Media use in MENA: A greater demand for comedy and Arabic content

April 23, 2015
arabic content increase in MENA

The “Media Use in the Middle East” report is based on a survey conducted by Northwestern University in Qatar since 2013. The survey was conducted in six countries in the Middle East: Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. The report provides a view of how people in the Middle East use media and how they feel about their effect on their lives and societies.

Below are the key findings as written in the online report, showing how Internet is surpassing television in media consumption and focusing on the great demand for Arabic content:

Television remains ubiquitous, but Internet users are watching less of it

People in the region use a variety of media. Nearly everyone watches TV (97%) and two in three listen to the radio (65%). Fewer read newspapers, books, or magazines (49%, 43%, and 38%, respectively). However, respondents spend the greatest portion of their time with media online. Presumably because they are spending more of their time online, Internet users spend less time watching TV (18 hours vs. 24 hours) and listening to radio (7 vs. 13 hours) compared to those who are not online.

media repartition in MENA

Internet penetration up in most countries except Tunisia, doubled in Egypt since 2013

Internet use is strongly correlated to education. 94% of those who attended university use the Internet compared with 19% percent with a primary school education.

Men continue to be more likely to be online than women, but that distinction is closing. In 2013 there was a 10-percentage point difference between genders in Internet usage (71% vs. 61%), as compared to a six-percentage point gap (77% vs. 71%) in 2015.

Internet penetration MENA

More people access the Internet via phone then computer except in Egypt

People in the region utilize their phones for Internet more often than a computer except in Egypt. Tablets are moderately popular in the region (31% use tablets), especially in the Gulf (41%, 40% and 36%, respectively in UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar).
mobile vs computer internet access MENA

Respondents more willing to pay for online and television news content than other formats

Despite evident desire for news from multiple sources, nationals are largely unwilling to pay for it. About one in five respondents is willing to pay for television news (22%) and digital content subscriptions (18%), but these numbers fall for other news formats. Tunisians are less likely than those in other countries to be willing to pay for any news content (25%), while people in Qatar and UAE are more likely to pay for any news source (62% each).

paid online content MENA

More nationals access Arabic internet content; reliance on English falls

Nationals access media primarily in Arabic, with more than nine in ten following all media in Arabic. English is a distant second, used more frequently for Internet and television than radio or newspapers. Notably, compared with two years ago, nationals are more likely to access Arabic content on the Internet (89% in 2013 vs. 93% in 2015) and less likely to access English content (41% in 2013 vs. 33% in 2015), perhaps due to greater availability of Arabic content online.

arabic content MENA

Comedy replaces news as most popular TV and online genre

Comedy and news/documentary are the most common types of video content watched both online and on TV. However, comedy has seen a rise in viewership in 2015, while fewer respondents are watching news/documentary content.

type of content MENA


But what does this entire data mean from a content marketing perspective?

Brands that succeed at being human will win: People buy form people and companies that they know, like and trust. Brands that understand this and are investing in creating a more authentic, personalized and humanized marketing experience and content will be the ones succeeding.

“Mobile-first” should replace “mobile-friendly”: This means thinking about mobile when it comes to each and every piece of content brands are creating. Mobile marketing is really big and integrating this in the content marketing mix will help brands increase positive results for their campaigns.

Brands should focus more on content distribution: Whether it is by optimizing for search and mobile, building relationships with branded publications, and reaching out to influencers in their field, brands must find ways to maximize visibility for their content because publication is only the small first step; value comes from distribution

– Advertising needs to be integrated with content: We’ve already seen the rise in native advertising among publishers with banners proving their ineffectiveness every day. Brands should start creating native ads like advertorials, sponsored content and branded content to attract their audiences by offering them an added value.

– Brands need to invest more in Arabic content creation: In order to engage their consumers in a more effective ways, content creation in the region should be mainly in Arabic. This is directly linked to the fact that people in MENA are switching from traditional media such as TV to the Internet because more online content is starting to be available.

You can view the full finding from the report here.


Will 3D printing become a marketing revolution for brands in the MENA region?

April 14, 2015

Although 3D printing has been drawing new territory in areas from medicine to fashion, the rather obvious benefits of 3D printing in marketing are often overlooked. 3D printers may have been considered a novelty two years ago, but the technology is becoming increasingly prominent not just in manufacturing but also as a marketing tool for brands.

