Don’t be offended if Mohamed Hammad only pencils you in for a meeting. Each morning, the Dubai-based marketing executive literally sketches out how his day should look. The Egyptian expat, who is the managing director and chief creative officer of the health care marketing agency Benchmark Middle East, says inspiration for ad campaigns often come when he’s at home or out shopping – but rarely when he’s consciously thinking about work. Each idea brings with it a “euphoric moment”, says the 40-year-old, who founded the agency in 2007. Much of his work is for pharmaceutical companies or health-awareness campaigns; he also devised a non-profit campaign featuring “Adel Sukkar”, a fictional Arabic character who offers advice about diabetes. Here Mr Hammed – who lives with his wife Dalia and three children ages 12, 10 and 6 – describes his mission to address the “underserved” market for health care communication.
Most days I get up at 5.30am in the morning. I have a personal trainer who comes to me at 6.30am three times a week. He’s always shouting at me when I sleep late and wake up with no energy. So he is the guy pushing my boundaries. We do cardio and boxing.
I eat three eggs and one slice of rye bread with peanut butter. In the morning it’s a very quiet time. There’s nobody at home, particularly during term-time when the kids are at school. So this is a very precious moment for me. In creative [work] you don’t sit and say ‘I’m thinking right now’. When your brain is disengaged from the obsession about ideas, then they come. And it’s the most euphoric moment that a creative person feels. I recall every single moment that the ideas came and saw life.
I head to the office. I start with planning, using a pencil and a sketch paper – an A3 sketch pad that is always in my bag. I start drawing how my day should look, and what the things are that I should achieve. I’m fond of infographics … sometimes I colour it. I make my day visible.
Midday is the heart of the day, because you start focusing on the operational issues, making sure everything is running smoothly. In an advertising agency you have deliverables every day and I’m very hands-on with my people. I get in touch with the creatives, with the copywriters and the art directors to check their progress. I get involved in the communication strategy – writing scripts for videos and audio – for a campaign or for a launch event. A lot of health problems can be solved by better communication, creative communication that can change people’s behaviour so they can live healthier lives. We do campaigns for the public, for pharmaceutical product launches. However, as a strategy for business growth, we have also been involved in big initiatives that the agency invested in to move the health care industry forward. For example, we initiated [a diabetes campaign to] screen 8,800 people in Dubai Mall. Agencies are usually reactive to clients’ requests or projects. So we are different in being proactive.
I follow my trainer’s guidelines, so I only eat grilled meat or salmon for lunch, with salad. I love it.
By now, there is a lot of input from clients. It’s a very critical time of the day with a lot of details, a lot of feedback, a lot of things that I need to revert to our clients or talk to them about. And then I come back to the team and coordinate that.
Because of the time difference, it’s the time to communicate with teams in other countries. We have people working in Germany and in Egypt.
I don’t leave the office before 7pm. And sometimes I have a night shift at the agency; it can go until midnight whenever we have launch events. But on a normal day I go straight home in the evening, because I’m always trying to see the kids. I just have a light dinner, maybe a salad or just a slice of grilled steak.
I spend some time with my wife – maybe we go out walking for an hour and spend some time downstairs in Jumeirah Beach Residence. I sometimes have calls with friends – this is the only time they can catch me.
I go to bed. If I have a night shift at the agency I will usually sleep late. But I try to avoid the night shift when I have my personal training in the morning, because I will be killed.
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