About Lara Arbid, Regional Managing Director, Initiative MENAT

I stepped away from my finance degree and banking experience to join Starcom MediaVest Group in 2006 where I started my career in the media industry. Fleeing the war in Lebanon that year meant moving back to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – where I was born and raised. At that time, not many ladies were able to work and build careers, as the options were limited to either teaching or a handful of female-only corporations. However, I had the opportunity to work across several prestigious accounts such as Saudi Telecom, Emirates Airlines, Rabea Tea & General Motors. I realized then that I found my true passion in the media industry: It is fast-paced, far away from routine and requires continuous drive. 

In 2009, I made the move to Mindshare where my work entailed leading on the local HSBC (SABB) business account, in addition to being involved across a portfolio of businesses like Al Safi Danone, Nissan Auto – Al Issa, Renault, Body Masters & Boehringer Ingelheim in addition to playing a major role in driving new business contributing positively to the agency’s growth.

In 2014, I joined the Initiative team as their Planning Director. I stepped away from the day to day and was made responsible for developing strategies for a diverse range of clients including Mobily, KIA Automotive, SACO, and American Express. The role also encompassed leading on new business development ventures across Saudi Arabia.

Fast forward to mid-2016, where an ever-growing ambition drove me to take on the challenge of establishing Magna Global’s operations in Saudi Arabia, becoming the first woman to lead a media office in Riyadh. I refocused my energy, know-how and skillset fighting against gender bias and all the stereotypes to draw my career path and thrive. And it paid back. Magna became profitable within the span of only three months from its establishment in the Saudi market and within less than two years, it became one of the primary and go-to agencies. This success provided me with ample opportunities to expand my scope, broaden my horizon (both functionally and geographically), and assume new responsibilities in various regions. 

Today, I hold the position of Regional Managing Director of Initiative MENAT, the Fastest Growing Media Agency both globally and regionally, while being ranked the number 1 agency in Compitches (as per RECMA), the only agency to achieve an A+ rating in MENA. In parallel, I also hold the role of Regional Managing Director of Magna Global, the Most Effective Media Agency Network in 2020 and 2021 (as per the Global Effie Index). This is humbling and at the same time a source of pride. Over the course of the 17 years of experience, I enjoyed every new opportunity and challenge that came my way, built relationships with excellent partners, and nurtured talent in multi-functional high-achieving teams across the region. I remain today extremely passionate about this ever changing industry!

About her thoughts for the industry 

Talent is Key.

The media industry is undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating and dynamic industries out there. It is an industry that thrives on change, challenges, and fast-paced action. As a media agency, our primary offering is our services. We don’t sell physical products or goods, but rather our expertise and ability to deliver exceptional visibility to our clients. That is why finding the right talent is critical for our success – and our team has been, and remains, our most significant asset!

Having built teams from scratch throughout the region and interviewed hundreds of people, we focus on identifying the right caliber who fit our vision and our way of work. I, for one, look for the truly ambitious, passionate and strong-willed individuals. It is not just about hiring people with the best technical skills. Why, you ask? It is simply because I believe when you have the will, any skill can be learned – not just that, but you start looking at every challenge as an opportunity to do something different and challenge the status quo. 

Clients at the Core.

Seeing how the media industry is constantly evolving and advancing, it is imperative to put our clients’ needs at the forefront of everything we do. Agencies need to be equally invested in achieving their clients’ business goals, which in turn creates a true partnership, within a collaborative framework where the agency becomes an extension of the client’s marketing team. This entails working closely with our clients to understand their business objectives and needs, challenges and goals, and how we can jointly work towards addressing and achieving them. We use our expertise, multifaceted knowledge and skillset, and resources to deliver media solutions that help deliver business KPIs beyond just media results. All this while ensuring full transparency, sharing information about what is working well and what could be improved. This all leads to building a strong and genuine bond that is reinforced by trust.

At Initiative & Magna, we take pride in building client-centric solutions to deliver business results, as we continuously challenge ourselves to keep pushing the bar higher, alongside reinforcing relationships that last beyond roles and companies. In 2023, we will continue to deliver on our ambitious vision to grow our business and attract the best talent, motivated by our growth mindset and determination to stand out from the crowd. Continuously seeking to innovate and use new technologies and techniques in our day-to-day, which is one of the unique attributes of our industry, and what makes it all exciting and routine-free!

Opportunities in Diversity, but we still have a long way to go!

What is equally important for us leaders in the media industry is that ever-growing responsibility we have. Responsibility to create opportunities that enable equality and foster inclusion. However, I look at this as a shared responsibility by individual female employees and job seekers to ensure that they thrive in whatever setting they are placed in. It might sound easier said than done, but it is crucial not to allow themselves to be held back by bias or discrimination and to make sure that their voices are heard, and accomplishments recognized. As a general life lesson: You will need to fight for what you believe you deserve, earn it, and take it!  Here, I look at adapting mindsets, changing our own behavioral attitudes, and working hard to find the opportunity in every challenge and turning those challenges into an unyielding motivation to deliver exceptional value. With determination and perseverance, you can overcome any obstacle and achieve success in whatever you choose to do. 

On this note, I leave you with my very own personal, and professional, mantra: “Tell me I can’t, and I will show you I can!”