Texts, banners and search ads are least trusted

July 29, 2009

Text messages, web banners and search engine ads are the least trusted forms of advertising in the UAE, according to new research from Nielsen.

According to Nielsen’s survey of consumers, 70 per cent of people in the Emirates have little or no trust in text ads on mobile phones, 65 per cent feel the same about online banners and 61 per cent feel the same about ads attached to search engine results.

Recommendations by personal acquaintances and opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising globally, according to the latest twice-yearly Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 internet consumers from 50 countries.

In the UAE, the survey shows 95 per cent of internet consumers trust recommendations from people they know, making word of mouth the most trusted medium. Editorial content came in second place, with 84 per cent of UAE respondents trusting it completely or somewhat, ahead of newspaper ads (78 per cent), brand websites (72 per cent each), brand sponsorships (68 per cent) and consumer opinions posted online (66 per cent). Magazine ads, outdoor media, radio ads, cinema ads and TVCs came next in the UAE list.

Jonathan Carson, president of online, international, for the Nielsen Company, said: “The explosion in consumer generated media over the last couple of years – we are now tracking over 100 million CGM sources – means consumers’ reliance on word of mouth in the decision-making process, either from people they know or online consumers they don’t, has increased significantly.

“However, we see that all forms of advertiser-led advertising, except ads in newspapers, have also experienced increases in levels of trust and it’s possible that the CGM revolution has forced advertisers to use a more realistic form of messaging that is grounded in the experience of consumers rather than the lofty ideals of the advertisers.”

A press statement from Nielsen added: “Regional advertisers will be encouraged by the fact that brand websites and brand sponsorships are quickly catching up to newspaper advertising, the most trusted form of advertiser-led advertising in the UAE. Globally, the UAE is the 16th most favourable towards brand sponsorships (out of 50 countries surveyed), 18th most favourable towards brand websites and 31st for trusting consumer opinions online.”

Tahir Khalil, head of Nielsen Online for MENA, said: “It is clear from the survey that online is a medium on the move and the trust levels in it as a category are building momentum, not only here in the UAE but also globally. It is for this reason Nielsen has rolled out its new Market Intelligence offering, a service based on a precise site-centric measurement technology that provides competitive benchmarking and market-level information on websites for the publishing and advertising industries.”

Is anyone surprised by these results? Let us know what you think…

Abu Dhabi set to launch HD TV channel in October

July 29, 2009

AD HD LogoThe introduction of High Definition TV in the Middle East is gathering pace. Less than a month after Showtime launched an HD service, Abu Dhabi Media Company has announced plans to put its own HD channel, Abu Dhabi HD, on air across the UAE in October.

The new channel promises English Premiership football (though this is not likely to be the case until the beginning of the 2010-11 season when ADMC’s broadcast rights kick into action), plus documentaries from National Geographic Abu Dhabi, drama and movies, all with the sharper detail and visual clarity that the HD platform offers.

Abu Dhabi HD will be accessible through E-Vision to viewers in the UAE with compatible HD television sets and set-top boxes, which are available from electronics retailers.

Mohamed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, chairman of ADMC, said: “Abu Dhabi Media Company is proud to play a role in contributing to the growth of Abu Dhabi as a regional and international media hub. With ADMC boasting 40 years of successful broadcast history, and HD being lauded as the biggest breakthrough in broadcasting since colour television, it seemed natural for ADMC to make High Definition television accessible to its viewers in the UAE.

“The launch of Abu Dhabi HD is a significant milestone for ADMC,” added Edward Borgerding, CEO of ADMC. “HD is the future of television, both broadcast and Internet Protocol TV (IPTV), and it is essential that ADMC offers its viewers the opportunity to experience the latest most modern advances in television quality.”

Karim Sarkis, ADMC’s executive director of broadcast, said: “HD TV has rapidly gained international popularity and we are delighted to be able to bring this experience into the homes of viewers in the UAE. Abu Dhabi HD will be available through E-Vision, and will deliver rich, outstanding content to viewers equipped with easy-to-install HD TVs and set-top boxes. The Personal Video Recorder (PVR) function, will allow viewers to pause, rewind and record while watching the latest films, dramas, documentaries from National Geographic Abu Dhabi or sporting action from the English Premier League.”

Summer interns: cheap labour or valuable resource?

July 28, 2009

portfolioIf you’ve been left behind in the office while your colleagues are doing the conga in foreign climes, you could soon find yourself sitting next to a summer intern.

The seasonal influx of eager – and occasionally not-so-eager – wannabes into media and advertising offices has already begun. But will these young guns be ruthlessly exploited as free labour, left twiddling their thumbs in the corner, or given a genuine opportunity to learn from their chosen workplace and perhaps even contribute to its success?

