Imad Jomaa, Founder and President of Lebanon-based holding company JGroup, explains how he sees programmatic in light of JGroup’s recent investment in FoxPush, a Dubai-based full-stack solution for publishers and digital advertisers.
How fast is the programmatic ad market growing in the region and what is driving this growth?
Programmatic advertising is growing rapidly across the Middle East and is changing the dynamics of the sector by leveling the playing field for all. It is truly the future of the advertising industry, enabling advertisers, publishers, and distributors to move away from the traditional advertising buying model and adopt curated and creative ways of reaching their target audience.
Three factors are driving the popularity of programmatic advertising: relevance, customer experience, and big data. Relevance because of the growing consumer appetite for digital content. According to a survey conducted by PWC, 95% of Middle East consumers said that their social media use has increased since the pandemic and indicated they were likely to continue using social media to the same extent post-Covid-19. This particular statistic speaks to the increasing relevance of digital mediums. It also highlights the importance of tailored customer experience that programmatic advertising delivers to its customers. Lastly, big data offers the insights enabling curated campaigns, which is exceedingly helping advertisers meet the length and breadth of consumer demand.
The number of programmatic stakeholders has increased dramatically in recent years. What does this cluttered landscape mean for the industry?
Yes, [the number of] programmatic stakeholders [is] increasing but it does not mean the market is cluttered. Instead, this means advertisers are given an array of choice. Every programmatic stakeholder has something different to offer in terms of service. Companies offering programmatic advertising services know that they have to offer innovative solutions to stand out of the crowd. This means the industry is moving forward by accelerating its cycle of innovation. For example, we recently announced an investment of $15 million in FoxPush, the Middle East’s first programmatic performance technology. FoxPush owns a data management platform and is a rich source of curated data for the Arabic audience; its publisher-side solutions are used by over 50,000 websites worldwide. By leveraging its advanced suite of solutions, FoxPush today can reach three out of five people living in the MENA region. FoxPush will be the only supplier within the region to provide leads through the programmatic performance technology platform. The technology delivers qualified leads to brands with an aim to increase the performance of their website and the efficiency of their targeted digital campaigns.
How are you addressing education issues in the region, especially on the client-side?
It is human nature to be skeptical of new approaches and experiences. The key is to guide, prove, and succeed. The clients we work with understand the potential offered by data and curated experiences. The fact that programmatic advertising can help you target the right audience for your message needs to be the selling point. We understand that brands feel that, because programmatic advertising is automated, they lose control of their campaign and there is less transparency. But that’s not true. The first step is to choose a ‘trusted’ partner who will not just sell you programmatic advertising services but will guide your conversation with the audience – which many companies forget. Programmatic advertising allows brands to get real-time feedback and information from their target audience. It is like having a two-way conversation. This two-way conversation helps brands to tailor their approach to address the needs of their audience and make their messaging authentic and relevant. This will translate into a successful campaign. Once your client understands this process, it will be hard for them to refuse your approach.
How are you addressing the growing pressure to address users’ privacy concerns?
JGroup and its stakeholders value consumer privacy and adhere to all guidelines and regulations related to data privacy laws. Data is one of the key drivers of programmatic advertising. Keeping this in mind, it is necessary that the website that we are running a campaign on has all permissions in place. Before entering into any kind of contract or commencing any project, we do background research to ensure all permissions, licenses, and registrations are complete and in order. [Following] the campaign, the data received is not stored or leveraged in any other way. We also have best-in-class servers and storage systems to ensure data protection is at its optimum.
How are you utilizing programmatic within a creative environment?
Programmatic advertising has taught us to give the creative process and data-driven insight equal foothold. While programmatic advertising allows brands to reach the right audience, the creative strategy and content enable brands to maximize the moment for the audience. An engaging creative fused with data-driven insight is able to capture the mind space of the audience through relevance and relatability, time and again. This is exactly what we strive to achieve and deliver across all our clients.
How has programmatic contributed to your own internal transformation?
Programmatic has changed our perspective on advertising and digital tools. It has compelled us to challenge ourselves in terms of the approach we pitch to our clients, the solutions we offer and the advice we give. This particular advertising model has positively impacted the way we operate and do business across the board.