Even if 3D printing is mainly about physical creation, it doesn’t mean it can’t be used for digital marketing. It is the perfect way to bridge the gap between the digital world and the physical world. With the advent of 3D printing, the marketing message can now be felt, held and used: it becomes tangible. By placing a branded item in the hands of their customers, companies and brands open up to new types of real-life interaction opportunities.

On the other hand, with transparency and co-creation on the rise, brands should start switching from mass-production to mass-customization. Companies must turn to new technologies to connect with consumers through joint storytelling, enabling them to co-create and put their own touch on a product, making it more personalized.

Some tech-savvy brands have already begun using 3D printing in their digital marketing campaigns in some fun and entertaining ways:

Coca-Cola: Print your Mini Me

Coca-Cola introduced its new Mini Bottles with this fun 3D printing idea.

Volkswagen: Polo Principle

Volkswagen Polo turned consumers into car designers by inviting them to take control, via a website, of the automaker’s 3D printer to design their own versions of their car. Forty of the most creative ideas were 3D printed and exhibited and the big winner was turned into a real-life Polo.

Oreo: #EatTheTweet at SXSW event

Oreo, along with a couple of design companies, built a custom 3D printer that can customize frosting designs onto already baked Oreo cookies. The machine was printing cookies based on Twitter trends live at SXSW.

The MENA region perspective regarding 3D printing

According to Deloitte 2015 Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions for the Middle East, the region represents a small fraction of the global 3D printing market. However, the Middle East is expected to follow the global growth trend with an expected increase of almost 60% per year in 3D printer units.

There are already some interesting examples of 3D printing services targeted at consumers:
Iris 3D Solutions offering a range of niche applications including full body and face 3D scanning, and turning 2D photographs of places, people and things into 3D
– Precise Concepts, a kiosk established in three malls in Dubai that offers a service called This Is Me, selling 3D scanned and 3D printed copies of oneself.

Companies and brands in the region can already innovate by:

Using 3D scanning to differentiate their retail experience from others, offering virtual fitting rooms which allow the customer to generate a 3D scan of themselves and see how the clothes they like will fit them. This is already possible though technologies like Microsoft Kinect.

Setting up a 3D photo booth as a service to get footfall: Many marketers have included 2D photo booths into their communication campaigns and marketing activations, whether it is for the opening of a new restaurant or an event for the launch of a new product, because they attract crowds. 3D printers can now be used instead of the traditional 2D photo booth.

Marketing 3D figurines as part of a redemption or incentive to engage with the consumers’ part of a global marketing campaign.

In other words, the technology is here and opportunities are not missing. It’s time to see how brands in the region will be able to use it wisely part of the marketing efforts.


4 branded web series from the Middle East we absolutely love

April 9, 2015
Always ana w akhawaty

1- Always: Ana w Akhawaty 

“Me and my sisters” is a web series created for Always Arabia by Olive Tree Productions. The first season of 8 episodes highlights the life of 4 sisters (Alia, Farah, Sarah and Yasmine) and the relationship between them. The different episodes are related to events happening during the same day, a day during which Alia, one of the sisters who is a fashion designer, has her fashion show planned for the night. Of course everything starts going wrong and she needs help from each one of her sisters.

What we love about this web series:

Episodes are very short, leaving no time for the viewer to get bored. Every 2min episodes ends with a cliffhanger, making it impossible no to want to watch he next one.

– Apart from the fashion show story, the central theme of the series is based on the sisters’ different moods, creating an indirect link between the content and the fact that a brand like Always is creating it.

– Another nice thing is that the series is showing the Arab women in a modern, dynamic and ambitious way while at the same time highlighting values that are key for Arab societies such as the importance of family.

 Some things that could have been improved:

Great content production but low viewership: The online media buying or advertising plan around the series was not properly done since the number of views on Always Arabia Youtube channel ( is rather low. The first episode has around 265 000 views but all the others have 40 000 views in average.

