Digital Agencies in Lebanon - Elie Ghanime of RUBICOM: ‘Enforcing a culture of continuous learning is key to staying current in a rapidly evolving digital landscape’
Posted on 2023 Oct,12  | By Christina Fakhry

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It is no secret that Lebanese-born digital agencies have been subjected to enormous, albeit existential, challenges for the past few years amid the country’s ranging crisis climate and full-blown economic collapse. And while many grappled with changing times strictly in survival mode, others were able to turn the odds in their favor by making bold moves that helped them not only stay in the game but also solidify their market share. From expanding the scope of their digital services to occasionally venturing into new markets, both new and existing agencies fought the current to maintain a healthy flow of creativity and adaptability. As the local market continues to bounce back, we reached out to the founders of some of the country’s prominent digital agencies for key insights and impressions, all while discussing the future of creativity. In the following interview Elie Ghanime, CEO of RUBICOM, shares his take.

Based on your extensive experience, what is the key to success in today's digital landscape and how can you stand out from the pack in a cluttered digital market like Lebanon?

The key to success in today’s digital landscape revolves around a comprehensive approach to adaptability, and this adaptability manifests itself on multiple fronts. First of all, we tackled logistical issues, including electricity and internet shortages and the banking crisis among other challenges. Second, due to the economic challenges, we expanded to new markets, particularly within Gulf countries. This helped us bring in new revenue and secure a stable income to support our employees, especially at a period when many talented individuals in Lebanon were considering leaving the country. Third, it was crucial for us to stay updated on the latest trends in our fast-moving industry. This led us to making successful moves in platforms like TikTok, where we focused on user-generated content and influencer marketing, driving significant achievements in a blue ocean market.


What digital services are brands seeking the most lately according to your agency data? In what direction do you see the local/regional market going?

According to our agency's data, brands have been seeking all the services that enhance their online presence and engagement, notably content creation and digital marketing, user generated content, influencer marketing, SEO and e-commerce. We see the local and regional market going in the same direction, aligning with global trends including digital transformation, AI integration and automation, video and visual content predominance and the ongoing expansion of the e-commerce sector.


How can you keep up with the latest digital and social media trends in an ever-evolving digital landscape that is moving faster than ever before?

Enforcing a culture of continuous learning is key to staying current in a rapidly evolving digital landscape. Blending fresh perspectives from a very young and dynamic team with the seasoned insights of experienced leaders in management positions is a powerful way of navigating the ever-changing trends. This blend that fosters innovation and knowledge-sharing ensures a holistic perspective and cultivates the adaptability needed for running a successful and adaptive marketing agency. In addition to that, we regularly follow up on industry news both online and in magazines like ArabAd to stay updated. We also keep a close eye on social media, watching for emerging trends, viral content and consumer behavior. We believe in staying connected with colleagues in the industry, sharing insights and learning from each other. And we are always eager to learn and use the latest AI tools, especially those that help us better understand data. After all, a proactive mindset is essential, and this applies to our agency founders, partners, and board of directors.


In what way(s) did Lebanon's crisis climate in the past few years affect your agency business and how do you optimize your internal process to maintain a smooth workflow?

Lebanon’s crisis climate over the past few years has indeed impacted our business and operations. The crisis has led to various difficulties, such as economic instability, electricity and internet shortages, banking issues, as well as shifts in consumer behavior and company budgets. However, we've implemented several strategies to optimize our internal processes and maintain a smooth workflow.

First of all, we created a remote work infrastructure during the October uprising and the pandemic lockdown, which allowed our team to continue meeting client needs regardless of physical limitations. We also adopted flexible working hours and managed the team productivity based on KPIs. Logistically, we installed a private generator, more than 50 solar panels and a private source of high-speed internet at the office. To ensure effective communication, we resorted to several digital tools. We faced a significant challenge with the talent emigration issue. To counter this, we began live-streaming on TikTok with new genuine content to show our office's positive vibes and draw in Lebanese talents. As a result, our page gained traction, gradually attracting clients from all across the MENA region. Even though Lebanon's crisis has been tough, our agency's ability to bounce back, adjust and be creative ultimately helped us improve the way we work. We have taken care of our team, welcomed change and stayed in touch with our clients’ needs. This has kept everything running smoothly and allowed us to still assist our clients, despite all the challenges.


How would you define creativity in today's digital landscape? And what are the biggest challenges agencies would have to cater to in order to secure a better future?

Creativity in today's digital landscape means coming up with new and exciting ways to connect with people online. It is all about thinking outside the box to grab people’s attention, make them feel something and keep them engaged. Being creative involves telling interesting stories, making eye-catching content and adding interactive elements to create digital moments that people would like and want to share.

To make things better in the future, agencies need to be creative and open to new ideas all while continuing to learn and adjust their plans based on how people and technology change. By facing these challenges directly, agencies can set themselves up for success in an ever-changing digital world.

This article is part of an interview series conducted with six Beirut-based Lebanese digital agencies.