2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

Linear television is not dead, even if its useful life is declining. There are a variety of different approaches that make it possible to make linear television more efficient:

  •  with a more creative integration of TV and online creations, which fits in with content and platform
  • through a better return channel capability from addressable TV to really bring out its added value
  • decreasing attention spans through second-screen use can be made more efficient by shorter ad lengths and corner placements
  • by enhancing real-time TV performance measurements to more effectively link web traffic
  • including videos where there are regional differences in TV usage in order to achieve an optimal contact corridor for an integrated campaign
  • with the development of an ‘effective impact corridor’ of various moving image formats in order to supplement the classical planning with the effect factor


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

Digitisation has far-reaching implications for our society. The complexity of products, processes and technologies is increasing rapidly, people are networking worldwide, there is a new spirit of optimism. At the same time, we are in permanent beta status. Just as we have mastered a software or interface, an update comes along and we have to relearn. It is rare for conditions to remain constant for more than a few years. The only constant is change. This has far-reaching consequences for our society, but also for media planning. Until recently, society was more structured, and socio-demographic target group descriptions were the simplest and most satisfactory way to describe clients.

Socio-demographics cannot even begin to reflect today’s reality. The traditional roles of men and women have also largely become obsolete. Increased education levels have led to greater gender equality, and the old stereotypes are being broken down in both the workplace and the home. In 1980, 46 percent of all men married a woman who had a lower level of education; in 2016 this figure was only 32 percent. In the same time period, the number of men marrying upwards, that is, marrying a woman with a higher level of education, increased from three to ten percent. These changes represent the collapse of the middle class of society. To put it clearly, there are now only well-educated couples and poorly-educated couples. Couples with mixed education levels are increasingly uncommon. On average, 30 percent of men are well-educated, compared with 55 percent of women. As women are less likely to marry “downwards”, 25 percent of well-educated women remain single – a fact that can be observed in many cities. On the one hand, there are educated couples with double incomes and thus greater consumption capacity, on the other hand, singles or less-educated couples with only one income. Of course, all these individuals have a gender and an age. However, this does not say much about their living conditions and consumption capacity.

Values or motivators offer much better insights into buying behaviour

This change of social norms and structures causes a massive problem for advertisers, in particular for manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs): The hitherto common target group of “households between 24 and 54 years” is no longer effective. An example: In the past, the promotion of an organic, ecologically sustainable dish soap would have focused predominately on wives and mothers. Today, however, this approach would ignore a large number of potential customers. Conscious, value-led purchasing is independent of age and sex. And only about 30 percent of all buyers are repeat customers. The remaining 70 percent are new customers or switching customers who think little of brand loyalty. For brands, it is particularly important to appeal to and retain repeat customers – and today that can often be ecologically conscious, male singles.

Purchase decisions no longer depend on age and gender, but are much more influenced by the values that are important to a person and their motivation for taking action. New approaches to media planning can target these values and motives. This can prevent the exclusion of potential customers from advertising, simply because they do not belong to a specific age group or gender.

Psychographic targeting: What drives action today

A good alternative to socio-demographics is psychographic targeting. Psychographics is a tried-and-tested approach that has been researched for decades in personality psychology, which primarily identifies the human motives for taking action. Buying behaviour is influenced by particular motives for taking action and can be predicted, if the motives for it are known. If a person is more performance-oriented, they are better able to react to advertising motifs that emphasise the performance of a product or the results that can be achieved with it. For a car, this would be attributes like speed or special technical features. For a person whose main motive is social recognition and the company of others, communal experiences and achievements within a group are more influential. Psychographic targeting defines appropriate personas for each brand or product that work independently of age, gender, or other socio-demographic characteristics, and that are primarily defined by their values and motives.

This motivational and situational approach means that different advertising motifs have to be created, which are designed according to the theme of the action. As socio-demographics is losing relevance, both the planning and also the creation of media must drastically change and develop tailor-made spots and motifs for individual personas.

ValueSphere: What is important to me

“Actually I’m quite different. But I so rarely have time to show it.” The quote from the Austro-Hungarian writer Ödön von Horváth makes it clear that we all have specific ideas of how we want to be and what values should guide our actions. Health, joie de vivre, closeness, modernity, quality and many more values determine our buying behaviour, because the products we purchase always reflect our own set of values. For their part, brands and products represent certain values that consumers consciously or unconsciously perceive. So each of us would probably associate Miele with quality and reliability, Lego, on the other hand, with creativity and fun.