A lack of engagement and interactivity: One of the ways of putting the content out there and making the audience talk about it more and share it more, would have been to give the chance to the viewers to become part of the story. Some ideas of how this could have been done:

  • Asking Always Arabia community on social media to propose ideas of what will happen in the next episode
  • Launching an online contest allowing one girl to become part of the next episode with a small role attribution
  • Creating a teaser with different scenarios involving what will be happening next, a bit like “A hunter shoots a bear” campaign from TippEx

If you still haven’t, you can watch the full episodes here.

maggi diaries 2- Yawmiyat MAGGI

MAGGI Diaries is a web series produced under the form of a web documentary, created by Publicis ME for Nestle. Through the eyes of four Arab women traveling across Middle Eastern countries such as Morocco, Jordan, Oman and the UAE, MAGGI connects with its audience by unveiling new culinary discoveries, inspiring everyday cooking and creating good food moments in real life.

What we love about this web series: Simply everything.

– By sharing the passion of cooking as well as the cultural and culinary experience of four ordinary housewives who took part in creating the content, MAGGI appears like a brand that is very close to its audience, a brand with a “human” touch, ready to engage and interact with its audience online.

– More than just producing high quality content around the cooking scene, MAGGI adds value through smart entertainment since the episodes are full of interesting discoveries ranging from original recipes and secret ingredients to hidden authentic food places.

An integrated digital campaign in collaboration with Youtube with customized location web development and social media widgets directly added on MAGGI Arabia Youtube channel helped maximize engagement by offering the possibility to directly share the content and comment on it while viewing it.

 Some things that could have been improved:

Apparently, the brand was approached many times on its various social platforms by women from all over the region asking to be part in future MAGGI Diaries. It would have been great to see Nestle launch a huge regional culinary marketing activation to increase the buzz and choose the next ambassadors for the coming season.

Following the success of the first season, another season is currently being shot with a culinary exploration across India, Turkey, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Italy. You can watch the MAGGI Diaries first season here

Marks & Spencer London calling3- Marks and Spencer: London Calling

London Calling is a web series created for Marks & Spencer Arabia by Olive Tree Productions. With 2 seasons already live, the web series follows the life of a typical Lebanese family through their daily video calls, with the parents (Muna and Saleem) living in Beirut, the oldest daughter Shireen happily married with Kareem and living in Dubai and the youngest daughter Hala, pursuing her Masters in London.

What we love about this web series:

A good mix between light comedy and play-acting: everyone can actually recognize themselves in the different situations presented through every episode. The scenarios are so close to reality that it actually gives you a good laugh.

A glimpse of the different Arab cultures: Even if the first season is very Lebanese oriented, which actually makes you wonder who is the actual audience M&S is looking to target, a very successful shift was made in the second season were Kareem and his family turned out to be Egyptians and a friend of Hala from another Arab country (not sure if she was Jordanian or from another nationality) was introduced.

 Some things that could have been improved:

Product placement is too obvious: Even if the whole brand content approach is kind of new for brands in the MENA markets, the different M&S products could have been introduced in a smoother way.

Youtube interactive features are not used effectively: Instead of just highlighting a M&S product in the scenario or showing a M&S bag on screen, interactive features could have been added on all the products indirectly featured on the screen (clothes, accessories, decoration etc…). This way, viewers who click on the product would be redirected to M&S online products catalog or ecommerce platform where they could directly view the product or even have the possibility to purchase it online.

Engagement is not generated: A question related to the theme of the episode pops at the end of some of the episodes creating great opportunity to engage discussion with the viewers in real time following a specific hashtag on another social media platform such as Twitter. However, no clear call to action is made to push that discussion.

I am really curious on a personal level to see what will happen in the next seasons and how the series will evolve, so I really wish for a season 3. In the meantime, you can already watch season 1 and season 2.


my journey my inspiratioin land rover MENA4- Land Rover: My journey My inspiration

Land Rover MENA launched the web series “My Journey, My Inspiration” as part of its creative communications platform, MYLAND as a way to showcase inspirational stories of achievers from across the MENA region. The achievers, from Oman, Qatar, Lebanon, Kuwait and the UAE, all share one thing in common, they are inspired by the culture and heritage of their land, and have succeeded in truly going above and beyond in their accomplishments.

What we love about this web series:

Emotions are at the heart of the content creation: The stories are a true inspiration because they celebrate amazing people raising awareness for amazing causes which positions Land Rover as a brand invested in social change. The web series invites the audience to discover the most amazing places creating a sense of pride, bringing back shared memories and shaping inspiring journeys.

