General News Category

Mobile connectivity on the rise

12-13-DOT10-infographics-page-001

 

 

Today, the world is more connected than ever. Broadband Internet, smartphones, hand-held connected devices and virtual socializing apps such as Facebook are connecting people to people, businesses to buyers and governments to the governed. The infographics below provides some regional and international insights.

 

 

Source: Techpolis

 

Smartphone penetration in the GCC averages 126% compared with 71% in the selected developed economies

 

In the GCC, LTE penetration is at 16% compared to 44%, in the US and Canada, and machine-to-machine penetration at less than 3% compared to nearly 12% in the US and Canada.

 

GCC countries have an average of 186 connected devices per 100 people, compared with 134 per 100 in Japan and South Korea, 93 per 100 in North America and 115 per 100 in Western Europe.

 

Source: Arab Social Media Report 2015

 

87% of people in the Arab world used Facebook in 2015

 

84% of people in the Arab world used WhatsApp in 2015

 

39% of people in the Arab world used YouTube in 2015

 

34% of people in the Arab world used Instagram in 2015

 

32% of people in the Arab world used Twitter in 2015

 

 

Source: GSMA Intelligence Study

 

Mobile broadband connections will account for almost 70% of the global base by 2020.

 

In 2014, the mobile industry generated 3.8% of global gross domestic product (GDP), a contribution that amounts to more than $3 trillion of economic value across 236 countries.

 

The mobile ecosystem directly employed nearly 17 million people in 2015, which is expected to rise to 20 million by 2020.

 

Half of the world’s population now has a mobile subscription – up from just one in five a decade ago.

 

An additional one billion subscribers are predicted by 2020, taking the global penetration rate to approximately 60%.

 

Capex is forecast to total $1.4 trillion for the period out to 2020, with 3G coverage set to reach 86% of the population by 2020.

 

2015 has been a year of continued growth in the mobile industry, with more than 7.6 billion mobile connections (representing 4.7 billion unique subscribers) and operator revenues of more than $1 trillion.

 

The acceleration of 4G has been a major highlight. The global 4G connection base passed the one-billion mark in late 2015. 4G networks are now available in 151 countries across the world.

 

The global subscriber penetration rate now stands at 63%, with regional penetration rates ranging from 43% in Sub-Saharan Africa to 85% in Europe.

 

At the end of 2015, 2.5 billion individuals across the developing world were accessing the Internet through mobile devices, a figure that will increase by more than 1.3 billion by 2020.

 

Unique subscriber penetration in Middle East and North Africa in 2015 stood at 57% and will be 61% in 2020.

 

Globally, connections will grow at an annual rate of 3.9% to 2020, leading to an increase in the penetration of connections to 114%.

 

WhatsApp has increased in size from 200 million users in April 2013 to 900 million in September 2015 and it continues to grow. Facebook Messenger, meanwhile, has 700 million users, while QQ Mobile and WeChat have more than 600 million users each.

 

TV entertainment takes a broadband leap

Netflix

Upon the launch of Netflix in the region, the company shares content offerings and other plans for the global expansion.

 

 

Recently, Netflix launched its video streaming platform around the globe in 130 new countries to include the UAE and other countries in the GCC and MENA regions. As the service went live around the world, Reed Hastings, Netflix’s co-founder and CEO made the announcement. Before this new launch, the streaming platform was available in 60 countries.

To its 17 previously established language offerings, Netflix introduced the addition of Arabic, Korean, and Simplified and Traditional Chinese. However, while the company continues to explore avenues of service expansion, Netflix will not be made available in China. Other countries such as Crimea, North Korea and Syria were also left out of the most recent expansion due to US government restrictions for the American company. Apart from Syria, Netflix has rolled out its services to all countries in the region.

The typical service offering of one free month before beginning payment of $7.99 per month has been extended to new UAE customers.

GMR,the sister publication of DOTMENA, had the opportunity to speak with Joris Evers, vice-president and head of communications in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) for Netflix. He outlined some of the company’s expansion plans going forward, saying, “We are planning to invest $6 billion to generate content for Netflix in the next 12 months.”