With our in-house ValueSphere model, these brand values and the target audience are identified. At the same time, advertising environments such as newspapers, magazines and TV stations and broadcasts are divided into the same value system in order to find the media environment that perfectly matches the brand or product. In this way, coherent results can be achieved, in which advertising not only fits in better with the environment, but also achieves a higher impact.


It’s high time for media planning to change its views. The stereotypes of the past (men are interested in cars, women in cosmetics; young people are modern and open-minded, older people traditional and old-fashioned) are no longer useful. Today’s world is much more complex, people are increasingly individual and social groups more connected by common values and goals. The entire advertising industry – especially creation – must abandon socio-demographics as the sole criterion if advertising is to continue to reach the right people in the future.

Adressable TV (ATV) promises to increase campaign impact by supplementing high-reach TV advertisements with targeted, controllable advertising media. However, the test campaign period is now at an end. ATV will experience a significant growth spurt in 2018, making it possible to cover ranges, which will enable ATV to play an important role in campaign planning for certain target groups. A smart moving image strategy will harness the capabilities of Addressable TV, which include programmatic control and TV retargeting. And the next stage of development is already on the starting blocks, with the HbbTV 2.0 television standard set to drastically transform television as an advertising medium.

Smart TVs are gaining ground

Approximately 32 million European households have been equipped with a smart TV since 2017, with a third of German households already in possession of an internet-ready television and another 2.8 million planning to upgrade. In spite of increased internet use, television is and remains one of the most important sources of entertainment and information: the average German internet user may spend 1 hour 31 minutes on their smartphone and 1 hour 13 minutes on social media, but continues to spend 3 hours 41 minutes watching television regardless[1]. And the number of campaigns conducted on smart TVs has risen, with 100 campaigns in 2016 compared to 200 in 2017 aired on the ProSiebenSat.1 network alone, this trend is very much ‘to be continued’.

TV advertising without flicking through the channels

So far, only the small rectangular and larger L-shaped SwitchIn formats are available, which are displayed when you change channels and, where applicable, can lead the way to further content when viewers press the red button on their remote control. However, these programmatically purchased formats are already demonstrating an above-average impact. The reason for this is the full view-through rate – viewers won’t just flick through the channels as there is actual channel content to be seen. This form of advertising is also still relatively new, and has a strong impact on the consumer for that reason alone. Surveys show that audiences accept SwitchIns and don’t feel bothered by them.

A further advantage is that SwitchIns can be adapted to the region, and can therefore be made to appeal to advertising customers for whom TV was previously an unsuitable advertising medium due to high scatter loss. In addition to geotargeting, weather targeting, time targeting, retargeting, and even targeting according to the viewer’s equipment (for example, by referring to the red button on their remote controls) are possible, as well as targeting according to the viewers’ demographic characteristics. Using data during programmatic purchasing makes it possible to appeal to the right target group with the right amount of contact. With advertising retargeting, for example, SwitchIns can be specifically targeted at viewers who have previously seen the ad for a brand in an ad block. At the same time, frequency capping on the part of the marketer can prevent the viewer from suffering retargeting overkill.

A new route into TV advertising

A significant rise in the number of ATV campaigns delivered, in combination with growing budgets – the gross average budget presently standing at €146,000 – demonstrates how relevant Addressable TV has become for the advertising market. This is also evidenced by the fact that increasing numbers of advertising clients are finding their way into the televisual medium for the first time via ATV. A glance at the budget distribution also reveals that more than half of sales come from the automotive industry (22 percent), the consumer goods industry (21 percent), and the media and entertainment industry (14 percent).

The dream of personalised mass media is coming soon

ATV is therefore enjoying increasing in market success, and is set to keep expanding its market share in the near future as it also wins over advertising clients for whom traditional television advertising was previously out of the question. The future will only truly arrive, however, once the HbbTV 2.0 technical standard has established itself in this area. Then it will be possible to interchange ads in linear television, which will mean being able to tailor them to the individual viewer. That said, it is only when the two major marketing forces of SevenOne Media and IP Germany come together and enable the advertising client to apply their own data and fully control all coverage via a demand-side platform that ATV will make a quantum leap forward.