My journey My inspiration is part of a bigger initiative: MYLAND The episodes are featured on the online hub, which also hosts Land Rover stories, competitions, activities, initiatives and user-generated content.

Some things that could have been improved:

The web series is still running, so we’re not sure of what is planned and what is not. However it would be great to go beyond the inspiration part and actually find a way of involving the audience and pushing them to take action in favor of the highlighted “causes”.

You can already watch it here.


9 stats about social media usage in the MENA region

March 24, 2015
social media arab world

Social media sites have taken over our lives. It is actually hard to imagine that around 10 years ago, there was no Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp!

Social media has definitely made us closer to others parts of the world and has a wide influence on the way we live our lives and on the society in a more general way.

The Arab Social Media Report based on a survey conducted by TNS and released part of the Arab Social Media Influencers Summit shows how people in the MENA region are using social media, what are their general perceptions when it comes to social media and describes their main social media habits and activities.

This survey was conducted via in-depth interviews and focus group discussions on a panel of 7000 social media users spread evenly across 18 Arab countries. I have compiled the most important data in the below infographic.

social media usage in the arab world

Here are the 9 main figures that you need to know:

– 81% of people in MENA think that social media have made it easier for people to connect with each other

– The most common online activitie is chatting since 50% of people in MENA use social media for this purpose

– The most used social media channel in MENA is Facebook with an average penetration rate of 87%. UAE has one of the highest penetration rate (90%)

– The average penetration rate of Whatsapp in MENA is 84%. Whatsapp is the most used social media channel in Lebanon with a penetration rate of 99%

– The average penetration rate of Youtube in MENA is 39%. The country with the highest penetration rate is Lebanon (75%)

– The average penetration rate for Instagram in MENA is 34%. The country with the highest penetration rate is the UAE (56%)

– The average penetration rate of Twitter in MENA is 32%. The highest penetration rate for Twitter is in KSA (53%)

– 52% of Arab people spend their time on social media in the evening.

– 82% of people in MENA access social media via their smartphones.

You can view the full report here for more information.


The role of the Internet in Saudi Women’s purchasing decisions

March 21, 2015
Saudi women online beauty products

Although e-commerce is starting to grow in the GCC, people are still buying their products inside the physical store. However, the web is very much involved in their decision making process whenever they are considering buying a product.

In the section detailing the behavior of the “Smart Shopper”, Google “Consumer Barometer Survey 2014” focuses on the consumer purchase journey and the role of the Internet in making purchasing decisions.

The below infographic gives on overview of how the Internet is helping Saudi Women make their purchasing decisions when it comes to beauty products.

Saudi Women and Beauty online

Here are the key findings:

Saudi women tend to hear about a product for the first time mostly offline. During product research 65% say they heard about the product inside the store for the first time vs 17% claiming they have discovered the product online for the first time. Word of mouth is still stronger in person (74%) than via social networks (18%) when it comes to new products discoveries.

– Unlike what we might believe, the research process for a beauty product began a few moments before the purchase (for 43% of women surveyed) vs 4% who said they started looking for the products weeks before the purchase. 83% of women say they use a smartphone for their product research and 18% use a computer.

– Most popular online sources when it comes to making a purchase decision are brands websites (25%) and social networks (25%), but not necessarily on the pages or profile dedicated to these brands.

– The web is mainly used to look for opinions and advices (20%) and to get inspirations (16%)

– 41% of women claim that their beauty product purchase was done as a routine for a re-fill


What this means for brands and marketers:

– Although brands online presence is gaining a lot of importance, offline is still very important. Beauty brands must focus on creating a physical experience inside their stores, building a bridge between both the offline and online worlds, because this is where they have the best chance to start engaging with their clients and potential clients.

– When it comes to social media, beauty brands should focus more on listening to what is being said about their products on the whole social web via dedicated online monitoring programs and not only focus on managing their communities and posting content on their own social media profiles

– Brands should start organizing creative strategies on social platforms such as Pinterest on which most consumers are getting their inspiration, especially when it comes to fashion and beauty.


