Campaign Middle East - November 2022

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Campaign Agency of the Year Middle East 2022 has revealed its shortlists

Independent Agency of the Year looks set to be the most highly contested category in Campaign’s inaugural Middle East edition of its Agency of the Year Awards.

Agency of the Year Middle East is run in partnership with Haymarket, the UK-based publishing house that has been publishing Campaign in markets around the world for more than 60 years. The awards are independently audited by PWC.

The Head of Agency title will be a four-way race between Asda’a BCW’s Sunil John, Publicis Groupe MENAT’s Bassel Kakish, UM’s Joe Nicolas and Lightblue’s Craig Borthwick.

Campaign Middle East editor Austyn Allison said: “Launching awards is like throwing a house party. You throw open the doors and just hope people turn up. I’m pleased to boast that our metaphorical living room is packed. We had many more entries than we had hoped for. I see a lot of really good names on the shortlists, and while I’m immensely grateful to our judges, I don’t envy them the task of having to pick the overall winners from such a strong field. I’m also pleased to see smaller, newer and independent agencies entering, showing what a strong organic ecosystem the region has. And we have seen entries from across the region too. The Campaign Agency of the Year Awards are unique in that they are based on business performance, so this is a great place to see what agencies are really working to drive the advertising economy.”

The entire shortlist can be found online at Categories not mentioned in the shortlist will not be awarded this year as they

either did not receive entries or the jury didn’t shortlist any of the entries to move forward.

The winners are due to be announced at an awards function at Fairmont The Palm in Dubai on December 6, 2022.

Details of tickets for the event will be announced

soon on Campaign Middle East’s website and social platforms.

Campaign also runs Agency of the Year in the UK, Asia-Pacific and the US, and a global scheme, the Global Agency of the Year Awards, which is now open for entries.

ArabyAds buys Indahash app

Dubai-based adtech company ArabyAds has acquired influencer marketing platform Indahash. The acquisition follows ArabyAds’ recent $30m Pre Series B funding round led by AfricInvest.

Mahmoud Fathy, CEO and co-founder of ArabyAds, said: “It is a moment of great pride for us to join hands with Indahash, the leading global influencer marketing technology company, which is known for its platform’s capabilities. The acquisition, which is of strategic value, will enable us to create long-term value for our partners and stakeholders and give us a firm footing in the newer markets where Indahash is already a dominant technology enabler.”

ArabyAds will benefit from the global foothold and the expertise of the Indahash founders, who will manage the company’s operations as part of the larger management group.

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Nike Middle East has launched ‘Sport is Never Done’, a campaign that aims to highlight the lifelong benefits of physical play for kids. Created in collaboration with Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam and Camouflage Production, the campaign is set to roll out across the region with a 90-second film titled ‘Rise of Kids’. The film is an imaginative vision of sport through the lens of kids from across the Middle East. The film explores the relationship that kids enjoy with sport and addresses popular parental misconceptions to physical activity. Other extensions of the campaign will include a series of educational and entertaining workshops hosted in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. NIKE SPORT IS NEVER DONE Independent Agency and Head of Agency are among most hotly contested categories
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International Advertising Association appoints Sasan Saeidi as world president and chairman

great international board, I want to ensure that the coming years become defining for our brand. And the only way we can do this is through a collaboration culture, clarity of purpose and a simple commitment towards growth, with clear accountability towards industry topics that need the IAA to lean in and contribute towards. The IAA will continue to play an active role to do good and remain a concerned citizen to make the world a better place. One act and initiative at a time. I want to thank Joel Netty for his inspiring leadership during the past two years; for his undying friendship. He is my brother for life and I wish Joel the very best in his future endeavours. I know this is just the start for him and I will always be cheering him on.”

Sasan Saeidi has been announced as the International Advertising Association’s (IAA’s) new world president and chairman. Taking over the reins from the preceding president Joel Netty, Saeidi will hold the position for a two-year term from 2022 to 2024. At the end of the term, Fredrik Borestrom, IAA’s new SVP, will take over the role.

Saeidi was also recently appointed as the CEO of Wunderman Thompson’s New York office. He previously held leadership roles at that agency globally and in MENA, and at FP7 McCann.

Saeidi’s appointment to the IAA role was decided

by a vote from its global board members. In the new role, he will be responsible for setting the vision of the IAA along with the executive committee. His role also includes implementing strategic imperative and ensuring the brand remains relevant and active on the world stage and involved in critical topics about the advertising industry. Saeidi will also be tasked with ensuring the global chapters, from the US to Australia, remain involved and active.

Saeidi said: “Being part of the IAA is a privilege and honour. The responsibility to be at the helm of the oldest advertising industry body in the world is truly remarkable and humbling. With the support of this

Netty said: “It has been the privilege of a lifetime; being the first African to serve as world president and chairman of the IAA over these last two years. Taking over just as the Covid-19 pandemic changed the parameters of engagement over the world came with its own challenges. I’m glad, however, that with the commitment of our leadership team, global office staff, advocacy councils, executive directors and members across the globe, we managed to pivot to largely virtual engagements delivered in compelling ways that helped to ensure our strategic imperatives were enhanced, buttressing the expression ‘it takes a village’. Sasan, having played a key role himself in these last two years, is in a prime position to take our vision forward, and I have no doubt that he will build on the legacy of generations of volunteers in this 84-year-old organisation, the only one of its kind across the globe. I wish Sas, Fred and the new team the very best as they work to entrench our positioning as the global compass of marketing communications.”

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In its new campaign, Home Centre invites consumers to meet their dream self with the help of its range of sleep solutions. In a dry comedic tone, its two online films show what it might be like to bump into your dream self for real. Customers’ dream selves look happier, energetic and athletic, almost to the point of showing off without trying. Agency FP7 McCann Dubai Chief creative officer Federico Fanti Creative director Paulo Engler Pinto Executive producer Amin Soltani Producer Jessica Younis The Film House created a film for the launch of ‘Women in Conflict Zones’, an initiative by the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD). The film was played during the United Nations General Assembly 77. It highlights the plight of women caught up in conflict, drawing from statistics that showcase the displacement, abuse and abandonment that the women have to face. Production house The Film House Writer and director Omar Khalifa Producer Nic van der Bijl DoP Christoper Moon Art director Alleine Nadal Khalifa VFX
Label, Poland
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Saeidi will hold the position for a two-year term from 2022 to 2024.

LIA and Cresta Awards shows announce Middle East winners

London International Awards (LIA) has announced its 2022 Winners from across 27 disciplines. Six agencies from the Middle East bagged awards including Impact BBDO, Horizon FCB (the only regional agency to win in the new Creativity in the Metaverse category), Keko Dubai, Publicis Groupe, Saatchi & Saatchi ME, and Leo Burnett, Riyadh.

The UAE took home two Grand LIAs for the first time. UAE agencies were also awarded five Gold, nine Silver and four Bronze Statues and attained four Finalists. Saudi Arabia attained one Finalist. The Middle East scored a total of 20 Statues at LIA 2022.

Barbara Levy, president of LIA, said: “I believe this is the first time that the UAE has won two Grand LIAs. But it is not hard to understand why. The winning work from Dubai is so relevant. No wonder the judges fell in love with them. Great ideas and great work transcend borders and will get the recognition it rightly deserves. Our heartiest congratulations to all the winners.”

Impact BBDO, Dubai lead the way within the Middle East statue tally, winning 14 Statues; two Grand LIAs, five Gold, six Silver and one Bronze.

Horizon FCB was awarded a Silver and a Bronze, while Keko Dubai took home a Silver. Publicis Groupe Dubai

took a Silver, a Bronze and three finalist positions, while Saatchi and Saatchi ME took a Bronze. Leo Burnett Riyadh from KSA attained a finalist position.

Impact BBDO and Horizon FCB also performed well at the Cresta Awards. Horizon FCB Dubai was the most awarded agency from the Middle East at Cresta. The agency took eight awards, including four Golds, for its Breakchains with Blockchain project. It also converted all of its eight entries into trophies.

Impact BBDO Dubai picked up one of only five Grands Prix to be awarded and a Gold for The Election Edition.

The total regional winners at the Crestas were as follows: Horizon FCB Dubai took four Gold, two Silver and two Bronze; Impact BBDO took a Grand Prix and a Gold; The UAE Government Media Office took a Gold, three Silver and 11 Bronze (including trophies shared with Saatchi & Saatchi); Leo Burnett Riyadh took five Silver and five Bronze and The Film House in Qatar took a Bronze.

Claus Adams is Ogilvy UAE CEO

Memac Ogilvy has appointed Claus Adams as its UAE CEO. Adams will work alongside and report into the network’s MENA CEO, David Fox. With this appointment, the agency has upgraded its most senior leadership position from managing director to UAE CEO.

In his role, Adams will lead Memac Ogilvy’s strategic objectives and uphold its integrated model to meet the needs of its diverse client base.

Adams’ appointment marks his return to Memac Ogilvy and the region. In 2008, Adams was tasked with establishing creative commerce brand OgilvyAction, now VMLY&R Commerce, and serving as MENA regional director until 2013.

“The opportunity to return to Memac Ogilvy in the UAE in 2022 was too great to resist,” saidAdams.


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Always KSA has teamed up with Saudi fashion designer Nasiba Hafiz to launch a heatresistant fashion collection in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where temperatures often soar above 45C in summer. The Not Hot Collection is the world’s first designer period wear inspired by Always Cool
product that keeps
women feeling
cool on their periods by keeping
moisture away from their skin.
Agency Leo Burne Lebanon Chief creative officer Malek Ghorayeb Photographer Lina Mo Production Company Liwa Content Driven, Dubai Multimedia designer Charbel Saliba Volkswagen Middle East’s aftersales campaign, We Care Too Much, is an unconventional automotive aftersales campaign. It features short, fun, dynamic and upbeat TikTok videos and reflects the latest social media trends such as ASMR to grasp the a ention of its followers. It focuses on the unwavering passion that the Volkswagen Aftersales representatives have for providing customers with the perfect experience. Agency Create Production house Create Production
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At a spectacular location on the Cape Town Waterfront, the 2022 Loeries award show in early October saw an even more spectacular performance by UAE agencies. The biggest awards of the night, Network of the Year and Agency of the Year, were both won by Impact BBDO – the agency had an impressive haul of a recordsetting three Grands Prix, six

Golds, four Silvers or Craft Certificates, and five Bronzes.

A total of eight Grands Prix were given at the show this year, and the UAE took home six of them: three to Impact BBDO, and one each to Saatchi & Saatchi MEA, M&C Saatchi, and Serviceplan Middle East.


‘The Elections Edition’ by Impact BBDO for AnNahar – Integrated, and PR & Media

‘The Wider Web’ by Impact BBDO for Etisalat – Design for Digital ‘Empty Plates’ by Saatchi & Saatchi MEA for UAE Government Media Office – Live Events

‘Not Procrastination’ by Serviceplan Middle East for ECOM Group – Print Crafts

‘As Good as The Original’ by M&C Saatchi for Burger King – Film

The two other Grands Prix: Branded Content Radio & Audio and Ambient were won by FCB Joburg and Ogilvy

Africa respectively for the ‘The Coca-Cola Beatcan Campaign’ and ‘Lesso Lessons’.

Apart from the Grands Prix, Saatchi and Saatchi MEA took home two Golds and two Silvers, M&C Saatchi won two Golds and one Certificate and Serviceplan won one Gold and two Bronzes.

Other agencies from the region that won awards include Horizon FCB, TBWA\RAAD, UAE Government Media Office and Leo Burnett KSA.

Loeries CEO, Preetesh Sewraj said: “This was truly a year of breaking boundaries and creating magic. Not only did we unite the creative community in the biggest gathering of its kind across Africa and the Middle East, but we also awarded a record number of eight Grand Prix awards that truly embody the spirit of creative excellence.”

Other notable awards included Chicken Licken being named the Brand of the Year, Pepe Marais of Joe Public being inducted into the Loeries Hall of Fame in recognition of his impactful career and contributions to the creative industry, and Bernice Samuels being awarded the Marketing Leader and Innovation Award for her unparalleled vision and execution in the field of marketing.

For the full list of award winners and finalists, please visit

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Local shops take home six out of eight Grands Prix awarded at the Loeries

In loving memoryTarek El Kady

In life, we rarely come across people who walk in with great ambitions and then show us how to master each one of them. They leave a footprint for us to follow and become a beacon of inspiration. One such person was Tarek El Kady, Senior Marketing Director at McDonald’s Middle East Development Company, who passed away a few weeks ago, leaving us with memories to treasure and reflect on. No amount of words are enough to celebrate this special human. But here are a few to honour him and the beautiful legacy he left behind.

Those who worked with Tarek know that he set an example of impeccable professionalism. A magnetic personality, thoughtful, generous, and respectful. His silence spoke so many words. And when he spoke, wisdom was felt. He was a mentor and a believer of diversity and inclusion. A visionary who knew no limits. His work of more than 25 years is proof that he was extraordinarily insightful. And as he championed every business, he taught everyone how to build, lead and push the boundaries of conformity.

A Bachelor of Arts with a major in Business and Economics from Cairo University, Tarek started his career as an Account Executive in 1992. His ability to grasp the consumer and the market soon took him to Fortune Promoseven McCann Group in Jeddah, where he rose to the position of Account Director. In 2003, he moved to Dubai as the Regional Client Servicing Director for McDonald’s and Coca-Cola MEA, where he led a team of 45

people to effectively execute annual marketing plans and activities. By this time, he had already championed three markets in the region, a testament to his understanding of consumer mindset and behaviour.

Tarek always liked a challenge, and so he took the responsibility of setting up Lowe in Egypt. He led a cross-functional team from Dubai, and six months later Lowe Egypt was delivering out-of-thebox creative solutions. Another feather in his hat. With his success, he taught his peers that nothing is impossible if you put your heart and mind into it.

In 2009, he rose to Senior Marketing Director at McDonald’s Middle East Development Company, spearheading Marketing and Strategy covering 17 markets and more than 1,600 restaurants. This is where he redefined marketing for McDonald’s MEA, pushing the boundaries and taking the brand into double-digit growth. He led the MEA Menu Management Team, identifying key menu pillars and strategies for growth. He represented the Middle East in several global McDonald’s committees. He even became a Professor at the McDonald’s Worldwide Hamburger Marketing University (WHMU) and won the Best Marketing Calendar Development twice. In 2016, Tarek won the coveted Marketer of the Year at the MENA Effie Awards, one of many awards in his journey to the top. Only a person with strong determination

and hunger can do that. And Tarek was just as humble in recognising his success.

Tarek meant so much to so many people. He coached people to be better humans. He was a strong supporter of the McDonald’s MEA Women’s Leadership Network and advocated a culture of diversity and inclusion. During Covid times, he would often check in on his team members, even send jokes to cheer them up. He was kind and considerate and respected people’s opinions and ideas. There’s no one word that describes him completely; he was a man of many hats.

While Tarek was a bold leader in his profession, he was also an exceptional family man. A loving husband to Mona Mourad Ahmed. A caring father to Marwan and Youssef. We offer our deepest sympathies to the family that loved and adored him. Tarek may have left us in life, but he will continue to stay in our hearts forever. His vigour, positive thinking and grace will always be a guiding light in our lives.

For those who wish to know more and pay respects, our partners at Publicis Groupe have created a digital memorial in his loving memory –

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The McDonald’s family remembers the late Tarek El Kady, Senior Marketing Director at McDonald’s Middle East Development Company
“Tarek was kind and considerate and respected people’s opinions and ideas. There’s no one word that describes him completely; he was a man of many hats.”


OOH better at generating brand awareness than driving a call to action?

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YESOut-of-home (OOH) media gives us the opportunity to drive brand awareness and affinity with the potential to reach a large percentage of the population every single day, making it an integral component of the marketing mix and not just brand advertising. It helps us to be tactile with location and dynamic with our messaging. OOH positions itself as the ideal medium for delivering purposeful brand-led objectives ensuring brand resonance and loyalty remain on top of minds in a larger and long-term way.

YESIt is certainly more effective to drive brand objectives than trying to drive any other niche calls to action (CTAs). Whilst OOH enabled with data and tech is evolving to the middle of the funnel, the core still lies in its strength as a mass-media, top-of-the-funnel driver. Most OOH assets are limited to a few seconds of exposure. Thus, making them very effective for a short, crisp brand message or compelling visual branding. In our industry, we use it as a strong brand-recall agent, and it has time and again proven to be very effective.

October 31, 2022 09
Carla Klumpenaar Marketing, communication, HF and retail design (UAE, Qatar, Egypt and Oman), IKEA Al-Futtaim
Mitin Chakraborty Head of marketing, Babyshop

YESIf we were to measure the efficiency of driving app downloads and/or promotions through a Sheikh Zayed Road hoarding versus native ads, chances are OOH would perform poorly.

As a broadcast medium, OOH excels at delivering wide coverage and visual impact, and even plays a halo effect on other channels’ performance. This kind of exposure matters because it influences how creative work is processed and builds memory structures that are essential to maintaining sustainable brands. In fact, research shows that OOH brings twice as much impact in the long run, defying the norms of short-term marketing and even shorter attention spans.

YESEven though OOH can achieve both, it’s more impactful at generating brand awareness, especially at strategic locations with high traffic. It’s a mass medium that guarantees instant impact, memorable messages and, most importantly, high reach to a wider audience, whether driving the highways or walking through the neighbourhoods and malls. This is ideal at the awareness generation stage of brand communication. CTA is usually achieved with tactical messaging, through more targeted communication supported by data.

YESOOH advertising is one of the oldest marketing formats and has been around for centuries, and with time the role of OOH has evolved to serve multiple brand objectives.

I strongly believe that OOH is better at generating fast and mass brand awareness. However, with the right ingredients, it can serve other business needs, such as a CTA to activate and boost sales.

With the right creative and the integration of digital in OOH, it becomes a tool that encourages mobile engagement. For all this to work, we need to keep in mind a few criteria: location, digital integration for changeability, and eye-catching displays or cut-outs. The CTA should be short, sweet and sharable. Check who is around and reduce the clutter.


While OOH advertising can be great at generating massive brand awareness, it can also move consumers towards a purchase, if not close the sale.

In today’s saturated digital world, where consumers are served with ads left, right and centre, large-scale OOH such as the mega billboards on Sheikh Zayed Road can indeed be a powerful tool to stand out and demand audiences’ attention to your brand. It gets you seen.

