In her journey to becoming the Group Chief Commercial, Marketing & Product Officer (VOD, Global) at Shahid, Natasha Matos-Hemingway embraced diverse experiences in the tech and media sectors.
Can you tell us about your journey and how you became the Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer of Shahid?
Throughout my career, I have embraced diverse roles spanning sales, marketing, and strategy. This journey has provided me with valuable insights into various industries, allowing me to cultivate my expertise as a commercial professional. While my experience primarily lies in the tech industry, both in the technology and media sectors, my focus has always revolved around leveraging functional knowledge to drive business success. As a data-driven digital native, I thrive on finding creative solutions to generate optimal outcomes, and this mindset has been fundamental to my achievements. Furthermore, I have recognized the significance of effective management and leadership in delivering impactful results. Collaborating with inspired, empowered, and content teams has been key to my professional journey. Along the path to attaining a C-suite position, I have dedicated considerable effort and focus to continually develop and refine my hard functional skills, while also nurturing my soft leadership skills. This combination has paved the way for me to assume greater responsibilities, including my current role as the Chief Commercial, Marketing, and Product Officer at Shahid, which I am excited about.
We see that your career overview is very diverse, you shifted from Google and Microsoft to broadcast. What inspired you to pursue this shift?
I have always been attracted to dynamic, fast-paced industries and have a true passion for what technology can enable. So, it wasn’t surprising that I ended up building most of my career at Google and Microsoft, which were both equally valuable experiences. The shift to media was born out of a curiosity for the industry and a passion for content. Although it is not for everyone, and certainly not for the faint-hearted, I love that the media industry is currently in a state of transformation. Having the ability to pave the way forward is really exciting and motivating to me personally. There is no clear blueprint to success, and I believe the industry is ripe for greater collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking. These play well to my strengths, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
As the Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer, what are your primary responsibilities and objectives at Shahid?
At Shahid, I have a large scope of responsibilities. The easiest way to explain it is by saying that I oversee all functions, except for content and technology. However, I still have a significant influence on those strategies by collaborating with the leaders in those areas to align with our business objectives. My teams span various areas, including Customer Experience and Support, Content Operations, Marketing, Product, Partnerships, as well as Data and Business Strategy. As the leader of the video-on-demand strategy at MBC GROUP, I hold responsibility for all strategic activities related to AVOD (advertising-based video on demand), FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV), and SVOD (subscription-based video on demand). Additionally, I lead all commercial and product teams, with overall P&L (profit and loss) responsibility for the Shahid business. Our objective is to sustainably and comprehensively grow the Shahid business by creating a platform that meets the needs of our users. Naturally, we want to maintain our position as the world’s leading Arabic-language streaming platform, which of course includes remaining the number one streaming platform in the MENA region.
How do you approach marketing strategies in a way that they simultaneously keep you on top of your game?
I believe that the secret to good marketing is having clearly defined goals that are at the center of understanding the business objectives, and the target audience, and having a unique value proposition – where these come together is where the magic lies. Once these are in place, several key principles enable marketing teams to achieve success. These include having an effective positioning that crafts messages that matter to the audience. Leveraging a multi-channel approach in the execution and creating the space for creativity and innovation to thrive, are equally important. This allows for the testing of new tactics, and learning from new ideas, and puts us ahead of the market. Furthermore, a marketing strategy is not static; it requires constant monitoring for relevance, and utilizing data and analytics is key to remaining relevant and effective. Having all of these aspects in place keeps us on top of our game, and thus enables us to remain relevant in a crowded marketplace. As the marketing leader, my job is to set the vision, continually align the various teams to the overall business objectives, and ultimately create the right environment for the teams to apply their expertise and thrive in their roles.
What are some of the unique challenges you face in the rapidly evolving digital media landscape, and how do you overcome them?
