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July 18, 2021







July 18, 2021


Paul Shearer to join Wunderman Thompson as chief creative officer for global clients, based in London Paul Shearer, chief creative officer of Impact BBDO, is to join WPP agency network Wunderman Thompson as CCO, global clients. In his new role as global creative client leader, Shearer will bolster the creativity of the network’s roster of global clients. He joins at a time of creative momentum for Wunderman Thompson, which was named Epica Network of the Year in 2020 and awarded a Cannes Lions 2021 Grand Prix for Innovation for its work with Degree Inclusive for Unilever. Shearer, who is from Scotland, is well known internationally for his Nike work with sports celebrities at various agencies. He will lead creative for global clients at Wunderman Thompson. Key global clients include Microsoft, HSBC, Dell, Pfizer, Shell, Nestle and Unilever. He will be working closely with global chief client officer Caroline Foster Kenny and global chief creative officers Daniel Bonner and Bas Korsten. Shearer will also join Wunderman Thompson’s Global Inspiration Council, the forum that drives creative excellence across the network. He will start

in October 2021 and be based in London. Prior to Wunderman Thompson, Shearer served as CCO and Creative Council chairman of BBDO across the EMEA region. He has previously worked for Bartle Bogle Hegarty London, Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, at Ogilvy, and was a founding partner at the global agency Nitro, having worked with global clients such as Nike, Coke, Masterfoods and Volvo. These experiences have involved him in work that has won more than 70 Cannes Lions, including the Middle East’s first Grand Prix, as well as more than 40 D&AD pencils and a plethora of One Show pencils and Clio trophies. His work for Nike is displayed in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Bas Korsten and Daniel Bonner, global chief creative officers at Wunderman Thompson, said, “We couldn’t be happier that Paul is joining to help build out our creative momentum. He’s an experienced and inspiring creative leader who will help raise the bar on our top 30 clients. And a very nice human being as well.”

Shearer’s work for Nike is displayed in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum

RMS wins Jeddah Sea Front tender

STC DISCOVER SARHA’S JOURNEY Saudi Arabia has vast deserts, and many parts of the country are uninhabited, un-survivable and unreachable by most, except for the camel, the only being that can easily get there. Meet Sarha, the first content-creating camel, who helped Wunderman Thompson put STC, the kingdom’s biggest telco network, to the ultimate test and demonstrate its wide coverage. The Wunderman Thompson team installed a camera rig system (consisting of a laptop, solar panels, cam-ranger, and hotspot router connected to the internet) on Sarha’s hump, allowing local and international photographers to connect remotely and to control the whole system in order to take photos.

Rotana Media Services (RMS) has won the tender for the exclusive rights to sell out-of-home opportunities and retail spaces in Jeddah Sea Front for 10 years from January 2022. The opportunities include several out-of-home formats, special 3D executions, naming and sponsorships of areas, as well as retail and restaurant space rental, and areas for events and exhibitions all open to the public and available for clients to sponsor or run activations for their brands and products. RMS said: “Jeddah Sea Front is an area for families and friends to hang out and spend time out of home, enjoy the different amenities, dine out or take the children to play; they can swim or participate in preorganised events, visit exhibitions or just relax on the beach and enjoy the sunset. It is an area for walking, jogging and riding a bicycle in a secure and safe environment.”


July 18, 2021

Saudi Research & Media Group announces new transformation strategy Saudi Research & Media Group (SRMG), which owns more than 30 major media outlets including Asharq Al-Awsat, Asharq News and Arab News, and has a combined monthly reach of 165 million people, has announced a new transformation strategy focusing on platform expansion, international partnerships and strategic investments across five key business verticals. SRMG, which is listed on the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh, will further expand its current portfolio, digital offerings and global reach by transforming print publications into digital-first platforms, introducing new platforms that address “white spaces” in the market, investing in media start-ups with bold ideas and building long-term mutually beneficial partnerships with internationally recognised brands, it announced. SRMG already has successful partnerships and collaborations with leading media organisations including Bloomberg and The Independent. Driven by a newly appointed leadership team, SRMG is focused on delivering original, exclusive and premium content to consumers

through new digital and social platforms, as well as strengthening its cable and satellite reach. The Group will continuously look to leverage its data and technology capabilities to develop new products and services, enhance its monetisation capabilities and diversify its revenue streams. Building on its expanding network of outlets, SRMG will work across five business verticals to unlock new regional and international commercial opportunities. SRMG Media has digital platforms, podcasts and multimedia. It will look at digitising and expanding content creation and distribution to engage audiences with original, unique and exclusive content. SRMG International looks after international investments and partnerships. It will build a global network through bespoke partnerships and strategic investments. SRMG Think is the department that takes care of research and polling. It will focus on providing unique insights and expert analysis from the Middle East and around the world. SRMG X will run events, conferences and exhibitions. SRMG Labs is the wing that

SRMG CEO Jomana Al-Rashid

oversees innovation, incubation, and training. Its focus will be on fostering talent and technology, and driving creativity and innovation in the regional media space, while helping to train the next generation of media professionals, journalists and content creators Jomana Al-Rashid, CEO of SRMG,

said: “Our focus on premium content creation, introducing new platforms and expanding our reach through new titles and services ensures SRMG will be the primary driver of the region’s digital future in media. New platforms will allow our journalists to report news and deliver audiencecentric content backed by data.”



In June, Adidas unveiled the world’s first liquid billboard in Dubai, in line with the brand’s recent debut of its burkini collection. The first-of-its-kind stunt celebrates Adidas’ drive to offer a wider choice of technical apparel for athletes everywhere, simultaneously inspiring confidence in women and building on its commitment to making the future of sports as inclusive as possible. The activation, which took place at one of Dubai’s most popular public beaches saw the reveal of an incredible 5m-high and 3m-deep swimming pool. The liquid billboard could fit 3,319 Adidas shoe boxes and is made of reinforced transparent acrylic. Its walls can hold a whopping 11,500 gallons of water, equivalent to nearly 163 bathtubs. The structure took a team of 32 people to build, working around the clock for three weeks. The creative agency was Havas, and the build and execution was carried out by brand experience agency Jack Morton MENAT.

Porsche’s Taycan Cross Turismo is filmed in the most challenging of conditions as it takes to identical tracks between a sandy desert in the UAE and a snow-blanketed frozen lake in Finland. One track, two extreme habitats. Traverse the biting cold of Levi, Finland and the blistering heat of Liwa Desert, United Arab Emirates. Watch as Johnny Schaer, heralded as one of the world’s top drone pilots and better known as Johnny FPV, takes on the all-electric Taycan Cross Turismo in this epic world-bending cut between -30C and +30C, directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Nick Schrunk. Agency Keko Dubai ECD Sandy McIntosh Production house Stoked Executive producers Charbel Aouad, Rita El Hachem Director Nicholas Schrunk Producer Julie Debbas

July 18, 2021

Hypermedia signs 10-year deal with RTA to manage Dubai Metro advertising Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and out-of-home (OOH) company Hypermedia have signed an agreement for investment and management of the Dubai Metro’s OOH advertising. According to the agreement, Hypermedia will undertake the planning of advertising spaces as well as the designing, operating and marketing of advertising services at stations, trains and lines of the Dubai Metro (Red & Green Lines and Route 2020) for 10 years. Metro advertising was previously handled by Choueiri Group’s Arabian Outdoor. Hypermedia took over its management last year, but postponed the formalisation of the agreement due to Covid-19. Abdul Mohsen Ibrahim Younes, CEO of RTA’s Rail Agency, said: “Ads on the Dubai Metro platforms, such as stations and carriages, offer brilliant opportunities for investors. We will work with Hypermedia on the principle of a long-term partnership to achieve our respective objectives under a set of planned and solid strategies.” He said that advertising, especially outdoor media, plays a key role in promoting products and services within the business sector, as well as generating additional revenue for both the RTA and Hypermedia.

Abdul Mohsen Ibdahim Younes (left) and Habib Wehbe

Metro platforms offer sophisticated advertising facades for the business community in the UAE and the region to market their products, services and solutions relating to all economic and commercial sectors and fields, said Hypermedia. The agreement, which runs for 10 years, grants Hypermedia full advertising representation in the Dubai Metro assets that cover 53 metro stations (including seven new

ones on Route 2020), about 100 trains, 35 pedestrian bridges, pillars of metro viaducts and prime locations such as on the fronts of emergency exits and utility buildings. This representation also includes metro stations naming rights. Habib Wehbi, Hypermedia’s CEO, called the deal an “unprecedented strategic partnership” and “a gamechanger for the outdoor advertising industry across the region”.


Aleph acquires Connect Ads Aleph Holding has announced its acquisition of 86 per cent of Egyptian adtech firm Connect Ads in a cash and shares-swap transaction. Miami-based Aleph is a global partner to some of the world’s biggest digital media players. The acquisition sees it enter MENA as it continues to expand globally and increase its presence, now reaching 90 markets and territories. Aleph provides digital platforms, including Facebook and many others, access to new geographies and under-served markets through its complementary suite of digital media service companies, which includes Httpool, Internet Media Services, Wise Blue, Social Snack and AdDynamo. The majority acquisition of Connect Ads extends Aleph’s services across the MENA region through Connect Ads’ more-than 14 other exclusive media partnerships with global and leading digital media names including Twitter, TikTok, Verizon Media, Spotify, Adobe Advertising Cloud, Huawei Ads, Bigo Ads and more. In 2021, Aleph is on track to generate $1 billion in sales with an expanded footprint reaching more than 90 markets. The acquisition marks a key milestone in this journey, it said.



Featuring a handful of inspiring Gulf region heroes, these films speak to a new generation of parents helping their babies build their own success stories. The first stars Zahra Lari, the UAE’s first female professional figure skater and the first figure skater to compete in a hijab. The second film focuses on author Dana Al Baloushi, who at 12 is the UAE’s youngest published author. The films also star UAE football coach Houriya Al Taheri, who has played a significant role in raising the profile of women’s football in the Gulf region.

The brand idea that creative agency Nomads has developed for PepsiCo’s launch of its involvement with Expo 2020 Dubai is ‘Challenge Today. Change Tomorrow’ and is going to be the umbrella platform for all the company’s upcoming Expo communications. Challenge Today. Change Tomorrow is all about a mindset that PepsiCo shares with Expo 2020, and it is about showing the world how PepsiCo is challenging the status quo to create a better, more sustainable world. As the official beverage and snacks partner, PepsiCo is creating world-class, inspiring experiences at Expo 2020 Dubai and beyond, to create millions of smiles by Challenging Today to Change Tomorrow.

Agency MSL Middle East (Abla Nari Bennoud, Farah Nezam) Director Abdelkarim Djennaoui


July 18, 2021


DB Middle East has appointed Ramsey Naja as regional executive creative director. Naja will join Firas Medrows, the current regional ECD, at the helm of DDB’s creative departments. Naja spent more than 20 years with WPP agency J. Walter Thompson, where he led the Middle East network to win multiple top creative accolades including Agency of the Year twice at The Dubai Lynx and countless Cannes Lions, including a Titanium. He worked with Medrows, as well as DDB’s regional CEO Hubert Boulos, at JWT. Boulos said: “With the appointment of Ramsey, we are doing two things. First, we have decided to continue betting heavily on creativity and ideas across media and technologies. This is our DNA. We will deliver emotion at scale in the most unexpected ways. That should keep us



Naja will share the role with Firas Medrows. He says his hiring shows the ambition and confidence of his new agency and its CEO, Hubert Boulos. By Austyn Allison

ridiculously talented people like Hubert, Nathalie and particularly Firas – to mention but a few – is pretty damn near orgasmic.” He told Campaign: “It does feel a bit like going back to J. Walter Thompson, mostly because the core team is very JWT. Also, there’s a massive difference in that DDB behaves and feels at the same time like a startup. It’s a small agency here, it’s more nimble and ambitious. There’s tremendous ambition. It has that feeling of startup, it really does.” He added that hiring at a senior level shows Boulos’s commitment to great creative. “The act [of hiring me] in itself is amazing from Hubert,” he said. “It shows you the kind of ambition that he has and what he wants to give his clients. Never mind me as a person, it’s what he’s bringing into the agency. It’s a considerable

From left: Naja, Gervesse, Medrows, Boulos away from the ‘always on’ harassment of our audiences via random verbal and visual diarrhoea superbly delivered by spread sheets. Second, with an increased regional scope of work, we will now have a much stronger capacity to further strike across the GCC, with both Ramsey Naja and Firas Medrows on board.” Gevresse said: “Ramsey is a perfect fit with DDB’s culture and leadership in the region. We all know each other very well already, so expect immediate results at every level.” (Gevresse also spent 18 years with JWT, mainly in that agency’s Paris offices, before joining DDB in 2019.) Medrows said: “Ramsey is no stranger to me, as to many of you. We have worked together for many years in our previous agency. His passion, dedication, commitment and love of our creative industry was very evident and still is. Today, as we are planning to grow our business and move beyond borders, I’m very thrilled to be working with Ramsey again. Our partnership will only take us in one direction: greatness. Welcome to DDB, Ramsey.” Naja said: “It’s good to see that there are still agencies where ‘advertising’ is not a dirty word, and where creativity is valued above everything else. DDB is part of an increasingly exclusive club, which still believes in big ideas that increase sales, brand value and reputation. To be invited to join such a creative powerhouse, and work with

investment, and he’s doing it and the agency is embracing it at the same time. So it tells you the ambition, and it tells you also of the of the culture within the agency, the spirit of the agency. There’s a lot to be read in the act.” Naja had been working on a consulting basis with DDB in recent months, and found his copywriting background was a natural fit with Medrows’ art direction credentials. He describes their work together as “a supercharged creative team that splits every now and then to be creative leaders”. His hire could also be an indication that DDB will be aiming to win more awards in the region. Naja says: “Agencies that have a good creative reputation that comes from awards in the end attract the best talent, so it is necessary in that way.” He adds that part of a creative lead’s role is to mentor and build up talent within the agency. “As a creative leader you are responsible for careers, not just your company and your client,” he says. “You’re actually responsible for people and their own growth and careers – sometimes almost to the point where, regardless of the company, they trust you as their leader. Kind of like a teacher. And when they get rewarded for what they do well, then their career accelerates. At that point, if you are good enough to keep them you are good yourself.”

Exclusive paintings, sculptures and photography from award-winning international artists.

Painting by Faisal Abdulqader

Painting by Liz Ramos

Photograph by Joachim Guay

The 50th Anniversary Arabian Falcon Navigator By David Galbraith


July 18, 2021

LOCAL LIONS The region’s winning work from Cannes


annes Lions has announced all the winners of the 2020 and 2021 awards, which were presented virtually. The winners of the Special Awards for 2020-21 and the Grand Prix for Good were among the last to be announced at the end of a five-day Lions Live event. The MENA region saw Gold, Silver and Bronze Lions go to agencies from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Egypt. The winners from the MENA region include:

The New National Anthem Edition Client: An Nahar Newspaper Lions: Gold, Silver (Brand Experience & Activation); Silver, Bronze (Publishing); Silver (Sustainable Development Goals)

July 18, 2021

Buy With Your Time Client: Ikea Agency: Memac Ogilvy, Dubai Lions: Gold; Bronze (Direct); Bronze (Mobile)

#Safetyforsafekeepers – Baklava Got Legs Client: Abaad Resource Centre for Gender Equality Agency: Leo Burnett, Lebanon Lions: Gold (Entertainment)



July 18, 2021

PeaceCamo Client: The Lebanese Army Agency: TBWA/Raad, Dubai Lions: Silver (Industry Craft)

The Man Who Couldn’t Handle His Handle Client: STC Agency: J. Walter Thompson, Riyadh Lions: Silver (Entertainment)

Blood Unity Client: Donner Sang Compter Agency: FP7 McCann, Dubai Lions: Silver (Health & Wellness); Bronze (Brand Experience & Activation)

Double Moon Client: UAE Government Media Office Agency: MullenLowe MENA, Dubai Lions: Silver (Outdoor)

July 18, 2021

SHIFT+K+F+C Client: KFC Arabia Agency: TBWA/Raad, Dubai Lions: Bronze (Media); Bronze (Creative E-commerce)

A Dad’s Job Client: Home Centre Agency: FP7 McCann, Dubai Lions: Bronze (Media); Bronze (Creative Strategy)

Burjer Kinj

Close the Gap

Or Burgher

Client: Fifty Fifty Lebanon Agency: Impact BBDO, Dubai Lions: Bronze (Design)

Kingh? Client: Burger King Agency: Wunderman Thompson, Riyadh Lions: Silver (Social & Influencer)

The Last Possessions Client: Save the Children Agency: VMLY&R, Dubai Lions: Bronze (Design)

Rooftop Farms Client: Knorr Agency: TBWA/Raad, Dubai Lions: Silver (Media)

King of Internet Client: Connect Agency: TBWA/Raad, Dubai Lions: Bronze (Outdoor)

Astronomical Sales Client: Mastercard Agency: Fp7 McCann, Dubai Lions: Bronze (Brand Experience & Activation)

Parenthood Rephrased Client: Babyshop Agency: FP7 McCann, Dubai Lions: Bronze (Creative Effectiveness)



July 18, 2021


Barry Kirsch is arguably Dubai’s best known music man. After 50 years in the business he tells Austyn Allison what brought him to where he is today


arry Kirsch is celebrating 50 years in the industry. In the region he is perhaps best known for his company BKP, which he founded as Barry Kirsch Productions in the late 1990s. BKP is a Dubai-based hub for music, podcasts and other audio, including licensing, live musicians and, well, all things aural. But Kirsch’s story before he came to the region took him from mainland

Europe through some of the most exciting times to live in London, then Hollywood and beyond. Campaign caught up with him recently to map the path that brought him to Dubai. “I had an interesting life with what was happening in London,” he says. “I’d been through the absolute best possible era you could possibly have lived through: music in the 70s, advertising in the 80s.” Throw in Hollywood in the 90s and Dubai in the 2000s and it’s fair to say that Kirsch has a knack of being in the right place at the right time. Music has been in his blood since he was born. He grew up in Belgium in the 50s and 60s, with a father who worked for EMI, and spent his childhood surrounded by music and musicians. He learned to play the piano that stood in his house, but by the time he had moved to early 1970s London in his 20s it was largely the guitar he used for gigging. “I thought about going to music college, but to be honest with you I just wanted to play rock and roll and write, and that’s exactly what I did,” says Kirsch. And his musical aspirations led him from the stage to the studio. “Being in a studio has always been, for me, a very special experience,” he says. While playing live offers an adrenaline rush, recording is more intellectual. “When you hit that final mix, you know it’s good,” he says. That knowledge of when you’ve nailed it doesn’t come straight away but is born of “experience and a certain amount of empathy and a certain amount of honesty”. Aged 22, Kirsch and his writing partner Julian Smith (they had been introduced by a mutual friend who knew they were both destined for careers in music) were signed as songwriters by legendary British jazz producer Denis Preston. Calling themselves Julian Kirsch, they wrote songs for bands including the Bay City Rollers.

