The MENA region is the proud parent of a big family. But it’s a quite a diverse one with children at different stages of development and maturity. The odd thing is that sometimes the younger the kid, the less constraints it faces leading to more acceptance of the crazy things. Countries of North Africa, for example, are not as big media spenders as the Gulf States, yet they are able to produce communication that is unique, memorable and not to mention, award winning.
Maybe it’s because they are, as yet, not viewed as big advertising markets giving them the chance to come up with creative, heart touching, humor-filled stories. Even on digital, these countries are inspiring by going beyond the norms and executing well thought through communication. These countries are taking inspiration from global trends, but applying them at a really local level and in the process, creating some truly unique and inspiring work.
I’m a fan of the Vodafone ‘Fakka’ campaign. Inspiration comes in the simplest forms and for some reason, doing such a campaign in Saudi Arabia doesn’t get traction with clients because they always aim for over the top, larger than life ads that are all about flexing brand muscles in the face of competition.
In terms of global influence specifically, the rise of ‘glocal’ is no surprise to me. It comes with the rise of connected devices. As content moves from screen to screen, the local ownership of that content goes global. The better the content, the better the scale and reach it has within the digital world it lives in. Consumers from all around the world connect to Emirates and Jumeirah to book flights and hotel stays to destinations worldwide. Are these two brands Dubai brands only? Not anymore. Connectivity and smart devices helped those brands go global, while firmly holding on to their roots.
What do I see in my crystal ball for the MENA market? I see idea quality coming from North Africa and idea size coming from the GCC. Hopefully these bigger ideas will lead to more innovation that would help drive up entertainment value so that brands are able to engage with their consumers at a higher level.
Digital is firmly ingrained in the market and I’m excited to see more brands realizing the potential available to them and dedicating bigger spends to online. At the same time, not all sales woes are solved with the click of a button, so I’m waiting anxiously for TV 2.0 to kick in. I saw some magical new innovations in Tokyo being showcased as the future of TV (let’s say ‘Smart’ is the key denominator) and I expect advertisers and brands to start pushing for a more connected and immersive user experience on Pan Arab stations.
One of the most beautiful things about the MENA market is that there is such a diverse range of cultures, languages, people and stories to tell. And that is why there is always a need for individualism and creativity in this market. There is not, and never will be, a ‘one size fits all’ for MENA.