17 FOR 17

Elie Khouri pre­dicts another tough year.

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE - Elie Khouri is CEO of Om­ni­com Me­dia Group MENA

T he mar­ket­ing in­dus­try is in the midst of ma­jor dis­rup­tion. From eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty and the trans­for­ma­tion of the me­dia mar­ket­place to the emer­gence of new busi­ness models and the im­pact of new tech­nolo­gies, we have the mak­ings of a per­fect storm. Still, with ev­ery chal­lenge comes an op­por­tu­nity. Those who can ride these waves will be well on the path to suc­cess. Agility and fore­sight will be two words to re­mem­ber as we weather the storm, so let’s ex­am­ine the 17 trends that will shape the com­ing year.

1. If you thought 2016 was rough...:

2017 isn’t go­ing to be much bet­ter. The un­cer­tainty of Brexit, the weak­en­ing growth in China and most coun­tries in the West, the spec­tre of on­go­ing wars in the re­gion, the in­tro­duc­tions of new taxes, and the re­duc­tion of sub­si­dies and pub­lic sec­tor pay will put pres­sure on the mar­ket­ing sec­tor, both glob­ally and re­gion­ally. We should an­tic­i­pate a fur­ther 10 per cent drop in mar­ket­ing in­vest­ments next year. The trend will start to re­verse in the fourth quar­ter as con­sumers be­gin to shop ag­gres­sively in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the in­tro­duc­tion of value-added tax in the GCC in early 2018

2. Dif­fer­ent strokes for dif­fer­ent folks:

Each mar­ket will re­quire a spe­cific strat­egy. ‘Build’ in Saudi Ara­bia: de­spite the cur­rent gloom, the Saudi econ­omy re­mains fun­da­men­tally strong. The King­dom’s Vi­sion 2030 is promis­ing, so dou­ble-down and bank on the coun­try’s long-term pros­per­ity. ‘Hold’ in the UAE: the re­gion’s sec­ond big­gest mar­ket will be sta­ble de­spite the an­tic­i­pated re­duc­tion in gov­ern­ment spend­ing. Look in­wards and nur­ture your best tal­ent. ‘Har­vest’ in Egypt: cur­rency de­val­u­a­tions, in­fla­tion and eco­nomic woes will put a sub­stan­tial strain on this mar­ket next year. There is, how­ever, a silver lin­ing for lo­cal pro­duc­ers who could ben­e­fit from re­stric­tions on im­ports.

3. Pre­pare for the rise of the ‘pre­cariat’:

With tax­a­tion, aus­ter­ity cuts, job losses and geo-po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic un­cer­tainty, con­sumers will even­tu­ally feel stretched and strained. This will lead to a ‘pre­cariat’ way of liv­ing, with peo­ple ex­er­cis­ing dis­cre­tion be­fore mak­ing pur­chases. Busi­nesses in MENA will need to re­think strate­gies for deal­ing with the pre­cariat be­yond short-term pro­mo­tions and dis­counts. This seg­ment may not ap­pear as ap­peal­ing as the luxury one but it is very size­able in our mar­kets.

4. The Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion will trans­form jobs:

Every­where we see signs that new tech­nolo­gies fus­ing the phys­i­cal, dig­i­tal and bi­o­log­i­cal worlds are al­ready af­fect­ing dis­ci­plines, economies and in­dus­tries. While some fear this in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion will de­stroy count­less jobs, oth­ers be­lieve it will make or­gan­i­sa­tions and so­ci­eties more pro­duc­tive and ef­fi­cient. Busi­nesses, in­clud­ing me­dia agen­cies, will see ma­chines and tech be­come more preva­lent. Jobs will be trans­formed rather than lost and this will lead to a surge in de­mand for new skills and train­ing.

5. The de­lo­cal­i­sa­tion of jobs will in­ten­sify:

In a per­ma­nent quest for ef­fec­tive­ness, busi­nesses will take a long hard look at their op­er­a­tions and off­shore func­tions that can be as ef­fec­tive, if not more, in a lower-cost en­vi­ron­ment. Tech and back-of­fice func­tions will be first in line, but some will also in­clude cre­ative roles. If India and Pak­istan have long been favourites, Egypt and Le­banon have ap­peal­ing tal­ent pools on which to draw.

6. The strug­gle to lever­age the start-up ecosys­tem will con­tinue:

Start-ups in MENA can pro­vide sev­eral so­lu­tions to the many chal­lenges our in­dus­try is fac­ing as a re­sult of the dis­rup­tion it’s un­der­go­ing. How­ever, while most agen­cies ac­knowl­edge the ben­e­fits of be­ing as­so­ci­ated with start-ups, few man­age to lever­age them fully. In­stead of be­ing a ‘cool’ gim­mick, promis­ing start-ups should be viewed as valu­able part­ners in the creation of pow­er­ful ‘ad tech’ so­lu­tions for ad­ver­tis­ers.

7. Dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing will sim­ply be mar­ket­ing:

Once a side-show, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing is fast be­com­ing the norm. In 2017, we ex­pect to see a 30 per cent in­crease in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing in­vest­ments in MENA. At $1.5 bil­lion, this will rep­re­sent a bit less than a third of our over­all me­dia in­vest­ments. By 2020, dig­i­tal me­dia will cross 50 per cent. The me­dia mar­ket will con­tinue to be sig­nif­i­cantly al­tered as a re­sult, as will the prac­tices of mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing.

8. Busi­nesses will pri­ori­tise an an­a­lyt­ics- (and not data-) first ap­proach:

As the share of dig­i­tal in­vest­ments in­creases, the need for in­sights and an an­a­lyt­ics-first ap­proach will be im­per­a­tive to the suc­cess of a busi­ness. How­ever, merely buy­ing the latest plat­form for data min­ing won’t be enough.

