Digital in the Middle East – 2010

Few weeks back I was at “webwednesday.” Event was conducted by our friends in the industry ‘Clique Media’. I must say that the event was a good initiative and most importantly different as compared to other events that I have recently seen in the industry, as was evident after seeing the attendees as well. The discussion was about ‘Digital media in Middle East – 2010”. Now, the topic itself is very interesting. After working in digital media for 15 years (out of which 5 years in the region), I have asked myself this question many times without a clear answer. I think the region is unique in the sense that it is a melting pot for work cultures, expertise, quality parameters, ethics and dynamics of audiences that results in a very contrasting picture. I don’t think we can draw a clear conclusion here. This year the region saw a few brilliant digital campaigns and also a few absolutely rubbish ones. There are certain things few agencies and most clients from the region need to look at and more importantly act upon it. So here are my observation from 2010.

Short-lived microsites without a permanent platform

Tactical microsites are dying, only ‘most’ clients and (traditional above-the-line turned digital) agencies are not accepting this fact yet.

These microsites are usually a part of the silo’d channel marketing that clients (and some agencies) still seem to love. For them the “Big Idea” has to be in a microsite. So what could it be? A game or a competition, if you give them that then they are happy. They seem to think that the agency that can not give you a microsite idea is not creative at all.

So both agencies and clients end up having a big brand campaign, that is to put out a TVC, some print ads, outdoor and yes we have some budget left over, then online. So online is usually the “matching baggage” banner advertising, and the microsite. A place to enter a competition, a place to go to when you’ve clicked on a banner to “find out more.” Sometimes it’s a story that continues on from a TVC. But in most cases, there is not enough story to keep people engaged after all. More often than not, these microsites are forgotten after the campaign is over.

Content hungry visitors: In June 2010, Middle East’s internet penetration has crossed the world avg. This means more and more people from the region can now consume content. If you can not offer more than your product information, TVCs, few wallpapers and screensavers and a short lived competition with gift vouchers as prizes, then your visitors will never bother to consume it. They come and register on your microsites for prizes but that’s all. They will not remember anything else from that microsite. Is that what you make these microsites for? So have clear objectives before you suggest a microsite as an agency or accept a proposal from your agency as a client.

Social Media: Social media pages, tabs and channels are functioning more like campaign microsites. Yes, we all agree that social media is growing so why not go fishing where the fish are? Facebook has more than 500 millions users. YouTube is the no. 2 search engine behind Google. And so on.

Tons of great examples of brands like Nike, Sprite and Dove that realized that it’s easier to make the most of the millions of social network users, instead of chasing consumers to go on their own site.

Looking at Social Media means FB fan page or a twitter profile

Many clients till now think that if they have a FB fan page and run a competition on it, they have included Social Media in their campaign. But just like microsites they again forget that although their interaction with consumer is limited to that campaign. That FB profile or twitter handle will always remain as a channel of interaction with the brand. The biggest mistake you can do is to open that channel and then show your hand to your audience by not interacting with them. So if you are not committed to manage it yourself or brave enough to pay your agency to manage it, please stop creating it.

Another important factor is understanding the social sphere and picking your social interaction channels even beyond FB and twitter. It could be groupon or gonabbit, foursquare, a simple forum/blog, popular local content aggregator app or a website, industry vertical like expedia. Social media interactions are not and should not be limited to FB and/or twitter.

Be patient: So if you do decide to go out and get involved with smaller niche communities or even facebook and twitter, don’t expect to just answer a few questions on a Q&A site or put up a thrice a day twitter feed and boom! you’re famous. This isn’t an hour–a-day job. Just like any relationship, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Be sincere, be transparent, get involved, and you’ll find that these two-way relationships are good for everyone.

Quality v/s economy

This is another important factor that most clients here tend to neglect. I agree that quality is very subjective when it comes to digital. There are many freelancers who can do the ‘same’ job for less. But then why don’t these same clients choose to take the same approach when it comes to their ATL agency? There is a certain value, experience, accountability that comes only with a certain price tag. So either do it right or do without it.

Educate clients rather than give up

This is important for the agencies. After the first few meetings, most agencies give in to client’s lack of knowledge. If the client has selected you as an agency, it is your responsibility to fight for what you think is right for your client. If you believe in it then stand for it and have enough conviction to refuse to do the wrong thing. Here agencies fall in to a trap where they don’t want to upset their clients and lose out on possible revenue which they can easily get by accepting the client’s demand.

So, let’s hope that Middle East’s digital creativity will see many more meaningful endeavors.

One Response to Digital in the Middle East – 2010
  1. bhavishya.kanjhan Reply

    >Great post Amol and welcome back to blogging. I hope to see more of you here.

    As to your point on Social Media, I think the two biggest problems, pertinent especially to this region is one of education and the other of attitude. In fact the first one leads to the second one.

    Most companies/client simply don't have the knowledge about social media and are blissful in believing that Facebook and Twitter is all there is to it. The fact that Social Media experts cropping up everyday as preaching and servicing that doesn't exactly help the cause. This leads to my second point that the attitude towards Social Media is more of a tactical one rather than a strategic one as it should be. When you setup a Facebook page/Twitter account to push a product/promotion, it's no different than a microsite, but to see Social media as part of a larger strategy is what will ensure they make effective use of the medium. Unfortunately the cost of that is much larger in that they require structural and attitude changes as well as the financial and human resources to support those changes.

    In my opinion, the best social media management structure would be using a combination of internal resources as well as outsourcing to an external agency.

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