Closed Captions Communications: Where sibling synergy fuels creative innovation

Abha Garyali Peer |

‘Closed Captions Communications’ is a branding studio with a difference. It is a brainchild of Serge and Sarah Trad, who have navigated the ever-changing landscapes of both clients and agencies, mastering the intricate realms of branding. With a combined wealth of experience in marketing, communications, journalism, and creative copywriting, the dynamic duo brings a fresh perspective to the world of branding and storytelling.

Serge Trad, an award-winning marketing & communications consultant, has an impressive track record of spearheading marketing campaigns, driving business growth, and formulating customer-first strategies for global brands across multiple sectors. He has also been recognized as Dubai’s F&B Marketeer of the Year 2022. Sarah Trad, a journalist, editor, and copywriter, brings her creative flair and unparalleled storytelling abilities to the studio. She has also served as the Editor-in-Chief of prominent media/tech publications.

In this exclusive interview with Adgully, Sarah Trad, Co-Founder of 'Closed Captions Communications,' shares insights into the journey of building their unique branding studio, the pros and cons of running a business with her brother, Serge Trad, and the challenges and triumphs they've encountered along the way. Sarah also discusses the startup landscape in Dubai, their approach to branding, and offers valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Could you share your career journey? As a journalist, how did you come up with the idea for your startup, 'Closed Captions Communications'? What inspired it?

Words always meant too much to me. Holding a pen and paper, two of the first things a child is given for fun and learning, I found myself writing for the sake of how letters looked handwritten all while holding meaning when aligned in any specific manner.

They say not all readers are writers, but all writers are readers; and I read and write a lot. From culture and art to global oil markets and regional economic and business news, my brain adapts fast to all of them. Apparently I’m a deeply curious person, something I discovered while improvising questions and entire conversations during interviews as a young journalist.

On a random day last year, my brother reached out to me with the assignment to create the full verbal identity of a new restaurant that’s a month away from opening at The Palm Jumeirah. This was the first time I found myself in direct contact with branding; it was unlike other freelance projects or articles I had written before. The process was so enriching and satisfying that it pushed my creative writing to prevail over my journalistic side.

Closed Captions Communications came to be out of a need to set our creativity free away from other professional commitments.

Serge is the Director of Marketing at Addmind, one of the MENA’s biggest hospitality companies, and I’m a journalist with an intimate relationship with words. It was a matter of time for us to combine our talents and 10+ years of experience into a business we want to grow until we’re off this planet.

You and your brother, Serge Trad, co-founded 'Closed Captions Communications.' Do you believe it's easier to run a business with a sibling? What are the pros and cons?

Running a business is a massive responsibility on its own; managing it with a sibling, in my case older brother, is another challenge that needs a lot of conscious work and open conversations.

If I am to list out pros and cons, the cons will all boil down to personal issues and communication while the pros will comfortably override and outweigh the cons.

Any argument would de-escalate in the presence of clear, concise communication. Siblings have a heavy load on their backs since childhood, with fights, jealousy, and the need to prove and differentiate one’s self from the other. Once we see our siblings as our friends, or accept the fact that they’re not here to compete with or hurt us, the relationship will begin to self-heal.

To jump from brother-sister to business partners usually requires a predisposition to having complementary talents that can be made profitable. Luckily, Serge and I have been nurturing this closeness in taste and interests ever since ever.

Could you please provide some insights into your venture?

We have a knack for plucking the soul out of a company, giving it a personality and tone of voice, dressing it in design elements that bring out its unique side, and wrapping it all under a brand that’s ready to tango with the world.

Both you and Co-Founder Serge Trad are located in different cities, with you in Beirut and him in Dubai. Has this geographical separation posed any challenges for 'Closed Captions Communication'?

After Serge and I had decided in all seriousness that we’re opening a branding studio, we needed to brand it. I hadn’t seen him in months, and we were handling all the legal papers over WhatsApp, which was a little odd to me considering Beirut is far from being the paper-free city Dubai is.

It was Christmas and Serge decided to have me and parents over in Dubai for the holidays. On a taxi ride, he looks at me and says “Closed Captions Communications”. My eyes opened wide as I was taking the name in.

The building of the brand happened over three months during which we only spent three weeks in the same city. WhatsApp and online calls were, and still are, our dearest friends, though being in the presence of each other rolls out an abundance of ideas that materialise into beautiful work like our latest campaign ‘Eat Your Heart Out’, but oh well, c’est la digital vie these days.

Do you believe Dubai is a startup hub, welcoming both local and international startups? What factors make the UAE an ideal location for startups?

Ahh Dubai, what a city of networking it is. I’ve never encountered a more serious city about business and economy; when a country elects a Minister of Happiness, you know something good is happening.

Startups look at Dubai as their playground, just like Silicon Valley is inundated with weird experimental machines/apps/services and self-driving taxis.

The UAE’s advantage over other countries in attracting startups would have to be the diversity in headquartered global companies, plethora of investors, the technological savviness of most residents who can switch to being users, and the constant programs and initiatives created by the government and big players to encourage the youth to materialise their ideas.

Can you share any impactful experiences, whether positive or negative, from your journey of building your brand?

The realisation that if I don’t do it there’s no one else to do it for me keeps me on my toes. As a business owner, I’m going to be doing everything from scheduling calls to preparing legal contracts to working on an outreach marketing strategy to looking up administrative tools and techniques and so on. It’s a lot of skills, learning, and research. Luckily I have Serge as a Co-Founder and his extremely straightforward work ethics to guide my dreamer mind and take a heavy load off my shoulders.

How did you navigate and overcome the challenges you faced?

An open and positively flexible mentality is how one can jump over hardships and move towards solutions. Sometimes, people only have to seek a betterment to their stagnant state for a snowball-leading change to take place.

In times like these, technology has your back, AI is at your service, search engines have the answers to your questions, and experienced professionals can guide you through muddy waters. Even health issues (physical or mental) can be worked on if they’re affecting your workflow. Just seek the help need and don’t let old habits dictate how you lead your life now.

What key points about startups would you like to share with the readers?

Numbers say over 90% of startups fail within or after a year of their launch. I say one has to be more reasonable than a dreamer. Find a problem and solve it, but have this problem be worth the trouble. It’s cool to add “CEO” or “Co-Founder” to your LinkedIn title but not cooler than helping people and the planet lead a better life through the solution you’re putting all your time and effort and money into