Tahaab Rais on his new role at Publicis Groupe
Posted on 2022 Apr,11  | By Iain Akerman

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Typing a resignation note is never easy,” says Tahaab Rais, the former Regional Strategy Head at FP7 McCann and McCann Worldgroup who recently joined Publicis Groupe as its first regional Chief Strategy Officer for the Middle East & Turkey region.

ArabAd talks to Tahaab Rais to learn what’s at stake for him in his new role and what does he hope to achieve.


When Tahaab Rais walked through the doors of the Publicis Groupe for the first time in February, he did so as arguably the region’s most lauded strategist. Under his strategic leadership, FP7 McCann had been named the worlds most effective agency by WARC and the most effective agency globally by the Effie Index. In total, he’d spent a decade within McCann Worldgroup, forging the kind of professional reputation that made him highly sought after.

“They were 10 amazing years,” says Rais, who is one of the industry’s most recognisable figures. “Ten fulfilling years. But it was like, ‘you’ve done everything you had to do in terms of building the team and building strategy as a culture versus strategy being a department’. All of the ambition that we had set out to achieve we had managed to achieve, so come the end of 2021 it was like, ‘what’s next for me?’”

The answer was just around the corner. Rais was approached by the Publicis Groupe with “a very compelling proposition in terms of the ambition of the group and the kind of role they had in mind”. He would take on the newly created position of chief strategy officer for Publicis Groupe across the Middle East and Turkey, connecting the group’s people and agencies so they in turn could create ideas and solutions that could help the group’s current and future partners.

It wasnt an easy decision to take,” he admits. Typing a resignation note is never easy, especially when youve been somewhere for 10 years and youre sending it to a friend. Tarek [Miknas, chief executive of FP7/MENA] is like an older brother to me. But, you know, youve done the Effies, youve done everything you had to do, gotten the agency to number one in the world, set the strategy foundation, helped with creative excellence, trained people. I personally felt Id done everything I needed to do for the agency.”

Now he’s a month or so into his new role, with a large and potentially challenging remit on his hands. Publicis Groupe, which includes Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, Starcom, Zenith, Publicis Sapient, Digitas and the PR agency MSL, has a renewed sense of ambition since the appointment of Bassel Kakish as chief executive in April last year. A string of high profile appointments followed his promotion, including that of Kalpesh Patankar as chief creative officer at Leo Burnett in October, and Sebastien Boutebel as regional creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi. Gautam Wadher also joined the latter agency as executive creative director during the same month.

“Everything starts with strategy,” says Rais, who is also a film director and lover of gaming. “So, how can you really work with clients to try and understand exactly what problems they face, or what problems they don’t know they face. There are so many clients who have so many opportunities for growth. How do you look at all the clients’ portfolios and look at which of our agencies can, together, best fulfil their needs. And that’s an interesting model in terms of a holding company that truly works as one community.”


"It’s a job that perhaps doesn’t give you as much recognition as you should get, but the fact is that you get to create stuff that people see, that moves people, and that’s why it’s one of the best jobs in the world.”


There are two initial areas of focus. The first is people. Since he joined the group Rais has been busy meeting the staff within each agency, assessing their potential and their skillsets. “Now the challenge is, how do you get those amazing diverse range of skills to work together to create the kind of things brands out here need to be doing? I think that’s going to be the exciting part. Working with these amazing talents and trying to make magic happen for our brands.”

The second is what the group can provide for the industry overall, both in terms of its current and prospective clients. For this he will be bringing all of his experience in creative briefing, connections planning, brand activation, the creative use of data and shopper marketing to bear.

“How can we really deliver the kind of solutions that need to be delivered,” he says. “Brands need to be platforms that cater to peoples and businessespassions, and today, products and services need to be meaningful to everyday needs and anxieties, and everyones future too. Being a company with diverse agencies and skillsets, the opportunity lies in identifying the needs of brands, businesses and of people and creating the solutions that can be made.”

As an indicator of what this entails, Rais cites the recent example of the e& (formerly Etisalat) account win, which saw the group provide a variety of solutions catering to different brand, product and segment challenges. Led by Saatchi & Saatchi, the group-wide operation will draw on ‘creative excellence, strategic expertise and award-winning talent’ from a number of its agencies.

“I just love creating work that I will be proud of. That I can share with my kids, that I can share with my family. It’s about creating great work, which this industry allows us to do. We’re very gifted. I know it tends to be a very shitty job sometimes, where you’re not thanked much for what you do. It’s a job that perhaps doesn’t give you as much recognition as you should get, but the fact is that you get to create stuff that people see, that moves people, and that’s why it’s one of the best jobs in the world.”