The Road Ahead For AR And VR In Marketing

Sunil Kumar Singh, Managing Editor at Mediaquest Corp touches on the use of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in the Middle East’s marketing industry…

“There’s a lot of noise on whether the disruptive digital technologies, namely Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are just another buzzword bandwagon or are they something marketers should actually be paying attention to.”

Before I go deeper into it, let’s get a quick overview of what exactly AR and VR are. In plain terms, VR is an immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality that offers consumers a 360-degree digital environment in a 3D world. This is most commonly experienced through specialised glasses or head-mounted displays.

AR, on the other hand, refers to the integration of the real-world environment that is augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated images or sensory input such as sound, video or graphics. While VR offers a more immersive experience, AR lets users experience the world around them and adds additional digital elements. A widely known example of this technology is the Pokémon GO application.

Improving customer journey

Many of the most valuable brands globally have created some form of virtual or augmented reality experience for their customers or employees. The AR/VR ecosystem is being used by brands to deploy new experiences and thus to improve the customer journey.

IKEA, for instance, has deployed AR technology in its marketing strategy by developing a table as part of its concept kitchen that suggests recipes based on the ingredients on the table.

Beauty specialist Sephora, leverages AR allowing customers to see what they might look like with different shades of lipsticks or types of eyelashes before they actually buy the product.

Some time back, Mercedes had deployed 360-degree VR in its marketing strategy by showing off its latest SL model with a virtual drive on the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Many other automobile brands, such as Ford, Volvo, Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Porsche, KIA, Lexus, Chevrolet and Honda too have been using these technologies not only in designing their cars, through these technologies, potential buyers can check out the latest models or test drive the cars.

Travel and tour operators to are applying VR to immerse potential travellers into destinations. Expedia for instance, is bringing the VR technology into the booking experience that will enable travellers to use VR to choose the right hotel room for them.

Enriching brand experience

Immersive technologies such as AR and VR can be the new gold standard for brand experiences. While the focus of VR is on experiences and emotional engagement, AR is more commonly used for product trial and utility. In both cases, they can create fully immersive environments as well as deeper brand associations in the minds of consumers.

In case of the retail sector for instance, AR and VR offer a number of solutions for customers. For one, they allow customers to make more informed buying decisions as they visit stores, which can increase the buyer conversion rate. AR/VR offer retailers many solutions such as pre-plan shopping trips, brand differentiation, information delivery, in-store engagement, product customisation, experiential product activation, group entertainment experiences, live streamed VR lectures and events, virtual stores and at-home try-on and training workshops, among others.

So far so good, It’s safer to conclude that both VR and AR have the potential to offer viable ways for brands to engage emotionally with consumers as well as to help brands increase ROI. While brands in many industries are gradually waking up to new opportunities, a full-scale mass adaptation of these technologies is still far away.

However, as consumer expectations are evolving, in order for brands to leverage such technologies for the fullest advantage, these technologies must be implemented strategically with pre-defined marketing objectives. The application of AR/VR must establish an emotional connection with consumers not only to enhance a consumer’s brand experience, but also strengthen brand loyalty and drive social media engagement. Or else, AR/VR risk ending up as a mere entertainment tool.

After all, staying relevant has always been harder for technologies!

New Editor at Villa 88

Lifestyle magazine Villa 88, part of APP Media Group welcomes Yuvitha Naran to the role of Editor. With experience in media and journalism, Yuvitha most recently worked with Mediaquest Corp. across magazines such as Marie Claire Arabia, Haya and The Dubai Mall Magazine, where she managed the production of fashion and beauty photo shoots while also assisting with styling. In her new role, she will contribute to Villa 88’s brand development and oversee its editorial content by applying her skills to both writing and styling. She will also create content strategies for the growth of the magazine across the region.