But to ignore the potential of OOH media to activate an action or even inspire purchase consideration is perhaps missing an opportunity in our ever more ‘always on’ shopping world.

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YESOOH advertising, in its traditional sense, is better at leveraging brand awareness than driving a call to action.

OOH advertising, especially large formats, serves as a canvas that can bring a brand to life visually. It generates high-impact awareness rather than driving an instantaneous CTA that we’re accustomed to in the digital realm. This, in turn, leads to guiding consumers further into the sales funnel. Whether that action results in follow-up measures in response to seeing an ad or eventually purchasing a product, OOH ads are extremely effective. Especially, when it comes to enticing consumers to take action, as a result of the impact the brand has had on them. The numbers speak for themselves: OOH media grew by 176 per cent from $358m in 2020 to $986m in 2021 in MENA. However, OOH is often underestimated and still not adequately measured in our region, but that is changing slowly.

YESOOH is a brand awareness medium; getting your brand in front of a broad audience is what this channel does best. Research has shown that OOH is the most effective medium when it comes to increasing brand awareness and recall.

A call to action is relatively related to the product characteristic, likeability and special offers; so, OOH will put your message out there in front of everybody to see, but how your target audience interacts or reacts depends solely on how good the delivery of the message is. OOH is the messenger, and your message is guaranteed delivery. So, it’s a big yes for brand awareness.

YESWhile OOH certainly ensures greater visibility and impact, with a sizeable number of commuters whizzing by daily, it also offers a crushingly short three-second window to communicate your message. In most cases, it severely lacks the luxury of time, which is why the medium is better suited to build brand recall or to communicate a product, service or feature than driving action in that brief moment when the viewer’s attention is divided, with external forces at play.


The short answer is it can do both.

Defining “better” really depends on the context of the campaign, its core message and the audience it is trying to influence. By way of an example, if a streaming brand wants to reach a mass audience to promote a new show, I’d argue a premium outdoor site with standout creative can help drive both objectives. While this desired impact is not applicable to all categories and calls to action, the evolving digitisation of OOH into exciting areas like 3D and programmatic will expand its capabilities to interplay with other channels to deliver more supplementary objectives across the funnel.

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Akshaya Singh Sikand Head of marketing, Cadillac

Nobody likes a pragmatist. I say this as one. Passionately set forth your plans to change the world and a pragmatist will drag you crashing back to reality faster than Shiba Inu Coin after an Elon Musk tweet. That’s why we don’t get invited to parties. At least, this is what I tell myself.

As a pragmatist, or perhaps because I’m a pragmatist, I’ve routinely rejected the rhetoric that e-commerce in the Middle East is on this hyper-growth trajectory, and I’ve dismissed the meteoric five-year growth projections as the hyperbole of optimists. At least, I had until now.

2022 looks set to be an inflection point for e-commerce in the region. Penetration is now approaching double digits in certain categories, and while we’ve still got some way to go before the optimists can cry ‘we told you so’, brands and retailers who’ve got their e-commerce strategies right are finally starting to see rewards.

However, as these long-promised e-commerce sales start to materialise, e-tailers are facing up to an uncomfortable truth: they’re often not very profitable.

In the rush to grow e-commerce, retailers have wrestled with technology, culture, organisational structure and new business processes – often at great capital expense. The scramble to respond to changing consumer behaviours has resulted in time-to-market winning out over operational efficiency, conversion rates taking precedence over margins and sales taking priority over profitability.

As e-commerce matures, brands and retailers must think beyond simply generating growth; they must pragmatically plot their path to profitability. Iterating on loss-making models isn’t sustainable longer-term: Wadi, Awok, The Modest and, to an extent, JollyChic have learnt this the hard way.

While some retailers have succumbed to the struggle of sustainable growth, plenty have succeeded in turning e-commerce from cost centre to profit centre. Here’s just a few of the things they’ve got right: A clear value proposition. Relying on a constant cycle of promotions and discounts to win customers is equivalent to renting a Ferrari to impress on a first date. If you’re hoping for a second date, you’re going to have to bring your personality along or hope the restaurant lighting helps you out, otherwise you’re resigned to renting a Ferrari again. Anchoring your digital proposition to price comes at a cost. Don’t become dependent on discounts. Retailers like Ounass have pulled away from promotional incentives and instead create value and win customers through experience, convenience and choice. Acquisition vs retention. Every (good) marketer knows their customer acquisition cost (CAC), but what about customer retention cost (CRC) or customer lifetime value (LTV)? As more

brands chase the same groups of buyers, customer acquisition costs will continue to rise. Many brands don’t realise a profit on single-purchase customers. Increasing the recency, the frequency and the value of customer spend should help.

Sweat your assets (and your inventory). For most retailers, the largest operating asset is inventory. Yet inventory visibility and integrity are often the root causes of the worst crimes against efficiency. Cancelled orders due to stock shortages, out-ofstocks on the website when stockrooms are full, and stock sat aging in e-fulfilment centres when store shelves sit empty can have a profound impact on profits.

Connected inventory makes all your stock available to the consumer, enabling brands with physical stores to consider store inventory to fulfil online orders. Get ahead of returns. With each return you burn the costs of acquiring the sale, of

Practically there

A self-professed pragmatist, MCN’s Oliver White weighs up the milk and honey outlook of die-hard e-commerce optimists against the reality of getting things right


processing the order, the packaging, the delivery, the cost of collecting the return, plus there’s the less tangible cost of having inventory off-shelf. In Europe, average return rates run as high as 40 per cent and e-tailers who once proudly shouted ‘free returns’ are increasingly introducing charges. Before we get to this point, simple tactics such as encouraging consumers to return merchandise to stores can cut processing time by up to 10 days, improving the chances an item can be resold at full price. Ultimately, preventing returns in the first place with a predict, prevent, detect and respond framework will make the biggest impact on margins.

Manage marketplaces. For many brands, Amazon and Noon are their largest sources of e-commerce revenue. Properly evaluating how you sell through marketplaces (third-party vs first-party), tightening trade terms and establishing a clear assortment, pricing and inventory strategy are critical.

In the Middle East, e-commerce is beginning to live up to its promise. The optimists, whose hyperbolic projections supercharged the e-commerce gold-rush, are now packing up their wagons and rolling out towards new territory, web 3.0, their magic calculators already busy creating growth projections for the metaverse. Before the inevitable stampede to this new frontier ensues, let’s not abandon the mine. In the years ahead, e-commerce will be cardinal to the P&Ls of brands and retailers. We must continue to scale while prioritising profit and maintaining a relentless focus on operational efficiency.

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Here comes the sun

Governments across the region are accelerating development of electric vehicle (EV) technology, with the UAE aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050 and recently ranked eighth globally in terms of readiness for electric mobility. Al Masaood, being a national entity focused on both the industrial and automotive advancement of the country, decided to look into this opportunity and see what brand proposition we can birth.


The clean energy transition encompasses different angles. It includes, but is not limited to, renewable energy and automotive transformation. One of the major opportunities in both is solar power – and our region is not short of that.

Transport is a massive contributor to global warming, with the sector accounting for about 16 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. A key element of the clean energy transition will be to enable electrification. As more EVs are planned to hit the road in the UAE, Al Masaood’s power division has found a prime opportunity to evolve its product mix to more eco-friendly power generation.

We identified the gap between the demand for clean electric power against the current supply of charging infrastructure, and decided to launch our very own solution. This May, we proudly launched the UAE’s first solar charging system for EVs and hybrid marine vessels. After much thought, we named our system SHAMS+. The concept is simple yet powerful, using solar energy to generate clean power for multiple sectors including agriculture and marine transport.


The name SHAMS+ comes from the Arabic word for ‘sun’ to reflect the solar powered aspect of the system, which differentiates it from other conventional EV charging stations. The plus symbol represents the

brand’s vast offering and opportunities in the smart charging industry.

The SHAMS+ logo design signifies a modern, state-of-the-art tech-driven energy provider. The icon is based on the radiating rays of the sun with the red-yellow colour gradient generating a feeling of accumulating energy and recharging. To add convenience to the mix, a comfortable waiting area has been added in the design to let the users enjoy a hassle-free experience and relax while their vehicles are charging.

OUR PROPOSITION: HI-TECH AND HARMLESS SHAMS+ is Al Masaood’s contribution to electrification and green mobility as the future of transportation in the UAE. This smart, internet-based and mobile venture is an ultra-fast charging solution with highest charging speed starting from 25 minutes. Driven by the need of our greatest stakeholder, our beloved Earth, we are now changing our product mix to embrace sustainability.


It is crystal clear that sustainability is now an opportunity for every brand – and thus every marketer. But with the whirlwind of changes happening in the market and the world at large, where does this leave marketers?

Marketers now find themselves with new dimensions added to their roles. As agents of change, they have the dual responsibility of weaving sustainability into brands’ corporate strategies and value propositions and taking the lead on the implementation of those efforts. They also shoulder the responsibility of driving changed behaviours and demand for sustainable and responsible purchases on the customer/consumer side.

That being said, it is time for marketers to revisit their 4Ps – product, price, place and promotion – and integrate another P – the planet – to their marketing spectrum, in order to scale a positive impact,

differentiate their brands, and strengthen brand equity.

Long-standing and newly founded businesses, private, public or a mix of both, have no choice but to do that, and marketers must play their part in the game.

On the consumer/customer side, scrutiny of business operations versus sustainability will only gain traction as the effects of climate change become more prevalent, especially as customers keep getting younger.

Here lies a marketer’s responsibility to build a mental association between the brand and customers’ responsible consumption. They need to work on fuelling changed behaviours – so customers close the ‘say-do’ gap when it comes to spending their money on responsible purchases that have a positive wider effect.

A brand can then be seen to be playing a role in effecting societal change and can thereby earn respect and enhanced brand image and reputation. The ‘brand purpose’ for companies represents the meaning behind its existence, a view of how it wants to be perceived.

As in the case of SHAMS+, Al Masaood Power has made sustainability a central pillar in its way forward. As marketers it is now on us to support such corporate efforts gain traction in the market and dwarf out the obstacles perceived by consumers in adopting the green way forward – for the greater good of all.

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Al Masaood’s SHAMS+ is leveraging on sustainability for future mobility
“Driven by the need of our greatest stakeholder, our beloved Earth, we are changing our product mix to embrace sustainability.”


Shopping aggregation is now a significant part of future online commerce across the world.

Aggregators, also known as third-party sellers, bridge consumers with brands and, increasingly, retailers. New aggregation models and platforms appear in almost every retail sector, from food to financial services.

The first marketplace and aggregation models appeared in

China. E-commerce’s first mega market was powered by tech giants Alibaba and Tencent. Outside China, globally Amazon is the world’s largest aggregator through its online marketplace and has a brand value estimated at $350bn. There is no doubt that marketplace aggregation has transformed where and how we shop.

While Amazon continues to dominate online marketplaces in most parts of the world, the model is continually transforming to adapt to consumer shopping behaviours and how they affect everyday life, with what is now being coined q-commerce aggregation.


In the area of quick-commerce, specifically within the grocery category, the UAE is a world leader and accounts for a significant portion of the region’s market value, with quick-commerce being estimated to be valued at $20bn in gross merchandise value in MENA by 2024. Originally inspired by food delivery aggregators, the UAE has led the evolution of online grocery aggregation. This is partly because the country has for many years had high internet penetration, enjoying a well-developed and relatively cheap logistics system and a tech-savvy affluent population that demands convenience and service at a touch of a button.

Unlike western Europe, where online grocery shopping was dominated by the large grocery retailers and, for the most part, replicated the model of the weekly grocery shop, the aggregator pioneers in the region, such as Instashop and El Grocer, realised that shoppers in the UAE were more inclined to use their phones and devices when placing an order for groceries. As it became a

norm to call local stores and request immediate delivery of what was needed, online was the next logical step.

The first players leveraged this shopping behaviour, established a shopper-experience-led tech back-end to support it and effectively transformed ‘ondemand’ grocery shopping into an app-based online activity. Simply put, the pioneers discovered that whoever owns the means of shopping and delivery owns the shopper and the sale. The technology-led quick-commerce model is one we are now seeing pop up in other markets. So, by understanding the evolution, we can predict the future of q-commerce elsewhere.


Starting with a small number of physical retail partners in key neighbourhoods, the q-commerce fulfilment store network in the UAE grew to total geographical coverage across the country,.

Initially, the battle was for customers, with ubiquitous advertising for aggregators encouraging the download of an app. Aggregator apps, including Instashop and El Grocer, were making substantial progress in recruitment and usage by 2019. However, in 2020 as the Covid-19 hiatus hit, the game changed.

As shoppers faced unprecedented restrictions, including access to physical stores, the tangible benefits of online grocery shopping became prominent; thus, sales via aggregators more than quadrupled in some categories, and the value of the UAE’s overall retail e-commerce market hit a record $3.9bn in 2020. Downloads of apps and traffic to the aggregator platforms increased, so brands were forced to take the channel much more seriously. As a result, brands even started competing to buy in-platform media slots for brand advertising and shopper marketing.


Most shoppers in the UAE expecting products delivered the next day – and 20 per cent wanting products delivered to them the same day they order them – has attracted new entrants into the q-commerce channel. Competition has become increasingly fierce, but interestingly the more established platforms have responded with an expanded offering and shoppercentric innovations.

El Grocer, for example, continues to innovate around speciality products, basket growth initiatives, such as its recipe

boutique, and loyalty scheme redemption through the launch of pay-by-Smiles-points. Instashop, on the other hand, continues to build its content functionality by providing product education and making products easier to shop for.

Prominent players are moving far beyond just packaged groceries into other ‘quick’ delivery category options, including pharmaceuticals, pet supplies, fresh goods, cosmetics and even electronics. Instashop claims to have more than 1 million products now available on the platform.

As a result, more retailers in other categories are being added to q-commerce platforms and, in an exciting development, in some cases the platforms are establishing their own warehoused retail fulfilment solutions and creating ‘dark stores’ that offer unique stockkeeping unit (SKU) lineups and bundles that may not be available elsewhere; a case of aggregators becoming actual retailers in themselves.

This benefits shoppers because, with all these innovations, aggregators are offering convenience, quality, range, safety and value.


As we see the aggregation evolution model rolling out elsewhere, here in the UAE aggregators have become more diverse in their offerings. We will definitely see more focus on relevant content functionality. Because you really can’t sell a television online as you would sell a can of beans.

Pressures on fuel and delivery costs will undoubtedly affect the competitiveness of all forms of e-commerce and platforms. Aggregators will need to face that challenge by concentrating on factors other than simply value and convenience, and localised delivery will become more critical.

Finally, while q-commerce and grocery aggregation will grow, there will likely be a rationalisation and reduction of the key players. While that’s good news for brands that need to spend effectively on media, it’s also good news for shoppers, as the platforms that will win will be the ones that put the shopper experience and usability at the heart of their future operating models.

Richard Nichol examines the evolution of the quick-commerce aggregator
October 31, 202214

A piece of cake

Building business partnerships are akin to the process of baking, writes InMotion’s Cosmin Ionesco

Before we venture into the individual ingredients, let’s get back to the fundamentals. What does partnership even mean? As defined in the Cambridge Business English Dictionary, a partnership is “an agreement between organisations, people, etc. to work together”.

But how can we elevate these relationships? Let’s start with our first ingredient:


Efforts must focus on creating a win-win situation, with both parties embracing a common interest, to deliver on the brief and maximise returns.

A partner will always deliver additional value, when compared with a vendor.

These are just a few of the long-standing partnership efforts that have passed the test of time. Longevity is the cornerstone, as well as the ultimate proof of a successful partnership.

As any baker would tell you, the best results often do not rely on simply following a recipe. There are always situations that require us to navigate with greater agility as we go along.

How can we transition from providing services to creating partnerships – the kind that go on to become the foundations of lasting relationships? I recently found myself asking these questions when knocking on clients’ doors to speak to them about potential partnerships, and presumptuously thinking that it would all be straightforward. However, I quickly realized that there are several elements to consider when proposing to evolve a relationship from vendor to partnership status.

People who know me will by now be expecting a freestyle analogy and so I won’t make you wait any longer. Partnerships are a lot like making cakes.

Making a cake requires a set of ingredients, measured with a small of margin of error, all brought together in a controlled temperature environment to create the precise fusion between the elements that elevates the individual ingredients, all synergised by processes and timing.

If we apply the same principles to partnerships, we could have ourselves the ideal recipe for success (pun totally intended).

I am conscious of the fact that there are many types of partnership cakes out there, but for this analysis I will be using these specific ingredients to create a ‘Programmatic & Outcomes Marketing Solutions Partnership’ cake. Getting back to our recipe, we have: A base of Mutual Benefit Transparency serves as the filling Everything is sweetened by Trust and topped-up with Business Longevity

A shift in approach was moving from offering standard products to offering solutions. This entailed deeper understanding of the client’s business and the challenges they had to deal with.

Additionally, often enough when business partners have congruent values and cultures, it increases the chances of a successful partnership forming. This can lead to mutual growth.


Transparency is the basis for trust. The recent acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk portrayed a perfectly good example of what can go wrong when a suspected shortage of transparency is at play. It all led to wasted time and resources.

Communication lies at the core, and setting clear expectations early on will ensure that there are no disputed areas later down the line, while also maintaining the integrity of the product being offered.


This is an outcome that is built over time and serves as the absolute foundation for any successful partnership. Partnerships without trust are increasingly difficult and unproductive, leading to lower volumes of business, or potential terminations.

Setting realistic expectations, competency of solutions, compromise and proactive approaches are a few examples of the basic ingredients. These will keep propelling the relationship forward.


One component that could make the difference between working with a vendor vs. a partner is flexibility. As such, solution providers may sometimes find themselves in relationships that have imposed business models and rates, which diminish profit margins to unsustainable levels. In some cases, these terms are accepted to maintain cashflow.

Such situations when pushed to their extremes, will destabilise the delicate nature of a partnership cake, leading to a shortfall in transparency, which in its turn weakens trust and affects the longevity of the relationship.

Partnerships can take on many forms and shapes to fit a variety of purposes, be

they strategic, branding-focused or related to the supply of products, services, etc.