The question is raised in the latest edition of Campaign by our columnist Ramsey Naja, chief creative officer of JWT MENA.  Naja argues that rather than giving interns the cold shoulder, agencies have a duty to welcome them through the door.

“Call me old-fashioned but I believe we have civic duties beyond our standard remit and taking in interns, working with them, putting up with their suspect hygiene and social media linguistics, training them and contributing to their formation – yes, even if they end up working for competitors – is something that should be cast in stone as a guiding principle for any agency,” he writes. “Putting up with – or, better, taking advantage of – ambitious grads is a must, the moment you find your inbox filling up with unsolicited and unbelievably pedantic CVs.

“But, strangely, such responsibility comes with obligations. Using interns as free labour is intellectual slavery, or simply theft. Not using them may be even worse for it denies them the opportunity to test minds still spurred by education, excited by the work environment and desperate to be free from the shackles of academia.”

This last point is an important one, because a lack of will to mentor, nurture and develop youngsters with raw talent is often cited as one of the critical failings of the Middle East’s ad industry. The point was made in a recent Campaign feature about the region’s new involvement in Portfolio Night (pictured above). If budding creatives, for example, cannot get their talent heard or seen on their own doorstep, what hope is there for the future?

Alexei Orlov departs Draftfcb after just 10 months

July 23, 2009

Alexei Orlov, Draftfcb’s  regional president for Europe and the Middle East, has left the agency without a job to go to, reports the UK’s Brand Republic website.

Alexei-OrlovOrlov had been in the position just 10 months and only recently conducted an interview with Campaign which is published in this week’s edition – dated July 19. In the piece Orlov states the agency’s intention to bring a renewed focus to their Dubai-based network, Horizon Draftfcb, and increase its regional presence.

Orlov was tasked to move Draftfcb forward and was in the process of intiating the regional roll out of improvements which the network had already implemented elsewhere.

Speaking of the various changes, Orlov said: “It’s taken some time to do and what I tried to do was stop my own personal panic to immediately shine in order to take a little time to understand what we had and what we did not have, and to fix that quietly – by talking clients, taking their view in a spirit of togetherness, and then working with our people on stuff that is meaningful and can stand the test of time.”

Draftfcb is part of the Interpublic Group. Its network spans 97 countries with more than 9,600 employees. Horizon is present in the Middle East and counts Asia Foods, Kraft and Beiersdorf among its clients.

This was supposed to be a year of change for ad land

July 23, 2009

When the maelstrom of a global financial meltdown began to brush up against the Middle East’s advertising industry late last year, many observers predicted that a very necessary consolidation would occur, with the weaker, under-performing agencies squeezed out of the market while their stronger counterparts became increasingly dominant.

The theory was that, at last, the region’s over-populated and excessive ad sector – particularly in the UAE – would slim down to something more realistic after years of unchecked growth. Cuts in spending would mean greater accountability – and those that couldn’t prove their effectiveness beyond promises and lies would fall by the wayside.

This clearing-out process, many felt, would be good for the regional industry as a whole. Reality bites and everyone wakes up and smells the coffee.

Alain Khouri, chairman and CEO of Impact BBDO Group, told Campaign in December: “A slowdown could benefit the industry in terms of strengthening our talent pool as, in similar conditions, the natural survival process will favour the fittest and improve our industry’s overall standards.”

But seven months into a year that was supposed to be cataclysmic, has there been any significant change? Yes, jobs have been cut in certain quarters and some agencies have restructured. But the vast majority of players are still on the field. There’s no obvious improvement in the quality of the work and client-side sources are still reporting astonishing complacency within certain agencies.

This is despite ad spend in the UAE falling by more than a quarter in the first six months of 2009, compared with the same period last year, according to the latest data from the Pan Arab Research Centre.

So what does this say about the process of consolidation that had been predicted? Are the under-performers still ‘getting away with it’? Is the talent pool improving? Or are we simply expecting changes too early? Perhaps the consolidation is yet to come. What do you think?

Can advertising restore confidence in banks?

July 22, 2009

1Without getting tangled up in the issue of who’s to blame for the economic crisis, one thing for certain is that the reputations of banks and other financial institutions have taken a battering.

The question is, what can they do to restore the faith of consumers? If recent activity in the Middle East is anything to go by, banks are refocusing on their marketing plans.

Several banks across the region have either launched new campaigns or they are at various stages of pitching their advertising and media briefs.

Trimming budgets and seeking better value for money  are obvious motivations for holding pitches at the current period, but the need to re-establish a connection with the public, win their confidence and ultimately improve profitability must also be key concerns.

Alexis de Beauregard, chief marketing officer for the Gulf operations of insurance giant AXA, says certain perceptions need to be overturned. In the past year, the company has changed its ad agency from independent orangerie to Publicis Groupe and more recently shifted its media brief from OMD to Havas’ MPG.