Even recently, in 2021, one song – LA Loves You, recorded by 70s rock group Glassband – was picked up playing in the background of a Tom Cruise film. Kirsch found out when he was contacted to find out where to send the royalties. For five years with Preston, says Kirsch, “we had a jolly good time and wrote a few songs and got paid quite a lot of money”. Then, at a party in Soho, he ran into Sue Manning, an agent for composers in advertising. She offered to represent him if he was prepared to write jingles for her. He agreed, wrote his first melody for the Milk Marketing Board, and now he was in advertising. Although not much more came from Manning, Kirsch had “sort of got bitten by the bug”. Part of the appeal, he admits, came from the work’s brevity. “When you’re writing a song, it’s a long and arduous process because you have to write the verse as well as the chorus and the bridge,” Kirsch says. “When you’re writing a jingle, basically you’ve got to just write 30 seconds.” However, he wasn’t the only jingle writer to realise that the business was both fun and lucrative. “It was very difficult to break in,” he says. “These guys were super protective because they were making fantastic money.” By now, Kirsch was one third of Candle Music, along with fellow songwriter Charlie Spencer and manager Tony Satchell. If the front door to adland was barred to upstarts like Candle, they had to find another way in. Realising it was hard to get meetings with agency heads, Candle went through ad agency secretaries and receptionists. Their offer: let us use a meeting room during your office’s lunch break, and we will give you a show. Literally. Creatives planning to eat their sandwiches in the office found themselves

July 18, 2021

invited to the board room where a Punch and Judy stage was set on the table. As the diminutive curtain rose, they were greeted by Kirsch and Spencer (pictured, left) playing the parts of famous fictional detectives Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, hot on the trail of two jingle writers who had stolen someone’s copyright. The duo performed their act an “unbelievable” 150 times around the agencies of Soho. “Some people found that absolutely hilarious and side-splitting, and other people just didn’t get it at all,” says Kirsch. Candle Music began picking up work from those creatives who laughed at their humour, and the door was open. In the late 1980s a man named Leslie Oakes, from a GCC-based agency, FP7, came to Kirsch and said he was on a post-production job for a Middle East client. Someone had told him Kirsch might be able to supply an Arabic voice-over artist. This wasn’t something Kirsch specialised in – yet – but he made some calls and found the talent. Thanks to his relationship with FP7 and its founder, Akram Miknas, and in a snowball effect from saying yes to Oakes, Kirsch became the go-to guy in London for Arabic work. It wasn’t long before he was commissioned by the agency of ambitious, up-and-coming UAE airline Emirates. He wrote a jingle for the carrier, which became so recognisable that for years Kirsch was haunted by clients asking for “something like Emirates”. In the basement of FP7’s London offices, Kirsch set up a base. He planned to kit out a whole studio there, but the casino next door bought the building and both FP7 and Kirsch were booted out. A move to South Africa was in the works when he got a call from Hollywood director Ken Russell. Kirsch had been pitching soundtrack proposals to producers and directors known to have current projects, and Russell was the first to bite. Kirsch flew to LA to work on the soundtrack for 1991’s Prisoner of Honor, about the Dreyfus affair and starring Richard Dreyfuss (no relation). After the film wrapped, he returned to London, where he was by now becoming an expert on Arabic music. While late 80s electronica was morphing into 90s dance, and synthesisers were the instrument of choice, Oriental music benefits from being played live. “If you want to be super-authentic, you have to use live musicians because of the quarter tones,” says Kirsch. “You cannot really replicate the quarter tones and the phrasing digitally.” Computers were taking the place of session musicians, and as anxiety gripped London in the run-up to the millennium, the Swinging 60s had mutated over the course of Kirsch’s career to-date into the Nasty 90s. In 1998 he was on one of his now regular trips to Dubai, partly for a holiday and a break from the UK. His mother had

passed away, weakening his ties to Britain, and he was looking for a new start. Free zones such as Jebel Ali port were beginning to spring up, and Dubai seemed like a city of opportunity and optimism. He moved to the UAE and borrowed a studio from his friend, Marwan Rahbani, the filmmaker who still runs Rahbani Productions. A year later, freelance visas became available and he struck out on his own, registering as only the second tenant of a nascent Dubai Media City. As Barry Kirsch the freelancer became Barry Kirsch Productions and then BKP, his business has has grown and shrunk and grown again. Although some partnerships have come and gone, Kirsch was joined by Polly Gotseva in 2000 and Matt Faddy the following year, and both are still with BKP Group. BKP has opened and closed offices in Lebanon and Abu Dhabi, and has had to move its Dubai base several times. Each




move has been expensive. “Moving an office is one thing,” says Kirsch. “But with sound studios if you have to move it’s a couple of million dirhams’ worth of investment.” BKP was based in Production Village in Al Quoz, then in a villa in Umm Suqeim, and most recently in Business Central Towers. This latest set up was a “massively expensive” investment, with 4,500 square feet of high-tech studio space. Last October, mid-pandemic, BKP downsized its offices, but Kirsh says he’s already looking at expanding again at the end of this year. “The other thing we did that was not very good timing was we opened in Saudi,” says Kirsch. That opening was in January 2020, right before Covid-19 hit, and the facilities there have been largely dormant throughout the coronavirus crisis. Kirsch says that although it’s “probably the biggest risk I’ve ever taken”, he’s watching Saudi “with a lot of interest”. He enthuses about “the energy coming out of the young people, and this feeling of unbelievable enthusiasm” in the kingdom. In 2007, BKP moved into video post-production. “Then we tried a number of different formulas to move into production,” says Kirsch. “I think we found the right formula now, finally.” It “took a couple of joint ventures”, he says, but now going-it alone seems to be working for the agency. BKP is generating social content and producing a lot of podcasts, as well as other audio work. Kirsch has a healthy scepticism for both digitally composed songs (“many people start writing songs by just pulling up a drum loop and putting a few chords on it to see what happens; there’s nothing wrong with that but it’s a different approach from finding a magical melody”) and inexpensive library music (“the disadvantage, of course, is that you don’t have exclusivity”). He contrasts the disposable results of these approaches with with the tune BKP produced for Dubai telco Du (yes, that tune, the one you’re humming in your head right now), which he says has become “of huge value to the brand as part of its advertising armoury”. He says that the reason these things are often on his mind is because he thinks a lot about where his company and the the music business are going. He has never stopped experimenting and looking at ways to grow not only BKP but his own repertoire. He refuses to rule out moving into cinema, says he wrote a musical about flying carpets over lockdown, and puts the interview with Campaign on hold to ponder aloud whether the pandemic could be chronicled using a collection of social media memes. That’s an art form no one has tried before. Barry Kirsch has seen music in the 70s, advertising in the 80s, Hollywood in the 90s and Dubai’s growth in the 2000s and 2010s. Who knows what the soundtrack will be to his next decade in the business.


December 20, 2020



December 20, 2020



July 18, 2021


Q We asked: Has digital marketing struck the right balance between performance and awareness?

July 18, 2021


Diana Safaryan

Senior associate and feed specialist, Merkle Many businesses find it difficult to focus on the long-term value of branding when there are short-term KPIs that need to be met, and rightly so. As performance marketing becomes more data-driven, advertisers can reach their ‘in-market’ audiences in a more sophisticated and efficient way. However, with industry changes on user privacy, it’s now more important than ever that marketers take a step back and ensure that upper-funnel activity is not overlooked. Targeting broader audiences, establishing soft goals, implementing multi-touch attribution and utilising automated bidding can ensure that advertisers continue to sensibly broaden their reach through awareness whilst still maximising performance.

‘‘It’s more important than ever that marketers ensure upper-funnel activity is not overlooked.”

‘‘We are hooked on short-term gains because they are measurable and easier to justify.” Mazen Mansour

Digital manager, Initiative Media Definitely not. Most digital marketers will always be hesitant to switch off an ad that is delivering short-term performance. This will probably apply even if an ad is not in line with brand guidelines. We are all hooked on short-term gains because they are measurable and easier to justify. However, this approach is not sustainable. Why? Because it is easily forgotten and does not give brands the chance to foster an emotional connection with the audience. This requires long-term brand building, which will ultimately drive growth and therefore long-term profits. As an industry, we need to stop over-investing in performance ads and get better at proving the value of brand and therefore go beyond measuring performance on a last-click basis but sway to alternatives such as multi-touch attribution and marketingmix modelling.


July 18, 2021

Jack Cooper

Senior marketing manager, media, MEAI, Huawei Mobile Services We’ve seen in the last decade the growing dominance of digital as the medium where the masses devote most of their time and attention. In tandem, with the growing abundance of data, digital marketing has become exponentially more data-driven. As a consequence, many marketers have opted to focus on performance metrics driving rigid business KPIs, increasingly neglecting attention towards continuous brand-building. Digital marketing has always been regarded as performance-focused, but it can be argued that even awareness objectives are now best achieved through this medium due to the myriad of branding opportunities available, combined with efficient scalability and targeting precision. Marketers should, of course, also be paying attention to the convergence of digital technology on traditional channels (CTV, DOOH, etc.) and adapting to the constantly evolving landscape.

‘‘Marketers should also be paying attention to the convergence of digital technology on traditional channels.”

Prasad Sawant

Performance media manager, Magna Digital marketing is the only channel that has struck the right balance owing to its capability of an end-to-end funnel-planning approach and use of martech tools. Triggered by the Covid-19 impact, marketers have naturally resorted to performance marketing as it is easier to sign off budgets that promise immediate gain. However, this is not the right approach as we will target a limited pool of audiences and there is no prospect of growth. For brands to grow, they need to look beyond a small pool of in-market audiences and widen their reach to the right potential audiences. Whether this is done via lookalike or predictive modelling, it is essential to have one overall business objective instead of treating performance and awareness in silos. This therefore calls for better measurement by giving credit to media touch points that don’t generate immediate conversions using multi-touchpoint attribution.

‘‘For brands to grow, they need to look beyond a small pool of in-market audiences.”

July 18, 2021


Julien Anaty

Regional video lead, DMS In today’s climate, brands have developed an obsession with performance marketing, leaving branding in the back seat and disregarding the ramifications of prioritising one strategy over another. According to McKinsey, we have entered into “an era of performanceeverything”. At DMS we know that while some partners have become masters of one, very few excel at employing both approaches simultaneously. Let’s look at the impact of video, a format designed to maximise awareness about products or services. Would it serve its purpose better in a premium, brand-safe and contextually relevant video-on-demand environment, or when made skippable on a user-generatedcontent platform (social or mobile)? While 85 per cent of marketers believe that accurate marketing ROI measurement involves a short-term and long-term focus, only  52 per cent of advertisers believe they’ve achieved this balance. Brand marketing and performance marketing are becoming increasingly interdependent in a world where personalisation and relationships with consumers are of paramount importance. However, one has to admit that awareness helps to grease the wheels, providing much-needed initial traction to power future performance campaigns.

‘‘However, one has to admit that awareness helps to grease the wheels.”

‘‘The battle to stay relevant will not dissipate over time.” Sara Addam

B2B marketing, TikTok For Business METAP Let’s #TBT (that’s Throwback Thursday for non-hashtagsavvy peeps) and look at what traditional marketing brought to the table. Iconic highway landmarks, TV commercials that a lot of us performed, prints that made waiting rooms more bearable, and phone texts that reminded us that hey, if they’re not thinking about you, we are. But that’s it. Big impact (in theory, because who can confirm?), small interaction. Insert digital. Where you see it, you want it, you get it. Or in other words, awareness, engagement, performance. Digital marketing attracts the end user because they see what they want to see, and delights advertisers because, well, the end user is reacting. It’s no longer a one-way conversation. The battle to stay relevant won’t dissipate over time, and traditional is, well, so Throwback Thursday.

‘‘An omnichannel approach is the only way.”

Polly Williams

Managing director, TishTash Talks Digital marketing can strike the balance between performance and awareness. An omni-channel approach to digital is the only way and, in our experience, it is rare to find brands that are working across the right combination. For example, prioritising search-engine optimisation will limit success if you are not also investing in pay-per-click to drive more enquiries and re-market to those who have abandoned their carts. Without spending time and money identifying the complementary channels, the balance between performance and awareness cannot be struck, and we find that brands are often not ready to invest in the full mix.


July 18, 2021

LIQUID EXPECTATIONS The business of experience is about how we learn, live, feel, and behave with purpose-driven and futurefit brands, writes Accenture Interactive’s TJ Lightwala


une 25 was marked with relief for brands, marketers and the advertising fraternity at large. It was the day Google announced the delay of its cookie-blocking privacy plan to 2023, and it prompted the question of what that will mean for marketers now. There are two impacts here. The first is that marketers will need to protect the consumers’ or users’ choices and privacy, and the second is that the industry must find a way for good quality content and publisher portals to generate ad-based revenues. For now, the rush to predict and get ready for whatever a post-Covid world will look like has been temporarily paused. The second major dynamic came from Apple’s iOS 14 consent-management updates. Some marketers would call this change of the IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) opt-in a significant issue, one that will change the addressable audience size considerably and inevitably reduce scale. Amidst the dynamics of Google’s and Safari’s changes in addressable audiences, available tracking and advertising reach, a trend is emerging: putting value on experiences in advertising, marketing and commerce. People experience brands in new ways. The demand for new experiences has been accelerating for years. The concept of liquid expectations is not new either. However, the seismic step-change in 2020 meant that marketers had to rethink how to keep pace. 81 per cent of consumers who have increased their digital usage during Covid-19 expect to keep up with these increased levels, according to our Accenture Pulse Survey in July 2020. 85 per cent of chief marketing officers (CMOs) have seen increased openness from consumers to

July 18, 2021

new digital offerings introduced during the pandemic; therefore, it is important to deliver with agility and efficiency. There are undeniable trends and areas of opportunity arising due to changing consumer behaviour and their requirements for access and ease during these unprecedented times. THE RISE OF DIGITAL COMMERCE The pandemic accelerated the shift to commerce for brands dealing with art, groceries, exercise equipment, furniture and more. For example, Artsy, an online marketplace for buying and selling art, increased its e-commerce sales by 150 per cent as people looked to do up their homes. Artsy’s CMO has said the strength of the digital platform is that it is a place where businesses and creators can engage with more than 2 million collectors globally. Similar initiatives are spreading here in the Middle East, with the likes of Artezaar and Singulart. The proliferation of commerce has drawn attention and even more focus to customer lifecycle management, retention and product marketing services. Therefore, there is an experimentation mindset of running A/B tests, analysing channel pushes and engaged audience cohorts. These are important aspects of segmenting elite collectors, experienced collectors, novice collectors, artists and platforms that interested buyers are engaging on. THE RISE OF SOCIAL COMMERCE Brands need to deal with the fact that shopping has become atomised into many micro-moments spread throughout the day and across devices. Social commerce, a kind of e-commerce that’s initiated and sometimes transacted on a social platform, exploded during the pandemic. Research firm Emarketer reported that 36 per cent of US adults had made a social commerce purchase in their lifetimes as of last summer, compared with only 24 per cent before the pandemic. We expect to see commerce shift from being centred around a destination (whether that’s a store, a website or an app) to amplifying the experiences with moments. Social media will be the prompt for many of these moments – it will be able to influence and propagate people’s intentions to buy and will likely become a catalyst for change. Grabbing customers’ attention and keeping their focus on the brand in those moments will become a challenge for organisations. Therefore, more attention is paid to harnessing immersive experiences in shoppable formats and video-based immersive experiences, with spontaneous shopping opportunities tied in. For example, so many home-grown stores are only present through social commerce. Lots of skincare, beauty, fashion, wellness and self-improvement content is available now through interactive social experiences

that allow for dynamic pricing, catalogues and 360-degree videos, 3D, and virtual reality content. THE RISE OF SUPER APPS Companies we currently look to for inspiration – such as Gojek and Uber – are often ex-start-ups. However, their stellar success didn’t happen overnight. It takes a long time to transform from start-up to unicorn. In large organisations, it takes a long time for an idea with promise to gain traction at scale – plus, in the end, the result usually looks completely different from the original notion. Gojek launched its application in 2015 with only four services: GoRide, GoSend, GoShop, and GoFood. Valued at $10bn today, Gojek has transformed into a super app, providing more than 20 services. In May 2021, Gojek and Tokopedia announced the completion of their merger and established a new holding company called GoTo. Another great story is the well-known WeChat app, which started as a messaging service. It has now transformed into a multicategory app with social gaming, mobile payments, digital wallet, ride-hailing (through its acquisition of Didi) and an e-commerce marketplace that allows for the inclusion of third-party apps and merchants. We are getting more disrupted in how we use these services and engage for efficiency and frictionless experiences. In the region, we are seeing the transformation of Careem into a multi-use platform as well, with a community and charity focus (where Careem rewards can be used as a contribution to charities).


