The MCN Group is a partnership of New York-based communications conglomerate Interpublic and the Miknas family holding. The Group gathers media, creative, public relations and corporate entities under one roof — and does so in the literal sense since the turn of the year. Executive visited Tarek Miknas, chief executive of the group’s flagship FP7 agency and board member of MCN, in the brand new corporate hive in Dubai’s Tecom district.
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The look of your space here seems a bit in-between, as if you wanted to emphasize the creative side…
Yes, and I can take you to the different offices [of group companies] on different floors… each has its expression of its personality, values and what it is all about. Normally you move into an office space and make this space yours. Here, we have the whole building of 14 floors. It is still a work in progress — even the car park is full of people carpentering and this sort of thing. As we get settled in, we will do a lot more meetings and we will use the space on the ground floor and make it come alive.
We met before for a conversation at the 2011 MENA Cristal, about one year after you took on your role at FP7. What has changed in the agency in the past two years?
When you start a company, you are involved in each process and bring in the people you feel comfortable with from scratch. Moving into a company that has already been established and all this, it felt like there were pockets of people and people talking about people, and this clearly takes a lot of focus away from what people should be doing, which is advertising. Today, we don’t have those conversations anymore. It is now about ‘do you know this client? I am sure we can do this, this, this and this and improve their business.’
Was that a simple migration?
It takes a lot of effort to get there. First of all, you have to let go of all the “bad elements”, whether or not they are good in what they are doing. If they are creating a negative culture, you waste so much time.
Can you give us some information on the size and structure of MCN Group and the performance evolution of FP7?
MCN is our holding company, 51 percent owned by IPG [Interpublic Group] and the rest of it is private. Under that holding, there are diverse communications companies, most of which represent the big IPG companies that work together around the world. The biggest two companies are FP7 and UM, and total employment in the group is about 1,400 people. As FP7, we started out as a network, and, two years ago, we were actually in the red. So our focus was to build a solid, sound financial base that would allow the required growth plans to be initiated. After 2008, we’ve experienced a dip of about 10 percent in our top line; however, we have now steadily built ourselves back up to those top line levels, but with 200 percent growth in our profits. During this time, we’ve put a lot of focus on upgrading our talents and bringing in a lot of new, young energy into the organization, which has proved to be a successful strategy.
What is the greatest achievement of Lebanese media personality Tarek Miknas?
Me specifically? I thought this is about the Lebanese in general. I am so new at this.
Will Lebanon be able to maintain, or perhaps grow, its role in regional advertising?
Lebanon is a source of talent for this industry no matter where in the region. It makes sense economically to have a place in Lebanon; people have their homes there and there are no relocation issues, those kinds of things. Will Lebanon continue to expand and take on more geographies? I am not sure. One thing that troubles me is that even in my generation, people emphasize divided communal identities. I thought that people were over all of this [but it seems] there will always be this kind of conflict, and it will always keep Lebanon one step behind. I don’t know how this is going to be solved in Lebanon. I don’t see a new leadership that is trying to be more inclusive and will say, ‘guys, let’s forget about all this and start to act with economic thinking, not sect-based’.