Netflix is becoming widely known for its original content pieces, like the popular series House of Cards and Daredevil. The company has been open in the past about not having measurement incentives to determine the viewership or success of shows on the platform due to the lack of advertising. Evers explains that this deficit will continue for the foreseeable future in every new market into which the streaming giant ventures: “We provide ad-free streaming and this will not change in the foreseeable future,” he explains.

As far as measurement goes, Netflix does not have to answer to advertisers, but many say they might want to answer to their Wall Street investors, especially due to the volume of investment Netflix is making into its original content and its continued plans in this direction in the future. Over this past summer, measurement company Nielsen began work on a program to track viewing on Netflix. According to The Wall Street Journal, Nielsen said it’s now tracking almost 1,000 shows on platforms like Netflix and Hulu. The data, however, will only be shared with affiliated studios and will not include the views a show receives in other markets outside the US.

When asked about Netflix original content, which has made a big impact for the streaming company, Evers explained that as of now, there are not yet plans to produce in-house Arabic content in the Middle East but the company is currently looking at some Turkish series, which, he explains, “are very popular with the Arab viewers.” Although, he does note that Netflix regularly receives scrips and, he says, “If something interesting from this region comes up, our teams will evaluate the script.”

As far as content expansion goes, Netflix’s Evers tells GMR’s Arabic sister-title, Saneou Al Hadath, the network has more than 30 new Netflix original series – or new seasons of existing series – planned for 2016. He continues saying, “Most of these will be available to our members everywhere, exclusively on Netflix, which is more than one full new season of a series every other week.” Furthermore, looking further than original series, Netflix plans to expand its original film offerings, launching over ten new films this year, as well as new children’s programming and documentaries.

While much of Netflix’s original content will be available globally, one criticism of Netflix’s latest expansion is the unavailability of all content that customers have access to in the US. However, the company has alleviated these concerns in a press statement, saying, “We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of Jan 15, we now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries, but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere.”

One issue that Netflix will face globally and in the region upon the new launch is the use of virtual personal networks (VPNs) and proxies, upon which the company intends to place further restrictions going forward. Yann Lafargue, manager of technology and corporate communications for EMEA at Netflix, says, “We are working towards curtailing the use of Netflix through VPNs or proxies. It’s purely due to licensing issues as some of our shows are licensed to be streamed in few countries.” Evers explains this further to Saneou Al Hadath, saying, “Our goal is to offer a fully global service with a global catalog, so that no one has to wait for the hottest new show or movie. However, the world of content licensing has traditionally been very fragmented and regionalized. It will take some time – several years at least – to get to an offering that’s the same everywhere. Until then, we strive to offer a compelling service everywhere by licensing the best of TV and film available.”

Netflix is working to manage the use of these technologies, saying, “In coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies.” Lafargue affirms that, in the near future, the use of VPNs and proxies will be redundant as the company is working to make all content available in all countries. In a statement, the company says, “For now, given the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories, the TV shows and movies we offer differ, to varying degrees, by territory. In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location.”

Due to the subscriber base, specifically in the US, Netflix is no doubt a competitor to traditional mainstream media outlets. Evers shared his outlook on the future of these types of media, saying, “In the near future, TV service providers will focus on live events such as news and sports, while telecom providers will become Internet providers.” He explains that the future of television is on-demand Internet streaming multichannel media, which consumers will watch on their Smart TVs, Smartphones and tablets.

The Fourth Revolution is Here: Saudi Telecom Company’s CEO Khalid Bin Hussein Bayari says that technology-enabling platforms are important for digital transformation

By Atique Naqvi, Davos

STC-CEO

The main theme of discussion in Davos this year is the Fourth Revolution – the digital transformation. What is STC doing to incorporate these new developments in the digital arena?

The success of the digital revolution primarily depends on many things. One of the most important factors is reliable and robust infrastructure – telecom infrastructure, both wireless and fixed. That is the way you will be able to connect people to people, people to machines, and machines to machines.

Therefore, any country or any industry that is serious about digital transformation does need that reliable infrastructure. Now, for us, that is not enough. We are investing heavily – clearly – on our infrastructure to provide our traditional telecom services.  Along with creating a strong infrastructure, we are building what we call an enablement platform, which has a number of components. You have the Cloud part, you have the IoT platform and then you have the security platform. These platforms are the ones where you can build applications and services.

