Jamal Al Mawed | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2019

Jamal Al Mawed

Founder & MD


“Don’t look at innovation as a huge undertaking, but as a series of small steps such as rewarding creativity, encouraging curiosity and reinforcing the importance of tangible improvements.”

After starting his career in agency (Weber Shandwick and Dabo & Co, now part of Edelman) and moving onto senior in-house roles (leading corporate comms and PR for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and South America, then director of comms for the Dubai Properties Group) Jamal Al Mawed set up his own shop in Dubai in February this year. PR, social media and influencer engagement agency Gambit Communications is already working with a host of multinational brands, including Ferrari, Ritz-Carlton, Maserati, Dodge, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Chrysler and Fiat. Describing himself as “an Emirati/British/Palestinian hybrid,” Al Mawed is seen as a pioneer of social influencer engagement in the region, and has been spotted by the Huffington Post as one of “Ten to Watch” in the Middle East marcomms industry.

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
Finding new ways to measure PR results in a more tangible way, both online and offline. An extension of that would be the measurement of social influencers and their true impact on brands.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
Lagging behind others.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Content creation.

How do you define innovation?
Innovations are creative improvements. It is when you find new ways to add value to a person's life, or to improve systems and processes in ways that make them more efficient, or to communicate a message more effectively.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
I loved Ikea recreating the living rooms from The Simpsons and Friends to showcase the variety of options they have.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Nike, Disney, Wendy's.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
The moment I came up with my agency's name. I was registering a completely different name built around a classical gaming concept and was told that it was already taken, so I had to come up with a new one right there. I remember thinking I wanted something personal to convey the importance of taking risks and making sacrifices and the word Gambit popped into my head and it was perfect.

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 
Curiosity and kindness.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
In principle I read books and watch documentaries as often as possible, but in the short-term I go for a walk, do some exercise or talk to someone. It's amazing how exercise and social interaction can get the brain moving.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
My advice is not to see innovation as a huge undertaking, rather as a series of small steps such as rewarding creativity, encouraging curiosity and reinforcing the importance of tangible improvements.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
How can we save quality journalism? It has been slowly eroded by programmatic advertising, social media targeting, fake news and click-bait culture. The only real solution to keeping quality publications and journalists around is to spend with them, and it’s becoming harder and harder to convince brands to do that.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend to rent, read or stream tonight?
“Fifty Things that Made the Modern Economy” by Tim Harford. It is a surprising, delightful and sometimes shocking deep dive into the true meaning of innovation.