Both ad­ver­tis­ers and agen­cies will in­creas­ingly in­vest in tal­ent who re­ally un­der­stand how to lever­age data to un­earth strate­gic in­sights and make bold busi­ness de­ci­sions.

9. Want ROI? Get CLV:

To mea­sure the per­for­mance of mar­ket­ing bet­ter, we need to move away from a short-term, cam­paign-based fo­cus and em­brace the met­ric of cus­tomer life­time value (CLV). We must con­sider cus­tomer prof­itabil­ity and the im­pact of the dif­fer­ent mar­ket­ing ef­forts across the cus­tomer’s life­cy­cle. This ap­proach will sharpen the cal­cu­la­tion of re­turn on mar­ket­ing in­vest­ments and push mar­keters to go be­yond cus­tomer ac­qui­si­tion and fo­cus on en­gage­ment and re­ten­tion. Rooted in cus­tomer re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment and pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics, brands will re­quire in­tense col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween many mar­ket­ing dis­ci­plines and part­ners, spell­ing the end of siloed think­ing.

10. A grow­ing dis­like of duopolies:

To­gether, Google and Facebook com­mand north of 70 per cent of dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enues. Pub­lish­ers and sites that rely on ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue will con­tinue to suf­fer the most from this dom­i­na­tion. What is most con­cern­ing is the lack of trans­parency in terms of data and per­for­mance on their plat­forms, high­light­ing the need for third-party val­i­da­tion. Our in­dus­try will be en­cour­aged to push for more com­pe­ti­tion. Per­haps Snapchat or an emerg­ing lo­cal gi­ant could bring bal­ance to this uni­verse.

11. The rise and rise of pro­gram­matic:

With bet­ter data about users and mas­sive vol­umes of in­ven­tory that pro­vide am­ple liq­uid­ity, key agency and tech­nol­ogy play­ers have been able to im­prove the pric­ing and ef­fec­tive­ness of plac­ing dig­i­tal ads through au­to­ma­tion. As clients con­tinue to shift sub­stan­tial in­vest­ments to­wards pro­gram­matic buy­ing, me­dia sales will re­quire fewer and fewer peo­ple over time.

12. Con­tent can’t be king if qual­ity doesn’t rule:

In a world full of me­dia noise, with con­tent com­ing from all di­rec­tions, dig­i­tal min­i­mal­ism is in­creas­ingly ap­peal­ing. The amount of con­tent avail­able is over­whelm­ing and many peo­ple are al­ready switch­ing off. As a re­sponse to the grow­ing dis­af­fec­tion with ad­ver­tis­ing, con­tent mar­ket­ing is cer­tainly prov­ing pop­u­lar but so far quan­tity has ruled over qual­ity. In 2017, we will start to see a shift to the lat­ter to make this vi­tal chan­nel much more ef­fec­tive.

13. In­flu­encers will need KPIs like other me­dia:

Far from be­ing a fad, so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers are be­com­ing more and more prom­i­nent in me­dia plans. For this trend to be­come sus­tain­able, they will need to be sub­jected to the same rigor as other me­dia and be given rel­e­vant and solid key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors. Like prod­uct place­ment be­fore, there will be clear at­tempts to reg­u­late this mar­ket.

14. Keep your eyes on the ball:

We love acronyms and buzz­words in our in­dus­try: AI, VR, aug­mented re­al­ity, chat bots, IoT, al­go­rithms… and see these in­no­va­tions as be­ing around the cor­ner. In re­al­ity, it will take a bit longer for them to be­come truly sig­nif­i­cant. In the mean­time, we should not for­get that tra­di­tional for­mats still claim the lion’s share (75 per cent) of ad­ver­tis­ing in­vest­ments and will con­tinue to do so in 2017.

15. New for­mats of TV will emerge:

With on-de­mand TV grow­ing and Net­flix show­er­ing us with its cloud-based pro­gram­ming, the much-an­tic­i­pated trans­for­ma­tion of tra­di­tional TV is ma­te­ri­al­is­ing be­fore our eyes. ‘Live’ is also be­com­ing the new TV screen. Next year, the likes of Facebook, Snapchat and Twit­ter/ Periscope will con­tinue their fight to ac­quire and pro­vide ex­clu­sive tra­di­tional TV-like con­tent and pro­grammes on so­cial TV.

16. Con­tent creation is the new bat­tle­ground:

Con­sid­er­ing the latest mega pro­gram deals in the re­gion and the pro­posed merger be­tween Time Warner and AT&T, it’s easy to see how crit­i­cal con­tent is be­com­ing vi­tal to tech, telco and other dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels. In­vestors in MENA have his­tor­i­cally shown a stronger ap­petite for in­ter­na­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties than lo­cal ones. While our re­gional giants are start­ing to sup­port lo­cal en­trepreneurs, they will now add con­tent cre­ators to the list since the re­gion’s con­sumers des­per­ately want qual­ity lo­cal ma­te­rial.

17. Diver­sity and in­clu­sion as the way for­ward:

The de­bate about diver­sity and in­clu­sion, start­ing with women, has been rag­ing on for a while and some have al­ready taken steps to ad­dress the valid concerns it has raised. We will see more and more ef­forts to sup­port women’s pro­fes­sional as­cent by in­tro­duc­ing em­pow­er­ment/men­tor­ship pro­grams and re­view­ing ma­ter­nity and other poli­cies. Such diver­sity en­riches us, strength­ens us and makes us bet­ter per­form­ing com­pa­nies. It would be easy to con­sider the above and fret. Yes, there are many changes around, some of which are daunt­ing, and we have our work cut out in order to find growth again.

The up­side is that there are also plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties, as long as we know where to look.

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