The number of future events coupled with the Qatari government’s desire to be digitally innovative have brought great changes and Arabad finds out how with General Manager of media agency MEC Qatar and Bahrain.
Pradeep Menon, How much has advertising really changed over the years?
The core principles of advertising and marketing have not changed since they were initially introduced as a method of differentiation. The major values of trust and relevancy still remain true today. What has changed is the public’s media consumption, which increased interest in Digital, specifically social media and the level of awareness the public has vis-à-vis advertising. Brands can’t just claim they have the best product anymore. They need to engage with their audience. The speed, scale, transparency and reducing cost of digital communications, have helped to enhance the connection between the brand and the consumer. Due to the proliferation of channels, an over saturation of advertising and poor monetisation models for publishers, a brand is now required to be a content producer who entertains and engages their audience 24/7, to fit the “Always On” model. Hence we have definitely seen an increase in digital investments.
How has the profile of your agency changed?
MEC Doha became the number one agency in Qatar by wining some prestigious accounts like Vodafone, the consolidation of the entire media business of Landmark Group account, and most recently Qatar Duty Free and we are moving to a bigger office at the start of 2016 to accommodate this expansion. More generally MEC is constantly evolving and adapting to provide the best possible solutions to our clients. Our award winning content team, MEC Access is now pivotal to many clients in addressing the challenges now facing the modern marketer. Programmatic content delivery is growing year on year, with both publishers and clients reaping the rewards this technology layer brings. In a market like Qatar, where local knowledge is key, our insights team who specialises in research and analytics is essential to providing audience information so we can act accordingly in real time. Most recently, the global launch of MEC Tonic resonated in Middle East where we built a partnership with Wamda to allows us to tap into the local start up scene, which is still evolving but will play a central role in the development of digital across Qatar in future years.
How has the local market been affected?
Qatar’s acceleration into the international spotlight, as a result of high profile sporting events, has placed an even more important emphasis for brands. More brands than ever are now focusing on Qatar, yet understandably some expect an international standard of advertising policies to be in place. ICT Qatar has played an instrumental role in developing a digital framework for the country and is moving faster than other regional markets, as a result of the 2030 Vision. Without this, the developments in digital innovation, services and hence advertising would be much slower. Laying this digital infrastructure will help many local businesses make the move from offline to online.
What are some of the challenges you're facing on a daily basis?
The main challenge in Qatar is the size of the market, which is still small and the diversity of the population that has very different media consumption. This means we need to explore new ways in a quite limited media landscape. Experimentation and innovation in Qatar can often be slow. Hence we can find huge gaps between aspects like mobile penetration and the willingness to invest in what is viewed as a new channel. The appetite for locally produced content is high, yet there is a frustration with the scale of these properties. We expect to see quality Arabic content much higher in a market like Qatar, which remains relatively low. Demonstrating the changing media consumption requires trustworthy and reliable data, which is still challenging in Qatar. However, the annual survey on local media habits from Northwestern University is an excellent source. Elan (formerly Qmedia) have been active in bringing together the local digital media properties under one roof and helping to rapidly push the market, yet opening up to programmatic is still limited. The key here is not necessarily in attracting talent, but retaining the talent is often a key issue for many companies. By retaining and investing in the right talent, we can ensure the market as a whole moves forward.
More brands than ever are now focusing on Qatar, yet understandably some expect an international standard of advertising policies to be in place.