THE GROWTH OF PERFORMANCE OR OUTCOMES BUSINESS Every business is a performance business, and performance marketing should play a more prominent role in building brands end-to-end, from creative to communications to channels to measurement. The telco, banking, retail and healthcare spaces are steadily being disrupted by the need to evolve into non-telco, non-primary-service providers, and to become utilitarian marketplaces. The data monetisation of assets and formation of a combined value of audience, insights and offers presents new avenues of partnerships, use cases and commercial opportunities for data owners across categories. Companies that have systematically invested in technologies around digital adoption over time have seen an increase from 25 per cent to almost 50 per cent of their recruiting now happening through digital channels, with


at least 15-30 per cent reduction in the cost of acquisition. In moving into media, and online channels to drive sales, we typically find these benchmarks in always-on marketing, advertising, and commerce programmes in banking, retail, telcos and services businesses. THE DEMAND FOR DATA FOR PERSONALISED EXPERIENCES Intelligent marketing is best described as precision-led messages at scale, underpinned by smart models driven by artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML). With news of depreciation of cookies and the creation of North Star offerings, the value of ecosystem alliances becomes powerful. Pivoting the narrative from data-led to data-driven experiences is paramount, from CRM imagination, hyperlocal offerings, marketing campaigns created around increasing the share of wallet based on consumption behaviours, and connecting to content experiences. For example, L’Oréal’s acquisition of beauty tech company Modiface, powered by augmented reality and artificial intelligence, reshapes the beauty experience and offers personalised recommendations for individual skin types. Spotify has a brilliant personalised experience that allows users to create their own playlists, essentially building an entire library on their account according to their tastes and choice, which allows for accurate advertising messaging. CONSUMERS MONETISE THEIR OWN DATA The topic of data monetisation requires its own comprehensive chapter, bringing in the impacts of Google’s cookie-sunset, (yes, there is the idea of FLOCs, essentially cohorts that can be targeted based on interests). But the question at hand is customers’ data and privacy protection and whether brands have consented to use digital profiles for targeting purposes. This, to my mind, will give rise to a disrupted model in marketing, one that allows individuals to collect their browsing data through a tool, manage it, have it anonymised, aggregated with others and then sold. The end-user gets 80 per cent of the resulting revenue, and the platform potentially takes 20 per cent. Now, this is individual data monetisation in principle and the next frontier in customerexperience disruption. With so much change, it’s been a period to reassess and search out how best to connect brand purpose, to create a relatable meaning and impact that today’s discerning consumers across the value chain look for first. Elie Khoury, director of financial services at Accenture Interactive, says: “A customer doesn’t want a mortgage; he wants a home.” Eureka. By TJ LIGHTWALA, managing director, lead for experience services, MENA, Accenture Interactive

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Listen to Campaign’s latest podcasts to join in the debate and discussion of the latest developments in the region’s media, marketing and advertising scene

July 18, 2021


CRACKING THE CODE Wunderman Thompson’s Adil Khan describes the merits of opening up to open-source marketing science


ifteen years ago, Avinash Kaushik from Google recommended a 10/90 rule for analytics budgets. For every $10 that you put into analytics tools, you should spend $90 on good analysts to digest the data and provide insights. This idea always stuck with me. Any analyst would prefer to remain agnostic when it comes to platforms, instead focusing on trying to frame the problem first before selecting the right the platform for the task. Platform selection might be as important as the problem itself, since understanding the pros and cons of each platform (no platform is perfect) can help the brand decide if its needs will be met or not. Fast-forward to 2021, and marketers are experiencing a proliferation of data from website behaviour, ad platforms, CRMs and e-commerce, to name a few sources. The need of the hour is not more data, but rather making sense of it all to understand marketing effectiveness, predict behaviour and do deep analytics to bring out insights that can truly help drive business decisions.

Here is where open-source (read: free) platforms such as R and Python are making it easier to solve marketingscience challenges. A few examples: Want to predict the expected lift in e-commerce performance by showing specific product recommendations based on items frequently purchased together? Multi-channel attribution modelling is a key question that can help you understand channels that are driving conversions vs the ones that are upperfunnel and help influence the process to a certain degree. Instead of using pure historical attribution models, what if you could use a probability-based model to recreate all the conversion paths taken by users, temporarily remove one channel at a time from the mix and then understand the decrease in probability of getting conversions, thus knowing the incremental value of using the channel? Let’s say you received a wall of text as consumer feedback and wanted to run natural language processing at a sentence level and address the negative sentiment behind specific issues in your next campaign. You could even standardise the feedback by running translations at scale and then submit just under a million

requests per day to Google Cloud’s Natural Language API. The answer to all the above problems? Yes, there is a package for that (code that does the heavy lifting in the background). Are these free tools 100 per cent accurate and a perfect solution to all questions? That depends. Is your entire data 100 per cent accurate? Most probably not. Accounting for identity resolution challenges and cross-device behaviour, client-side tracking vs server-side, use of statistical modelling in Facebook Ads to even count conversions from iOS 14 users, among other challenges, the question now changes: Is your data usable (at a minimum)? Is it customised enough to be able to build business-specific trends? More importantly, can it help with improving marketing effectiveness in a scientific manner? On the Lex Fridman podcast (he’s an MIT researcher on AI), a former US Navy pilot said an 80 per cent solution is typically good enough – because if you overthink it you’re behind. I believe that we are in the same position. Marketers need to make quick yet smart, data-driven decisions. Solving for the 80 per cent solution always leaves room to apply adjustments in the next iteration and drive incremental improvements in performance. There are incredibly smart individuals within the R/ Python community who continue to write code that can help marketers in a variety of situations.


So, where should you start? Start with a specific business question and the code will follow. Trying to solve for everything at the same time will almost certainly overwhelm the best among us. Data customisation is a fundamental piece of the puzzle that should not be overlooked. Here is where business requirements need to be mapped against a digital data collection approach to be able to answer the question, why are we collecting this data and how does it help the business? With enough questioning, robust yet rich data can be made available to your marketing science teams. Most importantly, invest in people and growth partners who are as keen as you to understand customers and anticipate their needs. Teams that can deliver data insights and solutions that enable you to create more memorable, relevant and effective experiences that drive business results.

By ADIL KHAN, analytics lead, Wunderman Thompson Dubai


July 18, 2021


Getting consumers to your brand online is one thing; keeping them there is another, writes Mindshare’s Robin Phillips


ave you heard that Covid-19 has had a massive impact on e-commerce in this region? Yes? Me too and about 20 times a day in any number of presentations. So, we know more people are doing it. But if they are, then how do we ensure they choose our brand, site, platform or app over others and how do we ensure they come back and do it again and again? Engaging and targeting the right audience is traditionally where the attention and focus has been centred when planning and running campaigns. While this continues to be of paramount importance, we also need to further understand and develop our thinking and approach towards customer experience and how we are seamlessly taking these users along their customer journey once we have their attention. There are some key customer experience strategies that we focus on when creating that seamless user journey on-site. Firstly,

ensuring everything becomes personalised. There is no better sense of engagement between brand and customer than the customer feeling that there is a real personal connection. This can be activated through imagery, personalised discounts, language selection, offers based on historical browsing or even recognising personal events (birthdays, joining dates, purchases, etc.) With all this, a sense of loyalty will form, ensuring repeat and longer engagement. I mentioned the use of personalisation to drive offers based on historical browsing. Another strategy that falls within this domain is to ensure the user is aware of other possible purchases from the brand. The approach will lead to upselling and cross-selling the consumer, but the feeling of relevance and targeting displayed will again enhance the consumer experience. A major frustration on most commerce – or indeed many brand – sites is the lack of ability to engage with brand custodians. Consumers want to find things out there and then. They need to understand whether they have interpreted the content correctly, how long shipping takes, what are the extra taxes and whether they can have it in blue. All these answers are probably available on the website either in the fine print or just through a general search, but what better experience than if the user can interact with a friendly representative who can answer their questions. If brands are unable to do this with a human contact, there are several chatbots and other technologies that can also do the job. As technologies develop so does the opportunity to engage with consumers. Developments around AI and the ability to try on products like shoes and sunglasses become game changers, while also focusing on the need and importance to be a mobile-first business throughout any e-commerce set up or transformation. The mobile approach also lends itself to social platforms and another route to engage with your target audience. Using these social platforms and aligning your brand with contextually relevant

‘‘THERE IS NO BETTER SENSE OF ENGAGEMENT THAN THE CUSTOMER FEELING THAT THERE IS A REAL PERSONAL CONNECTION.” content means they will comfortably leave their social channel of choice and feel a connection with the brand because of exactly that, its contextual relevance. I have focused a lot of this article on the on-site recommendations, and that is mainly because there is already a great understanding of how to bring users to the sites. As an industry we are already familiar with ways of employing programmatic strategies that will use dynamic creative optimisation or just simple forms of retargeting that can engage with users once they have spent time on the site and possibly left. We have a plethora of data and tools around us that will ensure we are picking the right audience sets both for re engagement and when prospecting. This piece is solid, although it will continue to evolve and offer up more opportunities. So how do we summarise this? Well, we know through multiple data sources that consumers will not buy or engage with a brand if their user experience is poor. The digital interaction is how many relationships are now born, and with multiple other brands or sites to engage that users can switch instantly to, it is imperative that the first impression is good. Loyalty can be achieved, and retention of users increased, which will obviously have an impact on your bottom line. There are many ways to do this, and I have listed only a fraction of them above. But overall, keep it personal, keep it relevant and ensure it is intuitive and seamless. So, when you are told that Covid-19 has had a massive impact on the region again and people are spending all their money online, tell them that’s great but also we now need to focus on how to keep them there. By ROBIN PHILLIPS, regional head of outcomes at Mindshare MENA

July 18, 2021

A TALE OF TWO SYNERGIES Anyone in an office full of marketers can tell you that customer experience and brand experience are the same, writes Batelco CMO Bilal Adham. But they’re wrong

I By Bilal Adham, chief marketing officer of Batelco

‘‘Think of brand experience as a marriage – you put in the work, day after day, year after year, and in the fullness of time you build up enough credibility to have a night out with the boys.’’

f you’ve ever spent a languid 10 minutes around the office watercooler in any given marketing department, you may have heard a colleague lament that customer experience mindset and brand experience are essentially the same thing. But office watercoolers are notoriously poor vectors for good information, and I’m more than happy to set the record straight for any would-be aquatic pontificators. First of all, I get it – brand experience (BX) and customer experience (CX) are two terms that are often flung around with reckless abandon and little thought or consideration. But each has a role to play in the reputation and success of your enterprise. Like Batman and his trusty butler Alfred, they are fundamentally interconnected, with the success of one very much dependent on the other. But the one wears tights and fights crime while the other one dons a suit and serves crumpets. To wit, they are two very distinct functions and should be treated as such. Brand experience is a long-term strategy that evolves over time. Consumers continuously engage with the brand experience, and as they do so it coaxes them ever so gently into seeing the business in a very particular way. Think of it as a marriage – you put in the work, day after day, year after year, and in the fullness of time you build up enough credibility to have a night out with the boys. Contrast that with customer experience, which is more like a first date with someone you just met on Tinder. You have approximately five minutes to make an impression or it’s back to swiping for you. Customer experience is inherently more immediate. If a customer can’t navigate an e-commerce website because the customer journey is complicated and cumbersome, that creates an immediate adverse reaction. Best-case scenario – your customer is confused. Worst-case scenario? You lose them forever. To summarise: brand experience (e.g. marketing) is all about delivering on-brand messaging and experiences that relate to the brand proposition and employing communication strategies to build consumer expectations around the brand. Customer experience focuses on delivering a superior interaction with your customer, primarily through service. Alas, these two strategies are often employed in isolation and are frequently siloed, often leading to disastrous results. Of course, the easy fix here is to remove the silos, promote interdepartmental synergy and foster greater collaboration between your CX and BX teams, or even fuse them if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. And if all that seems like far too much aggravation on your already overburdened calendar, consider this: Brands are at an inflection point. Today, consumers have more options and choices than ever before, and the cost of switching has never been lower.

As brands create new customer acquisition and retention strategies, they need to start tuning in to how their prospects are feeling. More importantly, they need to be well-equipped to act – not only on what their prospects want now, but on what they want next. The data clearly shows that as choices and channels increase, brand trustworthiness is more important to consumers than ever. Powerful brands significantly outperform the market – a recent McKinsey study indicates that the top 40 brands portfolio has outperformed the MSCI benchmark in 13 of the last 20 years. As companies brace for the long haul – what many refer to as the “next normal” – the path forward is muddy at best. Our respective realities are forever in flux, often varying dramatically by region, country or even neighbourhood. Perhaps one of the most vexing challenges is how to determine which customer behaviours and trends are here to stay and which ones will eventually go extinct. This requires not only having your finger on the pulse of what’s happening today, but also the foresight and data to guess what might be happening tomorrow. Established companies that invest in the wrong capabilities may well find themselves sidelined as upstart competitors that can better predict consumer behaviour steal bigger and bigger swathes of their business. If you want to dominate the next normal, you first need to identify the current behaviours that will define customer experience in the near term and make sure that any opportunities are aligned with your business strategies and capabilities. Brand experience should encourage a big-picture point of view that allows you to evaluate experiences in all contexts while also assessing the impact it has every customer, employee, supplier, vendor or stakeholder associated with your brand. The future belongs to companies that go beyond branding, marketing and customer experience to create a paradigm where every interaction is meticulously designed in advance. Build a strong foundation for excellent experiences. If you’ve already done so, take a second (or third or fourth) look and reinforce the foundation for excellence you have in place. It’s worth it – and there’s never been a better time to perfect it. To paraphrase Marie Kondo, “Does your touchpoint spark joy?” Are your touchpoints inspiring the desired reactions and sentiments that consistently remind your audience why they love your brand? As brand managers, it’s imperative that we stay connected to our customers and end users, listen to what they’re telling us and be willing to make the changes we need to make to stay relevant. So maybe spend a little less time around the watercooler. And a little more around your customers.



July 18, 2021

THE VERTICAL ERA Why brands in Saudi Arabia must adopt vertical content. By Ahmed Saadeldin, Extend


ven though human beings perceive the world in a horizontal plane, consuming vertical video content is getting more natural as most modern users access social media via smartphones. In 2021, vertical video content continues to get more and more fans on social media. No matter how big or small your business is, integrating vertical formats into your plan is a must to satisfy your social media followers who yearn for snackable content. Imagine yourself at the magnificent Elephant Rock in AlUla. Or at MDL Beast watching DJs rock the entire desert. When the action is right in front of you, my guess is that you won’t be able to resist pulling out your phone, firing up the camera and capturing the moment. But here’s the question: How do you hold your smartphone while capturing such moments? If you’re like most people, you probably record videos vertically, in portrait mode. Research by ScientiaMobile concludes that people hold their smartphones vertically 94 per cent of the time. There was a time when the concept of vertical video marketing was hated by millions across the world. Amateur, low-quality video footage surrounded by those black vertical bars was the sickest sight on the web. However, that’s a thing of the past. These days, vertical videos are reported to have a higher watch completion rate than horizontal ones. When compared with square videos, vertical videos have a 4x engagement rate on Facebook and 2.5x on Twitter, according to Southchair Media. TikTok, a platform with more than 1 billion users, is swarming with vertical video content. 44.5 per cent of internet users in Saudi Arabia use TikTok daily, says Datareportal. A Route Note study ranked Saudi Arabia eighth globally, with 9.7 million TikTok users. Vertical videos on Snapchat are watched to completion nine times more than horizontal ones. According to Hila Shitrit Nissum, vice-president of communications at, “Vertical video marketing is on the rise. That’s mainly because people are consuming their content more and more on smartphones and on the go. These days, a huge chunk of content captured on mobiles is shot vertically, meaning while holding the phone upright.” 67.1 per cent of the world population are smartphone users, according to Datareportal. Almost every single person in Saudi Arabia owns one. It’s a country with 39.53 million mobile connections. Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit our planet, the average number of hours people spend using their smartphones has skyrocketed. People in Saudi Arabia spend an average of 3 hours and 6 minutes using social media platforms. Nearly 80 per cent of social media traffic comes from smartphones, according to Comscore. Vertical video provides an outstanding watching experience as it uses the entire screen. This enables smartphone users to easily hold their device in one hand and interact with it using the other. Nearly 57 per cent of user-generated videos are shot with mobile devices, which has led to the

exponential rise of vertical videos. When used on the right platform, at the right time, brands can reach out to 58 per cent more users with vertical videos than horizontal ones. Let’s look at the four reasons why brands should produce vertical video content as a part of their marketing campaigns. PEOPLE USE THEIR MOBILE PHONES ALMOST ALL THE TIME Imagine spending a day without your smartphone. It’s hard. Mobile phones are the major drivers of the digital era. Global smartphone usage is growing rapidly, especially in Saudi Arabia. Jon Steinberg, CEO of Daily Mail North America, says: “Up until now, it was really stupid to be required to rotate your smartphone device to watch videos in full screen. If the video is both compelling and vertical, you’ll probably keep watching. It makes sense intuitively.” After all, we are not required to tilt our laptops or desktops to watch videos in full screen. So why should it be different for smartphones? With ever-increasing smartphone usage and global adoption, the vertical video trend will reportedly grow in the next few years. SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS ARE VERTICALVIDEO-FRIENDLY Social media platforms are embracing vertical videos. From Facebook to Snapchat to YouTube to TikTok, they plan to deliver a perfect viewing experience to their users via vertical videos. Snapchat goes down in history as the social media platform that drove the rise of vertical videos. To keep up, Facebook launched vertical videos in September 2016, and Twitter did it in March 2017. The Instagram Stories feature was launched in August 2016. Today, millions of Instagram users upload vertical video stories daily. YouTube rolled out the vertical video viewing format to all mobile devices in 2017.


