OMD @ ArabNet Dubai 2016

This year, audiences at ArabNet Dubai heard about the latest developments and emerging trends in areas such as machine learning, native advertising, online video measurement and much more. OMD was present throughout the conference, through speaker engagements and exclusive interviews at the OMD Backstage Pass. Here, we bring you the key takeaways from this year’s event.

1. Algorithms help us build predictions more precisely. When people think of machine learning, they immediately start speaking about it similarly to the industrial revolution. However, data is now everywhere and machine learning is what allows us to use it to build predictions on what’s going to happen and make decisions accordingly. In fact, machine learning is considered a mainstream management tool today by McKinsey & Company. And remember, it’s always better to store data in raw format since machines can figure out a completely different set of factors from it than humans can.

2. Defining a piece of native advertising can be tricky; here’s a list of criteria that it should meet in order to be classified as truly native:

  • It blends into content
  • It offers users something different and of value; delivers something valuable to the user experience
  • It is relevant to where they are
  • It never takes them away from the platform; it’s not disruptive
  • It allows technology to measure its performance

    Keeping this in mind, as an industry, we should strive to give users a native experience that adds value to them and ultimately helps the brand we are using it for.

3. Rami Saad, deputy COO of Choueiri Group’s Digital Media Services, says that native advertising cannot be blocked by the adblockers we have today but the next versions have already promised to filter out sponsored content. How can the industry get around this? “We need to govern ourselves so that we don’t break that trust of users,” says Saad. One way of doing this is through the appropriate labeling of sponsored content.

4. Rami also adds: “Think about the spectrum and how branded the entire experience should be; time spent and metrics used; whenever you buy a piece of native content, think of how much time users have spent; when we created a strong platform with sports and put it on a sports platform, we witnessed phenomenal social sharing. Look for a lot more innovation when it comes to native. We know a lot about what people are doing online and combining that with native means that your brand doesn’t need to send that content to everyone; we can amplify and distribute it to the audiences that are interested in your brand.”

5. When it comes to the measurement of digital video, the common currency across platforms poses a huge challenge, says Waseem Afzal, OMD’s Executive Director of Integrated Solutions. “With video, there are multiple publishers, representing multiple standards.” To better gage the ROI of digital video across platforms, Afzal lists four factors of performance that must be taken into consideration when tying measurability down to the bottom line:

  1. Brand Lift – what affect does the video have on consumers and how does it elevate the brand’s presence in their lives?
  2. Engagement – digital video distribution used to focus on chasing numbers, but now that maturity has kicked in, it’s more about understanding the impact made by the video, such as “time spent”.
  3. Reach and Frequency – how is the video performing in terms of regional amplification?
  4. Viewability – although this is an area of challenge for us right now, we still need to understand how likely the user is to view the entire video.

Regarding the last point of viewability, this can be enhanced however if we only serve messages that are relevant to our viewers, says Ian Manning, Facebook’s Regional Head of Agencies. Also, partnering with content creators – and looking at them as equals rather than as another distribution channel – is another solution, says Afzal. “YouTube content produced in Saudi Arabia is a lot more powerful than anything else because it’s produced by people who understand what the needs and gaps in that market are.”


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