On top of that, we will be building partnerships in different industries: education, health, security, logistics and transportation.

We see our role in Saudi Arabia and in the markets we operate in as a major enablement partner for the government or for the different industries we deal with. We are working and putting [in place] the right models to ensure that the infrastructure needed is there. Clearly, you need investments not only on the wireless side – for example, in Saudi, we are providing wireless almost everywhere, so, in terms of 2G and 3G coverage, we are in the space of a little less than 100 percent. For 4G, we are close to providing approximately 90 percent coverage to the population. Fixed-line services and fiberizing the country are areas we have been investing in. But we are also looking for a partnership with the government and ensuring that we provide connectivity almost everywhere.

 

How is this changing the revenue-generation model for the telecom companies in the Arabian Gulf countries and especially STC?

Well, there are two fronts. One, you have to monetize the data side. That requires clearly making sure that you have the right regulatory environment and that is essential. Second, where we expect double-digit growth is the enterprise side, where we are not only working with the government and large enterprises, but we are also focusing on SMEs. Through our model, we are able to help enterprises in their capital expenditure requirements and turning them into an operational expenditure requirement, which is less straining, especially at times such as now, when we have a difficult economic situation.

 

In your interaction with delegates in Davos, what have you learned this year?

Digital transformation is a reality now. Clearly, there are challenges. I have mentioned one that has to do with the infrastructure, but there is also the governance aspect, which is very important. The third is that industries need to look into their business models and their processes and I think that once all the three are there, we will be in a completely new economy.

 

How are you planning to move ahead on taking full control of your Kuwaiti affiliate VIVA?

STC is moving ahead with its offer to buy all shares of VIVA, which is not currently owned by STC, at the announced offer price of KWD1 per share. The offer price is based on an extensive study of VIVA’s future business plan, as well as the growth opportunities in the Kuwaiti telecom market and the investments needed by VIVA to compete in the market.

There were rumors about STC increasing the offer price. We have no intention of increasing the price. Since VIVA’s establishment, STC has offered all the technical, financial and strategic support that enabled VIVA to grow in a very competitive market, benefiting from STC’s experience and status as the largest integrated telecom company in the Middle East.

 

STC posted consolidated revenues of SAR50.8 billion ($13.5 billion) for 2015. It was a great year for the company: how do you see this?

The 11 percent increase in consolidated revenue and the 3.8 percent increase in EBITDA for the 12-month period compared with last year confirms that STC’s strategy is working well. The decline in net profit for the 12-month period is mainly attributed to STC’s continued investments in programs that will have positive outcomes in the near future, such as the early retirement program and the disposal of old assets.

Also, [the decline is] due to the FX losses (non-operating and non-cash) related to the significant depreciation of the Turkish lira against the US dollar during the 12-month period compared with the same period last year and the two-month salary expenses (one-off) booked during the first quarter of 2015, which was made as a gesture to follow the initiative of the Honorable Royal Decree.

STC has an important role in leading the knowledge-based economy by developing platforms and solutions that contribute to increasing productivity and improving institutions’ efficiencies, allowing speedy introduction of high-quality services.

Mobile Apps to grow in the next two years

Tablet Pc And Internet Of Things Apps

A new mobile survey focused on line-of-business (LOB) decision makers found that almost half (47 percent) see mobility as a means to automate existing business processes, but only a quarter (26 percent) cite the objective of mobile as changing the way they do business.

IT decision makers, on the other hand, view mobile apps as more transformative (35 percent) for the business, according to the survey by Red Hat, Inc., the world’s leading provider of open source solutions.

Red Hat commissioned research firm Vanson Bourne to conduct two separate surveys, the first of which polled the views of 200 IT decision makers in October 2015, followed by a more recent survey of 200 LOB decision makers in January 2016, from private sector organizations across the US and Western Europe.

The latest research reveals that LOB decision makers are well-aligned with their IT colleagues on many aspects of mobile strategy, investment growth, performance measurement and the increasing role of the business in mobile decision making. This points to greater harmony between LOB and IT in meeting the demand for mobile apps.

