Front Row Acquires Stake in Creative and Production Agency Operation Unicorn
Posted on 2021 Dec,09

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Leading MENA-based distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment has acquired a stake in award-winning boutique creative agency Operation Unicorn, as the two companies join forces in a bid to transform original content and storytelling in the Middle East.

Founded in Lebanon in 2010, Operation Unicorn’s (OU) creative flair and rich storytelling approach revolutionized the field in the region and quickly cemented them as one of the most sought-after creative agencies in the Middle East. Their talent for genuine and relatable stories and characters mirror contemporary life and resonate with audiences to give their work a unique signature in the industry. Their award-winning body of work boasts numerous successful campaigns, relying on smart insights, authentic storytelling, and strong humor to garner massive success and a wide reach with some campaigns going viral across digital media in the Middle East. OU’s successful model became part of the telecommunications and marketing curriculums in universities.

OU founder Nathalie Masri on the partnership with Front Row: “The key to successful content is creative, honest storytelling. We want to inject meaningful, insightful stories into local content, stories that will resonate for an audience that feels mostly shut-out or detached from current content.” Masri adds that Front Row “have built a great track record in the industry with a non-conformist approach that really resonates with us as creators. We feel this inspires us to work with them and send a strong message with powerful new voices.”

With similar philosophies on storytelling, Front Row has amped up its production game over the last two years, by shooting its first feature film in Beirut, the Arabic adaptation of the international smash hit “Perfect Strangers”, which features an all-star cast led by Nadine Labaki and Mona Zaki. The film is set for release in Q1 2022.

The company is also actively working on several original projects through its production arm Yalla Yalla, with OU tapping in to offer their creative input and on-ground production expertise. Front Row and OU are currently developing several projects including the slice-of-life comedy series titled “From the Bathroom”; a couples dramedy spanning various Arab countries called “Heads or Tails” as well as a feature film and a docu-series that will be unveiled next year. The teams are also actively working on the Arabic remake of the highest grossing foreign film of all time “Intouchables” with an aim to kick-off shooting in May 2022.

The move merges Front Row’s strong reputation and expertise in acquisitions and distribution with Operation Unicorn’s creative writing and production skills as the two companies will also jointly develop original, short-from content in addition to branded content, podcasts, and new formats for the region.

“We’re looking to pave the way for a dynamic new phase of regional content,” says Front Row CEO Gianluca Chakra. “For decades the industry has been stagnant in the hands of a tight circle of creators working under a stringent set of rules and red-lines. In Operation Unicorn we have a bright and innovative outfit that we’re looking to shake-up content with. We intend to break the old formulas and restrictive creative environments while developing powerful and authentic stories that carry the voice of an entirely new generation of creators. To this end, we aim to gather like-minded emerging talent under one umbrella to produce content that will resonate with a diverse set of viewers spanning the Arab and eventually the western world.”  

OU’s team includes partners Nathalie Masri. Masri held a senior art director position at HAVAS, a well-known creative agency, before launching her own agency and leading its creative department. She has a series of highly successful and award-winning campaigns under her name. She is the co-creator and actor in the online popular satire show Coffee Break, rising to fame following a series of successful episodes.

Wissam Matar worked as a creative director for creative agencies Leo Burnett and FP7, during which he managed to amass several awards to his name on numerous highly acclaimed campaigns. He joined OU as Managing Partner in 2017 and has overseen the agency’s growth and business development.

Jad Aouad, an award winning and a highly sought director in the MENA region. His special sense of wit and creative approach in advertising has won him many awards. He is a session drummer, featuring on several local and regional artists albums and recordings.

Anthony Tawil worked as a digital planner and strategist with digital pioneers Eastline Marketing before joining OU in 2015. He is currently producing the first docu-series podcast on the Lebanese Civil War.

With this acquisition, the two companies aim to establish a successful content network ready to entertain a growing Arab market that is eager to watch and consume valuable content that speaks to them.