Festival of Media MENA – The wrap-up

We recently attended the inaugural Festival of Media MENA and came up with five key takeaways from the conference that pertain to the media industry.

Takeaway #1: Mobile is not a trend; it’s a reality

There is no doubt that mobile has emerged as the fastest growing platform that connects people. According to Sarah Personette, Global Marketing Director of Facebook, the number of smartphones in the world will reach 1.8 billion this year. In the Middle East alone, there are over 170 million smartphones and on average, people here check their phones 100-150 million times per day. It is by far the most personal device in our lives.

On an individual level, the average person unlocks their phone 100 times a day, according to Parminder Singh, the Managing Director for Twitter in MENA and India. When you’re not receiving or making a call, you’re either consuming or creating content. In fact, Facebook has witnessed a 138% growth year-over-year in video consumption in the UAE, largely attributed to the mobile platform. Therefore, video on mobile is one of the most creative canvases that we can use today.

On the flip side, Sarah warned that, as marketers, we need to respect people when using mobile for advertising purposes. We need to understand that mobile is an extremely personal experience and that we have to add value in every single interaction if we’re going to use it.

Takeaway #2: The rise of the latest screen – the watch

The second screen is now a concept of the past. Today, not only do we have to cater to four different screens (TV, PC, mobile and tablet), we also have to start thinking about the newest screen on the block – the watch.

When creating a content strategy for these different screens, Simon Sproule, Director of Global Marketing & Communications for Aston Martin, explained that it is important to tailor your story to the individual screen. Some of the cinematic power that works incredibly on larger screens will be lost on the smaller screen of a watch.

“It’s extremely important to synergize what we do across screens”, said Waseem Afzal, regional head of digital for OMD MENA.  Parminder Singh of Twitter illustrated the value of marrying digital content with traditional mediums such as TV, mentioning that the platform saw a 200% increase in TV conversations in MENA since its integration with reality talent shows. Therefore, one must consider the amplification that traditional mediums offer when paired with digital, and that the two work in confluence rather than in collision.

Takeaway #3: Content has to be native, integrated and relevant

According to Parminder Singh, there is no formula to create effective content. Today, anybody can publish content and as long as what they’re saying is relevant, it has the chance of being received the same way it would if it had come from a media house or a celebrity. However, he did give some tips:

  • Native: when content is in a native environment, people are more receptive to clicking on it and its likeability increases
  • Integration: using a second medium like TV can target and amplify the message of your content even further
  • Relevance: content resonates if it’s in context with the moment that people are having at that particular point in time; 64% of people said they would follow a brand during Ramadan if it had Ramadan-related content

Takeaway #4: Tech-driven comms planning is now a necessity

It’s important for brands to look at media and communications holistically, rather than just baking in technology across digital channels, said Waseem Afzal of OMD. Today, we get stuck in having to innovate and use technology when devising solutions for comms planning. We need to revisit our approach and go back to basics of looking at what resonates with consumers and creates those compelling experiences for them. Technology should act as an enabler that helps us better with our consumers, rather than being the turn-to solution.

Having said that, Waseem also said that we are doing well as a region when it comes to adoption of technology and the uptake of emerging trends, even though we may not have access to all of the resources or VCs as other markets. Despite this, we’re right up there when it comes to consumption of digital.

Takeaway #5: Companies need to be ambidextrous in order to innovate

Every company that you know of today has been a disruptor at some time, said JC Oliver, Global Head of Innovation at Microsoft. And disruption will continue to happen unless you’re being innovative.

JC also talked about fungibility, the property of a good or commodity (such as a diamond, for example) that makes its individual units mutually substitutable. He explained that in order to create a fungible culture in our workplaces, we need to have creative and fungible abrasion (where we have multiple ideas but always come out with one voice); creative tension (which allows you to push the boundaries further; and creative agility (having the freedom to learn by testing new things and putting them out to consumers).

Lastly, Sarah Personette had said that we have to embrace change – a change that hasn’t occurred yet. JC stated that what happens outside of the business is always going to be much faster than what’s happening inside, so just embrace it and surf the change.

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