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Communicate Online | Regional Edition | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Communicate Online | Regional Edition | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Put your money where the data is!

Danielle Jamal, communication director, Leo Burnett on data and creativity


Put your money where the data is!

By Danielle Jamal, communication director, Leo Burnett

It’s been three years since I landed in the UAE and the same question still comes to mind: DMPs, dynamic banners, A|B, multi-variant, and programmatic, are all buzz words being discussed among agency and brand peers; however, are brands in the MENA region really using these capabilities to their full potential?

In fact, many conversations and attempts to activate DMPs have taken place. However, there is always reluctance to go ahead due to several barriers be it investment, lack of content, data, infrastructure or the skillset to interpret data into actionable content.

Furthermore, over the last year we’ve seen a few articles questioning the effectiveness of data-driven content and whether it loses the emotional connection we are trying to build with our audiences due to it being perceived as an invasion of privacy.

Data is not taking away from the creativity spark and as long as brands are adhering to privacy guidelines, then they are simply utilizing data to produce content their audience craves. This means content done right will deliver relevant and compelling marketing messages via any marketing touchpoint while building brand affinity. Brands definitely need to drop the one-size-fits-all approach.

Data is the future

It is a very powerful tool that brands need to start using strategically to cater to their audiences’ expectations. Consumers are more empowered than ever before and they have expectations and, more importantly, options. To prevent consumers from looking elsewhere, brands need to address their expectations by serving them what they really want and not what brands might think they want. To deliver on that, brands need to start mapping behavior data against preference data to figure out the strategic blind spots by looking broader and understanding their consumers’ real needs and tailoring the offering on every level of the business to serve them smarter.

By 2018, IDC has forecasted digital transformation spend to reach over $1.3 trillion worldwide. It is inevitable for brands to drop their current approach i.e. increasing the number of campaigns across channels in a bid to reach more consumers and instead adopt a data-driven approach that will increase awareness, generate quality leads, and maximize revenue.


As always, it’s about quality, not quantity.

It is true that many have discussed the fact that most brands are still hesitant due to the lack of solid e-commerce capabilities, which often makes it difficult to justify the ROI. However, it is important to note that according to October 2016 data from Effective Measure, 62 percent of Internet users in the GCC make digital purchases at least once every three months. Nearly half (45 percent) said they do so monthly or more.

Bear in mind that even in developed countries, where e-commerce is witnessing high growth, people are still using online as a lead up to purchase. It is no longer a linear journey; the journey has become quite complex and omni-channel, which makes it even more important to understand the consumer, at what stage they are, their mindset, interests, behavior and associated channels to serve the right content at the right time via the right channel. This also leads to the fact that consumers are now able to do their own research online without the help of any brand or sales-person and therefore it is only with data-driven relevant content that we will be able to effectively tap into that phase of the journey to help influence their decisions and lead them to our site and/or store.

No industry or product is exempt from having to utilize data

Eeven a product as simple as breakfast cereal. Take Kellogg’s for example. By adopting the Salesforce DMP cross-channel frequency management, it was able to manage and allocate ad frequency to individual consumers, resulting in 1-to-1 personalization at the right moment and right frequency before a campaign became ineffective and annoying. This resulted in saving the brand $20.5 million in wasted video and display spend for an ROI of more than 25x.

Again, why miss being part of this critical stage of the path to purchase (PTP) when we simply can? You might not have the e-commerce capabilities right now; however, keep in mind that you can still use data to influence your current PTP and be ready for when it happens. Data takes time to build up so, the sooner we hop on, the further ahead we will be.

Overall, eMarketer estimates that retail e-commerce sales in the Middle East and Africa will total $23.33 billion in 2017 and climb to $49.00 billion by 2021.

It’s time to embrace data and start investing in DMPs and content and if done right the ROI will be sweet. I’m not suggesting you start with all the bells and whistles. The beauty of it is that you can start small and scale-up in terms of how sophisticated you want to get with putting your data to practice.

Another big challenge to be mindful of that affects everything we do online is user experience – a very critical element that drives the consumer journey. Looking at some of the biggest e-commerce brands in the region – that should be mastering the user interface as it represents the essence of their business – and comparing them to some of the global brands out there, the regional players are behind the curve.

User experience is a critical component for success. No matter how effectively you utilize data, if the user experience of the destination where users are driven to is not up to par, you will lose them.

For instance, WestJet was able to save 14 percent in weekend campaign costs, using the unified Adobe platform to better understand its audience across channels offering them a more personalized experience delivering on their brand message i.e. providing outstanding service whether you’re a first time or repeat traveler.

Consumers today have an expectation and the option to get it fulfilled elsewhere, as we no longer live in an era where consumers are forced to choose brands. They simply have access to options all over the world and we are all aware of how accessible these options are. What used to protect us in the past is no longer the case and to protect our share we need to start taking action.

Last but not least, the one and only way to effectively use data is by continuously testing, learning and optimizing both content and user experience. It’s true that sometimes the starting point can be a struggle. So, keep it simple, start with a hypothesis based on what you already know, put it to the test, learn and make it better.

Data can be intimidating but it’s not new

It’s been around for a while now and there are many global brands that are using DMPs effectively and reaping the benefits.

The bottom line is that with a data-driven approach to marketing, everyone wins. Consumers get relevant content that resonates with their needs; brands connect with the right audience at the right time in their PTP achieving their objectives while agencies manage their inventories effectively and deliver efficient results. So, let’s not miss the bus and start prioritizing data and content learning from brands that have done it well in other parts of the world.


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