“Fly Like a Penguin” Dubai International Airport new advertising campaign

March 10, 2015
dubai international airport penguin ad

Dubai International Airport launched yesterday a new campaign on social media promoting it’s world-class retail, food outlets and services facilities offer. The objective of the campaign was to reinforce Dubai International’s status as the world’s number one international airport by highlighting the diverse products and services offering.

But have they done it the right way?

The cheerful 1.59 min video that was posted on Dubai International Youtube channel and Facebook page showcases a penguin that travels a very long way to discover Dubai’s international airport.

Yes, the campaign is very well executed and the choice of the penguin is supposed to reflect the fact that even the least expected visitors would be the happiest in Dubai starting from the airport where they will enjoy a relaxing experience since they even have a sauna!! Yes the penguin is very cute and the music is very nice.

However, I can’t help but question many aspects of this campaign:

– Why still go for the “traditional“ format when you are mainly advertising on social media? The least they could have thought of is a short film that is a bit more interactive and engaging for the users.

– The video was produced by Hometown, a London-based advertising agency. This is the main problem of advertising in Dubai: the people who are behind the majority of the creative work have no clue of the local culture.

– The ridiculously cheesy voiceover starting 1.36min that makes you wonder if they went totally over budget before they were able to actually produce the full video.

– The “poor” content, and by “poor” I don’t mean cheap because again I find the video very well executed. What I mean is that the only content we actually notice are the various products and brands placement that are giving rhythm to the video.

What I don’t understand is that they are trying to promote the exclusive experience of Dubai International, but they chose to do it the “traditional” way by visually communicating the brand and product benefits. Instead, they should have used the power of social media and experiential marketing focusing primarily on helping consumers actually experience the brand.

So I have compiled 5 of the best airports/airlines campaigns that focus on user’s experience for inspirational purposes only.

The upgrade challenge by Air France

#Iamtheguest by Aeroports De Paris

A meeting with Santa Clause by Spanair

Unexpected luggage by Virgin America

Cover greeting by Schiphol Airport and KLM

Hoping that next time it will affect the creative work of brands in the MENA region and take then one step ahead.


How people in the UAE are using their multiple devices

March 9, 2015
UAE computer smartphones

From smartphones and tablets to laptops and television, 90% of all media interactions today are screen-based. The “Consumer Barometer Survey 2014” by Google shows how people are interacting with the different devices, how they are moving among screens, and which devices they are using at the various stages of these interactions.

I have compiled the most interesting data about people from the UAE in the below infographic.

Muti-screen devices UAE

Here are the main insights about this survey:

  • The mobile phone is the most used device with 97% of people using one. 81% are using a computer and 78% are using a smartphone. eReaders come far behind with only 2% of people using them.
  • Most people (28%) are using 3 connected devices to go online. 70% of them do it several times a day.
  • 37% of people tend to go online using their smartphone and their computer equally. Only 3% are using their computer more often than their smartphones to go online.
  • Concerning the online activities that people do at least weekly, the most popular one on their smartphone is using search engines (19%) vs. checking their emails (57%) on their computers. Visiting social networks comes in the 2nd place for both devices.
  • In a more general way, people use their smartphones mostly to listen to music and take videos/photos (73%) but also to play games (58%). Some people are starting to also use their smartphones to track their health and activity levels (16%).
  • The use of a second screen while watching TV is also spreading since 51% of people said that they go online on their devices while watching TV. For 73% of them, this parallel Internet browsing is not related to the TV program they are watching. They mainly use their smartphones as a second screen (81%).

What we can learn and predict for these results from a marketing perspective is that:

  • Computer devices are still in the game even if mobile is on the rise.
  • The top priority for marketers should be SEO, email marketing as well as social media, all 3 linked by a powerful content strategy.
  • Mobile marketing strategies should mainly be focused around original content and consumer entertainment.
  • Companies and brands should improve coordination between traditional and digital media aligning their media buying and content strategies between TV broadcast and their online presence.

3 reasons why the JUKE #TakeAStand campaign by Nissan Middle East is great

February 26, 2015
Nissan JUKE Taim alfalasi take a stand

The new Nissan JUKE has a very straightforward tagline: “Stand out for the crowd”. Standing out: this is what Nissan Middle East managed to do with their new interactive campaign #TakeAStand

Original content, users interaction and the use of online influencers as brand ambassadors, those 3 main components were the key factors behind the success of this campaign.

