Jason Leavy is the Managing Director of VICE Media for the Middle East and Africa. He oversees the operations of both VICE Arabia and Virtue, VICE's creative agency. Under his tenure the regional operation has gone from strength to strength in its two years of existence, winning a Grand Prix in Film at last year's Dubai Lynx festival and forging commercial relationships with the likes of Unilever, Marriott International and Telesure, South Africa's largest insurance provider. VICE also recently launched a Snapchat Discover channel that has built an audience of more than 10 million unique viewers in just over three months, 80% of whom comprise Saudi Arabian youth.
Jason has more than 25 years' media experience in the UK and Middle East, starting out as a journalist. Prior to VICE he was the Managing Director of comms agency Edelman DABO. Jason has recently joined The Marketing Society Dubai board, so we tracked him down for a quick interview:
What’s your golden rule?
To always be passionately curious.
Who has been your biggest influence?
When I was at Future Publishing I worked for Simon Wear, the COO at the time, who is now the founder and CEO of Play Sports Group, which sold a majority stake to Discovery this year. He remains a great friend and mentor.
An honorable mention for David Brain, former CEO and President of Edelman for APACMEA, as our paths only crossed briefly, but I saw enough to know I would have loved the opportunity to work with him for longer.
What is your most hated business expression?
There are generic expressions that are irritating if they are used as a smoke-screen to mask a lack of genuine thinking, but actually what I really object to the most are expressions masquerading as values - there are far too many brands that pay lip service to their purpose and culture, but don't even try to stay true to them in reality.
How can marketers be braver?
See above. I think marketers have a critical role to play when it comes to brand purpose, but it frequently requires bravery to make that a reality.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
Moving to Dubai with one suitcase having never even visited the city before.
Which leader do you admire most and why?
Currently, it's a toss-up between Jurgen Klopp and Jacinda Ardern. In terms of the former, you only have to look at the rapport he's developed with his team. Premiership footballers are notoriously difficult to manage, but his leadership style has created a bond forged by mutual respect, a genuine duty of care and a commitment to a high performance culture. In terms of the latter, I think in the era of Trump, she has demonstrably proven that effective leadership is about being inclusive rather than divisive, collaborative rather than confrontational, and progressive rather than primitive.
What’s your favourite word?
Currently, it's 'wife' (I got married last month).
Tell us a secret?
As an ambitious young graduate, I had an interview for what was a dream role at the time at Sky Sports. The interviewer (who shall remain nameless) took one look at my CV and said: "So you're from Somerset are you? Bit of a carrot cruncher then..." It's fair to say it went downhill from there...
Connect with Jason on LinkedIn