In The Hot Seat – Dana Abdelhadi

Dana Abdelhadi, Managing Partner at expose-communications tells TMN about her current role and what she thinks about women dominating the Middle East’s PR industry today…

Name: Dana Abdelhadi

Age: 33

From: Palestine

Current job title: Managing Partner at expose-communications

When did you first arrive in Dubai?

1988, a very long time ago!

Where did you work prior?

Prior to my current role, I worked with Mediaquest Corp. from 2006 – 2007 and most recently with Microsoft from 2009 – 2010.

What were your first impressions of the PR industry in the Middle East?

Representing young regional talent eight years ago was a whole new category in the fashion and lifestyle PR world, but the industry was so welcoming and eager to learn about us and our clients.

Has your opinion changed much?

Not so much – the industry has kept its doors open for new agencies and brands, which is great, as in an emerging fashion market such as ours, we need to always make space for our competitors so our industry can blossom.

Tell us about your current role…

I wear different hats throughout the day. I go from planning strategies for fashion shows in Paris to preparing VIP guest lists, to private events while overlooking all aspects of the business – all with the help of my very driven team and my very creative clients.

What challenges do you face?

Time – I need more than 24 hours a day to achieve everything I have on my mind.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

When I see my team as devoted to my company as I am and as a result our clients become our family.

How would you rather be contacted at work?

Email, always by email. With so much going on, I need everything to be written down. I always email myself reminders when I am on the go.

How has PR managed to stay relevant in today’s digital age?

We ensure our strategies are now done for shorter periods of time to keep up with the constant digital change.

What do you think of women dominating the PR industry in the UAE and the role that this has played in the media community?

I never thought of myself as a ‘feminist’ until I became a mother and realised how much more women can do with their time – hence my female driven agency. This is one of the few industries here where people prefer to be represented by a woman and I’m so proud to see so many women in the fashion industry representing such great local and international brands.

Do bloggers play a key role in the UAE’s PR industry today?

Yes definitely, however it’s the insta-famous individuals that are the hottest thing happening in PR right now.

What role has digital media played in redefining the relationship between PR professionals, journalists and bloggers?

PR professionals do what they do best, work on building and maintaining great relationships with journalists, bloggers and any other players in the field, as they are all different outlets we use to expose our brands and we work with each of them in a totally different way. As for bloggers, they need to be featured in the print titles to maintain their credibility in the industry and the journalists are using the bloggers for content. We have all learned to work together in a seamless manner.

Describe yourself in five words…

Passionate, driven, fair, private and sleep-deprived

What’s your most overused saying?

Effortlessly chic!

What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you in your career?

Moving into our new showroom last year. I had so much fun putting it all together and I still feel very proud walking into work every day.

Five things you can’t live without?

My daughter Jude, my laptop, my emails, to-do lists and my husband’s morning coffee.

If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?

I’d have a tiny concept store selling unique items collected from my travels.

What is your favourite form of media (i.e; TV, radio, print)?

Print. I still get very excited when a beautiful glossy with an amazing cover shoot lands on my desk.

How do you see the PR industry changing in the UAE in the coming years?

Clients and their agencies will be more and more careful on how they spend their budgets so the strongest titles and accounts will really stand out and get the returns they deserve.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in the PR industry in the UAE?

Keep your party shoes in your car, as you will definitely need to be able to run around comfortably for a good 12 hours of the day and welcome to the industry!

Five Minute Focus – Top CEO Conference and Awards

With the Top CEO Conference and Awards coming up, Team TMN sit down with Julien Hawari, Co-CEO at Mediaquest Corp., to find out what to expect from the upcoming event…

Tell us about the Top CEO Conference and Awards…

The Top CEO Conference is a very unique concept – It brings together people from across the region to discuss the important issues that are making an impact today. This year’s theme is ‘Adapting to disruption: New Roles, new realities’. Regionally, low oil prices have had a huge impact on businesses and governments, leading to a tremendous number of changes, including new laws, regulations and taxes, plus a more open market. In addition, businesses and governments in the region have had to adapt to the introduction and impact of new technology and the fourth Industrial revolution. Attracting businessmen and women from the region, as well as key government officials and top academics, the Top CEO Conference discusses all of these topics and more, to help find solutions and drive businesses forward. Meanwhile, the Top CEO Awards celebrate the region’s best business leaders.