Instagram launched IGTV in 2018 – its first specifically vertical video application. This was followed by Instagram Reels in 2020. DRIVE MORE ENGAGEMENT Vertical videos aren’t just prettier; they are engaging as well, as we discussed already. Vertical video is one of the hottest trends in the marketing industry right now. It’s crucial for brands to unlock the full force of vertical video to drive more engagement. VERTICAL VIDEO ADS HAVE A HIGHER CONVERSION RATE Dan Grossman, vice-president of platform partnerships at Vayner Media, says: “From a storytelling perspective, vertical video is more exciting. If we can take up more of people’s screens, they’ll be less distracted. This will help us capture more of their attention.” Vertical video ads naturally blend into people’s daily feeds. They don’t feel like advertisements. Drinks brand Hennessy reported its CPM rates to be three times more efficient than those of squared videos. Animoto and Buffer report that vertical videos drive more traffic than square videos. People love consuming vertical video content. It’s not just a trend. With mobile devices flying out of pockets worldwide, vertical video content is being captured every single second of every day. That’s huge. With continued innovation in the vertical video space, brands are more likely to invest more in vertical videos to engage their audiences. It takes no genius to know that we have arrived at the era of vertical video. It is of the utmost importance that brands make vertical videos the right way. The results speak for themselves. In the end, it’s all about how soon you choose to evolve. By AHMED SAADELDIN, director of strategy and planning, Extend – The Ad Network

July 18, 2021


onsumers’ expectations from brands they purchase and talk about are now higher than ever. If we want to earn the right to a customer’s transaction, we need to delight them at every stage of their buying journey. The collective sum of these interactions (the marketing, speaking to a sales agent, the way our product arrives in their hands) refers to the customer experience (CX). Whilst CX is not a new term or concept, it has taken time for the advertising industry to shift and be ready to deliver on these experiential consumer expectations. Not only should we always be thinking customer-centric first, but brands also need to deliver positive experiences that are tailored at every touch point and interaction. Our thinking must be far more joined-up than ever before and it certainly takes us agency folk outside of our communication comfort zone.


Driving transactions from meaningful customer experiences means understanding the peak-end rule, writes AKQA’s Bassel El-Sawy

WHY ARE CONSUMERS DEMANDING EXPERIENCES, NOT JUST SERVICES? 2020 was a redefining year. Most businesses were forced to pause, take a breath and re-evaluate and adapt their business offering in response to the pandemic. There seemed to be a renewed sensitivity from consumers around CX. If customers had questions for a product owner, they wanted answers immediately. If they wanted to make a purchase, they expected it on their doorstep immediately. If they weren’t happy with a product then they expected to return it easily from their home. Whilst these shifts in consumer demands were not exclusively digitally oriented, it’s fair to say that if you weren’t strong online as a brand, then you were nowhere. A recent study by Forbes identified that, post-pandemic, 59 per cent of consumers reference “the experience” as being an important factor when deciding which brands or products to purchase. In short, as products became more commoditised, customers differentiated more based on experiences rather than only features and functions. Perhaps we as consumers became more emotionally sensitive during these times of prolonged stress and uncertainty. As such, our purchase decisions became more considered. Less functional and more emotional. Less transactional and, by default, more experiential. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT FOR BRANDS AND AGENCIES? The ‘peak-end rule’ explains that consumers make future purchase decisions based on two parts of their experience. The peak refers to the moment when the consumer experiences the strongest emotion (positive or negative). The end refers to how their experience ended, or the lasting impression you left them with.


emotions and requirements. The end can be as much about our post-sale care, communication and dialogue as it is about the customer’s product satisfaction itself. In other words, if I feel like you understand me and my needs as a customer, then I’m more likely to buy again from you in the future. WHAT ELSE SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AROUND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE? Agent experience (AX) covers any aspect of the internal operational infrastructure, from training, tools or workflows, that makes it possible to provide the right experience to the customer. Such an operational ecosystem requires C-level buy-in and belief across the business. Only once the CIO, CMO and CCO start integrating their thinking can a unified vision translate to a seamless customer experience strategy across all touch points. HOW CAN WE IMPROVE CX? The most impactful area of focus is around personalising experiences. If we define those important moments (or friction points) in the user journey that matter most to our customers, then we can work hard to improve and enhance them. We need to prioritise the experiences and ensure we can overdeliver with our changes. Identify and commit to improvements by setting KPIs and measuring and monitoring the


As brand owners or custodians, we can easily ‘peak’ a positive or negative experience at any part of the purchase funnel. If a customer reads a bad review, or we fail to reply to a customer enquiry on time, or our website has a terrible check-out process, we can lose the customer before we even have them. While we can’t make everything perfect, we need to show the customer we are always considering them – their needs,

consumer response. Although it may feel like small CX tweaks, consumer satisfaction can translate to dramatic business impact and loyalty. In conclusion, we are not suggesting the need for CX specialists in-house. Rather, we are advocating the necessity for teams of curious individuals, thinking customer-first and challenging existing user journeys with their clients and brands. Customer experience broadens the scope of agencies beyond just touch points and headlines to delivering meaningful experiences for consumers. By BASSEL EL-SAWY, regional managing director, AKQA MENA


July 18, 2021

EMOTIONAL TECHNOLOGY The target audience is dead, long live the customer, writes AGA ADK’s Joy Sahyoun


eople will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will remember how you made them feel,” said Maya Angelou. What used to be one of my favorite quotes is something I believe is becoming more and more true and necessary in today’s highly evolving and cluttered world. Some estimates have put us at being exposed to more than 4,000 pieces of content on a daily basis, from waking up and checking our phones all the way to sitting at dinner and listening to stories, and there is so much we can absorb and remember. Moreover, in a world of parity, it becomes the latent capacity of a brand to

control or influence the behaviour of the beholder by evoking a specific set of thoughts, feelings and emotions. Development has placed many products and services to be at par, pushing customers to go beyond the expected values of quality, functionality and speed of service that have become a given with an ever more demanding customer, and push to explore and discover new experiences. The pandemic has accelerated an inevitable transformation, and these behavioural changes are here to stay, including high expectations (think accessibility and speed of delivery). Yet we won’t be living forever behind our screens. People will keep seeking new

experiences and the conversation is not about online and offline, but rather about an entire ecosystem that works in harmony that needs to deliver on customer needs. Brands have to go beyond the idea of selling and look into a business of entertaining, a business where we acknowledge that people want to put in zero effort, and at the same time get the most from the brand. The idea of simply drawing a line between physical retail and e-commerce presence will not suffice as we keep progressing to a world of everywhere commerce. Consumers need to be able to purchase a product whenever they want and wherever they want; even social media platforms are evolving to accommodate that need and push through the idea of social commerce. The onus is on brands to define a unified experience and deliver it wherever the customer is, and not to wait for the customer to come to the brand. The evolution of technology and the introduction of 5G (some telco operators have started talking about 6G) will further empower both sides of the equation: a customer ever more in control and brands capable of delivering new experiences, driven by data and managing the whole user journey. Yet we need not to stop at simply the idea of implementing technology. From CRM, to AI, AR, VR all the way to facial recognition and voice activated commands the solutions are abundant; but we need to employ tech advancements at the service of customer experience and look into emotional technology. Tech used in experiences needs to have the capability to evoke a set of emotions and capitalise on relevancy in communication. Let us not forget that customers are ever more demanding and expect to be treated with that high level of importance. Personalisation in communication will help brands become more relevant and more appealing to potential users. Also, virtual experiences and relevant content will help connect with the audience and make them feel valued. The target audience is dead, long live the customer. At a time where we are seeking to build that one-on-one rapport between brands and customers, it becomes inevitable that we no longer seek to look at a broad target, but rather use technology to build relevancy through targeted ecosystems and personalisation through individualisation. Every day we are re-imagining the way we live, the way we shop and the way we interact. Similarly, brands need to relook into their business models to embrace experience across touch points and redefine both strategy and execution. Brands need to elevate from the product they sell to the experience they deliver that customers buy into; and take that experience to the customer. By JOY SAHYOUN, general manager, AGA ADK

July 18, 2021

campaigns. Compared with the first party cookie however, they are viewed by many as an invasion of privacy, despite having become a significant foundational pillar of digital advertising strategies for the last 20 years. The cookie typology allowed partners and platforms to better understand consumer behaviour and be able to measure the efficiency of their marketing investment. The end of the third-party cookie will likely have three major impacts: 1. The end of cookie synchronisations between demand-side platforms (DSPs) and data-management platforms (DMPs), no longer aiding advertisers reach their target audiences. 2. Customer relationship management (CRM) onboarding based on thirdparty cookies will have to find a suitable solution. 3. Targeting/retargeting tools will no longer have the ability to set a third-party cookie. Advertisers will have to review their targeting strategy as it will be harder to cater bespoke ads based on users’ behaviour.


Havas’s David Do Rosario looks at how to create a sustainable and efficient digital marketing approach in a cookie-less world


he foundational pillar of the digital ecosystem for the past 20 years, the cookie is about to crumble and is coming to the end of its reign. After several years of pressure, the advertising and digital market of today is facing constraints on three fronts: 1. LEGAL & REGULATORY: Constraints resulting from the behavioural and technological changes with the new requirements for explicit consent collection, particularly in Europe. 2. BEHAVIOURAL: Users are becoming more aware and sensitive about the usage of their personal data protection. This has been further enhanced recently by Apple’s marketing campaign around iOS14, but more so due to the latest WhatsApp privacy update. 3. TECHNOLOGICAL: Browsers like Safari, Firefox, iOS14, and soon Chrome, will be blocking cookies (and other tracers).

Cookies come in two forms, first-party and third-party. The objective of a first-party cookie is to make it possible to track and remember a user’s preferences. They’re essential in providing an efficient and pleasant user experience when visiting the website. Third party cookies are created by an entity other than the host domain and can provide advertisers with a wealth of valuable user information. These include demographics, geographic information and preferences that are then used to design more targeted advertising

So how do we ensure brands remain unaffected and efficiently carry out their digital marketing campaigns? The first step for consent collection via automated management is through the deployment of a consent management platform (CMP) for websites and mobile applications. The CMP informs the user about trackers used on the websites and mobile applications, and requests for user consent. For proper implementation, the digital, IT and legal teams must diagnose the tracers used and define



the rules of good compliance. The different types of tracers must be categorised by purpose, whether analytics, advertising, social, etc. Each purpose must constitute a request for consent in itself. Finally, the CMP runs a technical test to ensure that the collection respects end-to-end consent. The design of the first contact with the user, whether banner or pop-in, will be your best ally. It will allow you to reach 60-70 per cent consent on average when the format is optimised. Running A/B testing on the placement format is also highly recommended. Finally, mobile apps are a key priority, particularly in the GCC. In the UAE, an average of 40 hours per week is spent on a smartphone. Deploying the same CMP on websites and applications will facilitate data collection consent on all media platforms. The clock is ticking, and advertisers have probably put some of these recommendations in place already. A major question remains, though. After compliance, how can we guarantee the performance of digital campaigns? Several initiatives are emerging in providing marketers with optimal solutions: Facebook Conversion API, Google Consent Mode, Privacy Sandbox (FLoC, for Federated Learning of Cohorts), App SDK Network, and many more. It is necessary however, to analyse which ones require consent and which can be dispensed with. Earlier this year, Google launched a series of tests in Europe for FLoC, a new targeting solution based on cohort marketing, but immediately put it on hold to take a closer look at the impacts of privacy in this area. With strong technological constraints, the main risk is losing track of real performance measurements of the advertiser’s digital activities. From mass marketing, we went from personalised to ultra-personalised marketing. With the sophistication of technological tools, and the increase in privacy concerns over the past five years, the future of data will be articulated in three complementary approaches: 1. Consented marketing or targeting with rich and secure data, based on individual data collected with strict consent. 2. Cohort of model marketing, bringing together similar groups of internet users. 3. Renaissance of so-called contextual marketing, making it possible to rely on the relevance of the context or content according to the affinities with our target, which is a big comeback for media planning. By DAVID DO ROSARIO, head of digital specialties, Havas Media


July 18, 2021




Contextual targeting is a viable alternative to behavioural strategies on a post-cookie world, writes Socialize’s Alex Lopes


ontextual targeting has been used since long before the days of digital marketing arrived. In magazines and newspapers, marketers used content to determine context and choose where to place ads. As online advertising brought in new possibilities, we saw programmatic trading gain ground. Spend share jumped from 10.4 per cent in 2012 to above 70 per cent in 2021, according to Statista. Demand-side platforms exploited behavioural audiences, allowing for more streamlined and automated activation across thousands of publishers. Third-party cookies strengthened the behavioural targeting proposition by preclassifying users across multiple domains, making them available to be targeted across marketplaces. The different exposure prices for these users enabled the optimisation and reach opportunities that drive efficiency for brands and paid media marketers today. As a result, direct site buys became underused and contextual targeting receded into memory, used mostly for sponsorships, special activations or brands that sought greater control over brand safety. But what we gained in efficiency and predictability we lost in user experience. Behavioural audiences are built based on how data aggregators decide to classify them. The normalisation of behavioural data signals by these aggregators contributes to the proliferation of a one-to-many experience rather than a many-to-one ad-serving model. This allows for more streamlined and automated ad serving but prevents more personalised and relevant experiences. In the same way that online marketing brought advancements to offline media and opened up opportunities for businesses, behavioural targeting has done the same for contextual marketing. Networks and publishers that planned ahead for the end of third-party cookies, invested in building first party data, migrated to newer technologies, and initiated the use of predictive analytics, are now able

to deliver the same level of sophistication with contextual targeting that we saw with behavioural targeting. Data management and demand-side platforms have increased the number of events and properties being tracked, improving the analysis of context to deliver performance through better and more personalised user experiences. These developments will positively affect the user journey, as well as paid media campaigns, contributing to better engagement, attention and quality metrics. This has already been reinforced through a recent study from Dentsu Aegis. They implemented a test to gain a robust understanding of potential best practices and tools available for success in a world with diminishing access to behavioural targeting. The study goes about testing different contextual intelligence vendors against behavioural targeting with two objectives: evaluate cost efficiency and compare accuracy. Verified by MOAT, Nielsen DAR, Xandr and Appen, the results were eye-opening, with contextual targeting producing 36 per cent lower

CPMs and 48 per cent lower CPCs than behavioural targeting, reinforcing that contextual targeting is a viable alternative in a post-cookie world. Furthermore, a study published by Dr. Erik Nylen, The Drum’s head of data science, reported results as staggering as Dentsu’s, establishing contextual targeting to be 4.7 times less expensive, deliver 12 per cent more attention, and yield significantly greater brand lift per second, being 7.5 times greater than the impact per dollar spent on audience behavioural targeting. With a lower CPM and potentially higher performing engagement metrics, mixed in with diminishing third-party data points, contextual targeting and contextual intelligence platforms can not only outperform behavioural targeting, but also may become the new standard to deliver against performance objectives. Brands and advertisers should start looking at performance differences between behavioural and contextual targeting to understand how their investment could be better used, as they prepare for a new era in digital marketing. Start with determining what “good” performance means for your brand. Different techniques can be used to reach your objectives, but establishing benchmarks and understanding how your results could be better are vital to continuously improving performance. Testing goes a long way. Whether it’s technology, people, processes or relationships, it can all affect the results your brand can achieve. Ultimately, performance is about correlations as much as understanding causations; map your approach out, understand the levers you can pull and how they will affect the type of performance you are after. Finally, contextual targeting is more audiencecentric and user-focused. It offers us as brands and advertisers the opportunity to deliver better experiences without sacrificing performance. By ALEX LOPES, senior media innovation manager, Socialize

July 18, 2021


TRANSFORM AND GROW Publicis Media’s Taher Jawadwala examines key trends in e-commerce and what they mean for businesses in the coming years By TAHER JAWADWALA Senior manager – consultancy, Publicis Media

‘‘Senior leadership commitment is the most important requirement to succeed in this ever-evolving digital commerce landscape.’’ MARKET SIZE ($BN)


-commerce in the region is projected to grow by a staggering 57 per cent to reach $25bn by 2025. Consumers’ digital adoption was always fuelling this growth, and the pandemic acted as a further catalyst. According to a recent Kearney report the average annual spend per user on e-commerce in KSA and the UAE has jumped by about 30 per cent. Most organisations are betting big on this channel to drive incremental business. However, this needs to be done while keeping a customer-centric mindset and staying updated with the latest trends in this everevolving landscape. Otherwise, the rate of failure is super high – almost 90 per cent of e-commerce businesses fail within the first 120 days. DIGITAL-FIRST MINDSET According to Gartner, 78 per cent of marketers consider digital transformation an essential part of their company’s growth. They say the biggest challenges come from within the organisation. There are two aspects to consider. Firstly, senior leadership commitment is the most important requirement to succeed in this ever-evolving digital commerce landscape. Clear vision and commitment towards excelling in digital commerce needs to cascade from the senior management with the right level of digital upskilling and learning provided to the entire organisation. Secondly, digital consultants who can stitch cross functional expertise are vital. The biggest challenge anticipated by organisations is building a more synergistic relationship across the organisation to better communicate the digital marketing vision. Hence there is a massive requirement for talent that can think and act multidimensionally to translate digital to business goals. DATA IS NO LONGER THE NEW OIL – FIRST-PARTY DATA IS As per Emarketer’s recent CX study, 42 per cent of organisations plan to increase their spending on collection and use of first-party data due to the coming changes to third-party cookies and identifiers. Most marketers are currently focusing on how to capture first-party customer data. We have seen an increase in




















Source: Emarketer 2020 – Statista E-Commerce in MEA 2025

investments behind CRM, SMS initiatives, leverage of offline data, loyalty programmes and customer data platforms, to name a few. However, the key challenge and priority remains to be getting the most out of this data and make strategic and business sense to design the real experiences consumers are seeking rather than just map their behaviours across marketing touchpoints. This is critical to deliver and maximise the return on marketing investment, leading to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. Over 90 per cent of organisations feel they have an opportunity to improve in this respect. CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE ÜBER ALLES Customers’ paths to purchase are no longer linear, and neither are their expectations of communications across channels. In 2020, nearly 40 per cent of customers tried new brands or retailers, with almost a third claiming to continue with the newly tried brand or product. Digital commerce is levelling the playing field for most organisations. Hence, today more than ever there is a clear need to deliver relevant and personalised communication to gain higher engagement. Customers today are information-savvy and time-deprived. To grab their attention, we need to reach to them in their own language and world, at the right time, and with the right message. Advances in contextual AI and machine learning martech solutions can help deliver relevant messages to consumers using dynamic signals like location, weather, time of day, etc., helping generate 44 per cent higher click-through-rates on average. The journey to drive incremental business should also be personalised and frictionless. Almost 40 per cent of customers will never visit a digital asset if the experience is not optimised for their channel and needs. On the other hand, according to website creation service, 91 per cent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands providing a personalised shopping experience; stores offering a live chat feature get between eight and 12 times higher revenues; and having more than three frictionless payment options means 39 per cent higher revenues. MEASURE, LEARN AND EVOLVE Marketing attribution is becoming ever more important to marketing success. 56 per cent of marketers believe attribution is important, as it results in improving the efficiency in the sales funnel, and predictions expect these numbers to grow further. Marketers need to keep their testing hats on to deliver the right creatives with the right calls to action to influence the right audiences in the right moment on the right channels supported with seamless personalised journeys to get the most of their marketing investments. This can only be understood by constantly evaluating the most effective consumer path to purchase. To sum it up, consumers on digital have a different mindset, with diverse needs. To reap maximum benefits, marketers need to deliver a seamless personalised experience while being relevant at every stage of the purchase journey, which demands businesses both to commit to transformation and to invest in it.


