Mohamed Bashir, CEO of Daauus advertising agency, Mogadishu’s go-to Ad man, talks about the business, the industry, and what makes his company the best
Interview by TSI Writer
How did the idea of Daauus come about?
I studied Graphic Design in the Netherlands. This was back in 2011. Worked over there a bit and in 2012, I came back to the country for a vacation and saw the gap in the advertising industry in Somalia. I knew, at that time, what I had to do. We engage in digital marketing, event branding, corporate communication, graphic design services, branding, video and photography services, and, web design and development.
Your company solves perception and communication problems for its clients. Who is your ideal client?
For the past 6 years, we have worked with a wide range of clientele – NGOs, corporates in the private sector, and international brands too. Here is the thing with Somalia as a market; the business environment and opportunities therein have a tendency to force you to work with what is available as opposed to other markets that allow for specificity and choice in operations. That said, our ideal client is a business in the service industry.
What value does your company offer clients that you believe makes you a better advertising agency compared to your competitors – what makes your advertising agency unique?
I believe that Daauus is Somalia’s most adequately kitted company when it comes to dealing with contemporary marketing and communication challenges that our corporate firms grapple with. We have a skilled team that has both the experience and academic credentials to back their practice. Aside from this, the company uses cutting-edge technology including sophisticated software and the latest advertising trends in our operations.
I should also point out that we are culturally aligned with our clients (being Somali owned and run); we understand Somali people better and can communicate the desires and needs of both the clients and the audiences effortlessly and with distinction.
How would you describe the culture at your company (the office culture)?
The workplace at Daauus advertising agency is brotherly, friendly, and collaborative. And, when dealing with clients, we believe in approaching business from a ‘friendly and mutually beneficial relationship angle.
What are your values as a CEO? Moreover, how do your core values impact your clients and your work?
I believe in honesty and transparency. This is a guiding factor in both my business and personal relationships. You have to be straightforward with clients, present the facts of the situation as they are, whether the information is pleasant to the client or not. This, to me, is the first step in effective communication. We, at the office, understand that a good job breeds a satisfied and happy client and this reflects well on us too.
What is your proudest moment in business so far?
Let me start with a local example: When we launched 6 years ago, the advertising industry in Somalia barely existed. Most people could not believe that what we did was a business. They thought we were joking, didn’t see advertising a business. Two to three years in operation and we had local businesses reaching out to us for projects and both the public and businesses could see the sense in advertising. This was a proud moment for me; realizing that we had succeeded in convincing a country to see the sense in our dream.
In fact, in 2017 we emerged as the ‘Best Marketing Company’ at SABA Awards, and a year later – 2018 – we clinched the ‘Business of the Year’ award at the International Somali Awards in London.
The other proud moment for us as a company was when international clients began seeking us out for projects. This, to me, was a signal that we had perfected our craft and could now compete with the big boys on equal footing. This was significant since when we started, most of the branding, corporate communication, and PR services in the country were outsourced from Nairobi – Kenya, Turkey, or US, among other countries.
You have been in the advertising business for a while. What can you say about the advertising industry in Somalia – the growth in the industry, the innovations etc?
The advertising industry in Somalia is not as big or as competitive as it is in various countries across the world. However, in the past ten years or so, we have witnessed tremendous growth in the industry; the practitioners have gotten better at their job, businesses have warmed up to the idea of putting significant investment in their advertising budgets and infrastructure (including available advertising-related technology) has improved.Mohamed Bashir, CEO of Daauus advertising agency
This growth and improvement are not without challenges: Security remains a major concern, cultural sensitivity sometimes get in the way of craftsmanship and certain complementary/ advertising adjacent industries like the film and entertainment industry, in general, are not moving at the right pace, thereby dragging the pace of the advertising industry too.
How about industry regulation, is this an issue?
There is a problem here. The industry lacks needed policy guidelines and regulations. Off the top of my head, I can tell you that the city does not have a department that deals with advertising. From our end as practitioners in the advertising industry, we would very much like to have a structured and properly regulated advertising sector.
The rise of social media, from YouTube to Facebook to LinkedIn, has changed the way companies reach their audiences. How is the situation in Somalia, with reference to this?
Social media is used a lot by our companies, especially small companies, and start-ups. This is good for those in the advertising business. But, we have also noted with concern that most of the top-performing companies in the country shy away from online activity; denying themselves a chance to engage with their customers online and build an online community around their products/ services.
How has the availability of data changed marketing?
This is a complicated one… even though we have access to better, more refined, and dependable audience data, clients are not keen on using data analytics to get ahead or to tailor-make their product and service offerings to the needs of the public. For most companies, data is about prestige; they want to know how many hundreds of thousands of people visit their website or Facebook page, but they are not particularly excited at how to convert the likes and fans into sales.
How did Covid-19 affect your business/your industry? And, how did your team deal with the effects of Covid-19 on your business processes?
Of course, like everyone else, the pandemic affected our business. It was not easy to cope, especially at the start of the pandemic when no one knew exactly what we were dealing with or how long we would be mired in it. With time, we developed a system where our teams would alternate (one team works this week, a different team reports the following week, this way, our people still earned some money instead of being let go). What helped us the most were our retainer clients who stuck with us through the pandemic, meeting their obligations to us every month.