising. But the problem with this market is:
What if those accounts walk out of the door at the ex-
act same time? And that’s what happened. The cli-
ents did walk out, just a month apart. It could have
been Armageddon but [the agency’s] really gone
from strength to strength.”
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