Elie Khouri is drinking his fifth espresso of the day - and the significance of it coming from a Swiss, rather than an Italian, coffee maker is not lost on him.As one of the Middle East's most prominent advertising men, you would expect the 48-year-old executive to recognise a clever marketing campaign when he sees one. But that hasn't made Mr Khouri immune to the caffeinated charms of Nespresso, Switzerland's brand of faux-espresso makers, which famously roped in the American actor George Clooney for a high-profile advertising campaign. "I'm surprised that a Swiss brand like Nespresso managed to conquer the world of coffee, as did an American brand like Starbucks. It's amazing, and it tells you the power of marketing," says Mr Khouri. "That's what we do," he says, smiling. Mr Khouri, wearing a smart suit and his trademark thick-rimmed glasses, sits in his expansive corner office in the heart of Dubai Media City. He is the chief executive of Omnicom Media Group (OMG) in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) - and has certainly earned his stripes in the region's competitive media industry. After almost 25 years in the business, Mr Khouri is counted among the elite guard of advertising executives in the Arab world, almost all of whom are Lebanese. His company does not specialise in creating advertising but helps brands to plan campaigns through its media-buying agencies OMD and PHD, which between them control between 15 and 20 per cent of the region's advertising spending. Yet looking at Mr Khouri's office, which features several pieces of contemporary art from his own collection of about 100 pieces, you would be forgiven for thinking he is one of the advertising industry's purely creative types. It is tempting to draw conclusions about Mr Khouri from the artworks on display. One is a transparent case containing red strips of shredded paper, which Mr Khouri says represents - to him, at least, organised chaos. Another is a model gun wrapped in real banknotes. "In the media business, money is power," says Mr Khouri. He may surround himself with art, but he has no pretensions of being an artist. For while he says being creative is essential, an advertisement is pointless unless it helps to sell more product. "Advertising is not art," said Mr Khouri. "It is a combination of art and science." Mr Khouri was born in Beirut in 1964. The peace of his early childhood was shattered when civil war broke out 11 years later. While many people fled the country, the Khouris did not have enough money to leave and endured the difficulties of a country at war. Perhaps that explains why Mr Khouri has a habit of turning a tough situation into a positive one. "I was an entrepreneur from the early days. During the war, I sold [items ranging] from firecrackers to canned foods," he says. Mr Khouri is Christian - his surname is Arabic for priest - and lived on the east side of Beirut. He faced several dangers when travelling to study at the American University of Beirut on the west side of town. "There were snipers," he says. "There was lots of scary moments, of being stopped at checkpoints, and being on the verge of being kidnapped a couple times." With financial help from his father, he completed an MBA and decided to try his luck in advertising. Aged just 24, he went to Cyprus to work for the advertising agency BBDO, which is also part of the Omnicom Group, earning US$500 (Dh1,836) a month. His boss in Cyprus was Lance de Masi, now the president of the UAE chapter of the International Advertising Association, and president of the American University in Dubai.from national news.