 

Key findings of this survey include:

  • LOB decision makers see the current approach to mobile app development as primarily IT-led (38 percent) followed by business-led (24 percent). However, they see this flipping toward being business-led (36 percent) over the next two years.
  • With regard to the current primary approach to building apps, LOB decision makers in the US and Western Europe favor different methods. While 28 percent of US LOB decision makers use a collaborative Mobile Center of Excellence (MCoE) approach, only five percent of LOB decision makers in Western Europe take this approach to app development.
  • LOB decision makers are more focused on client-side development tools and technologies, while relying on IT to support them with a range of modern app development and integration technologies. Seventy percent of LOB decision makers have already used the IT department as a resource for designing and building mobile apps, compared to just 27 percent that have used a third party.
  • LOB decision makers expect implementation of IoT projects to increase in 2016. Twelve percent of LOB decision makers said their organizations have already implemented an IoT project, but that number jumps to more than half (53 percent) when respondents were asked if they expect IoT projects to be initiated during this year or the next.
  • The majority of LOB decision makers (78 percent) cite the use of KPIs to measure mobile success and see responsibility for tracking these shifting more towards the business. LOB decision makers (58 percent) report that senior IT heads are currently responsible for tracking KPIs, but half of LOB decision makers expect that LOB heads will be responsible for KPIs in the next year.

 

On the trends captured in the survey, Cathal McGloin, vice-president of Mobile Platforms at Red Hat, says: “The new mobile survey shows that there is a mutual understanding from both LOB and IT executives that mobile app development will take on more of a business-led approach in the near future. Organizations that have fully implemented a mobile app strategy are more likely to be empowering their line of business managers to influence the development of mobile apps and are supported by IT through the use of modern app development tools, platforms and integration technologies. This is collaboration in action. I see the relationship between LOB and IT continuing to strengthen as mobile programs become increasingly focused on business outcomes.”

Mobile News

 Du-LiFi-Saleem AlBlooshi

1) du brings LiFi technology to the UAE

Forget 4G and optical fibre WiFi connections. The UAE will now have one of the fastest Internet connections in the world with LiFi.

The UAE-based telecommunications service provider du and UAE-born brand Zero1 recently demonstrated successfully the capability of state-of-the-art Light Fidelity (LiFi) technology in Dubai. This is the latest technology in data communication.

LiFi is a wireless optical networking technology that uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for data transmission instead of radio waves, reportedly giving it the data transmitting potential of up to 224GB per second.

According to research from Mordor Intelligence, LiFi is 100 times faster than WiFi technology, as well as being significantly cheaper. In addition, LiFi complements WiFi technology, minimizing the risk of data loss in a high-density area in a confined region. In doing so, it will be adding significant value to du’s wireless broadband portfolio capabilities in both indoor and outdoor data transmissions.

The integration of LiFi enables du to provide solutions for its business customers across municipal, commercial and industrial environments. du has demonstrated three use cases for LiFi technology, including Internet, video streaming and audio streaming over LiFi.

Saleem AlBlooshi, executive vice-president of Network Development and Operations at du, says, “With the Global LiFi market expected to reach $80 billion by 2021, we expect to see demand for this technology increasing exponentially over the coming years. We wanted to ensure our customers were aware of this technology; the demonstration of LiFi technology complements our broadband portfolio for the business segment. We are currently working with major businesses to create tailor-made LiFi solutions and to test and validate the applications so that we can ensure we offer the latest in innovation to our valued customers.”

The new innovative LiFi technology is particularly suitable for environments where safety and data security are paramount, such as hospitals, company headquarters, transport and security agencies.

 

 

BenQ Projector

2) BenQ tops UAE video projector market

BenQ, the internationally renowned provider of world-leading human technology and solutions, is the No. 1 player in the UAE Video Projector Market, with 25 percent market share, as per the latest report for Q4 2015 released by the world’s top-rated specialist research and consulting firm Future Source Consulting.

Manish Bakshi, managing director, BenQ Middle East and Turkey, says: “The video projector market in the UAE is highly competitive with many players and we are proud that our video projectors are leading the market with a 25 percent share.

“We offer a wide range of projectors for corporate, education, home theater and home entertainment, bringing images to life with utmost clarity and lifelike color. Our projectors are also popular for their interactive features, allowing for group collaboration, contribution and co-creation, with touchscreen- and WiFi-compatible projectors.”

