Lebanese media planners crawl towards the multiscreen world of brand building
Since the revolutionary invention of the Internet, media channels have been changing year after year, urging agencies to optimize their clients’ media plans in order to adjust to the new realities. Global numbers show that today’s consumers spend seven hours a day watching a screen.
“The first screen media in history was TV, a medium that is still considered the most effective in the MENA region, due to its high reach. While in the past, TV used to be the sole focus of the household, today’s viewers have a number of connected screens, from tablets to mobiles, which distract their attention,” says Levant general manager of media agency Carat, Karen Hoyek Slaiby. In this regard, Carat’s proprietary agency research CCS, reveals that 35 percent of people today, actively plan their evenings around the TV schedule, 57 percent use a second screen in some way while watching linear TV and 33 percent comment on social media about what they’re watching during the show. “Previously, with on-demand viewing, people weren’t watching TV on the linear TV schedule, but as and when they pleased and with the ability to fast-forward through ads. With social media, people now want to discuss what they are watching in real time across Facebook, Twitter, etc., when a popular show is airing for the first time. People are now more invested in what they are watching and want to be part of a conversation as it enhances their experience. This is very exciting for advertisers as it allows them to talk with their consumers rather than at them, by using branded content,” explains Hoyek. However, although the world has dived deep into multiscreen marketing, Lebanon is still on the surface.
WIDE OFF THE MARK. According to IPSOS’ latest research on multimedia consumption in Lebanon, a typical Lebanese person consumes an average of nine hours of media per day. From those nine hours, 46 percent of the time is spent watching TV (while TV gets 56 percent of the total advertising revenue share in Lebanon), 28 percent of the time is spent on radio (while radio gets ten percent of the total ad revenue), five percent of the time is spent on newspapers (while these get 20 percent of the revenue), 20 percent of the time is spent online (while it gets only five percent of the total ad spend), and two percent of the time is spent on magazines (while these get nine percent of Lebanon’s ad revenue). “To date, in Lebanon, advertisers and media agencies are still adopting the different screen platforms in a separate way. For instance, the selection of the media is done based on the performance of each screen separately. Although we know that people today are interacting more and more on a multiscreen level, we still don’t have robust multimedia or multiscreen media surveys that enable us to evaluate the effectiveness of, let’s say, mobile/TV or Internet/TV usage,” says general manager of Havas Media Levant, Georges Naaman. A survey done by the agency in 2014, demonstrates the fact that people are multiscreen users, and mobile is king.
While consumers are surrounding themselves with screens, and most practices of their daily lives have become online – from browsing to social networking, searching for information, reading news, planning trips, watching videos, downloading series, etc. – most advertising budgets in Lebanon still go to traditional media. “For most brands – and that’s more than 95 percent – TV still takes the lion’s share, even at times when it shouldn’t. I am a fan of TV and I don’t see its role shrinking; rather, I see it morphing to multiple screens. Today, online advertising gets hardly enough of the share, partly due to the lack of trust on the part of clients and their lack of familiarity with this medium. As for mobile advertising, it seems like some alien option for some brands, despite soaring mobile penetration and data usage rates. Many brands still view online as a place where kids ‘play’ and don’t take it as seriously as they should. All the research on customer habits clearly points to digital as a must for a well-integrated media plan with almost immediate measurements of effectiveness,” says media director at media agency Vertical, Samer Hajj. Regional director of client leadership at Mindshare Lebanon, Ghada Hmedeh, says that Lebanon is at a stage where clients see that they need to have a digital presence along with their traditional media, but don’t yet fully understand the need for a multiscreen plan when the vast majority of media interactions are screen-based. “They don’t yet realize the need to tailor a different experience to each device based on the consumers’ needs for each specific screen. TV no longer commands their full attention; most times when watching TV, they are exposed to another screen, mainly their mobiles. There is a gap between mobile consumption and ad spend. Brands should exploit this big opportunity, connect with consumers and inspire action through the different digital devices. A TV strategy can be closely integrated with the digital devices’ strategies provided these experiences are consistent, connected and concise,” Hmedeh explains. To encourage clients to go for original advertising channels, Mindshare adopts the 80/15/5 formula: 80 percent of the budget is invested in tried and tested advertising routes whose outcome and reach are guaranteed, 15 percent in creative and interactive executions and physical interactions with the consumer on the ground (which isn’t a brand new technique but a more adventurous one) and a final five percent on completely new channels and media that were never used before. “When we approach our clients with this formula, they are more receptive, as they are investing in an innovative communication approach gaining the first entrant effect and in the worst case scenario they are not risking more than five percent of their budget; at least they are perceived as the innovative brand by the few consumers there,” says managing director of Mindshare Lebanon, Hana Khatib.
