Pierre Soued, CEO; Regional Managing Director, Havas Middle East; Havas Worldwide Middle East
What could/should advertising look like in 2020?
At this point in time, the Arab world is a steady consumer of content; however, it remains a poor and thwarted producer of its own original content for both local and international use. This is especially the case in the digital sphere, where globally generic content consumes the space. With a local market of 300 million people and huge internet penetration, the region has the critical mass and ability to sustain and develop its own original Arabic content. Agencies must play a greater partnering role between brands and the consumer to make sure this happens, make connective communication happen and empower relevant change. All communication agencies need to be the creator, the curator and the distributor of this content to ensure that the brands themselves are the channel, and that the focus is not on the media, but always the end consumer and what is meaningful to them.
Content is key to driving creative and meaningful advertising, and should always be seen within a context – specifically in the Arab world. With mass globalisation consistently infiltrating into everyday life, it is leading to a dilution culture and value for consumers and brands alike. To harness and control this, agencies must play a pivotal role in contextualising this global content and media, to make it relevant and engaging for the local regional consumer, to maintain a brand’s, a consumer’s and the media’s environment identity in this ever growing mass world. Specifically for the Middle East, creative partners and agencies need to communicate their brands with modernity and thoughtfulness, to develop content and contextual driven advertising that isn’t globally generic.
Innovation, creativity and the employment of data and technology to lead the marketplace is the backbone of this communications ethos. Marketing as a whole has changed forever, and with it, the needs and questions of advertisers. Technology and communications are irrevocably intertwined, and by placing digital at the core of an agency model, it is a way to change faster in order to be agile and quick for clients. Change faster in this moving environment also means providing insights in order to jump into different market realities where numerous media adoption trends are taking place. Media has never been so real-time and flexible, and technology is the power behind this, and it will continue to change the industry’s fundamental DNA.
Furthermore, the world of media in the region has been showing unprecedented dynamism throughout the past decade, with all of the major International Advertising Agencies having offices in almost all of the Arab capitals. TV Production and Broadcast is also a dynamic sector in the Arab World, with hundreds of satellite channels covering the Middle-East, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. This vibrant position in the Publishing and Media arena is not coupled with a similar dynamism in the New Media, Interactive Media, E-Content arena, despite awareness and reach among the young generation. This may be attributed to the lack of quality and consistency in data which has been a recurring problem for the Middle East time and time again. However, by tackling both these issues is a sure way to a winning formula, and to ultimately reposition the advertising industry as a change agent, in a region where change is what people are looking for.
2. What should we do now to get ready for that future?
It is clear to many that the industry’s existing approaches to building and measuring brand value are out of date, and what is needed is a new way of working. A new vision of what it means to be a strong and prosperous brand that is able to develop meaningful connections with people and relevant earned and owned value. For us this is something that is at the core of our work, ideologies and methods, and will be the biggest force behind changing current perceptions and working methodologies within the advertising industry. To get ready, agencies need to continue on this path to broaden it, in order to consistently create ideas that add value to clients and their consumers.
We therefore must leverage the three pillars of the new marketing paradigm: social, transparency and big data. Data is the core pillar to this strategy and empowers everything that we do. Data must not be perceived as just numbers, figures, and quantities but something that can enable a deeper understanding of the people that are at the heart of it. By leveraging the virtual communities, personalities and cultures it represents, we can use these to build ideas and value. Yet whilst leveraging this data, there needs to be a balance of trust between agencies, clients and the consumers which can be sought by continuing to remain 100% transparent.
Moreover, there must not be silos within departments or disciplines. By 2020 digital agencies will not exist, we will all be digital, we will all be marketing, we will all be social – we are Communication Agents. Work will be based on a client-centric model and system and achievements will be focused on performance more than ever before. There must be technology at the heart of this to develop new and innovation communication offerings and mind-sets. Deep-dive research capabilities with predictive analysis resources across multi-platforms, screens and contexts will be a part of the everyday working reality. Instilling creativity and innovation at the inception of an idea to integrate media at the birth of the process rather than the end to will be the norm, to both aggregate disruptors and meet clients’ ever changing demands. In this super-speed world, 2020 will be upon us like it was yesterday and only the smartest and most agile agencies will adapt quick enough to face these big and numerous upcoming challenges and realities.