July 18, 2021


Behavioural marketing and data-driven personalisation must tread a fine line between bespoke and creepy, writes BPN’s Vedrana Jovanovich


ccording to the Harvard Business Review, the four Ps of traditional marketing (price, placement, promotion, and product) needs to be shaken up and contextualised according to the particular needs, wants and circumstances of your customers. Data-first marketing, or data-driven marketing strategy, makes calculated marketing decisions that can optimise campaigns to customer data. Marketers need to use reliable and accurate customer data to identify customer profiles better and enhance customer segmentation by making use of diverse data available, usually using marketing data management platforms. Behavioural marketing is not new. Today’s customers expect experiences that are tailored to their interests. And they are very quick to unfollow the brand if the communication is not relevant and engaging. Changes in data legislation, device tracking and similar, however, have changed the way in which advertisers must focus their behavioural marketing initiatives. Many of the personalisation strategies of the 2015-2020 period were based on cookie-based data and acquired third-party data sets. While these methods enabled anonymous usertargeting at scale, updates to tracking regulations, as well as consumers’ general annoyance at being advertised to directly by brands they have not heard of, are changing these strategies. Today, data-driven personalisation efforts must extend beyond top-of-funnel ad targeting to include contextual customer experiences throughout the entire customer lifecycle, delivered across channels. To successfully deliver these contextual experiences to customers, it’s important to be able to access first-party customer data and activate it in real time. An important subject of personalisation that is not talked about enough in this region is dynamic landing pages. The idea is that, instead of arriving on a blanket landing page, a dynamic landing page would essentially be customised to highlight content more relevant to a user. When executed well, these pages have the potential to increase conversion rates. They speak directly to each individual’s specific needs, but also give them a reason to stay on your site and take the desired action. If 500 different people go to, they each find a different version of the home page. How come? It’s personalised. As we know, Amazon does things well. Content personalisation makes money as higher relevancy leads to higher revenue. According to Forrester research, 61 per cent of


consumers said they are unlikely to return to a website that does not provide a satisfactory customer experience. This puts unprecedented pressure on brands to know what consumers want and to be able to deliver on those desires in effective ways, and in real time. A dynamic landing page is one way of answering that. With behavioural targeting we need to look at several different sources of data: Website engagement: What are people looking at and clicking on your site? Campaign engagement: How are users engaging and interacting with your ads? Purchase behaviour: What items did someone purchase or add to their cart? App engagement: What actions have people taken (or not taken) in your app?

This is where a customer data platform (CDP) comes into play. It helps to aggregate and make sense of our customer data through the key five functions: Data collection: The ability to ingest first-party, individual-level customer data from multiple sources via application programming interface (API) connections and softwar development kits (SDKs), and store that data in a usable format. Data governance: The ability to granularly enforce which events gets passed on to each system, and process data subject requests . Data quality protection and profile unification: The ability to monitor data accuracy and deduplication, and to unify events and attributes to profiles at the individual level. Segmentation: It enables business users to build and manage audience segments. Activation: The ability to send audience segments to external tools and systems. By ingesting data from across channels into one system, using it to build audience segments and activating it across downstream tools, CDPs have become the critical piece of growth that make it possible to deliver behavioural marketing initiatives at scale. They also, most importantly, make it easy for business teams to access the data. Recently, we have seen more and more brands and businesses that integrate the request for CDP in their media agencies’ briefs. This is a very exciting time for all agencies that get to work on these types of clients. It allows data activation across media channels in a unified way, backed up by personally identifiable information from different marketing sources. Behavioural marketing and data-driven personalisation are musts for any business. The exciting promise of personalisation may not be here yet (at least not at scale), but it’s not far off. We need to work closely with our client brands to locate the right data. It is everywhere, but we need to make a joint decision on what data will be the most beneficial for data-driven marketing. We also need to learn how to interpret it to get insights – finding relevant information is merely the first step. However, with all the above, we need to keep in mind that there is evidence that using online ‘surveillance’ to sell products can lead to a consumer backlash. With personalised ads, there’s a fine line between creepy and delightful. Brands have to work on a fine balance, making sure they don’t take personalisation too far. By VEDRANA JOVANOVICH, head of digital services, BPN

July 18, 2021


o here we are again: you thought you had mastered the latest trends of our lovely digital industry. You opened your crypto wallet, took the plunge and bought your very first NFT and attended mandatory workshops on quantum computing. But just when you felt you’d grasped all of this, the industry has decided to bring something new to the table that will change the place settings forever: the cookieless era. While cookies are clearly not new – they have been the backbone of the open internet for decades and are now at the heart of most marketing conversations – their absence will be. I’m not a mind reader but I’m guessing that if you are reading this you have probably already been exposed to the sensationalist headlines announcing the ‘end of an era’. While I’m not denying that there are big changes at play, there are some simple steps you can take today to prepare yourself and your business for what is to come. Here is what we know: Across the globe, 91 per cent of consumers are concerned about the amount of data companies can collect about them, and 42 per cent have taken steps to reduce the amount of data they share online. In light of this desire for increased privacy, most technology platforms have recently implemented or announced restrictions around data collection and user tracking through their web browsers and operating systems. You cannot ignore this. It will disrupt organisations across multiple dimensions: data management; user consent; brand engagement with online users; digital marketing tactics. Thankfully, whether you are a solopreneur, an SME or work for a larger multinational organisation, there is a list of actions that you can take to start preparing yourself for the cookieless era. 1. FIRST PARTY DATA AUDIT: DO YOU HAVE FIRST PARTY DATA? (YES/NO/IT’S COMPLICATED) Arguably this is the most valuable and reliable type of data, due to the collection method. Directly from consumers, it often sits across various departments inside organisations, which makes it rather difficult to have a single consistent view of a company’s first-party data.

By JOHN EKAMBI, digital director, Carat UAE

That being said, it is a fantastic ally in the quest of being ready for the cookieless era. Indeed, understanding the path to purchase coupled with customer interaction and user preferences makes it possible to activate predictive modelling and facilitate personalised experiences from advertising to UX. This is what you can do today: Ask what first party data is available within your organisation and where it lives. 2. TECH AUDIT: DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT INFRASTRUCTURE IN PLACE? When auditing and investing to grow the scale of your first-party data, it goes without saying that having the right infrastructure in place is paramount. While reviewing the current state of your tech stack with your media and tech partners, you will want to focus on key

‘‘WHILE I’M NOT DENYING THAT THERE ARE BIG CHANGES AT PLAY, THERE ARE SOME SIMPLE STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TODAY.” points: Is your infrastructure compliant with privacy laws? Can your tech guarantee privacy protection? Will your stack seamlessly connect with adtech vendors without third-party cookies? This is what you can do today: Ask your team and partners if the current tech stack is future proof. 3. REVIEW YOUR DEPENDENCE ON THIRD-PARTY COOKIES Third-party cookies have been the go-to for marketers for many years. As they are starting to phase out, you want to clearly understand where they are currently being used across your various advertising activities. It also makes sense to review all partners using third-party data, those exclusively using first-party and the ones

ARE YOU READY? Carat’s John Ekambi outlines easy steps you can take today to prepare for the cookieless era


who use a mix of various data sources. Finally, review some of the tools that you and your team are using as they could be dependent on third-party cookies. Think of personalisation tools to customise content on-site or in emails. This is what you can do today: Assess where third party cookies are used in your marketing. 4. START TO ESTABLISH SECOND-PARTY DATA PARTNERSHIPS While third party cookies are phasing out, we are staring to observe the growth of second-party data partnerships between overlapping brands and organisations. Leveraging another company’s first-party data can be useful if the respective consumer base shares undeniable similarities. When it comes to entering second-party data partnerships, choosing the right partner is essential. The recommendation is to evaluate the results of the tests conducted with second-party data and compare it with the cookie-based solution it will replace. This will facilitate the decision to move forward and scale or to drop and search for a different partner. This is what you can do today: Start listing your potential second-party data partners. 5. START TESTING NOW AND GET A HEAD START Although Google has recently decided to push back the phasing out of third-party cookies in Chrome to 2023, it is absolutely in your best interest to start having those cookieless conversations with the right stakeholders today. Tech players such as Apple have privacy features being rolled out as part of iOS 15, which should be available to users in the autumn of 2021. They are moving forward with their own timelines and agendas on privacy. It is important to work closely with your data, tech and agency partners to start rolling out tests and alternatives to third-party cookies. This will allow you to stay a step ahead and know what works and what doesn’t for your brand. This is what you can do today: Have a third-party-data-cookieless exploratory session with your agency partners. In this ever-evolving digital industry, embracing new models and having the right mindset to assess, test and develop your data strategies are vital to future success. The cookieless era will have implications on our ways of working, legal compliance, tech stacks and customer data strategies as well as business models. Will it disrupt business operations? Yes, of course it will. Can you afford to wait until 2023 to act? No, please don’t. Should you start testing alternatives to third party cookies? Yes, you should. My advice: don’t panic. Take the small steps today to get your place settings in order. This will make all the difference when the tables are turned, and when the time comes you will be ready to serve a great meal at the new table.


July 18, 2021


f we have learnt one thing from the last fifteen months of Covid-19, it is that things can change in an instant. This is true of the way we live, the way we work, and the way we shop and buy as consumers. One of the most significant effects is the realisation that, for many of us, geographical location has become less relevant – so long as there is internet. We have seen that, almost overnight, e-commerce strategies have shifted from a perpetual top priority on every retailer’s three-to-five-year plan, to a desperately needed lifeline that could enable them to survive a global pandemic. Investments have been made in logistics capabilities to enable last-mile new business models such as ghost kitchens (restaurants with kitchen equipment and facilities, but without any dining area for walk-in customers), cloud kitchens, dark stores (retail distribution centres that cater exclusively to online shopping), and investments geared toward digital capabilities in AI and blockchain. However, to have good medium- to long-term success, organisations need to address the issue of what consumer experience they must offer. The consumer experience is rapidly evolving from one that’s built upon the transactional process of in-store shopping to one that’s rooted in deep, ongoing and enriching relationships. With initial indicators of what is happening as some countries and cities are slowly experimenting with openingup procedures, retailers must understand the future of experience-led capabilities. E-commerce is a key piece of that future, but it’s not just about being online; it’s about doing it right and continuing to consider how in-person shopping fits into the customer’s overall journey. With start-ups rapidly gaining ground, they too need to understand the concept of consumer experience through the apps created for various services. As more and more start-ups succeed, they need to be prepared for competition to arrive faster than normal. Organisations need to check if their structure is free of silos – which isolate e-commerce, merchandising, store operations, supply chain, credit control and marketing – and if they are interrupting or hindering the experience. Organisations also need to keep reviewing how they can be price-competitive and still maintain margins, and how they can orchestrate the consumer journey seamlessly from digital to physical and back again. The new buzz is that stores should be used as experience zones and fulfilment centres. While this can be a truly effective strategy, it requires systems and business units that communicate with each other to deliver on the promise. As scale-up happens, so must a retailer’s ability to deliver a consistent experience. Even before the coronavirus, rapid mutational changes in business were already disrupting all sectors. Whether it be distribution, supply chain, healthcare, energy, real estate, telecoms or transportation, a lot more has changed in the last five years than in the three decades that came before. The way forward will advance on two fronts.

LEARNING FROM THE PANDEMIC As scale-up happens, so must retailers’ ability to deliver a consistent experience, writes Niranjan Gidwani

First, a significant amount of focus will need to shift away from strategy. With coronavirus, the world is beginning to realise more and more that strategy relies on a model where various key parameters and assumptions are predicted and simulated. And yet, with all intelligent minds putting together all possible assumptions and predictions, some unknowns could be completely missed out. This explains why, globally, the best, most advanced nations have been caught grossly underprepared for this pandemic. A better approach would be to put more emphasis on identifying and building financial, structural and people capabilities as well as competencies suitable to any particular industry segment. Building upon right- and rapidly scalable capabilities would make organisations more robust, agile and

ready for any future situations. Like the coronavirus pandemic, businesses and economies will also face more frequent upheavals and pandemics. Those countries that have a strong, clear vision and have spent time building upon their capabilities are managing to do a better job of handling the pandemic. The same will hold true for businesses and organisations in the future. Secondly, the employees who are closest to the market, or to understanding the pulse of the customer, should be empowered to make better decisions. This in turn makes for a faster response time. However, for this approach to work successfully, higher calibre and better trained people would need to be positioned from bottom to top. More and more, rapidly scalable digitisation would be needed to handle repetitive activities. Yet again, using the coronavirus experience as a case study, those countries that have more empowered, better trained ground personnel, better understanding and implementation of systems and operating procedures and better digitisation have been better equipped to handle the pandemic. In the end, the commitment, ethics and hands-on approach of any leadership team will decide how the end consumer views his or her repeated journeys. For those of us who live in the city of Dubai, the best measurement is to see how the government has evolved its systems and procedures over the last two decades, and how satisfied the majority of its residents are with their daily consumer journeys while interacting with government bodies. Organisations only need to emulate them and build a very strong, clear vision, an absolute hands-on approach of the leadership team, and a sustained, continuous, massive build-up of capabilities and competencies. By NIRANJAN GIDWANI, consultant director and member of UAE Superbrands Council; former CEO, Eros Group Dubai

July 18, 2021


FROM EXHIBITION TO EXPERIENCE GES’s Jo Webber looks at how events are evolving to better serve their customers. She discusses CX, VX, HX and more


s the pandemic raged, the world went into lockdown and the live events sector paused. Businesses around the globe went into pivot mode to reignite their marketing strategies. Pre-Covid exhibitions featured in most face-to-face marketing strategies. When the pandemic made this impossible, we took to the virtual realm for a solution. Virtual experiences (VX) became the pivot response to the freeze on travel and the inability to bring people together. VX is enabled anytime, anywhere and facilitated the continuation of brand experiences. Throughout the pandemic the digital world became the dominant business and customer environment. With people suffering from videoconferencing fatigue, ‘death by PowerPoint’ was not an option and delegates’ expectations were for content. It was ever more important to provide an empowered, ‘curated’ experience. The biggest challenge of VX was quickly finding solutions for usergenerated content. Just as most live events have ‘Insta’ moments or use social media as a driver for registration and networking, so it was necessary to recreate the same for VX. Ensuring the audience actively shares its involvement amplifies the brand and increases the reach exponentially. A key driver of VX is robust data and measurability; from social media reach, cost per acquisition (CPA) of delegates, sales and conversion data linked back to customer relationship management (CRM), to return on engagement, the VX data exhaust is extensive and invaluable for both cost attribution and behavioural insights. WHY ARE BRAND EXPERIENCES IMPORTANT? Positive experiences foster deeper connections. This can be the difference between customer loyalty or loss of business. Empowered engagement has been a key trend for live experiences, and VX is no different. When deployed with a clear objective and significant

content, experiences enhance interaction with the brand, information and even other delegates. As we saw with the bricks vs clicks commerce phenomenon that assesses the success of the physical shopping experience (bricks, in-store) vs the digital (clicks, online), ‘CX’ is focused on the physical customer experience. Corporate experience centres are often built in a company’s headquarters and involve strategic interior design and fit-out layered with interactive content and technologies. CX centres are a great place to host delegates and provide a unique experience to your visitors. Far from being eclipsed by VX, the two channels have proved to be complementary. Our essential need for human interaction has been magnified by the pandemic, and brand marketers are taking full advantage of both platforms. It is not always possible to create an in-house CX centre, or we have situations where the experience is better placed elsewhere, in a strategic location with higher footfall. The response has been to create semipermanent experiences and activations. These are all around us. With the upcoming Dubai Expo, we will have an excellent opportunity to immerse ourselves in an array of experiences – from country pavilions to the three leading thematic experiences of sustainability, opportunity and mobility. Woven throughout Expo will be individual brand experiences. GES is excited to be partnering with one of the sponsors to bring their brand to life. Viswanathan Iyer, Cisco’s vice-president of architectures, recently said: “Experience is the new currency for the digital era,” re-iterating the importance of CX to brands.