“Let’s just say that we still have a long way to go. The seamless experience that is part and parcel of the usual mix in Western markets isn’t yet part of our media strategies locally. To be fair, the markets that are propelling this, taking advantage of the new media landscape and being really in sync with people’s media habits, have the right infrastructure implemented by their governments and private sector (high-speed Internet, reliable and easy e-payments, etc.); unfortunately we’re not yet up to the required level,” says Hajj.
However, according to Naaman, “this doesn’t mean that multiscreen campaigns are not implemented in Lebanon; to the contrary, new screens such as laptops, Smartphones and to a certain extent OOH LED screens, are becoming fundamental and play a major role to support the initial screen (TV) in order to achieve better and more successful results.” Hoyek agrees, adding that even though digital monitoring in the region is limited, making it a risky investment, Carat is constantly working on educating clients on the benefits of truly convergent planning; Carat Lebanon’s clients are already spending more than 20 percent of their media budgets online, she says. “Last year, we did some work for Adidas to launch its new range of running shoes using augmented reality and motion detection technology. The campaign utilized traditional media (outdoor and radio) to support an online activation which was live in store, on Facebook and via a mobile app. This kind of integrated approach is the only way to capture the attention of today’s consumers,” says Hoyek. Hajj cites Vertical’s latest Khoury Home integrated campaign launched on Christmas. “The campaign had a great impact through its presence on multiple screens (TV, desktops, tablets, mobiles and even LED and mall screens). Each platform built on the other and created a synergy that customers felt at ease with; in other words, our paid media efforts were directed to owned platforms at all times for maximum impact and to fuel engagement.” Among Mindshare’s clients that tested the seas of integrated approaches successfully, Waterfront City, Gandour’s Tarboosh, and Marks and Spencer among others, did quite well.
To move with change, differentiating between online and offline is not an option anymore, and to create a successful, integrated campaign, a synergy
between the creative, media and digital agencies is a must – a challenge for both big media and advertising agencies and small digital ones. “Today, we have some 200 registered digital agencies that specialize in online communication only. The emergence of these agencies was alarming for big networks; it showed that clients are seeking guidance and advice on the digital front and urged traditional agencies to recruit digital teams,” says Mindshare’s Khatib. “Being in the communication channel planning business, digital channels don’t and shouldn’t have separate teams plan for them. It’s the duty of the media agencies to track the consumer’s media consumption habits and how they chose to consume content in order to advise their clients on the best channels to use for them to reach their specifically targeted consumer,” she adds, saying that being adaptive with clients’ needs and various media channels forces media agencies to partner with the creative, PR, content generating and planning teams on a minute-to-minute basis. “That’s really challenging, and this is why on a global level, agencies are having a client team at their end, where each includes a business director, a PR person, a creative person, and a communication planning person who collaborate in order to be attentive to the client’s needs across channels and to be truly adaptive across content, creative aspect, and channel selection.”
WIN OR LOSE. Like every new communication technique, integrated campaigns come with their trials and errors, and even though the secret for success may seem obvious – follow the consumer’s habits – the Lebanese market has a hard time when it comes to understanding and planning a 360 campaign. “Integrated campaigns are not offline campaigns that are taken online. This is a common misconception that many clients have. An integrated campaign starts at the conceptual level with no boundaries and involves digital thinking at the earliest stages. It never starts with ‘x’ budget offline and ‘y’ budget online, but allows the idea and the target audience to impose the platform,” says deputy general manager of digital agency Cleartag, Omar Abou Ezzeddine. “Every integrated campaign should start with a digital platform that focuses through its various channels (website, blog, social media, etc.) on electronic customer relationship management (eCRM), which is already the best lead to analyze potential customers. Moreover, another opportunity brought by integrated campaigns is the fact that every cent spent on digital media can bring to the client a concrete, measurable result,” says CEO and founder of digital agency Social Aim, Nehme Lebbos.
“Another misconception is that an integrated campaign automatically needs to involve all the channels, which is wrong. The campaign should spread among channels very carefully, based on the target audience,” explains Abou Ezzeddine, adding that what makes the success of an integrated campaign is consistent messages throughout platforms, a strong visual impact, the introduction of pull marketing online (as opposed to common push marketing), an adaptive execution based on timely data analysis, cost effective advertising, and proper targeting for each channel. Mindshare’s Hmedeh agrees on the importance of consistency across channels. “Brands make a mistake when they target their audience with the same tone of voice throughout all channels. It is good that you can reach your audience everywhere, but you need to be careful with the message you are targeting them with; when connecting via mobile, you have to be first of all fun and entertaining, then informative and it is a different tone when communicating via TV. Clients need to understand that they have to change their kind of conversation according to the channel they are using. We face a problem when clients have some guidelines and limitations in the tone of voice they adopt, and they refuse to step out of them.”