[1]Global Digital Report 2018. We are Social. AGF TV panels in cooperation with GfK in the period 01/01-31/12/2017; Random sample: 16 to 64-year-old internet users in Germany.

media planung

Planning effective advertising campaigns has never been harder. The hundreds of thousands of additional media options we have compared to just 20 years ago make the planning process dizzying and often confusing. Our clients and our agency try to narrow down our process into a few clear steps to keep us all focused as we contemplate the current marketing environment and get ready to adapt to the changes that tomorrow will inevitably bring. Here are our top three planning tactics:

Low share of voice is no share of voice

There are many viable options of where to spend your media dollars, but we have always found that limiting your selection to a few core partners always yields best results. Every media plan needs to find at least one moment to “own” with enough reach and frequency to stand out from the competition. We like to use the saying that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. One can try and boil it at 80 degrees, but all that will have happen is a bath, typically one that the client’s budget and brand gets to take.

Quality vs. quantity

In the age of programmatic where the focus is buying cheap media in bulk, advertisers are starting to lose sight of the fact that where your ads show up matters. Even programmatic’s biggest advocates agree – If editorial and contextual adjacency didn’t matter, every men’s shaving razor brand would advertise only on porn sites, for example, finding the perfect demo at the cheapest costs.

It is the need to attract an audience willing to engage with your brand with the proper headset that has driven the resurgence in traditional media. All of the women reading Vogue have at least one thing in common (current fashion) and could pivot to see your brand in a similarly positive way. Additionally, traditional media can clearly scale to support the best performers.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

Goals need to be established at the start of a digital campaign, because a missed impression caused by the lack of a placed pixel is a missed opportunity to make a sale. More importantly, the net financial objectives need to be set at the beginning as well, so that all partners can work towards solving a business problem with communications, not just looking at interim KPI’s used to track media vendor delivery.

Data is perishable and a real time dashboard is a minimum requirement to participate effectively in digital media. Depending on your industry, data collected during a campaign may not be relevant to extrapolating or retargeting in as little as a month after the campaign runs.

Starting with a simple list of “advertising commandments” is a great way to retake control over your marketing process and budgets. You can add amendments anytime as the environment changes.

Forbes Magazine named 2017 “the year of voice search,” as 43% of US online adults now use a digital assistant and 97% say they like to get general information from digital assistants today. According to Techcrunch, the Echo Dot was the best-selling product on all of Amazon in the 2018 holiday season. That’s a big reason that 60% of people started using voice search over the past year according to Mindmeld. These statistics make it clear that the $100B global search industry is getting ready to pivot in a new direction. How will voice tech effect your brand’s marketing strategy? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the difference between voice tech and voice search?

  • Voice tech is a broad term for all voice enabled systems like phones, Iphones, Siri, Cortana, voice to text transcription, etc. Voice Search is a Google product that allows users to use Google Search by speaking to a mobile phone, computer or a connected home device (Google Home, Amazon Echo, etc.)
  • The main benefit of voice tech is that we can find information when our hands or eyes are otherwise occupied. Plus, humans can speak quicker than they can type.

How long has it been around?

Voice recognition actually dates back to 1877 when Thomas Edison invented the Phonograph, but we have come a long way since then.


  • October 4, 2011, Apple announces Siri, a digital personal assistant. In addition to being able to recognize speech, Siri can understand the meaning of what it is told and take appropriate action.
  • April 2, 2014, Microsoft announces Cortana, a digital personal assistant like Siri
  • November 6, 2014, Amazon announces the Echo, a voice-controlled speaker. The Echo is powered by Alexa, a digital personal assistant like Siri and Cortana. While Siri and Cortana are not the most important features of the devices on which they run, the Echo is dedicated to Alexa

A massive shift in voice use has already begun. ComScore states that 40% of US adults used voice search in 2017 and predicts that more than 50 percent of searches will be voice-based by 2020. The trend continues exponentially.


How is Voice Search currently being used?

  1. Google provides a single direct answer to queries since a standard SERP result would not be helpful. Rather, having the answer read out aloud provides immediate gratification and a much better user experience. Therefore, Google created the Answer Box.
  2. Google’s Answer Box is powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph & machine learning capabilities; it is Google’s way of understanding the intent of the user and giving the best answer. Google’s Answer Box is the ONLY answer to voice search queries, it is the result that appears above all other results on the SERP, “ranking zero”.
    • When you win the Answer Box, your result will be the one that is read to the user conducting the voice search.
    • It is NOT based on industry or category relevance, but by a variety of keyword triggers.
    • Creating a content marketing strategy based on common consumer triggers will help increase your odds for gaining top organic position via the Answer Box – powered through a query or voice search.

