Managing director of IAS Media Ali Asgar Mir has made the Forbes Middle East list of the top 100 Indian business owners in the Arab World for the third year in a row. This year, he was ranked 74th on the list, the highest entry in the media sector.
He speaks to Campaign.
The media and advertising industry in the Middle East has been facing challenges recently. How do you cope with the challenges?
Every category of business has its own challenges, and the advertising and media industry is no different. However, the biggest challenge for the traditional media is to find relevance, when technology is making the change and media consumption habits are changing. The MENA region has a young population; for them their mobile phones are for delivering news and TV content. It is the rise of Generation Z that we all have to address. The Gen Z audience is incredibly sophisticated and tech-savvy, as they have been exposed to the new forms of media since childhood.
The old lenses through which we looked at media are no longer the means to target this audience. Their persuasion is through customisation, integration and placements. All of these are the future of media consumption. It is very important for any media agency to understand the brand they are catering to, and what the position of that brand is in the market. Customise it to cater to the audience, weave the brand in with the script in order to integrate, and place it seamlessly. Once we get a brief from the client, we work very closely with our principals to provide solutions. We look at ourselves as ‘Solution Providers’
Walk us through the journey of changes in Media consumption and what has been your approach towards it?
There has been a move from audience attention to audience involvement. Advertising today is not just about selling a product, but more about how the brand can create positive change. Advertising is more about creating a meaningful brand role in communication and how it affects the consumers’ lives.
The industry is evolving fast, and two key trends I can spot coming out of MENA are brand activations (print/digital/television and on-ground) and effective social campaigns. Now you have to look at brands through a ‘value’ lens, underlining the importance of delivering value. Secondly, technology can help develop a customer base by adding purposeful, meaningful and honest value for the consumer. Advertisers are moving from paid attention to paid involvement, which allows for more precise measurement. I see a greater market for branded content in the coming year; I think brands in the region are looking to engage with their consumers by giving them interesting content.
What does the future hold and what are the silver linings in the media industry?
There will be integration between offline and online channels. Everyone says traditional media is migrating progressively towards digital and programmatic platforms and that technology and data will rule media. The reality, however, is not so simple. The truth is, most businesses will need a combination of multiple marketing strategies and tactics to maximise the potential of their advertising and marketing. The growth of various forms of media have created an environment where there is no longer a catch-all form of marketing that will reach every audience. Not even the internet. In order for business owners to get the maximum reach and effectiveness from their marketing tactics, they will need to use an integrated campaign. Merging online and offline marketing strategies in the ways mentioned above is a good way for businesses to increase revenue and reach the right audience, just like in retail. E-commerce is rapidly growing, but the bricks and mortar are not going to disappear. Our region is witnessing a massive increase of shopping malls and the retailers are using the combination of retail outlets and the e-commerce platform.