Chasing eyeballs

Published: August 23, 2010

EVP of the Starcom Mediavest Group Middle East and North Africa, Tarek Daouk. photo: express

KARACHI: Attention is a rare commodity, according to the head of the region’s biggest media buying house. “Advertisers follow eyeballs, above all. Wherever people are interacting with media, wherever the audiences are turning to, that’s where we want to be,” said Executive Vice President of the Starcom Mediavest (SMV) Group Middle East and North Africa, Tarek Daouk.

“That is efficient advertising. That’s what we do,” added Daouk.

The SMV Group has been the largest media group in the Middle East and North Africa for the past 10 years. The regional head office in Dubai is supplemented by 11 offices in Jeddah, Riyadh, Cairo, Kuwait and other cities in the region.

“There has been a slowdown in our Dubai market as our clients’ interests are moving towards other economies,” says Daouk. He explains that this is because income levels of countries like Pakistan, India and China are increasing. Their populations are growing and the people’s attitudes are changing to become more market-driven, causing more and more marketing firms to shift their focus to emerging economies.

The emerging economies

P&G, Coca Cola and Samsung, all multinational giants, are being attracted to Pakistan’s expanding customer base, highlights Daouk, explaining that until 2008, the country’s banking and real estate sectors were the most interesting for marketers.

Since then, these have waned slightly but the telecommunications industry and consumer goods sector are stronger than ever before.

In terms of research and availability of data on market trends and customer preferences, the Pakistani market is more advanced than many others in the region, according to him. He elaborates that Pakistan is one of only two countries, the other being Lebanon, in the region which utilise this data, even if use is limited due to high costs.

SMV thinks that Pakistan is a significant growth market. The company has formed a partnership here with the intention of gaining local expertise while taking advantage of SMV’s international exposure and clientele.

It wants to be there when Pakistani companies establish and expand their presence in the domestic market.

Attention economy

Reaching people is not the biggest challenge anymore, but grabbing and holding their attention is. Fifteen years ago, access to content was limited and there were only one or two television channels in the country, highlighted Daouk, adding that now there is an abundance of content. “Include the numerous magazines, newspapers and other publications and you will realise that there has been a paradigm shift for marketers in these years.”

Attention has become a rare commodity and creative content is needed to capture it. Marketers and content producers need to be aware of when the best time is to grab attention and on what media because people today use multiple platforms such as cell phones, televisions, computers and often simultaneously, he pointed out.

In the near future

The focus is shifting from print to digital, even in Pakistan. It has already happened in other places and it will happen here too.

Books, music, movies and news, soon everything will be digitised. More developers will head to technology such as ‘IP television’.

There has already been a democratisation of media because of greater interactivity. Customers can comment and give feedback on their favourite brands, often instantaneously. This trend will gather momentum as digital media becomes dominant over print.

Content producers have to evolve with customers and media. Thirty-minute radio shows or 600-word articles may soon lose popularity in favour of shorter, crispier versions for mobile phones and portable devices. Marketers too must evolve. Traditionally, they controlled the brand image and dictated communications with public.

Digital media has revolutionised marketing so customers can shape brands and influence campaigns. Customers today want the power of brand ownership and marketers have to give it to them while achieving their own marketing objectives.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2010.

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