How to Prepare

Start with the basics: Voice queries are different than text queries

The first step for any brand would be to conduct a comprehensive analysis to understand how consumers are searching for your products. Unlike search keyword phrases that you type into your computer, voice search is more conversational and natural in tone and often locally focused.

  • Where can I buy…?
  • What is the best…?

The broader implication, and opportunity, is that SEO is shifting from keyword optimization to topic optimization.

  • Topics better address the real needs of users and the vast variety of ways in which they search.
  • Shift from the single-word keyword searches to the more specific long-tail keywords to natural language.
  • Tighten your brand description: Answer Boxes contain between 3 to 5 words.

Get ready for a paid voice search advertising world

Since Google nor Amazon are allowing voice search advertising (yet), this will most likely change within the next year or so. Take action today by:

  • Brainstorming new keyword targets. Pay close attention to your keyword strategy. How many of your targets are head keywords, how many are long-tail keywords, and how many are general topic targets?
  • Become eponymous (Kleenex vs tissues). Choose your battles. Consider fighting harder for top spots on a handful of key SERPs, while forgoing the battle for keywords that aren’t as important to you.
  • Consider local. If you aren’t already investing in local SEO, now’s the time to start. This is perhaps the most important area to concentrate on as “near me” searches become the norm for this medium.
  • Rethink your advertising mix. If you use PPC ads, you may need to rethink your approach; soon, consumers will start interacting with your ads differently, and you may need to upgrade your targeted advertising to a different format.

Next Steps

As marketing professionals, we must anticipate how data collected from voice searches can inform other media decisions. As voice search extends to platforms other than the personal assistant space, DMP’s are beginning to gather data from other devices such as refrigerators, cars, watches, etc. Especially in closed environments like Google or Amazon, the opportunity presents itself to retarget consumers in the purchasing funnel. So, while perhaps maybe we cannot run search ads right now, we can work with Amazon/Google to segment and retarget on GDN/YouTube and other media.

We still don’t know exactly how a voice search revolution will manifest, so it pays to remain flexible when the changes come. Ultimately, the best preparation for the future is to make sure your brand conforms to traditional marketing standards: clarity of benefit, clear brand message, terse call to action and ability to be loved and shared by your customers.

Addressable TV (ATV) promises to increase the campaign’s impact by supplementing TV advertisements with high-reach TV spots with targeted, controllable advertising media – the advantages of linear TV and the digital world combined. The time of test cases is over – ATV will experience a significant growth spurt in 2018. Why? The penetration of smart TVs in viewers’ living rooms is clearly increasing. In 2018, it will be possible to cover ranges with which ATV can play an important role in campaign planning in certain target groups. A smart moving image strategy uses the possibilities of Addressable TV – including programmatic control and TV retargeting. And the next stage of development is already underway – with the Hbb 2.0 television standard, spot exchange is also possible in linear TV.

Two of the mega marketing trends remain: contextual and customer centricity. What does this mean for media? Both trends must be served by real-time media and geo intelligence. At the same time, we are required to operate and display these via all touch points in a demand-oriented manner and to be close to the consumer in real time.

The fragmentation caused by digitisation and the increasing amount of data that we all leave behind holds a huge treasure trove that is still used far too little. Contextually and in real time, we can thus create much more relevance in terms of content, because we take into account and focus on the local needs and particularities, as well as people’s mentalities. A different message is needed in Hamburg than in Munich. The approach in Cologne must be different from the one in Düsseldorf. If we are already diversifying target groups and reaching them through targeting, then translation into the region is an absolute necessity. Geo intelligence can do this and much more: In addition to media planning, our customers also need more and more support with profitability forecasts, screening of existing POS and sales areas as well as support with their expansion plans.

As in all the periods during which humanity has discovered a new world, the question of ethics comes in second phase, when the settlers realize that some rules would help organizing the new land. So is the case for the new land of Data.

Data, the new far-west?

This phase of maturity for the data land is now upon us, and humanity feels inclined to put some sort of order into what has been done in the past, and regulate what will be done in the future.

Data has changed everything

Obviously, data has changed everything about how a brand manages its relationships with its customers, and digital has had a bigger impact than anyone really thought it would have.

With digital, the world of marketing and media has had to face a double revolution in how consumers interact with those sending out messages. Firstly, the immediate and overpowering right to get an answer, and then, a fragmentation of uses and consumption which has led to unparalleled demand for customisation, like never before.

The right to revert came with the advent of new media – social networks – where tribes of aficionados and detractors gather, bringing their voices together until they have become equal to those who produce the information or content, and are capable of contradicting, destroying, or lauding increasingly decoded and commented brand postures.

