Campaign Middle East - February 2023

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January 30, 2023 AED25/USD7/SR25 #311 A MOTIVATE PUBLICATION
A MOTIVATE PUBLICATION AED25/USD7/SR25 #311 January 30, 2023

2022 MENA Agency Of The Year Dubai Lynx

2022 MENA Network Of The Year Dubai Lynx

2022 MENA Agency Of The Year Cannes Lions

2022 Global Agency Of The Year MadStars

2022 MEA Agency Of The Year Loeries

2022 MEA Network Of The Year Loeries

2022 Mea Agency Of The Year LIA

2022 Campaign Global Agency of the Year for ME

2022 Campaign ME Agency of the Year

2022 Communicate Agency Of The Year

Only one agency could have run this ad.

Impact BBDO’s Ali Rez announced as first Cannes jury president from MENA

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has announced Impact BBDO’s Ali Rez as its first jury president from the MENA region. Rez has been appointed as the the Print & Publishing Lions Jury President as a part of the Lions’ 2023 jury president line-up for its 70th edition.

Impact BBDO’s chief creative officer, Ali Rez, said: “The UAE is a place where creativity thrives, and where we believe nothing is impossible. It is a special honour to represent that very spirit of this inspiring country, and the rich heritage of the Middle East, at Cannes Lions as Jury President. I hope this announcement will pave the way for many more people from the region to lead juries in the future at this most prestigious of awards.”

Rez’s agency, Impact BBDO, took home a Grand Prix last year in the Print & Publishing category, for its campaign ‘Election Day’ with Lebanese newspaper AnNahar. The agency previously recieved the the MENA region’s first Grand Prix with ‘The Blank Edition’ for the same newspaper.

Other jury presidents from the lineup include, Ari Weiss, global chief creative officer at DDB Worldwide; Devika Bulchandani, global CEO at Ogilvy; Chaka Sobhani, global chief creative officer at Leo Burnett; Javier Campopiano, worldwide chief creative officer at Grey and global chief creative officer of Grey/OpenX from WPP; Christian Juhl, global CEO, GroupM; and Brent Anderson, global chief creative officer at TBWA\Media Arts Lab.

Simon Cook, CEO of Lions, said, “These individuals represent the rich spread of exceptional talent from across the full spectrum of the creative industry. The Cannes Lions Jury Presidents play an

Ali Rez has been appointed as the Print & Publishing Lions Jury President essential role in upholding the integrity of the Lions as well as setting the creative benchmark for the global industry. We thank them for their unique perspectives, expertise and experience for the leadership they will bring to the very important task ahead of them.”

Cannes Lions takes place om June 19-23 in France. Registration to attend opened on January 12 and awards submissions opened on 19 January. More information on this year’s jury presidents, the festival, the Lions awards and more can be found at

Campaign’s jobs section goes live

Campaign Middle East has launched its online recruitment page, Campaign Jobs. It invites agencies, brands, platforms and suppliers to post current job requirements – free of cost for a trial period of three months.

The recruitment page will assist employers in connecting with job seekers and promoting their open positions. On the user-friendly platform, you can also access career advice from heads of brands and agencies, as well as information about the latest appointments in the advertising, marketing and media industry.


Campaign Middle East is excited to offer this platform to its 650,000 annual viewers of the website. It is the perfect place for companies of all sizes in the advertising, marketing and media industry to post their job listings and reach a wide range of qualified candidates. Find out more at

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To launch the biggest screen in the MENA region, Roxy Extreme Cinema, MullenLowe came up with a simple and minimalist print campaign. The campaign featured iconic stills from big movies with a catch. The moments were scaled down to look tiny and smaller in comparison to the large screen at Roxy. The visuals were accompanied by the line, “Big movies deserve bigger screens.” The campaign featured stills from movies including Mad Max, Star Wars, Superman, ET, King Kong and Titanic
Use the QR code to view this work on Campaign’s website.

Publicis rallies business world to sign Working With Cancer pledge to support employees globally

Sadoun is urging companies to sign up to the Working With Cancer pledge, which is a “commitment to building the most open, supportive and recovery-forward work cultures for their employees”. More than 30 companies have signed up to the pledge at launch and are outlining their commitments on the Working With Cancer Pledge website.

Publicis Groupe’s own pledge includes “providing cancer patients with full job security for at least one year, and bringing the necessary career support not only for them, but also for caregivers in our organisation”.

Publicis Groupe also launched an ad campaign, which includes a film called ‘Work/Life’ that shows what people with cancer ‘go through when they hide their condition from their colleagues’ – such as taking vacation days to get treatment.

cancer ‘go through when they hide their condition from their colleagues’. including the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Macmillan Cancer Support, Working With Cancer and the Gustave Roussy Institute, to devise the pledge.

Publicis Groupe has launched the Working With Cancer pledge, a global initiative to support employees who have been diagnosed with cancer. More than 30 of the world’s biggest companies have already signed up.

Arthur Sadoun, chief executive of Publicis Groupe, is leading the cross-industry initiative “to erase the stigma of cancer in the workplace”, after going public last year about his own diagnosis during his treatment for HPV-related cancer.

The Publicis Foundation, which is backed by the French-owned agency group, has worked with leading cancer organisations and charities,

Sadoun announced the launch at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday when he highlighted the fact that one in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, according to medical experts. Yet research shows 50 per cent of people with cancer are “afraid to tell their employer about their diagnosis” – despite 92 per cent feeling that “support at work positively impacts their health”.

Haya Waseem, from production company Object & Animal, directed the film, working with a team led by Andy Bird, founding partner and chief creative officer of Le Truc, the New York-based Publicis agency. Ads will also run across other media channels such as outdoor and digital, with an image of a person’s face split in two and the message: “Half of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime. All of us should support people with cancer in the workplace.”

Meanwhile, Publicis Middle East, an advertising agency under Publicis Groupe, has won the Pizza Hut account for the region, after a competitive pitch. As the lead creative agency, Publicis Middle East will work with Pizza Hut on their market strategy and creative communication campaigns and positioning of the brand and product for the region.

Buscuit manufacturer EBM and BBDO worked together to create a campaign to highlight the importance of education for girls. On World Human Rights Day, young schoolgirls who could not read just three years ago took over leading Pakistani news channels to broadcast the news to 220 million people. In a country where a large number of parents opt to not send their daughters to school, the newscaster schoolgirls emphasised that education is transformative to a nation, while convincing parents to educate girls in their families.

Agencies Impact BBDO Dubai, BBDO Pakistan, Syntax Communications and Msix & Partners

Heinz became the most searched-for name of the football season in 2022, thanks to an unlikely hero, Thomas Heinz. Heinz attended the most sought-after matches in Doha, and mingled with fans while wearing a jersey with his name on it. Thomas Heinz offered exclusive merchandise along with a cash prize to those who manageed to spot him in the crowd, reminiscent of the classic ‘Where’s Waldo?’ series. This transformed Doha into a giant treasure hunt for visitors.

Agency FP7 McCann Dubai

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Use the QR code to view this work on Campaign’s website. Use the QR code to view this work on Campaign’s website.
Publicis’ ad film, ‘Work/Life’, shows what people with

MBC Group streaming platform Shahid expands AVOD offerings

Shahid, the Arabic streaming platform by MBC Group, has announced an expansion of its advertising-based video-on-demand (AVOD) offering.

The announcement was made during an exclusive event held in Dubai on January 18. Hosted by Shahid and MBC Media Solutions, the commercial arm of MBC Group, the event showcased and highlighted the opportunities and offerings available for clients to connect with their audiences through the platform.

The updated AVOD line-up includes soap operas, dubbed Turkish productions and Turkish adaptations, exclusive Gulf and Arab dramas, plus podcast-style entertainment, allowing viewers from across the region and beyond to enjoy content for free with advertising breaks.

The updated line-up will also include 30 FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channels, allowing easy access to digital channels based on viewers’ favourite series, films, plays and programmes. Shahid also announced the launch of its exclusive content creators programme, which will focus on supporting local content creators by bringing their work to Shahid. Productions that have already signed up include AB Talks, Kharabeesh, Telfaz 11 and Dardasha.

Natasha Matos-Hemingway, chief commercial and marketing officer at Shahid, said: “We are so thrilled with the newly announced line-up for Shahid this year. The sheer quality and quantity of shows that will be available for free to our audience is incredibly exciting. We look forward to providing endless entertainment to our existing fans, as well as welcoming new viewers to our platform.”

Nadim Samara, chief operating officer at MBC Media Solutions, said: “Boosting Shahid’s AVOD line-up

unlocks a host of additional opportunities for brands and clients to connect with their audiences through premium Arabic content. We look forward to working closely with our partners to help drive their brands and businesses forward.”

MBC Group also extended its agreement with Warner Bros. Discovery this month. The extension will enable the group to launch Cartoon Network content on the Arabic streaming platform’s new kids subscription video-on-demand hub.

And Us wins Saudi Tourism account

Independent creative agency And Us has been appointed as the Saudi Tourism Authority’s (STA’s) agency of record, to handle its domestic and regional communications.

In line with Saudi Vision 2030, the country has been actively working to expand its tourism portfolio and encourage both local and regional visitors to explore what Saudi Arabia has to offer.

STA’s chief marketing officer, Asmaa Quorrich, said: “This is a pivotal moment in Saudi Arabia’s history when we plan to share the vast natural, cultural and historical treasures that our country has to offer to as wide an audience as possible. In And Us, we have found a world-class creative partner with an intimate understanding of our region, and we look forward to working alongside the agency as we continue to grow the Saudi brand in the MENA region.”

Fadi Yaish, And Us’s founder and chief creative officer, said: “From a tourist perspective, Saudi Arabia truly is one of the world’s final frontiers, an incredibly beautiful country with diverse landscapes, cultures and historical treasures to explore. As this remarkable country’s countless wonders are opening to the world, they continue to write a brand-new chapter of regional history and we look forward to helping them bring their 2030 Vision to life.”


out by referees during live matches, draw McDonald’s iconic fries on them, and share their sketches on Instagram using the hashtag #WannaGoToMcD. The first 100 Happiness Swap participants during every match scored free fries by receiving redeemable codes directly in their instagram messages.

Agency Studio M (powered by Publicis Groupe)

Owing to the hassle caused by the physical shopping experience during Black Friday, many people avoid going shopping during the Black Friday season. Bringing this concept into a film, Tarek Nour Advertising depicts how people avoid shopping during Black Friday to ridiculous extents, saying they wouldn’t go even if the sky fell down. Tapping into this segment, ValU, a buy-now-pay-later mobile application, encouraged people to go shopping on Black Friday through its 30 per cent cash back incentive.

Agency Tarek Nour Advertising Production house Kay Oh Productions Director Amr Haddad

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to turn the most heated and tense moments of the 2022 FIFA World Cup into happy moments, the Happiness Swap campaign invited fans to snap a picture of the red and yellow cards given
VALU IT’S ABOUT TIME Use the QR code to view this work on Campaign’s website. Use the QR code to view this work on Campaign’s website.
Chief commercial and marketing officer Natasha Matos-Hemingway at the Shahid event


Will the regional industry be cushioned from global economic pressure this year?

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NOThe IMF predicts that one-third of the world will go into recession. While the most severe recessions will be seen across Europe and China, the rest of the world is not protected. In MENA, we may not face a recession, but we may feel like we are.

Our region faces inflation and devaluation on the individual market level, but we are bolstered by safety and security in other markets. On the whole, the region will remain stable, but on a country level we will face great disparity.

The uniqueness of our economic system and in turn our industry is based on the fact that we operate within two of the largest sovereign fund economies: KSA and UAE.

We will see growth from these markets, which will balance out our region. However, there is no company or industry that operates in MENA that will not face hard economic questions around market prioritisation to ensure overall regional economic growth. This gives MENA a more stable footing than individual country markets like the UK. However, no one is an island.

YESThe answer to this question is in two parts. First, though growth is slowing everywhere to the point of recession in several parts of the world, most forecasts indicate the Middle East will grow faster than the global average. This is particularly true for oil-exporting economies. Governments remain committed to their transformation agendas and will continue to boost their local market.

The second part is about the industry itself. The deceleration of advertising investments and reach on social media platforms, largely fuelled by declining trust, could be the opportunity for local publishers and platforms to reaffirm their worth to advertisers. Investments may not go into media as much, but brands will keep on investing in their marketing. Digital transformation, Baby.

YESEconomic pressures from around the world will undoubtedly have an impact on the local industry in the region. However, our market intelligence suggests that all players, big and small, will be minimally affected, due to the operating model of our industry. Due to its unique geographic location, this region is a service hub for brands from across the globe. Pressures from one or two markets are usually offset by business opportunities being available from other markets. For example, if you have a downward trend in spends from EU clients, it is highly likely that local players will be able to maintain their pipeline of service requests from markets such as the GCC, Southeast Asia and Africa. Additionally, the other major factor is the recent boost offered by the KSA government to grow and nurture all sectors to diversify their economy. This has had an enormous positive impact on our industry and will offset any loss of business from other markets.


While the global economy faces headwinds, the Arabian Gulf states will be one of the few bright spots, being beneficiaries of a supply chain crisis that has seen oil prices rebound dramatically.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that the Middle East’s oil- and gas-producing nations could generate additional revenues of $1.3 trillion over the next four years.

This will deepen the reserves of the region’s sovereign wealth funds, which are increasingly prudent about their global investments and focus on investing more in their national economies to make them less reliant on oil income in the future.

These increased investments in infrastructure will strengthen the diversification of regional economies,which in turn will help create jobs, particularly for youth, and strengthen global trade and investment.

Further, while the GCC economies still rely on oil and gas, these countries also have a role to play in bringing about a cleaner energy future through ambitious initiatives and investments in decarbonisation and energy transition.

With the UAE set to host Cop28 later this year, there will be a stronger focus on climate action, not only in the country but also across the region with Saudi Arabia having committed $2.5bn for the Middle East Green Initiative.

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The Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian war disrupted global supply chains, impacting local and regional industrial communities. The region has taken the challenges and transformed them into opportunities via the implementation of 'Flexible Protectionism', a locally nurtured and funded policy in line with the long-term economic interests of the region.

The impact of the reforms has seen the UAE become a financial and investment hub. The unveiling of an inspiring KSA 2030 vision and the recent D33 Strategy, combined with the breakthrough success of the Qatar World Cup 2022, is leading to increased attention in the Arabian region as a source of growth and high potential.

Every headwind is supported by a tailwind. In this region, specifically, the economic challenges can be overcome via increased non-oil exports, increased foreign direct investments, enhanced economic integration between all GCC countries, the establishment of more free zones to compete with Asian manufacturing and increased support of the local industry.

NOWorking for a global company, we are exposed to the economics of the regions in which we operate. We have major hubs across the USA, Europe, UK, UAE and KSA with operations worldwide.

Recent years have presented an array of economic pressures including most regions still planning for Covid-risk years after the height of the pandemic, with the current-day risk planning centred on the recession.

In Q1, the Middle East, with KSA particularly booming, is not experiencing the same economic pressures as the rest of the globe. While the same risks are present, they are not as extreme – which would imply our region is cushioned. The way the market and businesses operate is unique, almost like a micro-economy.

Managing director, UM UAE

NONo one is immune to a global recession, and MENA markets will be affected at varying levels across the region. Despite an expected slowdown in economic growth, continued government spending on long-term, large-scale projects combined with oil prices suggest a positive outlook, particularly for the GCC. As such, we are seeing ad spend from domestic clients increasing and we expect they will be bullish in capturing consumer attention. Global advertisers, on the other hand, are more likely to see an impact on their budgets. So, while inflation is forecast to ease, consumer spending has tightened and we need to focus on driving brand value.


YESThe main reason is the strategic visions set out by the leadership in the region, which are the drivers of growth. This is further backed up by the rise in oil prices and rebound in the tourism sector, which is expected to lead to higher government spending in 2023, thereby lessening the potential impact on the private sector.

YESIt is difficult to predict to which extent the advertising industry will be affected by global economic pressures in 2023, as many factors come into play. It will most probably have a significant impact but not as striking as in other markets. In an economic downturn, businesses may spend less to save money, leading to a decrease in revenue for the industry. However, advertising might also be relatively resilient as businesses could keep spending to maintain market share or gain competitive advantage, especially as audiences in our region always ask for more without accepting compromises.

In that context, several investments must be considered in our part of the world: Cop 28 is happening in Dubai this year; NEOM in Saudi is keeping the momentum; and the World Cup just ended in Qatar. These and many more will drive spending and keep morale high in the region for the foreseeable future.

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Roopesh Prashar Chief financial officer, BBDO Group Maria Poulton Teddy AbdelNour Group account director, Havas Middle East

YESI think the first three months of 2023 will be the key indicator as to how the rest of the year will be in terms of economic stability. We have been hearing about the global slowdown for the last six to 12 months, but this is not translating into budget cuts, yet. Yes, we are seeing more caution with investments, but generally I believe the measures taken by the government – to continue to attract the right talent, fuel growth and open more opportunities – mean that we should be shielded from the worst of it.

YESWhile it is inevitable for us to experience an economic slowdown, forecasts have reaffirmed that the regional industry is set to weather the global recession of 2023. Historically, the UAE and the entire GCC have also proven to be resilient and strategic in ensuring that measures are in place to ease any form of a blow, with the recent pandemic as a case in point. On the ground level, a lot of our clients have noted that they have picked up even more after the World Cup and the festive season. Events are at full throttle. And we still receive new business inquiries actively. Regardless, we believe this is not a time to be complacent. As marketing practitioners, we can largely contribute to protecting the ecosystem by finding opportunities to be of greater value to the brands we look after so they meet both communication and business objectives.

YESThe global economy continues to face severe challenges due to the rising cost of living, increasing interest rates, post-Covid pressure and political uncertainty caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While most countries and industries around the globe are expected to experience economic hardship, this region will be able to shield itself more than others: oil production growth and governmental support, specifically in Saudi Arabia, will fuel the regional economy. Also, tourism in GCC has aided the economy, especially after the FIFA World Cup 2022 and the continuous development and growth of the entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia.


Although the region is economically poised to handle the challenges of global food and energy distribution and to get a grip on rising inflation rates, we will potentially experience major bumps as big western brands and players shift their priorities across markets. Brands controlled by American and European headquarters may want to re-centralise their investments and strengthen home markets. On the other side, two opportunities arise: At first, an undeniable opportunity will come for local and regional brands to step up across the media landscape. Second, there will be an urgency to scale up sustainabilitydriven projects. Our generation’s greatest challenge might end up being the region’s biggest source of opportunities.

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Kamil Abi Khalil Head of production – MENA, Anghami Walid Ramadan General manager, MMP Experiences



True to his company’s official obsession with ‘The Work, The Work, The Work’, BBDO Worldwide president and CEO Andrew Robertson keeps returning to the topic. He says: “The best way we can differentiate ourselves from our competitors and the best way we can add value for our clients is by the constant pursuit of exceptional work.”

Robertson visited the region in mid-December to meet his agency’s local leadership. Impact BBDO, the MENA branch of the Omnicom-owned creative network, is a powerhouse for BBDO. Headed out of Dubai by Dani Richa, Impact has won two of the only three Grands Prix the region has collected at Cannes Lions. Both were for BBDO’s AnNahar newspaper client in Lebanon, in the Print category. Impact BBDO was named Creative Agency of the Year in Campaign’s inaugural Agency of the Year Middle East awards in December, after BBDO MEA had been named Best Network Middle East and Africa in May.

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BBDO global president and CEO Andrew Robertson tells Austyn Allison and Jalaja Ramanunni the right attitude is key to good work, and good work is the key to success

“Like everyone else, I’ve been longing to get back,” says Robertson, who had spent his morning going over Impact’s recent creative output. “This is one of the best performing regions and operations in BBDO and I want to understand what they do that’s so clever, so I can pick it up and use it in other places.”

The Work is likely to hold the answer he is looking for. “Our belief is that the value of great work is great. The value is great. The rewards and the return you can generate are disproportionate and exceptional,” says Robertson.


Among the rewards are all those awards that sit on BBDO’s trophy shelf. When challenged on the perennial question of the value of trophies, Robertson paraphrases UK wartime leader Winston Churchill, saying awards are “the worst way of measuring your performance – apart from all the rest”. He adds: “Awards are the best benchmark we have for the best of our work versus the best of the work being produced by every other agency in the world. We take them seriously. We think awards are important.”

So do BBDO’s customers. “What I think is significant is the number of clients who are also taking awards seriously,” says Robertson. “You will hear it from CEOs, but you see it in the commitment that a lot of these companies are making to sending their people to awards or to creative festivals. They are making big investments in order to raise the game.”

Despite being one of the most awarded networks in the region, Impact BBDO last year lost one of its flagship accounts, the UAE telco e& (formerly Etisalat), to Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi.

“Etisalat was a big loss,” says Robertson. “But to the extraordinary credit of this group, they have replaced it in six months.”

Now Impact must stick to its guns. “Clients fire you for lots of reasons, but you have to have some kind of conviction in what you’re here to do,” says Robertson. BBDO is here to do exceptional work.

“One of the characteristics we have for our people is: they are good at picking themselves up fast,” says Robertson.


As storm clouds gather over the economy, Robertson says data can lead the way through the tempest, albeit with practical considerations.

“The important thing for us as agencies and for clients is to dig into the data and then learn from it, follow it,” he says. “That doesn’t mean that’s what always happens, because life isn’t like that, and I’m very aware of the kind of pressures

that a lot of clients are under and could come under.”

Meanwhile, what consumers want, says Robertson, is “effortless, seamlessly connected, ideally magical experiences through what are increasingly nonlinear purchasing and usage experiences”.

If ‘The Work, The Work, The Work’ is Robertson’s philosophy, ‘effortless, seamlessly connected, magical experiences through what are increasingly nonlinear journeys’ is his mantra. He repeats the phrase several times.

And the agency, says Roberston, is already in a position to provide that seamlessly connectivity.

“We have the expertise and the skills that you need within the Impact BBDO group here,” he says. “We have a very strong PR offering with a very strong influencer marketing offering. We have an extraordinarily strong digital and demand-capture operation. We have really good demand-generation skills. We were already that, we just got good at putting it together and using it well for our clients. Some of the other groups are getting there by putting things together, but we were already there.”


Robertson says the piece of work he envies most from the past five years isn’t a creatively beautiful film or a viral social campaign but a simple text message from an airline that shows how data and creativity can work hand-in-hand.

“I was in LA, and I was due to fly back to New York the next day,” he says. “I got a text from American Airlines that said, ‘You may want to pack an umbrella. We are expecting storms in the New York area. There will be delays and there may be some cancellations. If you possibly can, you might want to think about travelling on another day.’”

We are all used to the ‘cleverness’ of a data management system that can ensure the right message is delivered to the right person at the right time, says Robertson. However, automation can free up humans to do their own work. “The genius of that text message was the first sentence –because it made me smile,” he says. It is hard to be angry at a person or corporation that has put a grin on your face.

“I don’t think there is an algorithm in the world that could write ‘You may want to pack an umbrella’. If you can have that big an impact with one sentence from a text message delivering really bad news, imagine what you can do when the news is good,” he says.

“Our view of the future is that you are going to use automation to do the things that can be done and should be done through AI in order to create the

capacity to do the magical stuff that can’t be.”

According to Robertson, customers have learned to want those effortless, seamlessly connected, nonlinear experiences from what brands are already offering them. “We have this idea of a funnel and I’m not sure that it even exists anymore, that that people can go from awareness to purchase into clicks or that they can spend ages reading reviews and checking ratings. You have to be able to create experiences for those consumers that are magical,” he says.


Agencies and their staff need to find their feet post-Covid to get back to doing exceptional work. “If you look at it

globally, there’s a lot of good but not enough really brilliant [work],” says Robertson. “There’s lots of things that can explain that, but one of them is the fact that people haven’t got back together as much as they need to, in order to generate brilliance.”

He quotes the film director David Lynch, who compared ideas with fish. Robertson says: “You can’t make a fish; you can only catch a fish. You catch things better when you are together. I don’t think it happens the same way when people are on screens. You can get to ‘good’ on a screen, but to get to ‘brilliant’ it helps to be in the same room together.” That’s one of the keys to Impact being the current jewel in BBDO’s creative crown. “One of the reasons why this region has performed as well as it has creatively is because everybody came back earlier than they did in the rest of the world.”

If that’s what it takes to boost The Work, then Robertson stands behind it.

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The UAE continues to invest in innovation and lead the metaverse economy

2022 was the year of rising curiosity around the metaverse. It is not surprising that the phrase, ‘What is metaverse?’ made it to the top 10 most-searched what-is questions on Google search last year.

Global tech players have their eyes on the UAE as businesses here have been quick to enter this new realm. With Dubai’s metaverse strategy, the emirate aims to position itself as one of the world’s top 10 metaverse economies as well as a global hub for the metaverse community. The strategy accelerates Dubai’s aim to attract more than 1,000 businesses in the fields of blockchain and metaverse.

Take a look at our top five metaverse activations in the UAE.


At GITEX Global 2022, UAE-based burger joint Pickl invited visitors to place their orders in their metaverse. And yes, there was a real, edible burger involved.

Pickl and Commercial Bank International (CBI) brought a metaverse dining experience to life for their guests at the event. At CBI’s activation, visitors created an avatar and collected their tokens in a simulated web 3.0 wallet which gave them access to the experience through the metaverse platform. They entered Pickl’s virtual restaurant through an immersive wrap-around floor-to-ceiling screen, placed their order and received a physical burger in a few minutes. The burgers were made at Pickl’s food truck and delivered directly to the customer at the CBI stand. When we asked Pickl if they plan to continue taking orders the same way, Simon Ritchie, comms director, Pickl said, “It was a novelty and a fun experience. We were quite excited to try it out when CBI approached us with the concept. However, it is too early for

consumers to switch the way they order food – they are used to the convenience that food delivery apps provide. We continue to look for ways to engage in the metaverse.”


Formerly known as Etisalat Group, e& ventured into the metaverse with ‘e& Universe’ at GITEX 2022. e& launched its virtual universe in partnership with HTC with an aim to provide visitors with varied experiences in art, music, entertainment and a glimpse into digital retail of the future.

E& universe was hosted virtually in Arcadia Planitia on Mars, a vital location that is considered the most suitable for future life on the red planet and may serve as an aspirational and strategic location for the future. It is a subtle nod to the UAE’s National Space Strategy, the success of the Hope Probe mission, and in line with the vision of the UAE’s leadership. This move marks a significant achievement in the Etisalat Group’s transformation into a technology and investment conglomerate.


The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) launched the first government-sanctioned metaverse customer happiness centre. The simulated digital environment replaces traditional methods of patient-provider communication and eliminates the necessity to visit a clinical practice in person. It was developed by TMRW and launched in at the Arab Health and Medlab Middle East Exhibition and Congress 2022. The portal lets customers log in to MOHAP’s website,

and with the click of a button they can access a three-dimensional virtual medical office. It helps customers access services such as renewal of medical licences, making payments and scheduling diagnostics appointments and check-ups.



The UAE Ministry of Economy launched its third office in the metaverse. The virtual building in the metaverse offers its full portfolio of services and it is a replica of the Ministry of Economy in Abu Dhabi. At the virtual office, visitors can organise meetings and interact with each other using avatars. The platform can be used for signing agreements and legally binding documents by users who are not physically present in the UAE. In addition, its 24/7 customer care support can be accessed at the virtual office.


Dubai Airport Freezone (DAFZ) entered the metaverse by launching METADAFZ to showcase its products, services and digital facilities to clients and investors.

METADAFZ aims to offer a seamless digital experience to clients and investors, enabling them to establish businesses in the emirate with greater ease. In METADAFZ, clients across the globe can conduct meetings over a virtual platform. The initiative offers an alternative to the traditional way of conducting business activities and empowers company representatives to discuss future work prospects and launch businesses in Dubai.

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Vodafone Fan Academy keeps the fever alive

During the recent football tournament, the local telco decided to shift focus to fans of the game

The nation lit up with floodlights, fans and cheers as Qatar took on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host the world’s most important sporting event. People from all over the world united to show their support, and Vodafone sought to keep that connection alive by celebrating not just the teams and the players but the people who genuinely shape the game – the fans. Without being officially tied up with the event, Vodafone had to take up the challenge to put fans in the spotlight first and make this tournament even more unforgettable for them.


Vodafone Qatar partnered with Wunderman Thompson Doha to create a platform to help supporters discover what it takes to be a true fan. With Vodafone not being an official sponsor, the real challenge lay in being unable to use branded assets or logos, the official jersey, player names, stadiums, matches or team names anywhere online. However, Vodafone rose to the challenge by putting the spotlight on the fans. A website was built in collaboration with four iconic international fans, whose names have been etched in history, giving them one crucial mission: to coach people on how to be the best fans ever.


Vodafone brought together four international fans to create a series of videos to introduce people to all they need to know about how to stand out in the stadiums and during the games. The aim was to show fans how to catch attention, be the best host, pick the best costumes and cheer the right way.

The four fans who took the role of coaches were:

El Fil, who won the award for the best fan in 2018, is known as a standout face for Tunisia and is recognised for always being in the stands supporting his nation. Fil created videos teaching fans the art of face and body painting. The aim was for people to learn the importance of picking the right colours, patterns and methods of prepping skin for paint.

El Cole is a Caribbean icon who was Colombia’s number one follower for more than 30 years and is known for dressing up as a bird man. His videos focused on teaching fans about dressing up creatively, accessorising and understanding the fine art of costumes.

Caramelo is known for his iconic Mexican themed outfit and has travelled around the world supporting his country with an attendance record of more than 450 games. He introduced fans to the right way of cheering, chanting and leading other supporters in the stadiums. He also spoke about protecting one’s voice, warming up before cheering, and starting and participating in a wave.

Finally, Mohammed Saadon Al-Kuwari is a famous Qatari figure in sports and media, as well as a sports presenter for some of the biggest tournaments globally and locally. He gave fans essential etiquette and hosting tips to help them discover how to be the best fans and hosts during this football season and how to behave towards other local and resident fans as well as visitors coming into the country.


Each of the four coaches created 20 educational videos, each lasting sixty seconds over five modules. The course was paired with a quiz at the end to test the knowledge and understanding of fans who have taken part in

the academy. Fans received e-badges and e-certificates on completion. More than 4,250 fans from countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Germany and Spain joined in and took part in the Vodafone Fan Academy courses. 1,122 fans received badges and more than 1,540 each received a certificate acknowledging their participation in Vodafone Fan Academy. To celebrate this honour, Vodafone hosted an online graduation ceremony in the metaverse, where all those who took part in the Fan Academy could join in.


Vodafone sought to apply learnings and build a campaign that would capitalise on this sporting opportunity by creating fun, light-hearted content and by staying always-on.

To promote and build awareness of Vodafone Fan Academy on social media, the brand teamed up with the coaches to create videos documenting stories about themselves and their individual fan journeys. Each video was posted on Vodafone’s social channels and linked to the microsite.

It also targeted fans with short tutorials that served as teasers of 15 seconds each, effectively linking the audience to Vodafone Fan Academy and encouraging fans to join in. Weekly draws were conducted where graduates were eligible to win smart devices throughout the tournament.

In the end, Vodafone saw an opportunity to be part of the excitement of the sport by not just being a brand that focuses on teams, players or glory but by putting the faces that cheer on through the wins, losses and draws at the forefront of it all.

January 30, 2023 13 PARTNER CONTENT

The official motto of the United States, adopted in 1956, “In God we trust” is still valid and relevant. We all believe in this motto to one degree or another but there is also something fundamental about believing and trusting in the concept of change. For example, one of these changes we believe in is encompassed with the overused – if not cliché – expression ‘digital transformation’.

Digital or not, virtual or real, along with most readers, my prediction for 2023 is change. This prediction was also true for me in 2022 and will also be in 2024. Change occurs on many levels, in many scenarios and with multiple touchpoints. For example, we can expect change within the local competitive landscape, the growth metrics of the regional GCC market, the inclinations of customers, the messaging to customers, technology platforms and channels, global macroeconomics, what’s hot and what’s not, and the list goes on. Although important and necessary, this article, however, is not about change.

This article is about the anchors that should be a part of our sure predictions for this year and beyond – the consistencies that do not change, virtual or real.


High-quality deliverables – to both internal and external stakeholders – should continue to be provided regardless of any external factors, stresses or pressures that are forced upon us. Whether delivering a new product launch, marketing campaign, CX strategy, CRM training or a new data modelling algorithm, high quality work will always be in demand.


Although the actual KPIs may change, the use of KPIs to measure what success and mediocrity look like will continue. Whether related to performance marketing, average


trust that is perceived and attained. Trust is an underlying factor that drives decisions and differentiation. Any change that occurs cannot be at the cost of diminishing trust.


It is not only about listening to the voice of the customer but also taking the time to learn from the customer. Investing time and practising empathy are important and timeless traits that are foundational to success. This practice will allow us to understand the change that is forecast.


resolution time, sales pipeline targets or other important metrics, indicators facilitate in delivering progress and informed decision making.


Regardless of what changes occur in the marketplace, environment, mass media or macroeconomics, the values that shaped us and have brought us to where we are today are the same values that should guide us throughout this year and beyond. We know what values these are: an attitude of humility, the ability to remain teachable, honesty, perseverance, punctuality, responsibility and other character qualities that have been a guiding light for success.


Commercial transactions and contracts are widely about the business of people-relationships and the level of


The use and massaging of data have always helped and will always help organisations drive decisions, measure performance, summarize, segment, drill down, etc. The identifying, obtaining, consolidating, mining, understanding and studying of data is a fundamental pillar that will not change.


Embedding a structured and disciplined programme and project management approach with layers of governance is vital and expected for any initiative. This is especially true as technologies, mediums, channels and realities continue to evolve and intersect.

In summary, as we look at 2023, some things will change but others should not. We always strive to bring the right message to the right person at the right time using the right channel with the right content and format. This year the person may change, the timing may change, the channel may change, the content and format may change, but discussing and applying the non-exhaustive points listed above will hopefully provide some level of stability and familiarity.

January 30, 2023 14
In an era of change, these anchors will keep businesses rooted, writes Publicis Sapient’s Ghassan Chkaiban

Rentals, set, done

Al Masaood Equipment Rentals offers rental solutions for events across the UAE

The exhibitions, conferences, and events sector in Abu Dhabi is making a strong comeback, thanks to the UAE’s recent relaxation of Covid-19 rules. Numerous public and private events are taking place, bringing together the global community to mark the occasion.

As the number of events rises, multiple parties collaborate to allow customers to engage and create memorable experiences. It goes without saying that a key component of a successful event is strong logistical support throughout the planning and execution phases.

We can see how logistics has evolved in today’s world, affording cost-effective rental options that streamline operations for event organisers. A reputable rental company will not only fetch all the necessary equipment but will also keep our guests safe and create a distinctive atmosphere for events of various natures.

Al Masaood Equipment Rentals, the rental arm of Al Masaood Group, took the lead in this prime opportunity to deliver rental solutions for events across the UAE. The division’s tech-driven products are custom-designed to add value and better serve the companies and event attendees alike. We have seen events that run anywhere from one or two days to ones

that extend to months on end. In response, Al Masaood Rentals offers customers both short- and long-term lease options. On a daily or monthly basis, the division provides 24-hour support services for water and waste management, cleaning services and consumables to ensure successful and smoothly running events.


As the leading supplier of a multitude of events in the country, Al Masaood Rentals’ products are a way to elevate a venue to the next level, enabling the ability to innovate by using space-transforming temporary buildings. Its products and services cater to various fleets of rental solutions that can be tailored to fit the needs of every moment.

From sports days to fairs and exhibitions, product launches and many more, Al Masaood Rentals’ site requirements cover all logistics provisions including fencing and barriers, temporary structures such as site offices, showers, mosques, modified containers, industrial kitchen units, ablution units of different sizes and layouts, power generation and mobile lighting.

For nearly a decade, Al Masaood Rentals has rolled out rapid solutions to support both large and small-scale events in the

UAE. This reflects its commitment to facilitating the goals of Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a hub for international tournaments and stages.

In one of the most high-profile events hosted by Abu Dhabi, Al Masaood Rentals has equipped more than 150 cabins, ablution units, facilities for people of determination, offices, kitchen units, reefers, storage, accreditation offices and tower lights for Yas Marina Circuit. Similarly, the division also provided these solutions during the Liwa Festival at Moreeb Dunes and the Mother of the Nation event, as well as many other landmark celebrations that took place in 2022.

With years of experience in diverse projects and festivities, Al Masaood Equipment Rentals continues to reshape its product lines with sustainability at its core to respond to the constantly shifting demands and requirements of all businesses in the UAE and GCC.

To find out more about Al Masaood Equipment Rentals L.L.C, please contact Norma Shaheen, Divisional Manager, at +971-565074834, e-mail norma_shaheen@ , or visit our website at www.

January 30, 2023 15 PARTNER CONTENT
“It goes without saying that a key component of a successful event is strong logistical support throughout the planning and execution phases.”
, group marketing and corporate communications manager, Al Masaood


Campaign Middle East’s Marcomms360 – Predictions

2023 brought together leading brands and agencies in the region with a unified goal of sharing ideas to elevate the region’s media, marketing and communications industry. The fifth edition of Marcomms360 hosted intensive and entertaining sessions that helped professionals navigate the year ahead. If you missed this year’s Marcomms360 – Predictions 2023, worry not. Here are our top 10 takeaways from the speaker line-up:

Daniel Shepherd, regional head of strategy and product MENA, PHD 2023 will see a giant leap forward as AI becomes even more entwined within our daily lives. However, artificial intelligence is here to make us more human. The mistake we make is that we try to imitate computers. Humans are irrational, unpredictable, emotional, biased and sentimental — these are strengths that help us have that human connection.

Michel Joumaa, agency partnership lead, MMS and Jalal Jassoma, agency partnership lead, MMS Content providers have been living their moment since 2019. The pie of paid content has grown steadily since then. However, here’s a surprising statistic — 27 million households across the MENA have access to pay-TV services but only 7 million are paying for those.

Gulrez Alam, chief investment and strategy

officer, ArabyAds

The subtle and equally loud shift of consumers towards connected TV is clearly a need-based evolution. Brands and agencies can target any age group with connected TV, and not just millennials.

Pankaj Pagarani, head of data sciences, Publicis Groupe 2023 will be the year of everything-as-aservice and sectors without servicisation will enter it. Clients are increasingly investing in POS technology such as apps. By the end of 2023, each of us will have an average of 10 loyalty apps on our phones.

Neel Pandya, CEO of EMEA and APAC, Pixis

While playing offence into a recession led by a restricted marketing budget and a rapidly changing landscape, AI-led marketing can help brands react with certainty in the face of uncertainty –especially when walled gardens, privacy regulations, a looming threat of recession and talent shortage are all set to upset the established order of things.

Jess Hickman, managing director, Audience Collective Middle East

Nobody really knows what the metaverse is, but 73 per cent of people said they are likely to use the metaverse in 2023.

Moustafa Ismail, industry head, Amazon Ads

Shifts in the advertising industry affect how advertisers create trusted digital connections, drive reach and efficiency and achieve growth. The rise of retail media, the power of first-party data and the growth of gaming are emerging trends that that are on top of the minds of marketers.

Philip Ma a, group COO at W Group

With 3D DOOH the real challenge lies in connecting the real world to the virtual world. Digital transformation of the OOH industry lies in innovations in data measurements, digital immersive experiences and smart solutions.

Hossam Alsaeed, general manager, brand marketing and customer experience, Nissan Middle East; Terry Mo, head of digital, OMD MENA and Bhaskar Bateja, head of customer journey strategy, Nissan United, TBWA/Raad While personalisation of data is king, marketers need to be respectful about how their data is used. It is an age of intense personalisation and marketers need to understand who is viewing an ad. As we push boundaries and enter the metaverse, brands need to be meaningful and convey what is true to them.

Zainah Yassin, client partnerships manager, Vamp 2023 is a great year for nano- and microcontent creators with high engagement rates. Brands will shift their focus from considering vanity metrics to return-on-ad-spend.

January 30, 2023 16

The world of marketing is everevolving and staying ahead of the game is crucial for success. By 2023, we can expect to see some exciting trends and advancements in the industry that will help marketers get the most out of their strategies.

As technology continues to evolve, creativity will become increasingly important not just to advertising but to everyday life in 2023. We are already seeing unprecedented developments in the creative disciplines that are transforming our world. From datadriven personalisation to artificial intelligence, it is clear that the future of creativity will be marked by innovation. But where will technology lead us? Well, that depends on the people who will be in the driving seat of these new technologies.


AI is already being employed to automate certain marketing activities, but its potential is still largely untapped. As AI technology continues to evolve over the

platforms and technologies and that is exciting. Add the metaverse to this equation, to your marketing plan, to your creative mind, mix it with whatever came before and whatever will come after and something exciting will happen, I am sure.


According to Forbes, over the last 10 years, the total data in the world has increased from an estimated 6.5 zettabytes to 97 zettabytes. We never had that much to work with, so let us use it properly. Data and creativity should be like brother and sister, while in many cases they are still working in different departments. 2023 hopefully will change that for good.


All these possibilities we mentioned so far help create a better user experience and this is what matters the most. The customer experience was never so centric in a brand relationship, improving loyalty and love. But brands and agencies need to stay relevant and up to date with the


next couple of years, more companies will be able to use it to increase their reach and create more personalised customer experiences. AI can be used to analyse customer data, tailor content to match the interests of specific audiences and develop more successful campaigns, and even to create content itself.


