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In the hot seat: Yves-Michel Gabay, MEC MENA

Yves-Michel Gabay on his media career and the importance of seeing things differently

Yves-Michel Gabay brings over 30 years of media advertising experience to his role as Regional GM at MEC MENA. After building his career in France, Yves-Michel moved to Dubai in 2006 to help upgrade the local MENA network on an international level. Today, MEC is the third top media agency in the region and recently won ‘Agency of the Year 2016’ at the Festival of Media MENA Awards. Following the success of our Global Power Book #PRProSeries, we continue the series exploring the careers of the most powerful communications pros around the world today. We sat down with Yves-Michel Gabay to find out how he made it in the industry.

Why did you get into the media industry?

It was a long time ago. I started in an advertising agency called Alice in France. At that time, I was looking into two different types of careers. One was more creative, essentially copywriting, and the other was media. I chose media because I had a background in statistics and felt more comfortable working in that field than working just with language.

What personal attribute has most helped you to succeed in your career?

I would say curiosity because I like to learn a lot of things, and I am always looking for new information. Another quality that has helped me is perseverance. I never give up until I achieve the result I am looking for.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career?

It was probably when I left Western Europe to join the Middle East, because I had to face cultural challenges. It’s very multicultural here; there are people coming from everywhere – more than 200 nationalities. Just in the agency, there were 26 different nationalities and we had to make sure that we could all understand each other and that we were all using the same type of business English.

Who is the most inspiring person you have worked with?

It was at the very beginning of my career and it was a guy called Nicolas Monnier who was Managing Director of Alice. He was the most unique guy that I ever met; he was thinking differently and he was forcing us to see things completely differently. It was about not going to where you were expecting to go, and starting to think laterally. He taught me the importance of coming up with other points of view and looking at the issue you have to solve in another way. If you do this, you will always come up with another solution. It’s important to not always take the easy route.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?

Actually, it was also from Nicolas Monnier. He told me, ‘come early and leave late’. I know that isn’t always the right thing when everyone is looking for a good balance between work and personal life, but actually it was a good piece of advice. During the day, you’re so involved with day-to-day work, with clients and everything, that you don’t have time to do anything else. Coming in early and leaving late gives you the time to catch up on whatever has been sent to you during the day (or the night !), read up, answer, and improve your general knowledge.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge in the next two years in this region?

The crucial thing now is that communications needs to change. It’s a different way of working and this is because of the explosion of social media. What we really need to understand is the shift towards data. In this part of the world, where we don’t have that much data, and where clients are a little bit suspicious about sharing data, and where the research is not that great, I think it is important to have more data, more research and understand how to apply this. The second challenge is how to handle this “digital/data/content” shift. I think we still have people who are thinking in the old way and don’t appreciate the importance of these new elements. It is something that creative agencies probably don’t quite ‘get’ yet. Right now, agencies have to produce much more content at lower prices. It’s a challenge and changing the mind-set about how we can deliver this is crucial.

What three words best describe you?

Inquisitive. Perfectionist. Demanding.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to go into communications today?

Don’t! Except if you are very passionate about wanting to be in this industry. You have to be curious and passionate about new ways of communicating. Since I started in this industry, it has changed so much. It has never stood still. It is always evolving thanks to technology. So if you like communication, if you like to be ahead of what is happening, then this sector could be perfect for you. But you need to know that this industry is not the most rewarding one. ---

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