BenQ is committed to innovation in projector technology. Recently, the company launched their new home video projector series with Rec. 709 technology – the international HDTV standard to guarantee accurate reproduction of cinematic color.  In addition to delivering stunningly true cinematic colors, select models feature a 1080p full HD optimized optical system for unmatched picture clarity and detail, along with lens shift, side projection, short-throw technology, big zoom, as well as Full HD wireless connectivity and user-friendly interface.

“Our affordable price and high performance offering make us the projector of choice in the market,” Manish Bakshi adds.

 

 

 Linksys-Router

3) Linksys new router ideal for 4K streaming

Linksys, the first brand to sell 100 million routers globally, has launched the Linksys Max-Stream™ AC1900 MU-MIMO Gigabit Wi-Fi Router (EA7500) in the Middle East.

The Max-Stream, which is will be available at the forthcoming GITEX Shopper, uses technology optimized to provide 4K and HD TV streaming to multiple devices, as well as play video games, listen to music, check email, shop and more – all at the same time.

The new Linksys AC1900 MU-MIMO router leverages the 802.11ac Wave 2 MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output) technology, which helps ensure uninterrupted Wi-Fi connectivity to multiple devices in the home and functions as if multiple devices have their own dedicated router. Perfect for families with multiple users with their own streaming devices, the Max-Stream AC1900 leverages MU-MIMO functionality, which helps make Wi-Fi networks more efficient when delivering high bandwidth 4K streams to multiple devices simultaneously.

 

4) Philips enables shopping at light speed in Dubai

View Infografics Here: Philips-Shopping-Lighting-Speed

 

Philips Lighting and UAE-based retailer aswaaq have announced a partnership for the first connected lighting indoor positioning to improve customer experience.

The new system uses lights that act as a positioning system that allows customers to use Smartphones to access new location based services. This empowers the retailer to provide a smooth shopping experience for their customers, which may help boost sales and customer loyalty.

The system works by the individual light points transmitting their location through a modulation of light (a technology called Visible Light Communication) that is imperceptible to the human eye but detected by the customer’s Smartphone camera. Once the customer downloads the retailer’s app they can choose to access location-based services, such as locate items on their shopping list to an accuracy of 30cm. The data stream is one-way and no personal data is collected by the lighting system.

By installing Philips LED-based indoor positioning technology in its Al Bada’a supermarket, Dubai, aswaaq will benefit from a 50 percent reduction in lighting-based energy consumption, as well as maintenance cost savings and a reduction in its carbon footprint.

 

5) IT budgets major challenge for security solutions

 

Nearly 60 percent of respondents in a recent IT security survey identified budget constraints as a major challenge for implementing IT security solutions. The survey of Middle East organizations was conducted by the International Data Corporation (IDC).

At the same time, 68 percent of Middle East CIOs (chief information officers) indicated that maintaining security will remain their biggest technology challenge throughout 2016, as they face mounting pressure to ensure high levels of system performance and availability.

This requirement to seemingly do more with less featured heavily on the agenda of IDC’s recent IT Security Roadshows in Jeddah and Riyadh, where more than 280 senior security professionals from the Kingdom’s government, oil and gas, manufacturing, construction and BFSI verticals – to name just a few – gathered to undertake an in-depth examination of the increasingly volatile forces shaping the prevailing threat landscape in Saudi Arabia as new economic realities begin to bite.

“Given the current economic environment, it is only natural that organizations in Saudi Arabia look to revisit their IT budgets,” says Megha Kumar, senior research manager for software at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. “But, while cost optimization is an obvious priority, organizations must not neglect the critical importance of their information security posture. Employing a reactive approach to security in these circumstances is certainly a strategy to avoid, as it creates exactly the sort of ecosystem that cybercriminals require in order to gain access to systems and even compromise critical infrastructure.”

“Budget constraints are likely to remain a challenge for the foreseeable future in Saudi Arabia,” says Kumar. “But the security conundrum becomes even more challenging when organizations look to start downsizing their headcounts in a bid to free up much-needed resources. In such a scenario, the threat of insider risk is exacerbated as disgruntled employees leave the company, potentially taking sensitive corporate information with them.”