And if you have read up to now, you may or may not have realised that the first few paragraphs of this interview were written by AI (ChatGPT). It is impressive. I typed: “Write me an article about the trends on advertising for 2023”, and there it was. Yes, it is as exciting as it is scary but I truly believe that technology is here to enhance people’s talents and not to play against them. It brings a new brain to the equation. But every strategy will still need a heart, every copy will still need a soul and every design will still need an eye. And only talented creative people can have that. So, if you are wondering about the impact of AI on the creative product, start seeing it as an ally and not an enemy capable of enhancing your talent and making you better at whatever you do. The formula is simple: we just need to stay curious, learning and keep digging beyond the tool functionality to find and explore AI’s endless possibilities.


Remember the metaverse? That thing that happened in between NFT and Midjourney? Wait, I am not saying it is not big anymore. It still is and the possibilities are endless. But the metaverse is just another amazing possibility for creative minds. We do have this thing where anything new that happens seems to be killing its predecessor. The next “this is the future, and all the rest is old” could not be more wrong. Everyday we are expanding this bucket called creativity with tools,

consumer’s evolution. And consumers are moving fast, so let us be more agile.


Now here is less of a trend and more of a hope. For many years, brands have been finding their purpose and supporting causes. And I do think it is very important that a brand has a point of view and brings positive impact on society. But the world could use some laughing right now. We have been through a lot. And I would love to see some brands taking things a little lighter and adding to their purpose bag, bringing a smile to people’s face. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously.

Finally (I bring no evidence to this last paragraph; it is just an emotional guess), in 2023, no matter how much technology evolves, people should be in the front row. Companies and brands should double their effort to guarantee the welfare of their people, being employees, partners or consumers. Whatever brand or product you have, it will only prosper if it has the right environment, surrounded by diverse talent and mutual respect. No matter where we go as an industry, if we get better at putting people first, we will surely have a promising future.

January 30, 2023 18
‘‘ e customer experience was never so centric in a brand relationship, improving loyalty and love.’’
AI, humour and a focus on people are among the trends 2023 will bring


The virtual world offers opportunities for brands, but also challenges

today, and entirely new product development mechanisms and processes will enable fully customised and immersive customer experience.

The last decade alone saw the domination of e-commerce, thanks to the mainstream adoption of smart phones. According to Statista, the annual worldwide retail e-commerce industry was worth $1.3 trillion in 2014. In 2022 this has grown to $5.7 trillion, and by 2026, it is poised to grow to $8.1 trillion.

The metaverse will continue to create a demand for services within existing and new businesses. Capitalising on this new channel and adopting it early is paramount to future business success and growth.

writes Publicis Sapient’s Ryan Loots

The metaverse – a maturing virtual world where users can interact with each other and virtual objects and explore digital experiences – is gaining significant traction in the Middle East. As headsets and technology continue to improve, the metaverse has the potential to revolutionise the way we live, work and play. It is poised to become a major driving force in the region’s future economy.

According to recent reports, the metaverse industry is expected to reach a valuation of over $20bn by 2025, with the Middle East being a key market for growth and revenue generation. This growth is being driven by a number of factors including the region’s strong economic growth, a rapidly increasing population of tech-savvy consumers and a growing demand for immersive experiences.

Metaverse experiences cover a wide range of applications and uses, transforming the way we access and consume media, entertainment, gaming, education, healthcare and e-commerce. Instead of simply watching a movie or TV show, users can fully immerse themselves in the experience, interacting with characters and exploring virtual worlds.

In real estate, businesses could use the metaverse to advertise off-plan property, enabling potential buyers to immerse themselves in the property and surrounding areas. To enhance the experience further, realtors could connect to metaverse e-commerce channels, allowing potential buyers to pre-select their furniture to place each item on the property and visualise what their to-be dream home could look like.

For any business, it can be used for predictive analysis and modelling scenarios, allowing for optimised decision making by teams and executives. Virtual reality, augmented, autonomous AI use cases such as proactive self-healing that are not possible

exchange for physical items in the real world. The metaverse creates an entirely new digital space for brands to engage with their customers and create digital communities. These communities, depending on their levels of engagement with the brands, can help define the future of the brand through a more engaging and ultimately more rewarding experience. Many brands are already in the metaverse with varying degrees of success, but brands such Nike with its RTFKT and Swoosh projects have not only generated new revenue streams but found new ways for the customer to interact with the brand.

Another trailblazer in the space is Starbucks with its Odyssey programme, which has helped attract the mainstream by moving away from tech lingo and calling NFT collectibles ‘journey stamps’. These collectible journey stamps in some cases feature unique designs by artists to unlock amazing rewards and have a secondary market value as they are traded.

Digital ownership is the way forward. Rather than brands simply providing rewards and discounts, you are instead creating a sense of ownership with the brands customers love through points and collectibles.

Overall, marketing via the metaverse becomes far more engaging than static web pages, email or push notifications. With data, you can drive highly personalised metaverse experiences to engage and drive loyalty amongst your customers.

The challenges and solutions: Whenever we enter a metaverse discussion establishing a base level of education is really important. Many companies have invested in resources with specific metaverse qualifications, but many have not. Hence, investment in learning and development and upskilling is key to better understand how to make the metaverse work for you and not the other way around.

Early last year, it seemed like the entire world wanted to be part of the metaverse, fuelled by factors such as Facebook changing its name to Meta, and the number of metaverse events globally. It promised to be the next big thing.

Whilst the metaverse should be a part of your strategic roadmap, it is still very much a bleeding-edge technology and, depending on your business, you should make sure there is clear and real benefit to your customers.


The opportunity: Current loyalty programmes typically allow the earning of points in

Entering the metaverse does not mean closing your existing loyalty programmes but rather finding way to integrate this into what you offer today. Many companies offer a seamless bridge into this space without alienating ongoing programmes. Once you have determined what your loyalty programme will look like in the metaverse, you also need to decide which platform is right for you, be it an existing one or something that is completely bespoke.

Finally, at the time of strategy and execution it is recommended to build a three- to five-year plan as the technology will only improve, presenting you with more opportunities to build a loyal and engaged digital community.

January 30, 2023 19
e way we live, work and play is going to change,
e metaverse should be a part of your roadmap but is still a new technology, writes Epsilon’s Paul Wallis



Over the past two years, new needs have cropped up and it has brought about a radical shift in the way companies conduct their business today. This post-pandemic recovery period is a watershed moment during which we decide the future of business and marketing.

At FP7 McCann, our LIVE digital team keeps a pulse check on cultural and digital trends shaping up on an annual basis. This is based off the innate belief that everything in our digital ecosystem begins and ends in macro trends that ripple into industry, consumer and platform changes.

As we transition into 2023, the main goals of agencies and marketers alike should be to understand how to highlight the messages their brands are trying to make amidst shifting consumer needs. This coming year, it is imperative to capture new growth opportunities within a mindset of frugal spending. We have compiled this list of five digital marketing trends that are on the upswing so you can win big in 2023. It is impossible to try every single new trend but it is definitely possible to identify the right one for your brand to dive into. Try implementing some of these trends in your digital strategy practices to prepare your brand for success in the coming year:

Trend 1: The cookie and its demise

Trend 2: Fake news is old news

Trend 3: The metaverse as a permanent medium

Trend 4: The phygital reality

Trend 5: Predictive analytics will change the face of marketing


2023 will finally bring the long-delayed end of third-party cookies. Almost. Maybe? Google has once again delayed the end of cookies until 2024 to allow testing and uptake of its Privacy Sandbox APIs. Most digital advertisers seem to think that our landscape will face severe challenges as cookies get removed. However, the delay in their cancellation gives a little respite for brands. The clock is ticking and new alternatives must be activated sooner rather than later. The challenge: how will brands track conversions of their customers while creating more personalised experiences without that knowledge?


Not everything on the internet is real. And now we are finally seeing the repercussions of fake news. Brands, personalities and even governments have to deal with the consequences of fake news. Meanwhile, deepfake – AI-generated video content used to trick people into thinking certain people engaged in activities that never actually happened – is on the rise. Fakeness is also seeping into the creative scene with the recent controversy around AI-generated art driving its base of computation from existing artworks of artist without taking their permission. These mediums are causing friction among consumers and creators alike with rising demands to be able to trust that content has been ‘ethically’ created. So, expect 2023 to show an increased demand for integrity and authenticity that brands and social media channels will have to adapt to.


The concept of the metaverse – a mix of digital, augmented and real-world realities –started making news last year. Now it is a trend everyone wants to be a part of. Meta is one of the biggest investors in it and several tech companies such as Microsoft and Tencent announced major metaverse investments. Expect more players to join the contest in the coming months. However, the concept is entering a critical time and potentially faces a format war. Much like VHS vs Betamax or Blu-Ray vs HD DVD, some metaverses will thrive while others will be quickly abandoned. The metaverses that win or lose will be decided by consumers and whether they feel these new realities connect with their real-world needs.



The internet went on a frenzy in November this year as Oculus founder Palmer Luckey talked about his project ‘NerveGear VR’, a headset meant to kill its players should they lose a game. This trend is one of many others like it as we move closer to an internet of senses, one that incorporates technology to create digital sensory experiences. The trend will be to have a true multi-channel, multi-format approach that will stimulate consumers in new and interactive ways and also to create an accessible experience that provides content formats your audience demands.


Predictive analytics is not new – it has been used in underwriting and credit scoring for several years using existing big data to predict potential future outcomes. We will see more marketing and social media professionals start to integrate predictive analytics into their processes. Social listening can quickly and easily provide the required big data. We will now start seeing AI capabilities catch up and provide accurate and valuable predictions.

The capability brings so much potential with its ability to look into the future of a trend, topic or campaign and understand how it will adapt in the coming months. Yet, not all major marketers are adapting predictive analytics as part of their strategic performance decisions. Expect this to change in 2023.

We use such trends to develop predictive models that help our clients be prepared for what is to come on a digital level. We are not in the business of predictions but we are in the business of future-proofing the brands that we service. These annual exercises help us seize and react to industry shifts ahead of their peak.

These trends can act as a springboard for brands to create culture-pioneering ideas. From a new platform or medium to explore, such as the metaverse, to using predictive modelling as part of their performance marketing practices – these are the adjustments that can help make a business part of the cutting edge of changes taking place next year.

So, as we reflect on a dynamic year full of changes, here’s wishing you a future-proof 2023 full of success.

January 30, 2023 20
‘‘Not everything on the internet is real. We are seeing the repercussions of fake news.’’
With changing consumer needs, marketers need to understand how to accentuate a brand’s message, writes FP7 McCann MENAT’s Ibrahim

It is thought that the concept of new year’s resolutions first originated over 4,000 years ago, not too far away from here in Dubai. The ancient Babylonians – roughly in modern-day Iraq — are said to have made annual promises to their pagan gods. Keeping them meant that the gods bestowed all favours upon them, and letting them fall by the wayside resulted in being handed a tough punishment.

The origin of the annual prediction list in media land is much less clear. But it has certainly become a fixture, even usurping the humble resolution. So, in time-honoured tradition, it is time to dust off the crystal ball and consider the four main themes we will be resolving in the coming 12 months.


AI has captivated the human imagination in fact and fiction for decades but 2023 really feels like the year it will have a profound impact on our daily lives. The reason behind this is its new accessibility; computers now speak the same language as us. More precisely, they speak our language, making it easier to converse and have AI computate on our behalf. No one has done more to make this a reality than Open AI, the open-source AI pioneers behind large language model (LLM)-based chatbot Chat GPT. But is it any good?

ChatGPT is a powerful language model that can generate human-like text. It has been trained on a large dataset of text and can understand and respond to a wide variety of prompts. However, like any machine-learning model, its performance can vary depending on the specific task and the quality of the input data. It’s best to evaluate the model on a specific task before making a judgement.

And these specific tasks are numerous –whether the task is creating imagery and video, engaging with voice-driven devices in a meaningful way or, closer to home, using platforms that do the computational dog work side of our jobs in a flash. Leaving us more time to do what we do best: be human.


The Collins Dictionary’s word of the year for 2022 was ‘permacrisis’, describing the feeling of living through a period of war, inflation and political instability. The effects and after-effects of the pandemic, wars in Ukraine and elsewhere and the accompanying political turmoil across much of the globe have left many countries with spiralling energy costs and inflation. Previous financial crises in the years 2001 and 2008 have led to the coining of the ‘lipstick effect’, the notion that people continue to reward themselves with treats that are valuable to themselves regardless of costs. While spending is considered and bargains sought, people will still make exceptions for something truly special. The same goes for luxury goods. We saw during the pandemic that people are still prepared to find the money for the best of the best. People are prepared to make many sacrifices, but quality does not appear to be one of them.


Unfortunately, the planet might be. Data from audience research company GWI shows that while people continue to care deeply about the fate of the planet as it faces climate destruction, this does not always extend to making the sustainable choice with their consumption. It seems that in difficult times, this gets deprioritised.

So, when it comes to what consumers are prepared to spend their dwindling pay packets on, it turns out that luxury is sustainable but sustainability is a luxury.


As the proliferation of screens continues apace, it is no surprise that our audiences are becoming even more atomised and fragmented. Recessionary pressures have led OTT providers such as Netflix to experiment with ad-funded models, opening up these audiences to advertisers for the first time but splintering this already hard-to-reach cohort in the process.

It is difficult to say exactly what the impact of screen fragmentation on consumers will be in 2023, as it can depend on a variety of

factors such as the types of devices and screens that are prevalent at the time as well as how developers choose to design and optimise their apps for different screen sizes and resolutions. Additionally, screen fragmentation can make it more difficult for businesses to create and deliver effective mobile advertising.


The freezing global headwinds we discussed above had an arresting effect on tech stocks as a whole in 2022, but few felt the chill as much as Meta and Google. Indeed, Meta was the worst-performing stock in the S&P 500 last year. This was driven, in part, by the collapse of its digital ad-revenues as the combined total fell below 50 per cent of the total market for the first time since 2014. Still, managing nearly half of an estimated $320m global digital ad industry may not seem a catastrophe, you might think. But it is the trends that are alarming these companies and analysts alike. The rise of rivals like TikTok and Snap, tightening privacy laws and the imminent, albeit delayed, depreciation of the cookie as well as ongoing scepticism about Zuckerberg’s big bets in the metaverse mean the duopoly’s fortunes may not begin to thaw anytime soon. But brighter horizons beckon elsewhere. More diversity in the ecosystem means more investment in a wider range of players, global and local. This in turn will drive innovation, creativity and improved content and experiences for consumers and advertisers.

One of my personal resolutions for this year is a hardy perennial – to work smarter, not harder. It is early days, admittedly, but I am doing OK so far. Half of this article was written by ChatGPT, the AI chatbot from Open AI we mentioned earlier. We took it in turns for paragraphs. John Wanamaker, an early American retail magnate, is widely credited with the famous observation ‘I know half of my advertising money is wasted, I just don’t know which half.”

In much the same way, can you tell which half of this piece was written by a human and which half by a machine?

January 30, 2023 21
Which half of this piece was written by a human, and which half by machine, asks PHD's Daniel Shepherd
‘‘AI captivated the human imagination in fact and fiction, but 2023 really feels like the year it will have an impact on our daily lives.’’


This is an interesting year to write about predictions for the creative industry.

We seem to have taken a step beyond the internet-inspired globalisation in the last few decades, far beyond social media popularisation and the explosion of connected devices.

We have been seeing artificial intelligence (AI) writing copy and creating images.

Wearables and immersive tech such as AR/VR sets, are getting more popular by the day.

The metaverse is moving on from being the buzzword of 2022 to getting integrated into workplaces and turning into a space where new worlds are designed.

Gaming is bigger than ever is and still growing fast.

With the exception of replicants and flying cars, the day-to-day discussions in the creative industry seem to be taken out of a 20th century futuristic novel.

It is impossible to dissociate technology and the creative industry. Every single piece of innovation opens new platforms, new forms of expression, new consumer needs, and with those, new job descriptions and opportunities. Still, there are a few constants in this sea of novelty and innovation: brands will keep searching for consumer connection, consumers will still look for purpose, storytellers will still keep storytelling.

Our industry is one that thrives on the new. Pushed by the sense of conquest that comes with being the first explorer in a new world, creative agencies throw themselves at opportunities to be the first ones to tell stories in new ways and on new platforms. The upcoming year will see these stories come in the shape of AI-generated content, copy, captions and media strategies. New worlds, immersive experiences and formats will emerge especially for the boom of virtual and augmented realities and we will see more of the 2022 trend of gamingspecific creativity.

We are already witnessing our industry embrace and celebrate the arrival of this tech and will probably see even more – Web 3.0 marketing awards, categories for creativity in the metaverse and gaming at all major creative festivals from London International, The One Show and D&AD to the new Entertainment Lion for Gaming at this year’s Cannes festival.


Beyond the things that do not change are the ones that do. The rise of new tech and platforms does not ask for new talent. It demands it. Storytelling may be a human trait but the way we experience narratives and tell stories evolves. In the last decade, our industry saw the rise of social media executives, content creators and community

managers. The good old copywriter and art director team went far beyond writing scripts for TV and headlines for print and outdoor ads. These teams grew to welcome creative technologists, programmers, 3D designers and other talents who can tell stories that today’s youth are interested in and genuinely identify with.

Agencies that are gearing up to be fit for the future will have to expand their talent pool. They must find ways of bridging the different generations of the creative industry that we have in our agency floors today and onboarding new talent that will build up ideas to inspire the creatives of tomorrow.

The futuristic novel feel is caused by more than just technological marvels. A post-pandemic world with hybrid work models (WFH, remote work and in-office), an ongoing war in the heart of Europe and the global energy crisis all suggest a futuristic, yet slightly darker 20th century fiction novel.

All signs point to harsh economic times and, if confirmed, it is likely that we will see a reduction in global marketing spends. While all of us will be hoping for the best agencies will also be preparing for the worst. Driving effective operations and diversifying services to disciplines that will have organic growth are a few of the strategies that agencies are likely to implement. The right choices reside again in understanding the nuances in our industry’s relation with technology.

We should also be mindful that different brands have different adoption life stages when it comes to innovation. Not all brands are ready to completely transform the way they communicate at the same speed. And not all audiences have the same attitudes and behaviours towards what’s next. All predictions are made with the new generations in mind, while there are large parts of the population being mismarketed because of our tendency to think ‘future-first’.

That said, the opportunities and challenges that define 2023 are two sides of a coin. They are simultaneously, the drivers of excitement and the cause of sleepless nights amongst creatives. However, there is light at the end of every tunnel: no matter what, our shared obsession – the striving for creativity –remains the same. This is a time for further experimentation for playing with tech that will shape the years to come. It is a time to use technology to our advantage and complete the transformation that has been happening all around. A time for more than storytelling, for optimising ways of working to drive more work-life balance, allowing us to focus on the essence of our craft. A time for us to take our executional disciplines to the next level. This is when we use our leg up on the future.


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New technologies are changing the way creatives work, interact and hire, writes Havas Creative Middle East’s Fabio Silveira
‘‘Beyond the things that do not change are the ones that do. e rise of new tech and platforms does not ask for new talent. It demands it.’’



Artificial intelligence shines a light on the evolution of our relationship with non-humans

Of all the terms in the contemporary lexicon of digital communication, ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) is one that needs to be continuously modified and revisited. Since its introduction in the mid-20th century, its scope has consistently expanded to integrate and involve far more factors than the term ‘artificial’ should. If autonomous smart processes are the criterion, why weren’t cars, which can drive their passengers and operate on their behalf according to meticulous design and programming, labelled artificial mobility?

Futurists, tech specialists and creative minds have been drawn into speculation about what the full potential of AI is, but what we can say for the immediate future is that AI will empower teams with more time to focus on other growth metrics and not deplete a workforce to any significant degree. We are already witnessing its adoption across creative fronts and, though this may translate to fewer opportunities for junior staff members, agencies and marketing departments will be

better able to streamline their specialists and draft smarter content.

However, it won’t take mastery of the domain to capitalise on the potential of AI. There are tools available today, some in the late beta stages such as GPT-3, ESMFold and DeepMind’s Gato, that can put the power of AI at anyone’s fingertips. Consider also the chatbots on which many businesses have come to rely. These customer-service lines of code are prepared to address basic queries, but as more brands increase their redirection of customers to them, the user experience in the coming months will inevitably become more adapted to usage patterns. Technologies like WuDao2.0, which is rapidly exhibiting the ability to produce conversational speech and interpret imagery, will see optimising customer service as a first port of call but the possibilities that lay ahead for live comms are theoretically without limitation.

With our expanding understanding of digital parameters, we are seeing brands building permission-based marketing

databases. In their pursuit to maintain audience attention, communication prompts are being structured to engage with customers more specifically about elements that are personally relevant to them.

Whether the desire is query resolution or the search for a purer shopping experience, the proliferation of social commerce and click-through-to-buy features across social media platforms means businesses can ill afford to ignore the potential of integrated strategies. One-to-one marketing and customisation will increase through 2023 and the ability of companies to offer enough bandwidth for nuanced messaging will be a major marker of success. AI has the potential to add immense value in the marketing industry – predicting and analysing data, identifying trends, helping businesses understand their target audiences and reaching the right people at the best time with the appropriate words; this can be the key to conquering their spheres.

Communication professionals and their media relations will surely have to experiment with the same personalised marketing approach, especially at a time when traditional routines no longer guarantee results the way they used to. In terms of social media management and generation, great strides can be made in areas like email marketing. The tech around us is moving at the stupendous pace it always has and the communication industry is happy to see it. However, this is a competition we are in, one with humans and emotion-based decisions at each end and it has always been about communicating best to win.

Businesses using AI in its early phases should expect to see flat ROI. However, as the technology expands across the whole enterprise, incorporating AI into the key business processes, workflows and customer journeys will drive significant disruption allowing organisations to optimise their everyday operations and decision-making duties. Analysis by McKinsey anticipates that businesses that embrace this strategy are likely to experience value and scale, with some even increasing revenues by 20 per cent and taking advantage of the $9 trillion to $15 trillion in potential economic value that AI provides.

The potential and enhancement of AI cannot be overlooked. Sophisticated language tools such as Google’s LaMDA and Mircrosoft’s MT-NLG are drawing extremely close to convincing sentience. If used correctly, AI will be a serious force for good and organisations must investigate the potential of AI and approach their AI investments strategically, putting down plans to use it for more than just accelerating and automating current operations.

Though AI presents an incredible bedrock for advanced automation, the consistent dependence on a term like ‘artificial’ seems to increasingly present a sheet of separation to protect our human experience and sentience. Perhaps we must remind ourselves that we are the architects of this innovation, training and educating it to function to our preferences and needs, to mirror our intelligence and understanding of the world.

Out-of-home (OOH) advertising has brought the UAE region to the threshold of revolution in the past few years, notably in 2022 where the emergence of innovations such as 3D immersive screens changed the way brands run their campaigns. Today, the breed of new technologies and changing consumer patterns are still spawning a non-stop paradigm shift in the landscape. So, what is next for the OOH industry in the year ahead?


The UAE has witnessed a boom in digital OOH advertising, which has driven the dire need for data implementation. Audience measurement and analytics based on impressions are enabling brands to measure the impact of their digital OOH (DOOH) advertising on both the upper-funnel and lower-funnel KPIs. According to Hypermedia, a subsidiary of W Group, end-to-end measurement is now possible and will be more and more refined to help marketers meet their campaign goals at their convenience most effectively. It calls for in-depth adaptation and exploration of analytics, which is why programmatic is another asset to build upon. With the largest network of data-powered assets in the UAE, Hypermedia is endowing brands with the maximum benefits. While the region is trailing behind this advancement compared with the international market, bringing it into being will allow marketers to grasp a solid 360-degree grip on their DOOH campaign strategies and performance across all venue types. This is better than data coming through unique



OOH market to improve their marketing and advertising framework with the rising input of tech companies. Though traditional advertising remains, we must say that the shift is already happening and will show no sign of slowing down.

The UAE is a regional frontrunner in DOOH advertising due to countless strategic locations, the appetite of international companies for brand awareness and the country’s favourable creative culture. Dubai is harnessing OOH advances in Dubai Metro, eminent malls and outdoor spaces. Brands are clocking up the success of their marketing performance one after the other. Media suppliers are being drawn to look for the same outcomes in neighboring countries within the GCC. W Group is driven by itas vision of becoming the leading tech media company in the OOH sector in the region. To expand its impact it is focusing on many golden opportunities that could be reaped in other cultural environments.

$1.14bn by 2023. A trend today, digital signage is set to be a consistent pattern in the future. As new technologies arise, we are likely to see more interactive and efficient signage that goes beyond facial recognition, smart-trigger or socidemographic advertising. The future potential of digital signage is a range of technology revolution trends that will definitely tap into automation, touch-screen innovation, cloud-based deployment, augmented reality, interactive media, social media interaction and wayfinding technologies, personalisation and much more. This will all further engage consumers with brands with an amusing touch. OOH stands on the tipping point between data-digital and

OOH is already holding sway in the UAE and is moving at breakneck speed. By 2050, 68 per cent of the world population will be living in smart cities, with the UAE set to be at the forefront of housing full-fledged smart cities. The world needs to stay in continuous disruption to align with this dynamism. As such, media suppliers should be able to keep up and unveil the full aptitude of OOH to achieve further qualitative leaps in the region.

reporting from each publisher and conducting the analysis – more practicality and more efficiency.


With a focus on realistic representation, digital signage in ads is opening new possibilities for attracting clients’ attention. Also powered by real-time data, it is becoming even more interactive through affordability and new technology features such as touchscreen, 3D technology and the internet of things (IoT). Consumers may easily view a broad range of products and even digitally ‘try on’ products. We are moving towards a further enhancement of user experience and consumer journeys by making campaigns more engaging and bolstering brands’ interactivity with consumers. The UAE digital signage market – which was valued at about $422m in 2017 – is now projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of over 18 per cent to cross

experiential. However, creating an experiential ecosystem and posing a focus on storytelling through the display of content is the road ahead, with technology carrying the torch.

We are already seeing these changes. Being one of the few tech companies in OOH in the region, DigitAll – the tech arm of W Group –has played a big role in this evolution. Specialising in signage consultancy, it has been employing the latest technologies including data and audience analytics coupled with its smart technology solutions such as 3D content, 3D renders, augmented reality and much more to push the user to actually enjoy the ad while exploring the brand’s offerings.


While the UAE has picked up speed in adapting to digitisation and new technologies, many media owners are still lagging. However, agencies are responding gradually to these golden opportunities and embracing everything up and coming in the

January 30, 2023 24
‘‘With a focus on realistic representation, digital signage in ads is opening new possibilities for attracting clients’ attention.’’
The role of data, measurement and analytics, coupled with the region’s growth, is changing the OOH landscape, writes W Group’s Philip Matta

2023 is upon us. Finally, and hopefully, this new year will provide us with more stability than we have seen over the past three years. There is no doubt that the year ahead for digital agencies will be full of opportunities and excitement but there will also be bumps in the road and issues we need to tackle. Whilst I by no means have a crystal ball, here is my prediction on how the year ahead looks for digital agencies in the Middle East.


Let us start with the positives and strengths that digital agencies are coming out of in 2022 with that will help them to succeed in 2023. There is no doubt that the impact of a tumultuous couple of years has been felt by all. But for agencies there is a strong feeling that they are more agile and empathetic to the needs of clients than ever before. Having been invited into clients’ houses (albeit via Zoom) having more transparency around clients’ businesses and their challenges, we as digital agencies are now much more in tune with clients' ‘behind the curtain’ needs, and that level of empathy ensures we can provide a personalised service that is more in line with the needs of clients.


We begin 2023 with new opportunities in digital media that we can leverage. As we launch into a new year, we are entering with the buzzwords that have been around for five years now turning into practical, real-world-impacting opportunities. Whether AI, metaverse or data, we as digital agencies now understand how we can level up marketing practically with new innovations.

We are also moving into 2023 with a global outlook. The Middle East has always been a truly global region, but as we move into 2023, it is easier to work with international colleagues and international clients and deliver international campaigns. 2023 will have a truly global approach with limited borders.

We are also prepared for 2023 to come with its challenges that will weaken the impact that digital agencies can have for their clients. Significant changes in data legislation and usage such as the cookie-less world and GDPR will impact the measurable return on investment that agencies can provide to clients when it is needed most with a global recession looming. The agencies that succeed will be the ones that invest in tracking and measurement to prove to clients' CFOs the impact that they are having on their bottom line.

On a wider level, in an age of opportunity and new digital innovations, it is important that agencies consider the understanding of the public on their channel selection. In a recent survey we did in the UAE, we found that only 25 per cent of the public could identify the right definition of the metaverse, yet 78 per cent wanted to use it in 2023. We as

agencies need to embrace innovation with our clients, but we also need to ensure our audiences are ready for it.

In 2023, we will see opportunities turn into reality. 2023 is the year that AI becomes ingrained in the digital agency landscape. With AI content creation tools like ChatGPT and Elai, digital agencies will be able to act faster for clients and develop unique content at the touch of a button. However, the human touch will still be required to ensure that we are tailoring that content to client briefs and objectives. In martech, digital agencies will have the opportunity to reduce the manual heavy lifting of testing, optimising and conversion rate optimisation. However, the human touch will still be needed to ensure these optimisations are driving towards the right objectives.

Similarly, the metaverse will open up a new channel for digital marketing in 2023. Agencies will be able to get involved in this space in many ways; from creating metaverse-ready 3D interactive content to running events via the metaverse and even running


cuts in headcount. In this event, it is the digital agencies that can prove their return on investment and impact that will survive and grow.

There is also a threat to the channels we know and love. Twitter and Meta have all had a difficult half year in 2022 and have seen significant cuts. As digital agencies, we need to ensure that we are prepared to flex our channel solutions and onboard new technologies such as TikTok and BeReal.

metaverse-specific digital advertising. With opportunities also come threats that we need to be aware of. Some of which we as digital agencies are already preparing for and some we don’t even have on our radar just yet. The big one that is on our radar currently is of course the looming threat of a global recession, which we know could lead to cuts in marketing, cuts in budgets and at worst

To summarise, 2023 is upon us and it brings with it innovation, technological solutions that have been talked about for half a decade finally coming into reality, and global opportunities. It also comes with financial instability, channel instability and greater scrutiny on results. The digital agencies that will succeed in 2023 are those that take an agile, client-focused approach. The ones that succeed will be those that are empathetic to client needs in the face of financial instability and most importantly, those that deliver results.

January 30, 2023 25
2023 is the year when concepts such as AI and the metaverse turn into practical opportunities that affect the real world, writes Audience Collective Middle East’s Jess Hickman
‘‘Significant changes in data legislation and usage will affect the measurable ROI agencies can provide when it is needed most.’’


and our teams know what our future looks like, not only for the 2023 P&L but in three to five years, or 10 to 20 years from now?

Brands today want strategic partners whose ambition, scale, skillset and versatility matches and even surpasses their own, committed partners who are willing to put their money where their mouth is and invest in outcome-driven, rather than outputdriven relationships.

If we are willing to redefine ourselves and revolutionise our business model, we will be relevant, indispensable and future-proof.

In 2023, media agencies must answer a critical question: Do we have what it takes to not merely survive but thrive in the new marketing economy?

I believe the answer is a solid yes – if we deliver product-people-partner transformation.

After 23 years on the client side, I know how extensively brand needs have evolved and how quickly they continue to evolve. Today’s new client brief combines digital, media, creative and tech, and prioritises owning customer relationships and engaging with diverse consumer voices, real-time activation, ever-higher performance standards, lower complexity and internal capacity building.

Agencies, in the main, have not kept pace with the speed and impact of these lightning changes. Niche challengers and non-media actors have stepped in, widening the gap between client and agency and expanding the competitive landscape.

If we are to thrive, we must be willing to take a long hard look at ourselves and determine if we are truly fit for purpose. Our clients have evolved; have we? Do we

It begins with product. Doubling down on our infrastructure is a non-negotiable because our clients need it, particularly in a post-recession period of continuing inflation. Those who help clients become more sustainable and capable will gain ground; those who execute short-term for incremental gains will not. We can no longer be only suppliers who rely on trading terms and lowest-cost propositions; we should be strategic enablers known for our diversified services: partners, not vendors.

We need not fear clients’ desires to become more self-sufficient. Historically, agencies have been reluctant to give up ‘our’ bread and butter to our clients for fear of losing our role – fully ignoring the prospect of an infinitely better and more valuable role on offer. Let us stop playing in puddles when we can access the sea.

That redefinition will also change what we as agencies look like. Digital has given us the ability to be more agile and more effective, to reduce complexity and clients want to benefit from that. Having a single line of truth – a single platform that combines creative, conversation, commerce, data and tech that demands a response from audiences – is far more compelling than dealing with multiple agencies and offerings.

I believe this will drive more of a return to the single, full-service model, moving away from agency to platform.

The second core element of our reinvention is people. As a people-reliant industry, prioritising our talent is crucial for our longevity and success. We must do better at proactively anticipating and preparing our workforce and our markets for changing conditions as well as the future of our industry.

We have the choice, for example, between checking the box on Saudisation and investing in upskilling and growing people in the Kingdom to contribute to our success and the success of that vital market. In Egypt, we could either proactively prepare our people for devaluation with foresight and action or respond to it after the fact.

At every level, we must do better at communicating with our people, which includes listening better, sharing our forward planning, reducing uncertainty and improving our responsiveness. We must match their desire to grow with a commitment to their growth.

As established businesses in the region, we have an ability and responsibility to understand MENA as diverse and heterogeneous and act accordingly. This does not end with using that knowledge for our clients and our bottom line but requires serving our people as much if not more than we do our clients. As the Harvard Business Review and so many others have pointed out, people leave because of managers and culture before they leave for money. A committed company culture is the only way to counter resignations great or small.

Finally, our partners and suppliers mark the third key element of our evolution. In 2023 and beyond, I believe, we will see the continuing rise of micro-publishers who have a smaller reach but can enable lifetime value through their loyal audiences and the expansion of retail media networks into full service platforms.

Retail media already represents more than 10 per cent of global ad spend and is expected to grow by 60 per cent within the next four years. How we respond to these twin trends will determine not just our right to play but the health of the ecosystem for years to come.

As market leaders, we must continue to nurture the ecosystem with malice towards none and favour towards all. Supporting smaller companies, especially noncompeting and tech-first companies, makes us all better and makes our industry more robust and resilient. Any platforms that help drive conversation with audiences expand our collective horizon.

If we do this, we will win. It is this collective vision, which forgoes insularity for inclusiveness and replaces ennui with evolution and champions relevance over shortsightedness, that is the key to unlocking a powerful and fit-for-purpose agency and industry.

This is the future that is within our grasp in 2023.

January 30, 2023 26 THE
Don’t fear clients becoming more selfsufficient. Agencies must reinvent themselves as enablers, not vendors, writes Mindshare MENA's Lamiya Boumlaki.


e&’s Noreen Nasralla examines the brand’s transformation from a telco into a global technology provider

Today, when people want to make daily decisions to download a new app, buy a new technology or even choose a place to dine they tend to avoid risk. Instead, they are more likely to choose a name, place or brand that is linked to a memory or previous experience that allows the digital brand to stand out visually. It is a safe and predictable choice because they know what to expect, reducing any risk of disappointment.

As brands evolve and strengthen their digital footprint, we must focus on how people perceive us, the impact we have on their lives and the value-added experience and legacy we leave behind. The margin for error is thinner than ever. That is why we all need to change the mindset of brands, and the way we talk to people and empower them as they transform to a digital lifestyle.


In 2022, we successfully transformed from a telco to a trusted global technology conglomerate with a dynamic evolution of the e& brand.

Confidently committed to accelerating company growth and achieving extraordinary results, we are now dedicated to creating a digitally brighter future and focused on creating limitless possibilities built on connections, connectivity and collaboration to empower the communities we serve.

e&’s leadership has always sought to embrace innovative ways to transform, operating methods that are customer-centric, digital-driven and propelled by nextgeneration technologies. This underpinned the rebranding campaign, ensuring we considered our past, our people and our progressive future and created a sustainable operational framework in which we could do things differently.

The brand sustainability framework now defines and manages the environmental, social and economic impacts of business growth. Adopting ESG as a business model has become a necessity for organisations or companies to stay alive in the communities they touch or that touch them. Designed by nature, this relationship between brands and communities will ensure sustainable growth for both as well as business continuity. e& has succeeded in setting a tangible example by integrating five key pillars into its operations: digital transformation and innovation, responsible business practice, people empowerment, environmental stewardship and connecting communities. We can achieve our strategic business objectives while we stay cautious about our surroundings.


Recently, we have been exploring and employing new technologies to digitally empower customers and societies and develop new opportunities for CSR initiatives that bring positive changes in connectivity, education and health.

Through sustainable digital innovation, we continue to promote an inclusive digital culture and deliver a superior customer experience, introducing breakthrough

technologies that enhance people’s lives and maximise value creation for our shareholders.

From being the first in the MENA region to launch the highly-resilient 5G network to acting as a catalyst for digital change in our role as Expo 2020 Dubai’s official telecommunications and digital services premier partner, we have heralded a new era of the digital economy for our customers’ benefit.


Digital content and social media networks have transformed the cost and distribution models for media businesses. As a result, to stay abreast of the technological advancement in the industry, we have become active in seeking investment opportunities and strategic partnerships to expand our capabilities.

Technological breakthroughs in the creation and distribution of content and the rise of digitally enabled experiences are forcing us to adapt and adopt new ways of how we create, package, share and maintain digital content by exploring the expansion of our fibre networks, increasing data centre capacity and focusing

on the metaverse and associated technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, NFTs and digital content.


As we progressed on our transformation journey we took an in-depth look from a talent and culture standpoint and began linking employees’ responsibilities with our vision and demonstrating how they are the changemakers in digitally empowering societies by living our values and company purpose.

We identified a need to close the talent gap in information communications technology and hire more professionals from varied industry backgrounds including data science, fintech, IoT and corporate governance.

By building comprehensive and targeted career development programmes, including rotation and secondment opportunities, we ensure that our high-performing workforce is prepared and skilled for the digital future and equipped with the right tools and capabilities aligned to the future of work. A workforce designed for these evolved and future directions.

January 30, 2023 27
‘‘Digital content and social media have transformed the cost and distribution models for media businesses.’’


What can brands do to address the changing landscape of customer expectations?

The last two years have certainly been disruptive. We have gone through a pandemic, a chip shortage and the beginning of an economic crisis – to list just a few of the challenges we have faced.

As we enter 2023, we see that businesses and brands have already begun crafting and implementing their new communication strategies. Here are a few trends that we marketers may encounter in 2023 in the automotive industry.


In 2023, consumers will expect three things from any brand: authenticity, transparency and exclusivity. To meet these expectations, brands will need to decentralise their overall communication strategy and create personalised content for their consumers on different communication platforms that align with their target audiences.

Consumers are inundated with advertising efforts, which simply adds to the challenges faced by brands; they need to identify the right platforms to use and ensure that their targeted efforts –whether through social media, online gaming platforms or traditional media outlets – align with the consumer’s core values. In addition to the challenge of identifying a shift in consumer taste, there are growing concerns about privacy, restrictive algorithms, third-party cookies and even figuring out entirely new platforms such as the metaverse. This not only limits brands’ abilities to gather data about the success or failure of a campaign, it also limits the users it can reach.


The rapid evolution of digital platforms, along with overlapping content, means that current users are at a much greater risk of seeing false advertising. However, consumers are getting more adept at identifying and avoiding such risks. In the coming year, this trend is likely to grow as consumers look to debunk falsehoods and call out brands that use false advertising across all digital platforms, raising risks of mainstream reputational damage.


Social media video production has risen exponentially in 2022. Influencer marketing has grown steadily and influencers have played a major role in helping brands to convey their messages authentically. In 2023, it is anticipated that most organisations and brands will choose to work with influencers who have a range of followers – from international or regional megainfluencers to more niche micro and nano influencers – to convey their brand’s messages to different audiences.

provide genuine reviews as they choose to collaborate with brands that align with their values.


This is certainly not a new trend; data underpins our communication and marketing strategies. Data helps us understand more about consumers’ preferences and how our campaigns perform, and also paves the way for brands to analyse and predict future trends. Predictive analytics will undoubtedly help marketers better understand their customers, their psychographics and ways to be proactive in their next communications either through AI or through manual digital listening technologies.


If the global pandemic taught us one thing, it is that we need to be adaptable and learn to embrace the chaos. Ironically, we boast about our predictions and how advanced technology can help us with predictions. Yet, in times of a crisis we are often caught off-guard. Despite our efforts to be organised and proactive in 2023, we will continue to need to learn to react to the unknown, embrace the chaos and keep an open mind as we approach this shifting world and ever-changing consumer demand.

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‘‘Consumers are inundated with advertising efforts, which simply adds to the challenges faced by brands.’’
Lara Sous, public relations and social media manager, MG Motors

As we welcome 2023 with ‘meta-optimism’ in the GCC, we can expect it to be the best year yet for the regional marcomms industry. The GCC’s economy is witnessing a renaissance on the back of stable hydrocarbons prices, reforms that attract a totally new genre of expats and consumption particularly of high value purchases – at an all-time high.

Here are some of my predictions for 2023.