HOW TO DO EXPERIENCES WELL Sensory engagement has long been the topic of psychological marketing and is at the forefront of memorable experiences. Uncovering true behavioural insights and measurable data is invaluable to marketers and allows us to produce the most compelling experiences. Technological innovation has empowered us to augment experiences that resonate and promote change. Consistency ensures there is a common identifiable brand experience across every channel. Leaving a lasting impression defines success. SO, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? Just as we saw commerce strategies straddle clicks and bricks, experience strategies are much the same. Hybrid experience (HX) is the buzz word as experiences cross the physical and digital realms – a beautiful convergence of CX and VX. HX enables reach to a wider audience and every HX is unique. HX makes it possible to capitalise on thought leadership, experience-design and content, reimagined for application in both dimensions. Considering the objectives, context and end user will dictate the magic formula to the perfect HX balance. Whether the experience is a CX centre, a semi-permanent activation, VX or HX, the engagement statistics are at an all-time high. The results are significant: increased brand engagement and behavioural change are there for the taking. By JO WEBBER, VP Client Relations, GES


July 18, 2021

ARE YOU S-COMM READY? OMG’s Jessica Usenbor explains how to use social platforms to get started with effective brand commerce strategies


ocial commerce, or ‘s-commerce’, exposes consumers to a large variety of products based on their search queries, social interactions and content preference. In turn, it enables brands to reach their target audience more effectively, creating a mutually beneficial relationship between consumers and brands. According to Emarketer, s-commerce in the US is expected to grow by 34 per cent in 2021, earning $36.62bn this year and making e-commerce strategy even more relevant. Southeast Asia continues to lead in the social commerce space and has shown an overall growth of 116 per cent in social commerce orders in the first half of 2020, surpassing 2019 three times over. As TikTok, Snapchat and Facebook are the top three social platforms in MENA, let’s take a more detailed look into their s-commerce capabilities. TIKTOK Live videos are used by brands and influencers to share product reviews, demos and other brand information. With Live shopping, brands and creators can include affiliate and checkout links to a TikTok Live, allowing the consumer to purchase in real-time. During the Live, you can check out while the live stream is playing in the background, creating an uninterrupted user experience. Shoppers also have the option to access the full list of items featured in a live stream at any time during or after a Live. This feature is currently being tested in other markets. TikTok has also recently partnered with Shopify to further enrich its s-commerce offering. The integration between the two platforms means that brands present on Shopify are now able to

seamlessly extend their reach to TikTok users and use TikTok and Shopify data to create s-commerce strategies, measure and optimise ads across platforms. FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM SHOPS As there is seamless data integration between the two platforms, measurability and targeting capabilities allow for more precise communication and relatable content. The Facebook Shop and brand Instagram profile pages allow brands to create an online storefront that

delivers an end-to-end shopping experience in one place. Consumers can browse catalogues, save products for later, share and immediately buy within the apps or on a brand’s website. Facebook is constantly evolving its s-commerce with features that create a simple yet interactive digital shopping experience for both the brand and consumers. The justreleased Drops feature connects online shoppers to the brands’ latest products and upcoming releases on the Shop tab in the app. Users can sign up for release notifications, save a Drop to their Instagram profile, share a Drop with friends and directly purchase products that they have ‘dropped’ within the app, using the Checkout feature. Facebook has also newly released a Live Shopping feature, a more

‘‘UNDERSTAND THE LOCAL CAPABILITIES OF SOCIAL COMMERCE PLATFORMS IN YOUR MARKET, AS LIMITATIONS WILL EXIST BY REGION.” interactive forum for brands to communicate with their audience. With this release, brands and content creators will be able to link their lives to their Facebook shops and catalogues so consumers can click to learn more or purchase in real-time during the respective live video. In addition, Facebook is testing a new feature allowing brands to connect their loyalty programmes to their Facebook Shops. Facebook s-commerce also includes WhatsApp and Messenger business suite and chatbot

capabilities to mirror, track, and scale customer service. In the future, consumers will be able to purchase directly within these apps. SNAPCHAT Snapchat has just recently entered into the s-commerce space with ‘Brand Profiles’. Currently, in beta, brands can create a Brand Hub within the app to connect their Brand AR Lenses, Brand Highlights and Story posts in one place. The Native Store feature included within Brand Hub exposes Snapchatters to a brand’s in-app storefront, where they can browse and purchase within the app. HELPFUL TIPS FOR BRANDS LOOKING TO GET STARTED ON S-COMMERCE: 1. Set up social store fronts and catalogues within the social platforms of choice. Whether you are driving consumers to your website or to the brand store within the app, you will be able to leverage enriched data from the platforms for use in your shoppable ads or other digital campaigns. 2. Understand local capabilities of social commerce platforms in your market, as limitations will exist by region. Often, new capabilities and features are piloted in more established markets or where the adoption rate is high. 3. Identify the right s-commerce platforms for your brand needs. Evaluate integrations with internal platforms, targeting capabilities and audience reach, etc. This will help you develop a tailored retail and marketing plan, inclusive of digital and organic strategy per platform. 4. When developing your activation plan, it’s important to identify the stage of your brand’s product in the marketing funnel. Based on the objective, different features such as call-to-action and messaging will need to be considered for optimal results. 5. Ensure the user checkout experience is seamless. Content should be created with the checkout process in mind. The first interaction with the brand should be straightforward and engaging, encouraging shoppers to a clear and swift checkout process. 6. As you enter the s-commerce space it’s ideal to invest in and test multiple social platforms as it will open up new audiences, capabilities, proprietary optimisation algorithms and more.

By JESSICA USENBOR, director of product, diversified services and partnerships at Omnicom Media Group MENA

July 18, 2021

GOOD BEHAVIOUR Five Hotels and Resorts’ Ahmad Kheir decodes how to successfully master customer behavioural marketing and form a coherent online marketing vision



he hospitality industry was one of the last adopters of digital and e-commerce strategies, compared with other industries, which has led to a gap in customer satisfaction and expectations. However, the occurrence of Covid-19 was one of the key factors that pushed the industry to adapt, modernise and digitalise its processes and tactics to fit in with the new normal. For many hospitality entities, traditional advertising can feel like a hit-or-miss process. Carefully crafted messages sometimes fall short without a clear reason and potential customers don’t connect with the advertisements in a way that encourages them to engage – and eventually make a purchase. These less desirable results often


result from marketers creating advertisements that fail to address the customers’ particular behavioural interests and desires. The results can also be caused due to the advertisements reaching the wrong audiences altogether. In the age of advanced tracking, random marketing is the dinosaur in the room. Not only do these methods lack effectiveness, but they have led to a massive waste of money and resources over many years till date. If you are an online advertiser, you can use behavioural targeting and the always evolving innovations of data management to target audiences that offer a better conversion rate for your entity. Most of the advertisement platforms, such as Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Snapchat and Twitter, offer a wide range of targeting that can deliver your ad to the right consumer, age, gender, location and interests – all of which are the main pillars of these platforms that were built for these exact purposes and therefore attract advertisers to spend their digital marketing budget on them. How does behavioural targeting work exactly? For now, it’s all about tracking user behaviours online and collecting pieces of data from these behaviours – called cookies – and this process often involves the following few steps: collect cookies; create a user profile; segment; share relevant information with users. In early 2018, Five Hotels and Resorts adopted a full digital-first approach, which helped the company to improve the revenue of brand channels and a drive a noticeable increase in overall revenue. Direct bookings have grown to more than 60 per cent and have increased Five’s brand revenue by an impressive 142 per cent year-on-year, between December 2019 and December 2020. During Covid-19, we had the luxury to rethink all our digital strategies and behavioural targeting, which we have applied. This resulted in Five’s brand website traffic skyrocketing during Covid-19, as we established all of Five’s brand channels (website and social media) as the main competitor for all other travel agents combined. This was achieved by mastering the non-linear customer journey for purchase decision making in our digital distribution blueprint, which involved multi-layered investigation and exploration of customer activity data in order to provide our guests with the information and reassurance they needed to make a final purchase decision. Nevertheless, as digital strategists, we often focus on just one side of the process to the extent that that we ignore the other. This should not be the case while building your digital legacy. Giving appropriate and fair attention to every single digital step – from creating the ad and targeting to choosing the right platform, while focusing on the website user experience and then finally collecting the right data – is the essential key to digital paradise. Having a proper digital-first approach is critical to the success of every campaign, while behavioural advertising can help marketers increase user engagement and visits to the website – all of which ultimately will lead to an increase in the conversion rates of actual customers. Thus, building a digital marketing ecosystem that is agile, distributed and scalable with automated functionality is the number one priority for any company that wants to dominate its industry because it will allow every enterprise to concentrate on and boost its optimally performing channels, campaigns, advertisements and source markets. By AHMAD KHEIR, director of digital and e-commerce, Five Hotels and Resorts


July 18, 2021


There is a right way to increase sales, and it involves finding the correct mix of performance branding, writes UM’s Abdul Basith


marketing funnel takes a potential customer through discovering and purchasing the product, and further nurturing them. Although a high number of multiple digital touchpoints have somewhat flipped the linear flow of the phases, it’s still important to link branding and acquisition to performance. This enables brands to plan and optimise media, whilst remaining accountable to business outcomes The probability of someone buying your product in the first instance is still relatively low. For them to buy products, they need to be convinced, and for this trust needs to be built. Let’s compare two scenarios. In the first, you find a leaflet outside your apartment with a 30 per cent discount on car servicing from a station you have never heard of. In the second, you see a lamp post near your apartment communicating there is a new car servicing station; after a

couple of days, you come across an ad for the same station on the building notice board, mentioning the proximity and well-trained staff; and then the leaflet finds you. It is very clear which approach will work on building a long-term relationship. The second approach will help the customers to know you well, and multiple touchpoints will help in building consistent value over time. This is what a marketing funnel does; it takes the customer from the first point of contact (lamp posts) and through different phases to build a relationship. We have moved from a business-asusual scenario when it comes to media planning – bulk TV buys in top channels and a large hoarding in Sheikh Zayed Road for a launch campaign – to identifying costeffective ways to reach our target audience, due to the pandemic. The situation doesn’t look like going away overnight and the only way brands can survive is by adapting quickly during this time. The need to adapt has resulted in a paradigm shift towards performance marketing – a quick way to generate sales and immediate gratification. This is mainly due to hyper-focus on ROI and on achieving aggressive short-term goals Growing share in lower-funnel investment, bolstered by strong machine learning on digital platforms, worked very well and these quick wins assisted in showing a better ROI in tough times. Targeted marketing, direct impact measurement and real-time optimisation are driving up conversion and purchases. However, what we are seeing is this has had an adverse effect on media share in the mid and upper funnel. While direct response campaigns are more effective in activating immediate results, they also tend to be more expensive. Therefore, incorporating upper-funnel strategies can help increase marketing efficiency when looking to boost sales on a longer term. Also, there have been studies showing brand messaging was more effective in driving short-term sales with one target audience and tactical

messaging for another – for instance, a broad messaging can bring in a high response rate from older people compared with strong tactical offers for a 20-30 age group. Interestingly, a lot of start-ups and direct-to-consumer brands are operating in an inverted funnel, starting at purchases and moving up. We have seen this on Instagram where the start-up e-tailers are directly going for promotional offers in their first connect with the users. This is understandable as start-ups usually have a short time to show the volume of users for investment purposes. The priority here is on basic metric-driven efforts and then

‘‘A LOT OF STARTUPS AND DTC BRANDS ARE OPERATING IN AN INVERTED FUNNEL, STARTING AT PURCHASES AND MOVING UP.” layering branding efforts at a later stage. However, this is untenable long-term for established brands. Brand marketing transcends the product and provides the connection. This connection will make it easier to drive a response from the user, which is the objective of a performancemarketing campaign. Brand building develops equity down the funnel and lasts beyond the campaign – it makes it easier for brands to sell. The shift to performance marketing has brought new challenges and expectations for branding. For example, brands are looking to analyse awareness like a direct response campaign, which is not ideal, influencing users with two or three sessions. However, certain proxy data points will provide direction in measuring if we are on the right path. Moreover, we need to ensure we are

applying a similar data-driven approach to branding and to reaching the intended audience. This approach also takes an undue burden off the lower funnel, which is expected to carry business performance in unfavourable conditions. Placing all their eggs in one acquisition basket will expose brands to greater risk should their lower funnel activations underperform in the future. As consumer behaviour evolves, the line between brand and performance marketing is blurring. Advances in measurement and attribution also make it harder to define where branding ends and performance begins. For example, it’s challenging to say which touchpoints play a role in conversion. Now we track viewthrough attribution, in which the impressions are tracked, not just clicks. If a user fills a lead form two days after seeing the ad and clicks on a search ad, will that be a win for branding or performance? It’s hard to understand the exact reason, but it is increasingly easy to measure. Thus, the massive improvements in data-tracking technologies have made it feasible to measure branding metrics – similar to rigorous performance campaigns. As a result of this, the advertising budget can be managed as a true investment, rather than as a sunk cost. Benefits include the ability to compare spend impact across media, analyse brand impact across a consumer’s entire decision journey, allocate in-campaign resources more effectively, and tailor content. This data-driven perspective on marketing performance allows both to develop more thoughtful and aligned strategies for marketing spend. Data points to gauge short term-branding performances should allude to a KPI framework. They include: platform brand lift studies; weekly research trackers; ad incrementality testing on channels; direct visits to websites; organic search volume; and social listening. To drive business outcomes, brands must be there for people at all stages, creating relationships throughout the journey. Brand is an asset that constantly requires investment to evolve and grow. This should be continually quantified and measured so brand investment remains a priority. There should be a strong balance between converting users who are already on a lower funnel and developing new audiences. It is vital to look at the full picture rather than choose this-or-that terms. By applying a performance lens to all media and content, brands can build consideration and streamline conversion processes. If performance is the only focus, sales will go down as soon as the campaigns are turned off By ABDUL BASITH, associate digital director at UM


Use digital media targeting to show some interest in your customers’ interests, writes Netizency’s Fadi Khater. You might be surprised by the results

July 18, 2021


he beauty of digital marketing is its ability to specifically target different groups of people. This allows you to always be relevant and on-point, should you choose to use this superpower. Yet the opportunity to use this superpower seems often to be squandered by lazy advertisers, for lack of a better word. They would rather just create one ad or a post targeting everyone, versus creating 20 unique versions to target 20 unique audiences. But this pay-and-spray approach is riddled with pitfalls. People are becoming very choosy, and brands are trying very hard to accommodate them. People can now build their own anything from a Starbucks coffee to a credit card, poke bowl, car, frozen yoghurt, laptop, burger… They can even design their own villa a la carte at Damac Hills. So why aren’t advertisers customising their ads to match different interests and behaviours? Why are they still making one-size-fits-all social media posts and promoting them to everyone between 18 and 50 in KSA? Why have so many brands shifted their spend from traditional to digital, only to use digital media in the same way they used OOH? There are undoubtedly many exceptions, but this still applies to most brands. There are two extremes of how you can spend your monthly content and production budget on digital or social media: You can create one new post every day and have each post promoted to everyone; or you can create one social media post with 30 variations so that it is customised to different audiences. Most brands are closer to the first option. But in my experience, and based on a wealth of data, option two is far more likely to pay off. You are talking to people in their own language, giving them content that resonates with their context, and ultimately making them feel like you care about connecting directly with them. We have done a lot of A/B testing, and time and time again we’ve found that customised content performs better. We once achieved a 20 per cent higher conversion rate when we showed our telco ad in an iPhone to iOS users and in a Samsung to Android users, versus a generic, unrecognisable phone. In another instance, we achieved a 200 per cent higher conversion rate when we promoted a streaming service to a niche audience who were interested in a specific show, as opposed to promoting the wide range of shows that it offers. Here are just some examples of specific targeting groups that you can customise content for, and once you do that you will notice the difference in people’s reactions to your advertising: 1. You can target IT decision makers who work in real estate companies on LinkedIn. 2. You can target people who have an upcoming birthday in one week on Facebook. 3. You can target people similar to the followers of a specific handle on Twitter. 4. You can target people who clicked on “Shop


Now” in the past week on Instagram. 5. You can target people searching for a specific product, topic or activity on Google. In many of the above cases, the targeting can be a significant part of the message; by telling IT decision makers that you can help them make the best IT decisions for the highest ROI in the real estate industry. Or you can tell people to pamper themselves with your product for their upcoming birthday. Other platform-targeting capabilities include: CUSTOM AUDIENCES: This is a custom list that can be a database of users that you have, or people who visited your website. It can also be people who engaged with a specific post, people who bought a product, or people who left products in their cart without checking out. LOOK-ALIKES: These are people who are similar to your custom audience. Social platforms can identify people similar to a specific list based on their online behaviour. BEHAVIOUR TARGETING: This is based on a specific behaviour like buying online, frequent travel, recently promoted, recently married, etc. SUPER AUDIENCES: This feature identifies the right audience from their unique characteristics by digging into a social platform’s historical archive. Asics used Super Audiences to identify users most likely to buy new running shoes by creating a custom algorithm to analyse public Twitter data, including such characteristics as marathon runners or those who had recently followed specific athletic brands. The traditional advertising rule has been to spend 20 per cent of your budget on production and 80 per cent on media. Re-emphasising an article, “It’s time to rethink the 80:20 split of production versus media”, in this magazine back in 2016, this needs to change, as the quality of social content is likely to have its own inherent media value, because people are more likely to share it. Allocating more from your media budget towards production for the purpose of contextualising content to different users is likely to generate a much bigger bang for your media buck. Here’s a roughly seventhgrade-level mathematical way to illustrate this: If you have a $80 media budget, a $1 cost per click, and a conversion rate of 5 per cent, you will get four customers. However, if you use $30 from your media budget to create contextual ads for different audiences, and switch your media spend to niche targeting, you are likely to increase your conversion rate to 10 per cent, and this will allow you to get five customers from a media spend of $50. As a final note, I would like to invite you to try customising your content to very specific target audiences and look at the difference for yourself. It can be as simple as mentioning the district they live in, or as complex as identifying at what point in the customer journey they dropped off. By FADI KHATER, founder and managing partner at Netizency


July 18, 2021

investments. According to the CMO Council, the C-suite believe they have leadership gaps in the amount of modern tech employed and used, as well as in the use of data to better understand customers and make better-informed decisions. The martech landscape continued its strong growth against last year, with customer experience, data and governance being the fastest growing categories. Testament to the fast growth, one in five companies listed were new entrants. So, what does it take to be successful and why is data central? We are emotional creatures that make emotional choices, no matter how much we may post-rationalise our decisions. There have been plenty of studies conducted on how emotions drive our choices. To

build PII (personally identifiable information) audience data through user registrations and seek ways to enrich that. Customer data platforms (CDPs) are powerful marketing tech to collect, centralise and activate first-party audience data. A CDP collects first-party data from your website, CRM and any system that holds customer data, creating real-time unified and persistent IDs of each customer. These audience profiles are further enriched with information from how they have interacted with your business. The CDP then allows you to leverage those audience segments by activating them on different channels, such as paid media, email marketing or dynamically offering a more personalised web experience in real-time.


