In the latest of our interview series focusing on Turbo-charged small agencies, we spoke with Yousef Al Taweel, Founder and CEO of National Network Communications (NNC) about the power of influence and how NNC emphasizes its values through how their work impacts the world.
Can you give us a brief insight into your company, what drives its growth, and some of the clients with whom you work?
It might be a bit of a cliché, but NNC began in a coffee shop with just a handful of people who were dedicated to positively influencing the image of one client, and we did exactly that. That client is now considered a partner and is still working with us today.
And when I look back at that period, it’s clear that the same driving force that compelled us back then is responsible for what NNC has become - a full-service smart agency with a growing list of partners and opportunities, which houses 85+ employees across three offices in Sharjah, Egypt and now Frankfurt.
The key is focusing on that same driving force - influence. What we know, very well, is that our industry runs on influence. We understand that anyone we work with, whether client or employee, cares about their influence - on the way in which they impact the world. Our goal is simply to provide what’s necessary for that influence to reach its full potential, to direct it, to encourage it, to ensure its authenticity. That’s the foundation of our entire functionality as an agency.
Your elevator pitch please! How do you position your agency to a brand? Why should they work with you – what do you bring to the table?
We take this seriously. The messaging, the image, the impact it all has on others - we care about that stuff. Not just ‘we’ as a brand, no, every single person at NNC cares about how their work moves on and becomes something more. The outcome of that is quality, creativity, and trust.
Our actions define us, another cliché but a valid one. We nurture a company culture that focuses on behavior. From hardline ethics of accountability and commitment to softer traits like passion and enjoyment… it all comes through in the way we go about our work. Yes, we are creative, strategic and all the other things you’d expect from an agency at this level, but I think the way in which we conduct ourselves, the culmination of our values through practice and craft - that’s really what elevates us.
Our partners recognize this, and apart from the tangible, creative products that they receive, it's the biggest reason for their continued patronage. They trust in our ability to deliver their message and to do it with integrity, because it becomes our message too and we put that into practice from day one.
Can you talk us through a campaign and how you solved a problem for the client or made a difference to a brand?
The ‘Into Books’ campaign launched last year across several Arab and international cities, and it's certainly one of the most impactful campaigns we’ve created. It reached 52 million people in 46 countries worldwide, became the #1 trending topic on Twitter, and led to over 300,000 book sales across various e-commerce websites.
The campaign launched in August 2021, displaying its messages in places like New York's Times Square and the picturesque avenues of Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris. It was ferried around the UK's capital on iconic black cabs and advertised across popular malls and streets in Riyadh and Cairo.
Sharjah Book Authority is our valued partner and the owner of this campaign. They’ve been connecting people with books for years through various initiatives like the Sharjah International Book Fair and Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival. We wanted to take this one step further. We felt that this mission deserved something big.
Together with SBA, we thought; How do we bring more people – from all walks of life across the world – closer to books? How can we take forward SBA’s goal and turn it into something global and long-lasting?
That’s how we came up with the ‘Into Books’ campaign. We chose the slogan ‘If you’re into something, you’re into books’, which essentially nullifies the legitimacy of reading resistance and connects with just about everyone. This global cultural campaign went on to become the largest of its kind. It incorporated written, audio, and visual formats to drive home the enduring universal message that whatever one’s interests or passions, there is a book out there to fuel their curiosity. The campaign also led to Sharjah’s debut win at Dubai Lynx, which is a nice bonus.
Without giving away your secret sauce of course, what does your roadmap for growth look like? Is it, for example, geographic expansion (if location is still a thing), or joining one of the growing indie agency networks? Developing more project work for other clients?
It’s extensive, that’s for sure. We see huge potential for growth and we’re putting all the pieces in place, but that starts with what’s most valuable to us and that’s our people.
We can’t predict where we will branch out to or what projects we’ll work on in the future, but we can ensure that no matter what comes our way, our team is capable, comfortable, and confident enough to adapt and conquer. That’s why we’ve put employee empowerment at the top of our list in terms of growth priority. We want each and every NNC member to feel fully engaged with their work, to enjoy the experience of being part of this culture, and to expect that their influence matters - because it does. We’ve also developed a new leadership model that will provide anyone that walks through our doors with the steps and resources to follow their own ambitions at NNC. It’s transparent and progressive, and something we’re very proud of.
Beyond that, yes, there’s a lot of interest from prospective partners and we’re excited to welcome them into our world. We are taking on new challenges, with new goals and new spheres of influence to explore, but we’re also just as committed to our long-standing partners - that will never change. Our goal is to reshape the communications world and I can assure you that we are already doing it!