At the onset of Covid-19 three years ago, the world pivoted to digital channels for consumption of news, products and services. Most marketers shifted their marcomms dollars to performance marketing and digital media, most often at the cost of content. It was almost as if the content had to simply grab eyeballs and not persuade or position the product or service. I believe it has taken a dramatic turn. In 2023, we will witness a far greater emphasis and allocation of marketing budgets to quality and award-winning content that drives conversion and builds brand love and consumer loyalty in a dynamic business landscape. Ultimately, well-crafted content connects with consumers in a more authentic way, reducing the need to chase and grab eyeballs.


In the last couple of years marketers were resorting to tactical, short-term stimuli of activation, promotion and price points.



Marketers will go back to thinking long-term. We will see the resurgence of brand communication and a greater focus on strengthening brand love and brand differentiators. Besides with the current ‘next-gen’ that puts a huge premium on authentic brands that have a purpose beyond sales, the need for a brand differentiated by purpose is often the most important consideration. The brand is back.


This year – more than ever – most marcomms programmes will be omni-channel with a central focus on customer experience (CX). Customers who do not have a holistic brand experience or have an inconsistent experience are less likely to become loyal buyers.


Whether you call it brand orchestration or omni-channel, savvy marketers are beginning to realise that silo-driven marcomms campaigns and budget allocations can tick all boxes but they cannot persuade brand love and unified brand experiences. An immersive and integrated marcomms programme will not only be more costand time-efficient but will also have greater impact. Personally, I am seeing more requests for proposal (RFPs) that integrate creative content, PR, social media and media into one silo-free brief in 2023.


With customers expecting more from brands across all touchpoints, we will see a greater focus and budget allocations for social media going beyond pure community management. The end of third-party cookies will see more attention being focused on social, mainstreaming it. For several product categories, budgets for social media may even exceed TV/ outdoor budget

allocations. Increasingly, we will witness social content creation budgets exceeding creative advertising or PR retainers.


Predictions on the metaverse being a multi-trillion industry in a couple of years vary but are uniformly bullish. The Dubai Metaverse Strategy aims to attract more than 1,000 companies in the fields of blockchain and metaverse and support more than 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030. The digital landscape shaped by web 3.0 continues to evolve, mirroring reality and going beyond just websites, apps and platforms – which is why I believe all serious marketers will need a well-articulated metaverse strategy executed in 2023. Last September, we launched BPG’s virtual headquarters, BPGverse – a virtual space for interactions and engagement between agency teams, clients and brands, representing an immersive approach to marcomms solutions. The current downturn of crypto notwithstanding, web 3.0 is here to stay, as is the metaverse.

We are fortunate to live in the GCC, a region on a strong growth trajectory with meta projects like NEOM taking shape in Saudi Arabia and visionary agendas such as Dubai’s D33 and positive regulatory reforms. We are indeed blessed.

January 30, 2023 29
‘‘We will witness social content creation budgets exceeding creative advertising or PR retainers.’’
BPG’s Avi Bhojani addresses the growing significance of content, brand experience and integrated campaigns


Marketing 3.0 is purpose-driven, writes Pizza Hut’s Beverley D’ Cruz

In a world where consumers are overwhelmed with choices and decisions, value for money is no longer the only driver for making a purchase. More and more consumers today are looking to align their values and interests with the brands they buy. These brand values are what we call a brand’s purpose. A brand’s purpose sets it apart and makes it unique. As we enter a new era of marketing, it is going to be increasingly important as marketers to dig deeper and find the ‘why’ behind our brands. Why does your brand exist, and what value does it add to a consumer’s life? At best, marketing today is functional where we talk about the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, but we rarely dig deeper to unlock the ‘why’. Purpose-driven marketing is going to be the future and brands and marketers are going to have to dig deep. While being interesting and entertaining might be enough to capture audiences, it may not be enough to keep them.

So what is purpose-driven marketing, I hear you ask? Very simply put: a brand purpose is the reason your brand exists beyond making money. I describe it as marketing 3.0, just like internet 3.0. Marketing 1.0 was productdriven, focusing on the benefits of the product. Marketing 2.0 was customer-driven, harnessing the power of data to focus on consumers. Marketing 3.0 is purpose-driven. Marketing today is no longer a one-way conversation where you tell consumers all the reasons why they should buy your brand. To be competitive, companies must connect with their consumers’ values in a meaningful way.

So, how do you go about finding your brand’s purpose? The easy response is your brand exists to make money for the company and its shareholders. It keeps the lights on and it pays the bills. However, making money is not the definition of your brand’s purpose.

To define your brand purpose you need to find the emotional connection your brand has with your audience – it solves an existing need and it makes their lives better or easier.

Let me walk you through our own journey at Pizza Hut. As a pizza brand, we bring joy to consumers’ lives and we make their lives easier and more enjoyable. We are the solution for a busy mother who does not have time to cook, we are the glue that brings a group of friends together and makes their evening epic. Pizza democratises the eating

experience – when you get around a pizza, by the very nature of it being circular you are all equal. Pizza is meant to be eaten with your fingers and with no pretence. Consider how you are making your consumers’ lives different, and when you find that, you find your brand’s purpose. Pizza Hut’s brand purpose is 'an equal slice for everyone’. We believe that everyone deserves an equal slice of life. We have used this brand purpose to launch a programme called LeadHership, and through our pilot program, we give 200 women an opportunity at an equal slice of life. The LeadHership programme is in its pilot stage in South Africa where we have partnered with YES (Youth Employment Services) to help women coming out of school

develop life skills that make them more employable and that give them a better chance to succeed in the professional world. The response of employees who work with us and at our stores has been incredible. Coming to work has taken on a new meaning and it comes with a sense of pride.

If I look around at other brands in our region that are doing this well, I am inspired by Dubai Holdings. Its strategy is aimed at creating an innovation-driven, knowledgebased economy. This is in line with Dubai’s long-term ambition to transform into the smartest and most productive city in the world. You cannot create a thriving economy without keeping the health and wellness of your citizens front and centre. An example of purpose-driven work is the Dubai Fitness Challenge. In its sixth year of existence, it is an annual celebration of health and wellness. The event does a really good job of combining the brand’s interests with consumers’ interest, and creating a meaningful experience for the city and its people.

There are countless studies that show the link between purpose-driven brands and business performance. Recently I attended a session conducted by Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, and this statement stuck with me: “Brands with purpose grow, companies with purpose matter and people with purpose thrive.”

Social impact initiatives are not just good for the world but are good for business too. Consumers today are being driven by social conscience and want to buy from brands in whose values they see themselves reflected. People are driven by purpose not only as consumers but also as employees. A motivated team who feel invested in their employer’s values are more likely to perform. Studies have also shown they are more likely to stay with the organisation longer as well. However, the only way purpose-driven marketing can be impactful is if it is authentic and action-driven. Consumers want to see a benefit to them or want to contribute to making the world a better place. As we look at 2023 and beyond, purpose is going to be right up there with digital, technology and the metaverse as areas to focus on in order to win in a competitive marketplace.

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‘‘Being interesting and entertaining might be enough to capture audiences but it may not be enough to keep them.’’

We’ve all witnessed the recent changes and developments the video on demand (VoD) industry has been experiencing.

The aftermath of the pandemic, followed by ongoing international events, macroeconomic factors and industry-specific changes are putting pressure on VoD providers to reassess their business strategies.

It is now clear, more than ever, that these companies must evolve and acclimatise to the changes caused by this global climate, as well as other factors.

Here are some of the trends, threats, and opportunities that I predict will lie ahead as they set forth to overcome these challenges.

diversify revenue streams (especially those whose business model solely relies on subscriptions).

While one might think that economic uncertainty could result in people choosing to stay in and so invest more in home entertainment, the opposite is true according to research conducted by Kantar, which showed a different reality.

“I need to save money” as a reason for cancelling streaming service subscriptions increased by 24 per cent in the US and by 59 per cent in the UK from 2021 to 2022. At the same time, a positive change in consumers’ attitudes is observed towards watching ads in exchange for lower subscription fees. Actions in our region may be slightly different, but the macroeconomic events do have a certain universal impact across markets.

In response to that, we can predict that VoD services will need to find ways to diversify their revenue streams.

An increase in the reliance on an adsupported model could be the way that they might do that. In addition, VoD services might also adopt a lower-funnel approach where they sell exclusive merchandise to their subscribers directly from their streaming services.

Content providers may also seek to collaborate more with brands. We have already started to see brand integration on platforms like Shahid and Prime video but can expect to see this more on Netflix, and potentially Disney+ and Apple TV+ as they look for additional revenue opportunities.



In the last couple of years, we’ve seen many new platforms enter the market, such as HBO Max, Peacock, Discovery+, AMC+, Binge, Allblk and WeTV+ to name a few, over and above the established OSN+ and Starzplay. With so many players, and due to the economic global situation, users are going to have to pick between these providers in terms of subscription first and foremost, and viewership time for the ad-supported VoDs.

On average, the UAE subscribes to no more than 2.5 paid content services per household (versus about 3 in the US). This means that users must continuously evaluate their subscription-based on content quality, size of library, overall utility and, of course, price. Another consideration that content providers may face is the increase in 'Streaming Cyclers', are users who sign up to binge watch their favourite shows, only to cancel until they see something new. These consumers are expensive to garner as they require heavy advertising to inform them of the new shows, and therefore have a relatively low customer lifetime value (CLV). This can pose a new challenge for providers who will have to come up with solutions to retain their users and keep them loyal to their platform.


Increased competition, weakening loyalty and streaming cyclers are probably going to hinder the ability for players to project their revenues and growth, resulting in a need to

With many VoD platforms offering their services for a fee, and due to the increase in exclusive content by these platforms, which is often geo-restricted and not available in every country, there are now more pirated content aggregators offering everything for free – and this is expected to continue to increase. Research done by Kearny suggests that although 27 million households across MENA have access to pay TV services, fewer than 7 million are paying for those services.

Piracy platforms are getting a free ride, while those generating content carry all the risk. The former also are expanding their content pool and are even making their offering more appealing to viewers in terms of user experience (UX), which is a fundamental threat for platforms that are constantly working on increasing their subscribers and hence revenue.

We are therefore more likely to see broadcasters and content providers join forces to combat piracy. MBC Group is the latest member of the Alliance of Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), the growing coalition dedicated to combat piracy around the world.


While the rush to cut advertising spending is understandable, in times of global economic unrest we’ve seen evidence to support that during downturns marketers who continue to invest in brand advertising come out stronger. Marketers already know the importance of continuous presence, especially after


Covid-19, which was a great learning lesson. It proved that businesses that increased their marketing focus on brand activity during that period are now seeing the benefits, and those changing gears in the next two quarters are experiencing lifts in recognition, familiarity and trust.

This is because they focused on gaining excess share of voice, which enhances connections with customers by focusing on the tone of their messaging. This builds mental availability for these brands, while others go dark.

Having said that, balance will be the key to achieving stability in marketing performance. Splitting budgets between performance and brand equity will be how businesses will successfully navigate the choppy marketing waters of 2023.

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‘‘Our region may be slightly different, but macroeconomic events do have a universal impact across markets.’’
The trends, threats and opportunities around the growth of video on demand


Deploying artificial intelligence (AI) for marketing has helped many companies around the world outperform their competitors and achieve a stronger bottom line. AI for marketing is only going to grow every year as more businesses begin to adopt, innovate and invest in AI-driven automated intelligence. And, this is just the beginning.

Recently, during Campaign Middle East’s Marcomms360 –Predictions 2023 event, I had the opportunity to talk about some of the hottest trends for AI in 2023 and how different industrial sectors stand to benefit from adopting AI-led marketing to enhance performance. Additionally, we conducted a comprehensive, data-driven SWOT analysis of the potential benefits and challenges associated with AI-led marketing. To help marketers take informed decisions, the highlights of the SWOT analysis are presented here. Through this piece, we will explore strengths, seize opportunities and manage weaknesses and threats.


AI-powered marketing can be a powerful tool for marketing professionals who seek to increase engagement and generate better results in a competitive environment. By leveraging its strengths, marketers can more effectively target their audiences, automate complex and repetitive workflows, optimise campaigns for better performance and deliver on brand 1one-to-onemarketing to customers.


Powered by billions of data points, AI identifies and clusters those highly relevant customer groups, enabling brands to quickly and accurately expand and convert target audiences across different platforms. This enables marketers to effectively reach and engage their target audience, leading to increased conversions and ROI.


AI-powered intelligence facilitates persona-based creatives and copy that boosts audience engagement and clickthrough rates (CTR) across marketing channels. This AI-led communication is based on insights derived from analysing billions of customer data points across the user journey to identify patterns and trends from click to cart.


AI orchestrates campaign performance optimisation across different channels around the clock. This is done by continuous and rigorous analysis of data from historical campaigns, seasonality-based trends, attribution analytics and real-time performance data. The AI then uses this information to adjust budgets and strategies in real time in order to achieve the best results.


Several factors such as the rise of walled gardens, frequent privacy regulation changes, the threat of looming recession, the decline of cookies and talent shortages are disrupting the established order of all things marketing worldwide. As a result, marketing strategies and channels that were successful in 2022 or earlier may not be as effective in the days to come.

process can be difficult and time-consuming, requiring a significant investment of company resources – budgets, human effort, time and more. AI can help marketers overcome these challenges by enabling fast experimentation with speed and accuracy at scale, optimising resources in real time and automating execution to free up more time for strategy. Additionally, AI’s ability to manage and optimise multiple tasks in real time makes it a valuable asset for brands that use or want to experiment with multiple channels and campaigns to reach and engage customers.

Overall, this year offers a wealth of opportunities for AI in marketing where brands will use it to act with confidence in the face of uncertainty, streamline their marketing efforts, improve efficiency and achieve higher returns on their investment.


Some of the main concerns are multiplicity of bias and unethical usage, concerns about the expenses and infrastructure needed to implement AI solutions and the need for ongoing technological innovation to keep up with the constantly changing needs of the marketing industry. These concerns might discourage companies from adopting and investing in AI technology, hindering adoption in the field of marketing.

To address these concerns, it is important for organisations to take a responsible approach to the development and use of AI in marketing. This can include working with AI-providers to establish ethical guidelines, education and awareness about the capabilities and limitations of AI and investing in the necessary tools and training to ensure that teams are prepared to work alongside AI. It is also important for organisations to invest in ongoing tech innovation to ensure that their AI models are equipped to handle the constantly changing needs of the marketing industry. By taking these steps, organisations can help to alleviate concerns about AI and create a positive culture for its responsible usage.

Brands are beginning to realise the potential benefits of using AI to efficiently and quickly address a range of marketing challenges. As we move into the new year, it is likely that there will be a continued interest in and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in marketing.

To stay ahead of the curve, marketers will be required to experiment with new strategies and quickly determine what works best. However, this

strategies and channels that were successful in quickly determine what works best. However, this

January 30, 2023 32
‘‘AI’s ability to manage and optimise multiple tasks in real time makes it a valuable asset for brands that use or want to experiment with multiple channels and campaigns.’’
AI can help marketing professionals who seek to increase engagement and generate better results in a competitive environment, writes
Pixis’ Neel Pandya



Capitalising on sustainability trends can give marketers a distinct advantage, writes Al Masaood’s Marwa Kaabour

It is no surprise that our planet is reaching a tipping point with factors such as the ever-growing population, depletion of natural resources and rising temperatures fuelling environmental degradation. The Earth is struggling to sustain us and itself and sustainability plays an increasingly important role. If we do not make tangible changes now, 2023 could easily spell disaster for people and the environment.

The latest UN climate report paints a grim picture: without taking immediate and uncompromising action to reduce emissions, by 2015, global warming will be felt, with the temperature exceeding the 1.5C limit set in the 2015 Paris Agreement

on climate change – an outcome that will have lasting repercussions around the world. Inaction will result in creating irreversible consequences that our planet cannot withstand.

As governments, businesses and consumers become more conscious of their footprints, 2023 will bring an exciting wave of sustainability developments. Let us explore some of the trends ahead and look at ways in which we can make positive contributions to help protect our planet.


At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop27) held in Egypt last year, hundreds of delegates convened to discuss ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The primary focus of the conference was to finalise the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement. The participants also discussed the support required for countries grappling with vulnerable climates as well as financial commitments from all nations, availability of sustainable energy and resources and ways to strengthen carbon markets around the world. Overall, Cop27 reaffirmed previous global pledges in relation to climate change and provided a roadmap for all nations to reach the emissions reduction goals set forth in Paris. Through partnerships across governments, international organisations and the private sector, it is possible to make progress towards achieving these goals. It is up to all of us now to take a proactive stance and implement the plans outlined at Cop27.


This year, countries all over the world will be represented at Expo City Dubai to assess existing commitments and make new ones to protect the environment. These include reducing methane emissions, halting deforestation and ceasing fossil fuel financing. The hardest mitigation

challenges in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) reside within the region’s most vital industries such as agriculture, aviation and shipping. Steel and cement production sectors also face daunting obstacles when it comes to reducing their environmental impact.


To avoid the potentially devastating consequences of exceeding a global temperature rise of 1.5C, it is essential that greenhouse gas emissions are urgently reduced before 2025 and by as much as 48 per cent over the next decade. The UAE government has already started taking action to address this growing concern. The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) recently launched the National Carbon Sequestration Project, which seeks to plant 100 million mangroves by 2030 as part of the nation’s journey towards net zero emissions by 2050.


Cop28 will be an opportunity to further address methane as a major contributing factor in climate change. The upcoming conference aims to develop strategies for further mitigating and adapting to global warming due to rising concentrations of this troublesome greenhouse gas. With the potential to reduce global warming by up to 25 per cent, curbing methane emissions could be a game changer. The International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests that current technologies can achieve an impressive 75 per cent of industry-produced methane using technologies available today. The potential reduction in one of our most menacing pollutants is too great an opportunity for us not to take advantage of. Methane is believed to have 84 times greater effects than carbon dioxide. Taking measures now to reduce our impact will ensure that future generations will not be adversely affected by climate change.


To uphold sustainable energy practices, there is a need for active measures aimed at reducing our reliance on inefficient fossil fuels such as coal. This commitment paves the way towards

January 30, 2023 34

an infinitely more efficient and greener future.


Despite declaring their commitment to providing $100bn to yearly climate finance, developed nations have only managed to partially live up to that promise. The good news is that green tech is gaining momentum globally. According to a PwC report, the Middle East alone invested $1.6bn in climate technology during the first half of 2022.


Beyond CopP28, we will see other developments in the climate change space emerge and offer new possibilities to address this pressing global challenge.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is calling for much greater investment in renewable energy than currently observed with a halt to funding fossil fuels. Their aim is to limit global warming over the next decade and ultimately hit 1.5C by 2030. However, investments are still considerably behind what is needed to achieve this goal. This shift towards sustainable finance presents both investors and companies with an important opportunity, one that could have profound implications if acted upon appropriately.

Water scarcity: About two-thirds of the world’s population is enduring water scarcity. A meager 3 per cent of the Earth’s vast water reserves provides freshwater, of which only 1.2 per cent is drinking water. In many countries, water is becoming a scarce resource. The average yearly renewable freshwater provision per person in water-stressed nations hovers between 1,000 and 1,700 cubic meters. Unfortunately for Arabs, this figure is only 500 in MENA, making access to clean drinking water increasingly difficult. This challenge is growing starker in the MENA region, which is home to 6.3 per cent of the global population. The Arab world’s total population, which currently stands at approximately 436 million, is expected to almost double by 2050, only adding fuel to the flames.

Harsh drought: 80 per cent of agricultural land across the Arab world suffers from extreme drought conditions due to low levels of rainfall, an alarming situation that is quickly turning oceans into salt-sea wasteland with dire consequences to overall health standards.

More poverty: Covid-19 has taken a tremendous toll on humanity, affecting developed and developing nations alike. According to the latest United Nations

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) report for 2022, four years of progress against poverty are now in peril, with an additional 94 million people living below extreme levels of deprivation. Furthermore, malnutrition is ravaging the lives of 150 million children worldwide, resulting in stunted growth, all while one out every 10 people goes without food at night. Now more than ever, it is critical that climate actions go hand-in-hand when addressing these issues, so as to ensure everyone can realise their basic human rights, moving into our shared future together.


Capitalising on sustainability trends can give marketers a distinct advantage. By understanding key consumer preferences, companies have an opportunity to increase their brand visibility and differentiate themselves from competitors. An ESG-based strategy could prove invaluable for organisations seeking unique ways to add value and sustain long-term business growth.


Packaging presents an opportunity for companies to stand out beyond brand aesthetics and unique selling propositions. Adopting sustainable practices in packaging sends a powerful message about corporate values and can favourably affect consumer purchase decisions.


By transitioning away from plastic in production and value chains, including marketing, we can take a proactive step towards creating a sustainable future for all.


Through data-driven decisions and eliminating the practice of unsubstantiated claims, we can remain authentic and truly contribute to the sustainability movement. It is time we ethically and consistently promoted environmentalism and social work –saying what we do and, most importantly, doing what we say.


Greater transparency and reporting on sustainability practices can help us demonstrate our commitments realistically. A green future is only attainable when we openly, genuinely and systemically provide all stakeholders with truthful insights into the impact of our operations.


As the world starts to embrace sustainability more pervasively, it is essential for brands to be equipped with solutions that help them meet their net-zero targets. Marketing professionals have a responsibility to educate their colleagues and others through conferences and communications focused on sustainability strategies.


Marketing departments are playing an increasingly important role in creating long-term plans that align with sustainable practices. Such plans must be farsighted, focusing on the next five, 10 or 15 years. By taking a forward-thinking approach, brands can lay the foundation to bring about a positive change far into the future.


As guardians of brands, marketers can create a conducive learning environment within their organisations and among their audience, while holding everyone accountable for their words and actions and ensuring all stakeholders play their part in social development and environmental stewardship.


Maximising the efficiency of your marketing efforts means investigating how much you can invest in green marketing solutions. Digital, paperless approaches and strategies that produce less emissions or waste are becoming more widespread, significantly reducing costs while preserving our environment.

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‘‘Through partnerships across governments, international organisations and the private sector, it is possible to make progress towards achieving these goals.’’


Audio is part of the branded content mix for 2023, writes CNN International Commercial’s John Malone

Branded content has taken many forms since we set up CNN’s first branded content studio 16 years ago. Back in 2007, it was undefined, and most publisher and brand co-created content drifted from traditionally produced advertorial to something akin to traditional advertising. This was in part influenced by the platforms, as most of our campaigns were made for our linear channel and the style inevitably felt more like something an ad agency would make than a publisher. The other influencing factor, or lack thereof, was measurement. We had limited ways of measuring audience engagement so our creative decision-making was based on intuition and general knowledge of what was performing well in sectors and markets.

That has all changed dramatically. The explosion of platforms and the resulting evolution of audience measurement has provided us with tools that we use to connect with people and tell stories that they can relate to. Ultimately this has allowed us to tailor our offering to be inspiring and informative and, most importantly, make a lasting connection with audiences. CNN International Commercial’s brand studio, Create, devises campaigns that are fully multi-platform, spanning our own properties as well as client-owned platforms and both clients’ and our own social handles.

Recently we have put a considerable amount of resource into audio as a growth area for branded content. Podcasts have been around for two decades, but their appeal has grown exponentially in recent years. Since 2020, podcasts have become a daily source of inspiration and information that I personally consume while working. I now spend about an hour a day listening to audio content –from Kerning Cultures to Prof G, with a bit of music and a lot of Zoom calls in between. While I cannot say I am representative of the entire CNN audience, the global market data around audio, and specifically podcasts, paints a rosy picture of engagement. The Middle East is no exception –

data tells us about seven out of 10 people in the region are consuming podcasts of some kind. More than half of those audiences spend at least 30 minutes a day exclusively listening to podcast content. In fact, the average is 1 hour and 43 minutes. That is a lot of time for people to spend when they have unlimited choice in a crowded media space.

The CNN Audio unit caters for this audience demand by producing bespoke audio content and podcasts. It creates listening experiences that deliver the three most important qualities our audience demands – relevance, informativeness and relatability – allowing them to dig deeper into topical news and original enterprise storytelling. The CNN audio slate includes seven ‘always-on’ daily or weekly podcasts plus a range of specials, which bring our programming slate to 50 podcasts. Audiences can engage with content from Sanjay Gupta to Anderson Cooper, whose podcast hit #1 on the Apple Podcast Charts this year. Our content is popular here in the Middle East on Anghami.

As a publisher that embraces an audience-first strategy to reach consumers, it’s important for CNN to play in this space with our branded content as

well. When we break ‘audience-first’ down to its tenets, it first and foremost means viewing our audience as people. People with values and interests that inform their decisions. Audience-first also means bringing brands and people together through shared values. Branded content has evolved to take into account not only people’s interests but the way people consume content and even at what time of day. Audio offers new opportunities for brands to reach people when and where they are not consuming visual content.

Consequently, there is the opportunity to do some very exciting things with brands and audio. We recently produced ‘Forward, Better’, an audio-led campaign for Fujitsu Uvance, an initiative connecting thought leaders, tech and brands to address global challenges. We paired the host – Dr. Hannah Fry – with thought and business leaders in different sectors to address some of the most pressing and relevant sustainability challenges and to offer real achievable solutions. Other brands are also doing great stuff in the audio space. In the branded podcast space, F1 is educating and connecting fans to its biggest names with 'Beyond the Grid', and Basecamp is telling the secrets of longevity in business with ‘The Distance’ – both examples of brands embracing the format and proof positive that audiences are engaging with well-told stories in the audio space.

Are we pivoting away from written and movingimage-led content? Not so fast. However, the combination of audience demand, the scale of distribution and commercial interest makes audio key for 2023, but as part of a wider strategy and media mix along with TV, digital and social.

In my role as a storyteller and as someone who connects brands with audiences, I expect audio to be a core part of our product offering for the foreseeable future, offering brands a way to connect with audiences when they want, in a meaningful and memorable way.

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‘‘Seven out of 10 people in the region are consuming podcasts. More than half spend at least 30 minutes a day listening.’’

The year 2022 has been a year of dramatic recovery for the world, and particularly the MENA region, in the immediate post-pandemic period. Brands and platforms alike have driven the wave of positive macro-triggers. Expo 2020 and the World Cup were among the planned macro investments. In this regard, meeting room conversations in 2023 will centre around optimising the communications mix and plans to achieve results with lean spending. In this context, it will be rightful and timely that short-form video (SFV) platforms will dominate content and media: TikTok, Reels, Shorts and Snapchat. This will be the year when, for the first time, Instagram and Facebook grid strategy will not be the anchor presence for brands. The social strategy will be TikTok and Reels first, subsequently repurposed for the grid.

You may ask, what is new about video? Video storytelling has existed for a long time with long-form video storytelling on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. But the SFV video movement is different. It is the beginning of commerce video in our marketing lives. For the first time, as a marketer, you can at scale lean-test shot video creative elements and not just post-production cuts with SFV based on your objectives.

The numbers are compelling for an SFV-first strategy. Short-form video is expected to make up 90 per cent of internet traffic, and people share videos at twice the rate of any other content. For brands looking to build mass traction, the cost per thousand impressions (CPM) on SFV platforms is one-third of grid-based platforms like Facebook and Instagram. If you are a performance-marketing ninja, the numbers will delight you. The click-through rates (CTRs) are 40 to 50 per cent lower than conventional social platforms. The conversion outcomes are significantly better in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. These make them the prime choice for value marketers, and the bar chart will inevitably tilt in favour of SFV platforms in 2023.

There is a common misconception that SFV platforms, particularly TikTok, are all song and dance. This can’t be further from truth. Some of our most successful campaigns have been centred around elevated pitch content when there is a creator-to-audience video conversation, similar to a zoom video call.

But there is a catch here. These results are highly dependent on a native content SFV strategy – vertical, person-to-person, and a recreation of an SFV trend or format. If you are looking to build an SFV strategy around repurposed videos from conventional social platforms, perfect high-fidelity productions and video carousels from static creatives, brace yourself for a dark road of low ROI and spend excesses. You should build native and ‘unarmed’ feed videos. The SFV community finds these authentic, recommendation-friendly and of gratuitous audience value.


Firstly, it is important to build an outward-to-inward and, to an extent, anti-agency approach toward social strategy. This is a social 2.0 mantra where the brands are truly part of the community, and react to platform triggers such as trends, topics and formats. We look at content as reactions to what is


buzzing rather than creating a buzz. On the execution level, it is essential to build a brand-agency collaborative team and a lean stakeholder process for minimum bottlenecks and maximum impact. You have to look to size up your native TikTok models and internal TikTok cheerleaders, and use them bottom-up to ace your SFV strategy.


Educational and ‘gratuitous audience value’ content will rule for brand impact. The audience will search to find the hidden food gem in Dammam on SFV platforms like TikTok and Snapchat, and brand content must be reflective of these times. In the long run, these formats and video AI capabilities could have a spill-over and even dominate content on web 3.0 platforms and our augmented physical spaces. As a brand or an agency, there are enough reasons and this is an appropriate time to build your first cringe-free TikTok.

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Social media will be short-form-video-first in 2023
‘‘Short -form video is expected to make up 90 per cent of internet traffic, and people share videos at twice the rate of any other content.’’

The e-commerce market in the MENA region was estimated to be $28.5bn in 2020 and is projected to grow to $48.6bn by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of 18.8 per cent.

Successful omnichannel strategies boost revenue up to four times. They have three things in common: excellent customer experience, mobile friendliness and a unique product offering.  It pays to reimagine businesses in the digital space with quick commerce, a type of e-commerce platform that allows businesses to set up and manage an online store quickly.

Before the advent of quick commerce platforms, setting up an online store typically required significant technical expertise and could be time-consuming and costly. Quick commerce platforms have made it much easier for anyone to set up and manage an online store even with little technical expertise. This is a significant advantage for businesses that do not have the resources to hire a dedicated IT team.

Quick commerce platforms make it easy for businesses of all sizes to sell products and services online, helping to drive the growth of e-commerce.

There are several advantages to using a quick commerce platform including:

Ease of use: Quick commerce platforms are designed to be easy to use even for those with little to no technical expertise. This means that businesses can set up and manage their online store without the need for specialised knowledge or technical skills.

Time-saving: With a quick commerce platform, businesses can set up their online store in a matter of hours or days rather than the weeks or months it might take to build a custom website from scratch.

Cost-effectiveness: Quick commerce platforms can be more cost-effective than building a custom website as they often offer a range of features and tools at a lower price point.

Scalability: Quick commerce platforms are designed to handle a wide range of products and sales volumes, making it easy for businesses to scale up as they grow.

Integration with other tools: Many quick commerce platforms offer integration with other tools and platforms such as accounting software and marketing tools, which can help businesses streamline their operations and save time.

Customer support: Most quick commerce platforms offer excellent customer support so you can get help whenever you need it.

Managing a quick commerce platform requires a diverse range of skills and resources. To succeed, you will need to invest in a team and have the technical and marketing skills necessary to set up and run an online store.

The team depends on the size and complexity of your online store. A small store with just a few products may only require one or two people to manage it, while a larger store with a wider range of products and more advanced features may require a larger team. Ultimately, the size of your team will depend on the available resources and the level of support you need to manage your online store effectively.

To set up and manage your online store, you will need a certain level of technical proficiency. This may include tasks such as setting up payment gateways, integrating with other


There are several advantages to using a quick commerce platform, writes Interesting Times’ Bahaa Awad

systems and managing web hosting. If you do not have these skills yourself, you may need to hire someone with technical expertise to help you.

In addition to technical skills, you will also need marketing and sales skills to succeed with an online store. This may include copywriting, social media marketing and customer service skills. You may need to hire a team with the following skill sets:

Data: By collecting and analysing data about your customers, sales and website traffic, you can make informed decisions about how to optimise your online store. For example, you can use data to identify which products are most popular and tailor your marketing efforts accordingly. You can also use data to identify and fix any issues with your website such as slow loading times or broken links.

CRO: Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) involves using data and insights to optimise your website for conversions. This can include tactics such as improving the design and layout of your website, testing different calls to action and optimising the checkout process. By using CRO techniques, you can increase the number of visitors who complete a purchase on your website.

CRM: Customer relationship management (CRM) is the process of managing and nurturing customer relationships. By using a CRM system, you can easily track and manage customer interactions including sales, support and marketing activities. This can help you build stronger relationships with your customers and improve customer loyalty.

SEO: Search engine optimisation (SEO) involves optimising your website to rank highly in search engine results for relevant keywords. This can

help you attract more qualified traffic to your website and increase the chances of making a sale. By using SEO techniques, you can improve the visibility of your online store and drive more organic traffic to your website.

Finally, providing excellent customer service is crucial to the success of an online store. You will need to be able to respond promptly to customer inquiries and handle any issues that arise.

January 30, 2023 38
‘‘Quick commerce platforms make it easy for businesses of all sizes to sell products and services online.’’


As we move forward from an incident-packed 2022, global scale events combine with the end of the pandemic and endless news of titans falling along with new figures emerging in the tech space. As is customary and in line with our inherent human instinct, we now look forward to what 2023 holds for us with a keen focus on the digital content and engagement space and areas of deep capability.

Without putting together a verbose piece, I decided to assemble something of a cheat-sheet of what tools digital marketers, content creators, agency creatives and marketing strategists should expect to emerge as mainstream trends in the year to come. This list, albeit a short one, should prove to be a solid foundation for many in this space, but it is by no means an exhaustive selection.


The advent of machine learning modules like Midjourney and DALL.E has revolutionised how content creators are harnessing the power of AI to create images out of their imagination. As

modules become more powerful and the data sets become larger and enriched, AI-generated visual content will move into commercial mainstream. Rather than just vivid and rich images of someone’s creative interpretation, I foresee more commercial use cases emerging and fairly soon. The frequency with which custom and branded content is now needed to fulfil the appetite of prevalent and ever-enriched social media channels indicates this is the most efficient and ‘intelligent’ way to go.


With the evolution of tools such as Canva, Adobe’s Creative Cloud and Motion Array, and with the advent of countless native content creation apps for mobile phones, the demand

for quick, polished and sleek content has never been higher. This poses a challenge to the content creation industry across the globe, which is already is adapting and switching to automated tools that replace redundant content creation tasks. There was a time when ready-made templates, effects and visual packs were shunned by the purists in the industry. But with more content creators being able to churn out great video content from just their mobile phones, the industry needs to brace for a change. The reliance on content creators who can work off tools and churn out great videos from nimble hardware setups, smartphones in most cases, will continue to increase.


This industry-led paradigm shift for advertisers is expected. Questions are still being raised about how prolific advertising will be for over-the-top (OTT) creators. The answer is simple. To paraphrase a classic American baseball movie, if you will build (content), they will come. The viewership numbers speak for themselves and the industry is waiting to understand the fallout of pricing in this nascent toolset.


The industry just cannot stop talking about the metaverse. This romance will continue to blossom in 2023. More brands will jump on the bandwagon, albeit with caution. The metaverse is still being mapped out as we speak and use cases with great ROIs are still not easy to come by. As brands continue to dabble around in this space we will see more concrete data emerge, which will prove to be a motivator for others. Whilst I do not foresee first-movers getting immense financial advantage in this space, such is the nature of this phenomenon. However, they will gain a better understanding of engagement, exposure and recruitment of users and can use this to their advantage over laggards. A captive audience in the metaverse is a sure-shot winner as things stand today and will soon be an indispensable tool in any brand kit.


More relevant to the UAE and the region, global stock footage and image libraries have still failed to deliver on the lines of richness and accurate representation of the region. I foresee other players entering this space. This will also emerge as pent-up demand derived from my earlier point on more ‘tool-driven’ content creation becomes paramount. This trend is also powered by the need for multinational brands to develop hyperlocal content to continue to attract eyeballs.

January 30, 2023 39
The rise of content creators and the ease with which they can generate material will continue to shape the industry at large
‘‘Midjourney and DALL.E have revolutionised how content creators are harnessing the power of AI.’’

As we start a new year, it is a good time to reflect on the previous year and speculate on what may lie ahead in the coming year. We have compiled what we think are the biggest trends for 2023 in the format of a SWOT analysis that provides actionable tips for brands and marketers.


Relevancy and authentic quality content

Considering 63 per cent of people trust an influencer’s messaging more than the brand itself – according to Rise at Seven – and 86 per cent of consumers cite authenticity as a key factor to determining what brands they support, is it any wonder this is the first place we will start? Additionally, 2023 has seen a rise in creators sparking trends by creating their own storyboards to best reflect their personality as well as that of their audience. This ensures relevancy and authenticity are in place from the get go, allowing for a more natural approach. By working with content creators that align with your brand, having a genuine interest in your products and actively engaging with your wider industry and community, you will be introduced to their followership in a more authentic, natural way.

Short-form and portrait video

According to Wyzowl, 73 per cent of consumers prefer to watch a short video when assessing and evaluating a product or service. When you compare that to just 3 per cent who would rather watch a demo, it is clear this is a powerful tool your brand should be tapping into. On top of this, the continued rise of TikTok, YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels has further cemented this type of creative as the current front runner in the realm of video marketing. The platforms are favouring this content and their algorithms reflect it. A study has shown that 90 per cent of marketers who use short-form video will increase or maintain their investment next year and 21 per cent of marketers plan to leverage short-form video for the first time in 2023.

Branded content

Authenticity and genuine connection with your audience is crucial. The Social Shepherd stated that 61 per cent of consumers trust influencer recommendations, compared with 38 per cent who trust brand-produced content. On top of this, 60 per cent of marketers shared that influencer-generated content performs better compared with branded posts. We are sure to see more brands leveraging the power of influencers in their branded content, whether that is through amplification of messaging or content creation.

In addition, creators can bring a new level of expertise to a brand’s social activations, no matter the platform they are activating on. Creators have the ability to create content in any format for any platform, and that is why it is extremely important to be leveraging the creator’s creativity on their strongest platform.


Reactive or campaign-only

A common problem we see with marketers and their approach to influencer marketing is they see it as a short-term channel. In other words, it is not ‘always-on’. 70 per cent of

marketers see influencer marketing as campaign-based, according to a study by Influencer Marketing Hub. Whether it is affiliate, growth or social media, every other channel in your business is likely to have an always-on approach. Influencer marketing is no different. When we know that as many as 86 per cent of people look to social media for purchase recommendations and 81 per cent of consumers need to trust a brand before buying from them, it is clear that you need to have a consistent and near-constant influencer marketing presence to gain learnings and insights to iteratively improve your performance.


Nano/micro creators

Focusing on nano and micro creators is vital for a brand to be able to get the right eyes

great time for brands to stand up for what they and their consumers believe in. Not only can this be brave messaging, it can also yield four to six times more customer loyalty. Creators have the capability to keep up with consumer attitudes, preferences and tone of voices. Therefore, they have the capability to get your brand out there whilst keeping in mind the consumer trends at the current moment, allowing brands to stand out from competitors. Besides, with markets like KSA specifically changing and becoming more open, brands should tap into the opportunity of being bolder with messaging to demand market share early on.




on their product, allowing the brand to stay relevant to their specific market and audience demographic.

Micro-influencers make up more than 90 per cent of the market share. Consumers are more likely to follow influencers they can relate to, and micro-influencers attract far superior engagement levels. Add to this the fact that they are far more cost effective and it becomes obvious why we think the rise of these more niche influencers will continue.

Bold messaging

2023 is set to be a highly competitive year, with lower consumer spending power, and restricted marketing budgets. It can be a

Sales metrics – driving revenue and proving ROI Finally, we come to the all-important, and often contentious point in influencer marketing. As alluded to already, a whopping 86 per cent of women look to social media for help with purchasing decisions, A-List stated. We see that the opportunity exists to drive revenue and business value.Studies show that 71 per cent of marketers think the quality of influencer marketing traffic is better than other sources and influencer marketing ROI is 11 times greater than banner ads. For 2023, the continued development and evolution of social commerce will be key. Every social media platform is working to make the journey to purchase easier. However, we think this is the year that marketers will begin to realise and prove the business value of influencer marketing. A great tactic we see brands adopt is to mix their branded content ads with standard ads to drive cost-effective action intent. Some more quick tips from ourselves to drive better ROI include: develop an always-on strategy; define your goals from top-to-bottom of the funnel; choose your channels that align with those goals carefully; determine an investment that works for your business; take your highest performing organic content and use the power of paid media.

January 30, 2023 40
‘‘Every channel in your business is likely to have an always - on approach. Influencer marketing is no different.’’
Vamp’s Zainah Yassin does a SWOT analysis of working with content creators



Customisation, sustainability and smart ecosystems will transform the electronics industry across MENA

Economies across the MENA region are recovering from the coronavirus pandemic faster than anticipated, largely due to the acceleration of mass vaccination campaigns and an increase in oil prices. With that, the rapid proliferation consumer electronics in MENA has witnessed robust consumer demand coupled with high spending potential. However, there are factors that brands should consider in terms of tech evolution, and trends to plug into that can catapult the industry to an even stronger future.

With the transformation in working arrangements coupled with the latest generation entering the workforce, brands need their tech to be just as flexible as these consumers’ work demands are. It’s never been more important to give consumers the power to customise their experiences, allowing them to multitask and link to Windows on the go, turning smartphones into a productivity powerhouse at work or at home.

Outside the workplace, consumers are looking at products that will help ease the burden of household chores while leaning towards brands that are connected to their devices but, more importantly, can be customised to anticipate and perform tasks without manual control, providing a smarter home experience. Brands are expected to go beyond the norm of device-to-device connectivity to more need-to-know info, such as getting an alert that the fridge door has been left open.

