Creative Marketing and Advertising Agency in Kuwait: Hala Tfayli Presents The Channel MENA

Hala Tfayli shares her assessment of the professional services industry in Kuwait and gives an overview of The Channel MENA, a creative marketing and advertising agency providing a wide range of services, including: strategy and market auditing, content marketing, social media and digital marketing, advertising, branding, etc.

Interview with Hala Tfayli, Founder and CEO of The Channel MENA

Hala Tfayli, Founder and CEO of The Channel MENA

What are the current challenges you face in the sector and what are you doing to overcome them?

The main, important challenge in a professional services industry is people. To me, as the leader of the agency, this is the most important pillar of my job description because we are offering the brain and the creativity to our clients through our people. We are opting to look for people from all around the world and this is what the pandemic made normal. Our copywriter is based in Ireland. We have a team in Beirut where we started off which was the creative kitchen or the creative hub of The Channel. Recently, we added Egypt to the game because Egypt has a great pool of creative people. The second challenge is to keep up with the digital transformation and with the agility that is being offered in the sector. Today, by the time you get used to a certain service or to a certain trend, the next one comes in. Because we want to be that forward looking agency that is partnering up with clients for the long term, the least I can do is to make sure that we are actually able to offer them what is new. It is not easy to adopt new trends, otherwise everyone would have done it. That is why you have specific players in every industry that are excelling. The third challenge is to keep up with clients who are looking for price rather than quality. This is a nightmare. It has a lot to do with educating clients, with mindset change. It is not about the price. If you decided to start a business, you might as well make sure you have the budget for it. You have to let people know about your business. To do that, you need agencies, you need people that would be passionate and would be happy and excited to offer you their expertise and their ideas. That has a price. Luckily, all our clients currently are aware and they are coming to us for a reason. They are appreciating the quality of service that we are doing. I do not accept requests from clients to price only. We always aim to pitch and show the work before we even get awarded. We have been operational as The Channel for the last four years. Our best year was 2020 during the pandemic. That is where we connected with likeminded clients and people who are seeking services so they can overcome the challenges that the pandemic has imposed on us. We worked with a lot of ecommerce platforms, with people who wanted to kick off the idea that they probably had for a while, but it was dormant until the pandemic came. This was the opportunity.

What is your scope of business?

We are a marketing and advertising agency. I like to always describe what we do from the client’s perspective. What we tell our clients is to think of us as an outsourced marketing department where they can work with us to support them in reaching their objectives and their KPIs. When a client comes to an agency, it is more likely that he is looking for support when it comes to marketing and that support comes through a set of different services that we can offer to the client starting as a marketing advertising agency, starting with creative and advertising services, but we definitely like to always make sure that we associate anything creative and content that we do to a proper media campaign. A media campaign can be an offline campaign or it can be an online campaign. We advise depending on the client’s objective, on the model, on the business itself. This is what we would like to be known for. We are a partner in making sure you reach your KPIs. To do that, there are two important pillars: content and creativity. We create your brand and what you want to communicate, but we love to also work with making sure that there is a proper media behind this content. I always give them the analogy of if you have a singer with a nice, beautiful singing voice singing on a stage without a microphone, only the people sitting at the front seats will hear the singer. This is exactly what we like to do. We have the beautiful voice, we have the songs, but we like to also offer the media behind it to make sure it reaches the right audience.

What services do you offer and how do these give you a competitive advantage over your competition? What are your main points of differentiation?

The Channel MENA is an independent agency providing a wide range of services, including: strategy and market auditing, content marketing, social media and digital marketing, advertising, branding, etc.

This is a question that we also ask our clients to make sure we are communicating their USPs (Unique Selling Propositions) or their unique value propositions. I do not want to go and say we are the most creative, the most talented, because talent is everywhere. Kuwait, specifically, is now seeing a rise in talent. It is impressive to see this great landscape of talent out there. We are not sticking to one market. We are looking for creative people all around the world with our offices in Beirut, in Egypt, in Ireland, and we recently also started working with a lot of people from the UK. The most important edge that we are currently hearing from our clients is how we make them feel. This is what I would love to build on because at the end of the day, the process is simple. You go to a pitch, you present your deck, your ideas, the more you are creative, the more you are talented, the more you are resourceful when it comes to working with different people to put that pitch together, the more you integrate media channels, you come up with a TVC (television commercial), you come up with a social media strategy, etc., that will give you an edge. But at the end of the day, we are pitching, so we all, as agencies, are going to put the best we have out there. What we hear from our key clients that is different is the feeling of safety that they are getting with the combination of the team that we have. Having a main knowledge and strategy and communication along with a strong creative offering is giving them that feeling of safety and I would like to really build on that. This is what is giving us an edge at the moment and making us win.

