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What we learned from Serviceplan ME’s Competence Circle

Events & Awards

What we learned from Serviceplan ME’s Competence Circle


On October 30, German-based independent communications agency Serviceplan Middle East held its first Competence Circle event in the Middle East at Dubai Media City’s Arjaan Rotana hotel. Initially conceptualized by the Serviceplan Group headquarters in Germany over three years ago, the event serves as a platform for marketing, communications and sales professionals to discuss current industry-related topics. Under the theme “#TheFutureIsSocial”, the event brought together an intimate crowd of agencies, media and clients, and featured talks from Alfonso de Gaetano, Google agency and branding lead, MENA; Florian Gmeinwieser, managing director of Serviceplan Mobile; and Florian Haller, CEO of the Serviceplan Group.

Numbers speak volumes

Opening the event, Jan-Philipp Jahn, general manager at Serviceplan Middle East, shared MENA’s impressive social media numbers. In 2014, there were 248 social media accounts, compared with 104 million internet users – meaning that, give and take, each MENA internet user holds at least two social media accounts. MENA’s internet penetration stood at an average 44.9 percent for the same year, with the UAE ranking first (75 percent), followed by Kuwait (64 percent) and Qatar (61 percent).

Per user, there are 7.2 hours of social media engagement on a daily basis in MENA, with 48 percent of users accessing social media via mobile, and 63 percent using social media while watching TV.

Google’s priorities for brand advertisers in 2015

Following up on Jahn’s big numbers, De Gaetano, who believes that MENA, by virtue of its impressive social media and internet usage has the potential to actually anchor and export best practices to outside markets, zeroed in on the KSA’s growth – the publisher’s largest YouTube consumer globally: the KSA, where 189 minutes are spent on smartphones, posts the highest mobile internet usage globally – in 2014, users in the KSA spent nearly double the amount of time on smartphones versus on TV; and the average YouTube desktop reach in the KSA is higher than that of any other online platform.

On a more regional scale, De Gaetano showcased the Maggi Diaries case study, which he says is now serving as the premise of similar collaboration with YouTube being deployed all over the world. As such, Google’s three-tiered recommendation for regional advertisers in 2015 is as follows:

  1. Adjust media mix for greater efficiency: for larger brands, allocate 20 percent of video budgets to YouTube and, for smaller brands. consider a digital-only approach
  2. Adapt TVCs for the creation of YouTube-focused versions
  3. Focus on the creation of “made for web ads”, such as Pepsi’s three-minute films for Ramadan

Asked about recent reports of Facebook video posing a threat on YouTube, De Gaetano was diplomatic, emphasizing on the positive role of Facebook video growing the fair share of digital – and digital video at that – with advertisers, but also on that of YouTube in complementing TV. He was, however, more outspoken on the absence of proper measurement systems in the region that would truly assess the reach of TV campaigns in the MENA region, and of mobile partners for YT that would help validate its usage and reach.

The big bad wolf

In a presentation titled:  Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?, Frances Valerie Natividad, strategic planning director at Serviceplan Middle East, talked about “transforming big data from villain to hero in your brand story”. While Forbes is “teaching clients on shrinking big data”, The New Yorker speaks of big data’s “human aspect”, and The Economist advises readers on how to “hide from big data”, clients are still struggling with understanding the “5 Vs” of big data: volume, velocity, variety, veracity and value.

Some, however, have succeeded; like Kraft, which has already identified a ROI model for content marketing, P&G (Procter & Gamble), which “turned diapers into insights”, and, on a regional level, Etihad Airways, which is using big data to reach and identify in-demand and on-demand destinations against global competitors.

Simply put, big data is “the mass of transactional and behavioral data that each of us creates as we use the internet, travel with location-aware mobile devices, make purchases with payment cards and loyalty cards online, and communicate our activities, goals and preferences through social media,” as The Guardian once defined it. A research study by Gartner has shown that 10 to 15 percent of clients are likely to use big data, and those that are outperform those that are not by 10 to 20 percent.

Essentially, what clients need to do with big data is “evaluate, filter” and “create irresistible, not disruptive content”, says Natividad, referring to Nike’s recent “Bid Your Sweat”, and Lego’s “Builders of Infinity” campaigns – the latter being the work of the Serviceplan Group.


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