Consumers are expecting tech giants to redefine their experience to be truly customisable from beginning to end. Strengthening links across their diverse businesses, electronics brands should create differentiated yet holistic products and services with an unwavering focus on being people-first to empower every individual to build experiences and environments that reflect their values and lifestyles. By bringing hardware and software together, electronics brands should envisage a product ecosystem built on experience-first innovation and customisation capabilities that ensure consumer lifestyles and needs are always supported.


Our own research tells us that foldables are another technological innovation that will shape tech-savvy consumers’ perspectives toward customisation.

Our premium foldable mobile devices have only been available for a few years – however, the manufacturer now claims that they will

become more mainstream throughout the year, with an estimated 16 million units shipped worldwide by the end of 2022, up to 80 percent of which are expected to be from the Galaxy Z Fold and Flip lines. Thanks to Android 12L capabilities, foldable devices provide enhanced display of up to three apps simultaneously.

Foldable smartphones will allow users to use their gadgets in ways that have previously been impossible. Because of their expanding nature, these devices can function as phones, tablets and even PCs. We may no longer need three distinct devices.

We believe users should be empowered to play an active role in customising their devices. That’s why manufacturing giants should expand their bespoke offering to include more options, hence putting users at the centre of their mission and developing products aligned with consumers’ preferences and needs.

As consumers embrace new preferences and attitudes for the future, industry reports reveal that pre-existing worries regarding consumers’ personal health, environmental sustainability and social impact have a greater affect than ever on purchasing decisions. Consumers are readier to interact with businesses that employ their expertise and resources to aid in the economic rehabilitation of the areas in which they operate. According to our research, 90 per cent of global users expect brands to be involved in causes to improve the world. Science and technology have made our lives easier and more convenient, thanks to the introduction of various innovative products and services into our daily routines. The downside of this has been the development of serious global environmental challenges, including climate change and resource depletion – issues that threaten the planet's future.

Electronics brands are advised to keep these factors in mind and continue to reimagine how products and consumers interact through technology. By championing an integrated platform and accelerating the market through partnerships with likeminded peers, the industry should innovate limitless technology built for individual lifestyles. In conclusion, the MENA electronics sphere would do well to focus on building a dynamic ecosystem that serves as the gateway to new experiences, inclusive technology and visionary ideas.

January 30, 2023 41
‘‘Consumers are expecting tech giants to redefine their experience to be truly customisable from beginning to end.’’



gaming, according to Newzoo consumer insights.

Brands and advertisers have an opportunity to take advantage of previously unconsidered platforms, including collaborations with popular gaming titles to target Gen Z and millennials. This involves interacting on digital platforms through social media, targeting and speaking with gaming audiences in an informed ‘gamer tone’ to drive audience acquisition, retention and loyalty. We have seen several brands ‘win’ recently. For instance, Pizza Hut’s ’22 Valorant tournament resulted in more than 7.7 million minutes of Pizza Hut ME’s tournament content being viewed and engagement levels in excess of industry YouTube benchmarks with four weeks of activity.

shifting brand perceptions and building equity with e-sports. This comes back to placemaking – places to play (for the players), places to watch (for the gaming fans) and places to win (for everyone involved in the activation).

Globally, 2023 will see an increased adoption of e-sports as a tool for brands to connect and will also shift back to large-scale offline e-sports – large format venues, hordes of fans and traveling pro teams. Naturally, large-scale events are the glossy finale we all look forward to. However, it is the finer elements of online e-sports that present a more accessible platform for brands to build relationships with gaming and e-sports audiences.

Gamification around gaming

But how does a brand deliver tangible ROI?

Brands are seeking credibility and relevance amongst Gen Z and millennials, and in the near future the hyper-engaged Gen A. It is now widely acknowledged that gaming and e-sports are powerful platforms to reach young, motivated and active audiences. However, consumers of this content have come to expect fresh, exciting and culturally relevant activations from brands. When done right, gaming and e-sports platforms can provide brands with highly engaged audiences that will spend a record amount of time immersed in their content and even recommend it to friends.

In-game advertising and experiences

In-game advertising is one of the most quickly expanding strategies among marketers. It offers the ability to deliver ads to audiences at a time when they are immersed with their friends, family and teammates, enjoying their favourite experiences and content. It’s expected that 81 per cent of media buyers will maintain or increase their spend on in-game advertisements in the next 12 months, while 93 per cent of media buyers intend to implement in-game advertising by 2025, according to Admix.

An effective brand integration with the gaming ecosystem comes from IP collaboration – a sharing of brand and gaming IP. For example, KFC crossed into PUBG Mobile’s gaming experience with branded items, content and in-game puzzles. It took PUBG Mobile IP into retail with box meals and IP deployment across point-of-sale. We expect to see more of both at a higher frequency this year.

A core medium to reach Gen Z and millennial audiences

It is not surprising that 77 per cent of millennials and 81 per cent of Gen Z consumers play video games. But what may surprise you is the amount of time spent on them. Gen Z gamers spend an average of 7 hours and 20 minutes per week, whereas millennials spend 6 hours and 50 minutes per week on

How e-sports fits in Brands can deliver value to the gaming community whilst simultaneously

The key lies in the four R’s: reach, resonate, reward and retain. Again, Pizza Hut Middle East does this very well. It frequently goes live across its gaming-specific social channels, driving its loyal followers to participate by solving gaming and e-sportsrelated puzzles and answering questions that encourage social discussion and promote content sharing. This is a perfect mix for a marketer. It is a balance of providing value, entertainment and engagement, whilst positioning the brand as one that understands and truly loves gaming.

The metaverse and gaming in web 3.0

Even as a conceptual work in progress, the metaverse has already shaped modern marketing. Metaverse gaming is in its infancy. The most robust metaverse platforms consist of Roblox and Fortnite. Leaders are emerging from the game industry as the metaverse grows, creating substantial new avenues for advertising. Ad businesses that specialise in in-game ad placement have long had their sights set on expanding into the metaverse. The metaverse builds on existing technology and trends from here, and now evolves into its final form. Gamification mechanics within the metaverse may well be the link that carries marketers into the future.

The future of gaming

Most of us have one if not two mobile devices. That places the gaming experiences in the palm of our hands, anytime, anywhere – a marketer’s dream. The mobile gaming market is expected to continue to grow rapidly, part of this due to the provision of in-game AI. VR and AR technologies are expected to become more prevalent in gaming, although, from a marketer’s perspective, this is not where significant, monetisable audiences lie currently.

On the other hand, with the continual development of web 3.0, players can easily monetise their gameplay and realise a tangible return for the precious hours spent playing. This presents an opportunity for gamers to earn a passive income through their in-game activities.

January 30, 2023 42
‘‘Brands and advertisers have an opportunity to take advantage of previously unconsidered
Gaming and e-sports are firmly becoming part of a marketer’s mix, writes Matthew Pickering, CEO of Power League Gaming


It’s that time of the year when all of us sit down and think about the year that is coming to an end and the next one on the horizon. As a user experience (UX) and service designfocused consulting firm we couldn’t be more excited to see UX finding its well-deserved place in the market.

UX, service design and customer experience (CX) concepts are coming of age globally, and we, as a region, are not far behind. Let’s look at what UX trends will emerge in the year 2023.

1. Users will expect interactions to be hyperpersonalised

A recent study shows that in 2022, 74 per cent of consumers preferred not to interact with a brand that does not personalise its digital platforms.

Users increasingly expect brands to treat them with attention and engage more personally than just showing their name and buying history when they log in. Research from Monetate showed that hyper-personalisation strategy could increase sales by 19 per cent in the next year alone. On the back of the digital shift of the pandemic, consumers expect more efforts from brands to engage them. AI coupled with data is paving the way for this.

2. Mixed reality and augmented reality will become more relevant

We have seen the recent hype around the metaverse and the uptake of VR chats. Many brands opted for VR events during the pandemic and continue to do so. Many are also preparing to build their presence in the metaverse. In the first half of 2021 itself, there were more than 500 brands in the metaverse, and that number is set to multiply in the coming year. However, more thought will go into finding the correct use case to enhance a user’s experience, rather than this being a fad.

Augmented reality will merge our physical and digital experiences into hybrid use cases for different industries. We have already seen examples of this such as using AR while purchasing furniture, for business cards, in healthcare, and in supply chains.

The development and regulations of

these technologies will provide a fun challenge for us in the future.

3. Data will be used for the benefit of users and not just the brand

Data is the new oil. No matter how clichéd and old this term has become, data until now has been used by the brands and organisations that collected and mined it. Yes, in some cases, it has been displayed back to users; however, it has been used to hide or underestimate information by presenting it to the user but for the benefit of the brand.

We will see a shift in this approach in 2023. Brands such as Spotify and TikTok have led the way in engaging data-based design. More brands will begin to deliver data to their users in a way that encourages them to enjoy an information-focused experience.

More brands will be open to using data and sharing it with users in a more ethical way. Not just by making it more understandable, but also by giving more power and authority to users by using their data to benefit them in a way that they expect.

4. Emotional design will start going mainstream

A study shows that 80 per cent of the users who engage emotionally with a brand are open to recommending it to friends and family, whether it’s a smartwatch, smartphone, laptop or potato.

Everything that we use, we use to get feedback. Not information, but feedback. Alongside data, we see icons and images to give us context: encouragement, empathy, warmth, consolation, connection, advice or congratulations. All these emotions and all the micro-interactions designed for those emotions will be key for customer experience and loyalty. The role of emotional design will become more mainstream in new ways in 2023.

5. Consolidation of digital engagement channels will be more user-driven

This one sounds vague, but it isn’t. Super apps, unified dashboards, and multisegment/brand experiences (marketplaces) are going to be a trend that is already taking shape. Super apps are leading this trend. WeChat and PayPay in Asia, Tata Neu in India and Rappi in South America are just a few examples. A recent survey in Europe showed that 90 per cent of users are motivated by the convenience of the super app and the personalisation it allows.

Most super apps and marketplaces are weaving together loyalty programmes, social features, e-commerce marketplaces, financial services, transportation services, messaging capabilities and delivery services to create an experience. Developers that create standalone apps will also create an applet for super apps to ensure accessibility.

‘‘Users increasingly expect brands to treat them with attention and engage more personally.’’
Brands will continue to put their customers first, using established tools to do so as well as new technologies as they become more advanced

Adel Noueihed, regional managing director, Imagination Middle East

While an expected global downturn due to rampant inflation will affect large parts of the world, we expect the region to continue to see growth in brand experiences. As Saudi Arabia continues to diversify its economy and the UAE is a global innovation pioneer, there are three trends to look out for:

Brand building over performance marketing: Performance marketing has taken over many marketers’ conversations over the last few years as spending during the pandemic was diverted to online channels. However, we will see brands go back to focusing on brand-building through experiences, which is the starting point for any brand.

Reality will be mixed: The genie is out of the bottle, as it was with hybrid working. We won’t go to a fully immersive online world or go back to the past when it comes to brand experiences. The result will be a mixed-reality world that will be based on augmenting our existing world. Apple’s anticipated foray into this space will be one to watch out for.

We are still human: Technology may evolve at such a rapid pace that AI can now win painting awards and write essays, but for the time being it is fuelled by mass human input. It will be interesting to see how brands start to integrate this technology into their brand experiences.

Sarah Owen, Founder and CEO, Pumpkin PR

The strongest driver of brand commitment is a single meaningful brand experience, even with unfamiliar brands. This is where businesses in the Middle East must focus their budgets to ensure they don’t get left behind. However, these experiences must be anchored in a clearly defined brand narrative that reflects your brand’s values while meeting the wants and needs of customers in the region. This will be critical to both business success and brand growth.

Brands already have a head start, as consumers are becoming increasingly in favour of brand experiences over products or services. But the challenge will be to make sure there is a meaningful value exchange between brand and consumers, and having your brand narrative at the core of every customer touch point.

Brands must also consider their customers’ wants and needs, and have a hunger to deliver innovative experiences that meet the needs of modern audiences. It’s no secret that people are eager for in-person contact, but brands must also consider that we now live in a multi-screen world. Therefore, having the thirst for innovation and the flexibility to meet the ever-evolving consumer demands will be key to delivering successful brand experiences next year in the Middle East.



Imagination, Interbrand and Pumpkin PR look at the brand experience landscape

2022 has been a transformative year for the Middle East, with major global events like the FIFA World Cup Qatar and Expo 2020 Dubai pushing the region to centre stage. With more foreign direct investments being poured into the region than anywhere else, it is no wonder more brands are seeking to establish themselves in the Gulf.

Experiences will play a crucial part for brands in 2023 – it is what will set them apart from competitors, and help get under the skin and connect with consumers in the region. These brand interactions will facilitate connections with the local population that will eventually convert them into long-term brand ambassadors. So how can brands get experiences right in 2023, and what can we expect to see more of in the Middle East?

Nancy Villanueva, CEO Iberia & Middle East, Interbrand

Companies have become the most trusted type of institution globally. Consequently, brands are, by implication, the world’s most powerful narratives. As businesses and brands have never been so central to societies, the constructs around which trust is formed have never been so central to businesses.

Consumers today demand brands that demonstrate true leadership by finding a balance among exceptional products, unequalled experiences and responsibility. When this happens, new sources of growth materialise as brands can expand in multiple directions, more freely and fluidly than through traditional diversification.

Therefore, in 2023 brands in the region should consider providing brand experiences with the aim of building not only consumer loyalty and advocacy, but also trust and affinity. Take the example of STC, a company that truly put the brand at the core of its business, which has allowed the company to develop a seamless ecosystem of products and services in different competitive arenas (financial, entertainment, and technology, etc) while creating value and growth for both STC and its customers. Moreover, according to Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2022 report, the fastest-rising brands also focus their efforts on setting a clear direction, ensuring that the entire organisation knows where it is going. This allows them to move fast, bringing new products and services to market and, where necessary, pivoting to address changing customer needs and hopefully foresee their expectations. Ultimately, strong brands encourage participation, bringing consumers on a journey with the brand and making them part of the movement to create an engaging brand world.

January 30, 2023 44

In 2022, the Middle East really thrived, especially in large-scale experiences, including the second half of Dubai Expo 2020, the unmissable – whichever side of the fence you sit on – FIFA World Cup in Qatar and MDLBeast Soundstorm in Riyadh, to name just a few. There has undoubtedly been a lot to be proud of and the legacies of these events will no doubt be celebrated for some time. A perfect tonic for any pain amounting from the past two years of pandemic.

Post-Covid, we’ve been desperate to get back out, come together with our communities and enjoy live experiences once again. However, there has been a tendency to throw caution to the wind and rush to integrate in any way possible, just to be there, to be seen or for the sake of FOMO. The market is noisy, in many parts passive, and many engagements haven’t lived up to their promise.

While the region is reasonably sheltered, in a year forecast for global recession, we are compelled to work smarter. As we move into 2023, here are four considerations for experiential success.

1. The value paradigm

Brands and agencies will re-assess how we collectively approach and add value to our audiences within the value spectrum. We need to get back to defining the ‘why’ and creating truly valuable and culture-defining moments. The magic of experiential is in storytelling and more goosebumps are required.

Cue a year of value refinement, proper audience alignment and not necessarily bigger but certainly fewer and better high-quality experiences.

2. The ownership economy

In 2023, we will fully embrace the ‘ownership economy’. Spearheaded by the decentralisation of the digital world, it represents the evolving mindset and expectations of audiences and descends into the physical realm.

For a long time, there’s been talk of ‘shifting the balance’ and ‘hyper-personalisation’, but that’s no longer enough. Emerging audiences demand (and deserve) ownership of their content, creations and data.

It’s potentially an uncomfortable move, but for marketers finding valuable ways to enable ownership will be a real key to success. Check out Swoosh.Nike for a credible glimpse into what 2023 holds in store.


Web 3.0 evolution

After a rollercoaster year in the crypto, NFT and metaverse worlds, the hype bubble well and truly burst, but web 3.0 technologies are not going anywhere. On their return, with their polished arsenal, it’s really going to redefine the way we experience the internet and our daily lives.

The truth is the expectation of the vision and the reality of where the tech is are miles apart. In 2023, we will see rapid experimentation with virtual worlds so it’s wise not to discount them – but ensure you


Marketers will continue to embrace new technology as they continue the road back from Covid. But make sure you put the customer

have a solid rationale for engaging in them to keep your finger on the metaverse pulse.

In the year ahead, web 3.0 technology will continue to blur the lines between the physical, digital and augmented worlds with valuable, gamified and immersive moments. You will hear the words ‘utility’ and ‘value’ in every web 3.0 conversation – I promise you that. This is a world that emerging audiences really want, but they will call you out if you make them pawns in pursuit of being pioneering in the industry.

AR technology is improving immensely with an ability to create more powerful and believable experiences. For me, this is one of the big drivers next year in bridging the gap to further web 3.0 adoption with a low-barrier, high-value complementary approach.

Elsewhere a lot of work is being done in the NFT space, driven by the promise of utility, which will continue into 2023. In terms of value security, there’s a recent release of NFTs pegged to the price of real-world gold, and look out for POAPs (proof-of-attendance protocols), offering digital exclusives in physical environments.

Finally, look out for further usage and integration of AI, which is quite frankly mind-blowing and taking over the creative and arts space at speed.

4. Legitimate sustainability and values

In 2023, there will be a real spotlight on the impact our businesses and executions have

on employees, communities, customers and the environment. It’s time to get our values in check.

When it comes to sustainability, the truth is, it’s everyone’s business. We’ve all been in the room for the BS conversations of ‘try and be sustainable’ or ‘think sustainably’. In 2023, trying and thinking aren’t enough and will be demanded as a pillar of all experiences. Make 2023 the year to become a force for good.

‘‘For a long time, there’s been talk of ‘shifting the balance’ and ‘hyperpersonalisation’, but that’s no longer enough.’’
January 30, 2023


Have we had what we can describe as a ‘normal’ year recently? I am putting pen to paper in the hope I inspire a few responses, spur into action those inert marcommunicators amongst us and escape judgment by my peers if my forecasts appear inaccurate or mistaken, relying on the recent global chaos to add smoke and mirrors to my words.

2022 has been a year of research, development and ongoing professional development for myself, moving from agency to client side, from diversified and varied sectoral brands to a century-old engineering powerhouse well-known in energy and infrastructure circles among others. So what learnings can I share for the year ahead? I wanted to provide my own twist on the Four Ps model of the marketing mix for the key focus areas to boost your industrial brand.


Operating amongst engineers, subject matter experts in their own domain, I have been on an ongoing crusade to leverage them and their networks in order to boost the brand in the region. Krohne did not previously have a strong local brand presence, so we launched on LinkedIn and launched a monthly prize to incentivise increased activity on the platform. Ultimately people by from people, whether in business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C), so increasing the human element will only benefit your brand. This has seen many industrial brands looking to speak to existing and potential employees with wellbeing and CSR programs – more on that a little later.

Don’t underestimate the importance of a well organised event presence. Assuming you’ve done your homework and found the perfect alignment for your company and pulled together a solid space that the team can be proud of, you have built a platform that lets your team network with the industry and share their expertise face-to-face. Lead generation is the goal, but equally so is getting out

from behind your laptop and bolstering your brand reputation. Make sure your giveaways are sustainable, though.


My opening focus on people should not be to the detriment of your product, as the ultimate goal is to increase consideration to purchase. 2023 will see new ways to get your product in front of new and bigger audiences. Have influencer partnerships peaked? Maybe in previously underutilised segments we will see more authentic ambassadors – why wouldn’t we place our technology in key locations with customers looking to invest billions over the next few years? There will be an increase in publicprivate partnerships manifesting around the region in 2023, in the form of innovation centres and collaborative enterprises to solve tomorrow’s problems. Communicated correctly, your products will be intelligently exposed to decision makers.


‘know thyself’. Once we marketers have got a handle on the basics of stakeholder mapping, SWOT and messaging, we should intimately be able to position our brands in the right light. I have taken the time this year to remind my team, and the region, exactly what Krohne is, and a part of that is our heritage. Borne out of German excellence for engineering solutions, we have quality and reliability baked into everything we do.


More than a slogan, lifting us above products and solutions, uniting everyone associated with the brand, you will find purpose. If you don’t have one today you need one or risk being cast aside for another brand that is making the world better somehow. Yes, this is true even in industrial applications because, despite the key roles price and procurement play, in the B2B world we are also human beings who want to play a role in making the world a better place. At this point in time, somewhere between Cop27 and Cop28 in the MENA region, even the most stubborn industrialists will be consuming reports and statistics on the need for greener solutions to combat the climate crisis. These business leaders are the ones who will help shift the needle in the long run, with top talent gravitating towards companies that share their values, generating intense loyalty without incentive.

January 30, 2023 46
Carved into the Temple of Apollo at Delphi is the ancient Greek aphorism
‘‘There will be an increase in public -private partnerships, in the form of innovation centres and collaborative enterprises.’’
The four Ps of marketing are just as relevant to B2B marketers as they ever were

The term 'social commerce' was originally coined back in 2005 but it is in the last decade that it has become established in the retail industry. In the simplest sense, social commerce means using social media as a channel to sell directly to customers. However, it gets more granular depending on the circumstance, market and capability of the social platform itself.

Social commerce allows companies to go exactly where their audience spends most of its time online. It started when larger brands simply placed ads on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat that redirected customers to their existing e-commerce



sites. Meta made that experience shorter by allowing brands to ‘tag’ a product or multiple products in an image, which led to a checkout page. It then became native, allowing integrated checkout on the social platform itself without the need to leave the page.

Currently, YouTube is doubling down on its investment in the social selling market in 2023. It is a move designed to make up the shortfall of its dwindling ad revenues. Meanwhile, Amazon, which also saw a 2022 Q4 dip in profits, has teamed up with Snapchat in an attempt to capture the market and accelerate sales. Simply put, social commerce is a game changer and retailers that are not making the most of it will get left behind.

Unstoppable rise of social commerce in MENA

A recent global social commerce industry report states that the social commerce market is worth $2.9 trillion. MENA alone makes up approximately 5 to 7 per cent of this total figure. With our research, we assessed the potential scope of the market: up to 40 per cent of retail in the region can involve social and chat applications. This will take time as the industry is still nascent, but there is an ocean of opportunities for businesses looking to market and sell via social and messaging channels.

E-commerce is transitioning towards complementary social commerce. The days of simply putting a store online and waiting for the money to roll in are quickly disappearing as consumers demand more convenient, personalised experiences. Social commerce provides a highly effective way for online brands to capture the customer on the channels that they know and love. To put this into perspective, e-commerce websites generally convert around 3 per cent of shoppers into verifiable sales. However, when we spark up a conversation with a customer and build a genuine rapport via chat and social apps, it results in a sale more than 80 per cent of the time.

Providing enhanced social experience to capture sales

During 2023, we will see a rise in consumers who want to try on shoes, makeup, sunglasses and more through social media apps that have augmented reality (AR). It is a great way to offer even the most remote customers a try-beforeyou-buy experience. Similarly, livestream viewing parties will grow in popularity as brands tap into the relevancy and reach of social media influencers.

Creation of bespoke collections for individual customers

Retailers can use the power of commerce applications to curate and share bespoke

collections with potential customers instantly. Marketing campaigns can be tailored to select groups and individuals based on their shopping history and preferences. This eliminates the broad-brush method of marketing, lasers in on specific demographics and retains repeat customers for longer.

Capturing the power of human conversation

The most important trend for 2023 is how messaging platforms such as WhatsApp

can be used to drive more sales in a frictionless way. Chatbots have become an integral part of the e-commerce landscape as they can quickly answer questions or direct customers to the right places through pre-programmed responses. As a society, we have become more aware of when we are talking to an automated service; they are a turn-off. This alone can lead to a completed sale or an abandoned cart. Retailers must become more sophisticated with how they adopt social commerce. Connected commerce or ‘c-commerce’ is the answer. This incorporates all aspects of social commerce through genuine conversation and delivery of a concierge-like experience for customers.

Talking to a customer – human-tohuman – allows for a white-glove approach that builds trust and converts sales. Retailers with existing online or physical stores as well as start-up brands selling directly via social and messaging channels can benefit from c-commerce tools to create personalisation and empower closer relationships that turn conversations into converted sales.

January 30, 2023 47
‘‘C - commerce incorporates all aspects of social commerce through genuine conversation and delivery of a concierge -like experience for customers.’’
Social commerce takes brands where their audience spends its time online, writes Zbooni’s Ramy Assaf



News, views & trends from across the spectrum THE TRENDS THAT MAKE US

At the outset of every year, communicators the world over ruminate on the events and trends that a ected or disrupted the industry landscape in order to envision the path forward. This year is no di erent, with the forecasted trends experts would like to see varying from embracing Gen Z’s full potential to finding meaning in the metaverse and the growth of earned media.

Emphasising those three points specifically, Gen Z are still not getting their due credit for contributing to the change of the work structure; the metaverse, by and large, is still a speculative concept that communicators should approach with caution and not buy into its associated buzz words just yet; and earned media’s e ectiveness in fostering trust and assisting organisations through adversity and change, boosting growth and bottom-line profits as well, is on the rise.

The communication world will continue to evolve, and we will always be there to learn from it, adopt it, and transform it to best suit the future.

The increase of brand spend on influencers in 2023.

The daily amount of time people spend on TikTok.


Of youth aged 13 – 17 use YouTube.

The video length that Millennials and Gen Z prefer.

GAME CHANGER Ground control to Major Austyn

For seven years, Austyn Allison has been the editor of Campaign ME, transforming it into the industry pillar it is today and contributing to the growing emphasis on quality content across the region. He has been fundamental to the communication industry, and as he prepares to embark on his new journey, I wish him a future of fulfilment on behalf of everyone who has had the pleasure of knowing him. Thank you for everything, Austyn.


Since launching its TikTok marketing campaign a little over a year ago, prebiotic soda brand Olipop has witnessed rapid growth on the app. As a result, its TikTok presence has become inextricably linked to Olipop’s brand identity, resulting in a $200 million valuation in 2022 and its sodas being stocked in more than 20,000 stores.

#NOT Messing up the Formula

When communicating high-level partnerships, brands should meticulously plan their strategies to ensure the air-tight rollout of information. Ferrari botched the reveal of its partnership with Harman Automotive by backpedalling from the agreement minutes after its CEO publicly announced it. This left audiences and the world at large in a state of confusion, presenting shaky grounds to start the 2023 season for the Formula 1 giant.

January 30, 2023 48
Managing Director of Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy
< 1 minute




Welcome to our 2023 Digital Agency and Adtech Guide. This is an exciting time for digital marketing. Over the past few years, we have seen plenty of digital innovations digital. Some were spurred on by Covid-19, and others have simply arrived because the time and the technology are right.

We have seen the rise of blockchain, NFTs, the metaverse, augmented reality and artificial intelligence, all emerging from the geeky sidelines to take their places in the mainstream consciousness. Now these technologies have arrived, it is time to learn to use them, and the companies in the coming pages will be our guides. They don’t have all the answers, but they do have specialist knowledge and expertise, and can hold the hands of less experienced marketers as we navigate the digital road ahead.

Dashboards and self-serve platforms for anything from e-commerce to good old media buying are democratising digital, which means agencies must shift their focus. Once, digital agencies were the gatekeepers to technology. Now their role is shifting from vendors to partners, as they cease to hold a monopoly of access and become consultants in their areas of expertise. This can only help the industry grow, as its stakeholders move forward as equals.

One technology that comes up again and again in this issue is artificial intelligence, particularly in the form programs such as ChatGPT that can mimic human creativity.

ChatGPT writes not-bad copy, and you will find examples dotted through these pages. However, at the moment it is in a trial phase. Its knowledge stops in 2021 so it can’t be totally up-to-date. And as it becomes more popular, we will need to find a way to stop it recycling misinformation it and other AI writers have previously created (think of the dangers of Wikipedia sourcing and then multiply that by a factor of Skynet).

While ambitions are soaring for the possibilities offered by web 3.0 technologies, the web 2.0 bubble is bursting. After a surge in social media brought on by our Covid-19 isolation and reliance on online communications, our embrace of platforms is weakening. There have been layoffs at most major tech companies, from Facebook to Twitter to Amazon to Spotify in recent months.

One silver lining to this is that there will be a lot of good talent on the market to be snapped up by agencies and adtech companies. This year will see reality catching up with the industry, but shattered dreams will be replaced with new ones. The companies on these pages are the partners you need to realise those dreams for your brands and your customers.

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.

EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief Obaid Humaid Al Tayer Managing Partner and Group Editor Ian Fairservice Senior Editor Austyn Allison

Senior Reporter Jalaja Ramanunni 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 50 6453365)

PRODUCTION General Manager S. Sunil Kumar Production Manager Binu Purandaran

HAYMARKET MEDIA GROUP Chairman Kevin Costello Managing Director Jane Macken

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


January 30, 2023 50
ISSUE 311. DIGITAL AGENCY AND AD TECH GUIDE 2023 @maustyn AUSTYN ALLISON Editor Inside cover designed by Thokchom Remy Campaign ME @campaignME


Accelerate ME Online

Founded: 2011

Head of company: Patrick Lahoud

Today’s clients are always connected, and your advertising solutions must work with their needs and desires. Through incorporating various aspects of typical agencies, we are able to provide comprehensive approaches to fit your marketing needs, while ensuring a strong brand image across various popular platforms.

SERVICES: Digital and social media strategies, social content creation and copywriting, community management up to 24/7, SEO & SEM, video production, PR and influencer outreach, online media planning and booking, mobile programmatic advertising, digital design services, audience intelligence

Accenture Song

Founded: 2009

Head of company: David Fregonas, regional lead

Accenture Song (previously Accenture Interactive) helps leading brands transform experiences across the entire customer journey. Through our connected offerings in design, marketing, content and commerce, we create new ways to win in today’s experience-led economy. Accenture Interactive was ranked the world’s largest digital agency in a recent Ad Age Agency Report for the fourth year in a row, and was named a 2019 Most Innovative Company in Advertising by Fast Company.

SERVICES: Consulting, design thinking and user experience, platform solutions, creative services, digital media, audience solutions, integrated search, social as a service, influencer management, data and analytics, loyalty marketing

Acorn Strategy

Founded: 2010

Headquartered: Abu Dhabi

Head of company: Kate Midtun

Acorn Strategy is a forward-thinking strategic and integrated marketing communications agency that’s fiercely collaborative. Our integrated experts seamlessly bring strategic and customer-centric solutions that deliver results and empower our clients to achieve optimal success.

SERVICES: Marketing communications strategy; digital & content marketing; creative communications & design; marketing operations & consultancy; PR

KEY CLIENTS: Canon Middle East, Department of Energy, Digital Academy, Rabdan Academy, Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Emirates Water & Electricity Company

Active Digital Marketing Communications

Founded: 2003

Heads of company: Sawsan Ghanem and Louay Al-Samarrai

Active DMC was founded in 2003 with a vision to revolutionise the marketing industry and be innovative with every campaign, big or small. It is a vibrant agency that challenges itself every day to leverage best practices through creativity and a diverse set of communication disciplines to deliver excellence. A founding member of the PRCA Middle East chapter, it is committed to upholding the code of ethics and putting continuing professional development programmes in place.

SERVICES: Public relations; influencer relations; social & digital marketing; lead generation; video content & production

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 51

Ad Scholars

Founded: 2016

Head of company: Srikanth Rayaprolu, CEO & founder

Ad Scholars has been consistently picked as the best choice in the region for performance advertising. Working with tier-1 agencies, affluent brands and renowned publishers in the market to support them with their needs in branding and performance campaigns.

KEY CLIENTS: MCN, Dubai Properties, Mazda, OMD, Publiscreen Media, Disney Nat Geo, Emaar, Mashreq

SERVICES: Boutique ad agency, performance advertising, outsourced ad operations, ad tech representation & media news blog.

AGA-ADK Advertising and Marketing

Founded: 1997

Chairman: Roger Sahyoun

+971 4 445 8383

Affiliated with ASATSU-DK, the third largest advertising network in Japan, AGAADK is a full-fledged communications agency in the MENA region. Known for its blend of memorable and effective ad campaigns that aim to deliver results, using data to drive creative solutions, and with a content-first approach, the team focuses on creating relevance in communication.

SERVICES: Full marketing communication services; strategic planning; creative designs; consumer activation; production; branding and corporate identity; content planning and production

KEY CLIENTS: Bosch, Siemens, Gawamen, IFFCO, Nokia, P&G, SAMACO (Porsche), Toshiba, Tabasco , Kobayashi, Hisamitsu, Hershey’s, Hansaplast, Interiors, Red Bull GmbH, Vicks, Dunlop, Falken, Langnese

Alisa PR

Founded: 2017

Headquartered: Dubai, UAE

Head of company: Alisa D’Souza

Alisa PR joins hands to help our clients evolve, promote and protect their brands. We provide professionalism, strategic thinking, creativity and handson experience in PR and social media combining digital marketing solutions across all verticals of business in the UAE & Middle East. Our communications consultancy is research driven, newsworthy and experiential that creates real conversations to help your business succeed

SPECIALISMS: Public relations, digital marketing, advertising.


Founded: 2014 Head of company: Samit Athavale

Headquartered: Dubai

+971 50 458 9266

We are a growing tribe of digital experts who believe in a result-driven approach in navigating the world wide web. People-first, insight-driven and data-powered, our integrated solutions harness the latest technology to multiply brand effectiveness and reach your business goals.

SERVICES: Performance marketing; digital advertising; SEO audit & planning; brand strategy; influencer marketing; PR strategy; e-commerce marketing; media buying & strategy; ERP solutions; business & digital transformation; automated marketing

KEY CLIENTS: Al Fu aim Engineering & Technologies, Healthhub by Al Fu aim, Prime Health, Kawan Foods, MTR, Camelicious, Gulf Drug, UAQ Tourism, UAQ Smart Government amongst other prominent brands in FMCG, banking, healthcare, fashion and F&B sectors.

Founded: 2011

Head of company: Dina Saadeh

Number of staff: 18

+971 4 354 4458

Blue Barracuda is the digital and social arm of Horizon Holdings. We get people talking. To each other and to brands. We use technology, data and content to craft experiences and tell stories that spark conversation. When people talk, we understand perspectives and behaviours; we discover opportunities and possibilities. We use digital and social platforms to build relationships between our clients and their consumers that enable them to reach business and communication objectives. We see ourselves as conversation makers. Conversations for the digital world.

SERVICES: Experience and conversation makers across digital & social mediums; includes customer journey-mapping, digital transformation strategy & implementation, content creation, website/app design & build, influencer marketing, SEO, gaming, CRM strategy & implementation

KEY CLIENTS: Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund, Dell Technologies, Investopia, VMware, Pandora, Anker

AWARDS: Dubai Lynx Grand Prix, Dubai Lynx Bronze

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 52
LEADERSHIP PANEL Dina Saadeh Managing Director Mazen Jawad CEO, Horizon Holdings Seema Kunder Digital Strategist Shahira Nassar Social Media Strategist

Founded: 2006

Head of company: Ahmad Itani, Founder & CEO

+971 4 3341 140

Cicero & Bernay is an award-winning communication consultancy that delivers bespoke digital strategies and campaigns to some of the region’s most prominent brands. Cicero & Bernay is headquartered in Dubai and has 32 offices around the world, covering the MENA region, Asia, Russia, Europe, and North America. Its team comprises industry veterans and professionals who work closely with clients and anticipate the future of the medium.

SERVICES: Online reputation management; social media management; thought leadership; crisis comms; digital media planning/buying; digital strategy; engagement marketing; conversion rate optimisation; contributor relations; campaign testing; digital listening; mobile app development; search engine marketing; search engine optimisation; story mapping; website design and development; App Store optimisation

TECH PARTNERS: Talkwalker, Lexis Nexis, Emplifi

KEY CLIENTS: Arabian Automobiles Company (INFINITI & Renault), AstraTech, BOTIM, Cravia, Dubai Judicial Institute, Dubai Land Department, Dubai South, Gulf Islamic Investments, OPPO Arabia, SAMSUNG, Dubai Economy and Tourism, Ministry of Presidential Affairs, wasl Asset Management Group

AWARDS: 2008 International Stevie Award; 2014, 2018 Guinness World Records; 2016, 2017, 2018 MEPRA Awards; 2021 MENA Digital Awards; 2021 PRCA MENA Awards; 2021, 2022 PRCA Digital Awards





Brands sought to diversify their strategies to enter the metaverse with the latest, enhanced augmentation technologies, and the introduction of web 3.0, which drove the change for digital ecosystems last year, helping marketers deliver more targeted ads to consumers.


Automation and AI are still growing and could reach new heights empowered by tools such as ChatGPT. Additionally, in terms of ecological sustainability, digital technology may take the lead, particularly with regard to the application of analytics and the traceability of renewable energy sources. This constantly changing world demands adaptability, and 2023 will be all about streamlining such technologies and tailoring them to brand communication strategies.

customers more effectively at all stages of the buying cycle.


The primary challenge that every brand faces is the need to stand out among the clutter of online messages and strategies. Every year brings new tactics, marketing trends and initiatives that your brand will inevitably need to adopt to ensure relevance. As such, finding the right mix and means of customising continues to be a pillar for each brand in the current digital zeitgeist. Of course, this is all predicated on the importance of keeping your finger on the pulse of all updates and trends, which is a challenge in itself, to pre-emptively amend your strategies.





For brands to build effective marketing strategies, they need to focus on the long term and continue building to remain agile by learning, testing and moving. To achieve long-term effects, businesses must shift away from short-termism and concentrate on enhancing their value and brand credibility. They must embrace new offerings such as TikTok’s products, for example, to engage

Communicators are more experienced and versed with digital speak than ever before, employing tools and tactics effectively to harness the power of advanced technologies and machine learning. These are processes that brands need to use and take advantage of by planning ahead, effectively budgeting their strategies, and formulating robust partnerships to help them navigate this constantly changing world. In essence, they no longer need big teams; all their tactics and strategies can be conceived and executed within weeks by working with agencies with the right mindset and resources to make it happen.

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 53
Ahmad Itani, Founder & CEO Tariq Al Sharabi Managing Director

AMC Advertising & Marketing Consultants

Founded: 1988

Headquartered: Dubai

Heads of company: Pierre Abou Diwan, Mark Abou Diwan

+971 4 457 2125

The ever-changing digital landscape makes us more inventive than ever. As the region’s forward-thinking integrated full-service digital agency, we understand the growing influence of AI in business. As a result, we are constantly looking for innovative ways to apply artificial intelligence in digital marketing. That way, our multi-sector clients stay ahead of the curve.

SERVICES: Media planning & buying; SEO, SEM & PPC; programmatic & network advertising solutions; creative; social media advertising; web design & analytics

And Us

Founded: 2018

Headquartered: Dubai

+971 56 779 8436

We are an independent creative marketing and design firm. We work side by side with our clients to solve their business problems or create business opportunities with creativity. We combine technology and creativity to give a competitive advantage to our clients.

SERVICES: Strategy; digital; marketing campaigns; branding; design; media; content production


Founded : 2004

Heads of company: Faisal Dean (managing director MENA), Kinloch Magowan (regional director), Naguib Toihiri (country director KSA)

A global omnichannel media agency designed to help brands find the changes that deliver meaningful growth to their businesses. By pairing people with data-led process and powerful technology capabilities, Assembly is uniquely positioned to deliver scale and accelerate problem solving.

SERVICES: Digital strategy; performance marketing; content localisation & SEO; data analytics & measurement; social media; affiliate marketing

KEY CLIENTS: Landmark Group, Noon, Etisalat, Mashreq Bank, Azadea Group, Dubai Tourism, Ceer Automotive

Belong Interactive

Founded: 2012

Head of company: Pierre Azzam, founder & CEO

+971 4 369 5345

Belong interactive is a specialist digital agency with “Intelligence” at its core. Empowered with its strategic pedigree, it leverages its clients’ digital assets and enables them to connect and engage with users through intuitive and immersive experiences across an integrated suite of digital touchpoints.

SERVICES: Digital assets design, development and maintenance of websites, e-commerce sites, mobile applications, intranets and brand portals; SEO/SEM; customer experience management; CRM and inbound marketing; video and editorial content creation


Founded: 2011

Headquartered: Dubai, with branches in Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Bengaluru, Riyadh, Singapore, Shanghai, and Tirana.

Founder and CEO: Shadi Abdulhadi

Number of staff: 128

+971 4 422 5365

Driven by innovation and creativity, Boopin is one of the fastest-growing networks in the region, led by a team of more than 100 passionate creators and marketers, each with a desire to tell memorable stories and create exceptional experiences for brands and consumers. Our dedicated channel experts sit as a team, which ensures we not only have a tactical approach toward each channel but also benefit from providing a 360-degree response.

SERVICES: Performance marketing; digital infrastructure, digital transformation and automation; customer data platform facilitation and strategy; dynamic creative; API integrations; web/app design and development; SEO; data visualisation; social content management, production and PR.

KEY CLIENTS: Abu Dhabi Ports Group, ADNEC, Al Masaood Automobiles, Al Dar Education, Department of Culture and Tourism, Emirates Islamic Bank, Emirates Transport, GEMs Education, Government Media Office, IG Group, National Human Rights Institution of the UAE, Shein, Xiaomi Mobiles.

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 54
Akshay-Mehta Head of Perfromance Marketing Razmik-Kalaidjian Managing Director at Boopin Saudi Qaiser-Nawaz Creative Director Zeena-Kurd Head of Social Content & Production Joy-Hoyek PR Director Ali-Aboukhreibe Strategy Director



Over the last two years, the digital ecosystem has taken on a new urgency. As agencies and brands weathered the disturbances instigated by the pandemic, digitisation became integral to their responses and plans. Brands changed their process toward the digital ecosystem and realised that if they were late to implement a digital structure, they were losing immediate return.