Who are some of the clients you work with and some of the success stories you have had with them?

When we first started, like any small agency, we started working with small scale clients to try to build together a path or a journey. We developed a solid team with great expertise that worked with multinational agencies. We have the same quality and level of creative people that you see at international agencies, but we always offer the local edge or the local input. That is when we really started working with clients like Zain, for example, where we work with them on their digital banking application, Tamam, that launched in KSA. We worked with a big retailer in Dubai and competed with big international agencies. Today, our portfolio of clients is very diverse. We have large automotive groups that we are working very closely with such as big brands like Volvo, a big Chinese company called Chery, and Alghanim Automotive. It is by coincidence that we are working with a lot of automotive brands. We are bringing a different perspective to how we market and promote automotive brands. So, this is definitely an area that is prone to grow even more at the agency. We also work with a lot of startups which is something that I personally love doing. Big clients are already big. They are established. But when you become part of the success story of an application or a startup or a business, that is when your name will start growing. We are launching three major startups in Kuwait that we are so proud of. Currently, we are also launching a new service in Kuwait called Wiyak. It is a private chauffeur service and a high end public transportation for anyone who does not like to worry about parking their cars, worry about the traffic, someone like me who is always on a laptop in the backseat of any car working. This is one of the most exciting startups that we are launching now with a big group. In addition, we are launching a new pharmacy online called Pharma-C. We are also very excited to work with the group on launching this exclusive new application that will present a new way of offering wellness to people, which is what everyone needs at the moment and what everyone should be seeking at the moment. “Wellness received” will be our slogan for Pharma-C. I am very excited to be working with a team on this beautiful application.

What is your vision for the company and its growth or expansion in the medium term, three years’ time?

I never planned, really, for where we are today. The only thing that I was really planning for all the time is to make sure that we are building a good reputation because this is what is going to last. This is what is going to make our current relationship with clients long term relationships. Building a reputation by itself means a lot of things. It does not mean we do not make mistakes because we do. But, it means we fix them in the right way and we make up for them in the right way. It is that feeling of safety that I would love to make sure is always there. However we grow, with any client that comes onboard, we never, ever compromise our service from one client to another. With planned growth and expansion, you never know what is going to happen and you could only plan for your next three months. But planning for long term relationships, a good reputation, making sure we are agile and we are aware of the future of advertising as much as we can be is what I want to plan for in the next few years. It is not easy to have your own business and it is not easy to maintain it in these times, but that feeling of safety comes from a lot of things that I have been trying to do as a team. That feeling of safety comes from the people at The Channel MENA and we are conveying that feeling to our clients. I would love to make sure that that feeling is always there.

Are you seeing different challenges or advantages to being a woman in this sector or as a female CEO and founder in general?

It is the same as being any CEO and founder. It is the people around you that are trying to make it look different. There was a point when I was growing and taking the ladder up in my corporate career when I wanted to hold that women empowerment and gender equality and I stopped at one point because it is all in the mindset. It is all in what the woman wants. Nobody helped me to reach where I want to reach. It was me. I wanted to do it. There are challenges around you that will offer some barriers, but I want this, and I will do it. I used to feel that I want to defend women and I want to help, but nobody defends a woman – you defend yourself, you create your path, you fight for your rights. If you are in a proper establishment, then things will automatically be done right. You will be judged fairly, you will be following a certain HR system, and you will be going in the path that you should be going. I came up with a lot of my male colleagues who were also facing challenges in growing and challenges in getting promoted. So, that feeling where we were victimized all the time, I refuse it. I think this is what made me reach a place where I just go without thinking of who I am, whether I am a female or a male. Being a female CEO is just the detail. It is nothing compared to what you have to offer, how you speak, how you talk, how you are educated, and how you make people feel about their business. There are a lot of factors and there are a lot of things that would shape you. I was lucky to be in that place. It also has to do with the character, with the upbringing, etc. I have a certain set of expertise and knowledge and I have plans for myself, for my kids, for my future. I want to do it irrespective of who I am.

What is your inspiration? What drives you to do what you do?

The character of the person, or the constituents of who you are, makes you choose a certain path in your life. By nature, I am someone with a strong personality. I have to be present. I have to be out there. Also, leaving the corporate world and starting my own business was just a natural development for someone like me. I always felt that there was a drive, there was something pushing me to do things. I really do not know what that thing is, honestly. There is something driving me. There is an accumulation that you get throughout your life where you build up knowledge and expertise, a certain area of strength, that becomes you and that shapes the way you are and then you move on with life. What drives me is that feeling of independence, of security, of manifesting the person that you are.


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