In the latest edition of Campaign, he says: “We’re taking the lead in trying to change the perception of the industry and restore faith with our customers but it’s very difficult. It’s a lot quicker to destroy your brand rather than create it. It’s not just local companies, it’s international companies here. They took a lot of time building their brands over a number of years and destroyed it in about a year and a half.”

Agencies are effectively being asked to turn the tide. It’s a steep challenge.Is the region’s ad industry up to the task? Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank apparently thought not when it turned West and hired Fallon to create the ‘Long live ambition’ campaign (the merits of which have been fiercely debated).

More fundamentally, can any advertising agency realistically drive the widespread change of perception that financial institutions now require?

OMD wins multi-million dollar LVMH media account

July 21, 2009

Arguably the world’s largest group of fashion  and beauty brands has handed its multi-million dollar consolidated Middle East media brief to OMD.

Paris-based luxury goods giant LVMH – whose brands include Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Christian Dior and Donna Karan – has awarded the account to Dubai-based OMD Strategies, a dedicated unit created by OMD and its Paris-based strategic partner, Strategies International.

The news follows OMD’s winning of the planning and buying for LVMH-owned watchmaker Tag Heuer earlier this year.

Up to seven agencies, including Havas’ MPG, are believed to have been involved in the pitch of the consolidated account for the Middle East, with the final round having taken place in France.

LVMH (the acronym of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) operates 60 brands in five different sectors, including fashion and leather, perfumes and cosmetics, and watches and jewellery.

More details in the latest edition of Campaign.

Initiative win regional Etisalat assignment

July 20, 2009

Initiative Media has scooped one of the most sought-after media buying accounts in the region after securing the business for Etisalat. The pitch win gives them sole responsibility for the telecom giant’s three major markets of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Etisalat-logo Etisalat put the consolidated account out to tender last month, inviting bids from the region’s biggest media players.

Historically its business has been divided on a market-by-market basis, with Initiative handling Egypt, OMD Saudi Arabia and Mediaedge:cia the UAE.

Oussama Jamal, media chief operating officer at MCN, Initiative’s parent company, said he was proud of the win but could not comment fully until a statement had been issued by Etisalat. “We have received the award letter from Etisalat and are extremely honoured,” said Jamal. “We wouldn’t like to comment any further as Etisalat will be issuing a full press release soon.”

Last month Etisalat announced a first quarter profit of Dhs2.18 million, a four percent increase on the same period last year.

Abu Dhabi Tourism closes in on new ad agency

July 20, 2009

AbuDhabi-smallAbu Dhabi Tourism Authority has narrowed down its search for a new creative agency by selecting a shortlist of four.

The regional offices of Impact BBDO,  JWT, BWM and TBWA\Raad have been chosen to make final presentations after a total of 15 agencies were invited to submit their credentials in May.

The account will represent a significant  win for the successful agency, as the ADTA seeks to strengthen and expand international awareness of Abu Dhabi as an attractive tourist destination and stop-off point for long-haul travellers.

ADTA had a three-year contract with Australia’s M&C Saatchi which expired several months ago. The agency helped establish the fundamental brand identity of the emirate but the authority is now seeking an ad agency with a local office to look after its day-to-day requirements.

M&C Saatchi has been ruled out of the current pitch for this reason. The agency previously hinted that it would consider establishing an office in the UAE if it held the account but the ADTA is believed to be looking for an account holder that can start work immediately.

Pay-TV merger for MENA ends years of speculation

July 12, 2009

A merger between the MENA region’s two biggest pay-TV providers, Showtime Arabia and Orbit, was finally agreed at 2am this morning after months of talks.

The announcement ends years of speculation that the region’s relatively small pay-TV market could continue to support three major players. Previous attempts to form a new partnership have failed but Marc-Antoine d’Halluin, president and CEO of Showtime Arabia, and Samir Abdulhadi, president and CEO of Bahrain-based Orbit Communications Company, appear to have bonded over a 50-50 deal, which will see the two sets of shareholders co-control the new merged entity.

d’Halluin expects the merged company to become “a formidable media leader” in coming months, with each partner effectively doubling its subscriber base and content provision.

The deal will have an almost immediate effect, with subscribers of each platform potentially receiving the top channels from the other broadcaster by the end of this week. Other channels will be added by the beginning of next month, although levels of access and fees will depend on subscription packages.

The merged company will retain the Orbit and Showtime brands for the time being, offering a total of  70 channels between them.

Showtime Arabia has already begun talks with Abu Dhabi Media Company about carrying its recently-won English Premier League rights. “Going forward, we have expressed that we intend to reach an agreement with our friends at ADMC and I see no reason why we wouldn’t be able to reach an agreement. In fact, now that we have created this new company, I think it would make it even more appealing for ADMC.”