Whatever the scope may be, successful relationships are built on these pillars, as the result of either conscious efforts or natural progression.

Partnerships are investments that take effort to build for both sides. They provide incremental value, mutual satisfaction and longevity to ultimately increase the resilience of the supply chain.

These thoughts were penned in the hope that partnerships will prove more appealing to some of us. If not, at least you’ve read an all-new analogy.

October 31, 2022 15 PARTNER CONTENT
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard; Ben and Jerry; GoPro and Red Bull; Nike and Apple.
“Communication lies at the core, and setting clear expectations early on will ensure that there are no disputed areas later down the line.”

Product offering and optimisation in the e-commerce marketplace is crucial to growing your business. If the products being offered are not strategised properly, keeping the changing market dynamics, shifting consumer demand and competition in mind, this can lead to product stagnation and loss of sales in the long run.

Launching a new product is just as crucial as creating a remarkable product in the first place. It can enable a brand to increase its share of shelves, serve as a medium to offer higher value to the customer, tap into the evolving customer need, and be at pace with the competition in the concerned marketplace. Not to mention the effective

increase in sales and brand awareness. Therefore, strengthening the product portfolio by augmenting and launching new products is essential for success.

Brands often struggle to understand which types of products to launch and what strategy can be employed to do so on the marketplaces. This article covers the aspects that brands can use to strategise a new product launch on online marketplaces.


Bridge the existing product gap in the market to serve the customer who could not be catered to with the existing line-up of the products.

market. The goal of most businesses is to launch something and get as much growth and traction as you can as quickly as possible. These product-launch strategies aim for user adoption and brand growth.


1. Define your launch goal: Be clear about the story you want to tell before anything else. The story is what sells, regardless of the goods. Addressing the launch objectives entails putting the product in the correct context for the consumer and explaining how it will affect their daily lives.

2. Know your customers and their needs: Market research is critical to ensuring that your product is what customers require or want. Here we try to address questions like how you can serve different types of customers and how many customers have an unmet need that your product can fill at this point.

3. Competition benchmarking: Who are your competitors? What is their value offering? Understanding the products and marketing tactics of your competitors enables you to capitalise on their flaws and persuade buyers to choose your product over theirs.

4. Define your target audience: Identifying who you are going to sell your products to helps you to channel the effort in the right direction. It will help you divide your broader market into smaller segments, and it helps you focus on those who will be interested in your product.

Getting off the ground

5. Plan your expenses: The success of the launch depends on carefully planning the budget required for product design, production and marketing. Carefully consider your spending strategy and account for any potential modifications to the schedule for the product launch.

Improve the product assortment and share of shelves for the brand to be more competent.

Create a halo effect to boost sales by leveraging the sales of top stockkeeping units (SKUs) already live in the marketplace.

Drive sales and build product awareness. In the long run, this helps to boost the reputation of the organisation. Find a product-market fit to optimise and streamline the offering from an organisation’s point of view.


A product launch strategy is a planned effort to launch a new product in a

6. Differentiate your offering: Through fantastic product packaging; By incremental addition to product functionality; By improvising product design; Through engaging visual appeal; By offering superior customer value through product bundling; By providing superior customer service.

7. Benchmark and optimise: Check your product ranks on Amazon for significant keywords so you can understand where you stand and how to get up the rankings. Optimise your product listing to include high-traffic keywords, changing trends within the operational category and engaging visual content with clear communication of your points of difference over your competition. This will help you drive more traffic and have better conversions, and will subsequently result in higher sales.

October 31, 202216
PiWheel’s Shashank Singh lays out strategies for a new product launch on e-commerce marketplaces

Once you have these strategies in place, the execution of these by having a well-defined blueprint of the actions and tactics that you will follow is the next step that organisations need to decide on.


1. Drive traffic and improve product ranking: The first thing that you need to focus on is to drive more traffic to these newly launched products and improve their product ranking on the marketplaces by fusing in high-traffic keywords and USPs in the indexed description of the product, and mapping reviews and rating for the parent product (if applicable).

2. Leverage your existing customer base: Try to sell this new product to the existing customer base and inform them about the new launch through emails or messages.

3. Build the new customer base: Do this by targeting desired audiences through campaigns and promotions.

4. Use deals to lure customers: Running discounts and promotions in the initial phase of the launch can help you to get that initial traction for these newly launched products. Later these deals can be customised depending on the sales and traction the product can garner.

5. PPC campaigns: Setting up pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on marketplaces such as Amazon can help improve the product ranking in search appearances above organic results. When configured properly, it can assist in accelerating sales velocity and boosting your revenue.

6. Take pre-bookings: Pre-booking assists in providing your company with the clarity and visibility needed to more accurately forecast sales and anticipate demand.

7. Drive traffic from other sources: Running ads on other platforms outside of a marketplace such as Google AdWords or Facebook can help to redirect traffic to your product detail pages (PDPs).

8. Limited-time deals: Creating FOMO among customers about your new products through various promos and campaigns can result in spiking up your sales post-launch.

9. Collaboration with influencers: In the current digital age, it’s very important for organisations to connect with important links like influencers, which directly gives you access to the existing subscriber base of influencers who can potentially be your future customers.

10. Incorporate customer feedback in successive product improvement: To remain in the game and be sustainable, it is important for you as an organisation to listen to the voice of customers and what they have to say about your products, and take the positive feedback as an appreciation for your good work but consider the negative feedback on priority to rectify the pain points of the customers.

As important as it is for an organisation to introduce new products at different stages, it is equally important for them to figure out the avenues where they won and lost over the competition. After all, in modern times organisations need to be more dynamic in their approach to take corrective measures. What if one of your launch strategies fails? What if, at the execution level, you are not able to drive the desired output from any tactic that you adopted? In any such situation that might happen, the organisation much actively listen to the actions of the competition, sensing the market and customer behaviours, and swiftly act on these to stay relevant and competitive in the current market scenario.

October 31, 2022 17

Eyes on the prize

These can happen on and across different mediums. In our case, that means digital, retail or, at times, through assisted sales or customer service through WhatsApp. It is a real multichannel approach using various channels to ensure the buying journey rolls on.

Lenskart statistics: More than 70 per cent of our in-store customers check our online platforms first and, from there, interact with another touchpoint – be it a WhatsApp channel or customer care channel – and ultimately the transaction happens at the store. To take things one step further, at the store we have multiple touchpoints, such as AI and AR in the form of our 3D try-on. At the store, the consumer can try out virtually and decide on the best-fitting

still ultimately often occurred online. The world is still coming to terms with this; people still think of shopping as ‘online’ or ‘offline’. They only think about the last point in the funnel, when in reality the entire funnel needs to be considered.

WHAT ARE THE METRICS TO REALLY LOOK AT: Online traffic to offline footfall

Offline footfall to online traffic

Assisted sales

Conversion online vs conversion offline What is the overflow?

Fundamentally, at the heart of omnichannel, consumers today have a hybrid existence. They cannot be forced to buy in a certain way. Sometimes they are happier buying online; sometimes offline, on the telephone, or on WhatsApp. The objective is to make it frictionless, and that is what Omnichannel really does. We create a true frictionless experience, which is the heart and core of Lenskart’s omnichannel strategy. This is across all our eight stores, our website, mobile app, mobile web, across all platforms, and soon all of this will also be transferred to the metaverse. This is omnichannel – plus the metaverse – and this is the way forward.

‘Omnichannel’ is the buzzword of the day in retail, usurping the awkward ‘phygital’ and elevating the aged ‘multichannel’. There are others too, but the meaning is always the same. Yet, such is the way companies throw these terms around without a proper understanding of their meaning, it is becoming a bit of a running joke within the industry. A catch-all term that does not really catch all – an omni-term, if you will. For us at Lenskart, the way we have defined omnichannel means there is no standard map of the buying journey, which runs from awareness to consideration to trial to purchase.

frame. They come to the store, try on their choice of frames and, if they like them, they can purchase online while being at the store. It is online to offline, while also being offline to online. During the buying journey, it is not just how many transactions happen online vs offline, but also about where in the customer journey these interactions happen.

We found this model works because consumers invariably want to touch and feel the product, while still wanting to have that feeling of it being a digital purchase.


We recently had Lenskart projected on to the Ain Dubai. We had a production team who used drones to capture the LK brand logo and messages on the big wheel for a truly stunning sight. We shot this animation from high in the sky with a curious crowd below. Once this promotional film was produced, we partnered with numerous influencers – our own cofounder and CEO Peyush Bansal is a major influencer with a huge fan base across India – to post simultaneously at 11am on October 7. More than 100 people posted this across all channels, and within a short frame of time we noticed the video went viral with more than 200,000 views. We also played these videos at our stores, generating an increase in footfall. During the following weekend, we saw an increase of almost 50 per cent, along with sales also doubling week-on-week.

This is omnichannel at its heart and core as it was an offline campaign that moved online, brought footfall – offline – yet the actual sales

Our competitors have tried the ‘phygital’ approach – to go into a retail store and purchase online on a monitor. For me, this does not make sense because the objective of coming into a retail store is to have this touch-and-feel experience, to communicate with human beings. For me, that simply does not hold true at a retail store involving a monitor.

However, whichever way omnichannel and ‘phygital’ goes, along with the metaverse coming into play, one thing to be assured of is that there is a lot more to keep retail digital and data pundits busy. It is evident that omnichannel is heading in two distinct directions; first, it is far more consumer-centric, and second, it facilitates faster decisionmaking. And, as the old adage goes, ‘We continue to live in interesting times.’

October 31, 202218
Lenkart’s Sudhir Syal explains how the eyewear brand plans to use an omnichannel strategy to evolve e-commerce

Stronger together

Did you know that an overwhelming 90 per cent of enterprise advertisers believe their creative and media teams need to be better aligned? If advertisers want better creative, what’s getting in the way?

In association with WBR Insights, conducted a survey of 100 major brands and multi-brand retailers with advertising budgets greater than $50m to find out.

With the approaching demise of the browser cookie, advertisers all recognise that maintaining the effectiveness of creative assets during campaign activation is more important than ever. Marketers are increasingly seeking solutions that will help them to better connect their big ideas to compelling, data-driven advertising campaigns.

As cookie-based targeting continues to lose its effectiveness, it is more important than ever to release the power of digital creative. But what does that mean for advertisers’ creative teams and their data-driven initiatives? How can they make sure their creative assets aren’t diminished during campaign activation, leading to a loss of value and effectiveness?

Researchers found that 74 per cent of creative and media teams are not aligned or could be collaborating much more effectively. In addition, 56 per cent believe that combining the work of media and creative teams on a single platform would drive overall benefit and address some of the challenges resulting from this lack of alignment.

This lack of alignment can contribute to significant challenges in developing a return on ad spend (ROAS). When creative and media teams aren’t aligned, there may be a disconnect between the assets being delivered by the creative teams and the targeting media teams are using to deliver their ads. From a consumer perspective, ads that were once promising may miss the mark entirely. The result is a negative impact on ROAS.

When asked to rank their priorities for improving their return on advertising spend, the top two choices – scaling creative capacity and increasing creative acumen – garnered an equal vote (38 per cent). This was similarly reflected by US brands, which suggests that a significant portion of brand manufacturers and multi-brand retailers now recognise the importance of creative assets and their creative teams’ capabilities in the success of their advertising strategies. These companies hope to improve their creative capabilities to deliver more engaging ad creative, anticipating a time when brands can’t track consumer activities across third-party websites with cookies.

Aligning their teams to address the new, multi-channel advertising landscape may be a challenge. Thankfully, some solutions can help to bridge gaps between creative, media and data teams in this new environment.

Using automation, collaboration and workflow tools, teams can produce quality advertisements at scale, flexibly adapting the creative to meet all channel requirements in a few keystrokes. They can also better align their media and creative strategies to improve ROAS and engage customers with the type of content that drives sales.

If ad creative resonates with the audience, they are more likely to connect with it, regardless of its production value.

Unfortunately, some teams struggle to maintain their creative during the campaign activation process. This often occurs when teams aren’t aligned or when separate departments have differing objectives. This can result in a loss of resonance with audiences, diminishing the creative’s ability to drive the advertisement.

Most of the respondents say they have experienced this effect first-hand. Overall, 70 per cent say their creative branding assets get rejected, diminished, or lost during the activation of a campaign at least somewhat

often. This challenge was also identified by US advertisers (72 per cent) in the previous survey. This is a common occurrence when placing ads through third-party networks and channels.

The challenge for advertisers is determining how they can maintain the strength of their ad creative throughout the campaign production and activation processes.

Ideally, assets will be aligned with strategic campaign objectives before they are reviewed by media teams for distribution. Not only will this improve the effectiveness of companies’ digital ads overall, but it will also enable companies to scale their advertising capabilities quickly to meet demand.

Producing contextualised creative at scale is particularly important when creating different versions of advertisements. Companies must be able to deliver ads based on customers’ needs and interests, but they must also design ads based on different markets, regions, languages, channels and more.

Currently, 78per cent of respondents say they can create all versions of an ad within one day or less, reflecting a confidence in their agility and resources. However, almost all the respondents (90 per cent) claim they must build creative assets from scratch when personalisng campaigns at least somewhat often. This means they must redesign their ads to match the needs of specific audiences and regions and reflects a need to find ways to build on the flexible reusability of their creative assets.

To conclude, a greater focus on digital creative has the power to transform digital advertising. This survey reflects the growing importance being placed on the creative asset, how it is informed by creative intelligence and how it needs to be more closely aligned with media strategy. As the industry moves away from reliance on cookies and other third-party data, marketers will need to find new ways to connect their big ideas with data-driven campaigns.

An ad creative management platform helps to streamline the creative process by bringing all team members together in one place. It also provides a way for marketers to share their ideas with other departments, such as data and analytics, who can help turn those ideas into reality. Marketers can even use a creative management platform to introduce automation into their processes, allowing them to scale their strategies quickly.

By understanding the obstacles and opportunities associated with campaign activation, advertisers can prepare for the future of digital advertising. With the right data, intelligence, and collaborative solutions in place, they can release the full power of digital creative.

October 31, 2022 19 PARTNER CONTENT
Ad-Lib’s Janira Hernandez says collaboration is crucial to releasing the power of digital creative communications
“This survey reflects the growing importance being placed on the creative asset and how it needs to be more aligned with media strategy.”
By Janira Hernandez, Head of MEA, Ad-Lib Digital
Download the full survey at

Fast-moving consumers

Adiscussion on self-driving cars or drones rarely starts with how people and goods were carried on horseback and wheeled carts, yet when there’s a discussion on electronic trade or e-commerce it usually starts with the glorious days of bricks-and-mortar stores.

That’s not because e-commerce has, in the words of Don Draper, “the itch of new”. In fact, the first online company, Boston Computer Exchange, was launched in 1982 and the term e-commerce was coined way back in 1984. It has evolved rapidly and continues to do so.

However, despite the evolution from physical stores to websites to apps and to social media, it hasn’t been a complete transition. Physical stores still exist but most are there more as legacy systems and some to support

online trade, rather than the other way round.

Within the last 12 months alone, we’ve seen the pre-launch of Facebook’s metaverse, the launch of Amazon’s contactless payment system, Musk’s Neuralinks demos with monkeys playing video games, and virtual influencers like Qai Qai and Lil Miquela gaining massive social media followings.

It’s hard to keep up with these technological advances but what’s even harder is to predict consumer trends. Consumers today are more promiscuous than ever before. A recent Forbes article found only 37 per cent of Gen Z fall into the ‘loyalists’ category of shoppers, compared with 56 per cent of boomers.

One of the reasons for this lack of brand loyalty is the convenience to switch to a brand that offers better price or better matches a consumer’s values. Even after the purchase, a product can be returned easily, creating a whole new challenge for retailers. In America, 21 per cent of online orders, worth approximately $218bn, were returned in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation, up from 18 per cent in 2020. The primary reason for this was that online traders started offering free returns to compete with the bricks-and-mortar establishments. Shoppers came to expect this, and the lockdowns helped them get used to the otherwise tedious process of repacking and labelling and shipping orders back. Retailers are experimenting with virtual reality to allow users to try on shoes and glasses before buying them as a way to cut down on increasing returns. This opens up a whole new space for marketing innovation.

Another emerging trend to watch out for is virtual influencers. Gone are the days when shoppers would rely on celebrity endorsements. Even influencers with massive social media followings seem to be losing ground to microinfluencers. In the blink of an eye, they soon could be

replaced, or at worst forced to share space with virtual ones.

Innovation in financial technology is also shaking up the world of e-commerce. Due to the ubiquity of smartphones in the region, there’s already a surge in contactless payments. ‘Buy now pay later’ services are becoming increasingly popular. From blockchain to cryptocurrencies, from NFC to NFTs, opportunities are

rife. Demystifying and understanding these technologies will certainly help businesses gain an edge over their competitors.

There has also been a paradigm shift in the way the whole industry is shaped. There are no more boundaries when it comes to business offerings. Visa exclusively for payments, Amazon for shopping, Facebook for social media and Google for information is no longer the norm. The silos in which these businesses have traditionally operated are being broken down as they diversify. Consumers can now go to Facebook for shopping and Amazon Prime for entertainment.

The marketplace is faced with impending seismic changes. But, more importantly, seismic changes that can strike without warning. All we as marketers and ad people can do is be prepared.

October 31, 202220
The pace of change in e-commerce can be breathtaking. FP7 McCann’s Auni Sen explores the trends driving its acceleration

In 2019, the US recorded that the total share of online transactions had overtaken traditional retail sales. Now, in a post-Covid ‘alwayson’ world, these figures seem like the norm. But things were already heading that way. In the run-up to 2019, we could argue many brands were already moving towards e-commerce being their primary consumer channel.

Brands that operate in both physical and digital environments have constantly struggled with how these two spaces co-exist. Ideas around delivering real-world store experiences in a digital environment have been the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for many a digital strategist.

From how they deliver a consumer experience that’s fitting with a real-world store to understanding and integrating new technology and trends that seem to pop up almost daily.

It seems to have taken until 2022 for brands to understand that trying to force a digital replica of an in-real-life (IRL) store experience or a series of awkward try-on-at-home digital wardrobe solutions may not be the best way to integrate the physical and digital experience of the brand.

So, where are we today? What changes are we seeing in the physical versus e-commerce experiences that brands are currently offering to consumers?

