The sixth instalment of the Digital Media Forum (DMF) and the fourth edition of MENA Digital Awards (MDA), the first event of its kind in the region, has drawn to a successful close today. The event welcomed the region’s biggest gathering of digital influencers, leaders and entrepreneurs to Dubai, from across the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) region and beyond. Gathering at the The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi, Serdaal Ballroom, attendees discussed the past present and future of the digital world under the theme of ‘Digital Transformation - Own It’.
The event featured a busy agenda that was expertly led by top keynote speakers via a wide range of workshops, panel discussions and high-profile interviews spanning Media and Performance, and Creative and Tech. Serving as a networking and discussion platform, DMF saw attendees exchanging views with some of the world’s foremost digital and tech advocates before attending MDA – a bespoke awards show that is the first of its kind to honour digital efforts in the region.
Najla Semaan Mazboudi, CEO of SpotOn Media Services and Events, and Founder of DMF and MDA, kicked off the event with an opening speech, which was followed by an interview hosted by Houda Koussa, Founder and Managing Director of Archers Brand and Research Cosultancy, with Filip Jabbour, CEO of GroupM MENA. Mathieu Yarak, Data Science Manager of the Data Team at Marketing Department Data Team at Choueiri Group, then presented the first keynote speech – ‘Understanding Saudi Credit Card Ownership and Purchase Journey’ – before Joud Nawar, Research Director at IPSOS MENA, took to the stage to give attendees a bird’s-eye view of the MENA’s digital landscape. His comprehensive speech explored the latest consumer trends, the growth of the digital sector, the increasing competition between video platforms, and the impact of mobile devices and deepening internet penetration on businesses.
The first dynamic panel discussion of the day saw five experts from some of the region’s foremost organisations sharing their views on how traditional business are evolving in the digital era. Expounding the philosophy ‘Evolve or Die’ were panellists Mai Cheblak, Associate Vice President of Group Media and Social at Emirates NBD; Nour Almasri, Digital Marketing and Media Director for Sayidaty & Aljamila Magazines at the Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC); Rami Zahran, Head of Digital at Cleveland Clinic, Abu Dhabi; Ahmed Qandil, Digital Products Manager for MBC Group and Guido Mercati, who acted as moderator and is from Leo Burnett MENA – a global leader in digital transformation and content marketing.
Other panel discussions featured during the event’s programme included ‘The Rise of Influencer Marketing’ and ‘How to Plan, Execute and Win in the Micro-Moments Era’, which was overseen by moderator Alexandra Tohme, Head of Strategy at Eight Creative Technology, and conducted by panellists Ben Christensen, CEO of Empefire, Norway; Jonathan Lacoste, President at Jebbit, USA; and Karl Escritt, Creative Director at Like Digital, UK.
The agenda also offered deep dives into social media developments, with speeches including ‘Twitter: Harnessing Live and Real-Time Storytelling’ by Meghan Doyle of Twitter MENA, and ‘5 Trends for 2017 (and what we can do about it)’ from Ian Manning of Facebook MENA, North Africa and Pakistan.
Meghan Doyle commented: “Marketers can target Twitter's audience with precision through a number of innovative tools, including premium sponsorships and timely distribution to new and relevant audiences. For example, advertisers can now associate their promotional efforts with premium content by collaborating with content partners through short ad placements within a live stream. Moreover, we have recently witnessed a strong advertiser demand across both video and our live streaming ad formats, through recently launched offerings such as live 360 video that allows for more immersive and engaging brand experiences.”
Taking another slant on the sector, the increasingly vital role of digital media in public relations and brand positioning was highlighted during speeches on ‘Digital PR’ from Ross Bethell, Strategic Director at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations; ‘Moments that Matter’ by CEO of Empefire Ben Christensen; and ‘Digital User Experience’ from Jordi Guix, Global Insights & Analytics Director at Havas Media Group, Spain.
Jordi Guix commented: “The web has transformed into a social and mobile-first territory, with companies like Facebook, Apple, and Amazon growing into media ecosystems that structure the entire consumer journey. In this context, content has become the essential gateway to access and build audiences, and user-driven design has become instrumental in making this content visible and engaging. As a result, the presentation of content has arguably become just as important as the content itself, as it represents the frontend of the consumer experience and guides the entire consumer journey. Content is no longer king - context-driven consumer frameworks are!”
The day drew to a close with a final speech from Rohin Thampi, Regional Director at Zomato Middle East and Africa, on the evolving influence of digital media on the F&B industry, and a networking session where attendees were encouraged to meet and exchange opinions on the topics discussed.
Mazboudi commented, “The digital sector is one of the world’s fastest growing and changing industries, and the programme for DMF 2017 reflected this by offering attendees key insights into the shifting landscape that we operate within. The theme of the event – ‘Digital Transformation - Own It’ aimed to make attendees the masters of this change, put them in the driving seat of innovation and transformation, and encourage them to #bethechange. DMF 2017 has achieved this, with a spectacular turnout of some of the best media-minds in the digital and creative industries, who have equipped attendees with insider knowledge of which digital powers are currently changing the media landscape, and what it takes to make an impact in this dynamic industry.”