26 Questions with Magna’s CEO MENA Bassem Massoud

The leader of Interpublic Group’s fastest-growing regional media agency makes time for our quick-fire quiz

April 29, 2019

agency interview

Bassem Massoud has spent the last decade leading Magna Global Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to a position as Interpublic Group’s fastest-growing regional agency. He’s done so on the back of a fierce work ethic – and an absolute passion for the region itself.

A career working with clients from Mars to Unilever, and P&G to Dubai Properties, has given Bassem a unique insight on what drives growth: for Magna, for clients and for the Middle East. He’s proud of his agency’s performance, equally proud of the culture and economy that exists around Dubai, and more than a little proud of the collection of 1970s American muscle cars that he keeps at his home in Beirut.

We managed to persuade Bassem to take time out for 26 Questions – our unique quick-fire interview that puts agency leaders on the spot about everything from media transparency, social media and big data to irrational hatreds and zombie apocalypses. Here’s his expert take on how evolving media agencies and media platforms can contribute to the unique energy of his region:

1. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
A turkey and cheese sandwich.

2. What’s the last great thing you binge-watched and why?
The Blacklist…the suspense and turnaround of events keep you hooked.

3. What’s the industry buzzword that annoys you the most these days?
Agility…used and abused. The most annoying thing is when it’s used out of context.

4. Where do you stand on the media agency transparency debate at the moment?
We believe in media agency transparency because it’s the best way to build genuine partnerships with clients. It also encourages leaner agency structures built around the right talents and capabilities.

5. What’s the last great book you read? Why was it great?
The Master Key System by Charles Haanel. It’s a life changer: “The secret of all power, all achievement and all possession depends upon our method of thinking.”

6. What’s your favourite vacation spot?
Santa Monica.

7. What’s the biggest change in the agency business since you started?
Data and technology, which result in wider expectations of a media agency.

8. How have you (and your agency) adapted?
We are embracing change by continuous unlearning and learning, and building new skill-sets and capabilities.

9. What’s your proudest moment in business?
When Magna was named the fastest growing media agency in the Middle East. It’s an un-stoppable engine with best-in-breed talents.

10. In life?
Getting accepted at INSEAD to pursue my executive MBA, which is a long-awaited dream.

11. How have social media changed the way companies reach their audiences?
The rise of social media has facilitated a dialogue between brands and audiences, with data enabling more meaningful and relevant communication.

12. Digital ad spending is poised to surpass TV ad spending. Is this a problem for agencies or an opportunity?
It’s definitely an opportunity: to learn, measure and fine-tune capabilities, eventually delivering business results for both brands and agencies.

13. What is attractive to you about living in Dubai?
Dubai is a unique city with diversity, rich human capital and advanced technologies – the foundations for endless opportunities.

14. How has the availability of data changed marketing (or not)?
The availability of data has enabled precision marketing with relevant messaging across platforms, resulting in well-informed decisions and higher effectiveness and efficiency.

15. How do you use LinkedIn?
For networking and sourcing talent.

16. What are your clients gaining from advertising on LinkedIn?
They’re benefiting from the quality of leads that LinkedIn’s targeting capabilities generate.

17. What is your top-secret superpower?
Endless passion and energy.

18. Who should play you in the movie version of your life?
Hugh Jackman.

19. If you weren't at Magna what would you be doing?
Working as a real estate developer.

20. What do you have an irrational hatred for?
Lying and hypocrisy.

21. Best movies ever?

22. What did you want to be when you grew up?
A businessman.

23. What's your most annoying habit?
My winning attitude places unbearable pressure on people around me.

24. How long would you survive a zombie apocalypse?
As long as I can run.

25. What jobs did you have at school and what lessons did you learn from them that you still put into practice today?
I was a handyman in our family furniture factory. I learned that hard work pays off.

26. What are you most looking forward to this year?
My executive MBA graduation.