**A clarification has been added to this story.**
When ad agencies open the first office outside their home country, it's usually in a major international advertising market. Then there's Buzzman. The Paris-based independent agency has chosen the Middle East to plant its first flag outside France, opening an office in Dubai to focus on digital, mobile and social media campaigns across the region.
Buzzman created a Durex condom campaign for Reckitt Benckiser Dubai last year, and is hiring the local client, Reckitt Benckiser marketing exec Adil Zghaoui, as executive manager of the new Dubai office. It will be Mr. Zghaoui's first ad agency job, after spending almost five years at Reckitt Benkiser and several years before that as a business analyst for the Middle East at Nestle. Georges Mohammed-Cherif, Buzzman's founder, CEO and creative director, will lead an initial team of five at the new agency, splitting his time between Paris and Dubai.
"What we are doing is not usual," Mr. Mohammed-Cherif said. "Most people go to Shanghai or New York or London or Amsterdam, but we made a big splash with the Durex campaign here and increased sales by 20%. Reckitt Benckiser started briefing us on other brands, and we realized there were no other real digital agencies here -- the market is missing something. Plus, we want to have fun."
According to Mr. Mohammed-Cherif, smartphone penetration in the Middle East is high and "everyone has a tablet." Digital marketing budgets are soaring, he said, and he is already talking with other marketers.
Buzzman Paris, which was named Best International Small Agency in Ad Age's Small Agency Awards in 2011 , already generates 30% of its revenue from international accounts.
The shop is the lead agency for Durex's digital communications in the Middle East. Durex is a tough assignment in that Middle East, where sex is not talked about openly. Buzzman took the brand online, creating a campaign made up of thumbnails with provocative-looking images and titles like "Too big for her" and "really hot." On click-through, the images turned out to be innocent, and the films behind them were humorous Durex commercials.
Hubert Munyazikwiye, Buzzman's head of social media and PR, said, "Our Durex campaign surprised a lot of people in the region, where these kind of creative ideas were unseen. We think there's a lot of potential to apply these ideas to alcohol, tobacco, airline and telecoms clients. Instead of China and Australia, which are already crowded, we felt it was the right time and place for a Middle East office."
Buzzman became known internationally after its groundbreaking interactive video campaign for Tipp-Ex, "A Hunter Shoots a Bear," won three silver and two bronze Lions at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2011, in categories including best consumer engagement, best use of social media marketing and direct response digital. The ad invited people to use a virtual Tipp-Ex Pocket Mouse to create their own ending to the story of the hunter and the bear.
Mr. Mohammed-Cherif, a former big-agency copywriter, started the Paris agency in 2006. Other clients include Microsoft, Nokia, Bic, Yamaha and MTV.