Ahh, the corporate world (cue the forest background and birds chirping) a step of which every man and woman start their working life and become a “someone”. As soon as the application is filled, an interview conducted and the approval has been stated, one’s imagination runs wild with expectations and visions of how life in the corporate world will be. It’s ironic how that bright, beautiful, cue the chirping birds vision can somewhat turn into nothing less than a mere daydream in such a short time. Why so? Oh the options can be due to a dull routine, inadequate job position, an unknown field, the work place’s atmosphere, the routine again … just to name a few. There is no shame or battering for those who choose the 8-5 job, in fact it’s a personal choice and there is nothing but respect toward the 8-5 workers. It’s simply uncommon for anyone who wishes to become a “someone” to simply sit and watch the world go by and not take a step in the other direction where he or she can start their path to whom they’d like to be. Difficult? Risky? Confusing? Not so much. One example would be “77 Media”, a digital marketing boutique based in Jeddah. A company that isn’t unique in its concept, it’s unique in the way their concept is based on. Some can call it a beautiful mess, but the boutique caters to a wide range of digital media needs with the best and most unique digital content finishing in the market, making this so called beautiful mess into something productive and successful.
It was founded in 2010 by Hilal Al-Harith as a web development company. With his eye on the market, he found that there is a need for video production development then moving forth to social media marketing and so on and so forth. An organic growth based on the needs of the market and also with the help of some very talented employees, the company’s growth stems from the quality of work they provide with every project that comes their way and not to mention breaking a wall each time the company expands and adds a new department to their midst.
Arab News met up with 77 Media at their office, got the opportunity to check out their work place and be inspired by such significant work ethics. We spoke to Maha Taher, the company’s head of digital marketing as well as Hilal Al-Harith, CEO of 77 Media and heard what they had to say.
It was clear from first entering the office that there were no cubicles or separators or walls that would keep an employee in their zone, it was a vast open office with desks, high ceilings, an industrial grunge kind of interior, very clean, comfortable and spacious.
77 Media is based on ethics that every other company follows, incorporate equality, group work, transparency and successful relations between employees resulting in achieving the company’s goals. What makes 77 Media different from other companies?
Maha Taher: Simple, we don’t believe in walls, we keep expanding and breaking walls instead of having rooms for each department as an example. We love our open office plan because it’s through this we as employees get to share ideas with one another, provide a relaxing environment for each employee and it encourages a lot of group work between one another. We don’t believe in cubicles either, it’s confining an employee to minimal office space that limits interactions and decreases group work. Having said that, we do have the “headphone rule” put in place. If an employee has their headphones on, the only means of communication would have to be through Skype, it’s like an invisible wall, sometimes you’d be in the momentum and can’t be disturbed so you don the headphones. They’d be in their zone and we respect their needed space.
The marketing scene has changed since the boom of social media and the strategy changed. How did 77 Media maneuver and keep up with the ever so evolving world of marketing?
Maha: When the company first started, it started fresh and small. Hilal teamed up with Oday Abid and both created a strategy that stepped up their game in the marketing industry. No longer were advertisements confined to billboards, the number of social media platforms since 2010 have increased tenfold and through that the company would create innovative designs for companies looking for such direction. Clients come to us for various reasons, we provide e-commerce solutions, develop dynamic database driven websites, content management solutions, video for web video production and so much more. Our strategy is to be one step ahead of the game in order to become leaders in the field and this is through gradual progression of the industry and we provide the solutions to their problems. We even have a new division which we call “ideation”, it’s a division that finds the best medium to solve the predicament a certain company is facing. We’re growing and leaning toward the new and diverse.
You have some well known clients such as Al-Nahdi, Al-Baik, Ihsan (Ahmed Al-Shugairy’s Khawater), 3N Jeddah, Design Magazine to name a few. How are you servicing these clients and how are you helping your company as well as theirs progress into the now?
Maha: We’re 100 percent focused now on media, we manage these clients’ online presence so we become their voices online. We are trained by each company on their policies, the design of the brand, their procedures, their products and we manage their accounts on the various social media sites, how often we post, the frequency and what not. So for example, if someone tweets for example a question to Al-Nahdi pharmacy, one of our employees is the one who is answering them. We like to have everything measurable through online content, you can even measure how many times people click your ad or logged on to your profile, unlike billboards, you can’t measure how many times someone viewed it. Our team has been trained to manage any client’s request and we provide the technical know-how and have the right resources to control whichever media the company is going for based on experience.