In this new world, communication and advertising had transitioned in just a few years from a vertical mass system, controlled by the transmitter, to an individual and egalitarian horizontal system.

In the beginning, brands wanted to take advantage of technology to improve the relevance and customisation of messages as far as they could. After all, that’s what consumers wanted. Media buyers suddenly had to take on the role of orchestra conductor for individualised exposure scenarios, where the relevance of the sollicitations and their individual capping, became key. And to succeed, they had to target. And to target, they had to collect individual data, in all forms, and link them together: a client database had to be connected to a media exposure history and a website browsing, that was all! Brands or Medias could then push the right message, at the right time, to the right person. In fact, to the right profile of person, because everyone involved in the chain had agreed to use only anonymized datas.

Understanding the value of Data

A band of rich, dominant and supranational players quickly understood the value of such data, and what power it could confer. Where they had long said that if information on an audience was to be gleaned, content needed to be produced, these platforms suddenly mutated their business model, monetizing the wealth they had on their servers. Online search engine results or searches on an online hypermarket, dialogues on social networks, and uses from a device became ways of collecting this data.

Obviously, some countries tried to prevent targeting, forcing websites to more or less explicitly receive some kind of consent to be traces from their users. In front of the rejection from Internet user of a still too intrusive advertising, private organisations even invented adblockers, which stopped ads from popping up when browsing. But given the need for publishers to continue monetising their space, these users had to disable them on a massive scale to go on accessing the online content they were now used to consume.

Little by little, users realised that the free internet was only a decoy, and that if any product was actually free, the product was actually the users themselves.

Worse still, serious cases have emerged where countries have been found to control their data, and that all large companies had were little more than sieves to protect the data they have been given. Conversations, banking data and medical data could be all be stored, used and diverted without anyone’s knowledge! And then anti-terrorism Laws had been voted in the Western world, which, although legitimate, worryingly formalised the rights of Authorities to monitor the actions of their citizens.

The digital world, under the pressure of this more mature humanity has now entered a phase where the ethics question is order of the day.

The age of Ethics

Firstly, some countries, and the European Union on the front line, have recently tackled these issues head on. After struggling for many years to try and change the competitive behaviour of the major digital platforms, regulatory bodies began an all-out attack on privacy with the GDPR, in a kind of tsunami, the effects of which are not yet totally felt by all players.

First, this approach reverses the burden of proof, and obliges the players who store or use data as part of their core business to demonstrate due diligence in the protection and safeguarding of the data entrusted to them, but also to self-diagnose the processes that could affect personal confidentiality. Also, to set a precedent, it applies to any player doing business in Europe, even if that business is headquartered in Palo-Alto, Shanghai, or San Francisco. Finally, it establishes a system where the Internet user must now explicitly consent to being tracked. Subsequently, it is now likely that people will be able to approve, reject, or decide to appear or disappear completely from all databases where their personal data is stored. This imposes on economic players and their subcontractors not only a duty to obey, but mainly to inform their users in an extremely painstaking way about what they do with their datas.

The approach shows to what extent public Authorities have now become fully aware of their duty to protect and supervise a form of self-regulation that until that point had been imperfect.

Having crossed swords for years with the major digital platforms for one or other issue like abusing from their dominant position or like tax territoriality, and having questioned citizens and various marketing professionals on these occasions, public Authorities have learned, cogitated, and become very aware of how data can be and is abused.

In parallel, the French state has just published four unparalleled decrees, aimed at imposing transparency on digital platforms, again with a view to improving the transparency of the information provided to the public on their business model, and the use that is made of the data collected. Game over. Implicit obligations where users had no choice but to accept the conditions if they wanted to access specific content are now a thing of the past. Today, governments fully assumes their role of referee and ethics warden, leaving the various players to work out how they can self-regulate under these constraints. Internet users have all the power, if they want it!

But the question of ethics takes on a new dimension when thinking about the implementation of such regulations : if the cornerstone of data ethics is the collection, documentation and management of the users consent, how can we avoid relying once again on the goodwill of these same digital platforms whose governments are trying to moralise the practices? They are both umpire and player here, as they are on the definition of their opaque algorithmes. And all together, they hold 95% of all world’s personal data. How can they be considered able to take part in this self-regulation that would directly harm their own business?

Who will control the ethics?

