Camel Power Meets Girl Power at Dubai Lynx

Sandra Loibl, Executive Creative Director at Serviceplan Campaign in Munich, talks about being on the Dubai Lynx Jury for Promo & Activation, Outdoor, Interactive and Mobile category. Serviceplan Group Middle East are an official sponsor of Dubai Lynx, the biggest festival in the Middle East and North Africa region for the creative communications industry. She also gives some interesting insights into the empowerment of women in the region.

Whoever’s been on a trip to the Middle East, instantly has a pretty solid idea in mind hearing these two words together. You too, right?

Anybody, who has the chance to visit Dubai and the other Emirates nowadays, can immediately kiss this antiquated notion goodbye. That’s because the model of femininity is subject to constant change in this region – which is certainly a good thing.

The same goes for camels. They represent – more by coincidence than by definition – the creative change. As a member of the jury, I couldn’t ignore the “camelpower” idea by Nissan. Pure genius. Just to give you a little heads up: Camelpower became the creative power of the Middle East. Nissan simply developed a new measuring unit or rather activity unit for off-road vehicles. Not outdated horse power but C-A-M-E-L-P-O-W-E-R. Who might have a use for horses in the desert anyway? Together with National Geographic, Nissan took a highly scientific approach to develop the “camel-power-unit”. An idea, which could have only originated in this region and yet is so simple, that one can understand it anywhere in the world.

Even I, being a woman who doesn’t have a clue about cars, gets it! Didn’t we say, we’d stop using prejudices? It seems a lot has changed in the Middle East. At the Dubai Lynx Festival, there were a lot of brilliant ideas concerning the empowerment of women in this region. And again, I have to mention Nissan. #shedrives is a wonderful idea, about the fact that “women are finally allowed to drive”. Emotional, relevant and really well executed. “Bridal uniform” is an idea devoted to the terrible topic of forced marriage among under aged girls in Pakistan – with a fashion show. A supermarket chain even changed its former male dominated branding into a female one. Ladies and gentlemen, raise your hats.

Making a long story short: the creative ideas from this region make a strong and believable statement for equality. Ideas not only for NGOs but for real brands. I think this is really great and mind changing. Even Coke celebrates the fact that women are allowed to go to concerts. with a brilliantly crafted print ad. All this using their very own brand claim “taste the feeling”. Feels fantastic!

Thanks, Dubai. Thanks, Middle East. For ideas, that can truly make a difference. And also, for a great jury with exceptionally gifted creatives from all around the world who communicate, discuss, convince and allow themselves to be convinced. I’m having tons of funs being part of this the creative process, which is also a process of awakening for us western thinkers – male and female.


This article was first published on

5 Essential Pillars To Successfully Localize Your Digital Marketing Strategy

It can be daunting for a mid-sized company when entering a new international market. Especially so when entering a region as diverse and fragmented as the Middle East. However, no matter where you go around the world, you can’t just copy and paste a strategy that has worked well elsewhere and expect it to succeed in a different market. With digital channels becoming more and more essential in today’s business landscape, here are some key aspects to consider for your digital strategy when entering a new region.

1. Be aware of the competitive digital landscape! Consider having a local website.

You’d be surprised how many companies come to the Middle East and don’t create a region-specific website. Nothing will frustrate your customers more than not being able to find simple information about you when searching online like basic product details, your location and contact information, opening hours etc. According to a recent Gartner report, only 15% of businesses in the region have an online presence. This is quite low hanging fruit, so make creating a local mobile-responsive website your first port of call when entering a new market. Don’t forget to include an Arabic language option for the content on your site, too.

2. Understand your target group’s online search behaviour! Local Keyword Optimization is key.

Speaking of customers searching for you online, it’s important to realize how people’s search behaviour differs around the world. It is essential to treat each market separately when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Conducting simple localized keyword searches around topics related to your product or services is a must, as well as doing so for the Arabic language also as the most highly-searched keywords can differ across languages. Don’t forget to include the local country in the meta tags of each of the web pages in the process, and make sure to create business listing pages on Google for your head office and retail locations. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to find out about you online.