When Nike acquired the virtual fashion NFT studio RTFKT towards the end of 2021, the world was at the height of an NFT collectable ‘flipping’ bubble.

Let’s get phygital

Flipping is the act of buying a hyped item with the intention of selling quickly at an inflated price. As we have moved through the year, however, we can now understand Nike’s intentions for this acquisition: to navigate ahead of any current trend or hype and into a world where brands begin to blur the lines between physical purchases and digital assets.

After a series of Nike x RTFKT NFT sneaker drops, Nike has begun to experiment with physical and digital world collections. The Nike x RTFKT AR hoodie is the latest example of this and allows the physical owner of the hoodie to connect with a digital version of the hoodie via an NFC chip placed inside the garment. The NFT and the digital version not only allow the owner to wear the hoodie on their avatar in the metaverse, but they also enhance the hoodie with animated wings.

Nike has understood one key factor in this product launch. One that many brands over the years of the mainstream e-commerce uptake have failed to understand: Consumers now have both a physical identity and a digital identity.

The notion of a consumer having both a physical and a digital identity feels like nothing revolutionary, but it’s somehow been overlooked in the quest for the real world and digital brand unity. The realisation that consumers can act, dress and communicate a certain way in the

physical world and a different way in the digital world may be a linking of some of the dots.

Arguably the metaverse is driving much of the conversation around digital identity versus physical, but that’s a topic for another time.

What we need to address currently is: Have brands now finally found a way to sell and be relevant in three ways: the traditional way; the brick and mortar stores, the current way; using e-commerce; and in the near future via an online identity or through the metaverse?

The opportunities around products that are developed with the above points, open up new avenues for a connected consumer experience and how products are purchased and used.

In these scenarios, a product might be purchased in a physical store via a story-first personalised face-to-face service, which may be based on data gathered from a previous e-commerce experience. Following the physical transaction, the user receives a digital version of that product, the NFT, that can be personalised depending on the user’s digital identity.

In a slightly less futuristic scenario, we will see a lot more products purchased with NFTs attached, giving users access to key information about the product. This includes the fabric’s source, its carbon footprint or, in a world of increasing resale, it tags the product’s authenticity and ensures it is genuine.

The last months of 2022 will see many more conversations around the future of e-commerce and how brands will navigate this ever-changing space.

We may not be calling the merge between physical and digital ‘phygital’ in 2023; however, we can be certain that the growing understanding around digital identities will shape all transactions online and how brands sell to consumers going forward.

October 31, 2022 21
Like Digital’s Karl Escritt argues it is time to merge real-world products with immersive technologies

Back to basics

With the boom of e-commerce, it is almost every marketer’s priority to have a strong digital presence. However, digital marketing, whilst a standard ingredient of most marketing campaigns, is not the same as it once was. There is no doubt all brands should be present in the digital space, either to facilitate conversion, strengthen your relationship with your audience or simply build brand awareness. There are infinite scenarios in which being online can help your business grow, but whatever you choose to do should be worked through intentionally. Adopting and implementing the right digital strategy is a task. There are several brands that already ‘do digital’ well and are highly referenced as best-in-class (Careem, Cafu, Washman, InstaShop, etc.). Yet, when we come across something that looks simple and seamless it is hardly ever a result of a quick and dirty execution. Good e-commerce should always feel seamless and smooth; however, this

doesn’t necessarily mirror the journey to get there.

As commerce partners, we often receive briefs on ‘optimising digital presence’, and one of the relatively efficient ways of closing the loop is optimising presence and performance on social. Social platforms present a great landscape to reach new audiences, innovate or refresh your identity and convert audiences within the same platform. Particularly on social, it is important to map out the role of the brand for the channel, and not simply be present for the sake of being present.

Always starting with the objective is key and understanding the value your brand is meant to provide for your audience. A good commerce and social strategy are anchored in the type of content that the audience is seeking vs the message we are trying to push as marketers.

Secondly, although social is a very attractive platform, the impact of your audience searching for your brand and seeing you have less than 100 followers might be worse than not having an account at all. The same way people don’t enter an empty restaurant, people might feel hesitant to try or trust a brand with less than a few thousand followers. People attract people, so ensure that you have credible presence and engagement. One can even argue that very few consumers will be purchasing low involvement categories on social platforms, such as car engine oil, sugar or kitchen foil. This doesn’t mean these categories shouldn’t exist on these platforms, but they require as much thinking and work as any other piece of communication (perhaps more).

Here are a few more considerations to keep in mind when developing an e-commerce strategy: 1. Is your brand a good fit for the chosen platform?

There are plenty of options brands can explore when implementing their e-commerce rollout. However, different platforms serve different purposes in the consumer journeys. For example, don’t just be present on social media because ‘it’s hot’. Is social media a preferred platform your audience uses to navigate or interact with your category? If not, does it make sense to change this behaviour? Will this address any current issues or bring value to your relationship with your audience? Same goes with Amazon brand stores. Will a brand store on Amazon benefit your shopper’s experience when purchasing your brand, and is this addressing a current purchasing barrier, or should you dedicate your time and money somewhere else? You might find you can get a better ROI optimising your

customer service. So, always consider the audience, their presence and their buying behaviours before aligning your e-commerce platforms.

2. Action plan

You know what you want to do and where you want to do it. Now, you need to do it. If you are planning on hiring an agency partner to do it all, you need to be clear on what you want and make strategic decisions that will make your money sweat more. It is important to map out the most valuable tasks versus trying to do it all. However, if you are planning on doing the job in-house, or even just part of it, you’ll soon come to realise you need people who are familiar with the field and, depending on the size of your portfolio, a fully dedicated team. You’ll need to learn the rules of the game, and each platform has its own. Retail specialists and data scientists are your best allies.

3. Do it right

The way people understand and absorb content is remarkably influenced by the format and context through which it is conveyed. Do not copy-paste your work. What you display on a billboard should not be the same you use for your product detail page (PDP) A+ content, regardless of how good it looks.

4. Stay agile

The digital space is highly demanding to maintain rewarding results. External factors such as seasonal events or competitors’ activity have a quick and direct impact on your brand’s visibility and performance. On an optimistic note, you have the tools to amend and react quickly to changing scenarios. However, you also need to be prepared to continuously monitor and optimise your performance. Commerce is not a one-off task. Brands should have calendar activations planned, ideally a year ahead, with effective growth-hacking strategies that will resonate with their audience.

Particularly in the Middle East, it is extremely important to adopt and execute relevant digital communications. It is a market where convenience and services have been increasingly embedded in the culture for the last decade. There are multiple platforms that bring comfort to people’s lives through e-commerce every day. Almost anything one might need can be delivered to your doorstep within minutes. This brings an audience accustomed to the channel and who completely embraces this practice.

October 31, 202222
VMLY&R Commerce’s Hemal Soni and Cristina Mas go back to basics with a look at the essentials of e-commerce

The pandemic has created a major shift in the retail landscape. While customer experience has long been of paramount significance, the experience itself is in the midst of change.

Consumers’ expectations, behaviours and priorities are now evolving at a rapid pace in the age of disruption and hyperpersonalisation. A new time defined by smart technologies that affects and expands the consumer’s breadth of decision-making.

From in-store marketing to e-commerce – and everything in between – the customer journey is decidedly defining the modern shopping experience. Currently, it is forecast that the market size of e-commerce industry in the GCC region is expected to reach $50bn by 2025.

On top of that, new research from Merchant Machine has revealed the UAE has the fastest growing e-commerce market in 2022. Consumer spending is growing rapidly in the GCC countries, creating numerous opportunities for the e-commerce retail market growth, according to Research and Markets. It is expected that online shopping experiences will continue to grow at a rapid pace as the UAE bolsters one of the highest percentages of internet and mobile penetration worldwide. Brands need to capitalise on this growing opportunity, and position the electronics industry at the forefront of e-commerce on a long-term basis.

How Covid-19 unlocked the adoption of e-commerce in the MENA region

In 2020, there was an expected additional 6 per cent annual market growth due to Covid-19 alone, according to Statista, marking a conscious precedent provoked by the pandemic. Leading e-commerce trends is electronics, jumping to the bestselling online product category last year and accounting for 34 per cent of total sales in the UAE.

E-commerce is also catering to the new way people are consuming electronics through brands and their partners’ platforms. A rise in exclusive launches on global online stores also encouraged e-commerce players to gain a competitive advantage and expand their market share. This, as a result, has attracted more and more customers to the digital shift.

At Samsung, we were quick to adopt to the new paradigm shift, taking the innovation charge head-on by reimagining our next

chapter of digital and online experiences.

We recognised very early that the new age of window shopping is online, and as a result we spearheaded new partnerships and investments aiming to bring in an optimised user experience, both in front of the customer and in the background.

To that end, I am proud to be at the heart of a journey that started back in 2018, in the UAE specifically, where we first launched our e-store for Samsung Gulf Electronics. Our e-store operation has been experiencing two-fold growth year-on-year since the pandemic began. This huge success is attributed to our commitment to provide our consumers a seamless and truly personalised shopping experience. We developed exclusive reward programmes, value-added services such as doorstep trade-in for mobiles and TVs, and easy 24-month instalments with most major UAE banks, as well as after sale benefits such as Samsung Care+ and more to meet the individual needs of each and every customer.

To top it all off, we made access to our Samsung Bespoke product line easier than ever, boasting multiple categories across mobile, home appliances and more. The Bespoke portfolio attracted a wide array of

consumers online and offline, thanks to its unique features, colour combinations, hyper-personalisation and self-expression through technology.

Transforming the retail experience of the future

While there is a daunting unpredictability to the outcomes of this online e-commerce craze, there is a silver lining that can be felt across the entire ecosystem. As consumers browse more, brands have a golden opportunity to know their consumers better, and consequently personalise their shopping experience and make it truly their own.

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that change is inevitable. Now that working from home is a norm, hybrid work is a choice, and technology is still evolving more rapidly than ever before, consumers are rushing to the occasion of making their life more adaptable to the very changes that life offers, and that means taking care of their

own needs, their own space, and not at the expense of design and personal experience.

Customers are looking for a greater array of choice and are turning online to retrieve their preferred and tailored product offering, and it is up to us as players in the industry to face the growing consumer demand online –and offline – and continuously re-shape, re-write and respond to customer journey in what is known as the ‘phyigtal’ world.

By Shafi Alam, head of direct-to-consumer business & corporate marketing, Samsung Gulf Electronics

To each their own

October 31, 2022 23
They key to unlocking e-commerce potential is being unique and personal, says Samsung’s Shafi Alam

E-content adaptation is often a secondary priority, even for brands that understand the significance of e-commerce in the post-pandemic reality. It is not enough to leverage the marketing content and the campaign slogan and hope the message will be clear for the end consumer. It is important to implement a data-driven approach to e-content as it is a key factor in helping brands establish a closer relationship with their target audience and increase sales by leveraging their consumers’ willingness to do the research.


Customers often research products online. They want to make an informed purchase and your e-content can make or break their decision. Not only that, but the customer is giving us the opportunity to guide them through the purchase process.

So, what information is actually important for them? Well, that depends on your product. Do your due diligence –gather the data, use the insights and guide your customer to the product that suits their needs best. Ensure that the product content is adapted not just to regional needs but also to individual ones.

This consumer-centric approach on e-platforms is on the rise, and some have already understood the value of a guided and localised approach online. In the UAE, e-commerce sales reached $4.8bn in 2021, nearly doubling the 2019 result of $2.6bn, according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

For international brands, global guidelines should be adhered to but localised for the regional needs to include Arabic copywriting and design adjustments to fit the flow of reading Arabic (right-to-left). A similar approach is also provided to regional and local brands to ensure maximum customisation within the e-retail space so that information being presented leads consumers to an informed purchase.


We’ve said before that no marketing decision should be made without proper data analysis of your target group. As our post-pandemic customers have shifted ever more towards an online shopping experience, the need for clear information on e-retailer platforms is continuing to grow. Across the MENA region, shoppers report doing research

The well-

online, even if their ultimate path to purchase was through a brick-and-mortar store. In 2021, 85 per cent of consumers in UAE and 80 per cent in KSA reported they use mobile devices to research the products they intend to purchase, according to Go-Globe. Where e-content strategy excels is when consumers feel they have enough information right from the e-retailer to click the Buy Now button. Having a consumer-centric strategy on content will help elevate the experience on the platform and increase traction, leading to a greater chance of generated sales.


Regardless of the brand, brands need the support of a specialised e-merchandising team to help them keep their products in check and ask the right questions. Is the product listed? Does it have the proper images? Correct information? Is the enhanced content page showing? And is it going to stay live or (due to fickleness of e-retailer platforms) vanish in a couple of days? These are among the questions of the newfound e-merchandising challenge brands are faced with when attempting to market online.

Some e-retailers are more advanced than others in the content that can be

displayed – product images, titles, bullet points, descriptions or enhanced content. Navigating through the plethora of specifications is a challenge.


E-retailer platforms such as Instashop and El Grocer in the UAE, and Hunger Station and Nana in KSA, are open to sharing data, along with Amazon Brand Analytics. These aggregators of data provide a variety of useful sales and consumer shopping behaviour insights, but they require the right talents to gauge actionable insights.

Tools such as Edge, Profitero and Brand New Galaxy’s proprietary Synthrone act as digital shelf trackers, providing ongoing analysis of your e-portfolio’s health status. Real-time data tracking allows for a speedier reaction to any given circumstance on the digital shelf. Am I running a campaign on products that are out of stock? Are my best-sellers properly stocked? Are my prices competitive? Am I winning the buy-box?

Once we have the right insight, we follow with the optimisation. Rinse and repeat.

October 31, 202224
An informative and individualised approach to e-retail content can pay dividends, writes BNG’s Oliwier Koziol
stocked self

Take five

Before you get stuck into the juicy visual part of your e-commerce design there’s a mandatory set of activities that need undertaking.

Sure, you can ignore them. Both routes will end up with a beautiful new customer experience but with one difference. The strategic path will deliver double-digit conversion. The opinion-based route will be like a firework: everyone will ooo and ahhh, but it’s short lived and nothing will actually change. Apart from six months later, when you’ll need to call in the experts to pick apart why your commerce isn’t providing, well, commerce.

1. RACI – the responsible, accountable, consulted and informed responsibility assignment matrix. How boring. Thinking about all the stakeholders in the entire organisation isn’t exactly exciting work. But ignore it or do it slapdash and from the outset you’ll be in trouble. Those hearts and minds aren’t going to win themselves. Nor is it a token ‘bring them for the journey’. Involving your

stakeholders in a transformation based in action research means they all have skin in the game. What’s action research? It’s the process of multiple iterations of actually involving actors (customers, employees, suppliers) in the process to hone the experience.


1. Make a list and get to the bottom of political allegiances.

2. Circulate and ensure everyone knows their role and capture any more that are missing.

3. Hold a kickoff to describe the outcome of the project to get everyone on the same page (aligned, if you speak business).

2. Data. Knowing what you have and how sophisticated the setup (and being honest) is crucial. Your data is the lifeblood of your platform. It’s likely to be one of two environments – data, what’s that? Or held together with string and Sellotape. You might have vanity metrics – for example, what volume of visitors you have. It’s largely meaningless. You need to know the ‘as-is’ state so you can plan on what’s needed in your ‘to-be’ state. Get it right and all the magic happens. Ignore it and nothing changes.


1. Conduct an audit of your data sources for your platform (e.g Google Analytics) and products (e.g product information management).

2. Understand the impact on conversion –channel, behaviour, device and media.

3. Customers. All organisations think they know their customers. In reality, for most it’s all assumptions with a blend of truths and incorrect hypotheses. By understanding what your customers’ needs and goals are, they can be designed for. And by understanding their pain points, you might be able to solve some of them to be of more use. It can be a hard conversation to have in the organisation as it exposes many processes and people who should know, in detail, the answers in order to execute their role properly.


1. Undertake group empathy mapping to expose how many assumptions there are in the business and facilitate a research-based approach.

2. Create research that includes a segmentinformed screener, an entire lifecycle (yes, that does include ownership and support) 3. Produce an activation pack of personas detailing mandatory needs, pain points and thought-starters.

4. Hold show-and-tell sessions across the business to ensure clients widely understood and define what employees will start, stop and continue doing – helping the entire organisation become more customer-focused.

4. Differentiation. You could focus on a million things. You need to concentrate on the things that bring your brand strategy to life. That’s not your colours, it’s your values and those that you can actively demonstrate you do, and do better than the competition. If you have some neutral and largely meaningless values, such as ‘simple’, you’re going to need

to get that brand house in order before cranking with your digital strategy.


1. Review your brand strategy to understand how the values are actively experienced and how they are of value to your customers.

2. Across your entire customer journey, review the specific touchpoints where the values can be applied. It’s likely to be about 10 out of 200 touchpoints.

3. Use that blunt weapon to dissolve any strategies that don’t align to these moments.

5. Prioritisation. Once you have understood the size of the transformation task, you’re going to be overwhelmed with the number of requirements. It’s not a case of simply organising them in a linear timeline. You need to review each one through multiple lenses of value and feasibility. This works best when a suite of responsible scorers from across operations, technology, customer experience and commercial teams come together.


1. Create a single-candidate backlog of all potential features and requirements.

2. Allocate scoring roles to representatives for customer, brand, habit-formation, business, operations and technology.

3. Process the whole set to understand what is both valuable and feasible.

4. Look for groups of requirements that naturally fit together and in sequence

5. Share the roadmap across the business with the rationale.

By Brian Galligan (pictured), regional director, April Strategy

MENA (with input from Jonathan C. Lova -Young, experience strategist, associate at April Strategy)

October 31, 2022 25
April Strategy’s Jonathan C Lovatt-Young and Brian Galligan list the five ‘secret sauce’ ingredients to cook up e-commerce transformation heaven

Imagine putting on a headset and opening your eyes to a virtual world, and with the tap of your finger you get to teleport into an automotive showroom. Next, you look at a blank platform in front of you and again tap your fingers. A tablet-like screen appears in front of your eyes, allowing you to select the car you want to see. Browsing the menu and the customisations it offers, you choose the colour of your vehicle, the interior, rims, or any feature available. When happy with the customisations, you walk to your new virtual car, open the door, go inside to test drive it virtually, and even take your family on a tour of Europe. When you are satisfied with the choice, add it to your cart, pay, and the car will arrive at your doorstep. This experience we might imagine seeing in futuristic sci-fi movies is much closer than we think.