Post-pandemic has forced brands to be prepared for an entire digital shift in dynamic markets to meet audience needs. The audience, spoiled for choice, will take convenience over loyalty.

Therefore, brands have made numerous positive changes, from the improvement of existing approaches to new ideas for product and service delivery. Most companies need effective tools like a digital transformation framework to complete smooth integration with data as the focal point.

To remain competitive in this rapidly changing landscape, organisations must quickly adapt their strategies and embrace the changes that are most likely to affect the customer experience significantly. This means staying on top of the latest trends in digital transformation. A few social posts won’t do it.


The main trend that will spill into 2023 dates back to 2020, the core pandemic year. Digitalisation of offerings will remain the key trend that all brands will chase. More partnerships are to be expected.

For the services sector, the trend would be the dependency on aggregators. The same aggregators will gain more power, and compete harder in multiple industries, especially F&B and e-commerce.

Key changes to anticipate in 2023 will revolve around the implementation of data protocols with about 18 months remaining before the death of cookies.


As a marketing consultancy, the biggest challenge would be trial. Brands are hesitant to experiment with moderated marketing budgets. The playground for award-winning ideas is still massive but becomes limited when investments are reduced.  For brands, on the other hand, the biggest challenge will be customer retention. Big players like Amazon have established a strong base across the globe. This leaves players in the same field behind schedule as they attempt to compete for the share-ofpocket of a very self-aware and spoiled consumer.


Work habits are changing, and brands must either adapt to new digital transformation or fail to survive. There’s no way to sugar-coat it, but if you’re still

analysing the feasibility of transformation, you’ll soon be out of business.

Innovations and rapid digital transformation are changing the fundamentals of work that brands need to adapt to new tech such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, machine learning and the internet of things (IoT). Such techs re-shape industries and brands towards reaching the benefits of upscaling and keeping up with competitors.

My recommendation is to keep an open mind and listen to the experts. Brands must always define their marketing strategy to keep up with the latest digital transformation and to ensure reaching business goals. We always advise brands to improve personalised experiences with users to gain a competitive advantage amongst competitors.


Since its launch, ChatGPT has been the biggest talking point. The possibilities of AI that were being discussed years ago are now coming to life. This is a big opportunity for brands to explore and upscale their content abilities.

Other key opportunities will revolve around increased digital consumption. Your audience is available on that same screen you use. As we took on personalisation, we have the tools to create audience pools with similar interests, and ChatGPT can help create content that appeals to the language used nowadays.

At Boopin, we’ve already adopted many tools as we explore the potential of ChatGPT. Our approach is to always use the best-in-market tools while ensuring our human touch remains as we refine the content and response proposed by the AI.

On the digital front, explore your relevant application programming interface (API). Focus on making things work for your business line. F&B outlets are seamlessly connecting to aggregators like UberEats, Deliveroo and Talabat. The opportunity sits in an API that will connect you to your core audience.

Gear up and collect first-party data. This should be your primary focus.

Understand consumer pain points and personalise them to audience segments.

Win an award, or 10. Good marketing resonates far longer than any social video or post.

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 55
“Our approach is to always use the best tools while ensuring our human touch remains as we refine the content proposed by AI.”

Blue Apple Advertising

Founded: 2010

Headquartered: Dubai



Blue Apple is an award-winning integrated creative digital agency. Everyone talks about their differences, but we believe we genuinely offer our clients something different; a team of communications experts who value client relationships. We strive every day to create fresh, innovative and collaborative communication solutions in a boutique personalised way to help drive your businesses forward.

SPECIALISMS: Creative services, brand strategy, integrated communication, logo design & corporate identity, packaging, digital marketing, social media

BPG Group

Founded: 1980

Headquartered: Dubai

Blue Beetle

Year founded: 2004 Head of company: Mark Hirst

We’re is not your average digital agency. We’re consultants primed to help you grow. We design and develop websites, help drive traffic them, and convert that traffic into revenue. We do this by coupling our passion for design with our love of technology and the yearning to help you flourish.

SERVICES: Website design & development; app design & development; sales & marketing automation; digital marketing; digital advertising

KEY CLIENTS: Emaar, Atlantis, QE2, Aldar, Ali & Sons, Modon

Leadership team: Avi Bhojani – Group CEO / email:; Souheil Arabi – Group COO / email:; Darius LaBelle –President, UAE; Viju Varghese – President, Kuwait; Vaibhav Paranjpe – Group CFO

BPG’s team of 150+ digital-first specialists work across the Arab world with global scale through associate WPP offices. Since 1980, BPG has helped guide the region’s transformative growth. We use data, best-in-class media, insightful strategy, inspiring creative and design, and culturally relevant content to help organisations deliver human connections.

SERVICES: Advertising & branding; customer experience; public relations; media planning & buying; social media & content creation

KEY CLIENTS: Adyen, Alshaya Group, Assima Hospital, BankDhofar, Behbehani Motors Company (Porsche, Volkswagen, Skoda), Central Bank of Kuwait, Ciena, Cigna, Dhaman National Health Insurance, DHL Global Forwarding, Godiva KSA, GROHE, Group AMANA, Gulf Bank, HMD Global, Innoventures Education, Jumeirah, KPMG Lower Gulf, Kuwait Banking Association, Kwai, NBK, Ooredoo Telecom, Proofpoint, PFU (Fujitsu scanners), Rivoli, Sohar International Bank, Sony Middle East & Africa, Swatch Group Middle East, Titan Eyewear, TROJENA – the mountains of NEOM, Weyay Bank, and Zayed Sustainability Prize

Founded: 2000 Head of Company: Tony Wazen, CEO, Digitas

Number of staff: 145 + 971 4 367 6400

Digitas is the premier integrated advertising agency within Publicis Groupe, connecting media, creative, data, and technology to deliver modern marketing. For brands, that means we invent and shape new ways for you to connect with people in this increasingly distracted and ad-blocked universe. So, the next time you hear media and creativity in the same conversation, get ready for some exciting possibilities to come.

SERVICES: Brand marketing; media planning & buying; search engine marketing; project management; CRM; technology; performance marketing; data & analysis; transcreation & language services; creative; marketing operations; content; digital business design; brand strategy; market research; SEO; experience design; social

TECH PARTNERS: Facebook, Google, TikTok, Salesforce, Adobe, Sitecore, Microsoft, Eloqua, Oracle

KEY CLIENTS: Haleon, GSK Pharma, McDonald’s, Dubai Tourism, Emaar

AWARDS: Gartner ‘Leader’; WARC ‘Smartest’; Cannes Lions; MENA Effies; Digital MENA Awards; Ad Age; 2020 Best Place to Work Award


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Tony Wazen Chief Executive Officer, Digitas Bassel Kakish Groupe CEO, Publicis Groupe ME Amer El Hajj Chief Investment Officer, Publicis Media Khaled AbouNader Chief Product Officer, Publicis Groupe


2015 (MENA); 2003 (globally)

Number of staff: 545

+971 4 873 6700

GroupM is the world’s leading media investment group, responsible for more than $60bn in annual media investment through agencies Mindshare, Wavemaker, EssenceMediacom and mSix&Partners, as well as the outcomes-driven programmatic audience company Xaxis. GroupM’s portfolio includes data and technology (Choreograph), investments and services, all united in vision to shape the next era of media where advertising works better for people. By leveraging all the benefits of scale, the company innovates, differentiates and generates sustained value for our clients wherever they do business.

TECH PARTNERS: Google, Salesforce, Facebook, Amazon, Adobe, Alibaba, Snapchat, Tiktok, Oracle,Tealium, MOAT, DoubleVerify, Tencent

SERVICES: Client services; activation services; media investment; data science; technology development

KEY CLIENTS: Adidas, Etisalat Misr, Ferrero, Huawei, Mars, Mobily, PIF, Richemont, Qatar National Tourism, etc.


Founded: 2011

Head of company: Amer Massimi

Number of staff: 50+

+971 4457 86 78; +966 11 293 2889

Hashtag is a social-first agency, founded in 2011 with the sole purpose of helping brands become more humanised on social platforms. Having worked with big and small brands, Hashtag accumulates a wealth of experience in dealing with different industries. Hashtag is at the heart of social media culture, immersed in its trends and crafty in employing these ideas to leverage a brand’s voice on social. The Hashtag team are masters at strategy, artists in content, experienced in media and comprehensive in reporting.

TECH PARTNERS: Starfish Agency (influencers)

SERVICES: Content creation; social media strategy; media buying; influencer marketing

KEY CLIENTS: Amazon, Savola, Centrepoint, Betty Crocker, Fitness First.

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LEADERSHIP PANEL Amer Massimi CEO Reine Jalloul Head of Content - Dubai Fadi Mouawad Regional Head of Trading Moayad Albadawi Office Operations Manager Charbel Bou Jawdeh Chief Financial Officer Waleed Altoukhi Group Strategy Director Nina Hamdan Regional Head of People Clare Fearon Regional Head of Programmatic Ahmad Shaker Head of Content - Riyadh Jihad Hachem Chief Commercial Officer John Karam Social Media Manager Hicham Auajjar Chief Products and Services Officer

Brand New Galaxy MEA

Founded: 2020

Heads of company: Adil Khan (CEO), Zubair Siddiqui (COO)

A global martech platform purpose-built to drive commerce for brands. Headquartered in Warsaw with offices across Europe, MEA & US. BNG delivers e-commerce solutions powered by proprietary transformation tools and data-driven insights underpinned by AI to drive performance. All with a singleminded focus of delivering growth for our clients.

KEY CLIENTS: Bridgestone, Perfetti Van Melle, Fresh to Home, IFFCO, Black & Decker, Ecolab

SERVICES: E-commerce and automation solutions, digital and ad tech, social media, creative production, marketing communication consultancy


Founded: 2004

Bridge of Minds

Founded: 2016

Managing director: Marina Araigy

We bring together an assortment of professionally genuine creatives, specialists and digital marketing experts to create, develop and implement unique online strategies and customised digital solutions that yield quality and profitable results for the brands in the industries of luxury, F&B, retail, arts and entertainment.

SERVICES: Social media management; digital design & branding; Google ads; SEO; web development; digital PR &communications

KEY CLIENTS: Resense Spa, Kempinski Hotel; La Siesta Hotel & Beach Resort; Castania; Faqra Catering; Ava Venue; Bou Melhem Restaurant; House of Marmalade; Dr. Grace Obeid; AXA Motor Oils; MIMA Group

Heads of company: Rafic Saadeh (executive chairman Horizon Holdings); Mazen Jawad (CEO, Horizon Holdings); Antonio Boulos (VP, BPN MENA); Carlos Yeghiazarian (GM, BPN UAE).

+971 4 332 3304

We are an integrated full-service media planning and buying agency headquartered in Dubai, with a strong regional network across the MENA region. Our business model is centred on delivering data informed media solutions for today’s dynamic consumer journey. To deliver on this promise we invest in acquiring best-in-class data technology and media talent capable of planning and delivering high performing media campaigns, and measurable business results.

SERVICES: Data management & data-led strategy planning; integrated media planning & buying solutions; digital display & performance marketing channels; content creation & production; partnerships & influencer marketing

Founded: 2005

Head of company: Dany Naaman, CEO

Number of staff: 200

+971 4 455 6000 (new business) (marketing & press)

Havas Middle East is part of Havas Group, one of the world’s largest global communications groups. Based on a client-centric model across all its disciplines, Havas Middle East is a fully integrated communications powerhouse, operating seamlessly across creative, media and PR. More than 200 of the brightest and bravest, working in a place we call the Havas Village. With 20,000 employees in more than 100 countries, we are committed to making a meaningful difference to the brands, businesses and lives of the people we work with.

SERVICES: Digital media planning and buying; e-commerce; data and analytics; social media and digital creative content.

KEY CLIENTS: du, adidas, Aldar Properties, Bel, British Council, Dolce&Gabbana, FAB, Faces, Hermès, Hyundai & Kia, LG, L’Or

AWARDS: Cannes Lions 1x GP & x6 awards; WARC Strategy #1 in MENA; WARC Media #1 in MENA; MediaWeek #1 Media Plan of the Year; One Show #1 in MEA; D&AD #1 Agency in UAE; Dubai Lynx #2 Agency & 2 Network; Dubai Lynx 2x GP; Adfest #1 Media Agency of the Year & 2x GP; Campaign AOY #2 Network of the Year MEA; Adstars 1x GP

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LEADERSHIP PANEL Houda Tohme CEO, Havas Media Dany Naaman CEO Fabio Silveira GM, Havas Creative Dana Tahir GM, Red Havas

Bright Company

Founded: 2020

Head of company: Kiera Doherty

+971 55 508 7578

We are collective of industry professionals formed to help organisations solve problems. We know that actions speak louder than words; execution and delivery is our focus. We are professional nomads, we work from industry hubs, client offices and home. We have lower overheads, meaning better rates for you, and sourcing the best rates from our network of suppliers. We are here to help marketing, communications digital, creative and events folk.

SERVICES: Digital, marketing and social media consultancy and strategy; marketing transformation; integrated communications; project management

Bruce Clay MENA

Founded: 2015

Head of company: Neal Patel

Whenever someone asks about our work at Bruce Clay MENA, we like to say that we’re an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Dubai that assists its clients with their SEO, PPC, and SMM ambitions and needs. How do we accomplish these tasks? The answer is easy: by creating awesome and innovative digital marketing strategies that are fully aligned with our client’s business objectives.

SERVICES: Social media marketing; search engine optimisation; pay per click; videography

KEY CLIENTS: McDonald’s KSA, Talabat, Johnson and Jhonsons, LG, Canon, Dubai Future Foundation, Dubai Digital

By Niggi Marketing Management

Founded: 2018

+971 4 552 0077

By Niggi specialises in creating buzz-worthy brand stories that get your audience interacting with you. Through authentic influencer storytelling, we excel in curating and executing memorable multi-platform campaigns across the GCC. Our expertise in digital avenues and influencers, backed by research, make us shine through in the clutter of marketing gimmicks.

SERVICES: Influencer marketing; social media marketing; public relations; talent management; digital marketing; press kits; press trips; events

KEY CLIENTS: Unilever, Beiersdorf, Pepsi Co, Nutricook, Sephora ME, Al Yasra, Azadea, Majid Al Futtaim

Cheesecake Digital

Founded: 2019 (in UAE), 2010 (UK)

Head of company: Philip Wride

AGENCY BIO: Cheesecake Digital is a specialist gaming agency with more than 20 years of experience. We create go-to-market strategies and help brands authentically enter the e-sports and gaming market. We also consult for governments and federations. Our experience includes tournaments, live events and lifecycle marketing linking retail and ecommerce companies to gaming.

KEY CLIENTS: TenTime, BLAST Premier, Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS)

SERVICES: Strategy, event management, ad campaigns, lifecycle marketing, market research

Founded: 2016

Head of Company: Rasha Rteil, managing director of Hearts & Science MENA

Staff numbers (MENA): 100+ +971 4 457 4570

Hearts & Science is a data-driven marketing agency network, part of Omnicom Media Group. The company is pioneering the future of how brands and people interact in the post-media world.

SPECIALISMS: Performance marketing & Integrated Media Planning & Buying, eCommerce & Transaction Growth, Marketing Science & Suite of ROI Modeling Services, Digital marketing transformation, Business Growth Acceleration, MarTech consultancy and implementation, CRM & Customer Experience and Consultancy & Optimization

KEY CLIENTS: Atlantis the Palm and Atlantis the Royal, Americana Food and California Garden, KFC, DMCC, California Garden, Water Wipes, MBC

AWARDS: Silver Award for eCommerce Performance, MENA Effies 2022, Media Network of The Year, Dubai Lynx 2020/2021; 3 MENA Effies 2021


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C2 Communication

Founded: 1989

Head of company: Roy Aftimos

+971 4 282 7621

We do not limit ourselves to the thinking of today’s possibilities. We constantly explore modern marketing to communicate effectively on a daily basis. Driven by a team of courageous decision-makers, progressive thinkers and curious minds, we enable technology to improve business solutions and explore the potential of brands in the future.

SERVICES: Building brand identity, tone of voice and perceived value; conceptualisation and ideation of cross-channel communication strategies; activating brands through experiential and meaningful relationships; channel planning strategies; advanced performance marketing and amplification

Chain reaction

Founded: 2010

Head of company: Saif Jarad

Number of staff: 110

+971 4 429 7929

Cheil MEA

Founded: 1973 globally and in the region since 2006. Head of company: Youngsuk Yoon

Cheil MEA is a leading 360-degree advertising agency regionally headquartered in Dubai, and with seven offices across the region. Its dedicated digital business provides full creative development and localisation (across channels such as social media, display and video), as well as e-commerce, CRM, media buying, and UX/UI design & development.

KEY CLIENTS: Samsung, Volkswagen, Nespresso, New Balance & Energizer SERVICES: Creative development (both locally produced and global adaptation), social, digital & e-commerce, CRM, analytics & reporting.

Chain Reaction is the region’s first digital performance marketing agency, and was the first Google Adwords partner in the Middle East back in 2010. We combine innovation, data and technology to craft powerful digital experiences that make an impact, shape culture and connect brands with people. Over the years, we have evolved into a growth-focused digital marketing partner to our clients, helping them succeed in a digital-first world. Our data-driven approach to everything we do has helped us tap into new levels of cooperation between us and our clients and also helped in maintaining many clients for years.

TECH PARTNERS: Google Premier Partner, GA 360, Facebook Marketing Partner, Adjust, Hubspot, Deepcrawl

SERVICES: Performance marketing; social media consultancy and management; digital content creation; video production

SEO; analytics and data solutions; creative services; inbound marketing services


Founded: 1976

Head of company: Reham Nader Mufleh

Number of staff: 300+ in the MENA region

+971 4 332 3304

Horizon FCB is a creative collective that believes in a Never Finished process, a relentless drive and a passion for growth. This is where the creators, the fighters and the thinkers come together to create the perfect equilibrium of data and ideas to drive creativity that becomes an economic multiplier. Our doors are always open for those who want to change the game.

SERVICES OFFERED: Brand planning & consulting; brand architecture; brand applications; brand guidelines; packaging; data sourcing & strategy; journey mapping/ planning; integrated creative; online/digital creative; content creation; influencers & event management; promotions; commerce strategy & communication; gaming & innovation solutions; experiential & on-ground activations; rapid-pace content production & live shoots; shopper marketing

KEY CLIENTS: VISA, GSK, Centrum, Boeing, Clorox, Dubai South, DHL, Dubai South, Lamb Weston.

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Reham Mufleh Managing Director Horizon FCB Dubai & FuelContent Mazen Jawad CEO, Horizon Holdings Munther Al Sheyyab Business Development Director, Horizon FCB Dubai Rodrigo Rodrigues Executive Creative Director, Horizon FCB Dubai


Founded: 2011

Head of company: Moataz Kotb

Cultark is an award-winning digital marketing agency that is results-focused through leveraging the most up-to-date and effective digital marketing concepts, platforms and tools to ensure the achievement of its clients’ goals. Cultark currently serves clients in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the United Kingdom and Denmark.

SERVICES: Digital marketing strategy; performance-based marketing; communication development; social media marketing; search engine marketing optimisation


Founded: 2010

Head of company: Tom Otton

Locations: Dubai (HQ), Cairo, Riyadh, Pakistan


We’re Create, the region’s leading strategic digital communications agency. Powered by a team of 200+ ambitious, customer-focused creators, we build communities on apps, websites and social channels across the GCC. From social media to e-commerce solutions, we deliver across verticals, all underpinned by a full in-house production team.

SERVICES: Strategic digital communications; social media, video production, digital products, performance marketing

KEY CLIENTS: The Public Investment Fund, Dubai Tourism, Diriyah Gate, Neom, Emirates Airline, Department of Culture & Tourism – Abu Dhabi, Volkswagen

Founded: 1975


Founded: 2012

Global CEO: Jamie Sergeant Managing director, UAE: Tom Berne

Crowd is a global creative agency that specialises in amplifying demand for brands around the world. Our dynamic, multi-national team fuses rich data, digital innovation, and creativity to ensure your message hits harder, budgets go further, and sales reach higher.

KEY CLIENTS: Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Authority, Adidas, W Residences, Eagle Hills International Properties, Dubai Airports, Dubai FDI, Razor

SERVICES: Creative and content, digital marketing, demand generation, distribution, reporting and analytics

Deloitte Digital

Founded: 2019

Headquartered: UAE, with operations in KSA and Jordan

Deloitte Digital supports clients in making a connection with the future to develop new solutions, new strategies, and new partnerships – to unlock a new type of growth that is sustainable, yet abundant.

SERVICES: developing strategies for new growth; building customer engagement from lead to loyalty; designing the business to work for real people; defining brand purpose and taking the lead on ESG; being a one-stop shop for creativity and technology to create better business futures

Head of company: Bassem Massoud

Number of staff: 350

+971 4 445 4040

At Initiative, our mission is to deliver growth for our clients through transformational media delivery. We are a full-service global media agency built to grow brands through culture. The agency’s approach to rapidly interpreting and acting on cultural data signals – Cultural Velocity – creates relevant, long-lasting consumer connections that drive business results. We believe in culture as a quantifiable connector of people, brands and business growth. In a world where channels fragment, culture unifies and propels. We promise to be the best agency partner in the business through business successes and challenges. Most of all, we always champion and love your brands.

SERVICES OFFERED: Digital media strategy & activation; media services; communications planning; interactive; market research; consulting; sports & entertainment; cultural communications; client advice; communications design; social; mobile; partnerships; search; innovation; analytics; branding

TECH PARTNERS: Adjust, Kochava, Appsflyer, Zapier, Oracle, Adobe, GCP (Google), Datorama, Flashtalking

KEY CLIENTS: Amazon, Amazon Prime Video, Miral Destinations, Miral Experiences, Etisalat, LEGO, Americana, Western Union, COTY, IFFCO, Carlsberg

AWARDS: 8 MENA Effies; 30 MMA Smarties; 1 MENA Digital Award; 4 MENA Search Awards; 1 Internationalist; 1 Festival of Media Global


DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 61
Lara Arbid Managing Director MENA Bassem Massoud CEO MENA Fadi Zeidan Regional Business Director, MENA Nameer Abou Ismail General Manager, KSA Santadip Roy Regional Director – Digital Yasmine Hussein Head of Rufus MENA

Founded: 1971

Head of Company: Dani Richa

Headquartered:  Dubai

+971 4 330 4010

Part of the global BBDO network, IMPACT BBDO was established in 1971 and offers comprehensive and integrated marketing communication solutions, covering a wide and prestigious base of global, regional and local clients. Our mission is to create and deliver the world’s most compelling commercial content across all mediums and screens. The three things we care about the most are ‘The Work, The Work, The Work’.

SERVICES: Advertising; brand development; corporate & reputation management; marketing communications; digital marketing; social & content marketing; shopper marketing; event marketing; performance marketing; production; marketing science

KEY CLIENTS: ADCB Group, Adidas, Daman, Department of Economy & Tourism, Etihad, Etisalat, Government Media Office, Google, IFFCO, Jotun, Nakheel, One&Only, PepsiCo, PIF, Reebok, Sadia, Shamal, SAMA

AWARDS: Mad Stars - Global Agency of the Year; Campaign Middle East Agency of the Year - Agency of the Year; Communicate - Agency of the Year; WARC Creative 100 – No.1 agency in EMEA, No. 2 in the world; Cannes Lion’s index – No.1 agency in MENA, global No. 17; World Creative Rankings – No.1 agency in MENA; Immortal Rankings – No.1 agency in MEA; Dubai Lynx – No.1 agency in MENA, 11 Grands Prix; Gerety Awards – No.1 agency in MENA; Campaign Global – Agency of the Year, ME and Africa



Integrated strategist, Impact BBDO


Quite simply, it has become more complicated. Web 3.0, NFTs, cryptocurrencies, metaverse and blockchain have increasingly captured the interest of people and brands. However, buzz aside, most of them are too theoretical for brands and end users to wrap their heads around. Although they are still widely talked about, there is an undeniable struggle around implementing such technologies to enhance digital ecosystems. This is why a shift has begun, which I believe will gain more momentum in 2023, where technologies that are more intuitive will become essential tools to enhance user experiences and their lives as a whole.


Artificial intelligence will continue to grow exponentially as a vital tool in making businesses more agile and people’s lives simpler. We can already see how user interaction with different touchpoints will continue to accelerate this trend. The rise in popularity of smart platforms,

such as ChatGPT, and platforms replacing search engines, such as TikTok, shows users want digital experiences to be fluid, personalised, and more meaningful. Brands need to keep in mind the way consumers interact with platforms to determine which tools to invest in and how they can enhance their digital ecosystems further.


Effectively processing data. Data is one of the big buzzwords that has been around for a long time. There was a time when brands lacked access to it and now, with the help of technology, we have it in abundance and in more ways than we could have imagined. Therefore, a big challenge will be around transforming that data into clear, actionable insights that drive business and consumer value. Placing a larger importance on the integration of man and machine.


Pay close attention to their audiences. It always goes back to people and how they interact with the world around them, in this case with the digital world. Understanding what matters to them and then leveraging the tools that enable you to deliver on their needs through a consistent brand experience.


Having more opportunities to speak to their


audiences in ways that add value to both sides. With the help of AI, brands will be able to converse more effectively with audiences because they will be able to learn what audiences prefer when it comes to content and products, ultimately informing the creation of new products and content that is more personalised and relevant. In turn, this contributes to delivering a more fluid brand experience all in all.

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 63
Samantha Stuart -Palmer Chief Operating Officer Impact BBDO Dubai Jackie Hughes Chief Strategy Officer Impact BBDO Group MENAP Dani Richa Group Chairman & CEO BBDO Middle East, Africa and Pakistan Azeem Afzal Chief Executive Officer Impact BBDO Dubai Ali Rez Chief Creative Officer Impact BBDO Group MENAP Marie Claire Maalouf Executive Creative Director Impact BBDO Dubai

Founded: 2000

Head of Company: Dani Richa

Number of Staff: 100+

Headquartered: Dubai

+971 4 330 4010

Part of the Impact BBDO Group, Proximity is a digital experience and technology agency focused on what’s next. We design and deliver digital ecosystems, platforms and products for some of the region’s most iconic brands. Our websites and apps are used by millions of people every day.

SERVICES: Brand innovation & transformation; strategy & product management; experience design; digital design systems; enterprise latforms; technology consulting & implementation; web & mobile development; content & SEO; devops; automation; augmented/mixed reality; digital commerce; martech enablement; conversion optimisation; data & analytics

TECH PARTNERS: Acoustic, Adobe Experience Manager, Akamai, Amazon, Braze, Eloqua, Marketo, Microsoft, Optimizely, Oracle, Salesforce, Sitecore

KEY CLIENTS: Department of Economy & Tourism, Etisalat, HP, Expo City, Shamal, ADNEC, Knowledge Group, Ministry of Tourism, PIF, Tawuniya

AWARDS: Adobe’s Benchmark for Creativity; Best Use of Data; Best Multi-Stack Solution; Best Audience-Driven Experience



2023 is shaping up to be a gamechanging year for digital experiences. With several key trends reaching a turning point, it will change the way brands engage customers. Those who can adapt to these changes will be the ones to succeed in the future.


AI continues to revolutionise experience design and will affect digital experiences by using artificial intelligence/machine learning-generated design tools to create more sophisticated and personalised experiences.


The popularity of low-code platforms has grown in recent years due to their ability to accelerate website and mobile app development. They also allow brands to be more agile in responding to changing business needs. These benefits have led to an increase in the use of low-code platforms for tasks such as rapid prototyping, quick deployment and new product development.


Web 3.0 will bring new challenges and opportunities as it aims to enhance the internet experience while protecting personal data. By using data-informed design, brands


can create seamless and personalised digital experiences. And by integrating real-time audio and visual analytics into the customer journey, businesses can optimise interactions as they happen, instead of relying on past data. Listen, adapt, and respond to customers effectively with real-time analytics.


CDP (customer data dlatform) and DXP (digital experience platform) platforms have seen a rise in popularity in recent years as more brands seek to improve their customer engagement and create personalised digital experiences. CDPs and DXPs are complementary technologies, where CDPs provide the customer data and DXPs use this data to create personalised digital experiences. Brands that have implemented both CDP and DXP platforms can create more effective and efficient customer engagement strategies, leading to increased customer retention and revenue growth.


The pandemic spotlighted the need for digital accessibility as it became the only way for people to access business, leisure and education. Brands now face an incentive to make sure their digital products are accessible, thanks to local legislations. This shift towards inclusive design is long overdue.

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 64
Head of technology, Impact Proximity Dani Richa Group Chairman & CEO, Middle East, Africa and Pakistan Azeem Afzal Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Haris Khan Project Director, Impact Proximity Roopesh Prashar Chief Financial Officer, MENAP Samantha Stuart-Palmer Chief Operating Officer, Dubai Kusal Udhara Head of Experience Design, Impact Proximity

Delphys Middle East

Founded: 2015

Heads of company: Noriyuki Higashi, CEO; Ramzi Abou Dargham, COO; Michel Zouein, regional ECD

In a rapidly changing world, we believe in creating transformational value for brands through creativity, communication design and data. We embrace strategic thinking, innovation and storytelling to deliver compelling content across all mediums and screens.

SERVICES: Strategy, advertising, brand experience and activation, retail experience, analytics

Digitalks Digital

Founded: 2019

Headquartered: Dubai

Head of company: Mohit Jain

Digitalks is a digital analytics and adtech consulting provider for modern digital marketers in the MENA region. Digitalks’ services sit in between the unique fusion of marketing and IT. We help our digital marketing clients by building scalable and technical data solutions to make their digital marketing more efficient and informed.

SERVICES: Web and mobile app analytics; ad tech and martech rollouts; reporting automation and visualization; conversion rate optimisation; deep-dive data analysis

Founded: 2010

DViO Digital

Founded: 2011

Headquartered: Dubai

Founder & CEO: Sowmya Iyer

Chief creative: Som Nandi

SERVICES: Branding and integrated marketing; social media marketing; growth hacking; media buying and planning; business strategy and consultation; website and app development; start-up incubator; campaign management; website traffic optimisation; blogger and influencer management; video production

CLIENTS: Aster Pharmacy and Opticals, EROS, HomeBox Stores, Manipal University, Delhi Bulls Cricket Team, Star Plus, VIVA, Red Tag, Omniscient, Lulu, Jumbo, Sharaf DG, Manchester University, Super General, Amity University

Eleve Media Advertising & Marketing

Founded: 2013

Head of company: Prince Khanna

+971 50 500 2786

Eleve Media is an influencer marketing agency with more than eight years in the industry. Eleve helps brands leverage the power of word of mouth by providing effective advocacy solutions and end-to-end management of campaigns and influencers. Eleve has worked with more than 500 brands, on more than 3,000 successful campaigns.

SERVICES: Influencer marketing, performance marketing, video production, YouTube advertising

Head of company: Wassim Bassil

Number of staff: 80

+961 1 653 809; +971 4 514 0873

Welcome to Interesting Times. Now, what can we do together? We are the biggest and most awarded independent network in the Middle East, and we’re here to help clients transform and take full advantage of the Interesting Times we live in by integrating creativity and data culture into their business. We house branding and marketing consulting, advertising and media, e-commerce, and technology to provide clients with genuine transformational solutions across key value chain areas. We achieve all this and more in five different countries with the combined forces of 88 people from various backgrounds and skill sets. Interesting Times indeed.

SERVICES: Branding & marketing consulting; advertising & media; e-commerce; technology

KEY CLIENTS: Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Red Bull, Red Bull Mobile, Infinity, Dubai Tourism, Saco, Cadillac, Dolphin Energy, TAMM, strategy&, Sprite, Silal, SACO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Authority, McKinsey & Company, Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority, The Founder’s Office – Ministry of Presidential Affairs

AWARDS: Dubai Lynx 2012 – Media, Interactive, Design; Dubai Lynx 2013 – Media, Interactive; Pikasso D’Or 2018 – Digital Gold, Grand Prix; Effie Awards MENA – 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019; Cannes Lions – 2019


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Lara Safar Chief Operating Officer Bahaa Awad Tech Director/Head Wassim Bassil CEO Ashraf Mansour Chief Strategy Officer & Partner Rani Saddi Managing Director Marwan Ghanem Director of Media and Channels



Founded: 2017

Head of company: Jad Gosen

Number of staff: 20+

+971 50 102 7477

InHype is a next-gen creative influencer agency for brands.

SERVICES: End-to-end Influencer Agency: creative ideation, planning, execution, & reporting

KEY CLIENTS: P&G, Mondelez, Cetaphil

AWARDS: 2020 Influencer Marketing Agency of the Year, Sliver Lynx Campaign Award, PR Cannes Lions Bronze Award


There are certain questions we hear more often than others. The most frequent is whether to invest in content creators. Why should a brand manager invest or increase investments in influencer marketing?

The answer lies in the effectiveness and unique characteristics of content creators themselves. They are the creative and the channel all rolled into one. It also lies in their ability to effectively tap into younger generations; their immunity to ad blindness; their deep engagement with audiences; and their proven ability to help brands sell more.

It’s also important to recognise one very important fact: consumers rarely communicate with brands. They communicate with other humans, and through that communication it is possible to gauge consumer sentiment. As Nielsen has stated, content creators help brands build more personal consumer connections.

Once you’ve decided to take the plunge, how do you create something special?

The key word is co-creation. The most successful partnerships are those that involve the creators themselves. No one wakes up in the morning wondering what a certain brand is up to. They do wake up in the morning, however, keen to know what their favourite creators have been doing. So, work with them, formulate ideas,

create together. After all, it is their content that captures people’s attention.

You’ve also got to banish any belief that working with content creators is a PR exercise. It’s not about taking a product, sending it to an influencer, and ticking some imaginary influencer marketing box. It’s about shifting the focus to media and the creation of meaningful conversations. If you get it right, you’ll maximize your ROI.

We’re not talking ambiguous metrics such as reach and views here. Deep engagement is what brands should be focusing on. Sure, the vanity metrics of likes and comments are good for guiding consumer sentiment, but what about your saves, shares and UTM data, all of which link back to purchase intent. It’s far easier now to quantify that intent. As more and more people begin their journey on social media on the discovery side of platforms, the importance of this will only increase.

For the best results, you need experts in the field. That’s where InHype comes in. Our role as a next-gen digital creators agency for brands is to help companies maximise the potential of content creators. We do so by helping brands formulate ideas, identifying the right content creators, and using global data tools for analysing and measuring results. It’s how we think, it’s what we do.

This is our field of expertise, and as the success and importance of content creators grows, our focus on transparency, trackability, snackable content, and on maintaining great relationships with content creators will create greater value for our clients.

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LEADERSHIP PANEL Jad Gosen Co-Founder & Agency Head Nour Chaar Founder Inhype INDUSTRY SNAPSHOT

Engagement Factory

Founded: 2012

Head of company: Jos Caelers

A leading global customer engagement agency, we are Engagement Factory. We help our clients transform into true customer-centric organisations by combining strategy and insights, fuelled by creativity and technology. The result: compelling experiences throughout the customer journey, which enable our clients to build long-lasting and valuable customer relationships.

SERVICES: Strategic consultancy, creative and content services, marketing automation and campaign delivery, data and analysis

Energy Ekonomiks

Founded: 2020

Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Romana Ajaz

Energy Ekonomiks is a leading digital transformation company in the UAE. We offer SEM, SEO, SMM, digital brand development, online reputation management, web & app development, data analytics, PR & influencer management, lead generation and Google Ads management.

KEY CLIENTS: Ask Me School

Equation Media

Founded: 2013

Chairman: Roger Sahyoun

+971 4 453 7711

The media planning and buying unit of The Network Communication Group, Equation Media’s services are propelled by consumer insights and data analytics as they use a fusion of first-rate research methods, experience and analysis to help clients create meaningful connections with their audiences. Forming the perfect equation through innovation, experience and performance, the team strives in taking a leap forward as we shift from assumption-based marketing into predictive models.

SERVICES: Strategic media planning; integration of online and offline campaigns; social and content planning; media buying; performance marketing; retail transformation and experiential solutions; data analytics and personalised marketing solutions

KEY CLIENTS: Al Ghurair foods, Alassassi General Trading, Anchovy Studios, Anker Innovations, BBAC, Dubai Chamber Of Commerce, Ecco Shoes, Fossil Group, Gawamen, Hershey’s, IFFCO, Toshiba Gulf FZE, SAMACO Porsche, Tabasco, Kioxia

Founded: 2013

Head of company: Aasim Shaik

Number of staff: 35

+971 4 546 4465; +971 56 928 0670

A decade-young agency, LPS gets the power of digital communities and realizes their impact to grow brands. LPS is a ‘born from social’ communications and creative agency with offices in Dubai, Riyadh and New Jersey. We unlock the power of digital 1.0 and 2.0 platforms and offer a disruptively new and effective lead communications agency experience for brands in the MENA region, across sectors ranging from government services, banks and insurance to beauty, food and technology.

SERVICES: Integrated campaigns; digital marketing; social media management; video production; TikTok & Reels strategy and management; influencer campaigns management; digital media planning and buying

TECH PARTNERS: Emplifi, Sprinklr, Microsoft Dynamics 365

KEY CLIENTS: Dolby, Dubai Silicon Oasis, Perfe i Van Melle, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, CAFU, Delmonte, Zayed University, Beverly Hills Polo Club

AWARDS WON: Campaign ME AOTY 22 (Social Media Agency of the Year)


DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 68
Gareth Mankoo Creative Director Aasim Shaik Managing Director Firas Al Zubaidi Group Director – Business Partnerships Hamza Sheikh Head of Production Basma Saleh Senior Program Manager

Type of agency: Creative Agency

Founded: 1989

Number of staff: 370

Head of agency: Nathalie Gevresse, UAE; Thamer Farsi, KSA; Youssef Naaman, Levant & Qatar; Tarek Latif, Egypt


Phone: +971 4 367 6200

Social handles: @LeoBurnettMEA


Leo Burnett first opened doors on August 5, 1935 in Chicago, USA with three accounts, and has since expanded to 85 offices in 48 countries with around 10,000 employees. Today, Leo Burnett and its unique ‘Humankind’ philosophy, rooted in the belief that creativity has the power to change the world, has become synonymous with advertising excellence.

Under Publicis Groupe, Leo Burnett’s multiple offices across the MENA region consult an enviable portfolio of global and local clients, served independently as well as in collaboration with multiple sister networks offering PR, media, data, and technology solutions under Publicis’ ‘Power of One’ model.

SERVICES: Marketing Communications, Advertising, Social Media, Digital Media, Branding, Audio-Visual Production, Digital & Social Strategy

KEY CLIENTS: McDonald’s, General Motors, Emirates NBD, Ferrero, Meraas, Omantel, Abu Dhabi Airports, Pepsi, Philip Morris, The Central Bank of the UAE, ADDC, Bank Of Sharjah, The Founder’s Office

AWARDS: MENA Effie: The Most Effective Agency Network of the Year; Jay Chiat: Global Agency of the Year; MENA Effie #34; Dubai Lynx #8; Art Director’s Club #2; Loeries #2; AdFest #2; Cresta #10; Madstars #2; Clio #2; Gerety #4; NYF #1; Jay Chiat #2; Warc #2; One Show #1; The Caples #1;



MMA #5 Youssef Naaman CEO, Publicis Communications, Levant & Qatar Malek Ghorayeb Chief Creative Officer, Levant & Qatar Thamer Farsi CEO, Publicis Communications, KSA Mohammed Sehly Executive Creative Director, KSA Nathalie Gevresse CEO, Publicis Communications, UAE Kalpesh Patankar Chief Creative Officer, UAE Tarek Latif Managing Director, Egypt


Founded: 2004

Headquartered: United Kingdom and Dubai Heads of company: Richard Hartson, Neil Hecquet (Global), Adele Baxter (MENA)

+971 55 276 9322

Flourish is a specialist CRM planning and creative agency. Focused on delivering results for our clients through data-driven marketing, we seek to bridge the gap between data science and strategy. We are experts at turning insight into impact and transforming global brands into personalised experiences.

SPECIALISMS: CRM and digital strategy, data strategy and analysis, digital creative, best-in-class HTML development, campaign execution, results-driven account management

FP7 McCann

Founded: 1967

Head of company: Tarek Miknas, Regional CEO

+971 4 445 4777

Face to Face Communications Group

Founded: 1991

Head of company: Christopher Bell

A homegrown UAE agency group delivering communications work globally. Despite the worldwide challenges of the past 18 months, Face to Face has grown its team of 50, producing the Messi campaign for Expo 2020, several global Parker Pens campaigns and the Pepsi music campaign for Saudi featuring Hussain AlJassmi.

KEY CLIENTS: PepsiCo, Etihad, EXPO 2020 Dubai, LEGOLAND Dubai, MOTIONGATE Dubai, Meydan, Parker, Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, International Fund for Houbara Conservation, Ajman Bank, Nair, Sharpie

Part of McCann Worldgroup and the flagship agency of MCN, FP7 McCann describes itself as the number-one creatively driven integrated marketing company in MENA. Award-winning regionally and globally, FP7 provides fully integrated marketing solutions, advertising and digital services. With 16 offices across 14 countries, FP7 McCann is the region’s largest creative agency network. It has been named as the most effective agency network in the region for the last seven years in a row.