Currently, we are facing several challenges that require us to be intentional with our marketing approach. These challenges include Audience Fragmentation, Ad-Fatigue, Data Privacy, Content Overload and Attribution. To address Audience Fragmentation, we have prioritized various research projects to better understand and categorize our target audiences. This allows us to tailor our approach and effectively reach them through appropriate platforms and channels. To combat Ad-Fatigue we heavily focus on delivering personalized, non-intrusive content that resonates with our target audiences. Our creative and execution work is centered around this goal. Content overload has challenged us to employ storytelling techniques and interactive formats to retain audience attention. Stricter Data Privacy regulations have led us to adopt privacy-centric strategies, such as contextual advertising and consent-based data collection. Measuring ROI and Attribution has been a priority for us, and we have invested significant time in implementing robust tracking and analytics systems. We also use multi-touch attribution models and leverage advanced analytics tools to make meaningful advancements in this space. Of course, no advancement is possible without good people. Due to the demands of the digital media landscape, my team and I actively focus on acquiring and retaining top talent. However, competition for skilled professionals is intensifying across the industry.
Can you share any recent successful marketing initiatives you worked on that have made an impact on Shahid’s brand and user base?
Over the last 18 months, we’ve significantly enhanced our marketing efforts and are proud of the many initiatives we have implemented. I think our approach to premieres has been exceptional. Instead of the traditional “red carpet” events, we’ve brought our titles to life through innovative and interactive experiences. This approach has earned us substantial support and engagement on digital channels from our audience. Equally, we’ve executed a few online stunts with excellence, to generate interest and engagement from our community with our upcoming titles. We believe these efforts build excitement and momentum in anticipation of our launches. There are a few campaigns that I can call out, where we stood out for our creativity and excellent execution:
1. We launched a Ramadan-theme song inspired by a very popular nostalgic song, for the very first time as a full takeover on Riyadh Boulevard’s screens in Saudi on the first day of Ramadan this year.
2. We developed a highly effective teaser campaign for our original title - “Devil’s Promise,” strategically leveraging Fathy Abdel Wahab’s portrayal of the Devil to captivate audiences and present an alternative path to fulfilling their desires; we produced over 20 contextual videos tailored to individuals’ interests, search patterns, and platform preferences. The campaign resonated profoundly, resulting in impressive pre-show subscription growth.
With the rise of OTT platforms, competition in the market has increased. How does Shahid differentiate itself from other streaming services?
Shahid’s differentiation lies in its focus on Arabic content, catering to the preferences and cultural interests of our vast Arabic audience, both in MENA and across the globe for our Arab diaspora. We collaborate with key partners to bring exclusive partnerships to life, allowing us to reach users wherever they are and provide great benefits in terms of accessibility, device choice, and payment methods. We also differentiate ourselves by focusing on user engagement. Shahid encourages user engagement through interactive features such as live chat, polls, and social media integration to facilitate audience participation and foster a sense of community. And of course, we remain dedicated to providing a personalized user experience and incorporating technological innovations. All these factors work together to position Shahid as an immersive and engaging streaming experience that goes beyond passive content consumption.
As a woman in a leadership position, what advice do you have for other aspiring female professionals in the media and advertising industry?
I’ve had the benefit of experiencing an intense career trajectory, due to my strong drive to learn and achieve more. Along the way, I have gained valuable insights and learned lessons through both successes and setbacks. There are three pieces of advice that I always like to share with younger talent. Firstly, be serious about your career, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Embrace every opportunity to learn and grow and know your role/business better than anyone else. Be courageous enough to take on challenging projects that will make a significant impact on your business. Secondly, wherever possible, choose your next manager or leader – not just your next role. Finding a manager who supports your growth and development is critical for success at every stage of your career. And finally, remember to build in recovery periods and pace yourself. Arguably I’m still mastering this one! I often remind myself that consistency is showing up every day and giving your best, while also not forgetting to recharge and maintain your well-being.
Finally, what do you find most rewarding about your role as the Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer at Shahid?
By far, the greatest reward is being able to work with a great team. I have had the privilege of inheriting some superstars and adding to that talent pool, allowing me to build a high-performing team. I am incredibly proud of the work they do, as they teach me something new every day, and they trust me to lead them to success. Nothing beats that feeling! I also have a deep love for my brand, and I am in awe of the incredible growth we have driven over the past two years of my tenure. It has been an amazing journey so far. Lastly, having the ability to tell our local and regional stories authentically is a responsibility that we take very seriously at Shahid. We bring a whole lot of passion to fulfil that objective each day.
This piece was first published in Communicate's Women to Watch Issue 2023.