OUGD502 – Studio Brief 02 Creative Presence - Part 02 ‘Creative Report’ Background Considerations At the end of 2017 Statistica, the UK based online research agency reported social media coverage in Oman stood at 43% of the entire population, the second highest penetration in the Gulf region, supporting the significant current prevalence of online/social media advertising and increases in digital advertising media trends seen in the country. Increases in online advertising have been driven by nearly 100% smartphone penetration within the 4.5m population and as such, I thought it would be interesting to gain an insight into the local digital media landscape and how screen design practices have changed and may continue to develop in both local and regional communications. Initial Research From secondary online research, I identified the following list of potential local leading digital agencies in Oman:
TBWA Zeenah Media 21 (Dentsu Aegis) SabcoArt OHI Leo Burnet Areena & eSadacom
Having reviewed a range of potential local influential digital agencies, I reached out to Media 21 and TBWA Zeenah, as their client portfolio’s represented a variety of both leading private businesses and government organisations. I did not receive a response from TBWA Zeenah, however I was pleased to be able to make a connection and interview the Digital Director from Media 21 (see email copy below). Industry Professional Interview
Company Research Originally established in Dubai in 2007, Media 21 (M21) are a full service agency with dedicated digital, advertising, events, media/PR and publishing divisions, to provide a complete communication service for their clients.
In mid-2017 M21’s Oman based operations joined the Dentsu Aegis global network to leverage global industry experience, alliances and best practice available via this collaborative partnership. Having undertaken work for industry leading Oman based clients such as Omantel, Bank Muscat, Oman Air, Muscat Municipality, Grand Hyat Hotels and other private/government owned entities, M21 are a significant and influential agency in Oman.
Interviewee Name: Mrunel Mehta
Occupation: Digital Director
Company: Media 21 (part of Dentsu Aegis Global Network)
Interview Q’s: 1. When did you develop an interest in graphic design and digital communication? I’ll be really candid about this, when I took up advertising, 9 years back, I had litle idea about advertising, let alone digital. What piqued my interest was the ever-evolving nature of this medium, digital, and the ability to be a part of the “next-big-thing” within the ecosystem. Although sceptical at first, the malleable nature of digital and the fluidity in principles, made me believe that the decision was correct and I’ve only enjoyed being a part of the revolution. 2. Did you study university and were your studies focused in the digital arena? I’ve done my masters in Marketing, however, there was nothing that I studied pertaining to “Digital” design per se. In fact, back home, in India, when I graduated from university, digital was still finding a foothold in an already dominating traditional advertising medium. While I may have studied marketing, advertising is a subset, and is quite an influential aspect of marketing. The desire to be a part of something so promising and landscape changing drove me to taking up “Digital” 3. Who or what has been your biggest professional influence? I’m not a follower, I like getting inspired. So my answer will be “what” and not “who”. Professionally, this medium, digital, gives me the ability to interact with my core audience in a more personalised and convenient manner. Also, as a mater of fact, digital is absolutely cost effective and with more and more people adopting the medium, the reach and frequency is widened, making it more lucrative. Communication on digital is not time bound, meaning, you can perpetually stay visible and ensure right results are achieved depending on the kind of product/service you are communicating for. All of these points collectively influenced me professionally and it just keeps me going. 4. How has the local/regional digital design industry developed over the last 5 years and what were the most significant changes in design you have witnessed? The biggest change has been the transition from offline to online. Having said that, on online, where one once accessed stuff on a desktop has now moved on to more portable and personalised devices. Right from the days of bulky desktops to laptops, tablets, and mobiles, the evolutionary trajectory has been quite an influence on the way designers have made a shift in their design philosophy. With the advent of social media and other utility based services, the trend has shifted to “Mobile First” which is nothing short of a revolution.
