The public relations industry in the Middle East has come of age in recent years, moving beyond product publicity and special events to encompass the full range of corporate reputation management and brand building functions, digital and social media, and more. Sunil John, chief executive officer of market leader ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, has been at the forefront of that change, a pioneer in the profession—and the first individual from the region to be recognized with one of our SABRE Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement.
In the 15-years since John established ASDA’A – which takes its name from the Arabic word for echoes – he has introduced a generation of young Arabs to the communications industry while building a 150-strong team across 11 wholly-owned offices and 10 affiliates in the Middle East and North Africa. More than 60 percent of the firm’s employees are Arabs, giving the agency a distinctive local strength.
John has also invested considerable time and resources in reaching out to clients, including governments, family businesses and regional institutions, many of which had never worked with a professional PR agency before. Today, more than 70 percent of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller’s revenue comes from local and regional clients.
Today, clients include Emaar Properties, the global property developer of the iconic Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building; Etisalat, the UAE’s leading telecom company with an expanding footprint across the Middle East, Africa and Asia; General Electric; Ford Middle East; Lufthansa; McDonalds; Pepsi; Beiersdorf; Nestle; Disney; Raytheon; FedEx and several government entities.
John and his team have worked some of the major regional challenges of recent years: the UAE’s winning bid to host the World Expo 2020 in Dubai, as well as for headlining events such as the inaugural editions of the Dubai International Film Festival and The Government Summit, organized by the UAE Prime Minister’s Office.
On the thought leadership from, he introduced the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, now in its sixth edition. Even before the events of the Arab Spring, the survey sought to gauge the sentiments of the region’s youth, and their overwhelming desire for better governance, and their views on democracy.
John also recently launched the firm’s research associate, PSB Middle East. The agency also recently launched the Middle East office of Burson-Marsteller subsidiary and digital marketing company, Proof Integrated Communications. And he chaired the 20th Public Relations World Congress held in Dubai in March 2012, attended by 500 delegates from 28 countries.