3. Get ready for a pioneering social media ecosystem! Reach your target group on Social Media.

With almost 50% of the people living in the Middle East region being under the age of 30, it’s no surprise that social media is incredibly popular here as a form of expression and communication. In such a diverse region, visual channels such as Instagram and Snapchat have become especially popular in recent years as a way of propagating a common visual language. Similarly with video content. YouTube is the most used social platform for video consumption in the region. Saudi Arabia, with a staggering 90+ million active daily video views, has even surpassed the USA to become the #1 consumer of content on this platform!

The Middle East as a region is built on respect for people and culture. Whilst most markets in the region have been adopting a more relaxed approach to social content, countries like Saudi Arabia have far stricter rules regarding the type of messages and imagery that can be leveraged. Despite, or maybe because of that fact, User-Generated Content (UGC) is an extremely popular form of content that brands here try to encourage. The Middle East also has its own community of super-influencers who use Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube to collaborate with brands and communicate a more relatable, yet personal story. This could be a relevant approach to consider when entering a market in the region.

4. Learn how consumers shop online! eCommerce continues to grow.

While some markets around the world embraced online shopping more than 20 years ago, the Middle East has been somewhat slower to join in. Up until recently, most purchases made online would be paid for in cash on delivery as many customers remained sceptical of paying online. This has changed over the past 5 years, with more and more businesses accepting online payments and customers finally feeling comfortable with handing over their credit card information to companies online.

Amazon’s acquisition of Dubai-based in 2017 was a boon for the region and signals a validation of the concept of eCommerce here in general. According to the Middle East-based online payment platform PayFort, the eCommerce market here is set to double to more than $69 billion by 2020 with the UAE accounting for $27 billion of that and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia $22 billion, making them by far the two largest eCommerce markets in the Middle East. Food for thought when considering whether or not to facilitate online payments on your local website.

5. Be prepared for your market’s technological fluency! Don’t forget about tech adoption.

In case all of the above didn’t convince you of the importance of a localized digital strategy in the Middle East, maybe these statistics will! Even though many people around the world might consider the Middle East to be a region sticking to its traditions – the population is surprisingly tech-savvy.

Middle Easterners are a very well-connected bunch with more mobile connections here than there are people (128%), higher than in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Africa. Smartphone penetration is exceptionally high here. At 80.6%, the UAE has the highest smartphone penetration rate in the world according to Newzoo’s 2017 Global Mobile Market Report. Saudi Arabia is not far behind at 65.2%.

When it comes to internet penetration, UAE (99%), Qatar (99%) and Kuwait (98%) are the three highest ranked countries in the world according to the 2018 Hootsuite & We Are Social Global Digital Report. Mobile internet usage in particular is very high, with Saudi Arabia (64%) and UAE (61%) in the top 12 countries globally when it comes to using a smartphone as opposed to a computer to access the internet (StatCounter). Make sure your communication is mobile-friendly.

Last but not least:

While it might seem like a lot to take in, you should consider digital channels as an opportunity rather than a challenge to overcome when entering a new market such as the Middle East. Understanding the region with its 17 countries and how the consumers use digital technology in their day-to-day lives can help you build up a loyal customer base and create a solid foundation for future success.

The formulated essential pillars are representing our knowledge and digital communication experience for a successful market entry in terms of brand and product communication for SMEs.
We, the Serviceplan Group Middle East, are giving an overview of the region, it’s opportunities and challenges not only during insightful business events, but also to people and brands who would like to learn more about it. We summarized our findings in a booklet about the region, which we are more than happy to share with you! Please get in touch by sending an email to

They Don’t Make (Mad) Men Like They Used To, But Grey Suits Still Abound

Unfortunately, top men in advertising these days are a lot less chauvinistic and self-absorbed. Gone are the mad men days of pompous egos and flannel suits, of dry witticisms and cynical arrogance oozing from the Roger Sterlings and the Don Drapers of this world. Instead, we see ad men strutting around with undeniable charisma and sensible charms, making it all the more difficult for women to break the proverbial glass ceiling as men continue to dominate the industry’s ruling seats.

Indeed, there is much talk about gender diversity in advertising, about empowering women to take control of the helms; but truth is, there is hardly any effort and scarcely any evidence of progress in this topic. Women continue to be relegated to positions – albeit high enough in the corporate ladder – still subordinate to male leadership. It is as if women have the power to create, to curate, to cast visions and to launch the brightest of ideas, but men must have the final signature that seals the deal on the much-coveted dotted lines.

