Hadley Newman, Managing Director at Omobono Middle East talks to TMN about his current role and the digital marketing industry in the Middle East…
Name: Hadley Newman
From: London, UK
Current job title: Managing Director, Omobono Middle East
When did you first arrive in Dubai?
Where did you work prior?
Prior to my current position, I previously worked with Publicis as Director from 2011 until 2013 and most recently with Cheil Worldwide as Regional Director from 2013 until 2016.
What were your first impressions of the digital marketing industry in the Middle East?
It struck me that digitisation was uneven across the region and that a handful of countries were noticeably taking the lead in social media and smartphone adoption. Like in many other markets, governments and businesses needed to move beyond traditional forms of business for the digital age. It was clear at that time, that the UAE would be one of those countries transforming the region into a leading digital economy.
Has your opinion changed much?
Not that much. The disparity between those countries in the region who have not yet fully embraced the digital opportunity and the leaders in the digital space, such as the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain, remains. The rich ambition and potential of the UAE positions it well for the accelerating forces of global change and so, with Qatar and Bahrain, it remains in a prominent place in accelerating digitisation across the region.
Tell us about your current role…
My role is to lead and grow Omobono’s regional presence, helping clients with the development of their B2B digital communication strategies to drive engagement with their key audiences such as, customers, employees, partners and stakeholders. We work to establish long lasting true-partnerships with our clients and having established Omobono’s fifth international office in Dubai, the first office in the Middle East, our best-in-class team continues to deliver some of the best specialised creative and strategic work in the region for our clients.
What challenges do you face?
The days tend not to be long enough.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Bringing new ideas to life is the most rewarding part of what we do. The concept-to-delivery is made possible by the people that I have the pleasure to work with. Our aim is to only hire people that are better than us in their respective field and we seek to work with clients who understand the value of partnership.
How do you measure marketing success in the UAE’s digital community today?
It’s clear that Google analytics led the way for many years, but with today’s tools and algorithms we are now able to provide unparalleled customer insight like never before. We can now ask the right questions and access the right answers at the right times. The opportunities for businesses are endless and we are helping our clients realise this potential within their digital communications strategies.
Is traditional media still relevant for effective branding in the region today?
The media itself – yes, to varying degrees (by discipline) and for the time being. What is important is the understanding that we’re on an evolutionary journey and this region is well positioned to be leading the advance. Brands that do not fully embrace the latest technological developments and engage through new media are at risk. However, many of the processes from traditional media, research, analysis, translation in to the creative brief and the importance of message in the story we tell, are relevant and will remain so – even as the written word becomes increasingly dominated by video – and it should be noted that certain disciplines of traditional media carry a higher level of weight and credibility than many new media channels.
We’re at an exciting point in the journey from the Gutenberg press of the 15th century to today’s fourth industrial revolution. Today’s work on online audience sentiment analysis such as IBM’s Watson or cognitive technologies and natural language interfaces, including chatbots – as well as demands for mobile-first strategy, means that pressure for traditional media to remain relevant is growing.
Has social media taken over the marketing industry in the UAE?
Many of the global brands that we work with have social media as the principle target for their digital investment in the coming year. However, the split between social and other types of digital marketing is not great enough to state that it’s taking over. The UAE is now innately digital and increasingly social. The rapid adoption of social media in this market means that brands are now able to engage with people in more meaningful ways and the role of social media is paramount to achieving marketing goals for global business brands.
Describe yourself in five words…
Quirky, responsible, resilient, amiable, decisive…and rule-breaker
What’s your most overused saying?
“Yallah” which is particularly noticeable when I’m in Europe and catch myself saying it!
Five things you can’t live without?
The arts, books, eccentricity, my bike, pencils and satire – see my earlier answer.”
If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?
I’d be working in the field of diplomacy.
How do you see the digital marketing industry changing in the Middle East in the coming years?
The future is exciting. Middle Eastern countries, most notably the UAE and Qatar, have ambitious and individual aspirations. Significant progress has been made to embrace the digital opportunity – with 78% of the population owning at least one smartphone and the penetration for UAE nationals rising to 85%. Compare this with the EU for example, where smartphone penetration is not expected to reach 68% until 2018 and that social media adoption in the UAE is over 70% (which is higher than the US). We will see continued ownership transfer of content and stories from brands to audiences as investment in the production of content and sharing stories is becoming less relevant for brands in the challenge of authenticity. Finally, interest in cognitive technologies and natural language interfaces will increase and will be one of the most interesting developments in my opinion.