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Snapshots from Festival of Media MENA’s conference

Festival of Media MENA

Snapshots from Festival of Media MENA’s conference

Festival of Media MENA’s second edition brought together a host of regional and global experts, including agencies, vendors and clients, to discuss the present-day industry’s hottest and most challenging topics.

The day began with an overview of the digital landscape in the UAE, KSA and Turkey, presenting some key insights and numbers that set the stage for the upcoming sessions. The day-long conference threaded together the challenges of viewability and ad-blocking, along with the rise of online video and influencers, tying in the growth of programmatic media and, of course, content. Here’s a snapshot of the panels and talks through the day.

Session: The digital landscape: A review of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey
Speaker: Jason Mander, director of research, GlobalWebIndex

Jason Mander

– Until price and functionality are addressed for wearables, don’t expect that revolution to take off

– Tablets are losing their appeal in the MENA region, just as they have in other parts of the world

– The UAE and Saudi Arabia are the first countries in the world that are expected to reach the mobile tipping point in terms of time spent online

– Voice search remains niche, with 17 percent in KSA and 23 percent in the UAE using it, but people use it because they’re lazy, which means they’ll be doing more of it

– Don’t see VPN users as pirates. They’re the ones more willing to pay for content

Session: The agency model: Leading from the front
Speaker: Toby Jenner, worldwide chief commercial officer, MediaCom

Toby Jenner

– Events such as the Olympics and the US elections are all set up to help buoy the global ad market

– The sweet spot for media agencies is between audiences, technology and content

– Media agencies know what type of advertising works better and faster than ad agencies. Hence, they play a key role in content

– Pitching costs agencies millions and millions of dollars – $24 billion in 2015 alone

– Clients should have realistic and reasonable expectations and timelines through the pitch process

– Moreover, pitches take too long these days – six to 12 months – which isn’t good for the agency or the client

– Clients creating in-house media units are losing out on the experience and expertise gained by agencies on multiple accounts

– Booking systems will fade away and programmatic will take over, with 50 percent of ads being bought programmatically by 2019

Session: What global brands can learn from digital entrepreneurs
Speaker: Amy Cole, director of business development EMEA, Instagram

Amy Cole

– Entrepreneurship is fuelling Dubai’s economy; small businesses contribute 60 percent to Dubai’s GDP and represent more than 90 percent of all businesses in the emirate

– Marketers should learn from entrepreneurs: be authentic, be consistent, prioritize impact, stand out, experiment and take risks on Instagram

– It’s not just about the number of likes and followers. For instance, a picture of chocolate ice cream gets many more likes than one of another flavor. However, you should focus on what you want: if you want to show your entire range, don’t stop doing that just because you’re concentrating on likes

– Brands must not overcomplicate their approach to using Instagram

Session: Winning in the moments that matter
Speakers: Ian Carrington, managing director of performance solutions and innovations, EMEA, Google, and Debbie Weinstein, director of brand solutions and innovation, EMEA, Google

Ian CarringtonDebbie Weinstein

– On Google and YouTube, more searches are from mobile than any other device

– Millennials, particularly, are using their mobile more than their TV. In fact, for 94 percent of millennials in the MEA region, mobile is the first screen

– Mobile is the fastest-growing device of all time. Smartphone penetration took five years to reach one billion users, while radio took 72 years, TV took 67 years and computers took 32 years

– Essentials to get mobile right: speed, simplicity and personalization

– Assistance is the new black as voice search is on the rise

– It’s time to look beyond age and gender; instead, consider behavior patterns and other indicators

– It’s a misconception that short-form videos perform best on YouTube. The optimal length of a YouTube video is 1 minute 30 seconds

– A meta-analysis of 56 research studies showed that YouTube delivered a higher ROI than TV in nearly 80 percent of the cases

Session: Meet the influencers
Speakers: Stephen Nuttall, senior director, YouTube EMEA; Tarek El Saad, digital specialist, Nestlé Middle East; Dana Adhami, head of MENA, Maker Studios. The influencers: Hayla Ghazal, Omar Hussein, Beckii Cruel and Haifa Beseisso 

Meet the influencers

– It’s important to appear spontaneous to be relevant, so you need to plan for spontaneity

– When collaborating with influencers, their relevance to the brand is more important than the number of their fans and followers


Programmatic and radio by James Welch, managing director, Blue Logic, and Steve Smith, chief operations officer, Arabian Radio Network (ARN)

Steve Smith

– It’s not about if things are working; it’s about how things are working

– Customization is the way to go, even on – and especially on – radio

– There’s a lot more to programmatic than simply setting up a website and saying you offer programmatic media

