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MENA Power List 2023: Beware of the lower funnel obsession by OMD’s Saleh Ghazal


Campaign Middle East recently covered industry movers and shakers from the advertising, marketing and creative space for our MENA Power List 2023 issue and there was a strong sense of optimism about the region’s landscape for marketers to flourish.

Saleh Ghazal has been the CEO of OMD MENA for 1.5 years. His favourite hobby is running. 

Do you remember the first time you were able to advertise on Facebook and Google search? Since that day, and until now, the media industry has witnessed a shift in emphasis from upper funnel channels to those at the lower end.

While there are multiple factors that led to this shift, it is primarily driven by the advancements in digital technology and the changes in consumer behaviour.

This was most pronounced after global economic downturns, such as the financial crisis in 2007-2008 and Covid, when marketers were under immense pressure to deliver business results.

The reasons why marketers have shifted their focus towards the lower funnel are obvious. Lower funnel activities often provide more tangible and easily quantifiable results, thanks to direct correlations between their efforts and ROI.

According to some estimates, almost 60 per cent of digital activity is on these channels. But aren’t we being obsessed with the lower funnel and forgetting the bigger picture?

Content Overload

When marketers are under pressure to deliver results, the solution is always short-term. These short-term solutions typically put pressure on everyone in the ecosystem and create challenges.

One of them is bombarding consumers with an overwhelming amount of advertising content, hoping for higher conversions. Content overload has become an increasingly prevalent and concerning issue.

The average person sees almost 10,000 ads in a single day and, with this sheer volume of content, it makes it very difficult for people to process information and make informed decisions. Despite the wise efforts to move towards attention as a metric and understand how much attention people are paying to brands’ ads, the adoption of this metric is still nascent.

When sales or conversions become the number one priority for marketers, the pressure trickles down the supply chain. The result is an increase in fraudulent activities year on year. Today, more than 42 per cent of all online traffic is driven by bots, as suppliers spam and hijack brands’ websites with clicks to increase their attribution.

It’s estimated at $65 billion globally. Let that sink in for a moment. While there are plenty of efforts and tools to protect media investments against these activities, clearly much more needs to be done to eradicate this plague or at least achieve more acceptable levels.

Empathy and Human connection

And then there’s AI. It has reshaped the landscape of empathy and human connection in profound ways. On the one hand, AI-driven tools that do the heavy lifting through automation have enabled businesses to provide rapid, round-the-clock support, enhancing convenience and efficiency, and therefore delivering on the bottom line.

On the other, some worry that this technology will reduce brands’ understanding and connection with human emotions. Striking the optimal balance between the convenience of AI and the essential empathy with human behaviours remains a goal and a challenge as the technology continues to advance.

Like with any obsession, let alone addiction, it’s easy to ignore sound advice. Why go for a balanced diet when you can have a chocolate bar and its fast sugar rush? Because it’s better for you in the long run. We all know that and, by and large, follow that advice in our personal lives.

Yet, in business, many marketers adopt old habits and short-cuts to deliver immediate results, focusing on lower funnel performance marketing at the expense of upper funnel activities. You won’t build a sustainable future by neglecting brand building and long-term strategies that build a pipeline.

Besides shaping long-term relationship and creating emotional connections with customers, it fosters trust and loyalty that transcend and fuel business performance.

Remember the old adage ‘you can get too much of a good thing’? Even marketing budgets work better in balance.

Research commissioned by Meta and conducted by three independent research companies across more than 3,500 campaigns in Europe found that 60 per cent of the total ROI from ad spend is generated long-term. Sounds like it’s time to rebalance that mix.

The second Campaign Saudi Briefing event of the year will be taking place in Riyadh on 12th October 2023. A variety of panels and speakers will be discussing the themes of media and marketing. For more details, click here.