Omnicom Media Group – Thinking out loud

Elie Khouri of OMG poses with masked cowboys

Oh my God! – A vibrant new kid has moved into the best block in town. With an abbreviation that is practically irresistible to play with, the Omnicom Media Group MENA exudes an energetic flair of newness and infuses some fine extra scent into the Great Places To Work (GPTW) experience in the United Arab Emirates. That is quite a feat as the 10 Best Companies to work for in the UAE supply the interviewer with a collection of people with remarkable individualities, collaboration talents and action-charged characters. 

But then, OMG’s aptitude for novelty is not only because it is one of the two companies that made the still very young GPTW list for the first time in 2012, it is also the second runner up in the ranks of the Best Companies for Women in the UAE. The fresh feel of its culture thus testifies to the rejuvenating power which a professional equilibrium of the two genders brings to corporate leadership (to be fair, M-F collaboration in leadership is promising at several of the top ten companies). 

In its multinational identity, OMG is the media services arm of Omnicom Group, one of the world’s four supersized conglomerates in advertising, public relations, and communications planning. Omnicom reported $12.5 billion in worldwide revenue in 2010. At the end of January it was trading on the New York Stock Exchange with a market cap of $12.8 billion. 

Although OMG has been around for the better part of a decade as a holding for Omnicom’s four media buying and planning companies, and sits atop of one of six core activities at Omnicom, OMG is best known within the professional communications sphere. A testament to the company’s specialization is that they are not even covered by a separate entry in Wikipedia. 

That begs the question of why the company is attempting to gain exposure by entering into the Great Place to Work process. 

 “What we are getting out of our participation is naturally the knowledge that we are on our track, the ability of benchmarking ourselves in the market and the understanding of how we can improve further,” Elie Khouri, the chief executive of OMG Middle East and North Africa, shares with Executive.

 OMG is part of an industry with two preoccupations. The primary one is to plan, craft, and develop messages and marketing communication strategies for clients and to purchase advertising space in commercial news and entertainment media. The second is to reinvent themselves incessantly. 

It is a stressful, hyperactive business and one has to be cut out for it. That may go some way toward explaining why OMG in the UAE has the highest percentage of employees with less than two years of tenure among the top ten companies.   

From the vantage of the Great Place to Work Institute’s Culture Audit, an outstanding feature at OMG is a forum for brainstorming on solutions to life’s challenges, called The Circle of Excellence. What is special about this confidential forum is that members of the organization congregate to put their minds together to address issues effecting all areas of their life from the business-related to the personal and the family life with the objective to help themselves and their colleagues.  

Khouri underscores that this approach is not just some afterthought activity but rather a core competency in the workplace culture at OMG. According to him, the group’s robustness across its Middle East and North Africa operations is the “personal attention it gives to every employee, not only in relation to their job but also to their life and individual circumstances. We try to accompany them on their life journey on a continuous basis. If you don’t do that, you cannot get the best out of people working with you.”

A special aspect on the operational side of OMG when compared with the other top ten companies in the UAE is that it has to implement social team activities and assert corporate cultures for all four media service companies that work with distinct identities. “It is challenging,” Khouri says but adds that the group’s umbrella of values makes the task doable. “Each of the four companies has its own program but all operate and fit under the common umbrella of taking care of our people.”

Thomas Schellen

Thomas Schellen is Executive's editor-at-large. He has been reporting on Middle Eastern business and economy for over 20 years.

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