Big moments in a fast-paced first half of the year

Image Credit: Red Havas ME

I’ve never been big on predictions –the benefit of hindsight is something I value more than the crystal ball. Looking back at the first half of 2023, I can already recount big moments in those six fast-paced months that can serve as lessons for communicators.

In 2022, we saw record performances by the travel and hospitality sectors to levels almost predating the pandemic. This year began on an even higher note, especially for the UAE. And then came Atlantis The Royal, the ultra-luxury experiential resort that rewrote the playbook on how to launch a hospitality and luxury complex in the region.

While Beyonce’s performance amidst pyrotechnics will be etched in our collective memories, the organisers’ carefully crafted journey from hotel arrivals to small details in the rooms, culinary moments and other activities, offered guests a unique, customised experience they raved about for weeks.

Everything was meticulously planned, never skipping a beat or losing momentum. Well done Atlantis and its collaborators for showing us that planning is a superpower and is integral to optimising communications outputs.  

Keep it simple

Rihanna’s performance during the Apple Music Super Bowl halftime made February memorable for communicators in the complex world of beauty. While Rihanna’s signature nonchalance during the performance set her apart, the highlight PR moment was a blink-and-you-will-miss-it integration of a product from the singer’s FENTY brand, which sold out worldwide within hours of appearing on screens.

Often, PR is oversimplified with earned media outcomes, but brands should wake up to how crucial it is to show the right thing with the right person at right time.

 Communications is increasingly influencing and influenced by culture. The most memorable work from the region is hyper local, relatable and tackling real-world problems. March and April served brands the opportunity to exhibit their unique points of view, first on International Women’s Day and then Ramadan and Eid.

We’ve seen this space evolve over the years and it was great to see great work, such as Sephora’s Eid gifting campaign celebrating beautiful stories of the region’s heritage, art and culture through special packaging.

For example, for MAC Cosmetics partnering with Saudi inspiring women including a model and a gamer for International Women’s Day in a campaign shot in Jeddah. This championed women, encouraging them to switch off the noise, pressure and expectations around them.

Bolder approach

As an industry, this should be considered a shared challenge and opportunity. More global and regional brands could adopt a bolder and more meaningful approach. We’ve moved past tokenism, and the work we’re seeing in the Middle East is gaining global recognition. Just look at the region’s impressive big wins in major award festivals in the past two years.

 Luxury tech also saw a major launch earlier this year. Apple’s Vision Pro augmented reality headset is likely to bring AR back into the mainstream. We know from data shared by Snap Inc that 7 in 10 consumers actively use AR to enjoy a more seamless shopping experience.

Now think about what Apple has done in the past to make innovative tech more mainstream. Communicators ought to think more intentionally about embracing new technology, and especially integrating AR into their toolkit for e-commerce brands to create relevant content.

As we enter the second half of the year every communicator reading this probably already experimented with ChatGPT or shared an ironic meme about AI’s impact on how we work.

Ethical AI

Our teams are already using generative artificial intelligence as a productivity hack. It won’t be long before we, as an industry, have to put in place our own checks and standards for the ethical use of AI, which will complement our efforts. Sidenote, dare we get into the discussion on Threads yet?

I know that by the time you finish reading this, marketers will be in the thick of delivering Q4 campaigns. COP28 and the Year of Sustainability in UAE will hopefully create momentum and offer us an ideal platform to deliver more compelling, meaningful work.

The UAE has created an environment where we can participate in moments that make history.  As communicators, we have earned a seat at that table and with that, comes a greater responsibility to be mindful of our impact on the world.

When playing on a global platform, let’s remember we need to read the room, question the rationale behind things and be proactive about protecting our clients’ reputations, while making the best use of our expertise and staying true to what we do best.

By Dana Tahir, Managing Director at Havas Red Middle East