Industry snapshot: Sebastian Roland, Impact BBDO Dubai

Sebastian Roland, head of strategy and planning, Impact BBDO Dubai

What were the biggest shifts you saw in digital in 2021?

In many ways, we can classify 2021 as the year of reaction to 2020’s year of unprecedented change. In 2020 consumers had, out of necessity, lead the charge in adopting digital technology in their lives and in 2021 we saw the marketing profession play catch up. Marketing budgets were realigned; not only moving to online media but also upgrading digital experiences to meet the now incredibly high expectations of the user. We saw a scramble to have brands present in new channels that had really come to the fore. Social commerce and social entertainment on platforms such as TikTok became a big priority and even further on the frontier, we saw brands jump into digital arts and ownership models. These moves are significant but as brand builders we also got the sense that there were a lot of short-term tactics and perhaps not enough focus on considered, long-term strategies that move the needle on business goals. 

What will the most notable changes be in 2022?

The last few years have seen fantastic rates of adoption in spaces such as streaming and retail investing, but 2022 will herald a shift from adoption to deepening engagement, something we see evidenced by widespread slowing of ‘new use’ acquisition on major platforms. The online space will increasingly become about communities coalescing around certain causes and passion points and living these digital realities in a way that is as enriching as anything that can be found in the non-digital realm. Open-sourcing, Web3 and further fragmenting of social platform usage will become interesting opportunities for brands to go from mere personalisation in targeting to building narratives with consumers that share the same values as your brand.

Where are the biggest challenges this year, and how should clients overcome them?

Digitisation in any industry represents short-cuts, agility and efficiency. However, our industry in the region now more than ever requires a deeper understanding of consumers and the currents of culture that drive them. The exciting opportunities the region represents can only be harnessed if a considered approach to understanding culture is matched with innovative approaches in delivering brand messages. Only when digital is matched with cultural nuance do brands become culture creators as opposed to culture chasers.

What should clients do to make the most of the biggest opportunities?

At BBDO it’s always been the belief that commercial success can be driven by content that is truly compelling to the consumer. Truly compelling commercial content lives at the intersection of values, namely between brand and consumer. Holding to this as a North-Star, we believe clients can navigate the ever-changing world by always asking themselves if this is a space your brand can have a meaningful role to play in. Whether it’s a print ad or an activation in the metaverse, it’s all about having a conversation that is mutually beneficial to the individual and the brand. 

What digital new year’s resolution should people make this year? 

Less reactionary tactics and short-term flashpoints, with an increased focus on considered, long-term brand narratives that come to life beautifully in the digital spaces that today’s consumers call home.