If anything, it’s a classic fairy tale retold in the language of today’s social world. The knights in shining armor go out to conquer the lands, while the all too capable damsels are left “protected” within the castle walls, abuzz with their crafts but far from the battles that make and break kings and fiefdoms.

Top roles in advertising are no different. You see a throng of men charging into client boardrooms, flanked by a handful of women who will eventually find themselves positioned a few seats down the round as the men embark on their pitch rhetoric. At the end of the session, you would have heard much from the men, but very little from the women who are merely there to hold the fort, to ensure that all of the client’s feedback and verbatim comments are taken into full account and addressed in painstaking detail back in the drawing boards.

Whether we like it or not, we must admit that such is the blatant and pathetic case still running the rounds in client and agency boardrooms these days. I should know; and I can definitely recount those pivotal instances when I would get quizzical stares from both men and women across the room as I would take control of a front seat, and later engage the audience with a piece of my mind.
While I would see my audience eventually warming up in the end, I would often leave such boardrooms with a desolate feeling inside.

For the rest of the crew, the battle is definitely centered on getting the agency’s product and ideas bought, but for a woman like me, the battle is to get heard and taken seriously in the first place. Again, it doesn’t help that the men in my team are sensible and charismatic in their own right, effortlessly winning clients with a genuine passion for their craft. My battle is psychological.

If we are to truly take women empowerment in advertising seriously, I say it should start with a change of perspective, both within agency flanks and within client circles. Ad agencies should start recognizing that the industry is now being shaped by the amount of relevant creative content our highly social, always-on audiences are clamoring for.

Women are the best creators of such content. They are insightful bloggers, they write a whole lot and articulate themselves well. They are a lot more engaged, creating and curating content, and interacting with other created and curated content. Advertising today is no longer about pushing out ads in Mad Men fashion, it is a lot more about how content is effortlessly crafted and where content is seamlessly served to which audiences.

Women are natural at these, so much so that agencies who recognize that advertising has shifted from ad views to content consumption are those who would eventually put women at the helm, knowing that women are at home in such a habitat.

Clients should look beyond Mad Men charms and start recognizing high-heeled substance. Women are creators in as much as they are orators. They too can brandish flags as they charge on to battle in the front lines. If at all, they are quick to make critical decisions on the fly.

In this region’s game of thrones, I believe women in advertising are being defined less and less by the titles they wield, but more and more by the weight of their more substantial words in a boardroom full of grey suits.


This article was first published in Campaign Magazine Middle East.

An icon is flying high

Lufthansa’s new look is a model example of thoughtful and intelligent modernisation of a long-established brand. The new look exudes the feeling and respect for the brand and its history, and you get a sense that design methods have been correctly used.

Everything seems familiar, but the new look seems to be simultaneously much clearer, fresher, more elegant and more dynamic. Especially in the case of a successful, evolutionary step, it is worth taking a close look to understand which changes have had which effects. First off is Lufthansa’s most striking symbol – the crane. The brand icon also still seems the same at first glance. However, on taking a closer look, you can see that it is leaner and thereby more dynamic. The character and style have however remained unchanged.

The biggest change that customers will see is perhaps the change in the use of Lufthansa’s corporate colours. The most striking feature is on the aircraft itself: the yellow circle on the blue tail fin is missing.

Colour creates semantic references. Yellow stands for warmth and emotion; blue stands for trust and quality. It is therefore not surprising if people will miss the yellow, i.e. the symbol for emotion, on the aircraft and that a highly controversial discussion of the new corporate design, and in particular the paintwork on the aircraft, is likely to ensue. Looking at the image as a whole, it is obvious that the colour palette has in essence remained the same, but that blue is now clearly the main colour. Yellow is used in places on the signage where trust and closeness should be created.
For digital use, simplifying the colours within the corporate system is certainly the right step.

The new typography is more modern and has gained in character without losing the required objectivity, clarity and seriousness. It is an alignment with the spirit of the times without following it opportunistically.

On the whole, Lufthansa’s new look as a brand provides new impetus and brings a new self-confidence to the fore. It is perhaps a little more distant than before, but this may also be a new facet of the new identity of a German brand on the road to globalisation.