SERVICES: Social and digital strategy; social audits, playbook creation, consumer journey analysis, content planning, creation, & production; humantech design thinking; meaningful innovation; design/UX; web development; campaign activation; channel management; listening; holistic analytics

Founded: 2005

Head of company: Bassem Massoud

Number of staff: 84

+971 4 445 4647

Magna is a full-service agency that provides communication solutions across the MENA region – focusing on the two most important currencies in media today – conversations and engagement. We combine the power of data and technology with creativity and innovation to devise tailor-made business solutions that deliver business results. Our core strength lies in our ability to understand the distinct needs of consumers. With that in mind, we work towards creating effective media strategies, building dynamic media plans and adding value to businesses through optimised media buying. So, what makes Magna so different? It’s a unique combination of

scale and size. We offer our partners undivided attention, complemented by the backing and expertise of our dedicated professionals. Add to this the immense value of research, insights, strategies, constant innovation and the most competitive rates, capitalised through our group’s clout and buying power. That’s the Magna difference.

SERVICES: Communications strategy; digital media strategy & activation; performance media planning and execution (programmatic & biddable media), media planning & buying; search & bid management; social media, mobile & content strategy planning & execution

TECH PARTNERS: Adjust, Kochava, Appsflyer, Zapier, Oracle, Adobe, GCP (Google), Datorama, Flashtalking

KEY CLIENTS: Subway, Dubai Holding Group, Dubai Properties, Meraas, Al Nahdi Pharmacies, twofour54, Baskin Robbins, Banque Saudi Fransi, SACO, Twinings, Commercial Bank of Dubai

AWARDS: 23 MMA Smarties; 3 MENA Search Awards; 13 Effies, 2 Dubai LYNX; 2 The Marketing Society Awards; 1 Cannes Lions, 7 MENA Digital Awards, 1 Festival of Media Global


DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 70
Lara Arbid Managing Director MENA Bassem Massoud CEO MENA Ali Berjawi General Manager UAE Jad Barakat Associate Director, Digital Nameer Abou Ismail: General Manager, KSA Sini Baby Regional Finance Director

Futad Advertising

Founded: 2018

Head of company: Mirsab Al Rahman

+974 4 029 2244

Futad Advertising thrives when it comes to giving clients the opportunity to work with outside-the-box thinkers, visionaries and doers to achieve the marketing campaign of their dreams – a marketing campaign that brings the future to life with new-age technology that is yet to be seen in the market in Qatar.

SERVICES: Innovative advertising solutions; indoor elevator projectors

KEY CLIENTS: Ministry of Interior, Ooredoo, McDonald’s, Vodafone, Monoprix

The Gamifiers

Founded: 2013

Managing partner: Sherif Dahan

The leading agency specialised in designing and implementing gamification programmes and technology, customer and employee facing, to boost engagement, motivation and retention on web/mobile and apps. With the largest customer base in the region, The Gamifiers has delivered successful programmes to Microsoft, McDonalds, Hardees, MasterCard and Coca-Cola among other leading brands and governments.

SERVICES: Gamification programme design, consultancy, gamification technology platforms, gamification programme ongoing management

IAS Digital

Founded: 2006

Head of company: Ali Asgar Mir

+971 4 4475760

IAS Digital is a part of IAS Media, one of the largest media concessionaires in the MENA region. IAS Digital has an exclusive representation of more than 150 premium international and regional websites. Conceptualising and executing audience-centric marketing communication plans and delivering impactful and measurable results are some of the core strengths of IAS Digital.

SPECIALISMS: Digital and social marketing, data driven content marketing, programmatic, lead generation – CPC, CPV, CPCV, CPL and CPA, data analytics, SEO, SEM, in-app advertising


Founded: 2017

Head of company: Saad Sraj

iMetric is an integrated digital media agency, with offices in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Data, metrics and technology are at the heart of everything we do. We partner with our clients with the aim of growing their business and profitability through multiple digital marketing solutions. We add value to businesses by building dynamic media strategies and plans optimised for maximum efficiency.

SERVICES: Creative and development, digital media, consultancy and training

Founded: 2001

Head of company: Sir Martin Sorrell, Executive Chairman, S4 Capital

Number of staff: 9,100 worldwide, 50 in MENA +971 4 514 9510; +971 52 948 6613; nelly.

Media.Monks, the digital-first operating brand of S4Capital, connects content, data and digital media and technology services across one global team built from the bottom up. Inspired by connectivity and flexibility of technology APIs, a single P&L model offers clients seamless access to a 9,100-strong team of multidisciplinary digital talent organised across 57 talent hubs in 32

countries. Media.Monks partners with some of the world’s most innovative companies, top tech brands and upand-coming DTC and B2B brands, helping them own their data, transform their digital marketing and build customer ecosystems through both custom and enterprise technology solution-enabled experiences.

SERVICES: Digital strategy platform design and development; creative content; content strategy; film production social; experiential; data & analytics

TECH PARTNERS: Meta, Google, Adobe, Unreal Engine

KEY CLIENTS: UAE Government Media Office, NEOM, GMG, Sun and Sand Sports, Dubai World Expo, Mondelez, Cenomi, Ithra, Etihad Airways, SDAIA, Qiddiya, Riot Games, Visit Saudi

AWARDS WON: Campaign Social Media Agency of the Year 2022; Campaign Innovation Partner of the Year EMEA, US and Canada 2021; Webby Awards Digital Production Company of the Year 2022 and 2021; Cannes Lions Top 10 Creative Companies 2022; Eventex Top 500 #1 in 2021


DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 71
Nelly Saad Managing Director MENA, Media.Monks Mohamed Rady Head of Clients MENA, Media.Monks Sir Martin Sorrell Executive Chairman, S4 Capital Victor Knaap CEO EMEA, Media.Monks Stephanie Bernadus Operations Director MENA, Media.Monks Mohammed AlThaher Digital Program Director MENA, Media.Monks


Founded: 2022

Headquarterd: Dubai

Imfluence; where impact and influence finally meet. Imfluence is an independent talent management and digital marketing agency that leverages technology and talent to connect brands and businesses with creators. Imfluence creates synergies and drives growth that’s measured and data driven. Born from Dubai to spearhead the age of the creator content revolution, Imfluence delivers strategic influencer marketing campaigns, content creation and consultancy solutions.

SERVICES: Influencer marketing; influencer strategy; social media marketing; content production

KEY CLIENTS: Cenomi, Americana, Etisalat, Aldar

Inca Tanvir Advertising

Founded: 1976

Full-service advertising agency, offering 360-degree integrated scientific marketing communication services across all advertising touch points. Reputed for award-winning creative work. Successfully handling the marketing communications of various local and regional clients.

SERVICES: Digital marketing; social media planning and execution; web-based and mobile advertising; outreach – precision location audience targeting; SEO and SEM; retargeting

Innocean Worldwide Middle East & Africa

Founded: 2005 (global); 2015 (Dubai)

Head of company: Chang Jo Yoo

Innocean Worldwide Middle East & Africa is a 360-degree integrated fullservice advertising agency located in Dubai, UAE with more than 30 offices globally. Innocean Worldwide Middle East & Africa aims to become a global leader by creating future value through a customised total marketing strategy service. As a global marketing and communications company, Innocean Worldwide Middle East & East Africa pursues the greatest value through the realisation of innovative communications based on creative thinking and challenging spirit.

SERVICES: Brand strategy and planning; creative solutions; digital marketing; experiential marketing and activations; media planning and buying

KEY CLIENTS: Hyundai, Genesis, Kia

Integral Shopper

Founded: 2010

Managing Director: Antoine Achkar

We create intelligent promo solutions to influence shopper behaviour and empower brands. Our solutions cover three main facets: couponing, digital promo & fulfilment and trade marketing events. We advise manufacturers and retailers on the most suitable promo strategies and mechanics to boost sales and upgrade brand equity across all touchpoints.

SERVICES: Digital promo activation; promo games and contests; cash back; couponing; trade marketing events; consultancy; brand loyalty programmes, brand activations, clearing, fulfilment

KEY CLIENTS: Nestle, Friesland Campina, Unilever, Ferrero, Al Ain Food, Goody, P&G, GSK, Grand Mills, Lifco, Iffco, NRTC, Transmed, Carrefour, LuLu


Founded: 2012

Regional general manager: Iyad Tibi

+971 4 447 4996

We’re not just specialists in diff erent types of digital marketing; we also know how to bring it together. By pu« ing the customer at the centre, we create simple, eff ective strategies that connect with people across every channel.

SERVICES: Paid search, organic search, paid social, display, content and creative, conversion optimisation, social media management, mobile strategy

KEY CLIENTS: General Motors, Microsoft, Standard Chartered Bank, Philips, MasterCard, Accor Hotels, Estee Lauder Companies, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai Properties, Dubai Parks and Resorts


Founded: 2009

Managing director: Ziad Ghorayeb

+202 2 735 8442

Our mission is to transform businesses, brands and people’s lives with the creative use of digital. We believe in ideas without limits – pushing the boundaries of technology and creativity. We’re passionate about the power of digital, and our collaborative culture helps us create transformative work.

SERVICES: Marketing & communications; ecosystems & commerce; products & services; transformation consultancy; social & content strategy & execution; creative, campaign development & execution; brand & communication strategy

KEY CLIENTS: GSK, L’Oreal, Unilever, Froneri, EDITA, Savola, Sunbolah

Jacobsons Direct

Founded: 1986 Headquartered: Dubai

+971 4 337 7737

Jacobsons Direct offers new-age marketing and strategy solutions to its customers. Our regional experience dates back over three decades and we have helped some of the leading global brands to gain more customers, achieve customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. And above all, accelerate sales and profits.


Founded: 2010

Heads of company: Viki Harris; Darien Harris, founding partners

We’re an independent brand consultancy that’s made for today. For the past decade, we’ve explored brave ideas that outsmart change. Rapid, measured, agile in the way we work – join us on a journey of discovery to design your future. Let’s explore.

SERVICES:Positioning development; identity creation; experience design; engagement and activation

KEY CLIENTS: Marriott International, Accor Hotels, Jack Daniel’s, Heineken, L:Red – Lootah Real Estate

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 72


Founded: 1999

Head of company: Lamiya Boumlaki – MENA CEO

Number of staff: 300

+971 4 454 7444

Mindshare is a global media platform company that accelerates Good Growth for its clients in the age of a new marketing economy. Good Growth is business growth that is enduring and sustainable, whilst also helping to shape society and the world for the better. We accelerate growth for our clients by connecting digital, media, creative and tech, prioritising customer relationships, customer voices and real-time activation underpinned through data to demand a response. We were the first purpose-built company created by WPP and today our 10,000 people operate in 116 offices in 86 countries.

SERVICES: Communication strategy; adtech and martech consultancy; outcomes marketing; e-commerce; research and insights; data solutions and analytics; social media management; content ideation and creation; web 3.0 consultancy; investment management; media planning

KEY CLIENTS: Public Investment Fund, QNTC, QNB, Ferrero, Mobily, Abu Dhabi Media Company, Red Sea Group, General Mills, Rolex, Kuwait Finance House, Alsafi Danone



Managing director, Mindshare UAE


We saw both systemic and incremental changes. For example, there was much greater demand for effective measurement and maturity in e-commerce-related solutions. There’s also been increasing growth and sophistication and advances in the creator economy driven by web 3.0, as well as emergent premium streamers. We also started to see unlocking of the potential of AI and more attempts from the region to explore brand presence in the metaverse.


Omnichannel is still killing it. It will continue to grow, particularly as touchpoints continue to digitise. Keep an eye on digital out-of-home (DOOH) and connected TV; both are hot, smart and primed for take-off. Buying programmatic inventory on these platforms via digital is a promising frontier and one that is rapidly gaining momentum.Entertainment channels will continue to proliferate, as will content – locally produced Saudi content will be an exceptional

driver, catalysing opportunities and expansion for the entire industry.

I believe we will continue to see different manifestations of the metaverse and NFTs and perhaps wider penetration for these, as well as more reliance on AI to drive adaptive and result-oriented content generation.

We’re also going to see a greater need for better data, especially as data privacy continues to be at the forefront of consumer concerns and consideration.

Closer to home, I’m personally excited about the Group M initiative for media decarbonisation and adtech sustainability in EMEA, through carbon emissions measurement, reporting and reduction.


I think we are all concerned about the impact of a potential global recession on multinational investments, and the risk of advertising revenue pullback. We are well poised to weather the storm, having prioritised growth of our talent to build a resilient, adaptable agency team that can thrive amid volatility.


Two things: Think GenZ first. Second, realise the value of digital across the entire spectrum of the balance sheet and build from there to identify the ownership of the different stakeholders within the digital strategy.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST OPPORTUNITIES BRANDS CAN GEAR UP FOR THIS YEAR? 2023 is a year to double down on what brands have and strengthen their ecosystem.

On either end of the spectrum, locally and regionally, the explosion and promise of KSA-produced content vis a vis global platforms like Disney and Netflix; and on the global end, the potential of CTV and DOOH.

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 73
Faris Sibai MENA Chief Growth Officer Ghada Nasr Lower Gulf Managing Director Lamiya Boumlaki MENA CEO Abdallah Safieddine UAE Managing Director Hana Khatib Levant Managing Director Victoria Loesch Managing Partner

Specialized Services



Headquartered: 2022 UAE

Orchestrate is OMG MENA's digital center of excellence, providing digital thought leadership for the group, powered by experts across paid search, social, programmatic and SEO Our mission is to orchestrate, execute and lead the most successful advertising strategies for our clients using our expert team of digital scientists and market leading technology

Services: Strategic Consulting for Paid Social, Search, Programmatic and SEO, Budget Optimization, Audience Insights, Data Analytics

MENA@omnicommediagroup com | +97144500450

Founded: Headquartered: 2020 UK

Founded: Headquartered: 2010 USA

Omnicom created Annalect with the sole purpose of reimagining the potential at the crossroads of data and technology Annalect provides brands with an environment and teams that democratize data insights and make it easy to apply them to media and creative executions

Services: Media & Creative Planning and Activation, Audience Development, Reporting and Attribution, Campaign Optimization

annalect ksa@annalect com | annalect com | +97144500450

Founded: Headquartered: 2008 Germany

Trakken is a specialist consulting agency offering solutions in the field of digital analytics, data management, conversion optimization and digital implementation with a strong background in e-commerce, media, finance, travel, telecommunications and consumer goods as well as being a Certified Google Marketing Platform Partner

Services: Strategic Advisory, Amazon management, D2C and eRetail Implementation, Scalability and Efficiency

Audience understanding sits at the heart of OMG Transact But when it comes to eCommerce, it’s about more than just media placement, it’s an end to end ‘ process ’ OMG Transact is the consultative offering that supports our clients through this process to deliver sales growth omgtransact

Services: KPI-Workshops, Technical Implementation, Tool Controlling and continuous Optimization of Digital Buying Processes, Digital Transformation

General Manager Annalect MENA Dr. Hoda Daou Chief Digital Officer OMG MENA Christos Solomi
com |
com | +97144500450
com | +97144500450
Managing Director TRKKN MENA Vimal Badiani

Founded: 2002

+971 4 450 0450

Staff numbers (MENA): 500-600+

OMD is the world’s largest media network with more than 12,000 people working in over 100 countries. As the world grows with opportunities, the key is reacting to them, by making better decisions, faster – combining innovation, creativity, empathy and evidence to help them move faster, reach further and take smarter risks every day.

SERVICES: Strategic planning & investment management, performance marketing, data and technology consulting and implementation, analytics and e-commerce transformation/marketplace management.

AWARDS: Media Agency of the Year, Campaign AOY 2022; Media Agency Office of the Year, MENA EFFIES 2022; Media Agency of the Year, MENA Digital Awards, 2022; Global Media Network of the Year, Cannes Lion 2022; Best Performing Global Media Network, RECMA 2021; Global Media Agency of the Year 2019 - 2020, Adweek; Media Agency of the Year 2019, Dubai Lynx; Most Effective Media Agency Office 2018, Best Place to Work 2012-2019, Great Place to Work Institute.

KEY CLIENTS: PepsiCo, Dubai EXPO, OSN, Zain, Jumeirah, Apple, Beiersdorf, Clorox, Daimler, INFINITI, Jumeirah, Nissan, Lindt, Dakar Rally, Saudi Vision, Abu Dhabi Government, Philips, AlUla Seasons, Roshn, Formula 1 Saudi, Qatar Creates, Saudi Central Brank, Invest Qatar, RAKTDA


Founded : 2006

Staff numbers (MENA): 300+

Head of Company: Luca Allam, CEO of PHD MENA

+971 4 457 4570

Guided by the ethos ‘Make the Leap,’ PHD is renowned for driving disproportionate growth through transformative and creative ideas. PHD is one of the most forwardthinking media agencies by challenging convention and breaking new ground in strategic thinking and planning. Built on a culture of thought leadership, innovation and creativity, it is one of the world’s fastest growing agency networks. Globally, PHD has more than 6,000 staff, more than 100 offices worldwide, and is part of Omnicom Media Group.

SERVICES: Media planning & buying; strategic planning; data analytics & technology consultants; social & content marketing; SEO; creative services including dynamic creative optimization

AWARDS: The Most Effective Media Agency Office of the Year, MENA Effies 2021; Network of the Year, M&M Global 2020; Best Place to Work 2012-2019, Great Place to Work Institute; The Most Effective Media Agency Office MENA Effies 2019; 1 Cannes Lion 2019; 1 Festival of Media 2019; 7 MENA Effies 2019; 2 Dubai Lynx 2019; Top 5 GPTW list consistently since 2013; Top 3 Most Effective Office MENA Effies 2018; 5 MENA Effies 2018; 7 Dubai Lynx awards 2018; 3 MMA Global Smarties 2018; Festival of Media 2018

KEY CLIENTS: Unilever, Chanel, Saudi Tourism Authority, VW Group, Al Futtaim Group, Abbott, Arla Foods, SC Johnson, HSBC, Al Alali, Nahkeel Mall


DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 75
Karen Doumet Managing Director of PHD Arabia Peter Bishay GM at PHD Egypt Saleh Agha MD of OMD UAE Maroun Hassoun Regional GM of OMD Lower Gulf Luca Allam CEO at PHD MENA Saleh Ghazal CEO of OMD MENA Jihad El Rassi GM of OMD Riyadh Tarek Jaffar GM of OMD Egypt

Kreata Global Brand Communications

Founded: 2010

Head of Company: Deepan Parameswar executive director

Kreata Global is a smart e-commerce and digital marketing agency based in Dubai. We are driven by next generation media skills, ground-breaking technology and vivacious creativity. One of the first full-service agencies in the region, our passion has kept us ahead of the curve since our inception in 2010.

SERVICES: Social media marketing; digital advertising; e-commerce marketing and development; performance marketing; web design and development

KEY CLIENTS: IFFCO Group: Ice Cream, Snacks, Biscuits; Emirates Food Industries: Hayatna, National Feed, Al Rawdah Vet Clinic; Yateem Opticians; Magrabi Optical; Clarins Middle East; Air Arabia; Arcor Chocolates

Larmo – Creative Marketing Factory

Founded: 2014

Head of Company: Mohamed Elghazaoui

+212 6 61 26 81 09

A full digital service agency focused on data, innovation and creativity, operating in Morocco and Africa.

SERVICES: Social media management, e-commerce, media buying, content creation, digital activations

KEY CLIENTS: Davidoff, Clipper Lighters, Holmarcom Group, Kettani Immobilier, Diamantine

LB+ logicBureau plus

Founded: 2019

Head of company: Emad Eltahan

We connect people to brands, whether it’s on- or offline. We develop the right message for your audience and ensure it reaches them through carefully selecting the right channel, based on audience behaviour. We have a new strategic bureau model that works to orchestrate the most effective omnichannel strategy for your brand. Although behavioural and media planning is at the heart of what we do, we also offer advertising and digital services, from integrated brand campaigns to content development for social channels and more.

SERVICES: Creative platforms; branding; digital campaigns; content creation

KEY CLIENTS: Mountain Dew, Aquafina, Pepsi, Ikea, TopFruit, Tanuf

Lemon Adverts

Founded: 2008

Heads of company: Husain Mohsin, Hussain Akhtar

Lemon is a business transformation partner helping established brands and enterprises innovate and reimagine their products and services in a world that is increasingly digital, in a way that allows them to thrive and maintain their competitive advantage as well as continue to create and deliver value to their customers.

SERVICES: Customer experiences and design; business modernisation; digital portfolio management; enterprise applications; technology and AWS consulting; web and mobile product development; q-commerce

KEY CLIENTS: Abdul Latif Jameel, Informa connect, Abbott Diabetes Care, RSA, Dubai Police, Meraas, Oman Oil, Samsung, Damac

Head of company: Bassel Kakish, Groupe CEO, MEA

Number of staff: 3,600 across the region

Publicis Groupe is the third largest communications group in the world. Founded in Paris in 1926, we are present in more than 100 countries as leaders in marketing, communication and digital business transformation. At Publicis Groupe, you are connected to our global network, intelligence, tools, clients, brands and 96,000 brilliant minds with expertise in data, technology, media, strategy, creativity and business transformation, all at your fingertips. Through our unique ability to design, build and orchestrate end-to-end solutions, Publicis Groupe is exclusively positioned to help clients unlock growth in the platform world through the intersection of data, creativity, media and technology.

SERVICES OFFERED: Publicis Groupe is organised across solution hubs which intersect to provide seamless solutions. Publicis Communications is the creative communications division comprising Leo Burnett, Publicis, Saatchi & Saatchi and MSL. Publicis Media harnesses the power of modern media with brands Spark Foundry, Starcom, Digitas and Zenith. Publicis Sapient is the digital business transform arm. At the core of the Groupe is Epsilon, delivering personalised experiences at scale.

AWARDS: Campaign Agency of the Year Awards: Best Integrated Agency of the Year 2022; Best Agency Leader; Best Strategy Leader; Best Creative Leader; Best Woman in Advertising; Best Creative Team. Award wins at MENA Effies, Dubai Lynx, Loeries, Jay Chiat, LIA Awards, CLIO, AdFest, D&AD, Cresta. Recognised global leader in 2022 by The Forrester Wave


DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 76
Bassel Kakish Groupe CEO Bashar Abdulkarim Chief Talent Officer Tahaab Rais Chief Strategy Officer Houda Samir Chief Financial Officer Khaled AbouNader Chief Product Officer Jennifer Fischer Chief Innovation & Growth Officer

Founded: 2019

Head of company: Stuart Mackay, managing director

Number of staff: 30

+971 4 445 4188

IPG Mediabrands data and technology experts focused on providing brands with marketing intelligence and insight that helps them to provide a more consistent and effective marketing experience to their consumers. Reprise Digital’s range of tools and services is designed to analyse customer behaviour and deliver customer-centric technology and data-driven marketing solutions to the MENA region.

SERVICES: Marketing data science; research and business intelligence; marketing technology and analytics; experience optimisation (organic search, content, UX and UI) and e-commerce – marketplace as a service

KEY CLIENTS: FAB, Mashreq, RAKBANK, Emirates, STC, Bank Al Jazira, American Garden, Al Shaya, Property Finder, American Hospital

TECH PARTNERS: Google (GMP reseller), Tealium, Sitecore, Meiro, Adjust, AppsFlyer, Glassbox, Quantum Metric, Optimizely

AWARDS: MENA Search Awards: Best Use of Search – Finance (RAKBANK) 2019; Best Use of Search – Health (American Hospital) 2022.



Managing director, Reprise Digital

2022 saw a willingness from clients to want to understand customer behaviour in more detail either through their own data or through measurement and analytics tools such as Google Analytics (GA4), Adjust, Glassbox and Quantum Metric. This bodes well for consumers as brands now take this critical insight and make adjustments to campaigns and the customer journey and experience. Having this level of insight allows brands to understand the ROI of their marketing campaigns in order to optimise them in the future. Optimizely, Sitecore, Tealium, mParticle and Segment all continue to make traction in the personalization arena as brands strive to be able to communicate at a more personal level with their consumers.


All of these trends will continue to spill into 2023 with brands fighting to secure enough budget to either introduce these technologies into their ecosystems or optimise the existing assets that have already been procured. Education, knowledge and training still play a fundamental role in a brand’s ability to be able to introduce and unlock the value that these technologies and data sets will bring to an organisation. Buying a technology like a customer data platform is one thing; setting it up and optimising it in a way that drives business value is another.


Consumer expectations continue to increase, with


them valuing personalised treatment over everything else. Our own personal experiences as well as market research shows that users are tired of generalised treatment. This means that technologies that help brands leverage their first-party date to provide these personal experiences absolutely need to be on brands’ agendas in 2023. The challenges I foresee this year are with regards to brands’ own ability to deliver and execute a first-party data strategy. We continue to be hindered by a regional talent shortage ,which in turn is slowing down the adoption and implementation of such strategies, particularly for brands that have legacy technologies.


Deploying cloud technology to harness the value of real-time data allows brands to quickly adapt to evolving customer needs and behaviours. This allows brands to gather and analyse various data sources via a single platform in order to continually improve the customer experience. The type of agility these platforms offer can enable business to move at the required speed for customers.


AI will continue to make marketing in the region smarter, with platforms and brands working hard to connect consumers to personalised messages and products. We can’t solely rely on AI and its algorithms, so brands need to focus as well on the end-to-end consumer experience. Getting both of these right could yield some fantastic results for brands across the region.

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 77
Alan Azar Marketing Technology & Analytics Director Mohammed Mohsin Experience Optimisation Director Stuart Mackay Managing Director Riddhi Dasgupta Data Science & Business Inteligence Director

Like Digital & Partners

Founded: 2011

Heads of company: Richard Mogendorff, Karl Escritt and Alex Tovey

Like Digital & Partners is an award-winning agency with offices in London and Dubai, offering expert digital transformation and e-commerce services to the world’s leading luxury brands. Everything we do is driven by business growth and innovation for our clients; from strategy and development to design and content marketing.

KEY CLIENTS: Majid Al Futtaim Group, Chalhoub Group, One & Only Resorts, Atlantis

SERVICES: Global e-commerce launch and strategy, digital transformation, user experience, conversion rate optimisation solutions, digital strategy


Founded: 2016

Head of company: Sachinn J Laala, CEO

Liquid is an independent agency fully dedicated to shopper marketing and e-commerce. We solve business problems at retail by creating ideas that lead to purchase, wherever, whenever. We believe in harnessing the power of retail to build brands and the importance of creating a winning proposition across all commerce.

KEY CLIENTS: P&G, Pepsi, Nestle, Nivea

SERVICES: Retail planning, strategy and consultancy; shopper-based creative, design and activation; store-back content for e-commerce; implementation and maintenance of e-commerce assets; e-commerce marketplace management

The Loop

Founded: 2018

Heads of company: Rachel Lloyd; Naheed Maalik

The Loop is a boutique marketing, communications and PR consultancy based in Dubai. We offer a one-stop solution to help clients close the loop on their marcomms requirements, providing bespoke solutions that are specially customised to their target audiences, business goals, timelines and budgets.

SERVICES: PR management; content creation; brand development; marketing and communications strategy; media buying

KEY CLIENTS: Education institutions, non-profit organisations, entrepreneurs and small businesses.


Founded: 2021

Head of Company: Charis Marr

We are an agile and fast-growing marketing company designed to support ambitious start-ups and determined scale-ups through digitisation. We support the success of businesses in the digital world by providing end-toend marketing solutions to set up and grow businesses online with flexible packages to fill your marketing gaps.

SERVICES: Web design & development, e-commerce, digital marketing, social media, dynamic advertising

Founded: 1973

Head of Agency: Nathalie Gevresse, CEO, Publicis Communications

Number of staff: 85

+971 4 367 6200

Today’s brands compete with new technologies, empowered consumers, shifting public attitudes, brand new contenders and much more. Creating leading strategies and powerful ideas that allow our clients’ brands to become unique, irreplaceable, in control and ahead is our purpose. At Publicis, we all share a common ambition: to help our clients and their brands to be and to remain the leaders they want to be, to ‘Lead The Change’. Publicis ME, an integral part of Publicis Worldwide, has a network of 330 offices in more than 110 countries. Publicis ME is a part of Publicis Communications, the creative communications division of Publicis Groupe.

SERVICES: Audio-visual production; brand communication; consumer activation; corporate communications; creative advertising; digital & social strategy; social media; strategic planning;

CLIENTS: Nestlé, Nescafé, Louvre, Pizza Hut, Standard Chartered, House of Pops

AWARDS: Jay Chiat x 2 Gold; Mena Effie x 1 Gold, x 1 Silver; New York Festivals x 1 Merit x 5 Shortlists. LIA x 1 Silver x 1 Bronze x 2 Shortlists. Cannes x 9 Shortlists


DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 78

Matrix Public Relations

Founded: 1999

Headquartered: Dubai

CEO: Hilmarie Hutchison

+971 4 343 0888

Matrix Public Relations is an independent boutique public relations firm based in Dubai. We specialise in providing PR counsel and services to help our clients enhance their brand equity and corporate reputation in the region.

SPECIALISMS: PR; social, influencer and digital marketing, crisis management

KEY CLIENTS: Acronis, Al Muqarram, Century Financial, Dabur, Himalaya, House of Biori, India Gate, Kaya Skin Clinic, Oxford Business Group, Steve Madden


Founded: 2019

CEO: Mai ElAmeen

+971 4 770 7750

With offices in Dubai and Cairo, Maverick is an independent, consumer-focused, data-driven digital marketing and communication agency that leverages market research to develop strategies that deliver business results. Maverick specialises in digital marketing, web development, search (SEO +SEM), social media (strategy, paid and community management), content marketing, creative development and digital production.

SERVICES: Digital marketing, SEO, social media (strategy, paid and community management), creative development, digital production

Media Mileage

Founded: 2012

Head of Company: Usman Qayyum

Headquartered: Dubai

+971 4 4558431

Media Mileage is a full-service mobile marketing firm in Dubai. We are a team of experienced mobile strategists who share a passion for creating mobile user experiences. Our award-winning SMS campaign management solutions have strengthened consumer engagement for many of the world’s leading brands.

SERVICES: SMS marketing; mobile video marketing; mobile application marketing; mobile couponing; Bluetooth marketing


Founded: 2000

Head of company: Eyad Abdul Khalek (CEO)

Number of staff: 85

+971 4 449 4700

We are a global media agency with a difference. Our network of 8,000 system thinkers helps clients to unlock growth by having a big-picture perspective across a brand’s entire communications system. We combine data, technology and creativity to design communications strategies that build brands, generate sales and maximise the effectiveness of our clients’ marketing investments.

SERVICES: Media strategy, buying & planning; biddable media; SEO; analytics & insights; data leadership; integrated e-commerce

Founded: 1990 Head of company: Srinivas Devulapalli, senior vice-president

MENA, Publicis Sapient

Number of staff: 200 across MENA; 20,000+ globally

+971 52 630 4012


Publicis Sapient, the digital business transformation business of Publicis Groupe, helps established organisations get to their future, digitally-enabled state, both in the way they work and the way they serve their customers. We help unlock value through a start-up mindset and modern methods, fusing strategy, consulting and customer experience with agile engineering and problem-solving creativity. United by our core values and our purpose of helping people thrive in the brave pursuit of next, our 20,000+ people in 53 offices around the world, we combine experience across technology, data sciences, consulting and customer obsession to accelerate our clients’ businesses through designing the products and services their customers truly value.

SERVICES: Strategy and consulting; customer experience; technology and engineering; enterprise platforms; data and AI; product management

TECH PARTNERS: Microsoft; Adobe; AWS; Google; Sitecore; Salesforce

KEY CLIENTS: Neom, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Executive Office

AWARDS: 2022 Great Place to Work; Forbes World’s Best Management Consulting Firms; Consulting Magazine Best Firms; MACH Alliance Award; Global Brands Magazine Award; #1 Metaverse Design and Services by Constellation Research


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Ala Kanan Chief Financial Officer, Publicis Sapient Hiba Mojabber Creative DirectorExperience, Publicis Sapient Srinivas Devulapalli Senior Vice President, MENA, Publicis Sapient Andrew Wood Head of Product & Delivery, Publicis Sapient Deepak Aurora Group Vice President, Technology – Delivery Engineering, Publicis Sapient Mounir Aris Senior Managing Director, Strategy Delivery, Publicis Sapient


Founded: 2019

Head of company: Zeeshan Sajid Amin

Medialinks is a UAE-born dynamic digital agency and media buying powerhouse, helping clients navigate the ever-evolving world of marketing and advertising. From website design, performance campaigns, and social media strategy to targeted ad campaigns and beyond, we’ve got the skills and experience to make your brand shine. Plus, we like to have fun while we work.

KEY CLIENTS: PRAN Foods, Emirate Wets Wipes, Cool & Cool, Experience Qatar, Etihad Rail DB


Founded: 1988 (Globally); 2012 (UAE)

VP & managing director MENA: Rudy Banholzer

+971 4 421 8099

Merkle is a leading data-driven, technology-enabled performance marketing agency. We help brands transform their marketing into people-based marketing that works; we create, target, and measure the highly customised customer experiences that not only drive immediate results in the form of today’s response and conversion, but also build on tomorrow’s increased loyalty and customer value.

SERVICES: Customer strategy, digital media, customer experience & engagement, loyalty, data, analytics, marketing technology

KEY CLIENTS: Agility, Al Tayer, Bateel, Bayara, Daman, Dolby, EGA, MG, NBF, Kellogg’s, Pioneer, UNICEF, Zeiss


Founded: 2015

Head of company: Tarek Dajani, CEO, Middle East and Africa

+971 4 368 6562

In 24 countries throughout the world, our company is united by a shared desire to be global and interconnected, to work collaboratively with clients and to break down the silos that keep brands from delivering meaningful customer experiences. We like to learn from the data how to make things better.

SPECIALISMS: Service innovation; experience design; content and commerce activations; data science and analytics


Founded: 2005

Head of company: Serge Viranian

A brand communications agency that gets digital. A digital agency that gets design. A design agency that gets social. A social agency that gets content. A content agency that gets advertising. An advertising agency that gets PR. In short, a brand communications agency that just gets it.

SERVICES: Digital strategy & consulting; social media and influencers; content creation and production; brand & performance advertising; digital design and development


Founded: 1992

Head of Agency: Nathalie Gevresse, CEO, Publicis Communications

Number of staff: 155

+971 4 367 6270

Saatchi & Saatchi has grown from a start-up advertising agency in London in 1970 to a global creative communications company with 114 offices in 67 countries with over 6,500 employees. A part of Publicis Communications, the creative communications division of Publicis Groupe, we are a full service, integrated communications network. We are in the business of getting people to fall in love with our clients’ products and services. We have an unshakeable spirit and unbeatable attitude that Nothing is Impossible, a concept we apply to all our clients and work. We don’t have an ‘approach’ we sell, since approaches come and go. We have a spirit, an ethos, in Nothing Is Impossible. It is more than a phrase. It is the spirit that leads us to create impossible outcomes, that focuses our ambition, audacity, endeavour, and a ton of nerve. It reminds us to take on the impossible ones because we aren’t afraid of a challenge.

SERVICES: Marketing communications; advertising; social media; digital media; branding

KEY CLIENTS: e& / etisalat, Beiersdorf, Cadillac, Visa, Mondelez, Canon, Emirates, RTA, Mahzooz, Merex

AWARDS: Loeries: 1x Grand Prix / 2x Gold / 4x Silver; Effies Mena: 7x Gold / 3x Silver / 6x Bronze; Cresta: 1x Gold / 1x Silver / 4x Bronze; NYF / Ame Awards : 2x Silver / 9x Bronze; LIA: 1x Bronze

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 80
Sebastien Boutebel Chief Creative Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi Alex Simonian Business lead, KSA, Saatchi & Saatchi Nathalie Gevresse CEO, Publicis Communications Ramzi Sleiman Head of Saatchi & Saatchi Gautam Wadher Executive Creative Director, Saatchi & Satchi


Founded: 2009

Regional managing director: Jad Hindy

+971 4 445 4362

MRM//McCann is an integrated digital services agency. We help brands grow meaningful relationships with people – building, maintaining, measuring and optimising data-driven creatively led technology to enable customer experiences. We believe in the power of creativity, the magic of technology and the beauty of data. As a global network, we are a digital leader in this space. With 50 people based in Dubai ,we are connected to a global network of more than 3,000 globally, across more than 30 offices.

SPECIALISMS: Integrated performance services (advanced analytics, data, SEO, business intelligence); technology, customer experience management, UI/UX , digital development; creative & digital design strategy and implementation; CRM (Salesforce, MS Dynamics) deployment and management

Mothership Tech

Founded: 2018

Headquartered: Dublin, Ireland

Mothership exists to solve digital business problems with simple software solutions. Our hero product provides brands with digital outreach spanning Health, Legal, Banking & Energy Sectors currently. It specifically helps the utility industry with OCR meter reading scans on mobile (Utility Module) as well as simplifies the Know Your Customer onboarding process (KYC Module).

My Networking

Founded: 2010 Head of company: Rana Hatem Slim

We support brands in their digital transformation approach and the deployment of a relevant and tailor-made digital strategy. We help you understand this fast-moving world, how to step in efficiently to reach and connect with the people out there, taking advantages of the opportunities emerging every day. It’s all about networking!

KEY CLIENTS: Bio-Oil, Medical Fattal, Sisley, Sodetel, La Ferme St Jacques, international NGOs

SERVICES: Consultancy & strategy; digital marketing solutions; content creation; social media management; activations

NAAS Digital

Founded: 2015 Head of company: Saad Muhammed

A true digital partner for your brand or organisation, generate leads for your business, enhance your current digital assets, or create awareness online with our digital team. An in-house team of experts in Dubai builds websites, mobile applications, e-commerce projects, web applications and any digital product that will bring true digital transformation to your business.

KEY CLIENTS: Transguard Group, Alef Group, Garmin, Abdul Latif Jameel, RAK SME

SERVICES: Digital asset development; UX/UI; performance marketing; digital branding; social media


Founded: 2000

Head of Agency: Alain Brahamcha, CEO of Spark Foundry ME

Number of staff: 200 in region

+971 4 367 6400

Spark Foundry is a global media agency brand within Publicis Media, a key division of Publicis Groupe. Spark Foundry’s bold vision harnesses the spirit of a start-up combined with the soul of a powerhouse that melds an entrepreneurial, innovative business approach with the full resources, capabilities and marketplace clout of Publicis Media. With 200 employees across MENA, we leverage the best industry talent to service our clients across the luxury, retail, travel and tourism, culture, banking and FMCG verticals to name a few. Spark Foundry brings ‘HEAT’ to brands: Higher Engagement, Affinity, and Transactions.

SERVICES: Branded content; data and analytics; e-commerce; media consultancy; planning and buying

TECH PARTNERS: Epsilon, Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, META, TikTok, Amazon

KEY CLIENTS: LVMH, Abu Dhabi DCT, Mondelez, Almarai, Majid Al Futtaim, Saudi Aramco, Louvre Abu Dhabi.

AWARDS: Gold at Effies 2021 for Almarai KSA; Gold at MMA Smarties 2022 for Almarai KSA; Silver at MENA Effies 2022 for Mondelez

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 81
Bassel Kakish Groupe CEO, Publicis Groupe Paul Seif General Manager, Spark Foundry KSA Amer El Hajj Chief Investment Officer, Publicis Media Alain Brahamcha Chief Executive Officer, Spark Foundry ME Nadine Helal General Manager, Spark Foundry Egypt Khaled AbouNader Chief Product Officer, Publics Groupe


Founded: 2013

Heads of company: Fadi Khater (founder, managing partner), Michael Maksoudian (managing partner)

Netizency is a digital communications agency specialised in social media content creation, community management and media buying. We’re focused on B2B and B2C, closely connected to all digital platforms, and work with some of the leading regional and global brands.

SERVICES: Social strategy; content creation; social media management; digital media; listening and analytics; online map listing.

KEY CLIENTS: TikTok For Business METAP, Expo 2020 School Programme, Lenovo, Liv. Bank, Qatar National Bank


Founded: 2005

CEO: Amit Vyas

A multi-award-winning agency with offices in Dubai, Manchester and New York, Nexa provides growth-focused strategies for businesses centred around marketing, sales and service. Nexa works with some of the best-known companies in the automotive, education, travel and hospitality sectors. Nexa is the only Diamond Partner of HubSpot in the GCC region and is a Google Premier Partner.

SERVICES: Digital and inbound marketing, CRM & sales strategy, account-based marketing & lead generation, social media marketing and content creation

Founded: 2000 Head of company: Racha Makarem, CEO, Starcom ME

Number of staff: 155 (MENA)

+971 4 367 6400


Founded: 2012

Heads of company: Raja Trad, executive chairman, Publicis Groupe MEA; Khaled Abounader, chief product officer, Publicis Media

As the original performance marketing agency, Performics is the premier revenue growth driver for many of the world’s most admired brands. Across 57 countries, Performics leverages data, technology and talent to create and convert consumer demand wherever it is expressed – search, social, display, commerce and offline channels. Performics is built for the relentless pursuit of results. Performics is a Publicis Media company and the performance marketing engine of Publicis Groupe.

SERVICES: Performance media, performance content, planning & insights, analytics and technology, e-commerce


Founded: 2016

Headquartered: Mumbai, India

Head of company: Yogesh Khanchandani, co-founder & chief business strategy officer

A transformational agency, powered by data and tech, fuelled by creativity. Building on data insights and analytics, we strive to simplify the digital landscape with design thinking and tech innovation. We bring ideas to life for brands by looking beyond the ‘what is’ and explore the ‘what ifs’.