A customer experience strategy that doesn’t leverage firstparty data will severely limit your ability to execute it, writes Reprise’s Alan Azar


ompanies continue to focus on and invest in customer experience (CX), and it is no surprise why. Companies identified as CX leaders generate an average three-times greater return in stock performance. In another survey, almost all executives agreed that an unimproved CX exposes considerable risk in losing market share and revenue. While customers already had an extensive choice and more access to brands than ever before, the pandemic forcefully accelerated digital adoption with a boom in e-commerce and in many cases permanently changed the shopping journey and how users interact with brands. On top of the complications of trying to provide the great customer experience expected of companies, there is an increasing number of channels of discovery, purchase and service which those companies may or may not own. This makes it harder for companies to maintain a consistent implementation of their customer experience strategy across the entire user journey. A good product or service alone is simply not a good enough reason to expect customer loyalty. In a recent study by Forbes, 75 per cent of customers said they are likely to buy on experience alone and consider their experience just as important as the quality of products and services they are purchasing. Complementary to this, research also indicates customers are likely to pay a 16-17 per cent price premium for brands that consistently provide great experiences. In the GCC region, customer experience has been identified as a top priority, as agreed by 96 per cent of the region’s IT decision-makers in a YouGov study, with 80 per cent ranking customer experience as a high priority for martech

address the emotional side, we need to personalise and be relevant in our communication. To do so, we need to know and understand our customers and make their journey as frictionless as possible. This starts with having a first-party data strategy and the right data and analytics infrastructure in place to be able to inform and act on our audiences. Businesses should at a minimum look at how they can strengthen their first-party data position, such as with data already collected through their web and app analytics. Organised correctly, this data can inform on what your audiences are interested in the most, what topics are providing the best conversions, as well as any friction points that need to be dealt with. Ideally, businesses should further


The recent rise of CDPs has largely been aided by new regulations in data privacy, as well as the continued depreciation of third-party cookies and device tracking. Both of these have resulted in the loss of data and insight, making it apparent to advertisers that they need to own and be in control of their customer data while they slowly lose third-party data. CDP adoption is expected to increase globally by four times, to top $10bn in 2025, with the MENA region playing catch-up at 4.7 times by 2025 to almost $1bn. While CDPs are typically linked to marketing teams, every customer-facing department, such as sales or customer service, can access and benefit from centralised and enriched customer profiles to get a better understanding of their customers and offer a seamless experience no matter what channel they interact with. Centralising and unifying customer profiles creates a collective asset that greatly improves the agility of a business beyond its marketing. In conclusion, developing and implementing an effective customer experience strategy is challenging enough considering the changing landscape. Businesses should take control of their valuable data by using a CDP to centralise and unify it for all customer-facing departments to harness the full potential of that data for a more effective, better informed and optimised customer experience strategy. Ensure you’re making the most out of data you already own, centralise it for better access, and organise it to generate meaningful insights to ultimately leverage those audience profiles to better attract and engage with your customers. By ALAN AZAR, regional director, marketing tech & analytics, Reprise Digital

July 18, 2021



e are a marketing agency that focuses predominantly on outdoor media as well as niche media within Dubai. We represent the media assets of Topgolf Dubai, The Capital Club DIFC and major golf courses in Dubai. Our idea has always been to give clients a solution that can increase their customer engagement using traditional mediums that can easily be shared on digital platforms. Given how the world is moving, it would be naïve to say that traditional media will not be phased out. I feel traditional assets that are more ‘connectable’ and measurable will continue to grow as they reach out to a mass audience and have the guarantee of repetition, while the ones that cannot will simply become obsolete. One of the campaigns we ran was for local bottled water brand Mai Dubai, where we branded the Topgolf Dubai outfield and

wants out of an execution. Is it to gain equity or to have a sale on-site? We execute the activity depending on the result needed. Brands can use these activities in various ways. We have an ongoing deal with watch brand Hublot, where they have taken over the naming rights for the chairman suite at Topgolf as well as multiple placements throughout the venue. Hublot is a mammoth of a luxury lifestyle brand and I doubt there is anyone who doesn’t recognise it, but the brand believes in the idea and the venue. It gives them an audience with their target demographic. Branding like this is all about creating an experience. Given the fact that there have been very few such branding opportunities, it is important that the clients experience the venue to see if it fits their target audience in a long-term partnership.


As well as traditional OOH, Footprint Outdoor Advertising places client branding throughout venues – from named suites to signs visible from space. Kashif Merchant explains what it takes to go all-in

ran a competition asking people to share a selfie with it. Within a span of four weeks we had thousands of pictures being posted, which gives the brand the equity it’s looking for. Furthermore, Mai Dubai was the first brand to do such an activity and its branding is visible from the Google Maps satellite as well. Moving forward, we are even implementing software that will be able to geo-fence our assets and target customers with ads for clients who are active on those outdoor sites or in the venues. For our venue advertising we like to see what target audience the asset relates to. Topgolf is by-far the best medium to use to reach a mass market with great spending capacity, while Capital Club and the golf courses target the crème of the crowd. Once we have the audience well defined, we sit with clients and their agencies to come up with ideas, whih might be out-of-the-box or might be tried-and-tested campaigns. It is also important for us to know what a brand

We also apply our own filters to the brands that work with us. We have been fortunate enough that we have got brands that are willing to spend with us and not only believe in the venues but also in our judgment, where they know we will not propose a sponsorship to them that will not benefit the brand. Likewise, the brands that are on-board with us add tremendous value to the venues as well, where customers who associate with these brands are more likely to have repeat visits. Given the fact that every client and agency needs results that are measurable, we will start implementing software and models that provide just that. We have already started implementing this on our outdoor assets, where we can target passers by with ads on their mobile devices, so it does connect online to offline and meets our client needs. By KASHIF MERCHANT, managing partner, Footprint Outdoor Advertising



July 18, 2021

single search for cereal typed into Carrefour’s website yields 220 results. Cereals range from fitness cereals to kids’ cereals, fiber cereals, family cereals and more. You can filter the result by brand, price, net weight and even country of origin. A search result online for the hashtag ‘#cereal’ yields even more results (2.1 million posts on the last count). For consumers, how many choices is too many? The answer evidently isn’t 220plus types of cereal. For marketers, this question becomes even more convoluted as the marketplace becomes more crowded. In a digital-first environment, it isn’t enough to get customers to become aware of your product. Awareness can come in the form of targeted media ads. The path to purchase really begins at the consideration stage. What better way to get your customer to consider your product’s many benefits than sampling? The customer gets to experience the product first-hand, deciding almost immediately if this is the cereal that is meant to be. It is an age-old practice, yielding almost instant results. A 2018 study shows that sampling exercises have a proven track record of sales uplifts of more than 250 per cent. It enhances the shopping experience and customers are most likely to purchase a full-size product after trying it. For marketers, too, it’s almost like watching product feedback in real-time; a Mad Men – like viewing party with a one-way mirror. Sampling, as we know, works. The question remains if it still works in a constantly evolving landscape. Traditional sampling practices (that is, in-store) are not nearly as effective as they were three years ago. Targeted media buying, where customer


Rohaid Stanley is co-founder of Tryloka. He explains how the ‘smart-sampling’ platform meets the challenges faced by in-store testers


demographics are available to make informed decisions, seem to be a better investment than in-store sampling. Hyper segmentation, or, at the very least, segmentation, has become increasingly important in a crowded marketplace. Wasted samples due to untargeted distribution and a lack of guaranteed sales have recently made marketers cautious, if not deterred them altogether from sampling practices. The pandemic has added another layer of challenge to an already flailing practice as safety and hygiene become paramount. Sampling is also no longer restricted to the price-conscious consumer. In the age of unprecedented times, price-conscious and quality-conscious consumers both want to make careful choices. Digital media spend has performed better, with its ability to laser focus on the ideal consumer base. It is also where customers now spend most of their time. An active Instagram account has given brands access to something that was previously more challenging (and expensive) to attain: a seat in the conversation among their high-value consumers. However, is the experience truly satiating without the customer actually being able to try the product physically? By combining the merits of both, a smarter sampling solution could provide two key things: an enhanced product experience that allows customers to swiftly move past awareness straight into consideration, and a measurable, actionable way to make your data work for you. It can also provide a bridge between you and the customer to foster a long-term relationship, converting them into brand loyalists (dare we say, evangelists too?). That’s why we set up the smart sampling, direct-toconsumer website Consumer packaged goods marketers can hyper-target, deliver and measure sampling campaigns more effectively. They reach consumers digitally, getting real-time campaign results and impartial consumer feedback. The AI-based platform removes all ambiguity from sampling practices, allowing you to segment by demographics, psychographics, lifestyle and interests. A growing community of more than 5,000 users across the UAE are matched only to product samples that they will use and provide feedback on. They claim the samples that interest them, and these are delivered to their door. For users, the platform is free, allowing for an unbiased ratings and reviews system. So far, since June, we’ve accumulated close to 35,000 answers from 85 nationalities, allowing brands to better understand consumer profiles, buying decisions, trends and feedback for sampled products. Reporting in a measurable, digestible format has allowed brands to peer into tangible insights. It is not enough to simply make sampling an essential cog in your marketing wheel. It is now essential to make it smart. By ROHAID STANLEY, co-founder of Tryloka

July 18, 2021


From slow tourism to workcations, travel is changing. But it’s coming back nonetheless, writes DMS’s Eddy El Abyad



ravel and tourism have been two of the most affected industries during the past year, with the whole world being placed on hold. This turbulent period will forever go down in history, and despite how unsettling it has all been, blue skies are anticipated ahead. We will, however, need to learn to navigate differently, given that travel will not be the same as it used to be, which is not necessarily a bad thing (the Earth has a chance to breathe). Nevertheless, understanding the future of travel has never been more important. After the prolonged confinement, according to the latest survey of the United Nations World Trade Organisation (UNWTO) Tourism Recovery Tracker,

we are seeing a 24 per cent increase in positive sentiments towards travel. People are craving that sense of adventure, along with widely open travel spots where they can escape to, enjoy being active, and soak in some fresh air without feeling restrained. Such destinations will definitely be in high demand and travellers have already started planning their trips, as highlighted in the latest research done by Sojern (An increase of 70 per cent in searches when it comes to hotels, and 61 per cent for airlines). People will obviously be more cautious about how they travel by carefully selecting hotels and travel companies that offer flexibility and safety first. Their choices will also primarily be based on reviews and word-of-mouth. With this said, it is


paramount for advertisers to be specific in their messaging and reassure consumers about the Covid-19 precautions they have in place, along with reiterating to all travellers that their bookings will be protected in case any new restriction crop up at the last minute. Travellers will also be seeking reassurances from governments about their safety and the flexibility of travel arrangements. Authorities, as well as tourism boards, have already made some progress and have started adapting to changing habits and preferences to inspire potential travellers and remind them why they love travelling so much. Tourism boards will need to leverage this approach and push communications about their vaccination rates, rapid testing protocols in airports and the availability of testing facilities across the country, which will ultimately help boost confidence and tourism throughout the year. The UAE has already set the tone and proven to be a great leader when it comes to taking measured precautions against the pandemic. It has moved to the top of the global rankings for vaccination rates (70 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated, as stated by the government body responsible), which explains its high influx of tourists. On a different note, a more meaningful shift, whereby people are opting to fly to a single location (instead of taking trips to multiple locations for Instagram likes) is taking shape. Given that people have been at home for so long, the journey will be as important as the destination and travellers will be looking to enjoy new cultures, landscapes, activities and cuisines as well as finding ways to reconnect with nature. Research studies about such topics and content are also on the rise (a trend which has been noted across our trusted publishers). Travel-related videos and articles, promoting such tailored, wellness-focused experiences will be key for advertisers, while offering travellers greater reassurances about flexible cancellation policies. The pandemic also forced people to slow down a little and not rush through life. This has brought about a rise in ‘slow travel’, which encourages people to really enjoy open-air and nature-based tourism activities and was foreseen by the UNWTO panel of experts. In addition, we now live in a world where multitudes of digital nomads are working remotely, which will lead to a surge in ‘workcations’ – periods when travellers will be combining work commitments with their vacations. No one is in a hurry to return to the fast-paced office environment and people now want to take their time and enjoy local experiences. Within this context, it is very important for hotels to meet their clients’ expectations by promoting flexible booking extensions and adapt to this new travel trend. All in all, while this pandemic has had detrimental effects on the global economy, there are thankfully blue skies on the horizon. Travel has already picked up, as people have started preparing for their holidays. Adara Traveler Tracker found the volume of flights booked has increased by 200 per cent over the last two months, while hotel bookings have shot up by 250 per cent. Despite the previous turbulence, travellers are now opting to play it smarter about their traveling ways and will be looking for low-risk travel destinations with an easy-return guarantee and lots of flexibility, which hotels and tourism boards have already started working on. Let’s fasten our seatbelts, shall we? By EDDY EL ABYAD, industry director, travel tourism, DMS

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July 18, 2021

M AT T E R OF FAC T By Cicero & Bernay Public Relations


MATTER OF FACT News, views & trends from across the spectrum


AUTOMATED PROGRESS In an era defined by personalisation, we have become accustomed to and reliant on content and products that are tailored to our preferences. The premise from an end-user perspective is relatively simple: the more we engaged with a subject or genre of content, the more of it we were served. As our consumption of online media increased so did the amount of time data analysts and miners invested in perfecting the algorithms to produce as customised an experience as possible.

Among the many tactics that were developed over the years, very few have enjoyed the prominence and impact of programmatic — a portmanteau of programme and automatic — on the communication field. Since its inception in 1990, the process advanced positively to affect cost effectiveness and relevancy in a hyperpersonalised world. The days of bulk-sharing content have been reduced drastically due to shy budgets, changes in consumer behaviour and a more conversion-driven sentiment that led to an increase in the shelf life of content to ensure business results.

$129.1 billion


Global programmatic spend

Programmatic share in digital display spend worldwide



Average global share of brands who moved programmatic spend in-house

Global share of marketers not using third-party data


Zomato B'day Month




Influencers demodified


Keep scrolling

A new law in Norway is requiring social media influencers to declare when a post of theirs is modified in an effort to "reduce body pressure" among young people. The reception has alternated between complete embrace of the new law to expressions of gratitude accompanied with requests for even stricter measures.

Zomato is no stranger to innovative campaigns. Recently, the brand sent out an emailer resembling a leaked WhatsApp conversation between its team that was relevant and very much in touch with the digital zeitgeist. It communicated upcoming savings in a brilliant manner that had the internet in unanimous ovation.