5. Has your design direction considerations or approach to a client brief altered or adapted in any way in line with industry developments? Absolutely! But it is absolutely essential that one understands the business needs and alters the methodology. Not all 5 fingers are the same! My failed atempt at an analogy is to explain that if there has been a major shift in the industry development, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best thing to adopt. Just like the traditional medium, there are a few things on digital which are tried and tested, which work just fine and deliver the right results. The only distinction is the options you have on digital compared the traditional medium to communicate the core messaging. 6. Where do you see the industry developing in the next 3-5 years and what do you think will be next biggest digital design innovations? The biggest shift I see in digital is Immersive Technology which will change the face of communication in the next few years. Things like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will have evolved to a more commercial and viable solution. The variety of ways in which the physical and digital worlds can blend will just be the start of a new dawn in the digital landscape. Apart from immersive tech, the other two big developments would be the IoT (Internet of Things) and Big Data which influences AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning. As far as AI is concerned, IBM’s Watson is really doing a phenomenal job at the moment and will only steadily progress from hereon. 7. What are the main influences and considerations you make in your own design direction to a client’s brief? The beauty of advertising is the ability to dip your fingers in multiple pots and to experience different audience sets. While we may refer to humans as a homogeneous set of individuals, we are varied across culturally, behaviourally, and demographically. Although one solution cannot really work for all, there are degrees of acceptability which are considered while working on a brief. Eventually, the solution is meant for the core audience, however, the best part about digital is the way the content is consumed, which, in a way is quite homogeneous, only varying at the medium’s (digital) affinity, allows us to carve out the most desirable solution for the clients. 8. How do you differentiate your designs and executions to stand out in the competitive local industry landscape? This is a very subjective question and my answer is also very subjective. Just like how different pharma companies sell different medicines with the same chemical composition delivering the same result, designs and executions on digital also, sort of, draw parallel to the aforementioned example. The only thing constant about digital is the change. As clichéd as it may sound, the fact of the mater is, if you are not abreast with the latest trends and methodologies, you might lose your shine and become obsolete real quick. In digital, it is not necessarily about how creative you are (not literally) but more so, how intuitive you are in terms of delivering solutions that really impact the business positively. 9. Do you see the role of digital design and communications completely replacing conventional communication channels? Yes and No. Yes, the times are changing and brands are relying heavily on digital to get the best possible results. But this is purely because there is a shift in the preference within us. The brands don’t decide which medium to communicate on but the people whom they are talking with define it. More and more people have adopted digital which has influenced the shift in marketing spends as well. To give you a perspective, when I got into this field, digital was an afterthought with the communication focusing on offline (traditional) first, digital was just an adaptation of the offline communication. Not to mention, the budgets were absolutely minuscule. Today, there are some brands who purely focus on digital with offline being a stimulant. Spends have drastically shifted and this shift is steady and I surmise perpetual. As far as replacing conventional channels
are concerned, they do have their own pros and cons. I do not see them getting completely replaced however, I do see and amalgamation of these two mediums to provide a more robust solution. However, in my opinion, digital will be the lead. 10. What advice would you give anyone who is interested in joining the design industry? My answer is going to be skewed to digital so if you like being a part of the fast paced, ever evolving landscape, digital is for you! The most important trait you must possess is the ability to self-learn and keep yourself glued to the trends in the industry and the changes/evolution therein. There is enough flexibility and fluidity in digital which will not bind your creativity in any way. If you have an idea, digital has ways to manifest those ideas into reality. It is all about intuitiveness and your gut! 11. How do you see the digital design industry and role of digital designers in the next 10-15 years? This is too far-fetched. This medium has evolved at a very staggering pace since the time I entered and I only see it evolving at its pace. Estimating the role of digital designers in the next decade or so is not something anyone can predict, however, I can tell you one thing for sure, what you see at the moment is just the beginning, digital is the future! Summary Report: I found Mrunel a very insightful and interesting design/marketing professional, who has a clear drive and passion for the digital design industry. Whilst his route into this specific design field was not clear at the outset of his career, he has found a passion for wanting to be involved in the ‘next big thing’, were the flexible approach of digital design capabilities have further fuelled his drive and ambition. He prides himself on keeping abreast of the latest industry trends, something he highlights as a core element to both his own and M21’s ongoing success. Staying in tune with this fast moving area with digital design, Mrunel and his team ensure they are fully conversant with how the most recent changes in technology can be leveraged and adapted intuitively through various design opportunities across the various and increasing available digital channels. He sees one of the main advantages digital communications have over their more traditional media channel competitors, is the ability to fully engage with a wide range of sub-target audiences found within an overall targeted group or demographic. This provides digital media the ability to maximise both target these sub-target groups with increasingly relevant and specifically designed communications to assist overall campaign effectiveness. From my interview, Mrunal was keen to highlight how further innovations are expected to be seen in digital communications and design, offering advertisers even more ability to enhance their communications and specifically tailor communications and designs to target sub-groups to even greater degrees. Be this through increased communication relevance through use of ‘Big Data’ interactions via ‘Machine Learning’ and ‘IoT’, to instant and increased levels of consumer engagement with the use or ‘Artificial Intelligence’, where he notes that communication designs will have to adapt to this latest technology. He sees these developments offering even more immersive interactions in how digital media is consumed, which will not only increase the relevance of communication, but further allow target audiences the ability to directly communicate with brands with the potential to engage in ever more realistic brand experiences. Mrunel sees the change in industry practice in digital communications and design being driven by consumers, not corporations or designers, where the direction of digital design is being forced in order to keep pace with technological changes and consumer demands and subsequent expectations to access and interact with brands in ever more interactive, relevant, timely and communications with increased levels of information being passed in both directions; consumer to brand and equally important, brand to consumer.
As an industry professional whom is immensely passionate about his work and future of the digital design industry, Mrunel has witnessed how digital design has progressed in Oman over recent year to be at the forefront of the local communication landscape and how localised innovations are quickly catching the latest global design trends; equally, both his agency with their global marketing alliance and he himself are ideally positioned to remain at the forefront of the digital communication and design revolution which he has helped influence and remains deeply involved.