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.

ArabAd - - COVER STORY -

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.

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