So who should do it? Governments? Those same leaders who fail to impose decent taxation on the platforms? The very people who have access, now legislated, to the most sensitive personal data in their fight against terrorism? Some of the very ones who the Snowden case reveals they have opaque links with the platforms they are supposed to regulate ? No. Their job is to write the rules of ethics, but isn’t it better that peers organise and manage their consent among themselves, rather than leaving it to the heathens? Or to a new body that doesn’t have a vested interest? The world of Data needs trusted third parties now more than ever, and it’s time to figure out who could play that role.

At first glance, Research institutes may be the obvious answer. After all, they have always been used to segmenting, collecting and protecting individual data. This role would require them to design more comprehensive panels, therefore integrating all of the profiles that visit one website or another, by means of questionnaires to ensure that Internet users consent to their data being collected, while reassuring them about the fact that they will be in expert and trustworthy hands. In that aspect, data brings the world of digital and the world of research closer than ever. At the moment, all the major institutes are in the midst of their digital transformation, and on the quest for internationalisation now necessary on this new global playing field. Still a lot to do…

Meanwhile, it is highly likely that the blockchain will be able to play a major role this self-regulation for the world of marketing and customer relations.

Indeed, none of the players in a chain can carry out all the obligations imposed by the GDPR alone because each is only one link. While individual players can commit themselves, they have no power over their subcontractors or clients. It is also hard to imagine how to transition from principle to reality if users must explicitly give their consent to all the players in all the chains where their data is traced. It is physically impossible, and legally unrealistic.

Blockchain is the missing element

We believe then, that the blockchain will be the missing element for this self-regulation to be effective. Stakeholders will join consortia, share their data and rely on Block chaines externalized technology to manage Internet user consent centrally. As it is currently widespread in healthcare and banking, it is highly likely that the next broad area of application for the blockchain will be customer relations, and more generally, marketing, under the impetus of regulations such as GDPR. Strangely, perhaps for the first time ever, potentially competing economic players are forced to pool their strengths and their data stores to fight on behalf of governments against digital platforms that they failed to control, implementing the et his principles such government have enacted.

With digital, citizens have never had so much power in their relationship with brands.

They first asked for more personalisation, and now they want to keep control over the very thing that make personalisation possible: their data. They have pushed governments to take up the role of protector once again, and are now pushing market players to sort this and respect their digital identity. A kneejerk reaction could have been to disconnect from the internet, and then, cut everything off at the source. But no. History shows that the more points of contact are added, the more they are consumed. People want everything, right now, but in full respect of their identity. That’s the moral of this new chapter of human history.

The Multi-Middle East

Neither a continent nor a country, The Middle East is a term given to a region made up of 17 countries. The region comprises of 450 million people and growing at one of the fastest growth rates in the world, the Middle East is a prized market for most brands due to the large base of youth population that exists here. Almost 50% of the regions population is under the age of 25 with 35% being under the age of 18. This poses a huge potential opportunity for a dynamic future market. The challenges alongside remain job creation, education and channelling youth potential towards economic prosperity.

Total Poulation MENA and Youth

Brands often define their territories or regions focusing their marketing strategies based on the above market collation. This is because markets within each segment display similarities in culture, language and habits however varying differences can be seen when being compared to markets in other segments. For instance, although Arabic is regarded as the language of the region, the language of choice in Morocco and Tunisia is primarily French. Likewise, the chosen language in markets like the UAE is English and Hindi is also widely spoken due to the large base of expats from the Indian subcontinent. Even within Arabic, the dialect can vary significantly not just within the market segments but also from one country to another. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are geographical neighbours and both are part of the GCC council, however the spoken dialect of Arabic differs immensely from each other.

Arabize it!

These variances in culture are also reflected in the choice of media by consumers. Conservative segments and societies in the region are catered through more traditional and conservative content while modernized segments consume a more ‘westernized content’. However, on an overall basis some of the most popular contents on leading TV stations are western franchised shows which are ‘Arabized’ and broadcasted to the region. Shows like Arabs Got Talent, Arab Idol, Project Runway, Survivor, Fear Factor and others have all been successfully ‘Arabized’ and televised in the region. Another popular genre amongst the youth is music where the region has seen a boom in the music industry with more and more music speciality channels being broadcasted on mainstream satellites. With sporadic objection from time to time, music videos seem to always push the boundary for what is considered as an acceptable appearance and content in the region.