Studying the Saudi market, do you think that some of the projects that you want to introduce to the market will be or can be accepted?
Hilal: I looked at the Saudi market from a financial and logistics perspective and I find that many of the ideas and projects that I have solves a lot of problems from both ends but what I didn’t take into account was the mentality. I have a foreign maybe an American mentality because I’ve lived there for more than 20 years, so I didn’t take into account that the players of the market are usually followers and they don’t take risks. It’s disheartening and difficult because even the innovative thinkers must follow the trend of copy pasting in order for their companies to succeed.
You mentioned earlier that you encourage group work among the employees of the company. With many different divisions the company now holds, how do you measure the success of the team work?
Maha: Diversity, we’re multinational, each employee has their knowledge on a specific field. We then gather and brainstorm on whichever direction a certain client is heading toward and through this group brainstorming, we come up with a strategy we find best suited for this client. The team itself is the strength of our company, we here at 77 Media are nothing without the people. We’re very much lucky to have such brilliant people working here, each one is committed and great at what they do.
Choosing the right people for such a company can be somewhat a challenge, how has the process been?
Maha: It’s always difficult in any startup business to find the right people to continue with, it was very difficult in the beginning. Not many understood our culture here in 77, we’re not an 8-5 kind of job where you have to check in at a certain time and record attendance, we’re a task based culture not a time based. What that means is we have a project management system and everyone has their task to finish it and that’s how we measure their performance, according to their task. It might take them a day, it might take a week, but each individual’s task differs from the other and the quality of their work determines their success in achieving the task. If an employee is a corporate based personality, they’d usually not last here, time isn’t as important as the quality of their work is. It’s a creative industry so flexibility is very important.
How has the company progressed since founding it in 2010, has it reached your expectations?
Hilal: Honestly I expected it to grow a lot faster, there are many reasons as to why we haven’t grown to my initial vision, mostly due to mistakes that we soon learned a lot from. In the beginning my vision wasn’t very clear but I knew that I wanted a company I was happy with, it was risky but I went ahead. I started it as a post production company and soon realized that the market wasn’t mature enough for a post-production company solely. I needed to expand and eventually we became a fully fledged digital marketing company where we offer the full digital spectrum of services.
What is your vision for the company in 5-10 years?
Hilal: Frankly, in 5-10 years, I don’t want to be making money anymore, I want to be giving money if that makes any sense. I don’t want to focus on making money for the rest of my life, I’d like to make ENOUGH money in order for me to give it back to society, help others and make this company into something that isn’t money oriented.
Hilal: What’s the point of life if you just collect money? If your task is to only collect money and become a millionaire in a short amount of time, then what? I want to do enough good and ensure that the good we do here is placed somewhere beneficial.
Your vision is very humbling but can seem a bit farfetched. Do you think in 10 years you could actually reach that goal that you’ve set for yourself and your company?
Hilal: I think I can, I have so many ideas that can make me a billionaire in a couple of years. The only thing that is holding me back is the market. One of the ideas I have for example is far beyond what the market can handle, it’s still too early for it in the region. The idea would help many independent content creators and revolutionize the way we watch content online, but people here are too afraid to take the risk. They don’t want to change the way they make their money even if it’s very beneficial to them. I’m not giving up on them, I’m still going to go through with it until it succeeds.
Do you think that your company will continue on with their innovative ideas and designs, become leaders and not succumb to the “copy/paste” style of the local market?
Hilal: Yes I believe so. The one thing that is constant here in 77 Media is change, I’m sure we’ll have to change with the times but always toward the better. Our culture here is to always progress and create our own individual brand, which we already have, but continuing with this flow will make us stand out. The more the market is influenced by foreign cultures, the more they’ll progress and we’ve already done that here, it’s just a matter of time when other agencies pick up the work flow path and become innovators as well.
Starting a company is very much like starting a family, there’s a lot of the positive and a lot of the negative. One would be that your responsibility just tripled, second there are a lot more worries but with that you have the freedom to implement your ideas. In order to succeed you can’t be selfish, you have to find partners and this way everyone shares the responsibility and a circle of trust is established and a company based on transparency is what will make a company thrive.
Be sure to keep up with the latest from 77 Media on their Facebook, Instagram and Vimeo accounts under the username “77 Media” and catch a glimpse of the innovative ideas presented from a company that is making a name for itself in the digital marketing world.