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JWT becomes first multinational ad agency to invest in Afghanistan

LONDON - WPP Group-owned JWT has become the first multinational ad agency to invest in Afghanistan, after sealing a partnership with Kabul-based Altai Communications.

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The ad agency, the fourth largest in the world, says it is supporting the growth of the Afghan economy by opening up an array of new marketing opportunities following the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Marketing venues were virtually absent in the past and the agency believes the Afghan public will be highly responsive to marketing following years of conflict and a state-controlled media.

It is also hoped that the partnership will open up new delivery channels for ads in a way that has not been used before, complemented by the expansion of new technology as the area goes through a period of cultural change.

JWT says it is stepping in to give Afghanistan economic support by contributing to the country's revitalisation efforts, in an attempt to persuade other companies to do the same.

Since JWT's initial affiliation with Altai in April 2004, it has produced award-winning creative for clients such as Afghanistan International Bank, Afghan Telecom, Western Union, the United Nations, Population Services International as well as the country's leading mobile operator, Roshan.

Emmanuel de Dinechin, a partner at Altai, said that the presence of advertising agencies is necessary for foreign companies to enter the market.

"The private sector and foreign direct investments will fuel the Afghan economy, and the presence of an ad agency is often the first thing to attract these investments," he said.

As well as commercial clients, Altai has been involved in campaigns to change perceptions of disabled people and is currently devising a cross-media campaign to raise awareness on child trafficking across the country.

Altai was founded by three Frenchmen: Emmanuel de Dinechin, who formerly worked as a consultant at Monitor in France, the UK and South Africa; Rodolphe Baudeau, who previously spent four years at L'Oreal in Paris, most recently as marketing manager for mass market fragrances; and Eric Davin, who served as new-media development manager at French web agency Himalaya.

Altai Communication, a branch of Altai Consulting, was registered in Afghanistan in August 2003. Altai has grown from five employees to 125.

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