Wilson Issa, Managing Director of VivaKi Levant, elaborates on the changes the advertising business has witnessed during the past decade, how agencies in Lebanon and the region are being affected and how they are adapting.
In a chain reaction of sorts, tech innovation – and its equally rapid overnight obsolescence – has ushered our industry into a new era of fast-paced and unforgiving change that has pushed all global major players into unchartered territories.
On the surface, the Lebanese market seems to have caught on to this fundamental transformation sooner than expected. Craftily designed and worded creative and media presentations and communication plans are replete with buzzwords. From programmatic, tech partnerships, data, content distribution, to performance and video neutral planning, there is a long list of technical jargon that promises clients an all-encompassing offering - but very rightfully and understandably so. Our industry’s dynamic, ever-evolving and fragmented landscape is paralleled with increasing client need for integration and consolidation of agency offerings. In their bid to survive and broaden their clients’ horizons, major holdings groups have beefed up their investments and capabilities across verticals and horizontals, at the center of which lay technology, partnerships and continuous product innovation.
In a far outcry from older days, such global investments that were once slowly and gradually rolled out across markets are being deployed with almost immediate effect. Despite the local market’s limited size and scale, major media holding groups are offering their Lebanon affiliates and offices near instant access to global deals and partnerships, state-of-the-art technology and proprietary solutions that deliver unmatched campaign tracking and optimisation capabilities; arsenal that media agencies in Lebanon are utilising to the fullest potential in their promise to do things ‘differently’.
The risk incurred with doing things differently, however, is the tendency to sideline our ability to do more for our talent and clients alike. Agencies across the board are importing tools and expertise from abroad and injecting them into their day-to-day business with clients; often, however, with minimal consideration to the local market intricacies, needs, talents and, most importantly, future growth trajectory.
It is a realisation that SMG Levant had come to many years ago. While unprecedented access to our global network’s resources and tools had placed us in a prime position, our focal point – not to mention competitive edge – remained on training and enabling our local talents to deliver next now to our clients.
We made sure that both our global and local partnerships and tools worked hand in hand to drive our Levant talents and, consequently, client work with pace and purpose. Whether in Lebanon or in Iraq, our talents are armed with fearless leadership, resilience and imagination that are, more often than rarely, challenged but equally inspired by turbulent Levant markets. In parallel, they are backed by an arsenal of global, robust proprietary platforms to stay ahead of the curve and help in accelerating growth for our clients. This is an ideal but tough balancing act, even more so with bottom line and inefficiency pressures heavily weighing down on clients. We must remain adamant on presenting clients with solid teams that can deliver across all touch points and against a backdrop of local market intricacies.
The era of specialists working in silos is long gone. Client leads and planners have morphed into communication specialists across different verticals, ranging from standard outdoor billboards, the avalanche of video distribution formats and all the way to social, search, and performance media. Adding to this, our trading desks have evolved; they have more programmatic capacity than ever before and, most importantly, they are closer to the planning leads, enabling effective cross-device targeting while marrying offline and online activities to optimise engagement across all verticals. This translates into ample opportunities to Levant markets, where automation and tech tools are growing with pace, yet still comfortably co-exist with traditional media. It is a distinction that media agencies with an arsenal of global tools must make when they deploy them into the local market.
Technology has radically transformed the media world. However, the science behind what we do remains unchanged. People have been and will always be our main asset and driver. If agencies fail to understand or explore how global tools and technologies can converge with local talents at the service of clients operating in the local market, they can easily reduce their potential to technical jargon in craftily worded presentations and catchy industry headlines.