Next thing now: UM’s me­dia trends

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UM MENA’s first Me­dia Trends re­port high­lights six de­vel­op­ments within the re­gion’s me­dia in­dus­try that will shape the year ahead. We dip our toes into UM’s first an­nual re­port.


We don’t ex­pect wear­ables to reach mass adop­tion any­time in the next year, at least in the Middle East and North Africa. So far only 7 per cent of ac­tive in­ter­net users own a wear­able de­vice. A fur­ther 13 per cent will con­sider pur­chas­ing wear­able tech­nol­ogy next year. Even among early adopters, 25 per cent are us­ing th­ese wear­able gad­gets only for fit­ness track­ing pur­poses. And at least half re­ported los­ing in­ter­est within six months. So are wear­ables doomed to be shelved as fails, along with the Seg­way and the Zune? Not quite.

Adop­tion of wear­ables will de­pend on cost and scope of use. But psy­chol­ogy will also play an im­por­tant role. Op­por­tu­ni­ties abound for con­tent within wear­ables. Now is the time for busi­nesses to con­tem­plate their rela- tion­ship with this po­ten­tial con­tent gold­mine, of­fer­ing a way for the con­sumer to con­nect more eas­ily, be hap­pier and more en­ter­tained while on the move. It all rests on a fun­da­men­tal hu­man truth: peo­ple need things that help them im­prove their lives in some way.

To be­come a ‘ne­ces­sity’, wear­ables need to help peo­ple im­prove their lives. For brands to lev­er­age this suc­cess­fully, they should con­sider this pow­er­ful psy­cho­log­i­cal need.


Ev­ery two days, we gen­er­ate as much data as we did from the dawn of time un­til 2003. If you were to store all the data gen­er­ated on­line in the last two years on floppy disks, the num­ber of disks needed would reach as far as the earth to the sun. But this isn’t the Triv­ial Pur­suit board game and we’re sure you are well aware by now of the sheer data vol­ume we are cre­at­ing and giv­ing away.

The ques­tion is how can brands use that in­for­ma­tion in mean­ing­ful ways with­out be­ing over­whelmed by its crush­ing weight. What are the rules around us­ing big data ver­sus small data? When should mar­keters be look­ing at fewer data points, rather than more? And is more nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter?

The fu­ture power of big data lies in tak­ing a step fur­ther into ‘pre­scrip­tive an­a­lyt­ics’. The ob­jec­tive of pre­scrip­tive an­a­lyt­ics is not only to pre­dict fu­ture out­comes but also to make rec­om­men­da­tions based on those out­comes. In fo­cus­ing on the what, when and why of fu­ture events it at­tempts to an­swer the ques­tions ‘now what?’ or ‘so what?’ and it com­pletely changes the game of big data.

We don’t ex­pect pre­scrip­tive an­a­lyt­ics to be­come main­stream in 2016. It will take a while longer. But ‘The In­ter­net of Things’ will be­come its widest ap­pli­ca­tion. Take Google’s self-driv­ing car, for ex­am­ple. At ev­ery junc­tion it makes mul­ti­ple de­ci­sions about what to do based on pre­dic­tions of fu­ture out­comes. So the IoT would make ev­ery­day ob­jects – your watch, your re­frig­er­a­tor, your ther­mo­stat – learn from your habits to make smarter, more per­son­alised rec­om­men­da­tions. Yet, so far, it hasn’t re­ally caught on.

The real power of this new data ca­pa­bil­ity is the ex­tent to which it can en­able brands to cre­ate ex­pe­ri­ences and de­liver com­mu­ni­ca­tions which add gen­uine value to con­sumers lives. We are get­ting there. In 2016, the fo­cus needs to be on be­ing there in real- time, al­ways on, not only re­spond­ing to trend­ing top­ics. The ‘Oreo mo­ment’ is so 2013. We need to an­tic­i­pate and pre­dict trends.


And the buzz­word of the year award goes to… con­tent. The chal­lenge is in deal­ing with this all-en­com­pass­ing um­brella term.

In the evo­lu­tion­ary cy­cle of adapt or die, we are now at in­flec­tion point. Glob­ally, ad-block­ing tech­nol­ogy grew by 48 per cent in 2015, be­com­ing a ma­jor dis­rup­tor for dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing and cost­ing pub­lish­ers over $22 bil­lion a year. Con­sumers are now masters of their own on­line des­tiny. They have com­plete con­trol over what, when and how they con­sume me­dia. This is an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis for our in­dus­try and the way to tackle it is through a fun­da­men­tal turn­ing of the ta­bles – by plac­ing con­tent first.

