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With the Festival of Media MENA’s first edition less than two months behind us, the MENA region was well represented at the Festival of Media Global, held on May 10 to 12 in Rome, Italy. Regional agencies joining the crowd included Choueiri Group, OMD UAE, PHD, Mindshare MENA and UM.

An array of topics was addressed over the course of the two-day conference, from the present state of television and mobile to the future of the media agency and the marketer. Unsurprisingly, television was a recurring theme throughout the conference, with discussions on “TV & Technology; Revolution or Evolution?” that highlighted the digitization of traditional media and whether or not the industry is currently set up to resist it. Another talk featured the hot topic of influencers, “Hijacking the Traditional TV Model”, discussing how the media industry should embrace a new model that leaves much of the power to celebrities and original content creators. These talks each illustrated a different facet of TV, with a common conclusion that TV is changing but is not going anywhere in the foreseeable future.

Another buzzing topic in the industry is content and the conference was not an exception. Owen Hanks, general manager for Europe at digital video advertising company YuMe; Aine Kerr, managing director at global news agency Storyful; and Julien Verdier, CEO of native advertising company Adyoulike, gave three TED-style presentations on the umbrella topic: “If Content is King, Context is God”. These talks highlighted the importance of storytelling in the digital age, represented in the current climate by native advertising, video and social media content creation, and how crucial it is to deliver this content with relevance to the audience, timing and device.

This year, Festival of Media Global announced the Emerge initiative, which aims to help match new technology companies and entrepreneurs with senior leaders in global marketing and media. Twenty-five startups were chosen to participate in the project, all of which were given the opportunity to pitch for and network with attendees at the event. Brndstr, a UAE startup that connects brands to social media ambassadors and create social media content for brands, was selected from the MENA region in the “Tomorrow Social Pioneers” category.

One seemingly odd topic during the conference that certainly jumped out was space travel. At first, it might not seem like a discussion that has a place at a media gathering. However, the presenters made a compelling case for it. Bill Simmons, co-founder of DataXu, and Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One – the program commissioned to build a colony on the Red Planet – appropriately presented a talk on “Life on Mars”. They discussed how science, marketing, innovation and media are driving the global landscape – although the talk did have an air of pitching about it. The Festival of Media Global is likely as good a place as any to muster potential investors for a space travel program.

The Middle East made quite an impression at the global awards when the Gold in the Best Event/Experiential Campaign category was awarded to Mindshare MENA’s “Keep Our Beaches Clean” for Tunisie Telecom. This campaign was the biggest winner at the Festival of Media MENA Awards, where it was awarded the Grand Prix for Campaign of the Year, as well as a host of other Bronzes, Silvers and a Gold. In the same category at the Festival of Media Global, the Mindshare MENA campaign notably prevailed over some heavy hitters, including Starcom MediaVest Group US’s “Oscar Selfie” for Samsung Galaxy Note 3 that was based on a supposedly spontaneous selfie of Ellen DeGeneres with a slew of other Hollywood royals taken at the 2013 Oscars; the stunt had turned into the most popular tweet of all time. Even with such stiff competition, Mindshare MENA’s “Keep Our Beaches Clean” work managed to stand out on a global stage.

Other noteworthy wins were the Grand Prix for Campaign of the Year that went to Australia’s entry of OMD/M2M’s “Penny the Pirate” for Optical Prescription Spectacle Makers (OPSM). Agency of the Year was awarded to Starcom Mediavest Group USA, which won several Golds across categories, including Best Communications Strategy, Best Use of Video and the Utility/Public Service award for the viral campaign “#LikeAGirl” for P&G’s Always. OMD took home the Grand Prix for Agency Network of the Year.

The Festival of Media Global 2015 reminded the industry, yet again, that well-targeted media campaigns have a universal appeal.

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