Extended reality (XR) is a term that represents all virtual experiences. Extended reality includes augmented reality, or AR, which uses the physical world to trigger overlapping digitally generated information, while mixed reality (MR) adds interactivity to the virtual content. Finally, virtual reality (VR) aims to create an entirely virtual environment that simulates the real world.

Computer scientist Ivan Sutherland developed the first attempt at virtuality technologies in 1968 with a system called Sword of Damocles. In its early years, between 1970 and 1990, virtual reality


and augmented reality gained traction in the medical, military and aerospace sectors, and later academia. Recently, wearable and virtual computing systems have seen field-changing advancements and broader adoption, opening doors to vast opportunities in many fields, including e-commerce.

Regardless of the significant advances, the XR technology is not yet ready to execute an entirely virtual shopping experience like the example above. However, AR and MR are already revolutionising e-commerce by enhancing the shopper experience. At the end of an Apple website product page is an icon that prompts users to view the latest iPhone or laptop in augmented reality. Clicking the icon allows the user to project a virtual version of the product

Beyond reality

on a flat surface. Users can also scale, rotate and move the product to get a feel of it before buying it. Many brands are adopting this kind of AR use. L’Oréal has jumped on this surge with the Virtual Makeup try-on technology available on the Maybelline website. Shoppers can try any Maybelline Makeup product using their phones and share it with friends on social media to get their opinions. The latest version of Ikea’s MR experience, ‘Ikea Kreativ,’ enables users to delete existing furniture and replace it with store items. Technologies behind these elevated shopping experiences are growing, combining advanced machine learning algorithms and evolving hardware like the lidar sensors on iPhones.

Snapchat’s AR shopping lens is one of the early adopters of the technology. Snapchat already provides a virtual shopping experience platform to well-known brands such as Nike and is accessible to any brand wanting to advertise on the forum. While AR MENA brand experiences are not very popular yet on the platform, it is picking up pace with Snapchat’s announcement it will launch a Creator Studio in Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia.

While VR isn’t as accessible as AR, it is hard to ignore the opportunities it creates for brands, from unique immersive experiences to virtual goods. For example, the Nikeland virtual store on the metaverse game platform Roblox allows users to browse and try on virtual products. Since its launch in November last year, Nike has reported 6.7 million visitors from 224 countries to Nikeland.

Other big tech companies such as Pinterest, Instagram, Google and Amazon are also advocating the growth of virtual shopper experiences with try-on makeup, jewellery, apparel (clothes, shoes) and accessories (hats and eyewear). Also, with Disney and UFC announcing their adoption of VR technologies and the metaverse, the opportunities for XR are surging.

A study conducted in 2021 By Deloitte Digital and Snapchat projected that 4.3 billion users would be regular users of AR technologies by 2025, which, according to Snapchat, will be 75 per cent of the world population and almost every

mobile phone user. Also, according to Zawya and Ciena’s study conducted in June, 94 per cent of professionals in the MENA region are comfortable with conducting meetings in VR.

Following the announcement of his Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, of his goal to turn Dubai into one of the world’s top 10 metaverse economies, the growth for XR in the region is at its prime. With advancing technologies, mass adoption and access to AR, MR, and VR are picking up speed. To remain relevant and connected to their consumers, brands need to adopt ER strategies and be open to artificial intelligence, blockchain, and web 3.0 technology to ride this rising wave.

October 31, 202226 ‘‘SNAP
SAE Institute’s Hiba Hassan examines the growth of XR technologies in e-commerce

The notion that businesses, individually and collectively, have a duty to make the world better has been more than merely understood; it’s now a priority. Being cognisant of nearby needs, no matter how small, has proven to be as important as headline-generating initiatives, especially at a time when the variety of activities in this realm is helping broaden awareness around how and where companies can offer support.

Wider active involvement is, of course, a factor in executives having the experience to speak confidently on how their social responsibility work is seen. Cicero & Bernay has been charting the progress of executive sentiment toward CSR for some time now, and the 2022 findings are once again intriguing.

We’ve seen that in 2021, UAE managers almost unanimously state that the CSR for their company is either part of their DNA or one of their top priorities, with emphatic sentiments in that regard being recorded in Saudi Arabia.

Undoubtedly, occurrences around the pandemic, and especially the resulting sentiments, have had an impact on how we all reflect on the world. Yet, somewhat independent from that has been a growing trend for consumers seeking information regarding the ethical stances of the businesses they interact with. CSR has been made central to organisational structures across the business world, with those having a CSR programme in place overwhelmingly believing it to be beneficial to their business, generating positive or very positive effects.

From the perspective of the MENA region, the understanding of CSR as a concept among C-suite executives is high. More than half claim to have a strong understanding of it, with the UAE and the KSA leading the pack. Most C-suite managers regionally feel that CSR is essential, with a similar proportion believing it has a very positive business effect. Most interestingly, similar to previous years, a minority still have very little knowledge of CSR, which is

employing good moral values, being more involved in social issues or charities, or meeting certification standards. For the industry this indicates a manifestation of the premise that ‘brand value’-driven content and marketing, rather than tactics, will be major factors going forward.

In the UAE, managers value and trust companies that are more socially responsible, with the majority claiming to change their shopping habits to buy more from these types of companies, even if it costs them more, and advising friends and family to follow suit.

There’s a clear recognition that the socially conscious consumer is not a minority now. She herself and her behaviours are demonstrated everywhere. Only once we understand that and adapt our own methods to match hers will we empathise successfully.

something that needs to improve, particularly in Egypt where a significant number of C-suite managers express no understanding of CSR at all.

Results consistently show that a lack of understanding is a barrier to valuing and adopting basic corporate social responsibility practices. Without educating those managers who need it, it will be difficult for them to overcome the financial commitment needed to implement and run an effective CSR programme.

Almost all managers in our region understand core CSR practices relating to

We are seeing a definite advancement in both perceptions of CSR and implementations. Prioritisation of these principles is what has helped drive this change. Naturally, these are led by smaller businesses with that altruistic ethos at heart and much larger entities who have sensed that this will benefit them going forward. If everybody can be brought aboard, then soon enough these principles will be intrinsic to how business works everywhere. The more we give of ourselves, the grander and more benevolent the results we will reap.

October 31, 2022 27
In our corporate hearts we’re now responsible, says Cicero & Bernay’s Ahmad Itani


It is our duty to support a new generation that welcomes hope, and is not afraid to change the world, writes Red Havas’s Mathilde Montel


“Welcome to the postpandemic, new hopeful era,” concludes the latest Havas Middle East Prosumer Report, Generation Covid, which explores Gen Z’s influential role in shaping the region’s future and the role brands should play in adapting to changing expectations.

This recent study decodes findings from the UAE and KSA with insights about post-pandemic mindsets of the next generation of ‘Prosumers’. These are the consumers who are today’s leading influencers and market drivers. Beyond their own economic impact, they are important as they influence brands’ choices and the consumption behaviours of others.

Key findings reveal that today’s youth is dissatisfied with the direction of the world and they are committed to driving change on their own terms. Environmental sustainability is at the top of their agenda, and if the future doesn’t inspire them they are ready and willing to tackle challenges despite the chaos and uncertainty that swirls around them. And how can we blame them?

Globally, we still lack unity to move in the right direction, in a consolidated effort. Over the summer, United Nations members failed to establish a UN Ocean Treaty that would set rules for protecting marine life in international waters that cover half the planet. The failure to reach an agreement opens a debate over countries moving too slowly despite their commitments and pledges.

Yet, the next generation is hopeful. They won’t wait for the future; their future starts today, and they will drive change. They are already involved in environmental activism. The study reveals that one out of two UAE residents is personally engaged in some form of activism for the planet. In addition, 53 per cent of people in the UAE and 56 per cent in KSA want to work less and dedicate more time to causes that matter to the world. They are even personally ready to stop buying fast fashion (57 per cent in the UAE and 55 per cent in KSA). In conclusion, today’s young consumers want to build a new world that suits their aspirations and that is guided by their moral compass.

It feels like a daunting task, but they are not alone. Regionally, governments are taking sustainability much more seriously. The majority of GCC countries have announced their commitments to net-zero carbon emissions as part of their Vision plans, while we are at the cusp of COP 27 being held in Egypt, and of course the UAE next year.

The Dubai Supreme Council of Energy recently announced the reduction of its carbon emissions by 21 per cent in 2021, a step in the right direction for the Dubai Carbon Abatement Strategy 2030, which aims to reduce 30 percent of carbon

emissions by the end of 2030. Several other carbon emission reduction targets have been set ahead of 2060 as part of the wider net zero initiative by the UAE.

In such challenging times, there is hope. But action is needed. As the older generation, what role do we play? Some say we have destroyed the world beyond repair – regardless, what isn’t too broken for us to fix? Together, we can set a better foundation for the generations to come, starting with enabling Gen Z as much as we can. As communications specialists, it is our role to drive organisational change for our clients, reset their priorities and define their ESG agenda. Bearing in mind that businesses must adapt to changing customer expectations and behaviours, while keeping true to their identity and maintaining their credibility.

Sometimes, this action is radical. A company that aligned its actions to its mission is Patagonia, whose founder Yvon Chouinard announced last month that he was giving away all the company’s profits in perpetuity to ‘save our home planet’. Already well established as a philanthropist, this announcement elevated his profile to that of an environmental corporate leader, as he stated: “If we have any hope of a thriving planet – much less a thriving business – 50 years from now, it is going to take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have. Earth is our only shareholder.”

Sometimes, this action is inspirational. To celebrate the UAE’s 50th National Day, The National newspaper took a different stance to inspire the prosperous future of the nation. Addressing the environmental issue,

Havas wanted to encourage readers to plant the seeds of the greener future by planting one tree that defies the desert –the ghaf tree. In collaboration with the ‘Give a Ghaf’ planting programme, we createdThe Ghaf Paper, the newspaper that can be planted to grow into a ghaf tree, made entirely of plantable paper, ghaf tree seeds and vegetable oil for ink. Through this collaborative initiative, hundreds of trees were planted and will be sharing their roots on the prosperous land of the UAE for years to come, resulting in commercial impact for The National too.

Sometimes, this action is incremental. With the global campaign Run for the Oceans, Adidas is continuing its commitment to urgently address the threatening levels of marine plastic pollution in the oceans. Last year, Adidas and Nakheel installed a floating walkway on the waters at The Pointe at Palm Jumeirah, with educational touchpoints positioned along it to raise awareness and end plastic waste pollution

Change starts with the organisational and personal examples we set. As an agency, we recently launched Red Impact globally, which I helped launch in the Middle East. It is a new offering that brings together Red Havas’s environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) expertise and capabilities from across the world.

And as I write this article, I’m gearing up for a clean-up dive to support #PalmWithoutPlastic, an initiative by Nakheel in collaboration with Nemo Diving Centre to clean our Dubai beaches. We can expect to see many more of these activities in the coming months, when divers of all ages can participate for free by picking up plastic and protecting marine life.

Welcome to the post-pandemic, new hopeful era.

October 31, 2022 29

Revolutionising environment-friendly out- of-home advertising

JCDecaux, as a global leader in out-of-home advertising, has had sustainability as a core part of its business strategy since its inception. Environmental, social and governance practices are deeply rooted in the company’s DNA and reflect through our daily operations. Our commitment to sustainable development has been continuously recognised by several global non-financial rating agencies such as inclusion in the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP’s) ‘A List’, an ‘AAA’ ranking from Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) in 2021, and even the FTSE4Good index with a 4.6/5 score. We are now among a few companies in the media sector with a performance well above the average.

As pioneers in leading the way in sustainable OOH Advertising solutions, we have a proven track record in supporting brands in their development through innovative products and solutions that integrate ESG practices at

the core. To further strengthen our impact and commitment in pioneering environment-friendly advertising platforms for our partners and brands, we recently unveiled our new strategic ESG roadmap for 2030. This roadmap aligns with the French National Low-Carbon Strategy, the Green Pact for Europe and the United Nations› Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Three important objectives were identified for the 2030 ESG roadmap: 1. Towards more sustainable living spaces; 2. Towards an optimised environmental footprint; 3. Towards a responsible business environment.

The growing importance of sustainability has been one of the key topics of recent years. This represents a vital cultural shift across all industries. Communicating sustainability messaging and partnering with media owners that align with a brand’s ESG practices effectively now ranks among the most important aspects of a business strategy. While brands that

partner with us make efforts in sustainable development, we too have made it the core of our local strategy in Dubai, establishing it as a key factor in innovation, differentiation, and competitiveness.


We offer premium communication platforms for organisations and brands to promote their marketing campaigns through sustainable media practices that benefit the environment. More than words and promises, we claim deeds and evidence.


Today an evolution in marketing strategies takes brands beyond green marketing and into sustainable, long-term business growth. With sustainability and green practices now rooted in the planning stage of brand strategy and communication, companies are becoming aware and conscious of working with the right media partners that support their ESG goals.

Our goal is to advise brands and help enhance their campaigns. We measure, of course, efficiency, notoriety, and ethics too at every step of our operations, and we recognise that is part of our service to cities in helping safeguard them for generations to come. Working with JCDecaux, an ecoresponsible organisation actively reducing its environmental impact, guarantees that your marketing campaigns are entrusted to a media partner committed to a green future.

October 31, 2022 31 PARTNER CONTENT
“The growing importance of sustainability has been one of the key topics of recent years. This represents a vital shift across all industries.”

Research from Asda’a BCW’s Arab Youth Survey and the agency’s new OnePoint5 advisory shows a groundswell of concern and action among Arab youth, writes Stephen Worsley

Imagine having one of the biggest days of your career ruined by two environmental activists shouting slogans and waving a homemade banner.

Such was the fate of Liz Truss, whose maiden speech as British prime minister to the Conservative party conference in Birmingham in October was sabotaged by two members of Greenpeace UK, protesting what they saw as government backsliding on everything from environmental protection to workers’ rights.

nearly three-quarters of Arab youth across the region say that climate change is now affecting their everyday lives, up from about two-thirds who said this in 2021. And half say they are now likely to boycott a brand that damages the environment, rising to a staggering two-thirds of young GCC nationals.

Arab youth cite inflation, unemployment, the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories, government corruption and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic as the main obstacles facing the region. This is to be expected in a region that has lived through the Arab Spring, the rise and fall of Islamist extremism and the massive disruption to the tourism sector, an economic lifeline for many Arab nations, caused by the pandemic.


In their own way, Ami McCarthy and Rebecca Newsom were emulating the rebelliousness of 19-year-old Swedish activist and global climate icon Greta Thunberg, who famously lambasted the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, aka COP26, as an exercise in ‘blah, blah, blah’.

But, as our research at Asda’a BCW shows, social and environmental activism is no longer confined to society’s margins and rowdy post-Millennials, or Gen Y-ers, to be more precise, in the case of Mses McCarthy and Newsom.

Awareness of the need for more urgent action on climate change is now a mainstream phenomenon, and an area of common ground between young people and older generations.

The Middle East is no exception to this trend.

Every year since 2008 we have been asking Arab youth across the Middle East and North Africa what they think about the most pressing issues of the day. This May and June we spoke to 3,400 young Arab men and women aged 18 to 24 in 50 cities and 17 Arab states, collating their insights under six main themes: identity, livelihood, politics, lifestyle, citizenship and aspirations.

While unemployment and rising living costs remain their primary concerns,

However, unlike their peers a decade ago, who were relatively indifferent to environmental issues, today’s Arab youth are no longer prepared to sit on the sidelines of the climate debate. This year, more than eight in 10 across the Arab world, and more than 90 per cent of GCC youth, say their government should be doing more to promote sustainable development. A third say the region should be doing even more than other countries.

Contrary to the prevailing narrative that developed nations should accept most of the burden of climate action, less than a fifth say that Middle East nations should be doing less than other countries.

Arab youth also have a clear idea of what constitutes a modern successful company, according to our study. Nearly two-thirds of those polled said that a model business today prioritises its social and environmental impact above making money. Less than a third of GCC youth, and 40 per cent of youth in North Africa and the Levant, said that it should put profits first.

Significantly, these sentiments appear to be finding their way into the boardroom. In a separate study of 200 opinion elites in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, conducted by our dedicated ESG advisory OnePoint5 in May, more than a third of decisionmakers in the UAE and 43 per cent in Saudi Arabia said their business already had a policy in place for environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters. And more than a third of respondents overall said their company was developing one.

October 31, 202232

About half of opinion elites in the two countries say that their company consistently acts against employees guilty of unethical behaviour, while 46 per cent of decision makers in the UAE and 43 per cent in Saudi Arabia say they have a whistle-blower policy in place to encourage ESG compliance.

While it would be wrong to conclude that businesses must now pursue a sustainability agenda at the expense of shareholders, our research further reinforces the long-held view of communicators that successful companies are those that clearly articulate their purpose over and above financial returns.

It also shows that there is both an operational and an awareness gap to fill. Companies need help designing sustainability frameworks, as well as support communicating internally and externally how these policies complement their long-term operational objectives. Hence the establishment of OnePoint5 earlier this year.

Two-thirds of opinion elites in Saudi Arabia and the UAE say their company currently lacks an ESG framework. More than half of those who say their company has already adopted one confess they don’t fully understand it.

This finding chimes with our latest Arab Youth Survey, which found an overwhelming majority (87 per cent across the GCC, North Africa and Levant) in favour of government-mandated national net zero targets, yet relatively low youth awareness of such targets in

those Arab countries to have so far introduced them.

For example, while 57 per cent of the Bahraini youth we polled said they knew their country had pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2060, 40 per cent said they weren’t aware of the target. A full 61 per cent of Emirati youth said they knew their leadership had announced the Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative, but nearly a third said they weren’t sure their country had set an emissions-free goal.

Notwithstanding the bold pledges of today’s government and business leaders, it will ultimately fall to young people to chart a course towards a more sustainable future. Proactive, meaningful engagement on this issue by all stakeholders will therefore be essential to maintain trust, a quantity in short supply in some countries on the evidence of the Greenpeace UK protest at the Conservative party conference.

COP27 in Egypt and next year’s climate change conference in the UAE will seek to further integrate young people in climate action dialogues. The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi will shortly survey 10,000 young people aged 15 to 29 across all seven UAE emirates on the most pressing environmental issues and the implications of climate change, an initiative to be applauded.