The de­bate be­tween short form and long form is not the fo­cus here. It de­pends on the qual­ity of what you’re pro­duc­ing. Con­sumers will hang around for long con­tent but more of­ten than not they’re look­ing for snack­able con­tent on the go, in the form of 15-se­cond videos or 140 char­ac­ters. Un­less brands be­come more ag­ile, think smaller and away from main­stream me­dia, long-last­ing

So let’s put this de­bate to rest for now. On­line video didn’t kill the TV star. In­stead, they got mar­ried and had a baby, which we’re call­ing multi-screen in­te­gra­tion.

re­la­tion­ships with con­sumers will be­come more dif­fi­cult to build.


Around 50 per cent of the MENA pop­u­la­tion watches on­line videos on a daily ba­sis com­pared with only 30 per cent ap­prox­i­mately in Europe and the United States. Saudi Ara­bia has the high­est YouTube con­tent con­sump­tion per capita in the world, with over 90 mil­lion views per day. In fact, YouTube’s reach in this re­gion comes only se­cond to MBC1, the high­est rat­ing tele­vi­sion chan­nel. And while TV is pre­dom­i­nantly watched in the evening, YouTube is prime-time all the time, in­ter­ac­tive and es­sen­tially TV ‘in your pocket’.

But is YouTube con­tent re­ally tak­ing over long form TV con­sump­tion? If we look at TV view­er­ship over the years, we barely see any de­crease. De­spite def­i­nite shifts in video con­tent con­sump­tion world­wide, peo­ple are watch­ing roughly the same amount of TV as they did be­fore.

So let’s put this de­bate to rest for now. On­line video didn’t kill the TV star. In­stead, they got mar­ried and had a baby, which we’re call­ing mul­tiscreen in­te­gra­tion. While some mar­keters are wary of multi-screen­ing as a ‘dis­trac­tion’, it is in fact an open door for en­gag­ing con­nec­tions that were never pos­si­ble when con­sump­tion in­volved just one screen.

There’s no rea­son why on­line video and TV can’t play nice to­gether. At the end of the day, when they do, brands are able to in­crease their reach marginally and cre­ate more mean­ing­ful en­gage­ment. So, let’s put our money where our mouth is by think- ing about in­te­grated, plat­form-neu­tral video so­lu­tions.


Retail brands can no longer push their ads, then sit back and wait for a steady stream of shop­pers to flow into their stores. Your prod­uct needs to be present in the mo­ment when the con­sumer is look­ing for it. And al­most a third of th­ese mo­ments are now hap­pen­ing on mo­bile.

For many brick-and-mor­tar re­tail­ers, e-com­merce is the en­emy. On­line re­tail­ers have much larger ware­houses and can sell cheaper. But there is no war be­tween on­line and off­line shop­ping. Th­ese two chan­nels in fact can com­ple­ment each other but do­ing so is a chal­lenge. It im­plies that the power is in the hands of the con­sumers. Brands will have to meet

Con­sumers have com­plete con­trol over what, when, and how they con­sume me­dia. This is an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis for our in­dus­try and the way to tackle it is through a fun­da­men­tal turn­ing of the ta­bles – by plac­ing con­tent first.

th­ese em­pow­ered con­sumers where they want and on their own terms.

Will 2016 be the year of e-com­merce? With in­ter­net and mo­bile pen­e­tra­tion high, it’s now a mat­ter of e-tail­ers catch­ing up, es­pe­cially on the user-ex­pe­ri­ence front. The ques­tion is whether the Middle East retail mar­ket can catch up to de­mand.


It is ev­ery mar­keter’s dream come true – a mar­ket with a pop­u­la­tion of 78 mil­lion. That’s al­most as much as Egypt and three times the size of Saudi Ara­bia. Th­ese young, ed­u­cated con­sumers are hun­gry for goods, lux­ury prod­ucts and tech­nol­ogy. In to­day’s glob­alised world, it re­mains one of the few truly emerg­ing mar­kets. And it’s fi­nally open­ing up.

Iran may be a mar­keter’s dream come true but it is also a mar­keter’s worst night­mare. In­ter­na­tional sanc­tions may be lifted grad­u­ally, but in­ter­nal con­di­tions will take a while to loosen. Agen­cies with a strong lo­cal pres­ence in Saudi Ara­bia will have the largest com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. They al­ready have ex­pe­ri­ence tread­ing care­fully and cre­atively around re­stric­tions. But when the Ira­nian me­dia mar­ket opens up, it will have size­able im­pact on MENA me­dia in­fla­tion.

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