“It always was and will continue to be about understanding people’s behavioral habits and media journeys. Analytics and data have become more accessible with the advent of digital, but the numbers alone won’t tell you the whole story. They need to be matched with insights and an understanding of human behavior, motivation and trends. A concerted effort for pushing and directing all paid media investments to owned media pages and platforms, if well managed, will allow for the most engagement. Putting in place effective communication plans that accompany people on their usual daily journeys, which along the way includes various platforms and touch points, enables us to seemingly connect with them. The result is that people feel their favorite brands understand them and want to pursue a two-way relationship, and in turn, that makes them more loyal. It’s not about being invasive or hammering people from screen to screen, but rather joining them on their multiple screen journeys and being present when they are most receptive. Each screen has a role to play and mastering this aspect of multiscreen communication also leads to better engagement and impact with customers. It’s only when all these elements are at play, that the force of a multiscreen presence really comes to life,” says
Vertical’s Hajj. Mindshare’s Khatib remembers the time when only TV campaigns were planned, knowing that TV only could get the client an 80 percent reach. Today, the best campaign across all TV channels can get clients a maximum reach of 65 percent. “In a few years, we lost 15 percent of the audience; so we need to find them and reconnect with them,” she says. Today, agencies know, while planning a TV campaign targeting a specific audience, that this audience is using at least one other screen simultaneously. “The TV ad can convey a message and the second screen a call to action,” says Carat’s Hoyek. “Advertisers should be careful, though. Users might be switching their attention from the TV to escape advertising, so slapping irrelevant banner ads all over the [second] screen could cause a negative backlash for the brand. The first rule is to make content relevant to the user to ensure that any second screen placement is well received.”
Khatib adds: “What we always tell our clients is that they need to stop interrupting what people are interested in while consuming a specific channel. While watching TV, listening to radio, accessing Facebook or any other social media, the key is to engage with the consumer in a way whereby we’re not disturbing but continuing the engagement they already had with the channel. It’s about creating conversations with the consumers and being part of the content they are interested in. This is why with our clients, we started to look at how we can provide consumers with content they are interested in, instead of interrupting their media experience.”
Globally, clients actually moved from marketing their own brands into creating content for media channels such as TV and theater. Aware that the battle for the audience is based on the content and its exclusivity, international brands are willing to co-finance and bring original content to media channels, so that consumers are attracted to the channel and to the brand at the same time.
A WIN/WIN PROPOSITION. The multiscreen landscape offers clients and agencies numerous opportunities, even in a market as challenging as Lebanon’s. “The multiscreen world offers agencies and their clients a plethora of positive things, such as a higher rate of engagement, relationship building, more efficient targeting and dynamism. Rather than just the old static or one-way relationship between brands and customers, the multiscreen world offers us various avenues of engagement and a two-way relationship. If a brand ignores the multiscreen experience, it loses touch with its customers and – even worse – with its online brand persona. You could have plenty of customers online praising you or even criticizing you and that’s something you need to respond to, at the very least, and at best pre-empt. As an agency, we will always push for integrated plans, but we need clients to commit to them and understand their importance,” says Vertical’s Hajj.
It is true that the local market is constantly challenged by plummeting media budgets, but media planners still expect to see an increase in digital spends as brands realize that an integrated approach is the only way to keep up with a multiscreen society that is living in an increasingly virtual world. “We believe that online usage will increase within the coming years and will take a higher share of budget; other communication channels will be more flexible in applying creative executions presented by the agencies, in order to overcome and ‘survive’ the online ‘invasion’,” says media director at Havas Media Levant, Ruby Eid, while Hajj adds: “We are not looking forward to switching from one channel to another. TV will remain the channel with the highest receptivity, given its format and the fact that in our part of the world, consumers are and will remain kind of lazy; they enjoy being passive, looking at the big screen and being hit with whatever material possible; they don’t want to give their opinion all the time, and even if they enjoy the interaction sometimes, they won’t be eager to participate in user-generated campaigns for instance,” says Mindshare’s Khatib. “In more advanced markets, they are talking of releasing blockbuster movies in theaters and homes on the same day – that’s impressive and offers plenty of opportunities.”
With the endless opportunities that come with the fragmented media of the multiscreen world, assessing the success of a campaign could become harder, though. “At an agency level, we should evolve today not only on a product level, but on a research level as well. We need to have the necessary tools in order to measure success,” says Khatib. This sometimes depends on the client, says Hmedeh , who adds that clients make it harder when they don’t share all the data with their agencies. “Sometimes, clients treat their numbers with a lot of confidentiality and don’t share them with us, whereas we need to understand how their business is performing, in order to help them make their business profitable and their brands famous.”
Carat’s Hoyek concludes that “brands can sometimes be their own enemies, while they need to trust their agencies to guide them through the ever-changing media market in order to produce successful integrated campaigns.”