My mega trend is “Changelocity”

By this I mean the connection of change and velocity and thus the enormous and rapidly increasing speed of change, which has covered practically all our areas of life. Whether we are looking at politics in Germany and the world, our working environment, the media or marketing, everywhere we are exposed to an increasing – and increasingly difficult to manage – pace of change. We live in a world that is increasingly characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).

What does this mean for us as entrepreneurs?

Above all, we must keep our companies agile to be able to react more quickly to changes. This means smaller, flexible units instead of large monoliths. Fluid and flat hierarchies instead of deeply tiered pyramids. Decentralised decision-making structures instead of Louis XVI. Rent, share and lease instead of owning supposedly valuable company assets. Focusing on creativity instead of market entry barriers as a success factor. Encouraging coworking instead of rigid working environments. Lifelong learning and training instead of completed degree courses.

And above all, abandoning vanities, which in practice are the greatest stumbling block to the willingness to change.
And we all know that’s where it all starts!

Developments of various retail formats

Large brands will continue to strengthen direct contact with consumers through their own retail formats or shop-in-shop concepts in city centres. The IKEA restaurant in a city centre location is one example. Successful Internet companies are becoming physically tangible with their own branding stores such as Mymuesli, Zalando or Westwing. As such, linking with digital media will become highly relevant. In the end, it’s all about consistently implementing all touch points, which many established retailers have not yet been able to do. Here the battle decides who can survive in the future or who will disappear from the market.

Transparency 3.0

The Panama Papers and Paradise Papers were just the beginning: next year we will once again see that no one is left with anything hidden. The interaction between data agglomeration and social networks will gradually make whistleblowers and flesh-and-blood spies superfluous. And this prediction does not even take into account the future possibilities of AI (both desired and feared).

In addition to the opportunities for greater tax fairness, better crime prevention and the dangers of idea and innovation theft to an unprecedented extent, this development also has far-reaching consequences for the world of work and employer branding: Relevance and credibility of company promises to its employees are tested in real time by employer evaluation portals, applicant and university blogs, as well as industry newsletters. Messages about poor employee satisfaction can no longer be dismissed as individual opinions if they are not. In the near future, companies will lose the monopoly of opinion over their own employer brand (if they ever had it). They will have to share the interpretation prerogative over their employer brand with employees, but also with former employees and candidates who are at the forefront of communication in their entirety.

Proactive transparency is therefore more important than ever. Nowhere is perfect, but that’s not expected. What is expected is to deal openly with the advantages and disadvantages of a company’s working environment and to react quickly and appropriately to potential grievances. None of this is completely new, but in the future, the greatest possible transparency will be the prerequisite for a positive image of a company as an employer.

More than digital only, sales only and pure buzzwords

  1. Beyond bullshit:
    Results instead of buzzwords, more substance in campaigns, correct evaluation criteria instead of feelings. Real, clearly trackable progress on the way through the funnel.
  2. Beyond digital only:
    The longing for real feelings, real contact, real scents. Brand experience in the sense of ultimate moments with a brand (see also “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact”, book by Chip Heath and Dan Heath)
  3. Beyond sales only:
    Discounts, incentives to buy, Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays have become ubiquitous. Not brand stories you can’t escape any more. It’s about the willingness to pay through emotional attention. Offers can then act as accelerants for this brand fascination. But nothing can be accelerated where nothing burns.

Offline is the new cool

Yes, this is already clear: artificial intelligence, virtual reality, wearables, the networking of everything with everything, Big Data. The hot topics of the past year will also shape 2018. But in my opinion, the “hottest shit” customary in the industry will also fuel a counter-trend: Offline will become the new cool in 2018.

Previously, at parties, people announced they had spent a full six weeks a year at their Majorca villa. In 2018, the person who can say he misplaced his smartphone three days ago and hasn’t noticed yet will be envied. Leadership in 2018 will be shown by those who delete all cc emails unread. Instead of talking about the engine power or the tyres of a new 4×4, we will rave about how great it feels not to leave a trace in the social networks for four weeks. And anyone who enters their appointments into a notebook by hand while colleagues continue to mess up the day of Outlook appointments will be really cool. Somehow I’m looking forward to 2018.