Ipsos MENA appoints new CEO

Independent research company, Ipsos MENA has promoted Joseph El Habre to the role of CEO of Ipsos Interactive Services (IIS) and Operations, MENA. Having joined Ipsos in 1996, Joseph started as Chief Information and Operations Officer – MENA and most recently held the position of Chief Operating Officer – MENA. In his new role, he will oversee the expansion of the Ipsos Observer department, which specialises in survey management, data collection and delivery, and the growth of the IIS online panel across the MENA region. He will also focus on ensuring the running of surveys using a wide range of techniques at high quality levels to be able to derive the most accurate and secure results from advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media and PR fields.

“I look forward to taking on this new role and further growing the online and offline business in MENA,” says Joseph. “We give equal importance to both fields, as our ultimate aim is to understand people whoever they are and wherever they are.”

Access Influence launches new marketing tool

Dubai-based company, Access Influence has launched a new digital platform that connects brands directly to their consumers. The new tool offers scalable opportunities in word of mouth marketing by not only rewarding the consumers for sharing experiences about brands they relate to, but also allowing brands to give back to consumers who become brand advocate and increase their market exposure. The new platform allows brands once signed-up, to create briefs, track their campaigns, preview proposed content and will filter prospective influencers or brand advocates to fit their campaign objectives.

“Spending money on advertising is becoming less and less effective due to general ad blindness,” says Nour El Chaar, CEO and Founder, Access Influence. “Overall, by creating real conversations within relevant communities, the overall authenticity of the brand is elevated, while influencing purchase decisions among more like-minded and trusted consumers such as friends, family members and peer-groups.”

Yi-Hwa Hanna steps down at Women’s Health

After eight years with ITP Media Group, Yi-Hwa Hanna is moving on from her position as Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health Middle East. Yi-Hwa joined ITP Media Group in 2010 and worked across a number of publications including VIVA Magazine as Features Editor and Good Housekeeping Middle East as Deputy Editor before taking on her most recent role of Editor-in-Chief at Women’s Health Middle East. Having been a key member of Women’s Health Middle East’s launch team and as a part of her role, she conceptualised the features of the magazine from start to finish, worked with emerging talents in the creative fields, handled photoshoots and represented the brand on several occasions to lead it towards becoming one of the region’s most recognised titles.

Yi-Hwa will be moving on to a full-time position in content management at a leading agency, and continue to work on her lifestyle blog, intotheether.me, where she will write and feature contributors time to time on a number of thought-provoking topics, interesting information, practical advice and inspirational stories.

“Launching and then working on Women’s Health Middle East as the Editor-in-Chief for the past four years has been a dream role for me in many ways, where I was able to combine both my skill set and personal passions and work with some of the most inspirational people I’ve met throughout my career,” says Yi-Hwa. “I’m so proud to have been able to grow the brand into what it is today and it will always remain a highlight of my career. However, it’s time for a new adventure for me and I’m thrilled to be moving on to a new chapter, at an exciting position with an amazing team of people.”

In The Hot Seat – Daniel Cross

Daniel Cross, Head of Middle East at Local Measure tells TMN about his current role, user-generated content and what he thinks about the digital marketing industry in the region… 

Name: Daniel Cross

Age: 34

From: UK 

Current job title: Head of Middle East, Local Measure

When did you first arrive in Dubai?

May 2008

Where did you work prior?

Prior to joining Local Measure, I worked in the UAE with Agoda.com and most recently with TripAdvisor.

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

Honestly speaking, the first thing I noticed was the disparity in budget allocation between digital and traditional marketing avenues. Whilst the major brands in the UAE would happily plaster their messaging on a billboard for significant amounts of money, there wasn’t really much left in the pot for basic things like a solid mobile responsive website or campaigns to reach and engage the public. There were many fantastic marketing teams in the region and their creative ideas were sometimes let down by the lack of resources or importance placed what those teams do.

Has your opinion changed much?

Yes and no. Whilst there have obviously been huge strides forward, I think too many companies are on social media because it ‘ticks a box’, not because they fully understand the value behind social media (and digital in general) when it’s done right. That said, I’ve been really impressed with some of the campaigns I’ve seen more recently from smaller local companies like Bull & Roo and, Tom & Serg, their social media and quality of content is consistently good across all of their outlets. I also liked the Roast Vs. Ramen campaign they did over Ramadan. However, there are too many brands and agencies producing uninspiring content and getting away with it!

Tell us about your current role…

My role with Local Measure is simple, I’m helping major tourism attractions and hotel chains with their guest experience strategy through real-time social media intelligence. At the heart of our platform is user-generated content (UGC). It’s the perfect role for me, due to my background with TripAdvisor and knowledge of the hospitality industries pain points. Instead of digesting feedback data when the guest has left the location, what can we do with real-time insight to activate service recovery or enhance the experiences whilst the guest is still on site.

What challenges do you face?

For me personally, it’s about educating clients on why they can’t afford to see ‘online’ and ‘offline’ as two separate experiences. In my view, it’s all one single experience.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I get to work with CEOs and Senior Vice Presidents in some of the leading tourism and hospitality brands in the region. These are people with great visions and a willingness to try new technologies to improve the experiences they currently deliver to their customers.

Has user-generated content (UGC) taken over brand promotion and marketing campaigns in the UAE? How?