When did the Top CEO Conference and Awards launch in the Middle East?

The Top CEO Conference and Awards were launched almost four years ago, the result of a very simple premise, which was that the region was transforming and we needed to acknowledge and celebrate the people and companies that are helping in this transformation, creating growth and enabling good corporate governance and transparency in the region.

What were the challenges you faced when you first launched the event?

The first event was quite a challenge, because we did it in order to change things, to bring transparency to the awards and bring in-depth conversations to the conference. It took a lot of energy to ensure that our message was clear and the execution, perfect.

As a Co-CEO at Mediaquest Corp., why did you feel the need to launch Top CEO in the region?

The idea of starting the awards came more than four years ago, following a conversation with a friend. He mentioned how the GCC and Middle East are transforming and said the future is about the people, companies and CEOs that are creating value for shareholders and growing the regional business landscape by creating jobs, and also ensuring more corporate governance as well as more transparency. Along with the team behind TRENDS media, we created an awards ceremony that was very unique. There is no opt-in or opt-out, all publicly listed companies are evaluated and there is no fee for this evaluation. The Top CEO Awards were launched to put forward and celebrate the companies and their CEOs who are taking the region to the next level. The awards are based on hard facts and the listing is arrived at using a formula that was developed by us in collaboration with INSEAD Business School. We also worked with Hawkamah to find out how best to measure some of the corporate governance transparency criteria. One of the Big Four auditors help ensure that we have the same level of rigor and transparency on our side.

When and where will this year’s event take place?

The event will take place from April 10 – 11, 2017 in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.

Why did you choose Saudi Arabia?

For the past two years, Saudi Arabia has been going through a magnificent transformation, economic regulation and a complete uplift of the economy that is helping make the fantastic Vision 2030 a reality. Saudi Arabia is also the largest market in the region, so it makes sense for a conversation that looks into the future of the region to be held there.

How will 2017’s conference be different, compared to the previous years’?

The conference this year takes the best of the previous years and builds on it. We have a very strong conversation that will discuss not just the challenges the region is facing, but also the opportunities being created, from the consequences of slow growth, to adapting to the new technology that is transforming business. Other additions this year include round-table sessions, as well as private sessions and meetings that will take place on April 10. These sessions will help the region formulate some answers to the question of what is going on globally in the world of business and how this impacts business in the region. These sessions will also look into anti-dumping and anti-trust laws.

For the media industry, one of the most important conversations that we will have at the Top CEO Conference looks at the need for the region to put in place some regulations to create a more level playing field, in terms of competition between global digital players and the regional ecosystem.

What has been your advertising strategy in the Middle East?

The Top CEO event is very particular. It reaches a very specific audience in the region, CEOs, board members, C-level executives and managing directors. It was extremely complicated to find a cost-effective way to reach this entire population – we relied on many different approaches such as, direct marketing and direct shipment, thanks to the help of our partner DHL, TV advertisements on several TV channels across the region, advertisement on print media, as well as regular above-the-line advertisements, digital advertisements and social media campaigns.

Please elaborate on the topics of discussion.

As mentioned, this year’s discussion is on adapting to disruption, what businesses and governments need to do in an age of complexity, where every single part of business is being disrupted by new challenges and how this should be done while maintaining and growing the customer base.

Can you tell us about the speakers at the event? Will it feature speakers from the media/communications/advertising industries?

