Sasan Saeidi offers some guidance for the year ahead
Posted on January 15, 2017

Sasan Saeidi, managing director of FP7 UAE Group, offers some guidance for the year ahead and picks his predictions for 2017.

Predictive pieces are never easy. You are as likely to fail in the formulation of an image of the future as you are to succeed, but trends and advances in technology can often help point the way.

Nevertheless, nobody can predict anything with certainty. There are those who are paid to predict, and yet they get it wrong every year. In our field we can assume certain things will happen based on habits on the rise, but it is the prevailing economic and political environment as we start the year that will define much of the coming 12 months.

First and foremost, brace yourselves: 2017 is not going to be any better than the previous year in terms of economic performance and political stability. Elie Khouri, the chief executive of Omnicom Media Group MENA, has gone so far as to predict a further 10 per cent drop in marketing investments and most people will agree with him. He also foresees the rise of consumption defined by discretion – driven as much by taxation, austerity cuts, job losses and geo-political uncertainty as it is by economic turmoil.

Technology will play its part, as will social media, but not necessarily in the way you would have expected. Here Sasan Saeidi, managing director of FP7 UAE Group, offers some guidance for the year ahead and picks his predictions for 2017:

Adapt or die: Margins will only diminish for agencies. We as the creative industry need to find new ways to maintain our economical moat and also be able to provide value to our clients. We need to adapt or die. With technology making it simpler for brands to easily create beautiful and unique content that engages consumers, we need to team up with technology providers and ensure we hire talent outside of traditional agency roles to provide fresh new ideas. And for those that don’t adapt, clients are increasingly bringing branded content efforts in-house. At least globally this is the trend; but I am sure it will pick up in MENA also.

Duopoly: The media business will get tougher and tougher to compete in. More investments will go into digital without a doubt, but it’s actually the duopoly of Facebook and Google that’s scaring everyone. This duopoly will continue to dominate the media scene and control demand. Not easy to deal with.

Living with technology: The role of technology will intensify in our lives. The Internet of Things, as it becomes more mainstream, will change our lives forever. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will grow exponentially and continue to play a big role in the communication strategies of brands. The only danger here is if brands and agencies start using these technologies for the sake of it, rather than for the brand and the creative idea.

Social experiences: The social experiences on offer across social platforms will only increase. Today we broadcast live, have 360-degree film, chatbots, Boomerang and beyond. There will be a rise of these opportunities for brands and consumers to connect with each other.

Not all social platforms are doing well: It’s no secret that certain platforms are doing better than the rest both globally and in our region. I think for the masses, Facebook and Instagram will continue to outgrow everything else in our region, and platforms like Twitter will continue to decline. Twitter fatigue is certainly upon us.

Video formats: Video and its increase online will only intensify. Online video has had a good year. We know that more consumers will move away from traditional channels such as TV and consume more online and mobile video content. Globally, video consumption as measured in time spent daily is on the rise and predicted to continue to grow in 2017. This offers unique opportunities for advertisers and brands to tap into, and to use dynamic and interactive formats to tell their story. In addition, mobile video advertising spend is projected to grow significantly next year; again global stats. Mobile in our region is the biggest opportunity for all of us. And it has not yet been fully utilised.

Democratisation of content: Content and its creation will become even more democratised in 2017. Today everyone is a content creator. Any person with a mobile phone can create content. So the idea of the creative agency being the content creators and storytellers isn’t going to do it anymore. At the same time, clients need to be careful of ensuring they focus on the idea and quality versus churning things out. Speed and quality need to work in tandem.

Influencers vs real consumers: 2017 and beyond will hopefully be a smarter year for brands using influencers. The concept of brands using influencers will change, with brands moving towards using real consumers and their testimonials in a smarter, more believable manner to create resonance. I am not saying influencers are bad strategy, but I do hope clients understand that putting an influencer behind their brands is not a creative idea.

Accurate data please: The search for accurate data from media platforms will only intensify. Clients will want more accurate data for their campaigns from social platforms such as Facebook, as this will be the only way to secure their own jobs and show ROI. I know it’s a topic that is discussed at every meeting, but it will gather more importance.

Personalisation needs to take big focus: As competition increases for brands – and as media becomes more fragmented and consumers’ attention spans reduce – creating to-the-point, smart and personalised content will make the difference between your content being ignored and being liked, shared and effective. I am seeing more and more personalisation on video at a global level across certain industries such as banking. Personalisation will move from a buzzword to a fundamental part of our clients’ marketer’s toolkit, across web, social, email and every other channel in the customer experience.