OMD MENA – Media Agency of the Year: Attention is the new currency

At Campaign Middle East’s first Agency of the Year awards, OMD MENA won the category Media Agency of the year, while OMD Egypt won Best Agency Egypt. View all the winners here.

We caught up with Saleh Agha, general manager at OMD UAE, who shared his views on changing customer expectations and what qualifies as meaningful metrics today.

Tell us about your journey to the award.

The award is the physical manifestation of a journey, a course that was set at the beginning of the year and one that we simply stuck to. Our destination was to deliver on experiences that are both valuable for our clients from a business perspective and valued by their customers because they are designed through a lens of empathy. With a true understanding of consumers, the context in which they live and the challenges they face in their daily lives, we were able to design solutions that are impactful and relevant. Everything we did was pinned on this and with our people, tech, intel, data and thought leadership, everything worked together to operate this transformation from the inside out.

How will the award help your agency to navigate forward in the industry?

In itself, this is a further affirmation that we are on the right path and that the conscious effort to merge the abstract world of data and the tangible world of empathy ultimately lead to very powerful solutions. This empathic lens of looking at people is a very powerful springboard that pushes us further to understand and model consumer attention as a new media currency. It is also further recognition of OMD’s efforts as a company and as a partner to its clients to elevate its game and deliver better experiences all round. It is an independent validation of our performance that acts as a marker for clients and talent, both current and future.

Why should other agencies enter these awards?

What makes these awards unique is that they look at agencies not just from the perspective of their work and campaigns for their clients, but from many other aspects of their operations. They allow both individuals and entities to be recognised for their work and performance. This is an excellent way to showcase work that propels our industry forward. I also feel it is part of our responsibility to give back to the industry by way of inspiration. These awards allow us to do that on a business level.

How are your customers’ demands changing?

Expectations and demands are constantly changing in response to what is happening in the market, including geo-politics and macroeconomic trends. Some clients have become more cautious in terms of investments, but others remain undeterred as consumption levels are holding up in a lot of cases. What is definitely changing is the purchase journey – now a lot shorter than before – which requires brands and their agencies to act in different ways. This new dimension provides a degree of uncertainty that makes it hard for brands to forecast their sales and revenues. Our response is to be much more agile and to react fast to emerging trends and conditions.

How are you changing to cater to your customers’ needs?

There will be an even bigger focus on empathy as both brands and consumers feel the impact of a changing world and market conditions. It allows us to stay closer and be more relevant. We are also pressing ahead with new and more meaningful metrics like attention. Measuring attention and harnessing those metrics and injecting them in our planning allows us to close the gap between strategic planning and strategic investment. Attention-informed planning makes clients’ media spend more efficient and effective. This is a real game-changer.

What does 2023 look like?

Part of the answer resides in geo-politics and global economics but we enter 2023 with a cautious optimism rooted in the fact that some signs are positive, business is holding well, and most of our economies are strong. While there is pressure on consumers, some opportunities will arise from the current climate.

The rising inflation and threat of a downturn are pushing consumers to embrace new behaviours – again. We expect people to focus on the essentials or even basics. Some will seek to disconnect from the digital world to relieve anxiety. As consumers reduce both the physical and mental clutter of their lives, brands need to remember that simplicity is often key.

Brands will continue to embrace tech but for more than just innovation, efficiency and profitability but also inclusivity, empathy and community. Whether it’s practical and immediate solutions on the ground, smart saving tactics for conscious consumers and smoother human connections with near-real presence, the bridging of the physical and digital realms will become more common practice.

Data policy will continue to tighten and a key role of communications will be to gain people’s permissions. Brands need to take proactive stances on data policy to drive trust while still delivering the most value to consumers based on their data.

Campaign Middle East celebrated the best minds in advertising, marketing and media at the Agency of the Year Middle East awards.

Campaign also runs Agency of the Year in the UK, Asia-Pacific and the US, and a global scheme, the Global Agency of the Year Awards, which is now open for entries.