The outcome of such engagement is that young people become part of the solution to our environmental and social challenges, not the gatecrashers at the party. According to the Asda’a BCW Arab Youth Survey, a full

81 per cent of GCC youth say they are confident in their government’s ability to tackle climate change, compared with 51 per cent across the entire region who say they are not confident.

When the UAE takes the baton from Egypt in preparation for COP28 next November, it will be hoping to build on the high level of trust on climate action it has hitherto enjoyed among its youth. And it will rightfully expect all stakeholders to play their part.

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Environmental, social, governance. Three words that can strike fear in the hearts of responsible marketers everywhere. As the world moves to be more socially conscious – driven greatly by the transition of Gen Z-ers transitioning to adulthood and entering the workforce – companies are being pushed more and more on ESG. But what does it mean, and why does it matter to marketers?

When we think of ESG, we often link it to the concept of greenwashing, and it’s easy to see why.

We can define ESG as: “Environmental, social, and governance practices used to guide and/or evaluate corporate principles, designed to promote ethical and responsible business practices.”

Greenwashing is: “Capitalising on the concept of environmentally positive products and business practices through false, misleading, or unsubstantiated claims in order to increase business exposure or sales under the guise of being environmentally sound.”

As marketers, it is easy to dismiss environmental impact, working conditions and corporate governance as issues for scientists, HR professionals and CEOs. But marketers act as brand guardians, and it’s all too easy for things to come crashing down with a false claim or mislabelled product, so how we communicate our company’s ESG efforts matter now, more than ever. We’ve seen a few too many cases of a brand making a bold claim, only to be torn apart in the press days later.

When we consider the future of marketing, it’s pertinent to note Insider Intelligence’s prediction that Gen Z will soon become the largest cohort of consumers. And, according to First Insight, three-quarters of Gen Z consumers state that sustainability is more important to them than brand name when making purchase decisions. Born 1997-2012, this cohort is also

reported to have low brand loyalty compared with other generations, with only 37 per cent of Gen Z considered to be ‘brand loyal’, being more likely to switch to a competitor if a brand is seen to break its promises.

So, how, as marketers, can we protect our brands (and ourselves) from the backlash of a greenwashing claim? Before communicating ESG protocols to the public, challenge your colleagues and request data to back their claims. When crafting communication, use clear and concise language to avoid misinterpretation.

If the business objective is to achieve gender equality by striving for a genderbalanced workplace – a social initiative currently being undertaken by MMA, where we seek to have 50 per cent female representation across all business

touchpoints including on panels and at events – then put a measurable statistic against the claim that can be revisited and quantifiably measured to showcase progress and success. Where possible, get a third party to validate claims.

Ensure that messaging, packaging, advertising and imagery aren’t misleading, and don’t let anything go live until you’re certain that it’s not misleading. HR can’t provide data to corroborate a social claim? Production doesn’t have a certificate to verify that the packaging is responsibly sourced? Management won’t share results of an audit? Deny their requests for marketing support. It’s not about being difficult, it’s about being better as a company, as individuals, and as a global community.

Not only do we have a responsibility to act as custodians of the businesses we represent, but we have a responsibility to the public, too. Is there a wider job to be done with the mass implementation of government-imposed policies? Absolutely. But until then, it’s up to us marketers to challenge our brands and our teams to do better. To not allow false claims, to push business agendas to be more ESG-conscious. We sit at the intersection of companies and the public, and the buck needs to stop at us.

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The MMA’s Melis Ertem explains how to tell the difference, and how to do it right

Working on this article got me thinking about how the concept of brand love has transitioned through the years. Having spent what feels like a gazillion years in marketing, I have been a part of the transition. When you are a part of the process, the change doesn’t feel abrupt. It is a part of the global transition process, a global voice of an aware, educated, and conscious audience.

Yes, I am talking about the paradigm shift toward sustainability, climate awareness, diversity, equality, inclusivity and brands with a strong moral compass. The change was a long time coming. It wasn’t an overnight revolution, but a revolution nonetheless. With the liberalisation of information and the access to global media in the palm of our hands, the world is more connected and unified in purpose.

The meaning of brand love has evolved – from an undying love for a brand because of a transactional value, it is now on the trajectory of aligning with the moral personal values of the customers, global issues they stand up for, how they treat their employees and much more. It is about the bigger picture – what is their impact on the world and how do they decide to counter the challenges of this generation?

Simply put, brand love inspires brand loyalty and turns customers into advocates. Millennials and Gen Z together make up 4 billion people across the globe, changing consumer behaviour and shaping purchasing patterns. This combined generation has been more vocal than any other about the impact and responsibilities of corporates and governments toward ESG practices. They advocate for change for the better, reduction in emissions, equality, inclusivity and fair ecosystems.

I was born and raised in the apartheid era of South Africa. I have seen various forms of racism play out in front of me. While this era came to an end in the early 1990s, society still had a long way to go. In the early 2000s, as a young creative, when TV was the biggest medium of advertising, I got the most challenging opportunity, the one I could only dream of.

TV network SABC1 was actively trying to change the narrative in the country that had been corrupted by racism for the better part of the 20th century. We created an ad with the only goal of shaking things up, waking people up and taking notice, stirring the pot. The theme and the storyline were built on the concept of anti-racism. A dystopian world (at least for that time) where Caucasians (white people) were depicted to live the lives of native Africans and vice versa. The ad created waves in the media, drawing multitudes of different reactions. The thought of the underprivileged leading privileged lives and the other way around seemed to have completely knocked the socks off some people. We were driving the narrative of equality and the ill effects of racism, and we were seeing the reactions. Brands advocating for social change during that time wasn’t common practice, but brands that did definitely created a distinguished space for themselves with the audience.

Today, audiences expect social advocacy from brands, and that is how they derive their


connections. When Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty, the brand made a bold move and refused to retail in China (one of the world’s biggest consumer markets), as the rules of China required that the products be tested on animals. Fenty launched as a proudly cruelty-free and vegan brand and stood strong on its values even if it meant isolating a massive market. It was also one of the first brands to introduce complexion products for a wide range of skin colours and types, and used models from different ethnicities to showcase the inclusivity of the brand. Fast-forward to the present, and it is one of the most loved and followed brands in the cosmetics industry across the globe.

One of the best initiatives I have seen in the last decade is by Adidas. In 2015, Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans to turn marine pollution into sportswear. When the brand introduced the limited-edition sneakers with 7,000 pairs, the collection sold out

instantly. This move by Adidas was lauded by audiences everywhere. The brand also supported Run for the Oceans and challenged people to raise money for the project by committing to contributing one dollar for every kilometre. Through this initiative, they organised multiple runs in megacities around the world, raising millions to support Parley’s initiatives. The brand makes approximately 400 million pairs of shoes annually; by 2019, it made over 11 million pairs with ocean waste.

The moral of the story: The brand is making millions in revenue while actively countering

one of the biggest environmental challenges in the world. Creating this sustainable change, aligning with the values of its customer base, the brand love quotient of Adidas has significantly increased.

Today, as a creative director, I see it everywhere. As important as it is to know our audience, it is becoming equally important to create a brand/product/service that has an ethical and honest foundation, that actively participates in creating meaningful impact, thus challenging the status quo. An authentic voice bolstering the human-to-human connection.

October 31, 2022 35
Brand values are only becoming more and more important. Entourage’s Nicholas Pereira looks at the journey ‘brand love’ has travelled


At home and ready to partake in some Netflix, sadly without any ‘chill’, I couldn’t get the words from my last work conversation out of my head. Our great and powerful leader, Moray MacLennan, worldwide CEO of M&C Saatchi, was demanding more from us: “We need to be navigating, creating and leading Meaningful Change, not just for our clients but for the planet.” It was clear there was to be no greenwashing here.

The group was firmly on a ESG mission and London was not hanging around. M&C Saatchi Life had not long been created. A company focused on helping our business and clients do better, and now it was clearly my region’s turn to step up.

Of course, we were reducing company travel, paper, plastic and our energy consumption. We had also not long ago won multiple awards and praise for our Pizza Hut Earth Hour campaign. Work that, with a little digital sorcery, had incentivised consumers to turn off their screens and Wi-Fi connection. But Moray wanted more. He’s a little demanding, to be honest.

Setting back to surfing Netflix, I came across The Game Changers, a documentary that claimed it would turn me vegan. Not an easy task considering I don’t think I’ve had a day in my life without eating some part of an animal.

I watched in horror, not just because of my lifestyle choices, but more for the sizeable problem that farming animals for food was causing. Apparently, it takes 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef. Not to mention the landmass of animal feed crops. As the documentary recommended, why don’t we cut out the middleman (or middle cow) and just eat the crops?

The next morning, with my Mexican bean salad securely in the office fridge, an interesting brief crossed my desk. I nearly dropped my breakfast chickpea burrito while reading the line: “launch our new plant-based product range, to a meat-eating Arab consumer”.

This is it. Our opportunity to create Meaningful Change. Hey, if cauliflower can become pizza, we can sell plantbased food to meat lovers.

We’ve all seen the research about how plant proteins are transforming into all the mainstream foods we love. Once a small market segment defined by dietary requirements or fixed vegetarianism

October 31, 202236
M&C Saatchi’s Scott Feasey was sceptical of meat alternatives until his boss and a bold brief opened his eyes and tastebuds

and veganism, plant-based is more mainstream.

Plant-based food products are finally delivering on what only meat had been able to promise before: taste, texture and satiety.

What’s more, they’re growing up fast. Projections from Bloomberg Intelligence indicate that the plant-based foods market could be valued at more than $162bn by 2030 – up from $29.4bn in 2020.

It’s a multibillion-dollar opportunity with staggering potential for innovation and territory-building, not to mention that pesky Meaningful Change thing.

We started by looking into what was driving demand and then what might be the strategies to capitalise on the category’s potential.

So, what is driving demand?

1. Consumer demand. Consumers have become increasingly empowered to support brands that commit to sustainability, with research showing that a third of US adults say they spend more time thinking about the climate than they did before the pandemic. Conscious consumption is continuing to gain traction and consumers demand ESG alignment from the brands they engage with.

2. Gen Z-ers are leading the growth. Their reach and savviness as digital natives, their social awareness and activism, and the dire state of the world they’ve inherited have combined to give them powerful opinions and voices they’re not afraid to use. They fully expect brands to deliver on sustainability principles and support holistic health, and they’re being the change they want to see in the world.

3. Costs are declining. While still not the lowest cost option, plant alternatives are becoming more accessible, and growing sub-segments – such as chickpea, lentil and pea protein – are cost-effective for brands to pursue and consumers to choose. As availability encourages testing, more and more people will purchase plant-based protein products, driving prices down and further lowering barriers to entry. Nick Halla, senior vice-president international at Impossible Foods, nailed it with this formula: “You’ll buy the product once based on novelty, you’ll come back if the taste was good and if there are benefits such as nutrition and sustainability, and you’ll buy it in the long run if the value is right.”

4. It’s trendy. How can you tell if someone is a vegan? They will tell you within five minutes of meeting them. Being vegan is cool: ‘cooler than smoking’, in the eyes of 44 per cent of Gen Z-ers.

It’s clear we are at a tipping point when it comes to plant-based foods, especially in the west, but how do we set ourselves up for success in this region?

For us, the first step was to double down on understanding what our consumers needed. Not just an honest evaluation of our target consumers’ needs, expectations and pain points, we needed to get a handle on what’s driving our consumers’ decisions and, more importantly, what’s standing between them and the choices they might want to make (like integrating more plant-based options) but don’t end up pursuing. How can we help more people who want to be flexitarians become flexitarians? Sensory research is critical to helping you strategically overcome the barriers separating consumers from initial – or increased – plant-based adoption.

We found the top two hurdles to overcome were taste and texture. Conducting focus groups for pilot product testing, we also knew our biggest advantage over what’s currently available is that our plant-based options have exactly the same taste and freshness as the meat-based options, with the bonus of being accessible to everyone. Not an easy task, as research also showed other brands had failed and that Arab consumers were a little put off. We would need to convince them it was time to try again, and the taste they love in meat dishes was evident in our new plantbased range.

Our next stage was to innovate and be creative against our deep and clear understanding of the consumer. We had asked the right questions and had a handle on consumer needs, but we also needed to step it up in communications. More than others, this category and the research demanded we be authentic, confident and distinctive in our positioning and communications. The value proposition and communication would be key. Focusing on those helps maintain trust and interest with the consumer base.

When it comes to ESG and marketing plant-based foods, we found it was important to be transparent about the benefits, the flavour profile and health claims. The key is to balance this with truth and not overpromise, while still dialling up where you can deliver. Essentially, bold claims that are strongly grounded in reality. We knew our taste was the best. To own the plant-based conversation, we felt we could go bold and brave on the taste promise.

It’s also recommended to focus on the tone in your comms and wider messaging like packaging. Where would we fall on

the continuum of traditional plant-based brands and the irreverent, quirky tone of a brand like Oatly (whose ‘Wow, no cow’ Super Bowl ad split the internet last year)? Should we think outside the category like Simulate, whose ‘non-preachy’, memeheavy positioning and direct-toconsumer (DTC) model have contributed to $60m in venture capital funding to date?

Letting the product stand on its own in a new territory can also yield results. You don’t need to try and make it feel familiar. On the contrary, this differentiation could have a huge impact on how consumers view and ultimately receive your product. If they’re approaching it as something entirely new, they won’t be bringing any bias about potential comparators into the experience.

That said, we felt our campaign could create an unprecedented statement in the category: the new plant-based range tastes, looks and feels exactly the same as the original meat-based products.

The results are looking good for our client’s campaign and there are lots of positive sentiments coming out, but for me none more that the take-up and rise of the Arabian Flexitarian. And that’s got to be good for the planet.

While there are plenty of exciting chances for brands to step up in the plant-based space, consumer demands and the market are moving quickly.

Competition is already fierce between incumbents, startups, retail chains and producers. Laying the groundwork from now will give your brand the best possible chance of taking that coveted top spot –and making that multibillion-dollar commercial opportunity work for you instead of your competition.

October 31, 2022 37

Over the last decade, ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria have become a key focus for business and the marcomms industry. And rightly so. In a 2021 ESG Consumer Intelligence Series survey by PWC, 76 per cent of consumers said they will stop buying from companies that treat the environment, employees or the community in which they operate poorly. And 88 per cent of consumers will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues.

Knowing that ESG has become so important to stakeholders, especially the ‘E’, it’s become critical to consider what you, as a marketing or PR professional, are doing to elevate, share and market your company’s sustainability story. ESG is a major responsibility but, equally, a significant opportunity as reputable organisations set out to build strong and honest strategies, based on genuine care for the bottom line and the planet and rooted in communicating not just commitments but also real, measurable impact.

Globally, 2021 saw a record increase in the number of commitments by companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to zero via a combination of emission reductions and carbon offsets. This was soon met with skepticism as too many carbon reduction commitments were relying too heavily on offsetting emissions, rather than reducing them.

Sustainability marketing and communications has come of age and is more than just a post about a treeplanting initiative to show your business is doing something. A sniff of greenwash can undermine every action and commitment made, harming the business reputation as audiences spot inauthenticity and inconsistencies that lead them to question any efforts being made.

Measure to improve

Companies that have done well at building a leadership voice in ESG are the ones that go beyond simply box-ticking. They exceed expectations. They audit the business’s commitment to ESG at every level and keep data and measurement at the centre of their reporting.

Just as measurement is fundamental to the success of any marketing campaign, measuring a company’s carbon footprint is an essential first step in realising its impact on the environment and how to mitigate it. Knowing the starting point also sets a baseline for where a business is at the beginning of its sustainability journey – and a detailed plan for improvements to reduce emissions and costs should follow. This level of scientifically backed data and proof of progress will go on to become critical components of any communications strategy.

Companies also need to assess if actions are ‘just enough’ to comply with

regulation (where relevant) or if there is an opportunity to exceed those requirements and align with a long-term trend for far greater reputational return. They need to consider the issues most material to their business and where there is a genuine opportunity to lead and make a difference.

Communicate with purpose

A clearly defined ESG strategy backed by a comprehensive carbon footprint report is key to develop an open and honest marketing and PR plan. With this we can chalk out a longer-term view and commitment to ESG to support engagement with sustainability stakeholders and wider audiences. It is equally important to be honest about the challenges and bumps along the sustainability journey, as this helps to build trust.


Collaboration is essential


No matter how talented a leading sportsman or an actor is, they need their support from multiple sources, all working together, to deliver their best performance. It’s no different for brands – multiple agencies work at their best with clients that create the culture of one team working together. With every marketing team now being tasked to deliver environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments as part of marcomms programmes, teamwork matters more than ever.

Businesses cannot afford to work in silos or in a disconnected way. When it comes to ESG, it’s time for organisations and their agencies to step up and work as a team to foster a culture focused on telling authentic stories, rooted in hard evidence, to build a strong, trusted and thriving business. Communications professionals should fully understand and challenge ESG programmes, working shoulder-to-shoulder with experts in ESG, facilitating effective action and dialogue without any risk of greenwashing.

The benefits of this knowledge-sharing led to Houbara’s strategic partnership with Elementsix, a Dubai-based carbon management and climate change solutions consultancy, to support clients in taking a holistic view of all their actions and processes through the lens of sustainability leading to communications programmes rooted in evidence and impact.

By Loretta Ahmed, founder and CEO, Houbara Communications, and Dahlia Haleem, partner at Elementsix

October 31, 202238
Measurement, communication and collaboration are key, write Houbara’s Loretta Ahmed and Elementsix’s Dahlia Haleem

Investors and consumers’ attentions have recently been focused on companies’ ESG components, making sustainable investing go beyond being just a buzzword. A 2020 survey carried out by HSBC revealed that 41 per cent of regional investors in the Middle East wished to adopt an effective ESG investment policy. A report by PWC, released in May 2022, added that diversity and equality, climate change and safety are the top three sustainability priorities of companies in the region.

Having said this, there is still a long way to go before brands realise the full potential of a solid ESG strategy and how it will affect the message that it sends out to the consumers and the market. Brands have still not fully understood the impact of ESG on economic value creation and competition, and as a result they miss out on a significant value driver.