As part of a project titled ‘The Flemish Scrollers,’ Belgian artist Dries Depoorter used a tracking phone to film political debates using AI to determine whether or not politicians are actually paying attention to ongoing proceedings. The result? Most of them were distracted by their phones and were not even feigning interest in the proceedings.


july 18, 2021





YouTube Shorts arrives in region Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at MediaCom

t is not a secret that I believe that diversity drives business growth. It is also crucial to creativity, and truly creative people, whoever they are, synthesise different voices to create powerful new work and ideas. In 1963 Mike Nichols (who subsequently went on to direct and win an Oscar for The Graduate, a movie that is more interesting, by the way, from the point of view of Mrs Robinson than the other characters) was just about to embark on directing for the first time (he had been a comedy performer until then). His first play, which he delivered in just five days, was Barefoot in the Park, written by Neil Simon and starring Robert Redford in one of his breakthrough roles (Redford also starred in the later movie version). Speaking on the Sky documentary Becoming Mike Nichols, the director talked about the process of creating the play, which included a lot of rewrites and improv – his preferred way of working. New job, lots to prove, five-day turnaround, script unfinished. Quite a challenge. Nichols said that the play was funny, but didn’t have an ending, and though he and Simon wracked their brains, they couldn’t find a good third act. The breakthrough came from an older friend of Nichols who watched a rehearsal. The writer Lillian Hellman commented on one scene saying that she had a much better idea for it. She thought that the mother-in-law of the lead character played by Redford might sneak off for a fling with the rakish elderly gentleman who lived upstairs. This in fact wasn’t the plot, but as Nichols considered it, this actually was the twist that the play needed – the action that allowed the resolution of the stormy new marriage of the main plot. Nichols, as a younger man, closer in age to the young married couple who are the protagonists of the play, couldn’t imagine the mother-in-law (in her 50s) having illicit relations with the man upstairs. As he reminisced about it, he sounded somewhat shocked even in retrospect. What was clear was that without Hellman, a women in her late 50s, the 30-something men who were writing and directing would neither have considered, nor felt permission, to add this charming twist to the plot. Nichols and Simon, two men in their 30s, were stumped creatively and saved by listening to the voice of a woman who, because of her age, would be fairly invisible in traditional creative departments. As MediaCom’s global chief executive of creative systems Stef Calcraft writes: “Here’s to the creative ones, and that can be all of us.” If it isn’t all of us, really all of us, in our full differences in every respect (including age), there just won’t be as much creativity.

Nichols, as a younger man, couldn’t imagine the mother-in-law (in her 50s) having illicit relations with the man upstairs.

Motivate Media Group Head Office: 34th Floor, Media One Tower, Dubai Media City, Dubai, UAE. Tel: +971 4 427 3000, Email: Dubai Media City: SD 2-94, 2nd Floor, Building 2, Dubai, UAE. Tel: +971 4 390 3550, Fax: +971 4 390 4845 Abu Dhabi: Motivate Advertising, Marketing & Publishing, PO Box 43072, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Tel: +971 2 677 2005, Fax: +971 2 677 0124, Email: London: Motivate Publishing Ltd, Acre House, 11/15 William Road, London NW1 3ER. EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief Obaid Humaid Al Tayer Managing Partner and Group Editor Ian Fairservice Senior Editor Austyn Allison Junior Reporter Sofia Serrano DESIGN Art Director Clarkwin Cruz Junior Designer Thokchom Remy ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES Tel: +971 4 427 3000 Chief Commercial Officer Anthony Milne Publisher Nadeem Ahmed Quraishi (+971 50 6453365) PRODUCTION General Manager S. Sunil Kumar Assistant Production Manager Binu Purandaran HAYMARKET MEDIA GROUP Chairman Kevin Costello Managing Director Jane Macken

The publishers regret that they cannot accept liability for error or omissions contained in this publication, however caused. The opinions and views contained in this publication are not necessarily those of the publishers. Readers are advised to seek specialist advice before acting on information contained in this publication which is provided for general use and may not be appropriate for the readers’ particular circumstances. The ownership of trademarks is acknowledged. No part of this publication or any part of the contents thereof may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without the permission of the publishers in writing. An exemption is hereby granted for extracts used for the purpose of fair review. Campaign Middle East includes material reproduced from the UK Edition (and other editions) of Campaign, which is the copyright of Haymarket. Campaign is a trademark of Haymarket and is used under licence. The views and opinions expressed within this magazine are not necessarily those of Haymarket Magazines Limited or those of its contributors.

People in MENA will be able to enjoy YouTube’s new shortform video experience to create short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones. YouTube announced the arrival of the beta version of YouTube Shorts, the company’s new short-form video experience. First announcing it in September 2020, YouTube has since expanded Shorts to 26 countries and it will now be available across more than 100. While short-form videos were already viewable on the platform, people will now be able to access Shorts’ creation tools, which include a multisegment camera to string multiple video clips together, the ability to record with music, control speed settings and more. Other features will include: adding text to specific points in a video; automatically adding captions; recording up to 60 seconds with the Shorts camera; adding clips from a phone’s gallery to recordings made with the Shorts camera; adding basic filters to colour-correct Shorts. More effects will be coming later. The new features also include the ability to sample audio from other Shorts and also from videos all across YouTube. YouTube said: “This means that users can give their own creative spin on the content they love to watch on YouTube and help find a new audience – whether it’s reacting to their favourite jokes, trying their hand at a creator’s latest recipe, or re-enacting comedic skits. Creators will be in control and will be able to opt out if they don’t want their long-form video remixed.” “We want to make it easy and fun to create Shorts,” said Todd Sherman, global product manager for YouTube Shorts. “As we continue to build Shorts alongside our creators and artists, we’ll be adding more features for users to try.” When it comes to music, artists and creators will have a large library of songs to use in their Shorts from multiple labels and publishers – including Mazzika, Watary, and AlFan in the region, as well as international music labels and publishing companies.

July 18, 2021


Past masters, modern mastery


n the last two webinars we have hosted we’ve had panels where creatives join me to discuss past ads. And it’s brilliant. We are still tweaking the exact formula, but the basics are: each creative has to pick one ad they think is great, and one they feel is overrated, and then we argue about what worked and what didn’t. It’s engaging (I’ve had some great guests), it’s entertaining (some of the ads are brilliant) and it’s educational (I always learn a lot from hearing smart people talk about creative work). It’s also been popular with our audiences, with attendees messaging their agreement and disagreement afterwards. Partly because I’ve been drawn to the rabbit hole of classic ads, and partly because it’s another Covid summer in Dubai, I’ve begun re-watching Mad Men. It’s just as good a second time around and I still maintain it should be required viewing for anyone in the advertising industry. I’m episodes in, the show has already made reference to Lucky Strike’s “It’s Toasted” and “VW’s “Lemon”, and it’s only getting started. If you are on a glory-days kick I’d also recommend finding The Men from the Agency on YouTube. It’s a riveting documentary about London agency Colett Dickenson Pierce and the people who worked there – including David Puttnam, Charles Saatchi and Alan Parker. Then read Get Smashed, also about advertising in London from the 1960s to 1980s. And for more American ad history, Mad Men takes a lot of its cues from the book From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor. I recently read a full-on rant by advertising commentator Andy Owen (aka Copycat) who lamented the lack of historical knowledge in our industry. He complained that while every fashion designer knows Coco Chanel, and the most junior architect could tell you about Frank Lloyd Wright, saying “John Webster” to a copywriter today will likely be met with a blank stare. (Webster was creative director of Boase Massimi Pollitt; his Smash Martians for Cadbury’s gave one of the books above its title).

To some extent this is a proper oldman complaint, and the fact that I can empathise with it says more about me getting grumpier as I age than about the state of the industry. Also, unlike designers and architects, ad people are meant to operate behind the scenes. But it’s also true that it helps us all to have a grasp of where we came from. For this issue I’ve spoken to two veterans of the industry – Barry Kirsch and Ramsey Naja. In both cases we Editor talked about the past (Kirsch’s time in London, Naja’s creative reign at JWT) and also about how new technology @maustyn and new media are changing the industry. In part of my conversation with Naja that didn’t make it to the article on page 6 about his new role at DDB, he spoke about “GMOOT syndrome” where marketing managers demand their agencies “get me one of those”, referring to whatever the latest technology is – a TV ad in the 50s, a website in the 90s, a Twitter account in the 2010s. Of course, all those things have a vital role in marketing today. The best in the industry know its history and embrace its future. That’s what we aim for in those webinar panels: to look at past ads and see how they worked, what worked about them, what is timeless and what now seems dated. Knowing some ad history is very useful, but even more useful is using that knowledge to fuel debate about the anachronistic, the eternal and the new, and where these categories overlap. It’s how we learn and improve.


A time and place for technology T



Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three

he Weather Channel had a basic problem: the weather itself is boring. No-one wants to spend hours watching a map with a cutout sun and clouds. This was an even bigger problem in some US states during hurricane season. People ignored the warnings because, like the weather, they were dull. The Weather Channel decided to do something about both problems. They decided to make the weather, and the warnings, riveting. So, on September 13, 2018, they broadcast a forecast about Hurricane Florence. They used something called the Unreal Engine, a video-game development platform. It looked similar to the CGI that’s used in Hollywood films, but instead of doing it after the live action is shot, this works in real time while the presenter is talking. The segment began with Greg Postel standing in front of the map as usual. But then the map changed and he was in a suburban street on the pavement in front of a house with a lawn, a fire hydrant, telegraph poles and a parked car in a driveway. A trickle of water began coming down the street, getting faster and wider. Postel said: “This storm surge could well find its way inland.

“So let’s have a look at what that might well be like, for example: “We know Florence is going to bring one to three feet of flooding across many locations, that certainly is enough to knock you off your feet.” (The level of water rose by three feet, everywhere except the spot where he was standing. We saw cars lifted up next to him.) He said: “It can definitely stall cars out, and even carry cars away, and certainly flood many of the low-level structures. But we know Florence is also going to bring water rising well above that, perhaps up to six feet.” (Sure enough, the water all around him rose to six feet, above his head. Cars were floating, nose down. Wreckage was floating by.) He said: “Now six feet of water, imagine that: that carries large objects in it, like cars for example that can act like battering rams and enhance the damage that would be done. “And also we know that can flood the lower levels of many structures. “We also know that Florence can carry with it a storm-surge well above that – perhaps nine, even 10 feet, maybe more.” (Then the water rose to nine feet, way over his head. The street signs were submerged and we could even see fish swimming in the water.)

He said: “That will totally cover up one-storey buildings and structures, leaving them under water, and certainly pose a risk to many.” (Now we saw the entire street of single-storey houses with just the roofs showing above the waters.) He said: “There are very few places that are safe when the water rises this high. “So please, follow the advice of your local officials and heed the evacuation warnings. “And of course stay updated on all the latest forecasts.” Instead of changing channels like usual, people were glued to their sets. The station was inundated with calls asking them to run it again. They ran it three times that morning. It was so successful, they’ve done the same for tornadoes and lightning: telegraph poles crashing across the studio, giant slivers of wood just missing the presenters, battered cars tossed on to the set. It’s a great use of technology developed for games, used to liven up a dry, dull subject. Suddenly the weather, and the warnings, aren’t boring any more. Now they’re riveting. And that’s when technology is used at its best. When it’s used as a delivery system not as a start point.


July 18, 2021

D3… ‘Everything ties together.’ (AI)

Adidas… ‘It’s evident that they did their homework.’ (AI)

Spotify… ‘Their insight around how each listener pairs unique songs with activities that don’t seem compatible to any other listener is fascinating.’ (CK)

Invest in Dubai… ‘A crisp, fact-led tactical video.’ (CK)

Yas Island… ‘Cute and funny and cleverly done.’ (AI)

July 18, 2021


Private View AAMNA IQBAL


Senior creative copywriter, Create Media Group

Creative strategist, AKQA

DUBAI DESIGN DISTRICT – RETHINK THE REGULAR (1) Visually stunning with a diverse cast? That’s a big plus in my book. Zero unnecessary copy? Yes. Yes. Thank you. And everything ties together, from the music to the sheer range of D3’s spaces, in less than a minute? I mean… It’s a great film to launch an edgy campaign with a cause. But can it literally turn the creative industry’s crisis in the face of the pandemic on its head? I truly hope so.

DUBAI DESIGN DISTRICT (1) I watched the film multiple times in awe of all the illusions they created using existing settings that stayed true to the community’s vibe. I love the way D3 is extending its ‘Rethink The Regular’ platform to highlight events such as ‘Rethink Art’, and ‘Rethink Summer’. I hope they take more advantage of creating fun content on Instagram Reels as well.

ADIDAS WOMEN – BEYOND THE SURFACE (2) Empowering women with inclusivity is everything. We love to see it. Right from the get-go, it’s evident that they did their homework. Every woman Adidas spoke to had a part in creating both the campaign and the collection. This isn’t just a full-cover collection; it’s crafted to accommodate every woman and her desire to swim comfortably in her own skin. The campaign film packs a powerful punch with Asma Elbadawi’s spoken word. Tie it with the liquid billboard that Adidas unveiled – inviting all women to jump in, swim and be the face of Adidas – and this campaign is definitely making waves.

ADIDAS (2) I love seeing brands play an active role in making sports like swimming more religiously and culturally inclusive. I’m interested in seeing what user-generated content comes out of it – perhaps photo-ops of people swimming inside the billboard? Coincidentally, this campaign launched just a few days before the Olympics committee made the controversial decision of banning swim caps for natural black hair. I’m hoping Adidas participates in the conversation, and considers creating a new cap for natural black hair.

THE DUBAI MIRACLE IN 90 SECONDS (3) I may get some flak here as a copywriter, but I don’t think the video here needed any visual copy. It makes the end result very visually busy and hard for me to focus on the footage and the voice-over. The message is strong enough; tiny subtitles would do the trick instead.

SPOTIFY – ONLY YOU (4) This one’s genius. Over the last few years, Spotify has changed the way we listen to music forever and it’s a million times for the better. Not only is the Only You campaign brilliantly multi-faceted, the in-app experience makes it unique and fun for every single user. This is exactly how users’ data should be used – to create something greater. YAS ISLAND – TOY TALKS (5) After the year and a half that we’ve all had, is anybody surprised that my response to Toy Talks was ‘I feel the same’? A welcome break from the constant barrage of summer promotions, this one is cute and funny and cleverly done, especially with the quirky playful takes on some of the world’s most iconic toys and competing destinations (Iron Bro. Hah.). This is beautiful character development in the span of 50 seconds. The toys’ relief at the end is palpable – a feeling that every parent who watched these vids would resonate with.

SMART DUBAI (3) A crisp, fact-led tactical video. The overall energy, voiceover and how-to shots of registering on the website were great in pushing the ease and tech-forward messaging. I look forward to seeing where this video will live and whether it’s translated into more languages. However, I do wonder if the tagline ‘Your Gateway to The World Capital of Ambition’ could be shorter and catchier. SPOTIFY (4) When the new iOS update came out, Spotify was the only app I felt OK to be tracked by. I guess this was my little way of participating in such personalised marketing campaigns. Launching in 22 markets is no easy feat, and they’ve done well in creating regional content and adding new in-app experiences. Their insight around how each listener pairs unique songs with activities that don’t seem compatible to any other listener is fascinating. Considering there’s a big expat population in this region, it would be interesting to see more cross-cultural examples too, like a South Asian or Filipino jamming to Arabic music and vice-versa, to further hone in on how universal and unique music is. YAS ISLAND (5) This is a massive upgrade from their 2019 Kids Go Free content and it’s exciting to see them fully commit to seven ‘episodes’, and activations like toy-repair pop-ups too. I really liked the script and camera angles, especially in the Bullied Joystick Syndrome episode. It got me nostalgic about my love-hate relationship with game controllers.

Dubai Design District Title:Rethink the Regular Agency: Memac Ogilvy


Title: Beyond the Surface Agency: Havas Middle East Production house: La Cosa

Invest in Dubai

Title: The Dubai Miracle Agency: Liwa Content Driven Executive producer: Sagar Rege Strategy: Rohit Arora Producer: Sammy E Hassan Creative director: Vijay Kumar Director: Arun Shekar DOP: Ian Murphy Colourist: Brendan Burke Art directors: Abhijeet Chaubal, Anas Ramzan Animators: Nikhil Soman, Talal Dakak, Muhammad Shoaib, Arsalan Ahmed


Title:Only You Egypt agency: Fp7 McCann Cairo Egypt production house: Fekr Productions Saudi agency: Xelement Saudi production house: Apex

Yas Island

Title:Toy Talks Agency: Momentum Dubai Production house: Dejavu Senior creative director: Muhammad Ali Associate creative director/ copywriter: Vishal Munyal Associate creative director/art: Gary Rolf ECD: Raphael Nassoura


July 18, 2021

The Spin The Spin does enjoy a nice juxtaposition of headline and image. Such as this hard-line defence against people-trafficking in UK newspaper The Times. We’re sure Trump would be impressed. The Spin’s editor, to be fair, is not known for his sartorial choices. But we still feel app pop-ups don’t need to be quite so passive aggressive. They could just tell him directly to tuck his shirt in. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say. But perhaps not when your brand is Lego and the company imitating you makes hand guns. The Danish toy manufacturer sent a cease-and-desist notice to US armourer Culper Precision for making this pistol that looks like it’s meant to be played with. We can see why. While The Spin enjoyed watching the Euro 2020s football (even if we lost the office sweepstake – better luck next year, Croatia!), we were as disappointed as all right-minded fans by the racism directed at three English players who missed their penalties in the shoot-out against Italy. And this Tweet from Australian broadcaster 7 News was just as shameful.


Marcomms360 – Predictions 2022 November 11, 2021 Dubai and online


Marketing Mania October 17-20, 2021 Dubai World Trade Centre


Campaign brings together the leading minds in regional media, marketing and communications for a power-packed session on the future of the industry. The hybrid event (live and online) will have multiple speakers in one power-packed programme. Attend Marcomms360 – Predictions 2022 to discuss the future of media, marketing, industry best practice, technology and more. Our agenda for this year’s Marcomms360 – Predictions 2022 is crafted to bring inspiration, vision and clarity to what the next 12 months holds in store for the industry. To find out more:

Marketing Mania gathers all the digital touchpoints between companies and consumers. This event calls all marketers wanting to explore the latest trends and mysteries in the field. In the dawn of a hyper-connected age with AI, 5G, big data, immersive and mobile advertising, the marketing models are constantly evolving. And the evolution is only going to accelerate from here on. Marketing Mania is gathering CMOs and global speakers to provide new ideas and find answers to the martech world. To find out more:

Profile for Motivate Media Group

Campaign 18th July 2021  

The CX issue

Campaign 18th July 2021  

The CX issue

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