Definitely! User-generated content (UGC) is a huge part of the strategy discussions I have with my clients on a daily basis. For example, let’s take a theme park or shopping mall, every day there are hundreds of moments shared on social media of that attraction, which is essentially an endless flow of rich and engaging content. One of the hardest parts of the job for any social media executive is creating interesting and original content as well as stories about the same venue and outlets, 365 days a year. Even if you worked for one of the most exciting attractions in the world, your social media would still be repetitive on a long enough timeline. However, by utilising UGC, you can cherry pick amazing moments captured by real guests. Most importantly, UGC is much more credible then your traditional staged photoshoot. Ask yourself, why are review websites like TripAdvisor so popular? Well, in my opinion, it’s because potential guests want to read what other guests have to say about a hotel. Not what the hotel has to say about the hotel. So, the same thought process can also be applied to image and video content. People want to see real experiences of other people. It’s social proof in motion. Local Measure power thousands of UGC widgets embedded within our customers websites, the engagement and heat-map data is conclusive that UGC is what people want to digest. Aside from hospitality and tourism, most recently I’ve seen some great UGC from Puma on their Instagram and sponsored advertisements. Many other brands are latching on to this idea and it’s only going to get bigger.

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

There have been quite a few memorable moments. Last year I presented a social media pitch to Prithvi Raj Singh (PRS) Oberoi, Chairman of Oberoi Group. It was an honour to meet such a well-known and loved figure within the industry. The pitch went very well, and we won the partnership with two of their properties.

What inspires you?

I think I’m inspired by the ability to create change. I’m lucky enough to work with some incredibly intelligent people, both within Local Measure and from partnerships we have established globally. I’m inspired by the weird and wonderful ideas we bounce around in meetings and conference calls. Working for a company like Local Measure, we all have genuine input on the features and functionality that gets added to the platform. Anyone who has worked with me will confirm, my contributions are sometimes both weird and wonderful in equal measure.

Describe yourself in five words…

Caught between optimistic and realistic

What’s your most overused saying?

It would probably be the ‘straight face emoji’ on whatsapp. Either that or asking someone to ‘do the needful’.

Five things you can’t live without?

Wifi, iPhone, Jeep, Netflix and my Nespresso machine.

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

I would probably be with some other kind of startup or SME. Any role where I can put my creativity and experience to good use.

What is your favourite form of media?

Social Media! Platform of choice would be Instagram.

How do you see the digital marketing industry changing in the Middle East in the coming years?

I think most of the change will be brought about by how the social media platforms evolve over the coming years. Each platform is fighting for our attention and content, this in turn will drive more creative products. As I mentioned before, the line between online and offline is becoming increasingly blurred. I think sponsored advertisements will become more location-based, delivering real-time pop up content as you cross into geo-fenced areas. However, the privacy laws that govern this type of engagement will also play a pivotal part in shaping how this actually works. There will be greater emphasis placed on digital experience of the guest or customer. Whilst digital marketing can influence the consumer to buy a ticket or go to a venue, it’s the actual experience that will turn this person into an advocate or repeat customer. I think that the Middle East in particular will continue to attract some of the most highly sought-after talent in the field, I just hope that they are given the freedom to take action for the strategic change they are brought onboard to do. On the subject of social Influencers, I think that ‘mega Influencers’ are becoming too expensive for SME’s to work with, especially with little guaranteed return. They will give way to what I call ‘everyday Influencers’ which are people with 5000 – 10,000 followers, more hobbyists than wannabe celebrities. Is it better to have one person with 300,000 followers, or thirty people with 10,000 followers? Well, that’s an interesting question…

MEPRA 2017 now open for entries

The 2017 Middle East PR Association (MEPRA) Awards are now open for submissions. The award will bring together small agencies, in-house teams and global players in the Middle East PR business, with an aim to recognise and serve as a benchmark for the most inspiring and creative communications work in the industry. This year’s awards will have 20 campaign categories and will see the launch of two new categories, ‘Crisis Communications’ and ‘Best use of Influencers’ to celebrate the best campaigns from across the region. Entries for the awards will be open until October 12 with the candidates shortlisted to be announced on November 5 and the winners to be revealed at the 2017 MEPRA Awards Gala set to take place on December 6 at the JW Marriot Marquis Hotel, Dubai.

“The MEPRA Awards is the moment each year when our industry stops to recognise its best,” says Ray Eglington, Chairman, MEPRA. “At the MEPRA Awards we celebrate what we have achieved and inspire each other to do even better. I look forward to seeing the groundbreaking entries this year.”

BeIN Sports returns to the UAE

Qatar-owned sports TV channel, BeIN Sports has resumed its regular showings after being inaccessible for over a month. The sports channel will now be made available across the UAE for Etisalat and du subscribers. The channel’s digital platform, beinsports.com has also been unblocked and will now be accessible to sports lovers across the country.

B4U Plus named top most viewed Asian channel in the Middle East

Market research company, IPSOS has named B4U Plus as the second most viewed and preferred Asian channel in the Middle East in a recent survey conducted. The Hindi entertainment TV channel was recognised for its engaging content and popularity among females age 25 – 44 in the region as well as for being free to air from the Niles platform.

B4U Network has been in the Middle East for over ten years and is committed to offering viewers the finest entertainment,” says Zeeshan Sajid Amin, Business Head, B4U Network, Middle East. “This rating further reflects our constant effort to provide innovative content that suits the audience’s preferred viewing times. Being the only free to air Hindi entertainment channel gives us that additional mileage that other paid channels don’t have.”