To successfully convey their plans and goals, companies require a comprehensive communication framework. An effective ESG communication plan will help stakeholders better understand the long-term effects of their investments.

At VFS Global, we released our integrated report in June, capturing the organisation’s sustainability strategy based on five pillars aligned to the organisation’s business strategy, the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals and national priorities: contributing to sustainable economic growth; delivering good governance; nurturing our colleagues; protecting our environment; and supporting our communities.

Developing an effective ESG framework Developing a course of action for the ESG framework ought to start with understanding the target audience. In a world as vulnerable as ours, focus areas and challenges do see a change, in sync with evolving social conceptions and demographics. Therefore, to create an ESG framework, it is crucial to comprehend the value systems of the company’s target market. Communication professionals must also proactively convey the organisation’s ESG objectives and the steps being taken to achieve them to help stakeholders understand the relevance of the framework for the company. The best way to do this is by determining the statistics that the target audience wants to see and establishing a framework that aligns with the company’s purpose and values. Be open to various metrics that inform your ESG story to stakeholders while also making sure they are material, comparable and reliable.

A perfect example is the tech giant Apple. The brand has announced in its

Environmental Progress Report (2022) that 20 per cent of all substances used in Apple merchandise in 2021 had been recycled. Apple has performed this by introducing licensed recycled gold into its merchandise and enhancing its efforts by using alternative materials. According to a report by Gulf News, the ESG market is poised to hit $53 trillion by 2025, and the UAE has established its commitment to ESG through its Securities and Commodities Authority. This body has drafted requirements requiring organisations listed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to report ESG figures, in accordance with Global Reporting Institute standards.

In the past two years, the virtual world has strengthened the relationship between the target audience and their favourite brands, all thanks to influential storytelling and impactful ESG messaging. It shows how a brand can efficiently connect with its audience by combining the two.

Communicating an effective ESG framework

In today’s digital age, communication professionals need to be aware of the plethora of channels available and adopt a multichannel approach. The secret behind successful messaging is to look at the importance of each channel individually to see if it fits with your overall communications strategy. Most brands have mixed audiences, with online and offline preferences, making a multichannel communication approach a more effective way to deliver the company’s ESG messaging without losing out on any key stakeholders.

Additionally, brands must encourage their workforce to actively participate in sustainable behaviour. For your story to be authentic, sustainability and ESG must become the purpose of any organisation.

Owning the experience is one of the best ways to engage and encourage employees to develop their ESG and sustainability campaigns at their regional workplaces and collaborate on successful initiatives. A bottom-up, decentralised strategy can be very effective.

Overall, the key lesson for organisations is to not let the challenges of communicating on ESG intimidate them. Finding a topic that matters to the business and employees as well as being transparent and engaging with the outside world is essential. As we move forward, brands need to work towards moving the needle from storytelling to story doing.


October 31, 2022 39
VFS’s Sukanya Charaborty looks at how ESG is reshaping brand communications


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a grande dame of international organisations. Its stately proceedings can be credited with shepherding many a nation through the complex and challenging task of hosting a COP summit. At least, that was my experience being on the COP26 team for the UK Government. Now, as we race towards the first United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP) to be held in the Middle East since Marrakech in 2016, eyes from all corners of the world are settling on Sharm El Sheikh, and quickly refocusing on Dubai in 2023. As communications professionals, one of the challenges for us is that COPs are inherently confusing affairs and the success of COP27 and 28 will be in part due to our collective ability to communicate issues and outcomes effectively with diverse stakeholders and audiences.

The climate community and international media have endless, renewable energy for speculation and gossip. A bucket load of scepticism needs to be poured over ‘insider’ knowledge about what will or will not be achieved this year. The annual carousel of host countries means they are often heroically working round the clock to get a grasp on the process, negotiations and strategy of getting 197 countries to agree on anything. If COP26 is anything to go by, the complex balancing of diplomacy and persuasion demanded by the negotiations take place almost entirely behind closed doors. That means COPs are fertile ground for rumour and supposition. This is valuable to bear in mind as you read reports of COP27 and 28 in the coming weeks and months.

With that caveat in mind, it is broadly accepted that expectations for COP27 are muted. There are strong headwinds to overcome. They read like a checklist of

extremely challenging hurdles: global energy and cost-of-living crises, fractured and polarised politics, populist disinclination to support climate action, and limited resources and institutional capacity of the host country. The cards are stacked against game-changing achievements.

That’s a tragedy for the climate and humankind, but it also means that expectations will be higher for the UAE to pull the rabbit out of the hat for COP28. As liberal democracies in the global north are consumed by the crises outlined above, there’s little evidence of the kind of long-term planning that’s needed to reconfigure energy, food, transportation and construction systems on a necessary scale. The energy system accounts for 31 per cent of global emissions, followed by food at 11 per cent, then transportation and construction systems at 15 and 20 per cent respectively.

Such is the state of despondency about climate action, that this could be the moment for the decisive leadership of the UAE to shine. But where are we likely to see action? Here are some predictions for COP28.

Food will be on the table. That’s food security, but also innovation in the food system. In Glasgow last year, the UAE and US agreed to put $4bn into an Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate initiative focusing on agricultural innovation. This could be expanded.

Second, the trilemma of energy supply, renewability and affordability will be a central recurring theme. So, while further

announcements of investments in hydrogen, carbon capture and solar could be on the cards, lower-carbon fossil fuels will be too.

Third, youth will play a big role. The UAE is a young country and, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, the government enjoys one of the highest levels of trust among its Gen Z population in the world.

And lastly, the focus on practical solutions may lead to more regional climate financing deals along the lines of the Just Energy Transition Partnership between South Africa, Germany, France, the UK, the US and the EU.

There is a slogan in the UAE: ‘Impossible is Possible’. As climate action faces enormous challenges, and the prospect of staying within 1.5 degrees of global warming is slipping away, we need to see impossible achievements. Those include new types of partnerships, increased action to meet targets, and using communications to unite people and organisations.

October 31, 2022 41
Edelman’s Eleanor O’Keeffe says expectations for Egypt’s COP27 might be muted, but expectations will be higher for the UAE’s COP28

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that environmental concerns for both companies and consumers are on the rise and undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime. Like it or not, sustainable solutions are here to stay. What you may not realise is sustainability is not a department, it’s a language we all need to learn. Here’s why.

Some of us may remember when the digitisation era exploded and social media became a part of our everyday conversations. Any marketing agency that kept the social media department separate from the rest of the agency failed to realise this is a language we needed to embrace, learn and eventually speak.

Although many scientists, environmental agencies and experts have been banging on about environmental concerns for decades, only now are we individually and collectively beginning to feel the urgency to do something about it.

Professor J R McNeill said: “The 20th century is unique in history, not only because of its enormous technological progress and rise in the standard of living, but because no other century in human history can be compared with the 20th century for its growth in energy use, depletion of natural resources and an overall growth of problems related to global environmental sustainability.”

Professors Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg say: “It has often been asserted that industrial capitalism, globalisation and multinational companies have been central actors in this development.”

In the 1960s, when cheap production costs were outweighed by what people wanted, advertisers and marketers created consumerism. The continuous, unobtainable desires and aspirations consumers are sold have pushed the environment, human rights and supply chains to their limits. Natural resources are being depleted and the ‘take, make, waste’ model most companies employ has until recently been unchallenged.

Companies, realising the havoc their actions are wreaking on our climate, are actively embracing the challenge, often employing external agencies to write in-depth ESG strategies. But an ESG strategy doesn’t always resolve your company’s ESG credentials, not to mention your marketing strategy. If you’re a company pivoting to be ‘green’ it often means you’re handed a very expensive document that doesn’t translate across departments. If you’re lucky enough to have a sustainability team, it often translates to the team being quantifiable but still struggling


climate change and growing environmental challenges. This outwardlooking mindset is what we need to adopt as our own. A sustainable company doesn’t mean it won’t bring you growth. In fact, a sustainable company with purpose built into its core grows 30 per cent faster than its competitors. This is not the future. This is the now.

In 2018 when CEO Larry Fink of BlackRock wrote his annual letter titled ‘A sense of Purpose’, he stated: “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”

Sustainability is not a department, it’s a language we all need to learn. Climate change is real. It affects each and every one of us and it is inescapable. It’s your role as a brand to have guts and soul to stand up and make a difference. It’s our role as your marketing agency to stand by your side, offering support and guidance on how to communicate your ESG strategy and marketing plan both internally and to an ever-growing, savvy consumer. This is our responsibility, together.

to get their seat in the boardroom with little integration.

So how do we resolve this?

Sustainability is not a department, it’s a language we all need to learn. It’s that simple.

We need to embrace sustainability like we embraced the era of social media and even post-Covid WFH. Your ESG strategy and marketing plan needs to engage the C-suite and leaders from every department. Leaders need to understand and drive the change required. Goals need to be measurable, and everyone needs actionable responsibility they are accountable for. This is no longer about changing lightbulbs and turning off your laptops at the end of the day. This is about changing the world and using your position of power as a force for good.

When Patagonia made the decision to ensure it would be a 100+ year old company, it changed its entire marketing strategy and communication plan. It no longer said ‘yes’ to everything. It slowed down. It built the ‘take-back’ scheme.

Most recently, founder and billionaire Yvon Chouinard donated Patagonia to a charitable trust to support the battle in

October 31, 202242
Sustainability is not a department but a language we all need to learn, says Do Epic Good’s Charney Magri


Modern technology has frequently been utilised in advertising. One of these is ‘Extended Reality,’ often known as "XR," which is a catch-all name for immersive technologies including Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR). Extended reality o ers a great deal of promise to help companies and brands engage customers, in uence customer perception (particularly of goods and services), and o er interactive, customer-driven marketing solutions that could fundamentally alter marketing as a whole. Technology in advertising aids businesses in maintaining their brand, connecting with and interacting with the majority of their audience (primarily millennials and Gen Z), and making an impact that lasts.

The idea of ‘Interactive Advertisements’ is another trend that is gradually but steadily gaining traction in the advertising industry. Interactive commercials are ones in which viewers actively interact or in which the product is presented as a component of the material they are viewing. In order to engage and communicate with consumers, interactive advertising optimises o ine and online media channels. Playable in-app commercials, interactive display ads, and augmented reality are a few uses for interactive advertisements. This model can help you reach more of your target demographic and raise brand awareness.


Facing the facts

For the longest time, Meta has dictated what Facebook newsfeeds should look like and how they should operate, to the vocal chagrin of most active users. In a recent update, however, the company is now rolling out features that allow users to customise what they see.

BREAKING THE NET A homerun campaign

Americans love their sports, a fact that Paramount Studios leveraged to promote its horror movie, Smile. The studio placed actors in the crowd in view of cameras during two heavily watched baseball games. This resulted in incredible ROI and awareness for a fraction of the e ort and budget that usually goes into such campaigns.

#NOT Posting blunder

Another day, another social media post containing instructions from marketing teams. Sharing content on social media is easy: (1) Read what you are posting (2) click send. The funny thing is though some mistakes of this nature are still taking place, more times than not, they end up being viral sensations for the brand and the spokesperson.

October 31, 2022 43
News, views & trends from across the spectrum EXTENDED PROJECTIONS

This summer, I learned a valuable lesson in the balance between brand and story. Having just landed in Florida for a family holiday, our first port of call was to head to the local Walmart to get our serviced apartment stocked up for the fortnight ahead. At the checkout, the bag-packer – a local Floridian native – was making conversation and asked where we were from. “Dubai,” I replied, to which his eyes lit up as he exclaimed, “Oh yeah, that’s where that new Neom city is. I love the look of that place!”

Given the global spend of Neom and the other key Saudi entities over the past few years, this was a great insight into the power of storytelling and how it should work to complement brand exposure. I’m the biggest fan of the Middle East and I’ll happily fly the flag for the region all over the world, so on one hand I was delighted that the global ad campaigns for this particular entity had reached rural Orlando’s community of supermarket bag-packers.

On the other hand, I wondered whether this misguided awareness was helpful or harmful for the region. Over the past 15 years, the region has done a tremendous job of communicating the global agenda far better than ever before. It has tackled criticism head-on, celebrated achievements and changed perceptions through an aggressive communication strategy. Now that in most cases we’re past that initial barrier, the depth that storytelling provides is the need of the hour.

Content partnerships, multiplatform executions and cross-media integrations have become far more prevalent in recent times, particularly in the UAE. As Saudi Arabia continues its journey of global

storytelling, here’s my five-step cheat sheet for a winning content partnership:

1. Work only with reputable media brands Partnering with trusted media brands and outlets goes a long way in building and maintaining credibility. The quality of audience from brands like The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Bloomberg, and Insider is far more valuable than the reach you may achieve from other media or an exchange buy. The influence of these audiences provides a long-term drip effect in their respective markets.

2. Bring the media owner to you and trust their understanding of their audience

You’d be shocked at the number of times we’ve gone through a thorough briefing and pitch process, only for the media owner to then visit the Kingdom and change the entire activation based on what they see and experience on the ground. Prior to production and content creation, take the time to bring the media owner to the country and let them experience first-hand exactly what they will be narrating to their audiences.

3. Make the experience immersive and multiplatform

Challenge the media owner to bring your story to life through out-of-the-box executions and get into places where paid media can’t get you. Push them to leverage their in-market relationships and innovate their delivery methods when reaching the desired and agreed target groups.

4. Address and tackle misconceptions and criticisms head on

Saudi Arabia has had its share of PR blunders on the global stage, but that shouldn’t change the strategy of tackling the key issues head-on. Address the difficult issues and key concerns raised by the media and listen to

Kingdom is a progressive state and moving to a modern future – something that is a key part of the Saudi Arabia narrative currently. It may very well not be one of the predetermined ‘content pillars’ but it’s critical in achieving the outcome. You may be focused on a pillar such as the culinary experience in Saudi, but if the audience doesn’t believe that women feel empowered or fairly treated, they still won’t buy in.

5. Keep the conversation going

Put the onus on the media partner to build out the connection with the audience after the activation has finished, through follow-up mini-campaigns, events, sporadic sponsorship opportunities and paid media. The main activation may tick a box for your own marketing KPIs, but that doesn’t mean it has succeeded in achieving the Kingdom’s aims for that particular goal. Push the media owner for brand uplift data and focus groups. Listen to what the audience wants to see next and how far they are in their decision-making journey and adapt accordingly.

A content-focused strategy is essential in increasing the depth of awareness of various facets of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, but it opens up the potential for another blunder if not done well. There are so many benefits to leverage when working with the right media partner and these need to be pushed and challenged as far as possible to reap the real reward.

October 31, 202244
Medivantage’s Manoj Khimji examines the power of storytelling and how it should work to complement brand exposure
Brand vs storytelling
By Manoj Khimji, managing director, The Mediavantage

Saudi focus

Lost in translation

Plenty of international brands believe social media works the same way around the world. However, it is significantly unique in the digital arena. While it is true that the world speaks the same social media language, usage involves sudden spikes in trends.

However, when we look at it deeper, on a local market level, it’s different. The strings that shape the usage of social media are mainly driven by culture, news and local trends. And, in the eye of the social media storm, many brands fail to implement the right execution.

I will address this issue from my long experience in Saudi Arabia and highlight what is happening today. More than 84 per cent of users in the Kingdom use social networks as part of their daily lives. 2022 statistics reveal that 29 million people are social media users, and they spend three and a half hours per day on average using social media platforms. This is 40 per cent greater than the global average. And this adds up to billions of usage hours every year on social media. Isn’t that worth looking at?

As marketing budgets follow consumers, we see most international brands advertise on the five main social media platforms: Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and Facebook. As the percentage of users in Saudi Arabia is higher than the global standard, international brands must pay more attention to the content and copy used. They should make sure that it’s relevant, speaks the local market’s language, and has local insights that resonate with the consumers. Otherwise, advertisers may be subject to severe criticism on social

media, and consequently spend money on crisis management to fix the unintended damage.

Many international companies that sell their brands in Saudi Arabia still think what works in Europe and North America will work the same in the Kingdom by simply translating the same message without any research, concept or A/B testing. Other brands still work their way into the Saudi market using regional agencies in Dubai. Again, this is another mistake. While there are similarities among these markets, their dynamics and cultural aspects remain different. The same applies to other Arab markets

such as Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, etc. Brands cannot send the same message to different markets and believe it will work just because it worked in a certain market. Understanding local insights and cultural differences is the key to successful campaigns.

It is also important to segregate the marketing budget for the region from the international. If there is a slowdown in global growth for any reason, or even a recession, international brands should take lessons from the 2008 recession. During the 2008 global recession, the scene in Saudi Arabia was completely different, and international brands that were active in the local market became a victim of the centralised decision-making by big brands. A research paper by Engagement Labs on the 2008 recession found that brands within automotive and financial sectors that reduced their budgets significantly, witnessed a drop in the positive sentiments towards those brands versus other brands that didn’t adopt the same strategy.

International brands not only need to allocate separate budgets for the Kingdom but also need to look for social media agencies in Saudi Arabia to manage their social media presence.

These agencies are empowered by skilled Saudi creative teams, from copywriters to designers, who prepare all the relevant content and copy aligned with the brand strategy, ensuring that the brand is perceived properly and as planned. We have more Saudi Arabian talented creative thinkers than ever, and more and more new young individuals are being awarded at local and regional events.

FCB’s Tony Rouhana says international brands still think translated social media campaigns from other markets work in the Kingdom
By Tony Rouhana, vice-president – Saudi Arabia and Levant, FCB Global

Ramsey Naja


Ramsey Naja is regional executive creative director at DDB Middle East. @geminisnake

Iused to think that drivers who followed ambulances were just jerks in a hurry trying to cut through traffic jams. Then, one day, I came across the term ‘ambulance chasers’ and, well, it turned out to be pretty much the same thing. Ambulance chasers, you see, is the term used for cheap-shot personal injury lawyers, the kind of despicable low-life legal rejects who stalk hospital emergency wards in the hope of finding a victim naïve enough to think they had their interest at heart, but also disfigured enough to illicit a jury’s pity. Did I say jury? Well, if you’re in the advertising business, I suggest you look away now, because there’s another kind of ambulance chaser, and they are sitting in your agency as we speak.