 

Honor 5x gold (1)

6) honor’s 5X fuels Huawei growth

Huawei honor says its honor 5X Smartphone, launched in February, has sold five times more than its predecessor, the 4X.

This has helped drive the brand’s 100 per cent growth year-on-year, which is delivering a 15 per cent contribution to Huawei’s extensive progression in the Middle East.

Globally, honor’s revenue contributed 30 per cent to Huawei’s registered 69 per cent revenue growth in 2015 compared with the previous year.

Research released by analysis firm IDC predicts that worldwide Smartphone shipments are expected to rise to 1.9 billion by 2019 – up from 1.4 billion last year. However, it is predicted that the average selling price of handsets, will decline by 4.6 per cent each year from $293.61 to $236.38. This step-change in consumer behavior toward mid-range devices is being driven by gadgets such as the honor 5X, with its premium features including the fingerprint sensor, which has never before been seen in its price category.

Within the priority markets for Huawei honor, there is a huge shift occurring toward mid-range phones (in the $100 to $300 price range). In 2015, according to the IDC, this sector increased by 25 per cent in the UAE and 34 per cent in Saudi Arabia.

 

7) Bathroom and digital connection

 

The relationship between users and their digital devices is often closer than those between best friends. A research by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International shows that 33 per cent of respondents in the UAE take their devices into the bathroom and more than a quarter of them share secrets using their device that they don’t want anyone else to know. However, this trust could be leaving users at risk as devices can be hacked and private information exposed to the world.

The study found that the overwhelming majority of people in the UAE (83 per cent) store important, confidential and sometimes irreplaceable information on their Smartphones, including passwords, messages, photos, contacts, files and more. Twenty-eight per cent in the UAE say that their devices carry sensitive information they wouldn’t want anyone else to see.

Further, these devices are carried and used everywhere: 64 percent in the UAE use their devices at work, 52 percent in cars, 46 percent on public transport, 66 percent while in bed and 33 percent use their devices even in the bathroom.

Connecting Mobile:Why media, creative, and research agencies need to get together for the growth of mobile advertising

Set of Flat Design Icons. Mobile Phones, Tablet PC, Marketing Te

By Zaira Lakhpatwala, Dubai

 

 

The year of mobile. Cross-device targeting. Geofencing. Personalized marketing. Identity-based targeting. The small screen revolution. These are just some of the phrases that do the rounds when people talk about mobile – if not digital – advertising.

However, there seems to be a certain bubble surrounding mobile advertising in the MENA region, where Smartphone penetration is among the highest in the world and, yet, the overall mobile ad spend continues to struggle for its fair share.

The present-day regional scenario holds two key challenges for the growth of mobile advertising: measurement and collaboration. Lack of third-party research and efficient ways (read: agencies and technologies) to measure mobile engagement – especially across devices – combined with the lack of a mobile-first approach on the part of creative agencies make the mobile environment even more challenging than it already was.

 

for good measure. Tony Bourached, regional director and head of digital MENA at Mindshare, admits that the region is falling behind in research – but that’s not limited to mobile.

“If you talk about behavioral [research], which is the basic, we’re not even close on digital, let alone mobile,” he says. One reason could be that mobile penetration in the region has grown at an incredibly prolific rate. “Maybe the industry hasn’t caught up with that,” he adds.

Waseem Afzal, head of digital at OMD UAE, agrees that the regional industry hasn’t been able to bridge the gap between the different sets of metrics – including TV and digital – and this applies to mobile too. “We are still siloed in [terms of] how we report the performance of a campaign to our clients,” he says. “We’re still driven by metrics on a channel and platform level.”

Not only isn’t there enough research and data, according to media agencies, but there’s also a need to redefine mobile metrics. “We’re limited, in some sense, in terms of a cookie-cutter approach from desktop to mobile. We’re trying to move away from some of the metrics. We still look at engagement rates, but, if we look at the mobile app conversation, the industry is based on downloads, which is a crazy metric for me,” says Simon Sothcott, digital director at MEC. Instead, he suggests moving to metrics such as the number of active users, time spent and revenue per user.

For Afzal, the archaic metrics the industry is looking at says a lot about how “you position mobile and what role it plays in the overall scheme of things”.