There will be more than 40 different speakers at the Top CEO Conference and Awards. What makes the list very special this year is that all of the speakers, both from the region and abroad, will address fundamental disruptions that are impacting the market and share ideas on how best to adapt to these changes. They will also touch upon digital disruption and the fourth industrial revolution, as well as some other, more fundamental issues impacting the region and how all of these are modifying the way business is being conducted. The full list of speakers and agenda is on our website,

How will Top CEO benefit businesses and professionals in the media industry? Why would you recommend that leaders from the industry attend the event?

One of the topics being addressed at Top CEO Conference, which is particularly important for the media industry, is how to regulate the media industry, especially in light of global events impacting the region. Is it time for the region to implement the equivalent of anti-dumping laws? Are global players selling at a fair price or have they amortised most of the infrastructure and selling at discounted prices in the region? These are fundamental questions that the region needs to address. China has put a Chinese twist on different media, Europe has looked into more legislation and taxation. So the region perhaps needs to consider a mix of both. This is an important conversation that needs to take place, and naturally, it is important that the media and communication industry are part of the conversation.

Who is your target audience?

The target audience for the Top CEO Conference and Awards comprises of decision makers, CEOs, C-Level management and managing directors, people who have important business in this part of the world and look into ways to improve the overall economies in the region.

What is the reaction you expect, following the event?

The greatest result following the Top CEO Conference and Awards would be that important conversations essential for the future of the region take place between industry players, with a focus on improving each region at the heart.

Can anyone attend the conference and awards ceremony?

The conference is open to all decision makers from across the region.

What is the registration process?

Simply log on to our website, for full registration details, the full agenda and speaker biographies.

What should the press and media expect at the event? How can they get involved?

Media and press are welcome to the Top CEO Conference and Awards. They are an important part of the conversation and the event is a great opportunity for them to meet decision makers and speak with them on the future of the region. Media and press can log on to to register.

Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons makes new appointment

Watch and jewellery retail group, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons has appointed Majed Kahil to the role of Marketing Manager. Previously Head of Events at Mediaquest Corp., Majed will now oversee all marketing operations for brand across the region.

“After eight years of working in media, I’m very glad that I have joined one of the biggest luxury watch and jeweller retailers in the UAE, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, as a Marketing Manager,” says Majed.

Rotana welcomes Senior Marketing Officer

The Dubai offices of Rotana Media Group has appointed Diane Nassereldine to the role of Senior Marketing Officer. Headquartered in Saudi Arabia, the entertainment group comprises of Rotana Studios, Rotana MagazineRotana TV and Rotana Records as well as seven music stations under Rotana Radio. Previously Senior Digital Business Developer at Mediaquest Corp., Diane will now be responsible for the development of marketing strategies as well as boost Rotana Artists through relevant media exposure.

“Rotana is the leader in Arabic music content and I will make sure that everyone knows it,” says Diane.

Effie MENA Awards announces 2015 jury panel

The Effie MENA Awards 2015 is set to launch on November 18, 2015 at the Pavilion, Armani Hotel in Dubai. The seventh edition of the awards will be judged by a panel including a total of 13 international, as well as 90 regional judges, all at a senior corporate level from a variety of industry sectors such as publishing, luxury retail and banking. The panel will be judging entries to celebrate and reward creativity in marketing.

Members of the 2015 judging panel include Ian Armstrong, Advertising General Manager, Jaguar Land Rover – London;  Christopher Saldana, Director Marketing Services EEMEA, Mondelez Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa and Vikram Krishna, Head Group Marketing and Customer Experience, Emirates NBD. The final deadline for submission to this year’s awards is September 27, 2015 and previous winners in the scheme include Nissan Middle East, Henkel, PEPSICO and Red Bull.

“As organisers of the annual Effie MENA Awards, we are both honoured and delighted to have such distinguished figures participating as judges in this year’s programme,” says Alexandre Hawari, Co-CEO, Mediaquest Corp. “The quality of our panel means that the winners of this year’s Effie will have the kudos of knowing that their work has been deemed the best by prominent leaders in their respective fields.”