Now there might be something quite unpleasant about lawyers who make a living out of others’ misery but hey, you might argue, it’s a job and someone’s got to do it – just ask US Republicans or the UK Conservative party. But wait. Seeking notoriety from misery, on the other hand, is in a different league of despicability altogether. And as we close an awards season and enter another, this kind of behaviour will soon be not just on full display, but lauded, applauded and celebrated like a modern-day abolition of slavery.

Let’s not beat about the bush here. There’s hardly any agency that hasn’t jumped on the pro-bono-for-awards bandwagon, and hardly any creative – this one included – who hasn’t eyed human tragedies without seeing potential Lions and Effie fireworks, or maybe genuinely sought to help before the vested interest instinct kicked in.

Nevertheless, I would have liked to think that we have, well, matured. I would have liked to think that, as an industry, we would have given up on pretending that we were some kind of Mother Theresa with muscle when we were in reality Mother Theresa’s evil twin. I would have liked to think that the industry itself would have reined in our base instincts for the sake of the greater good – or at least the industry’s good.

But no. Because the industry is a misery junky. The industry loves its followers putting pedal to the metal in pursuit of the one-upmanship ambulance.

The industry likes nothing more than a case study in which the tears factor trumps the sales metrics. The industry, in its Dantesque descent into the abyss of its own making, likes – and celebrates – nothing more than creatives – or planners for that matter – whose only raison d’etre is to turn Pakistani floods, Lebanese tragedies and African famines into neat, compelling but utterly fraudulent, hypocritical case studies that do nothing for the people they are supposedly meant to help but, instead, fast-track the careers of their chasers, until the ambulance they are pursuing has been stripped of its role, until it is nothing more than an excuse, until it is a hearse carrying nothing more than the sadness of its own corpse.

Motivate Media Group

Head Office: 34th Floor, Media One Tower, Dubai Media City, Dubai, UAE. Tel: +971 4 427 3000, Fax: +971 4 428 2266, 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: +97126573401, Email:

Saudi arabia: Office 452, Regus Offices, 4th Floor, Al Hamad Tower, King Fahad Road, Al Olaya, PO.Box 12381, Riyadh 6764, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Tel: +966 11 834 3595 / +966 11 834 3596 Fax: +966 11 8343501

London: Motivate Publishing Ltd, Acre House, 11/15 William Road, London NW1 3ER.

50 6453365)


Google launches travel insights

Google has announced the launch of two free tools to help the travel industry in MENA identify timely travel demand. Launched under the ‘Travel Insights with Google’ website, the new tools Destination Insights and Hotel Insights are available in both English and Arabic.

By leveraging the tools, businesses in the travel and tourism industry can discover insights to reach global travellers, whether they are departing or arriving in MENA, at every stage of their journey, from planning or considering their next travel destination to booking flights and hotels.

Destination Insights

The Destination Insights tool will give travel businesses, governments and tourism boards a clear picture of the top sources of demand for a destination and the destinations within their countries that travellers are most interested in visiting. It also allows businesses to explore how tourism demand changes compared with previous months’ or years’ demand and adjust marketing campaigns accordingly.

Hotel Insights

Small and independent hotels can access the Hotel Insights tool to get in-depth knowledge about travellers’ interest in their properties and understand where the interest comes from and how to attract new guests by creating a stronger digital presence.

“The travel and tourism sector in the Middle East is expected to reach $246bn in 2022, based on a recent study, and will continue to grow,” said Anthony Nakache, Google’s managing director in the Middle East and North Africa. “From our continuous conversations with travel partners around the region, we have heard that timely insights are very much necessary for the travel industry at this period, especially with many local and regional events coming up. This is why we’re very excited to bring a new insights portal for the region’s travel and tourism sector, to help businesses reach regular and new travellers.”

The Travel Insights with Google website, which includes the new free tools, is accessible to all businesses in MENA.

October 31, 202246
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EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief Obaid Humaid Al Tayer Managing Partner and Group Editor Ian Fairservice Senior Editor Austyn Allison Junior Web Reporter Ishwari Khatu DESIGN Art Director Clarkwin Cruz Designer Thokchom Remy ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES Tel: +971 4 427 3000 Chief Commercial Officer Anthony Milne Publisher Nadeem Ahmed Quraishi (+971
PRODUCTION General Manager S. Sunil Kumar Production Manager Binu Purandaran HAYMARKET MEDIA GROUP Chairman Kevin Costello Managing Director Jane Macken A VIEW FROM

Communicating on purpose

There are two topics we have specifically focused on in this issue: e-commerce and ESG. That’s environment, social and governance, and all that goes along with those pillars. Both e-commerce and ESG have been pushed up brands’ agendas by the pandemic and its aftermath.

E-commerce has been on the rise for several years now, but it got a shot in the arm when we all got shut in the house and had to live off deliveries. Cash on arival used to be more prevalent in this region than elsewhere, but fear of contagion made online and contactless payments the safe option.

It’s e-commerce season now. Black Friday will soon be with us. And white Friday. And Cyber Monday, Singles Day, National Day, Christmas and more. All those festivals of buying – traditional or newly coined – mean e-tills will ring.

The region has great mobile phone penetration, high disposable income (in the GCC at least) and a penchant for social media. It also has a tradition of making smaller purchases at local shops alongside large weekly grocery shops at supermarkets, so it is ripe for q-commerce as well as s-commerce.

E-commerce technology is coming on in leaps and bounds, and I’ve tried out a lot of extended-reality experiences in the last year. I tried on glasses virtually and wasn’t shocked when they arrived. And I’ve experimented enough with Snap’s latest augmented reality try-ons to know that a bright pink Balenciaga puffer jacket is just not my look.

It will be interesting to see what happens as shopping develops in the metaverse. How will purchases travel across platforms? If I buy a pair of shoes in real life and get a virtual pair with them, will I be able to wear them everywhere online or only on certain metaverse platforms? What if they look better on my Decentraland avatar than my Roblox feet?

We are all likely to spend more time in the metaverse, no matter where we sit on the style spectrum, as we hide in virtual reality from the mess we have made to the real world’s environment.

The topic of climate change is heating up almost as fast as the planet, and more companies are focusing more on their environmental creds than ever

before. They are also looking at where they stand on social and governance issues such as treatment of women, historical ties to colonialism and equality in the workplace.

The Covid-19 pandemic, it seems, made the world focus on all these issues more, and brands are following their customers’ leads. They are flaunting their commitment to Purpose with a capital P, and some are doing it better than others.

Some fall back to greenwashing or virtue-signalling, but the fact they are trying is a step in the right direction.

Agencies, meanwhile, are quickly offering their services to help brands capitalise on their consciences better. Many have gone so far as to open practices specifically dedicated to ESG. Apco, Havas, Asda’a BCW and Do Epic are among the shops that have dedicated ESG divisions, and some of their specialists are writing in this issue.

The international climate conference COP27 is about to take place in Egypt, and next year COP28 will come to the UAE. Middle East governments are also making moves towards net-zero carbon goals.

The region has traditionally not been seen as environmentally friendly, and has suffered image issues around social and governance too. But it has a young population, it has money and it has ambition.

The Middle East has a story to tell about ESG, just as much as the brands that call the region home or operate here with pride, and the time is right for the media, marketing and advertising industry to help tell those stories.

Creativity outside the creative department

It’s called the creative department, but that doesn’t mean it’s always creative.

It also doesn’t mean other departments aren’t creative.

Creativity is the thinking that you bring to your job: innovative, unexpected, audacious.

A great example of this was Jaffa Cakes. Jaffa Cakes are little sponge cakes, with a dollop of orange jam, covered in chocolate, roughly the size of a biscuit. And that’s the problem: are they a cake or a biscuit?

The answer to that question could have cost McVitie’s an extra 20 per cent on every Jaffa Cake sold. Cakes were rated at zero VAT, but biscuits covered in chocolate were rated at standard VAT, which was 20 per cent. Because they were called cakes, Jaffa Cakes had always been rated at zero VAT.

But in 1991, HM Customs and Excise decided that they were displayed as biscuits, and they were covered in chocolate, therefore they should be rated as a biscuit, at 20 per cent VAT.

McVitie’s had to defend Jaffa Cakes’ zero rating at a tribunal, which called for some serious creativity on their part.

In favour of them being a cake was their name, and their recipe:

flour, eggs, milk. But in favour of them being a biscuit was their size, the fact that they were displayed in the biscuit aisle, and that they were marketed as a biscuit.

McVitie’s had to prove the Jaffa Cake was a cake not a biscuit, and this is the part where they got creative.

They didn’t go into a long technical argument, they had their kitchens make four different size Jaffa Cakes: two-feet diameter, onefoot diameter, six-inch diameter, and two-inch diameter (roughly biscuit size). Then they cut a slice out of the largest and asked the tribunal what it was.

It was made of sponge and jam, covered in chocolate, it was obviously a slice of cake. Then they cut a slice out of the next largest and again it was also a cake. Then a slice out of the third largest, which was obviously also a cake. And, finally, a slice out of the biscuit size one which was just the same as the others. And since they were all the same, they asked at which point does a cake become a biscuit?

It was clear that a Jaffa Cake couldn’t be a biscuit, it was just a small version of a cake.

Then they followed it up with another demonstration.

They brought in a biscuit and a

slice of cake; they demonstrated that, when broken, the biscuit was hard but the cake was soft.

Then they brought in another cake and biscuit that had been left to go stale for weeks.

They showed that over time the biscuit went soft, while the cake went hard. So a biscuit was hard but when it was stale it would go soft, whereas a cake was soft but when it was stale it would go hard.

Rather than long detailed technical arguments, these simple demonstrations convinced the tribunal.

Jaffa Cakes were obviously a cake not a biscuit, which meant they kept their zero-rated VAT status, and McVitie’s saved 20 per cent on every pack of Jaffa Cakes sold.

That’s the power of a simple demonstration over a complicated argument. It feels like common sense, so much so that it makes the opposing argument look silly.

That’s the power of a simple demo in advertising.

A simple demo is where the best advertising connects straight into the consumer’s emotions, bypassing the need for complicated logical arguments.

It’s very creative but you don’t have to be a creative to use it.

October 31, 2022 47
Dave Trott is the author of The Power of Ignorance, Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus
One Equals Three
October 31, 202248 Be er Than Reality... “ Though it might not be for everyone, it definitely leaves you wondering ” (AS) Bayut... “It goes through a series of well-crafted scenarios that all of us in the UAE can relate to.” (RK) Emirates… “ They got all the subtle humorous nuances right.” (RK) Ikea… “ The family angle seemed like a forced fit just to humanise the film.” (VS) Rani... “I’m not sure if this style of music appeals to the MENA region.” (VS) Use the QR code to view this work on Campaign’s website. Use the QR code to view this work on Campaign’s website. Use the QR code to view this work on Campaign’s website. Use the QR code to view this work on Campaign’s website. Use the QR code to view this work on Campaign’s website.

Private View


Head of creative strategy, Radix Media


As they say, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. And this ad is a good one for me. Love the almost documentary-like set-up and the borrowed Attenborough narration style. The analogy of the goose to the welltravelled consumer is on-point – or on-beak if you’re a goose. They got all the subtle humorous nuances right. Love the fact that as a brand Emirates constantly chooses to stand behind the creativity that drives impact.


A little more imagination is probably what was needed. People becoming a part of the furniture doesn’t really do justice to the concept of multi-functionality. Hence, the call-to-action feels slightly forced. I would rather that they flexed people’s ability to be flexible in the literal sense, or even to multitask for that matter, to bring home the point that nothing is more adaptable than IKEA’s furniture solutions. Probably would have got more shock value out of it. In its current avatar, it seems more like people adapting to the furniture and not the other way around.


What’s not to like? The rap is catchy, and the interplay of contextual illustrations as a visual backdrop ensures viewer attention. In the juice category, it’s not always easy to merge product benefits and engagement. Hence, music is a great tool and this one’s got the vibe. Given their ‘Eat Your Drink’ promise, I would love to see the brand maybe go down the route of ‘Taste The Rainbow’ and really open the communication and content to slightly more brazen executions.


For a genre that centres around a storyline with secret agents and espionage, the film craft is bang on target. Part action-adventure and part thriller, the buildup sets the right pace. Rory has managed to invoke the right amount of suspense that does leave you wanting to know more about Better Than Reality.


This campaign stems from consumer insight. It nicely springboards from the massive amount of time spent on search. It goes through a series of well-crafted scenarios that all of us here in the UAE can relate to and then brings it back effectively to Bayut’s Search 2.0. The fast-paced scene stacking lends itself to highlighting the different preferences that consumers have when looking for a home.


Director of growth and expansion – MENA, Pivotroots


Gerry makes a clear choice by flying with Emirates for this ‘long haul’, a brilliant move by Emirates in terms of representation. He represents the typical Emirates passenger who wants to ‘Fly Better’ and also uses the airline’s much-anticipated new Premium Economy cabin. Having said that, this isn’t unique; Air New Zealand did a few commercials with ‘Dave the Goose’ a few years ago. Regardless, it’s a fun commercial that’s easily understandable and leaves you feeling good.


Ikea’s focus on flexibility is on-point, considering the increased tendency to work from home. The new range caters to an audience that looks for multiple ways to use their space. I thought the family angle seemed like a forced fit just to humanise the film and create an emotional feel; instead, it could have very well been a functional film focusing only on the products.


The music is extremely catchy, and you can’t help but groove to it. The visuals are incredibly artistic yet quirky, and the combination of rappers and regional accents gives the rap beats an interesting flavour. While the film continues to re-enforce Rani Float’s unique offering of being a product you can drink and eat at the same time, I am not sure if this style of music appeals to the MENA region.


The promo starts as a normal spy movie trailer and keeps you engaged with quick cuts and suspenseful music. While it ends with a call to action, it’s not obvious if they want you to watch out for a new movie or if they want the viewers to look forward to a new game/experience. You are also left wondering if they want you to log on to with the password disclosed in the film. Even though it might not be for everyone, it definitely leaves you wondering.


The fact about time spent grabs your attention in the first three seconds of the video. As the story progresses, more choices that all of us can relate to are revealed. Because of the simplicity and realism of the images, every decisionmaking touch point in the film is eminently relatable. However, it veers off into talking about deals, cuisine and vehicles for a brief period in the middle, leaving you confused as to whether this is a video about real estate or something else until it concludes with Bayut serving as your one-stop shop for houses.

Emirates Gerry the Goose Production and VFX: Untold Studios


Imagine If We Could Be As Flexible As Ikea Furniture Agency: Memac Ogilvy Production house: Big Kahuna Films

Rani Yalla Habibat Agency: MullenLowe MENA

Better Than Reality

Promotional Film

Director and creative: Rory Mcloughlin Production: At Your Service

Bayut Your Key to UAE

Agency: Serviceplan Middle East

October 31, 2022 49

The Spin

October is normally rich pickings for The Spin. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means we are usually inundated with pinkwashed press releases. We are proud to report that things are improving a little bit, at least, with only one email suggesting we “Celebrate Pinktober”, and most offers of pink teas, pink spas and pink brunches promising to donate a proportion of their earnings to breast cancer charities or – better – offering free check-ups. That’s a nice change from just splashing in

the food colouring and justifying the leap onto the breast cancer bandwagon with vague promises of ‘raising awareness’.

But one venue at least managed to just go the dye-it-and-they’llbuy-it route, suggesting we “gather the girls and catch up over a delicious pink afternoon tea filled with scrumptious sweets, all perfectly pink, including Rose Mousse, Eton Mess, Pink Cheesecake and Pink Velvet Cake.” That ought to stop breast cancer in its tracks, then.

It’s also Halloween this month, which heralds some scarily predictable copywriting every time. This year we have been offered “scarily good black garlic mayo” by Heinz and “scarily good acts” at Soho Garden. A “scarily enticing night of unbeatable UK Funk, RnB and hip hop is coming to P7 at Media One Hotel”, the brunch at Santé Ria Latino offers “a scarily good deal” and Roxy Cinemas’ popcorn is “scarily scrumptious”. Marketers, please note: thesauruses are scarily easy to use.

“Urgent action required,” pleaded the header of a recent email. The

sender explained: “The signing image that was sent to you was faulty, there was a glitch during editing the picture and the governor appears twice in the original image.” The Spin pleased to present the original to see if you can spot the governor (twice).

An email touting “the Maldives’ most loved resort” pinged into our inbox (Maldives resorts are always emailing us – we don’t know why) boasting about its new freediving courses. They sound delightful, but perhaps they could have chosen their phrasing better. Not everyone wants to “reach new depths” on their next holiday.


Twitter has announced the appointment of two key regional roles. The company welcomed JACQUELINE JAIN, a communications expert with more than 12 years of experience in strategic communications, as head of communications, MENA. She joins Twitter from Hill+Knowlton Strategies, where she led the development communication strategies and specialised in crisis and reputation management.

SALEH BDEIR has been promoted to Twitter’s head of revenue, telecommunication, tourism and finance, MENA. He joined Twitter in 2019 and has played a key role in driving Twitter’s

operations in the region. Bdeir brings more than 16 years of experience in business development and relationship management. In his role, he will be leading the multi-sector sales team based in Dubai.

UM has appointed PIERREEMMANUEL MAHIAS as regional strategy director for GCC, ME and Turkey. Pierre will be reporting to James Dutton, the regional digital director and head of product at UM MENAT. He will be tasked with overseeing the MENA strategy team and driving growth for regional clients.

Vice Arabia has promoted TAREK KHALIL to the position of regional managing director, Vice Arabia MEA. He brings with him a wealth of experience across the

CARLA DABIS has been appointed as commercial director, Vice Arabia MEA. Dabis will focus on forging partnerships at Vice Arabia to facilitate value exchange, developing content and narratives for brands.

Dubai-based The Luxury Closet has appointed luxury marketer, MAYA AZZI as chief brand officer. Azzi’s new role was created for strategic purposes for the company’s next stage of growth. She will be working on several projects including partnerships

with the British Fashion Council, celebrity content and a royal charity. She has worked with brands such as L’Oréal and the Natural Diamond Council previously.

Integrated creative agency JWI has appointed ADELE BAXTER as client services director for the Middle East region.With more than 10 years of global experience across the UK, Europe, APAC and MENA, Baxter joins from boutique digital agency Flourish Digital Marketing, where she led the growing team and worked with a diverse portfolio of international organisations including Samsung and Philip Morris.

October 31, 202250
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