Programmatic and creativity by Newaz Islam, general manager, Sizmek

Newaz Islam

– Just because programmatic means automated, it doesn’t mean creativity is dead

– People see ads, not algorithms, which is why the creative is so important

– The creative that you provide your client needs to be in sync with the way the audience speaks

– The purpose of media is to find the right audience; the role of creative is to communicate the right message

– Creative in programmatic is about data, content and strategy

– Don’t build ordinary ads; build next-level ads, using content-management platforms to tell engaging stories at scale

Programmatic and mobile by Puja Pannum, managing director MENA, Blis

Puja Panuum

– Mobile has become our umbilical cord

– More than three-quarters (76 percent) of Blis’ employees would rather lose their spouse than their phone for half a day

Session: The uncomfortable lunch
Speakers: James Welch, managing director, Blue Logic; Dan Taylor, senior director brand development, du; Khaled Ismail, regional vice-president of communications, Greater Middle East & Africa region, Tetra Pak; and Mike Fairburn, general manager, Sony Music Middle East

The uncomfortable lunch

– Fixed data is less useful than telco customers’ usage profiles, as it allows telco companies to create better products

– In the past five years, 2015 was the first in which Sony Music recorded real growth, thanks to its digital transformation

– The importance of data is to segment, understand and resonate with consumers

– Retaining quality talent in this market is hard and, sometimes, it just comes down to paying them more


Alex Cheeseman, head of international strategy, Newscred

Alex Cheeseman

– If you think content marketing is the answer, it’s bullshit

– Humans haven’t changed – the purchase journey has

– If P&G made Game of Thrones and won awards, it still wouldn’t be successful if it didn’t sell products

– An example of great content is Guinness Beer starting its Guinness Book of World Records to stop bar arguments

– Content needs to tick the following boxes: education, entertainment, information, inspiration and utility. If it doesn’t, scrap it and start over

– Content fuels a brand’s entire marketing process, but it is NOT king

Leena Kewlani, branded content director, DMS, Choueiri Group

Leena Kewlani

– Things to remember when creating content: brand truth, data, content and distribution

– If you have a beautiful piece of content, you should own the moment. Be bold

– Are we creating content just to check a box off the marketing list? We need to add value to the consumer

Rami Salame, head of content, OMD UAE, on the 6 things you can learn about content (from your barber)

Rami Salame

– You wouldn’t go to a barber who gives everyone the same haircut. A one-size-fits-all approach to content is useless. Better targeting and better audience profiles are necessary

– It’s more than a haircut. It’s a full experience. Content should be more than just something you watch and move on

– The barber is a master, but he works with you. People on social media give you instant feedback and leave comments on your content. Instead of ignoring this feedback, it should be used to shape future content – in real time, if possible

– Anybody can cut hair, but only a barber makes hairstyles. Today, all kinds of agencies and even everyday people are producing content. What differentiates content producers from each other is their tools. Work with people who have the right tools: data and analytics to extract insights, real-time monitoring and analysis in order to track performance, and post-campaign analysis in order to improve

– Happy customers mean more business. No one can guarantee virality, but content can be engineered for shareability

– Hair grows back. Social content is a young field and there are no rules in place, so it’s a learn-as-you-go environment. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them

Session: Fast forward: catching up with the video consumer
Speaker: Rami Saad, deputy chief operations officer, DMS, Choueiri Group

Rami Saad

– We love to ‘kill’ things in this industry as soon as another medium comes up. It doesn’t take much to differentiate between things you make time for and things you use to kill time

– TV has its place in a consumer’s day and so does mobile. They may overlap, but one won’t cannibalize the other

– Digital is the best thing that has ever happened to smart TV broadcasters, as TV is going through a resurgence

– No matter what the screen, provide high-quality, rich and immersive content

– The debate between TV and digital? The world has moved on and so should we

Session: The fourth industrial revolution
Speakers: Malcolm Devoy, international strategy director, PHD, and Philippa Snare, MENAP director, Facebook

Malcom Devoy Philippa Snare

– It’s 11:59 on Artificial Intelligence [AI] Eve and we’re here so soon thanks to unstructured data, high computational speed and sophisticated algorithms

– Ninety percent of all of the world’s data has been created in the past two years

– Today’s algorithms are moving from machine learning to deep learning, performing tasks we haven’t programmed them for

– The media agency will be the central nervous system, managing clients’ technology as it communicates to consumers’ technology

– By 2020, our virtual private assistants will become sentient, editing the world for us

– In the future, ad bidding will be conducted in real-time by AI

– The human element of decision-making will be purged completely once AI starts to tap into the decision-making and action engine

– You will spend approximately one-sixth of your life watching videos

– AI will be an extension of our brains, just like our current properties, such as our cars and homes

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