Research firm used by Clinton, Blair to launch in Middle East

The new company is set to measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and assess the strength of brands and products

Hind Mustafa

Published: Updated:

A market research firm famous for advising Bill Clinton and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair plans to start operations in the Middle East in January, it was announced today.

The U.S.-headquartered Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) will launch in Dubai through a partnership with the regional public relations consultancy ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller.

Both firms are part of the communications giant WPP, and will share offices in Dubai Media City, the companies said.

Research firm and electoral pollster PSB has previously collaborated with Burson-Marsteller in Europe, but the new tie up marks its official launch in the Middle East.

“The past five years have been difficult in terms of business environment. but we believe 2014 is the first year of the transformational growth,” said Sunil John, chief excecutive of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller and the newly appointed chief of PSB Middle East.

“The IMF had a prediction of strong economic growth. there is a rising business confidence in the market, and all those signs are telling us that 2014 will probably be the first year of the turnaround,” he added.

Eastward bound

The move demonstrates the eastward drift given the growth of emerging markets - including Dubai and the wider GCC, said Joseph Ghossoub, Chairman and CEO of the MENACOM Group, the parent company of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller.

“In such times when the dynamic changes are taking place, having access to hard measurable, dependable, fact-full media and data is paramount,” he said.

PSB is not completely new to the region, having helped produce the annual Arab Youth Survey, which in 2013 interviewed 3,000 Arab national youth in 15 countries.

“It’s a bit of irony, because [the youth] is the region’s largest demographic; 200 million young Arabs and not many people [know] what are their fears, hopes and aspirations,” said John. “That piece of research is the largest of its kind of the region’s largest demographic”.

John added that PSB had been “contracted by a number of governments in this region”.
“We are open for all kinds of collaborations for syndicated research and have worked in the past with Dubai School of Government,” he said.

From government to business

Originally a public polling agency famous for its work on electoral campaigns of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, PSB is now shifting towards corporate consultancies.

“I think this region is ready for [this kind of research], to adopt it and embrace it. to be able to reach and understand the people that they serve that much better,” said Don Baer, Worldwide Chair and CEO of Burson-Marsteller and Chairman of PSB.

The firm is set to measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and marketing material, as well as evaluating the strength of brand and product names.

Four professionals are expected to make up the core PSB Middle East team at the time of its launch.

However PSB will draw on its larger professional network of “researchers from different parts of the world who already worked in this region for a substantial amount of time, and have a basic knowledge and understanding about this market,” said Baer.