Egyptian TV chief quits over controversial Iran selfie advert

One billboard depicted Iranian leader Ali Khamenei taking a selfie in front of prominent Gulf skyscrapers. (Al Ghad Al Arabi)
Updated 04 November 2016

Egyptian TV chief quits over controversial Iran selfie advert

JEDDAH: The head of an Egypt-based TV station has resigned amid a furor over a billboard advert depicting Iran’s supreme leader smiling for a “selfie” with Gulf landmarks in the background. 
Journalist Abdel Latif El-Menawy, chief of the Al Ghad Al Arabi channel, said he quit after what he calls a “overreaction” to the news channel’s campaign, which featured another ad with an unflattering depiction of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ads in campaign — which ran under the slogan “the picture with all dimensions” — were displayed on billboards in Cairo but quickly removed, after sparking controversy in Egypt and the Gulf. 
One billboard depicted Iranian leader Ali Khamenei taking a selfie in front of prominent skyscrapers including the Kingdom Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The advert appeared on a main road in Cairo for about 24 hours before being removed, with the wider campaign having been cut short amid the “tense” regional political situation, El-Menawy said.
Some people interpreted the billboard as implying that Egypt’s government is supporting Iran at the expense of its Gulf allies — something El-Menawy said was not the intended message. 
“Some people from Gulf states are upset,” he told Arab News.
The advert was in fact intended to imply Khamenei is “showing off” and that Iran has “an eye” on the Gulf states as “targets”, El-Menawy said.
“I don’t understand how some people understood it in a way like Egypt is supporting Iran,” he said.
“The idea of the billboard (is that Khamenei is) smiling, feeling power, and he is taking a selfie… He’s showing off. And in his back mind, there are also other targets he is considering.”
The journalist referred to the nervousness in the Gulf over the perception of Iran as a threat and Tehran wanting “to control the area”.
El-Menawy, the former head of Egypt’s state TV news under ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, said the adverts were meant as a journalistic statement, rather than a political declaration.
“This campaign doesn’t have anything to do with the state. They didn’t even know about it until they saw it,” he said. “At the end of the day I was doing media, I was not playing politics.”
The wider campaign, which started in mid-October, features around 10 advertisements, with others featuring political figures such as John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, and Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
But it was the ads showing Khamenei and Erdogan that proved the most controversial.
The Erdogan billboard was only on public display for a couple of hours — at a site at Tahrir Square in Cairo — before it was removed, said El-Menawy. Other media reports suggest Egyptian security forces removed the billboards.
The advert showed Erdogan sitting on a throne with prisoners in cages in the background, along with a “wanted” sign for his archrival Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric.
“(Erdogan) is sitting in this big chair, the sultan’s chair… This is his dream. But the situation, his position, is that Turkey has turned now to be a big prison cell. So this is the idea,” said El-Menawy.
But the timing of the advertisement proved unfortunate given the changing tides in relations between the Gulf states and Turkey.
The pan-Arab news channel Al Ghad Al Arabi is funded by Abu Dhabi authorities and supervised by Mohammad Dahlan, El-Menawy said. Dahlan, a Palestinian political figure, is the former leader of Fatah in Gaza.
El-Menawy said the TV station’s board had approved the billboard campaign before it appeared. But amid the furor over the campaign, he is leaving the channel, with his resignation effective Tuesday.
“I think that this misunderstanding shows that we might not have the same way of thinking,” he said of the Al Ghad management. “So I don’t think this is the right moment to continue.”

Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

Updated 20 October 2020

Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

  • Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets
  • Shoueiry founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region

RIYADH: Publicis Groupe MEA today announced the departure of Kamal Dimachkie, chief operating officer, Publicis Communications, UAE and Lower Gulf. Dimachkie is a senior executive who joined Leo Burnett in February 1985. The company has appointed Samer Shoueiry to assume the role in conjunction with his current responsibilities as chief digital officer, Publicis Communications, Middle East from Dec. 1. Dimachkie’s decision to leave comes after 33 years with the company. He will leave his current position on Dec. 31 and continue to act in a consultative capacity until June 2021 in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets including the US, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.

Raja Trad, executive chairman at Publicis Groupe MEA said: “I respect Kamal’s decision. He has been a friend and a colleague for over three decades, and not just I but the entire Publicis Groupe family will miss him. His tenure at the Groupe has been characterized by a clear commitment to values that are central to our philosophy. Kamal’s adept leadership propelled the agency to new heights — we won more than 250 accolades and added numerous international and local clients to our roster. I want to thank him for his immeasurable contribution to the Groupe and wish him all the best for his professional future.”

Dimachkie added: “Leo Burnett and Publicis Groupe have been my life for the past 33 years, and I am proud to have been a part of a glorious journey during which I have had the opportunity to serve the company in different roles in six countries, to have contributed to numerous clients and raised the bar internally and within the industry. Part of this has been the joy of working with a wonderful team and leadership, whom I have partnered with, learnt from and shall forever call my friends and brothers in arms. I am grateful to have lived the glory days of advertising with one of the best agencies in the world and to have worked with some of the most inspiring and creative people. I look forward to working with Samer on the upcoming transition and wish him success in his new role.”

Shoueiry, who will take on Dimachkie’s role, has over 21 years of experience across business, design and innovation. He has consistently delivered a robust performance in Publicis’ Experience Design and Experience Strategy, founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region.

Commenting on his appointment, Trad said: “Samer has a record of leadership and value creation, deep experience in generating groundbreaking brand experiences, as well as a focus on strategic design, innovation excellence and a strong technological footing. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him to drive our digital transformation in the region and support the spread of innovation through investments in our people, technology, platforms and tools. Together, we will ensure that we continue to move our business forward in the Connected Age through a data-led, digital-first approach.”

Shoueiry further added: “Kamal has built a strong foundation for future growth, including strengthening our team and expanding our scope of work. The current climate has accelerated digital transformation globally, and we are looking at a future where online and offline coexist to augment consumer experience in an interconnected brand universe. E-commerce is a necessity, digital equities are your flagship stores, search and social your new outdoor. With this new beginning, I will focus on further strengthening our creative strategy-to-results development to offer the best consumer-centric experiences and build brand value.”