These popular choices of content from the audience en masse reflect the evolution of culture in the Middle East. The other interesting aspect is the popularity of the English language channels amongst the Arab audiences. MBC Group first experimented in 2001 by introducing English channels that play Hollywood blockbuster in English with Arabic subtitles. Soon after its launch, MBC 2 became the No. 2 channel after MBC 1 in terms of viewership by the general population across Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE – the three biggest markets of the region. It also commanded a position in the top 5 channels in regards to viewership across all the Middle Eastern markets. This was a unique insight into the Arab market, which proved the acceptance of not just western content but content in a foreign language. Since then, MBC and Rotana have both successfully added English channels to their portfolios.

The media maze – or: spoilt for choice!

To cater to this complex multi-cultural and multi lingual environment there is a plethora of media making it very challenging for brands to reach out to their audiences. There are over 300+ TV channels in the region and over 3,000 officially registered print titles. The number of blogs and digital publishers make the digital media landscape even more fragmented.

TV remains the media of choice commanding the highest share of audience time spent on a media platform. This is closely followed by the internet, which has grown significantly in the past years however, remains second after the TV in leading ME markets like KSA and UAE. With the plethora of free to air channels, complimented by the rising penetration of video on demand and streaming networks, the audience is spoilt for choice of content.

The good news for marketers is that media reach can still be consolidated through the biggest 2 TV networks in the region. The MBC Group which is the largest broadcasting network in the region comprises 11 channels in its portfolio that are beamed across satellite to the entire region. Five of its channels are amongst the top 10 TV channels in all Middle Eastern countries and aggregate almost 50% audience share across the entire region. The Number 1 TV channel of the region, MBC1, alone can command up to 20% audience reach across all markets in the region. MBC has been the broadcast platform for popular programs including international franchises such as ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’, ‘Arabs Got Talent’, ‘Arab Idol’ and other global hits.

Leading advertisers including FMCG brands, automotive brands, telecommunication brands continue to leverage the reach of broadcast TV to build awareness for their brands. Although cost buying TV spots can be expensive, it still continues to be the most cost efficient way to reach mass audiences across multiple markets within the Middle East.

Time Spent per Media Platform per Week

The second biggest broadcaster of the region is Rotana, part of the Rotana Group. Rotana Group is the Arab World’s largest entertainment company. It is primarily owned by the Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, with an 18.97% share held by 21st Century Fox.

The large pan-Arab media conglomerate includes a film production company (Rotana Studios), a magazine (Rotana Magazine), television (Rotana TV), seven music channels (Rotana Radio), a record label (Rotana Records), and others.

Pan Arab TV Ad Share

With 13 broadcast channels in its network, Rotana commands a 15% audience share in Saudi Arabia, the regions

biggest market and similar audience share across the Middle East. Rotana and MBC Group dominate the regions audience share of viewing when it comes to the airwaves.

This scenario represents an advantage for brands to be able to build reach over a massive audience of around 400 million Arabs in the region using these two dominant networks, but also presents challenges in negotiations due to the monopoly the networks command.


Key Broadcasting Networks SOA


The digital revolution

The Middle East is one of the fastest growing regions when it comes to penetration and usage of digital media in the world. Digital technology and access of high speed internet has connected the region to the rest of the world not only in terms of information and data but also in terms of cultural understanding and exposure. The digital highway has opened the gateways for the Middle Eastern population to be exposed to programming content from all around the world. With the click of a button, users are able to access videos, songs, programs and movies from all over the world. This exposure has played a major role in shaping the mindset of the youth in the region. Perhaps one of the best example is Saudi Arabia where the local media is largely controlled by the government and subject to a strict censorship criteria. At the same time, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest consumption of Youtube videos in the world.

The result has been the formation of a unique culture across these countries, which is an amalgamation of Western cultural influences mixed with traditional Arab cultural practises.

Today, Digital media is part of the way of life in the region Middle East. Devices like smartphones are considered as highly personal and important objects as they remain the most prominent and sometimes only possibility for people to get a view of the global world as well as expressing themselves to the world.

Growth Rates of Leading YouTube Channels Average daily time spent online

Social Media is my media

The rise of social media has further accelerated the desire for self-expression. A traditional society that has largely been scrutinized for every word put in public, social media has given the mass a means to express their opinions, desires and point of views without scrutiny or restriction. The region has one of the highest usage rates of social media in the world.

Brands have been keen to become part of this phenomenon and have benefited from the social media popularity by engaging their target audiences through these popular platforms. Social media and digital channels have already risen to overtake print media in some categories and are now giving television broadcasters a challenge for marketing budgets. Brands with lower marketing budgets that couldn’t afford big budgeted TV campaigns can now benefit from the lower cost of campaigns on digital and social media. These new marketing channels are not only lower in cost but also very effective in means of reaching and engaging with target audiences across multiple demographics.