In the region, one-third of the digital audience has ad-blocking software installed, while 50 percent of all display impressions are not even viewed. “So, what are you really left with?” asks Afzal. “It means that display should no longer be pursued in the same light as it was in the past. Its role has changed very much, because we’re seeing that a lot of clients are associating display activities more [with] performance and [want it] to be reclassified under trading desks.”

Another common metric, the click-through rate (CTR), is higher on mobile than on desktop, which, for some, is an indication of the power of mobile. However, Bourached questions if the CTR converts to real clicks, considering that mobile is a much smaller screen.

For him, mobile, being more personal, is the gateway to more data that is most likely not available through desktop. “Telecom companies hold a lot of data which they don’t share. So, the day we crack measurement on mobile is the day media – or even the industry – can work closely with telco providers, analyze that data, go beyond the click and target people better,” he says.

Not only do telcos have data they’re not sharing, they’re not using it themselves either. Joubran Abdul Khalek, director of digital and mobile at SMG, says, “It’s not about giving it [data] out. [It’s about] monetizing it in a way for us to segment and target audiences even more specifically.” He goes on to add that this benefits the telcos, who are in dire need of money, and, moreover, data utilization and optimization are new revenue streams that are perfectly legal.

 

 

fingers crossed. While there is certainly a distinction between laptops, mobiles and, now, even wearables in terms of media consumption, user behavior and campaign performance and metrics, there is no difference between any of these from a user’s perspective. These devices, overall, form one connected experience and, while users do shift from one to the other rather seamlessly, they are, more often than not, using them simultaneously.

“When a TVC comes up, people look down. So, brands, clients and agencies need to be ready to create compelling content that lives in the moment, for customers who act in the moment, or else be left on the big screen and, ultimately, on the shelf,” says Fahad Osman, brand strategy at Twitter MENA. And yet, says Afzal, “I haven’t seen anything that works seamlessly from one platform to another. It’s not just about targeting but [about] retargeting also.”

There are certain players that are enabling cross-device measurement and targeting, such as Facebook’s Atlas and Google’s DoubleClick, but these are largely restricted to the online giants’ respective environments – although one can argue that those two by themselves form a significant part of a user’s online ecosystem. Xaxis’ TV Sync, Twitter’s Amplify and SMG’s RUN are all products that enable cross-device targeting – and possibly even retargeting – but there’s nothing in terms of pure research.

“There are other algorithm-based offerings from third-party companies, but they rely on being able to partner with some data providers  – of which there are zero in the region… It’s early days,” says Sothcott.

Eventually, what all of this means is that  “we need to invite the global research companies,” says Bourached of Mindshare – which has a company called LifePlus conducting research around wearables.

Khalek says that SMG is investing in technology that will help the group tackle the challenges surrounding mobile advertising, but even he admits that as far as soft data – behavior, for example – is concerned, “there need to be more industry players investing. There should be more independent bodies doing this at scale and a certain cost. We would be interested to invest this money, but there’s nothing that is quick and cost-efficient.”

So, if everyone agrees on the need, importance and investment in bringing third-party research companies to the region, why isn’t anyone doing it? “It’s a chicken and egg story. The responsibility is with everyone, including clients. If clients or even agencies allocate a proper budget for research and invest [in it], that would drive it,” suggests Bourached.

To sum it up, Fahad Mughal, digital account manager at MEC, asks, “Are we too comfortable as a region? Too reliant on foreign knowledge and expertise? Is there nothing that can be grown and nurtured here?”

 

 

mind over matter? Over the past few years, media agencies have got themselves into the spotlight mostly through the power of data. While intellectually stimulating or emotionally wrenching creatives still win awards, the power of data has equipped media agencies to find a new forte – and even a new place in
clients’ budgets.

This divide can be chalked down to the advent of social media. Afzal says, “Media agencies were quick to jump onto it as opposed to PR and creative, and, now, PR [agencies] want to position themselves as an extension of [their] traditional [services] – creative [agencies] on the back of copywriters – but whoever moves in quick[ly] and creates a first-mover advantage for the clients creates a proposition that’s strong and compelling.”

“As the lines between creative and media blurred, we found ourselves competing and not complementing each other in [many] ways and offering probably what’s best for clients,” adds Bourached. The role of creative agencies even in a data-driven world is undeniably important. As Bourached puts it, “They [creative agencies] are the brand guardians; they know the brands probably more than the brands know themselves and have a big responsibility to support the clients.”