KEY CLIENTS: Kaya Skin Clinic, Zomato, Eilago, Century Financial, AMEX, Emeritus

SERVICES: Strategy & consulting; digital media planning & buying; UI/IX; search engine optimisation; data & analytics

With more than 7,000 employees worldwide and an unmatched global footprint, Starcom provides Human Experiences (HX) at scale, offering a seamless coordination and consistency to clients around the world. We put people at the forefront of everything that we do. Through our proprietary HX approach, we design Human Experiences that close the gap between what people want and what brands need to grow and thrive. We believe that when we combine our deep understanding of people with our unmatched expertise in media, magic happens and experiences get invited in, not filtered out. Starcom is part of Publicis Media, the media solutions division of Publicis Groupe.

SERVICES: Digital & performance marketing solutions; data; CX; CI; media planning/buying; measurement

TECH PARTNERS: Epsilon, Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, META, TikTok, Amazon

KEY CLIENTS: NEOM, Dubai Tourism, P&G, Samsung, McDonald’s, Visa, Stellantis, Puig

AWARDS: 11 MENA Effies 2022 (Lead & Supporting Agency) including 3 Gold, 3 Silver, 3 Bronze; Dubai Lynx #2 Media Agency of the Year


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Joyce Hallak General Manager Starcom Levant Amer El Hajj Chief Investment Officer, Publicis Media Bassel Kakish Groupe CEO, Publicis Groupe Racha Makarem CEO Starcom ME Jad Saab General Manager Starcom KSA Khaled AbouNader Chief Product Officer, Publics Groupe

Praxis Advertising

Founded: 1999

Headquartered: Dubai

Head of Company: Amitabh Swarup

+971 4 328 4843

In the fleeting world of digital ecosystem, we create thumb-stopping content. From snackable to shoppable, our content strategy covers every aspect of the customer journey – awareness, engagement, intent to purchase. In a nutshell, from mind, to heart to cart.

KEY CLIENTS: IIM Ahmedabad Executive Education, GEMS Education, Tokio Marine Insurance, Best Insurance, Pirelli

SPECIALISMS: Lead generation, social media management, website UI & development, SEO, content strategy & design


Founded: 2007

Head of company: Anisha Patel

Push has won more Google Premier Partner awards than any other agency in EMEA. We were founded in 2007 and work with companies looking to grow quickly. Our speciality is the speedy execution of the latest marketing techniques. We are also a Preferred Partner for Facebook and a Select Partner for Microsoft.

SERVICES: Paid search, paid social, programmatic, analytics, lead generation, shopping

Precise Communications

Founded : 2005

Heads of company: Ashik Hasim and Gopal Aswani

Precise Communications is a holistic digital communications agency offering solutions developed in-house. Our end goal is simple: bring brands, businesses and consumers together through a holistic and precise approach. Precise Communications is also the leading provider of messaging solutions offering AI, SMS, Email, WhatsApp and more.

SERVICES: Messaging services (SMS, email and WhatsApp); digital media and performance marketing; website and app development; branding and creatives; events and PR

KEY CLIENTS: Dubai Municipality, Emarat, Al Ghandi, Estee Lauder, Bobbi Brown, Dubai Frame, Dubai Safari, Joyalukkas, Adnoc

Radix Media

Founded: 2017 Headquartered: Dubai CEO: Mohan Nambiar +971 4 560 6100

Introducing a new era of communications planning. Built as a consultancy practice with a leadership team consisting of the best there is in the industry across media planning, data and insights, strategy, digital and creative content. Providing expert knowledge and experience across industries, we put consumers at the heart of our planning and are focused on client business growth. We are spirited, ambitious and agile. We are Radix.

Founded: 2001

Holding group: Middle East Communications Network (MCN) / Interpublic Group (IPG)

Headquartered: Dubai

Number of staff: 450+

+971 4 445 4545

UM is part of Mediabrands, the number one media agency group in the region as per RECMA. At UM we are committed to futureproofing our clients’ businesses and their growth for the now and the next. We help our clients triumph by creating meaningful end-to-end experiences for consumers that win hearts in culture, win minds in community and win wallets in commerce.

SERVICES: Consulting; content marketing; data; digital marketing; holistic analytics; influencer management; media buying; media planning; mobile marketing; performance marketing; programmatic; research; search; social; technology solutions

KEY CLIENTS: stc, Emirates, Nespresso, Dyson, Reckitt, Al Shaya Group, FAB, L’Oréal Middle East, Hershey’s, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, RAK Bank, Spotify, Sony, Talabat, Vimto, American Garden, Honeywell, JA Resorts, Mattel, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, Orange Egypt, Manga, Byblos Bank, Qatar Foundation, Getir, Hayat, IsBank, Givaudan, Qatar Islamic Bank, Dubai Duty Free, Exxon Mobil, Palm Hills, Developments, Qatar Football Association, Vodafone Qatar

AWARDS: # 1 Media Agency in the MENA region for 5 years in a row and 2nd highest score globally as per RECMA in 2021; Effie MENA 2022 ( 3 Bronze) MMA Smarties Awards 2021 ( Agency of the year, 10 Gold, 6 Silver, 5 Bronze); Effie MENA 2021 (3 Gold, 3 Silver and 3 bronze) 2 MENA Search Awards 2020 (2 Gold) 3 MENA Digital Awards 2019 ( 3 Gold); MMA Smarties Awards 2019 (Agency of the Year, 12 awards)


DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 83
Maria Poulton Managing Director, UAE Hanan Tabsh Managing Director, Lower Gulf Joe Nicolas CEO, MENAT James Dutton Regional Digital Director, MENAT Mohammad Mannaa Managing Director, KSA Rasha Karim Managing Director, Egypt

RAPP Middle East

Founded: 2014

Head of company: Colin Talbot, associate managing director

RAPP Middle East is where creativity and empathy meet data and tech to drive value for both brands and consumers. In today’s world we know people’s needs and wants evolve almost daily. We believe big ideas can thrive in complex, datadriven ecosystems and still touch people’s hearts and minds.

KEY CLIENTS: MetLife, Upfield, Kellogg’s, MG Motor, BMW, Emirates Group SERVICES: Brand, digital and social strategy; social media content creation; creative; CRM; integrated digital communications.


Founded: 2014

Headquartered: Dubai

+971 4 334 1140

RAW comprises a team of digital natives who take ordinary briefs and deliver extraordinary outcomes by bringing innovative flair to every project. We cover all aspects of the fast-paced digital world to offer comprehensive and strategic solutions and utilise them within a plethora of platforms ranging from social to mobile, and everything in between.

SERVICES: Social media marketing; social media monitoring; website design and development; e-commerce brand establishment and activation; digital media buying; programmatic campaigns

KEY CLIENTS: Arabian Automobiles Company, Dubai South, Dubai Land Department, Dubai Judicial Institute, Wasl Group

RBBi (Red Blue Blur Ideas)

Founded: 2011

Heads of company: Amol Kadam & Devesh Mistry (co-founders)

RBBi (Red Blue Blur Ideas) is the only UX-led digital solutions provider in the region to combine an in-house usability lab together with research, design, SEO and digital analytics specialisations. Partner with us for research, testing, design, SEO or analytics and work with some the best international and local talent here in the region.

KEY CLIENTS: RTA, Tecom, Al Fu aim Automotive, TRA, DHA, MAF, Dubai Municipality, Jazeera Airways, ADNIC

SERVICES: UX/UI; usability testing; research; SEO; analytics

Science & Sunshine

Founded: 2016 CEO: Nadine Ghossoub

Science & Sunshine is a story-driven, fearlessly creative advertising agency that smells wonderful. We believe passionately in the power of brands, and that all good selling is good story-telling. Our philosophy is ‘always never be boring’, and we try to inject that into our creative product every day.

SERVICES: Integrated advertising, social and digital strategy and analytics, content planning, content creation

KEY CLIENTS: Netflix MENA, Peugeot Middle East, Virgin Mobile UAE


Founded: 2004

Headquartered: Dubai (MENA) and London (Global)

Number of staff: 92

+971 4 450 7300

Wavemaker is a top-five global media network. Our roster of products and services has been built with a single aim – to positively provoke growth for clients and our people through our new operation system consisting of three speeds of growth. As part of GroupM and WPP, we are continually developing our offer to deliver growth in a fast-changing consumer world. Many of our most progressive capabilities are core to clients, including e-commerce, content and precision marketing. Our leading global consultancy has experts to solve any communications challenge, from go-to-market e-commerce strategy to digital transformation.

TECH PARTNERS: Tealium, Google, Meta, TikTok, Twi er, Snapchat, YouGov, Sizmek, MoEngage, MOAT, Amazon

KEY CLIENTS: Huawei, GIG, Netflix, Perfe i Van Melle, Colgate, Dubai Islamic Bank, Ford, Friesland Campina, Netflix, RTA, MDLBEAST, Honor, Darwish Holding

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 84
Vikrant She y Head of Content Julien Trad Head of Client Servicing Marc Ghosn Regional Managing Director Marie Abiad Head of Strategy Nadine Es-Sinawi Head of Growth


Founded: 2010

Head of Company: Akanksha Goel

+971 4 368 9277

We are the region›s largest socially led creative agency with an integrated offering across creative, media and tech. We help forward-thinking brands connect culture to commerce. Socialize became part of the We Are Social Group in 2018, giving us the largest geographical footprint of any socially -led agency in the game.

SERVICES: Social editorial creation & management; strategy; research & insights; performance digital media buying & optimization; video production; sound creation & production; influencer & content creator collaborations; creative technology & website development; Tik Tok advertising

KEY CLIENTS: adidas, Sony, Switz Arabia, Expo 2020, Riot Games, Azadea, Mediclinic

Reach MENA

Founded: 2010

Head of company: Mazen Hallaway, CEO and founder

Reach MENA specialises in providing a premium brand advertising portfolio for local and international clients. We offer digital advertis ing and premium display solutions covering popular lifestyle verticals, smart TV advertising, native advertising and data-driven travel advertising.

SERVICES: Travel Audience by Amadeus; Emirati Audience; LG Smart TV

Serviceplan Group Middle East

Founded: 2010

Chief creative officer: Akhilesh Bagri

Heads of company: Rami Hmadeh; Natalie Shardan; Azhar Siddiqui; Frances Bonifacio

Serviceplan Group ME is the 2022 Independent Agency of the Year at Dubai Lynx. It is part of Serviceplan Group International, 2022 Cannes Lion’s Independent Network of the Year, based in Munich. It opened its doors in Dubai in 2010 and has since offered clients integrated services under the ‘House of Communication’ across all agency brands, focusing on the delivery of Übercreative work: Serviceplan, Serviceplan Experience, Mediaplus and House of Gaming.

SERVICES: Fully integrated 360-degree approach; digital & performance; social media; tech-led activations; esports & gaming

KEY CLIENTS: BMW Group, Bridgestone Middle East, TECOM Group, Danone Nutrition, CEQUENS, OQ, Bayut-Dubizzle, Abdul Latif Jameel Group, Abbott Diabetes Care, Cardex

Spark FRH

Founded: 2020

Head of Company: Nathalie Farah

We combine storytelling with the latest digital marketing research to create content that’s infused with creativity and insight. We keep up with the market’s fast-changing best practices as part of our drive to empower clients with unique content that’s crafted with knowledge and purpose-driven research and strategies.

SERVICES: Consultation; content marketing; social media; strategy; research


Founded: 2018 merger

Head of company: Nassib Boueri, CEO MENA

Number of staff: 750+


Wunderman Thompson is a growth partner – part agency, part consultancy, part technology company. We inspire growth by applying inspiration everywhere across the consumer journey. Our inspiration is borne of bringing creativity, data and technology together.

SERVICES: Commerce; communications; consulting; CRM; CX; data; health; production; technology; apps

KEY CLIENTS: Microsoft, STC, Dubai Tourism, Jotun, Shell, Unilever, Nestle, GSK, Burger King, Renault, Coca Cola, Vodafone, Johnson & Johnson, Almarai, Zain, PIF, FAB, BAT, HMD Nokia

AWARDS: Dubai Lynx 2022: 1 Grand Prix, 2 Gold, 4 Silver, 9 Bronze; MENA Effie 2022: 1 Gold, 4 Silver, 6 Bronze; Clio Awards 2022: 1 Silver, 1 Bronze; Caples Awards 2022: 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 4 Bronze; One Show 2022: 1 Merit; Addy Awards 2022: 2 Gold, 1 National Judge’s Choice Award; WARC MENA 2022: 1 Silver, 2 Bronze

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 85

Founded: 2013

Number of staff: 65 Offices: Dubai Beirut Cairo

+9714 425 5944


YouExperience is an independent communication agency that has an unapologetic drive to move at the speed of culture and save the world from boring communication. After nine years and counting, what makes us different is our ability to create brave strategies and creative solutions that look, feel, and hit different. Hello, we are strategists, creatives, geeks and technologists that are on a mission to #DoUnboring.

KEY CLIENTS: Gillette, Venus, Ariel, Tide, Oral-B, Crest, Pantene, Head and Shoulders, Oreo, Ritz, Flake, Toblerone, Barni, Relx, Al Osra Sugar, Afia Oil, Estaz, Clorox, Bayara, Modern Mills, Pure Harvest, Saudi Goody

SERVICES OFFERED: Transformational brand strategies; data analytics; crossmedia integrated campaigns; digital storytelling; branded activations; shopper marketing; social media management; MR (mixed reality) gaming; e-commerce optimisation; and more.



Chief Creative Strategist, YouExperience


Generative AI was a true game changer in 2022 with Midjourney, DALL-E, ChatGPT and about 160 other platforms. Imagine, we can now use AI to make incredible auditory, visual, and written creations with simple directive prompts. Don’t worry, humans are not being replaced… just yet.

While generative AI laid the groundwork, there are deliberate limitations. For example, ChatGPT’s knowledge cut-off is 2021. But we have undoubtedly entered a new era of knowledge. Working with AI is a part of our collective consciousness and we’ve transitioned from ‘if’ to ‘how’. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone old enough to remember brands and agencies mocking the idea of social media when it first appeared. Generative AI is social media times a billion.

spectrum: big ideas, tactical concepts, scripts, headlines, storyboards, 3D renders, website code and more. This is already a possibility and there’s still a lot unimagined.


Just like the advent of social media, our industry was sluggish to adapt. The knee-jerk reaction was to take the $100,000 TVC, make it longer and post it. Spoiler alert, that was and still is the wrong approach. You’ll find it hard to get a recommendation for even 30 seconds from anyone at TikTok.

Our biggest challenge is to own the process and figure out how to use this seamlessly, while adding value.


Embrace generative AI. Take the risk, experiment, go live, course correct and integrate it into your eco-system. Generative AI is not just a tool for imitating; it’s capable of making things that are entirely new. The biggest success is going to be about building the future today, not improving yesterday.

yesterday. Think of the impact. If 95 per cent of your customer service is entirely automated with ChatGPT to mimic real human responses – and can speak to every single customer simultaneously with zero waiting time. If your competitor implements this, how does that affect you?

The real question is, was this really written by me or by ChatGPT?



Generative AI will completely transform our industry. As it evolves (which is already faster than anything out there), we will end up integrating it across the entire advertising


Think, how can generative AI transform your business in 2024 and act now. It’s not about spitting out a headline or a visual; that is so

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 86
Martino O’Brien Brand Experiential Director Fadi Nakhle Managing Director Vijay Simon Chief Innovation Officer Maria Akmaji Client Servicing Director Fay Abou Hassan Head of Digital Sachin Mendonca Chief Creative Strategist

Starfish Agency

Founded: 2017

Head of company: Amer Massimi +971 4 457 8678

Starfish is a leading micro-influencers agency in the GCC region that runs creative influencer marketing campaigns for the region’s biggest brands. Starfish operates an app with over 10,000 influencers from the region. We launch influencers campaigns at scale, given our solid relationships with most of the influencers around GCC countries. Our influencers database has the attributes client look for: relevance, reach & trust.

SERVICES: Influencer marketing; influencer strategy; content creation; influencer analytics; reporting

KEY CLIENTS: Samsung, Ralph Lauren, Molten Brown, Maxfashion, Wunderman Thompson


Founded: 2013

Head of company: Mike Khouri, managing director

Tactical is a social-first creative agency that delivers bold mobile experiences, driving global brands to the intersection of innovation and culture. We’re here to build a legacy and be the changemaker of how agencies operate. We offer a full-service approach, closing the loop between strategy, content, distribution and intelligence.

KEY CLIENTS: Spotify, Amazon, Etihad Airways, Jumeriah

SERVICES: Strategy, content, distribution, intelligence


Founded: 2000

Head of company: Reda Raad, group CEO

Headquartered: Dubai

TBWA\RAAD is The Disruption Company. We use creativity to help businesses challenge the status quo and capture an unfair share of the future. We use trademarked Disruption methodologies to help businesses address their challenges and achieve transformative growth.

SERVICES: Integrated marketing communications; strategic brand management; advertising and content creation; digital; social and mobile; public relations

KEY CLIENTS: Abu Dhabi Government Media Office (ADGMO), Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), Apple, AWR Rostomani Arabian Automobiles, CNN, Daikin, du, Essence, Henkel, Hilton, Hub71, Injazat, KFC, Max Fashion, Meta, NEOM, Nissan, P&G, Pepsico, Pfizer, Philips, Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC)/Mayo Clinic, Stake, Standard Chartered, UAE Government Media Office

Team Red Dot

Founded: 2010

Head of Company: Raksha Khimji

A full-service advertising agency specialising in ad tech solutions, we guarantee campaign amplification through real-time reporting and detailed analysis to maximise reach while optimising budgets. Our regional insights and diverse client portfolio have helped us build an extensive web of media expertise.

SPECIALISMS: Data analysis and consumer research; AI-driven ad tech; mobile marketing; SEM, SEO and app store optimisation; performance marketing

Founded: 2005

Head of Agency: Firas El Zein, CEO, Zenith ME

Number of staff: 250+

+971 4 367 6309

Zenith is the ROI agency, a position we have proudly held true to since 2005. Over the years, we have evolved our definition of ROI, as it has changed with the evercomplicated communications landscape. Powered by our best-in-class proprietary tools and data, our work spans the full spectrum of media communications, from analytics, data and technology to performance marketing, content and superior trading. Our unique way of thinking inspires growth for leading brands across the region and globally. Zenith is a part of Publicis Media, the media division of Publicis Groupe.

SERVICES: Digital & performance marketing solutions; data; CX; CI; media planning & buying; measurement

TECH PARTNERS: Epsilon, Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, META, TikTok, Amazon, Adobe, Snap

KEY CLIENTS: BMW ME, Nestle ME, Disney, Bel ME, Red Bull, Essity, Luxottica, Tik Tok, Ralph Lauren, Saudia Airlines, Royal Commission of AlUla, Bank Muscat, Oman Tel, Ooredoo

AWARDS: DDubai Lynx: Media Network of the Year; 5x Grand Prix; 5 x Gold; 4 x Bronze. Festival of Media: Cause Campaign Award; 1x Gold; 1x Silver; 2x Bronze. MENA Digital

Award: Best Performance Campaign, Best Integrated Media Campaign, Best Use of Video. MENA Effies: 2x Gold;1x Silver


DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30 , 2023 87
Nael Halabi General Manager, Zenith KSA & Kuwait Hedi Hemaya General Manager, Zenith Egypt Bassel Kakish Groupe CEO, Publicis Groupe ME Firas El Zein Chief Executive Officer, Zenith ME Ibrahim Kalash General Manager, Zenith Oman Amer El Hajj Chief Investment Officer, Publicis Media

The Tribe

Founded: 2006

Head of company: Robert Mitchell, CEO

We are a creative tribe. A digital transformation tribe. A branding tribe. A tribe that wants to make great work, to craft fantastic experiences that delight people and drive business. Combining strategic and creative thinking with tech know-how. We innovate. We deliver. We solve.

KEY CLIENTS: AAbu Dhabi Global Market. ACWA Power. Al Masaood. Dubai Tourism. Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi. Goethe Gulf. MBZ Fund. Royal Commission for Makkah and the Holy Sites

SERVICES: Branding; campaigns; design; social; UI/UX srategy; design and build

Ubrik Media

Founded: 2009

Head of company: Monash Unny

Headquartered: Dubai;

We are a digital marketing agency in Dubai. We help businesses improve their marketing and sales through leveraging media, social media, web design and content marketing. That being said, we have expertise in digital media planning and buying, social media management, content marketing and inbound marketing for large B2B companies in the region, and we have been doing it for almost a decade.

SERVICES: Demand generation, digital media, content and inbound marketing, sales and marketing automation, marketing strategy and website development


Founded: 2017

Heads of company: Karl Mapstone, head of Middle East; Gill Findlay, CEO

Vamp is a platform that connects brands with digital creators. Whether for influencer marketing or content creation, its tech streamlines the collaboration process. With its global, invite-only community of creators, Vamp is able to bring its clients including Adobe, Huawei and TikTok highly effective campaigns.

SERVICES: Influencer marketing (original content shared with engaged audiences); bespoke mobile content (available raw, or in optimised ad formats); ads and paid media (targeted amplification of influencer content)

VMLY&R Commerce MENA

Founded: 2021 (formerly Geometry MENA)

Headquartered: Dubai

Head of company: Nick Walsh, CEO

VMLY&R COMMERCE sits at the centre of WPP’s commerce and experiential pillars, offering brands future-fit solutions that lead to conversion. We focus on the inseparable relationship that binds CX/UX with shopper XP to deliver tangible solutions at the moments that matter.

KEY CLIENTS: Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Arena, British American Tobacco, Twitter, Colgate, The Galleria Al Maryah Island Abu Dhabi, Roads & Transport Authority, Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, BP Castrol, Global AI Summit, Dubai Taxi Corporation

Warriors Truly Fearless

Founded: 2023

Headquartered: Riyadh

Heads of company: Walid Soueidi & Fadi Saad

Warriors Truly Fearless is an independent advertising agency dedicated to delivering bold and creative, innovative, smart, and efficient solutions. The agency is founded and co-led by Fadi Saad and Walid Soueidi, two heavyweight veterans of the marcomms industry in Saudi Arabia and MENA. The agency was born from the belief that every brand should be a warrior to attain and maintain leadership in a complex and fast-moving environment. The Warriors specialise in accelerating brands and businesses’ performances through intelligence, planning, and foresight.

Watermelon Communications

Founded: 2001 Head of Company: Madhu Kuttat

At Watermelon, our digital experts with proven track records offer services to clients and develop overall digital brand and marketing strategies that are in sync with their communication objectives. Internet marketing, designed to meet needs of today’s consumers, provides measurable results for companies. In April 2018, Watermelon joined with 3AW, a global network of independent full-service communication agencies.

KEY CLIENTS: Ambassador School, Logicom, Royal Brunei Airlines, Transfast, Weetabix

SERVICES: Digital strategy and marketing; mobile network advertising; social media advertising; programmatic advertising; SEO, SEM and Google Display Networks

Wetpaint Creative Digital Solutions

Founded: 2007

Offices: Dubai (HQ), Beirut, Jeddah and Riyadh.

Chairman: Roger Sahyoun

+971 4 453 7711

Wetpaint provides digital solutions ranging from web development to social networking, mobile applications, planning and strategising, content management, crisis management and social media policies among others. Breaking the typical, Wetpaint’s umbrella of thorough professionals ensures that through their industry knowledge, creative intellect and efficient utilisation of technology, successful digital strategies and campaigns are conceived that match the needs of the constantly evolving and diverse digital scene.

Yellow Branding Consultancy

Founded: 2017

Head of company: Mamta Varerkar

Yellow is a brand management consultancy based in Dubai Design District, which creates, revitalises and manages brands to drive growth and business change. Yellow is a boutique agency that has successfully launched new, innovative brands such as Cafu, and has worked with legacy brands including Barakat and Pan Emirates to revitalise them.

DIGITAL AGENCIES January 30, 2023 88



Founded: 2008

Headquartered: Los Angeles, Istanbul and Singapore

+971 4 405 4100

AdColony is the premier in-app marketplace for brands and agencies to reach consumers on the most intimate screen in their lives with 100 per cent measurable, transparent and brand-safe inventory and industry-leading viewability.

SERVICES: Thanks to our award-winning Aurora HD Video, Aurora HD Playables, and Instant-Play HD Video technologies, coupled with support for IAB standards for video and display, AdColony offers the most flexible and most effective campaign options in the industry


Founded: 2002

Headquarted: Copenhagen

Adform is the only global, independent and fully integrated advertising platform built for modern marketing. Its unique enterprise technology – Adform FLOW – harnesses superior user experience and a scalable, modular and open architecture to enable seamless management of the whole campaign lifecycle. It provides clients with enhanced control and transparency across their advertising operations, including ownership of all data from their campaigns.


KEY CLIENTS: Vodafone, Ikea, BMW, Coty, H&M


Founded: 2017

Headquartered: London

Head of MENA region: Janira Hernandez

Ad-Lib is a creative management platform for brands to store, deploy and optimise all digital creative, enabling every ad to be useful and relevant to the consumer. Our creative automation technology with AI for image resizing and video editing enables brands to scale creative globally.

SERVICES: Creative personalisation, auto trafficking, creative AI automation, DCO, programmatic creative

KEY CLIENTS: Johnson & Johnson, HSBC, Etihad Airways, Etisalat, Dubai Tourism, Reckitt Benckiser, Nestle, American Express, Dyson, Estee Lauder, Shell, L’Oréal, Sony, Samsung


Founded: 2012

Headquartered: London

+971 4 425 3300

Adludio is a global, independent creative tech trading desk that specialises in marrying brilliant creative, optimised with real-time data and media decisioning. Accumulated data and knowledge is used in tandem with their proprietary tech and algorithms to design, build and then deliver a creative first ad experience. Campaigns are delivered on a CPE (cost per engagement) model.

SERVICES: Rich media sensory mobile advertising; data-driven marketing; brand impact optimization.

MENA PARTNER: The TechVantage

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Admitad Partner Network

Founded: 2009

Head of company: Alexander Bachmann

Headquartered: Germany


Admitad is a partner marketing platform that provides a suite of hi-tech solutions for advertisers, publishers and influencers oto help them grow their businesses globally with strategic partnerships.

SERVICES: Partner Marketing, CPA, Performance Marketing, Content Monetization, Media Buying Services

KEY CLIENTS: Huawei, Lenovo, Adobe,, Radisson, Nike, adidas


Founded: 1998

Heads of company: Guillaume de Roquemaurel & Vincent Luciani (Global), Rahul Arya (MENA)

Artefact is a next-generation data services provider, specialised in data consulting and data-driven digital marketing, dedicated to transforming data into business impact and tangible results across the entire value chain of organisations.

KEY CLIENTS: Nakheel, Dubai Tourism, Samsung, Dubai World Trade Center, DAMAC, Ooredoo

SERVICES: Data Consulting, Digital Marketing Activation, Data Marketing Strategy, Adtech/Martech Consulting


Founded: 2013

Heads of company: Mahmoud Fathy, Mohammad Khartabil, Gulrez Alam +971 50 659 5787

ArabyAds empowers e-commerce marketing. It offers digital advertising platforms across different touchpoints of a brand’s journey. ArabyAds leverages innovation and delivers measurable results with data-led, transparency-first and omnichannel marketing.

PARTNERS: Oracle, Huawei Ads

SERVICES: New user acquisition and conversion, user retention, user monetisation, social commerce, influencer marketing, OEM-based app marketing, programmatic marketing


Founded: 2018

Headquartered: Germany

+971 4 425 3300

AstraLab is an in-image contextual advertising solution powered by AI to analyse and process more than 5,000 attributes in real time to determine if brands associate with the editorial text and images in a meaningful and relevant environment before serving the ad. We deliver our expertise and technology to more than 200 advertisers across sic markets (Germany, Russia, Estonia, Poland, UK, Middle East).

SERVICES: Contextual advertising solution

MENA PARTNER: The TechVantage


Founded: 2010

+971 4 454 5454

Digital Media Services (DMS), a Choueiri Group brand, specialises in powering innovative communications strategies – helping brands reach their consumers across the MENA region and beyond. We exclusively represent more than 25 leading Arabic and international websites reaching more than 100 million unique browsers, namely Anghami, Dailymotion, Kooora, Viu and Sabq. Complementing our unique portfolio, our investments in first-party data, adtech and programmatic solutions have established us as leaders in video and performance solutions via DMS Video and InMotion. Our team is committed to helping you tap the full potential of your brand’s story via our market-leading branded content services through DMS Content and DMS Studio.

SERVICES: Programmatic solutions, creative media support, research, custom-made audiences, measurement, branded content, native content distribution, outcomebased solutions.

AD TECH January 30, 2023 90
George Zakkour Regional Head of Trading and Partnerships Omar Moukachar Head of Digital Operations Ziad Khammar Chief Operating Officer Sally Makarem UAE Managing Director Daniel Young Yield, Inventory and Programmatic Director Julien El Anati Business Director Anghami KSA

Audience Collective Middle East

Founded: 2021

Head of company: Jess Hickman, managing director

Headquartered: Dubai

We are masters of momentum. We combine talent with technology to create momentum for the world’s biggest brands. As a collection of over 200 specialists across the globe, we support clients with all their marketing needs with experts specialising in branding, social media, SEO, media buying, research, web and analytics

KEY CLIENTS: Al Ain Farms, Mohammed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence and Rochester Institute of Technology

SERVICES OFFERED: Branding, social media, SEO and content, media buying, analytics and profiling


Founded: 2009

Head of company: Paul Goad, CEO

Head of MENA region: Phillipe Khouri

Crimtan are the global experts in total lifecycle marketing for programmatic. Launched in 2009, the company’s mission is to be a trusted partner who delivers the most relevant, consented programmatic advertising, that drives exceptional incremental ROI across every stage of the customer lifecycle. Crimtan has offices across the world, including London, Chicago, Dubai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.

SERVICES: Programmatic advertising; consent management; sequential messaging; creative studio; data management


Founded: 2005

Headquartered: Paris, France

+971 4 556 9000

Criteo is the advertising platform for the open internet, an ecosystem that favours neutrality, transparency and inclusiveness. 2,700 Criteo team members partner with more than 19,000 customers and thousands of publishers around the globe to deliver effective advertising across all channels, by applying advanced machine learning to unparalleled data sets.

KEY CLIENTS:, Sephora, Microsoft,, Sun & Sand Sports, Jumia, Namshi, Starsplay

Deloitte Digital

Founded: 2019

Headquartered: UAE (

Deloitte Digital supports clients in making a connection with the future to develop new solutions, new strategies, and new partnerships – to unlock a new type of growth that is sustainable, yet abundant.

SERVICES: Develop strategies for new growth, build customer engagement from lead to loyalty, architect the business to work for real people, define brand purpose and take the lead on ESG, one-stop shop for creativity and technology to create better business futures.

MENA PARTNERS: Adobe, Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Google, Meta, AWS, Informatica, and ServiceNOW

Founded: 1969 Head of agency: Ashish Sinha, Managing Director APAC & MEA +971 4 818 9593

Epsilon is a global advertising and marketing technology company positioned at the centre of Publicis Groupe. Epsilon connects advertisers with consumers to drive performance while respecting and protecting consumer privacy and client data. Epsilon accelerates clients’ ability to harness the power of their first-party data in order to enhance, activate and measure campaigns with confidence. Epsilon believes in an open, privacy-first advertising ecosystem. Over decades, it has built the industry’s most comprehensive identity graph to give brands, agencies and publishers the ability to reach real consumers across all channels and the open web.

SERVICES: Next generation privacy first data driven marketing; integrated ID-driven platform that delivers real 1:1 dialogue with consumers at scale; widely globally awarded loyalty, CDP, omnichannel marketing, clean Rooms technologies

KEY CLIENTS: Deliveroo, Landmark Group, DP World, Walmart, McDonald’s, Marriott, Nespresso, FedEx

AWARDS: Leader, Forrester Wave Customer Data Strategy & Activation Services, 2022; Leader, Forrester Wave Email Marketing Service Providers, 2022; Leader & Strong Performer, Forrester Wave Sell-Side Retail Media Solutions (CitrusAd & Epsilon), 2021; Leader, Forrester Wave Loyalty Solutions, 2021; IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Customer Data Platforms Focused on Data and Marketing Operations Users, 2022; Leader, IDC Marketscape: Worldwide Customer Data Platforms Focused on Data and Marketing Operations Users, 2021; Digiday Technology awards winner, Best partner Clean Room, 2022; Campaign Award CRM & Media 2022


AD TECH January 30, 2023 91
Rajesh Verma Business Development Director Paul Wallis Sales Director Ashish Sinha Managing Director APAC & MEA Patrick Sim Senior Vice President Sales APAC & MEA Saira Mehdi Sales Director Marwan Remman Client Development Director


Founded: 2022

Head of company: Nabil Moutran

Headquartered: Dubai, UAE

Division, launched in 2022, is a digital marketplace platform for gamers to connect with brands for collaboration opportunities. Gamers link their social profiles and streaming platforms and make themselves available for brands to identify and select them for content opportunities.

SERVICES: Connection with content creators, campaign activation, campaign management, campaign analytics

MENA PARTNERS: Agencies, brands, esports teams, gamers, events, tournaments


Founded: 2012

Headquartered: France

DynAdmic, a platform for precision reach, is a digital media marketplace that allows brands to reach over 1 billion people every month globally. Our unique proprietary technology uses audio recognition and AI semantic analysis helping media agencies and direct advertisers target their qualified and relevant audience based on their real time interest.

PARTNERS: MOAT, IAS, Youtube, Nielsen, Comscore, DV360, Campaign manager

SERVICES: Video ads; off-social story ads; contextual targeting; keyword precision targeting; brand safety; fraud protection; share of voice studies


Founded: 2001

Headquartered: Paris and New York

Head of company: Arnaud Créput

Equativ offers independent adtech platforms to serve advertisers and publishers. It provides brand and privacy-safe solutions while respecting the rights of consumers and combines client expertise and engineering excellence to serve both the supply-side and demand-side.

KEY CLIENTS: McDonalds, Unilever, Nestle , BMW, Nissan, Mercedes, Jaguar, SC Johnson, Playstation, Starbucks , Adidas, Ferraro Rocher, Sephora, Esteelauder, Ford, Procter & Gamble, Louis Vitton

SERVICES: DSP, SSP, Adserver, curation platform, media solutions


Headquartered: Hamburg, with offices in Paris, London, Dubai +971 4 551 5746

Facelift Cloud is an all-in-one social media marketing and management suite. Official Instagram and Facebook marketing partner, WhatsApp business solutions provider. Works to enhance social customer experience.

SERVICES: SaaS social media marketing and management suite, tech solutions for enhancing Instagram stories and AMPs, social listening and monitoring, UGC-management, influencer marketing, employee advocacy

KEY CLIENTS: Avaya, Chalhoub, Etisalat, KIKO, Lulu Hypermarkets, Magrabi, SkyNews, QA

Founded: 2009 globally, 2016 in MEA

Headquartered: Paris

Number of staff: 160 globally, 12 FTE in MEA +971 4 4427307,


Gamned! is a digital media buying expert company, a part of Biggie Group with a strong expertise in programmatic. Gamned! addresses all media challenges on desktop and mobile from branding to acquisition and retail media activations. Gamned! combines human expertise and cutting-edge technology to offer best inclass digital media consultancy and multichannel campaigns (display, mobile, social media platforms, native, video, audio, DOOH, Digital TV, in-Game) to advertisers and agencies, allowing them to target their audiences through agnostic multi-DSP buying, real-time messages customization (DCO) and specific tech bricks. Gamned! operates in 9 territories including Benelux, Brazil, France, Italy, MEA, SEA, and Switzerland.

TECH PARTNERS: XandR, Google, The Trade Desk, Verizon Media, Zemanta, Amazon, Meta, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tik Tok, Waze, Deezer, Displayce, Moving Walls, Bidstack, Adsquare, Lifesight, Oktium, Happydemics

SERVICES: Digital media planning & Buying; Programmatic Advertising Campaigns with Managed Trading Desk Service; Social Media platforms; Specialized and Audio platforms, as well as digital radios; Connected TVs, DOOH, In-Game; Search, SEO and SEA audits; Drive to Store, Ad-to-Call technologies; DCO: Dynamic Creative Optimization; Creative execution production; Report & Consolidated dashboards; Brandlift surveys; Digital Media Consultancy and clients’ accompaniment.

KEY CLIENTS: Gamned! has already successfully optimised more than 2,500 programmatic campaigns across 90 countries and delivers every month about 3 bn customised ads for more than 250 clients.

AD TECH January 30, 2023 92


Founded: 2015

Headquartered: Dubai

+971 4 455 3067

PARTNERS: Loopme, Adimo, Reuters, Future X, NEXD, Future Influence

SERVICES: Business intelligence; content marketing; creative technology; digital ad solutions; digital content distribution; media automation services; mobile marketing; online video advertising; programmatic media; technology

KEY CLIENTS: OMG, MCN, Havas, Denstu Aegis, Mastercard, MTN


Founded: 2008

DoubleVerify is a software platform for digital media measurement and analytics. We make the digital advertising ecosystem stronger, safer and more secure.

SERVICES: Authenticates media quality, powers performance for platforms

Inskin Media

Founded: 2009

Headquartered: London

+44 203 301 9099

SERVICES: Rich media; display; programmatic; data; premium environments

HAWKEYE – Interactive Video Technology Platform by IAS Media

Founded: 2019

Head of company: Ali Asgar Mir

+971 4 4475760

HAWKEYE is the first real-time interactive video technology platform in the MENA region that helps brands generate higher levels of engagement than the regular video banners. HawkEye’s interactive features allow content creators to produce compelling videos that can be made more relevant and informative.

IQ Data

Founded: 2016

Headquartered: Dubai

IQ Data provides location data-driven products and services for clients in the retail, education, automotive, ad tech and OOH sectors. IQ Data’s core product GeoPlace processes large datasets mapped across venues and points of interest to derive competitive industry intelligence, deeper understanding of customers for audience targeting and predictive analytics for critical business decisions.

PRODUCTS: IQ GeoPlace (geo-location analytics and audience segmentation DMP); IQ Halo (geo-spatial data creation and validation technology); IQ Audiences(custom geo-behavioral audience segments); IQ Wi-Fi (wi-fi analytics)

Founded: 2016

Headquartered: Dubai Head of company: Sachin Wawdhane

Number of staff: 26 + 971 4 390 8178


Performena is an independent Agency Trading Desk (ATD) backed by in-house technology and data-driven ad operations specialists. It is headquartered in Dubai with offices in Mumbai, Singapore and Miami. Performena is one of the few home-grown ad tech companies in the region. Its meticulously accurate audience-targeting coupled with fraud filtration and high viewability enables the desired returns on advertising spends. Our main products are Target - a Meta DSP: Smart Media Buying Platform; Convergist: Comprehensive Campaign Tracking Solution; Trails: Website Events & Measurement Tool; and Xtend: Publishers’ Yield Optimization & Header Bidding Solution.

TECH PARTNERS: Amazon Web Services, Google for Developers, Google Marketing Cloud, Xandr, Verizon Media, Microsoft/Yahoo Search.

SERVICES: Ad Tech Solutions, Buying Platform, Media Strategies & Execution (Standard Campaigns, CTV, DOOH and Audio), Tech Integrations, Outsourced Operations Management

KEY CLIENTS: Hala Ride, Emirates Draw, World Tennis League, Mindshare, Dentsu Aegis Network, OMG, Team Red Dot, Havas Media, Precise Communications, Assembly Global

AWARDS: Outstanding Organization Award 2022 by the Marketing 2.0 conference (Global Brand Builders & Marketers)

AD TECH January 30, 2023 93
Irfan Mirza

Founded: 2023

Headquartered: Dubai

Number of staff: 10

We are a contextual advertising platform delivering contextually relevant marketing communications by understanding the image of the article, analysing the article’s content, and determining the brand’s relevance to ensure brand safety, suitability and viewability. With our innovative ad formats, brands can build a substantial recall value and consideration to achieve their key business objectives.

IN-IMAGE ADS AND IN-SCREEN ADS: Applying the visual recognition capabilities to understand the relevancy of the images with the brands and using deep content analysis to determine the relevance of the content to match the brand’s communication.

KEY KPIS: Band relevancy, Brand Safety, Viewability and Attention


The global COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the rate of digital transformation over the last couple of years. However, we have seen a major shift in digital strategies toward increased use of video content. While the cookieless era looks unclear, marketers have started adapting new strategies that goes beyond cookies. We will witness an increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) as it continues to power the technology behind many services including content creation, chatbots and search engines.


First-party data will lead the way for advertisers in a cookieless future. The use of AI in digital marketing will become increasingly popular and for a good reason.


The debate around ‘human intelligence vs AI’

is one of the biggest challenges that has kept researchers on the edge for AI services in companies and start-ups. These companies may boast of accuracy over 90 per cent but humans can do better in all of these scenarios. For example, let our model predict whether

the image is of a dog or a cat. The human can predict the correct output nearly every time, mopping up a stunning accuracy of above 99 per cent.

For a deep learning model to perform a similar performance would require unprecedented finetuning, hyperparameter optimisation, large dataset and a well-defined and accurate algorithm along with robust computing power, uninterrupted training on train data and testing on test data. That sounds a lot of work – and it is.

One of the ways to avoid all the hard work is by using a service provider— they can train specific deep learning models using pretrained models. They are trained on millions of images and are fine-tuned for maximum accuracy. However, the real problem is that they continue to show errors and would struggle to reach human-level performance.


