Grayling Dubai has officially relaunched as Houbara Communications today, CEO Loretta Ahmed has confirmed to PRWeek Middle East, following her acquisition of the firm from parent company Huntsworth in 2019.
Ahmed, former CEO of Grayling Middle East and Africa, acquired the Dubai arm of the business in September, setting it up a new independent agency. Four months on, Ahmed has rebranded the agency, as she aims to evolve the business across the region.
Houbara is smaller, with 30 staff, alongside an "extended family" of freelancers, consultants and creatives. This has been a strategic play to develop an agency that can take advantage of the growing freelance market in the region with greater flexibility on costs while offering broader services through tried and trusted talent.
The new agency name is based on the Houbara bustard – one of the most iconic birds of the region and an important symbol of the local culture and heritage.
"The name Houbara reflects my vision to build a business rooted in the Middle East but with talent and capabilities to serve clients both locally and internationally," said Ahmed, who has been in the region for more than six years.
"We are deeply committed to the Middle East. We don’t have global expansion plans, but we do have regional ambitions beyond the UAE, so a brand that resonated in the region was important to us.
"And we care about the impact we are having - it has to be positive and it has to be measurable. Finding more sustainable ways of doing business is important to us - from how we go about minimising our environmental impact to the causes we champion. When we came across the plight of the Houbara bustard, it stood for so much that we are aiming to achieve.
"We have evolved into a content marketing PR agency with digital and social strengths putting us at the forefront of such agencies in this fast-growing part of the world.
"Our new business is a collective of like-minded committed consultants who share the same values - to have real purpose and to take a stand for what we believe in.
"So this iconic bird becomes our new mascot and will keep us focused on our new beginnings, our goals and how we approach every challenge, every day."
Ahmed told PRWeek Middle East the newly rebranded agency will still have PR as its "backbone", with trust and transparency at its core, but with a renewed focus on creative, digital and social media that will "challenge traditional models" in the region.
Creative sister agency formed
The buyout and rebrand has seen Arian Hashemi, creative director, moving the agency’s creative division under his ownership under the name ‘brand husl’.
"We need fast, innovative digital content creation capabilities, which we continue to provide in-house, but all broader graphic design briefs will be served by brand husl, which we now consider a sister agency. It’s the same people under the same roof but with a different operational model that gives us greater flexibility."
Houbara Communications will remain Grayling’s exclusive affiliate in the Middle East but has "consciously uncoupled", said Ahmed with a wry smile.
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