Still, “I strongly believe they haven’t really changed the way they approach digital creatives,” says Afzal. Even today, creative agencies are seen applying offline treatments to digital and mobile creatives.

Instead of creating for mobile, they’re adapting to it. In a time when consumers and impressions are on mobile and smartphone penetration is high, why not think mobile-first, asks SMG’s Khalek. “Because it’s a cycle, it hinders us as media agencies when we want to plan mobile and we don’t have the right creative support,” he adds.

However, Twitter’s Osman hates the term “mobile-first”. He explains, “It means there is a demarcation between what happens on hand-held devices and the rest of a campaign. Agencies and clients need to start thinking about the small screen in terms of user actions as opposed to channel and this starts with the brief.”

Currently, mobile suppliers seem to be bridging the gap, according to Afzal, although he adds that this is not sustainable. “If brand [creative] agencies want to position themselves as custodians of brands across touchpoints and if we know that consumers are spending increasingly more time with these emerging screens, then creative agencies need to flip the model of how they’re delivering ad executions,” he explains.

 

survival of the fittest. It’s in the best interest of creative agencies, too, to start adapting, even if it’s to add a potential revenue stream. While some have indeed started to do that, there continues to be a certain pushback.

“There’s a head-in-the-clouds type [of] approach when it comes to creative. As a media agency, we are the gatekeepers of client data,” says MEC’s Mughal. “A lot of times, we see creative agencies wanting to reinvent the wheel just to show their prowess, but simplicity [is important], especially on intimate mobile devices.”

With this pushback comes some friction and ego play, according to Mughal, because no creative agency wants to be told how to design creatives, even if the media agency knows exactly what’s not working.

However, for both Afzal and Bourached, it is not so much a question of ego as it is about access to data. “When we go to a client, we typically see them inclining toward the recommendation of a media agency that’s backed up by stats, data and insights – which, unfortunately, not a lot of creative agencies have access to,” says Afzal.

“The power of data that media agencies have… How can that be offered to creative agencies [that are] used to working and delivering brand message?” questions Bourached.

Is the onus then on media agencies to provide their creative agencies with this data? “We’re sharing much – not cost – internally with the creative agencies we work with,” says Khalek.

Meanwhile, Bourached says that media agencies have a duty to themselves, clients and the industry to share the data – and even educate their creative counterparts in the process. However, he adds, it’s still up to the creative agencies to learn.

“It works both ways. They [creative agencies] need to be more proactive when it comes to being curious about what’s happening in a digital world and the industry should look at working closely with them on a partnership level as opposed to competing,” he says.

Sothcott also feels the need for a big global player to help move the process along. “When Google made the change from Flash to HTML5, there was pushback from creative agencies, but what it took was a push from global players to [make] that [happen],” he says.

That is probably why Facebook, Twitter and Google currently have in-house departments that work closely with agencies.

The shift to digital is underway with several agencies taking a more digital – if not mobile-first – approach. For instance, TBWA\RAAD disbanded its digital arm, Digital Arts Network (DAN), integrating the staff with the planning teams of its creative arm.

Other agencies have done the same: SMG has formed one team, duOne, combining its media and creative staff, while MEC has a collaborative team for Vodafone.

The ad industry has come a long way, growing from being one happy family to seeing different specializations growing up to form their own identity. But, now, the industry needs to come back as one family again.

As Osman puts it, “No more TV planner, offline planner or digital planner. We need planning. Period.”

 

 

Pull quotes

 

“We are still siloed in [terms of] how we report the performance of a campaign to our clients” – Waseem Afzal, head of digital, OMD UAE

 

“There’s a head-in-the-clouds type [of] approach when it comes to creative” – Fahad Mughal, digital account executive, MEC

 

“We need to invite the global research companies” – Tony Bourached, regional director and head of digital MENA, Mindshare

 

“It hinders us as media agencies when we want to plan mobile and we don’t have the right creative support” – Joubran Abdulkhalek, director of mobile at SMG

 

“…Or else be left on the big screen and, ultimately, on the shelf” – Fahad Osman, senior brand strategist, Twitter MENA