KSA top Desktop Mobile

SOURCE: Arab Media Outlook 2016.2018. Fifth Edition

Content marketing is not a 21st century invention. In spring 1897, long before the first “http” was typed into a browser line, John Deere – at the time an inventive manufacturer of plough machines, today a global market leader for agricultural engineering – published an early “Sponsored Post” in the agricultural magazine called “The Furrow”. In the ad, the manufacturer explained how farmers can increase their yield by using agricultural machinery. John Deere thus created the link between his product and the needs of his customers. The message: We are convincing you with substantial arguments! Even 120 years later this goal has not changed: Only companies that provide additional benefits for their customers will achieve this goal. Marketing is relationship development! And you can particularly strengthen the connection with your customers through relevant content:

This, in turn, requires a sophisticated system to create targeted, user-tailored content. The basis for this is a deep understanding of the various impact levels of content marketing. The process can generally be divided into four phases:

Phase 1: To grab the people’s attention, the contents have to be created in an informative and/or entertaining way, which adds value.

Phase 2: So that the contents can be viewed and used by people, you need to ensure sufficient reach. Media support also plays a large role here because virality only works with certain types of content.

Phase 3: As people use the respective content, they establish a deeper relationship with the brand.

Phase 4: As they have established this relationship with the brand, they prefer to buy products from this brand.

It sounds very simple in theory. Of course, in practice, there are some predetermined breaking points, e.g. between phase one and two: Just because a brand produces good contents, does not mean that enough people use and see these products. And just because I like a brand, does not necessarily mean that I will buy their products. At predefined breaking point number one, a sophisticated media plan helps as it guarantees a basic reach in the desired target group. Predefined breaking point number two is the result of a simple equation: Customers usually shop in places where they can find the simplest solution to their problem and they need to know that it is the simplest.

If you take a closer look at user behaviour, you will see that: Today’s users are rushed, “always on”, have a very short attention span and take in a lot of information in a very short space of time. At a time when smartphones are the favoured devices, it is mainly visually processed contents that are used and shared. The rapid rise of Instagram is proof of this. In addition, users are very self-determined in what they want to use. The good news is: There is at least one solution for all these challenges. For example, by being “always on” with communication as well. And snackable content provides short and easily consumable content, which consistently fits to the brand. The value of recognition is particularly important, especially in a highly fragmented market: Contents must be divisible, multimedia, segmented and personalised.

How can you produce content for such a fast-paced and mobile world? By working dynamically! Paul Adams, Head of Brand Design at Facebook, gets straight to the point: “To be a successful advertiser on the web in the future, you will need to build content based on many lightweight interactions over time.” Short and simply put: If you don’t let go then you won’t be current. Many, small interactions – combined with few, but big highlights.

At the office, we call this agile brand communication. To achieve this, you need many different disciplines within an agency or an agency group to be involved: Insights, content strategy, media strategy, concept team, editorial department, creation, paid media, community management, influencer management, PR and account management. All departments of the agency have to work hand in hand with the customer.

Content is king! The customer is king! But where is the king hiding?

Currently, many companies produce “their” content primarily from the perspective of the sender. They are stuck in the broadcaster or sender trap, which they are familiar with from their previous classical advertising. A more promising approach is content analysis for content production: Based on valid data, it examines what people actually talk about and in what form (social listening). These findings are then compared with the topics and messages that the company or the brand wants to work with. Residual topics are then conceptualised using storytelling. Similar to the way Snapchat and Instagram stories work – individual images and individual parts are strung together to make a story. These stories are then reused on various channels that are suitable for the target group and the content. For logical reasons, the user is divided into different segments and also addressed with various versions of the contents – for example, regarding their gender or where they live.

A lot has happened in agriculture too. Although John Deere’s ad was revolutionary 120 years ago, it would not have the same effect today as an advert in the “top agrar” specialist medium, for example. Among today’s farmers, the smartphone is the dominating source of information. What is searched on the go? Today’s farmers are not only searching for a wife, they also spend plenty of time looking at the weather report and the weather forecast. According to a study by the Kleffmann Group, with 46% of farmers using it, the weather app is by far the most used feature. The study also showed that agricultural machinery manufacturers such as John Deere now combine their products with mobile real time content regarding the weather.