Mediaquest's first in-person event kickstarted conversations around marketing effectiveness in a post-pandemic world.
The MENA Effie Thought-Leadership Program officially opened doors for its first day at Roxy Cinemas in City Walk, Dubai. Under the theme Rise and Shine, the program aims to offer industry stakeholders a space to discuss the challenges they face post-Covid 19; share the learnings they gathered from their own experience; and examine, together, how we can activate the hard-learned lessons from 2020.
After more than a year of webinars and Zoom calls, this was Communicate's - and many attendees' - first in-person event. and nostalgia hit almost instantly as we were able to interact with friends and colleagues, from a safe distance of course.
This first day featured a broad array of speakers, including marketing leaders, strategists, agency heads, and tech platforms specialists, who explored a range of critical issues, from the importance of marketing leadership to weather storms to the new age of consumerism, customer experience today, the need for collaboration and more.
A dual keynote session with Ravi Rao, CEO of GroupM MENA, and Peter DeBenedictis, CMO of Microsoft Middle East, kicked off the event discussing how leadership is an organization's strongest marketing strategy. The speakers addressed a variety of issues ranging from the new ways of working, the rise of data, machine learning and AI, and purposeful marketing.
Based on their own experiences during the pandemic, the speakers found that remote work helped develop stronger connections with teams and expect that, going forward, the line between office and home will get thinner.
While the situation in the UAE is improving, not all markets elsewhere are dealing with the pandemic as successfully. Touching on this, DeBenedictis and Rao highlighted the importance of tailoring marketing approaches more than ever. They also discussed the seismic shift towards digital, how agencies and media companies are developing digital factories and data houses to manage this sudden influx of data, and the increased reliance on automation and AI. It is imperative marketers stop resisting and start embracing these new technologies, upskilling themselves to remain relevant.
2020 also demonstrated how organizations with a purpose are better suited to face crises. A panel discussion with P&G's Deepa Vaidyanathan, Babyshop's Mitin Chakrabroty, TBWA\RAAD's Joe Lahham, and Bayer ME's Sami Joost explored the meaning of purpose and its role at the root of a brand's existence. They explained how the new generation of consumers has begun asking important questions such as "Why should I buy this brands' products?" "What does this brand stand for?". The panelists explained how marketers need to know their organization's purpose and translate it across all areas, internally and externally.
The panel identified six questions that brands need to ask themselves in order to understand whether their purpose-driven marketing efforts are effective:
Another highlight of the day was the presentation of Sasan Saeidi, Global Client Leader – Nestlé at Wunderman Thompson, on 10+1 truths and the new age of consumerism. Saeidi powerfully argued that brands should focus on brand experience (BX) over customer experience (CX) and explored the three attributes marketers need to have post-pandemic:
He also drew a parallel between 2020 and the Renaissance era that followed the Black plague, showing how the changes that happened at that time are mirrored today. In both cases, entrenched powers and authorities were challenged; priorities changed leading to new business models; and innovation, driven by necessities, accelerated. Saeidi highlighted the importance for brands to become agile enough to pivot, starting with the ambition to deliver an exceptional brand experience purpose.
One of the workshops focused on what a cookie-less world will look like and, to be honest, it looks pretty promising. Ihab El Yaman, Co-Founder and CEO of MEmob +, and Sara Naja, Associate Director at MEmob +, relieved the audience's worries with a lively session based on real-world results and sharing practical insights on how to succeed in a cookie-less world, including partnerships and reliance not only on Google but on other third-party data companies.
The jam-packed event also featured a conversation with Rouba Abbouchi, Head of Marketing for Tryano & Saks Fifth Avenue ME, who described the new retail customer experience and had a lively discussion with attendees on home shopping, live commerce, and all the ways in which retailers can keep their customers engaged in a crisis and in its aftermath.
Meanwhile, J3's Ruqayiah Al Usman and J&J Consumer's Maria Ravina explained why collaboration is a key survival skill today; and another panel discussion around "Doing lighthearted marketing right" had Publicis Middle East's Elias Karam, Fine Hygenic Holding's Joseph Noujaim, Havas Creative's Fabio Silveira, and INFINITI International Markets' Nadim Ghrayeb sharing their experiences and observations on the best ways for marketers to lighten up the mood and the traps to avoid when making attempts at humor.
A third panel with OSN's Sevgi Gur, Mashreq's Asih Wulansari, and Yum! Restaurants International's Dewald Duplooy explored the intricacies of planning in uncertain times, addressing a number of hard realities: uncertainty is the norm, live with it; don't fall in love with your plans; over-communicate with your teams; and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
OMD's Alejandro Fischer delivered a fascinating deep dive on agility and adaptability, explaining why being able to adapt to disruption is key to be future-ready. And TikTok's Waseem Afzal walked the audience through the ways to develop effective marketing campaigns in a crisis and on a small budget.
A final workshop led by the Advertising Business Group explored the need for transparency in influencer marketing, sharing a Charter for best practices on this delicate topic.
Tune in tomorrow for the second and final day, with a bootcamp for attendees to activate the insights of today and learn what it takes to win an Effie.