AI-driven digital marketing campaigns will provide faster and more accurate insights into customer behavior, leading to higher campaign success rates. Marketers should not only use AI for analytics but also to create content and automate processes. With social media apps heavily relying on AI to provide relevant and in-depth insights into their users’ experiences, the use of AI should be used to elevate their strategies in 2023.

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Herman D’Souza Co-Founder Taha Kazmi Co-Founder Halyna Salame Agency Partnerships Co-Founder TAHA KAZMI INDUSTRY SNAPSHOT LEADERSHIP PANEL


Founded: 1970

Headquartered: The Netherlands

+971 4 560 1200

As part of LexisNexis Legal & Professional, we are the leading global provider of regulatory and business information and analytics that help professional customers make better decisions, increase productivity and serve clients better. Our leading products and services are used throughout the world and in virtually every industry and area of business.

SERVICES: Media monitoring and analytics; due diligence and compliance; research databases; news media archives; social media monitoring and analytics


Founded: 2015

Headquartered: India

mFilterIt is a fast-growing global digital assurance, diligence and safety enabler. It helps the ecosystem to optimise engagement with customers and other stakeholders by eliminating fraudulent transactions like fake installs, bogus engagements, etc. The solutions also help brands in monitoring brand in real-time and protecting it from any kind of digital abuse and comply with regulatory codes.

KEY CLIENTS: Unilever, ESPN, Noon, OYO, Max, Cred, Starzplay, Virgin SERVICES: App fraud protection, web fraud protection, brand safety, brand infringement, e-commerce assurance


Founded: 2015

Headquartered: India

+971 4 425 3300

mCanvas is a storytelling platform that helps brands emotionally connect with their audiences on mobile screens. Our innovate custom-built executions deliver user interaction and engagement creating memorable brand impact by etching phone sensors and device features into the brand narrative. mCanvas is creating ‘wow’ moments every day by reinventing formats, building tools and providing a marketplace to run these experiences at scale.

SERVICES: Sensory rich media; storytelling; award-winning ad platform

MENA PARTNER: The TechVantage


Founded: 2016

Headquartered: Beirut

+961 1 813 414 +966 11 279 0700

Founded in 2016, Mediatronic is a technology-driven ad network, built around three key pillars: reach, technology and ROI. We’re focused on delivering performance surpassing market averages, whilst being the most equipped ad tech company for fraud detection, viewability and brand safety.

SERVICES: Mobile advertising, video advertising, display advertising, performance marketing, programmatic solutions

Founded: 2007

Head of company: Mark Rabe, CEO

Number of staff: 400

+971 45 850741

Sojern is a leading digital marketing platform built for travel marketers. Powered by artificial intelligence and traveler intent data, Sojern provides multichannel marketing solutions to drive direct demand. 10,000 hotels, attractions, tourism boards and travel marketers rely on Sojern annually to engage and convert travelers around the world.

With unrivaled travel data and insights, developing targeting strategies and leading prospective travelers along a path to purchase becomes simpler than ever. Sojern is headquartered in San Francisco, with teams based in Dubai, Dublin, London, Omaha, Paris, and Singapore.

TECH PARTNERS: Facebook, Google, Bing, The Hotel Network

SERVICES: Smart Online Advertising for Hotels; Attractions; Destinations; Cruises; Transportation; Travel marketing solutions; Programmatic; Multi-channel; Social Media; Search Engines; Metasearch

KEY CLIENTS: Accor; Abu Dhabi Tourism; DAMAC Hotels & Resorts; Minor Hotels; Marriott; Jumeirah; Kerzner International

AWARDS: Sojern has ranked amongst the top digital marketing Agencies globally in the 2023 HotelTechAwards. The HotelTechAwards are produced by Hotel Tech Report, a leading authority on hotel software and digital transformation in the hotel industry.

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LEADERSHIP PANEL Manja El Masri Senior Manager Customer Success Stewart Smith Managing Director, MEA Christopher Gregory Pasha Senior Sales Director, MEA Sverre Christiansen Senior Sales Manager, MEA


Founded: 2016

Headquartered: Dubai

+971 4 514 8554

MMP World Wide (MMPWW) is the leading premium global programmatic marketplace. Powered by state-of-the-art technologies and in partnership with DMPs, MMPWW offers a trading ecosystem with targeted inventory, insights, and analytics. Employing a combination of in-house tech expertise with valuable strategic industry alliances, MMPWW equips its clients with the tools and knowledge to better monetise their digital advertising inventory and improve campaign performance. The company also educates its stakeholders on building a safer media ecosystem through the use of ad-tech solutions. With its headquarters based in Dubai, MMPWW has extended its global operations to service and access more than 40 countries, with a growing network of more than 500 publishers and 55 buyers.


Founded: 2019

Head of Company: Mazen Hallaway, CEO and founder

PiWheel is an eCommerce intelligence and consultancy company based in Dubai. Our technology activates data, automates execution, and optimises e-commerce marketing performance for brands in UAE, Saudi, India and Australia. Our consultancy grants brands access to the highest level of e-commerce expertise to scale and convert more shoppers with improved content, advertising and operation.

SERVICES: Strategy; content; operations

Petal Ads

Founded: 2018 (Petal Ads); 1987 (HUAWEI)

Headquartered: Dubai (regional), Shenzhen (global)

Petal Ads is a leading adtech company, reaching over 4 billion daily ad requests and 360k publishers globally. With advanced data analytics and targeting options, Petal Ads provides untapped audience pools for businesses looking to succeed in mobile advertising.

SERVICES: on-device marketing, DPA shopping ads, smart delivery, video tool in Venus

KEY CLIENTS: Tiktok, Shein, Viu, Yalla Group, Snapchat, Emaar, Landmark Group, STC, ADCB, etc.

MENA PARTNERS: Connect Ads, ArabyAds, MCN, Social Clinic, etc.

Project Agora

Founded: 2014

Headquartered: Dubai

Powers local publishers to increase the value of their visitors. Using data science, programmatic technology and unique native ad formats, It increases publisher pageviews and revenue by successfully matching billions of advertising impressions with thousands of local and international advertisers.

SERVICES: (For publishers) automated monetisation; yield optimisation; header bidding; outstream video; content discovery. (For advertisers) brand safety and premium context; media buying; native advertising (content & video) formats

MENA PARTNERS: Al-Khaleejiah, Argaam, Brandformance, Donia Al Watan, Gemini, Gulf News, Red Media, Regie Alfa Sal, Sarmady, Skynews Arabia


Founded: 2019

Head of company: Natasha Van As +971 4 425 3300

The TechVantage brings global leading AdTech and MarTech solutions to the Middle East. We work across agencies and clients to meet and exceed their campaign objectives through strategic planning, effective implementation of innovative solutions as well as campaign tracking and analytics. By combining premium supply, first party data and customized solutions our platforms have won multiple global awards since 2006.

TECH PARTNERS: Adludio, AstraLab, mCanvas, Mediasmart, WSJ, Insider, The Economist, SCMP, Buzz Feed, Skyscanner, WeChat, Tencent and many more.

SERVICES: The TechVantage offerings include capabilities such as Connected TV and Cross Screen Targeting; AI-Driven Contextual Targeting; Rich Media Sensory Ads; AR; Native Solutions; Video; Performance Driven Ads and Programmatic Premium Supply.

KEY CLIENTS: Nestle, Burberry, JLR, The Address Hotel Group, Yaqoot, FABIC, Rivoli Group, Himalia, Dolce and Gabbana, Al Rawabi, GE, Neom, Microsoft, Accor Group

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Dipen Patel GM business performance Manoj Khimji Managing director Natasha Van As Head of business Mohamed Shariq Campaign manager


Founded: 2016

Headquartered: Dubai

+971 4 277 8522

The leading VR and AR organisation in the UAE. We provide ready-to-activate and custom-built virtual and augmented reality solutions for product launches, conferences and exhibitions, entertainment, CSR, job training and health and safety.

SERVICES: Virtual reality; augmented reality; mixed reality; 360-degree video; web applications

SHAREit Group

Founded: 2015

Headquartered: Singapore

+971 56 246 9520

SHAREit is one of the world’s largest online and offline advertising platforms that provides users with content streaming, gaming and file sharing service. SHAREit has 1.8 billion users worldwide and more than 70 million monthly active users in MENA. In 2020, SHAREit was recognised as the fastest growing media publisher globally by AppsFlyer.

SERVICES: Performance solutions, impact/awareness solutions in display and video advertising formats, retargeting and re-engagement solutions.

Simplifai Labs

Founded: 2018

Headquartered: Dubai

+971 50 456 8261; +971 52 910 7317

A marketing technology company that places ads alongside the most relevant and brand-safe environment, protecting brand reputation without storing online cookie data. Our deep learning technology captures in real-time websites’ content sentiment and the emotions that triggers in visitors, prior to placing the ad. This has demonstrated 25 per cent improvement in return on ad spends.

SERVICES: Brand safety; high viewability; contextual relevance; cookie-less targeting

KEY CLIENTS: Maxus, Omnicom Group, Publicis Media, Radix Media, Wavemaker, DU, EMAX, Emirates NDBD, Himalaya, Mashreq Bank, Marmum, NBO, Noor Bank, RTA, Volkswagen, Zomato



Headquartered: Cairo

+971 50 297 7325 (UAE)

An integrated digital marketing solution provider with the largest Arabic display network and the first content discovery and recommendation platform in MENA. Our technology enables publishers to boost users’ engagement and monetise their online presence, and allows advertisers to target potential customers and promote their brands.

KEY CLIENTS: We serve more than 13,500 world-class publishers and advertisers, are trusted by more than 1,500 publishers and used by more than 12,000 of the GCC and MENA region’s leading brands and advertisers.

SERVICES: Native advertising; media; online marketing; internet marketing; display advertising; digital advertising

MENA PARTNERS: Connect Ads, Khaleejtimes, CNN Arabic, Sabq, Argaam,, Mubasher,MSN, Youm7, Gemeni Media

Tailwind EMEA

Founded: 2014

Headquartered: Dubai

+ 971 427 983 94

An advertising and marketing technologies solutions Integrator that enables publishers, advertisers and advertising agencies to cut through the complexity of their digital business and drive it fast-forward. The preferred partner of Sizmek, by Amazon, Xandr by AT&T and GlobalWebIndex in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe & Middle East and North Africa region.

SERVICES: Ad server, ad management, dynamic creative optimization, ad verification, DMP, DSP, SSP, yield analytics, audience profiling & segmentation, media planning & buying

MENA PARTNERS: Mindshare, Dentsu, Phd, Fusion5, MediaTech, JLR, VW, Colgate Palmolive, Chanel, Richemont, Argaam, Okaz, 4Sale


Founded: 2009

Headquartered: Luxembourg

Talkwalker is a listening and analytics company that empowers more than 2,000 brands and agencies to optimise the impact of their communication efforts. We provide companies with an easy-to-use platform to protect, measure, and promote their brand worldwide, across all communication channels.

SERVICES: Social content ratings, video recognition, customer data, PR & communications, digital marketing

KEY CLIENTS: Adidas, Spotify, Oglivy, Wunderman, Yves Rocher.


Holding company Altice

Headquartered: New York (global), Dubai (regional)

+971 44 34 42 34

Teads, The Global Media Platform, is the single access point for advertisers to connect to the world’s best publishers and reaches a monthly audience of 1.9 billion people. Teads’ made-for-mobile ad experiences deliver the best combination of mass reach and brand safety in the market. Teads’ end-toend platform provides a sustainable advertising ecosystem that respectfully connects brands to consumers.

SERVICES: Teads Ad Manager, Viewable Video & Display, Teads Studio, Teads Prediction AI, Teads Audiences, Teads Contextual Targeting, Carbon Emissions Calculation, Attention Measurement

TECH PARTNERS: Moat, IAS, Grapeshot, Double Verify, Realeyes, TTD, DBM / DV360, Appnexus, Amazon A9, Oracle, Nielsen

The Commerce People

Founded: 2022

Headquartered: Dubai +971 4 455 3067


SERVICES: eCommerce Services and Technology: PPC campaign management, Amazon marketplace management services; Ecommerce reporting & analytics intelligence technology; Creative ad builds; Website and SEO services.

KEY CLIENTS: Caffe Luxe, Oxygen, Dingis Baby Boutique

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TTV Programmatic Premium Supply Network

Founded: 2019

Headquartered: Dubai

+971 4 425 3300

The TTV Programmatic Premium Supply Network brings the world’s leading premium publishers to the MENA region, making them accessible through PG deals. This enables cost-effective and targeted programmatic inventory, layered with some of the world’s most powerful data management platforms to deliver consistent successful campaigns.

SERVICES: Programmatic supply; programmatic guaranteed inventory

KEY PARTNERS: WSJ, The Economist, Insider, Bloomberg, The Times, F1, Skyscanner, Ixigo, Daily Mail, Buzz Feed, The Hindu, Indian Express, SCMP

MENA PARTNER: The Techvantage

Turbine Media

Founded: 2017

Headquartered: Dubai

+971 4 454 1159

Turbine is a new breed of media platform based on social creativity and instant marketing. It connects brands with creative social media fans and influencers who share their moments and stories about advertisers’ campaigns. Turbine aims to build a meaningful relationship between brands and people; it utilises the suggested shared content reflecting the real spontaneous moments of social creators’ posts that enhance their authenticity among their friends and fans.

SERVICES: Influencer marketing, data driven influencer platform, social paid partnerships


Founded: 2006

Headquartered: London, United Kingdom

+971 4 425 3300

Unruly uses emotional data to deliver brand-safe awesome advertising to 1.2 billion people. We win minds and steal hearts through the power of a datadriven video marketplace. Our superpower is the emotional data solution, UnrulyEQ, with a decade’s proprietary data and tech, machine learning and people-powered intelligence.

SERVICES: Premium media, emotional data, brand safety, interactive video ads, unmissable video ads, vertical video, in-stream

MENA PARTNER: The TechVantage

Founded: 2001 (Formerly Exponential Interactive)

Head of company: Dilip DaSilva, chairman and CEO is a global video advertising technology company. We help brands magnify the magic of their TV ads by connecting the TV with household members› personal devices and allowing consumers to interact with their TV ads on those devices. Our solutions are specifically designed to address each industry vertical›s unique challenges. Our mid-funnel video solution helps magnify a brand in the minds of their most valuable prospects, deepening the connection through attention, relevancy, interactivity and frequency.

KEY CLIENTS: Works with the top 500 fortune brands locally and globally

SERVICES: TV Magnify, Video Magnify

Ve Global

Founded: 2009

Headquartered: Dublin +971 4 425 3300

Ve’s data driven technology products help businesses of all sizes and sectors attract and convert the right audience, with the right message at the right time. Ve’s unique approach combining programmatic advertising with conversion optimisation solutions allows advertisers to seamlessly connect and personalise the advertising, onsite and remarketing experience for customers.

SERVICES: Performance; conversions; programmatic advertising; remarketing MENA PARTNER: The TechVantage

Warriors Truly Fearless

Founded: 2023

Headquartered: Riyadh

Head of company: Walid Soueidi & Fadi Saad

Warriors Truly Fearless is an independent advertising agency dedicated to delivering bold and creative, innovative, smart and efficient solutions. The agency is founded and co-led by Fadi Saad and Walid Soueidi, two heavyweight veterans of the marcom industry in Saudi Arabia and the MENA. The agency was born from the belief that every brand should be a warrior so to attain and maintain leadership in such a complex and fast-moving environment. The Warriors specialise in accelerating brands and businesses performances through intelligence, planning, and foresight.

SERVICES: Digital marketing and communications, digital brand activation, campaign creation, brand and marketing consultancy, brand planning


Founded: 2011

Headquartered: Shenzhen, China

+971 4 425 3300

WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app developed by Tencent. First released in 2011, it became the world’s largest standalone mobile app in 2018, with more than 1 billion monthly active users. WeChat has been described as China’s ‘app for everything’ and a ‘super app’ because of its wide range of functions.

SERVICES: Official account development; social media marketing; content marketing; WeChat advertisement; Mini Programs ecosystem; Tencent Cloud

MENA PARTNER: The Techvantage

Yandex Ads

Founded: 2001

Headquartered: Lucerne, Switzerland

Yandex is a technology company with 25 countries of operation that builds intelligent products and services powered by machine learning. Yandex Ads is a leading ecosystem with access to the Russian speaking audience as well as worldwide retargeting solutions for businesses in E-commerce. MEA market is one of the key priorities with a special team dedicated to the region to help companies expand their business.

SERVICES: Retargeting, advertising, behavioural targeting, ad tech solutions, Internet advertising

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Saudi focus

The apple of the Saudi eye

Hashtag’s Nada Alarifi looks at Snapchat and TikTok as the Kingdom’s preferred social media platforms

Internet penetration in Saudi Arabia is high, and Saudis are among the most social-media-savvy nations in the world. With millions of users on social media platforms, Saudis are increasingly using the networks to communicate and share content. It is no surprise that Saudi Snapchat and TikTok usage is on the rise.


The largest factor driving the popularity of social media in Saudi Arabia is its population demographic. Saudi Arabia has a very young population with more than 70 per cent of Saudis under 35.

This demographic is highly engaged with social media and is likely to use platforms such as Snapchat or TikTok. In fact, more than 73 per cent of Saudis actively use social media, making them one of the most active social media users in the world.


Snapchat is currently the Saudi favourite, with TikTok closing in fast.

According to Global Media Insight, Snapchat currently has 24.14 million MAUs (monthly active users). TikTok is right behind Snapchat with 22.32 million MAUs.

On average, Saudis spend 53 minutes on TikTok each day. For Snapchat, the daily time spent is a staggering 77 minutes during the month of Ramadan.


There are several factors, besides the young demographic, that drive the popularity of Snapchat in Saudi Arabia. For one, the younger generation places significant value on keeping up their relationships with family and friends. For them, Snapchat is the perfect way to communicate with and share their daily lives with people close to them.


Snapchat itself dedicates significant focus to further developing features for the Saudi market. Since launching Arabic Bitmoji stickers in 2018, Snapchat has released new AR lenses specifically made for the Saudi market.

According to Saudi Snapchat regional head Abdulla Alhammadi, Snapchat continues to grow because it taps into the rich storytelling tradition of Saudi culture.

One of the most popular features of Snapchat is the Story function, which allows Saudis to string together a series of snaps and share them with their followers. This has become a popular way to share news, events and everyday moments with friends and family.

A great example was the #Mecca event where pilgrims streamed their live stories on Snapchat.

Going even further, Snapchat released more than 40 new shows and lenses for Ramadan, which is the most active month of the year for Saudi Snapchat users.

Another great example was Saudis coming together and commemorating one year since the late King Abdullah’s passing by sharing their prayers and sadness via their Snapchat stories.


Although TikTok hasn’t released as many targeted features for the Saudi market as Snapchat has, that hasn’t hindered the platform›s rising popularity.

A big part of TikTok’s appeal is its short-form video format, which makes it easy to consume and share.

But Snapchat doesn’t leave out parents either.

Snapchat opened its family centre in Saudi Arabia to promote the safety of Snapchat users. It also released a tool that gives parents more control over their children’s activity on social media. It gives parents access to their children’s friends lists and the ability to see who they talk to without being able to read the conversations.

A study conducted by Kantar and Snap Inc. showed that 71 per cent of Saudi parents now use Snapchat.

Saudis are people with a lot of talent and creativity, and TikTok provides the perfect outlet for them to express themselves. This is due to a variety of filters, music, and editing cuts that the platform offers.

According to an interview with a Saudi content creator named Mishal, TikTok allows him to be more creative and spontaneous when creating content.

The same goes for Saudi women, who expressed they enjoy the entertaining aspect of the app. From dance and comedy videos to fashion and makeup tips, Saudi TikTok users are constantly creating innovative and original content.

With the current rate of growth TikTok is experiencing, it might overtake Snapchat as soon as this year.

Overall, the popularity of Snapchat and TikTok in Saudi Arabia is due to a combination of factors. From the country’s young population to the rise of social media influencers, Saudis are increasingly using these platforms to communicate and share content.

social media
‘‘On average, Saudis spend 53 minutes on TikTok each day. For Snapchat, the daily time spent is 77 minutes during Ramadan.’’

Saudi focus

Gen Z made us do it

Five ways Saudi Businesses can target younger consumers in their 2023 digital strategy. By Assembly’s Lauren Hey

The global pandemic generated a worldwide shift in the consumer landscape, prompting an urgent need for businesses to reassess their existing strategies, with the number of individuals making purchases online accelerating at an unprecedented rate.

In 2022, 80 per cent of people between the ages of 17 and 38 shopped online frequently in the Middle East. It’s no surprise that the ever-intriguing Gen Z and millennials have transformed how businesses

target consumers. With Saudi Arabia expected to become the largest market in the MENA region, businesses must take initiatives to harness their power at this pivotal stage.


At the end of 2022, an estimated 360 million people globally are thought to have used a ‘buy now, pay later’ scheme, with more than half of these users being Gen Z and Millennials. As digital natives, they have evolved with technology, making them quick to adapt to new digital movements. The attractiveness of a buy now, pay later scheme provides the younger generation with the freedom to manage finances as per their needs.

The launch of Tabby in 2019 proved instrumental in making online shopping more accessible to 1 million users across the UAE and KSA. In KSA alone, 55 per cent of online purchases in 2021 were made via buy now, pay later methods. Deferred payments are anticipated to soar in the coming years, making this the prime time for businesses to adapt and expand their digital payment options to attract Gen Z and millennial shoppers.


Gen Z and millennials value a need for speed when it comes to online shopping. Quick delivery is among the most critical factors the younger generation considers before purchasing. Almost half of Gen Z says that the most frustrating aspect of online shopping is waiting for deliveries to arrive.

The rise in instant delivery services in Saudi has grown significantly, nurturing customers’ need for instant gratification and raising the bar regarding delivery times. The likes of Instashop – a platform that guarantees goods within an hour – and Amazon Same-Day Delivery has inspired more brands across the region to prioritise the demands of their customers in this way.



Social media usage in Saudi has been growing substantially year-on-year, with users almost tripling since 2016. Today in Saudi about 82 per cent of the entire population uses some form of social media daily. People spend approximately three and a half hours on social networking sites as a generation that craves connection.

The power of social media was magnified during the pandemic, where an increasing number of people turned to social media to stay connected and entertained, and to shop. The Middle East witnessed a 93 per cent increase in social media shoppers. The rise in popularity of short-form video platforms such as TikTok contributed to the shift in how customers interact with brands and purchase goods. TikTok is now considered the third-most influential platform for convincing the Gen Z audience to purchase. Trends like ‘TikTok Made Me Buy It’ and ‘As Seen On TikTok’ have further indicated a pivotal moment in how brands and businesses can unlock their potential. Now, 32.6 per cent of internet users go online to buy products, reportedly making this the third most popular reason for visiting social media.

While short-form videos appeal to a Gen Z market, millennials make up YouTube’s largest audience. Saudi users reveal themselves to be the world’s most dedicated viewers, consuming about one hour’s worth of video every day on the platform.


Throughout history, the younger generations have always been trend trailblazers. With the new-age influencer culture, it’s not a surprise that Gen Z and Millennials are at the forefront of exposure. But what is the significance of influencers, and are they still relevant?

Saudi users spend, on average, almost three hours on social media every day. That’s a total of 29.5 million social media users in Saudi who are scrolling on their devices. A recent study shows a breakdown of how individuals in Saudi use the internet. 29 per cent go online to find out what people are talking about, 28 per cent check out celebrities and influencers and 27 per cent are looking for things to buy.

Given these numbers, influencer marketing remains a popular method for helping businesses reach consumers. But it has now changed.

Gen Z and millennials pay less attention to mainstream influencers and celebrities but prefer authentic creators who engage with their audience and share relatable content they can trust. They take longer to convert when shopping online and prefer recommendations from family, friends, blogs, and reviews. By using micro-influencers to cultivate a genuine community amongst their followers and share credible content, Saudi businesses can nurture their relationship with a Gen Z audience.


The way the Gen Z and Millennials are influenced is different from those who came before. Previous generations bought products based on advertisements around them, without the concept of emotional connection.

Gen Z prefer to support something they feel connected to. They are focused on sustainability, ethical consumption and social awareness. Brands need to be transparent about their goals and engage in practices relevant to their values.

If Saudi businesses are to adapt to the founding principles of the newer generation, they must communicate a clear brand identity that echoes the beliefs of their target audience.

In a world of ‘cancel culture’, it’s more crucial than ever for brands to adapt their narrative and provide their customers with the answers they need.


Gen Z and millennials are reshaping the way businesses are operating. With Saudi set to become one of the fastest-growing economies, defined digital marketing strategies, enhanced business models, and genuine commitments to younger consumers can lead businesses in the region’s e-commerce capital to see considerable growth for 2023.

January 30, 2023 101

Ramsey Naja


Ireally wanted this column to be a fond and slightly cringe-making farewell to Austyn Allison, Campaign ME Editor and Collector of Bizarre Social Media Posts At Large. But this will have to wait. We have more urgent matters afoot because, you see, we’re all going to die.

Yes, I know, we’ve been here before. Advertising doomsayers and industry obituary writers have been so busy in the past decade or so you’d think they’d even managed to switch to the kind of hybrid office-WFH model that would make holding companies drool. With the sudden emergence of artificial intelligence as an HR party-pooper, they’re now having to ditch holiday plans, because suddenly they find themselves competing with more existentialist prophets and, oddly, I am finding myself inclined to listen to both sets of charlatans.

I mean, you really have to marvel at humanity’s suicidal tendencies. Whenever we’re not cheerfully committing one kind of genocide or another, we’re either busy inventing our own diseases, turning our habitat into one big French onion soup in which we are the croutons, or actively looking for a way to make ourselves entirely redundant.

In our industry, it appears that we have succeeded on the last point. Exeunt copywriter/art director teams, enter ChatGPT and Midjourney. In fact, exeunt the entire creative department and their collection of unpleasant attitude issues. Enter the more agreeable holding companies’ real estate accountants to repurpose their offices into meeting rooms. In these meeting rooms, CMOs and business directors can exercise their ability to feed instructions to advertising’s equivalent of Terminator’s Skynet, while clinging to the faint hope they won’t get ChatGPT-ed themselves. Meanwhile, and in the same doomed creative departments, we have blinkered, lazy but switched-on fools who, like dinosaurs fashioning their own meteor, are cheerfully using the instruments of their own demise while claiming author rights for what they should be sued for under copyrightinfringement rules.

At this point, I am not just lending a new ear to the doom-sayers, I am happily joining them, even urging a faster path to oblivion. Let it rot. Let this sorry excuse for ‘creativity’ transport the whole lot of lemmings to the inevitable cliff. Let us burn in the fire of our own making, together with the pointless, fraud-ridden Frankenstein that the industry has become so that, with any luck, true commercial reality will rise from the ashes and give real creators their due credit.

Wishful? Probably. But we can either carry on in the naïve hope that ‘AI is our friend’, or just ditch the whole sorry mess, lie down on a beach with an enormous daiquiri and wait for a positive outcome from Armageddon – which is probably what Austyn plans to do in Thailand. Genius.


Reflecting on life gives us meaning. I have been fortunate and grateful to be in the media communications agency world for 28 years and counting. The years have gifted me with a rich learning experience, insights, discoveries, countless wisdom takeaways and principles that led to success.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Maybe your true potential is much above theirs. Others are not the right benchmark for your growth, happiness and well-being. Follow your dreams, not people. Chase for the best version of yourself and follow your dreams. People can come and go, but your dreams stay with you forever. Seek discomfort. You will be amazed to see what you are capable of accomplishing.

Detachment is powerful. When you detach yourself in challenging situations and focus your efforts on the key task at hand, that improves your well-being, and you reach the highest level of leadership. Intelligence beats emotions. Avoid ambiguity in your decision-making by keeping emotions at bay and using an intelligent, rigorous approach.

Mind your own business. It keeps you focused and helps you grow. Take responsibility for yourself and develop self-awareness. Have clarity in what you want, put a laser focus on that and you’ll get what you focus on. Ignore people longing for status, they’re a waste of time. It is best to avoid those who only care about accolades, and credits. We are all humans and humility, honesty and concern for others are immutable. Seek wealth, not money. Wealth has a stronger foundation. Seeking money could be at the expense of your values.

Fall seven times, get up eight. Nothing else puts the power of resilience and persistence simpler than this Japanese proverb. Reinforce these ethics in all facets of your life; you will see the magic. If you can’t fix it, keep trying. It will eventually work because every time you fail, you keep on improving and find better ways to fix it.

Remain consistent. Consistenc, not mere motivatioy will carry you to your goalsn. Look ahead and remain resilient. Keep moving forward, and you will acquire greater understanding, new perspectives and clarity.

No matter what stage of life you’re in, life is a journey, and it never stands still. The possibility of growth is always there.

January 30, 2023 102
Exeunt copywriter/ art director teams, enter ChatGPT and Midjourney. In fact, exeunt the entire creative department and their collection of unpleasant a itude issues.
Managing partner, Talon MENA CHADI FARHAT
Ramsey Naja is regional executive creative director at DDB Middle East. @geminisnake

So this is goodbye

Our first issue of the year is largely given over to predictions, and this time last year I couldn’t have predicted I’d be writing these words now: This will be my last column as editor of Campaign

Middle East

To cut a long-ish story short-ish, I met a wonderful woman whose company offered her a transfer to Thailand – and I said I’d go with her to Bangkok. We even got married. It’s been an eventful few months.

So it’s with reluctance but pride that I will be handing the reins of this title to… well, that’s to be confirmed, but whoever it is will be taking on something wonderful that I’m very proud of.

In my six and a half years in the driving seat, I have seen Campaign transform from a solid fortnightly title to more of an all-inclusive brand.

Our website is the place to go to for all industry news and has many more readers than the magazine. We have regular events. We have podcasts. And social media.

And staff. I am leaving behind some amazing colleagues who have helped our transformation. Ishwari, Jalaja, Remy and Nadeem are the core team, but not the only team. There is also Motivate’s events department, our web team, production, photographers, HR, IT and the rest of the Motivate family. All those behind-the-scenes people who stay out of the limelight but are essential to the success of Campaign and keeping me sane, and to whom I owe a massive debt of thanks for their professionalism, friendship, tolerance, dedication and kindness. Other colleagues left before I did and are already doing great things elsewhere, but were just as much part of this journey.

The industry has transformed too. In too many ways to list in one column, although I hope the past 118 issues since I took over have done that job.

There’s been the good, such as the region’s first Cannes Grand Prix wins; the bad, including the passing of some industry greats; and the ugly –

Covid-19 and most TikTok crazes.

Since I took on this editorship in 2016, Dubai has hosted the Expo, Qatar has hosted the World Cup, the UAE has made peace with Israel and Saudi Arabia has reinvented itself.

I have been privileged to see all this and to lead the voice of the industry through it all. It has been an honour to share it with all of you. I have made many contacts and many good friends and many who fall in between (there should be a word for those people you don’t hang out with one-on-one but who you always see around, are friendly with and will miss).

But it will take more than emigration to get rid of me. You might bid me farewell but I’ll still be around – like Covid. After 17 years in Dubai I’ve got too many friends and too much history here to make a clean break. To prove that point, I’ve already agreed to fly back and host some panels at Lynx.

If you need a freelancer – to edit, host events or clean your kitchen – I’m open to offers. And get in touch when you are next in Thailand. That’s now my personal email below my picture. I’m all over social media, so follow me there and I’ll follow you back.

Of course, I’ll continue reading Campaign to see what all of you are doing. It will be great things, I’m sure.

So perhaps it’s more fair to say this is au revoir, rather than goodbye. I doubt we have seen the last of each other. And I certainly hope we haven’t.

Until next time, then, it’s been a ride. Thank you.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Jeff Bezos is founder of Amazon, the first trillion-dollar company. Amazon sells more than 600 million different items, and controls 40 per cent of online sales in the US.

Yet the company is only 25 years old – what sort of mind makes that happen?

In 1994, Bezos was one of the first to spot the internet – at the time it was tiny but it was growing at 2,300 per cent per year. Bezos thought there would soon be lots of money made selling goods over the internet.

So far so good, but what should he sell? This was the real creative leap. Unlike a conventional retailer, he didn’t need a physical display or storage space.

So what was a single, simple item that he could sell without storing, that a conventional retailer couldn’t?

Bezos found there were three million different book titles available around the world, but even the biggest bookshop on the planet couldn’t stock more than 150,000 titles. So Bezos could offer customers a choice 20 times bigger than the biggest bookshop.

It was a revolutionary vision. Bezos had an amazing mind, but that doesn’t mean it could think of everything. He says one of the most

amazing ideas he heard was when they just started – in the early days he got down on his knees with the rest of the staff and packed books.

One night his knees were aching, he stood up and rubbed them. He said to the guy next to him: “My knees are killing me, we need knee pads.” The guy next to him said: “No, we don’t need knee pads Jeff, we need tables.”

Bezos thought that was the most brilliant idea he’d heard: instead of solving the problem of aching knees, buy tables so people don’t have to work on the floor. Bezos said efficiency immediately improved at least 200 per cent.

Now to us that’s the most obvious thing in the world, because we don’t think like Bezos. To Bezos, it seemed absolutely brilliant, because he doesn’t think like us.

And that’s why Bezos loves to have people around who don’t think like him.

He said getting new customers was easy compared with getting more business from existing customers. So they brainstormed, and one his junior software engineers came up with an idea based on restaurants. Amazon customers love free postage, how about an all-you-caneat postage deal?

And that was the birth of Amazon Prime: a single yearly payment that means however much you order that year, it’s postage free. At first it seems like a massive cost, having to pay for all that postage. But it actually becomes an incentive to purchase more often, since the postage is free.

Amazon Prime now has 100 million members, and on Amazon Prime Day in 2019 it delivered $2bn in sales.

Bezos doesn’t think like us, but he appreciates the value of that difference.

In 2018 he said: “People come up and congratulate me on my latest set of numbers, but to me that’s ancient history, I worked on those numbers two years ago. The numbers I’m thinking about today are for two years’ time.”

What frees Bezos to think like that is he has people doing what he isn’t: thinking about now, the day-to-day.

People thinking about the small stuff, without which he wouldn’t be free to think about the big stuff.

And that has to be the secret of a great entrepreneur.

Spot where you’re strong and do that. And spot where you’re weak, and get people you trust to do that.

January 30, 2023 103
AUSTYN ALLISON Editor @maustyn
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
January 30, 2023 104
“It’s self-expression while being on trend.” (BD)
(CB) Deliveroo… “A reminder of the alternatives – cook myself or eat out.” (CB) Nissan… “A simple execution that feels inclusive.” (BD) Property Finder… “An impactful campaign that lands the product benefit clearly and succinctly.” (BD) 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.
Burger King Kuwait… “The gold
and his nephew are

Private View


Chief brand officer, Pizza Hut Middle East and Africa


A quirky idea that leverages food bloopers to land that Deliveroo works super hard to deliver quality food to consumers’ homes. The idea, while being fun, feels indulgent and over the top. In a world where consumers are using Audible and Kindle, creating a real-life print book does not quite hit on relevance. It does make one wonder how many people are going to buy this, apart from people working at Deliveroo. The concept felt like a roundabout complex way of getting at the insight. Consumers seek delivery concepts like Deliveroo for convenience, the primary idea being that they don’t really want to cook at any cost. Making a cookbook of all the deliveries gone wrong feels counterintuitive.


What’s not to like about this work? A simple yet impactful execution that feels inclusive and addresses a cultural event making people that celebrate Diwali feel like they belong in the Middle East. The music enraptures you and pulls you in, and you stay glued to watch what the Nissan Patrol is up to. There is a sense of adventure as the Nissan rides through the desert, only to lead to a warm sense of belonging as it forms the rangoli.


An impactful campaign that lands the product benefit clearly and succinctly. Love that the brand leveraged consumer insights and data to arrive at the insight and creative idea. This campaign won’t be a Cannes contender anytime soon, but there is a lot to be said for the smart and simple creativity. Loving the short edits and examples used, and the creativity, which lends itself well to the digital space.


Absolutely love when global meets local. Love that Adidas explored Gen Z habits and attitudes in the Middle East and brought this to life in a clothing line. In a world influenced by the western world, Adidas normalises sports and Middle Eastern clothing. It’s self-expression, in a cool and confident manner, while being on-trend. A sure winner.


An innovative concept that leverages a gold expert to review its product. It’s a long film and could have been a lot more concise. Would have loved to know more about the Golden Edition Range from Burger King and see what’s special about it. The concept spent more time on the expert and the souk than on the brand itself. The production style did not do much to elevate the food qualities for what is supposed to be a premium range of burgers from Burger King. Overall, it’s a 5/10 from me.


Associate creative director, Living Room Dubai


This is great from the context of an award. A beautifully shot cookbook made up of one-star reviews might even make a good comedy gift for people who’ve had their fair share of delivery disasters. Though it doesn’t make me want to order and just serves as a reminder of the alternatives –cook [for] myself or eat out. Instead, communicating the fair wages and decent health insurance that their riders hopefully receive as they risk their lives to bring me a burger is a campaign I could really get behind.


A Nissan Patrol, followed by a drone through the stunning red dunes of Mleiha. Could it be more stereotypical? Thankfully not, as the campaign takes a handbrake turn in the sand as the tyres create a Diwali rangoli. There are some beautiful dune shots, but nothing to get too excited about.


Most people here have experienced the farce of finding a home in a market littered with cowboy agents and fake listings. Property Finder’s Get What You See does a fantastic job highlighting those pain points, and the insight resonates. If 44 per cent of people looking for a home need trust, I think more info on what makes Superagents so super would definitely help.


This #BringIt campaign really communicates the anticipation and possibilities of what’s to come in the region. After all, we’re living in unprecedented times from a technological and cultural point of view. The mixed 2D animation video tracking is playful and on-point. Definitely my pick of the bunch.


Launching a premium category, Golden Edition burger for Kuwait’s burgeoning gourmet scene could’ve gone so wrong, if it had relied on the usual smorgasbord of foodie influencers. The gold expert and his browbeaten nephew are comedy gold.


One-Star Cookbook

Agency: And Us

Production: And Us

Photographer: Magali Polverino

Nissan Desert Rangoli

Agency: Amber Communications

Production house: Last Minute

Property Finder

Get What You See

Agency: Sharpcake

Adidas Bring It

Agency: FP7McCann Dubai

Production house: Big Kahuna Films

Director: Amin Soltani (Craft MENA)

Burger King Kuwait Golden Edition

Agency: M&C Saatchi Abu Dhabi

Production house: Filmmaster MEA

Director: Damiano Fieramosca

January 30, 2023 105

The Spin

We recently got wind of a new publication coming to the market in May, targeting the Middle East hospitality industry. And while we know that media houses have been known in the past to over-estimate the potential market for new products, this publisher might have taken exaggeration a little too far. “More or less 3-4 billion people land in UAE within a time span of only 2 to 3 hours”, said the information sheet.

The promise on this cleaning service’s van made us chuckle – and thank our stars it wasn’t us who wrote the copy.

‘Great minds think alike’ is what we hope the editors at Gulf News and Khaleej Times are telling their designers after these somewhat similar covers appeared on the same day on Tabloid and City Times in Dubai.

As the cost of living rises and even richer nations are having trouble keeping their populations well fed, The Spin is interested to note that America seems to have adopted a two-pronged approach to the problem.

We’ve not watched enough of Prince Harry’s interviews to know if this television listing is a misplaced description or a withering metaphor.


ArabyAds announced the appointment of IMAD SARROUF as CEO of the Pubverse – its publisher monetisation platform. Sarrouf brings with him about two decades of experience and has a strong history of using effective digital strategies to drive business growth and expansion.

ArabyAds also appointed TONY BOURACHED as the CEO of Ritelo, ArabyAds’s retail marketing platform, and Adomus, its media optimisation platform. Bourached previously spearheaded Mindshare MENA as its CEO.

Dejavu network has appointed PRATIXA KANOJIA as the group CEO. She will operate in a dual role as group CEO, leading 12

media-centric affiliates within the network, and as the co-founder of The Plot Pictures, the latest entity to join the network.

Horizon Holdings announced the promotion of DINA SAADEH to managing director of Blue Barracuda, the company’s digital and social arm. She will continue to build impactful relationships between clients and consumers across the region. It also appointed NADIN AL-ALAMI as its new managing director to lead the company’s operations in Kuwait. Al-Alami will lead the transformational evolution of the company.

Current Global announced the appointment of PETER JACOB as the managing director of Current Global Middle East. He takes on the new role at the comms agency having spent 15 years at Weber Shandwick as a member of the senior EMEA management team with responsibility for new business and growth across the region.

Impact BBDO announced the appointment of GHASSAN KASSABJI as the new chief growth officer for MENA, based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Prior to joining Impact BBDO, Kassabji led Saudi-owned Extend – The Ad Network’s transformation into a full-service digital creative and media buying agency.

Sky News Arabia has announced the appointment of ABDOU GADALLAH as head of news for the regional news network. In his new role, Gadallah is responsible for implementing the Sky News Arabia newsroom editorial strategy and content, with a particular focus on growing and expanding its reach digitally, in line with the network’s digital strategy.

Dubai-based integrated agency Team Red Dot announced the appointment of PRASHANT LODAYA as general manager. Lodaya will overlook and drive the agency’s products and capabilities across its creative, data, media, commerce, and technology offerings.


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