ASDA’A Public Relations
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ASDA’A Public Relations

Holmes Report

Full service public relations consultancy


The Middle East has been fertile ground for public relations consultancies over the past couple of years, but most of the major players in the region are either the subsidiaries of multinational agencies or local firms led by expatriates. ASDA’A, founded in Dubai in 1992, is an exception. Led by partner and managing director Sunil John, ASDA’A—the Middle Eastern affiliate of Edelman—has grown into one of the Middle East’s leading public relations consultancies, with 12 owned offices, seven affiliates and 170 employees across the region, and was recognized as PR Agency of the Year by Campaign Middle East in January of this year.

            The firm provides clients with comprehensive coverage of the markets belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain & Oman); Levant (Jordan, Lebanon & Syria) and North Africa (Egypt, Morocco, Algeria & Tunisia), as well as Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Malta, Cyprus and Pakistan. It is a unit of The Holding Group, one of the largest advertising and media buying companies in the Middle East with advertising, direct marketing and media buying units, which gives it access to the skills and experience of 1,340 employees across the region, while its affiliation with Edelman adds international reach and access to first-rate professional development and intellectual property.

            The firm offers a range of services that go beyond traditional media relations, working with a client roster that includes local, regional and multinational corporations across six major practice areas: corporate, financial, marketing, technology, healthcare and public affairs. Teams in each of those sectors can draw on the additional resources of specialists in the firm’s knowledge, media relations, event management, media monitoring and Arabisation units. In addition to John, agency leadership includes Fakher Daghestani, a former newspaper journalist and the firm’s director of regional operations and media relations; Omar Dusuki, head of the knowledge unit and of new business development divisions, with 20 years of experience in marketing communications; Tim Harrison, who heads the financial practice team and previously worked with Edelman Dubai.

            The past 12 months have seen meteoric growth, with revenues in 2005 up by around 45 percent to $11.3 million. New business came from Amex, BBC Arabic Fortune Management (Switzerland), Barclays, Oasis Leasing, Kingdom Hotel Investments, Saudi Information Technologies, and the Middle East Luxury Group, joining a client roster that includes multinationals such as General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Cisco, Xerox, DHL, American Express, Adidas, Hilton, and Barclays and regional clients such as real estate developer Emaar, UAE telecom company Etisalat, Kingdom Hotel Investments, the Government of Dubai, and the Dubai International Financial Centre. The growth also necessitated several new hires, including Jonathan Tudor, most recently a director at Burson-Marstellar in the U.K. and general manager of Hill & Knowlton, as associate director in the corporate practice; Nicholas Nesson, formerly a senior editor covering the Middle East from Paris as associate director of strategy; and Sameh Hamtini, who heads the technology practice team and has 10 years of journalism and public relations experience in Amman and Dubai.

One noteworthy project of last year was the firm’s work repositioning the BBC Arabic Service, promoting both its radio and online presence and attempting to retain high levels of credibility while shedding its stodgy, conservative image. Jane Futrell, head of international marketing communications for the BBC World Service praises the firm’s “enthusiasm, energy, expertise and ingenuity” and says it translated an “ambitious” idea into “a remarkable and positive reality.” Another high-profile effort involved helping the Dubai International Financial Centre create and increase awareness among the regional and international business community, focusing on transparency and a world-class regulatory structure to attract investment capital.

            Finally, to cement its own position as a though leader in the market, ASDA’A worked with Edelman to promote the results of a report on the perceptions of the Arab world among C suite executives across the U.S., Europe and Asia at the Middle East meeting of the World Economic Forum in Egypt. In 2007, ASDA’A plans to extend the annual Edelman trust survey to the key Arab Nations for the first time.

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