  • Original branded content:

The 3 short online videos were created to present in an indirect way, the features of the car. The videos tackle themes from our daily lives such as style, social interaction and power relations between people. Each one of these themes actually represents one of the JUKE’s features in terms of design, technology and power. Isn’t it smart? The videos were posted on both Take A Stand microsite and Nissan Middle East Youtube channel.

  • Online influencers as brand ambassadors:

The main character featured in the videos is the famous actor and TV presenter Wonho Chung. In each of the 3 videos, he appears with famous online influencers such as Emirati Vlogger Taim Alfalasi, Saudi Youtuber Fahd Saal and Egyptian Viner Sherif Fayed. Why use online influencers as brand ambassadors? Well it’s pretty simple: the public trusts them and opinion from a trusted source has a huge impact purchasing decisions. This is where Nissan Middle East understood how to take advantage of this collaboration.

  • Users engagement and interaction:

In each of the videos, the 2 protagonists are debating a specific theme, each one showcasing several arguments. At the end of the video, the user is redirected to the microsite on which they can support an argument and join the debate by commenting for a chance to win a Nissan JUKE.

What are your thoughts on this campaign? Any similar inspiring work from the Middle East?


How people in MENA are using media for entertainement

April 23, 2014
Media in the MENA

The “Media Use in the Middle East ” report is based on a survey conducted by Harris Interactive Inc. on behalf of Northwestern University in Qatar. The survey was conducted in eight countries in the Middle East: Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, KSA, Lebanon, Qatar, Tunisia and the UAE. The report provides a view of how people in the Middle East use media and how they feel about their effect on their lives and societies.

I have compiled in this infographic the most relevant data allowing us to understand how people in the selected countries use media for entertainment purposes by highlighting the following information:

– Which media sources they use the most

– How much time they spend on different media

– What languages they use to access content

– What are their main online activities when it comes to using the Internet for entertainment

– How the video content viewership is split between TV and online

Media Use in MENA

Below are the key findings:

Television remains the most popular medium (98%) Typically, adults spend just over three hours a day in front of a television. Internet is a close second though, with Internet users spending just under three hours a day online at home.

UAE is where the Internet has the highest percentage of use (91%) compared to other media sources

60% listen to the radio and slightly fewer (54%) read newspapers, despite an abundance of newspapers available in many areas

The average number of hours spent watching TV is 22 hours per week, or about three hours each day. This is considerably more time each week than that spent listening to radio (9 hours) or reading books (8 hours), newspapers (6 hours) or magazines (6 hours)

72% indicate that they multi-task and do other things while online, such as listen to music, watch TV or talk on the phone.

Arabic leads generally for all electronic media, with overall frequency of use as follows: for TV (83%), radio (78%), newspapers (74%) and the Internet (71%). Use of English language is highest in the Gulf countries, which contain large expatriate populations, and where citizens often use both Arabic and English media.

The most important source of entertainment is TV (84%), followed by interpersonal sources (77%) and Internet (65%).

The only online video content watched by a majority of respondents is news (watched in a typical week by 57% of adults), and the only types of content watched by more than a quarter of respondents in a typical week are music videos (44%), sports (32%), game shows (31%) and ‘public commentary’ (31%).

60% visit social networking or video-sharing websites at least once a day – more in Tunisia (77%) and Jordan (72%), but fewer in Qatar (45%).


What this means from a marketing perspective:

Brands in the MENA region should find creative ways to build their campaigns around TV and the Internet. A TV campaign must be used to inform or raise awareness but most importantly to redirect to an online space where the brand should take the opportunity to engage with its consumers through exclusive content that comes as a “Learn more” of what they have seen on TV.

– International brands in the region have to start producing more content in Arabic. Although it is already the case when it comes to traditional advertising on TV, radio or in newspapers, it is an evidence that the web is lacking Arabic content produced by brands, especially when it comes to video content.

– The most popular online activity for entertainment being spending time on social networks and on video sharing platforms, viewers are always looking for something new to watch for entertainment depending on their mood. Brands should build their content strategy around entertainment focusing on the long term and not only building a one-time campaign they will only judge by the number of views it has generated on Youtube for a short period of time.

Explore the full findings about the study here