Power Essay – Digitising instincts, by Habib Wehbe

By Habib Wehbi, chief executive of HyperMedia


The ability to adapt is one of the most basic and primitive elements of survival. This held true for early man just as it does for the advertising world today. With a discernible move towards more digital platforms, many mass communication companies are grappling with the new realities of a rapidly changing market. Yet while certain mediums in the industry might be prone to some backlash, other avenues work in tandem with the digital revolution for better results.

Humans have always been very visual creatures. We judge the world around us mostly by the visual cues we pick up, consciously and subconsciously. This primal trait is one of the reasons why out-of-home and point-of-sale advertising will always connect brands with their target markets in efficient ways. Both OOH and POS combine a strong visual presence with a receptive shopper state, be they on the move around the city or at specific stores.

Since 1999, HyperMedia has been engaging customers with static in-store branding. However, today, in keeping with the digital trends that are reshaping our industry, we have grown to include digital screens and signages throughout the region. Despite having the two mediums, our experience has shown that digital outlets only serve to complement the static ones, without hurting the efficacy or reach of the other. Static executions will always reach a large audience, while digital interfaces can be manipulated to target very specific sub groups in a potential market.

Currently, HyperMedia connects with 24 million shoppers per month in the UAE alone through our large in-store advertising market presence. The use of traditional and digital media attests to the ongoing success of both, as it pertains to OOH and POS sales. This is further supported by the fact that Hypermedia has grown to become the region’s largest operator of digital signages, while maintaining and augmenting a substantial static presence.

A perfect example of how the new digital frontier is seamlessly complementing the traditional success of OOH advertising can be seen in malls across the UAE and GCC. Thanks to large scale development of mall infrastructures, as well as reliable wifi networks through mall premises, there is an increasing integration between social media and mall media. This means that static or digital screens can engage customers by inviting them to interact with brands on social media.

Despite the specific targeting of digital screens, static market and mall signages continue to enjoy unfettered success due to the specific state they catch potential customers in. When people go to stores or malls, they are already in a receptive state for brands to make an impact. Therefore, when a specific brand is highlighted visually in a shopping environment, it has a higher chance of reaching the customer and yielding a purchase.

For example, shelf branding in markets will always have successful outcomes since it is directly located at the point where a customer will make a purchasing decision. So even though many clients worry that static areas of communication might be a thing of the past, the sheer success rates of these forms of advertising prove that they are going to be around for a long while.

While it is true that digital platforms do offer something different in terms of their versatility and reach, they can only complement the success of OOH and POS advertising, without one hindering the other. Shoppers will always be more accessible in a shopping environment, and luckily both OOH and POS points of contact catch shoppers and potential customers in very receptive and approachable states. Given this premise, whether we approach with static or digital interfaces, the client can rest assured that they are reaching a large target in one of the most successful avenues still dominating the advertising sphere.

This doesn’t mean that we get comfortable in our success; on the contrary, Hypermedia owes its current leadership position in the region to the bold strategies it has taken since its inception. In keeping true to this spirit of moving forward, we are launching something big and exciting very soon on the digital front.

Additionally, we cannot detract from the importance of the content being advertised. There must always be new ways to creatively engage the customers, whatever the medium of the message is. So while it does help that OOH and POS are designed in a way to easily engage potential customers, they do have to be reinforced with smart and inviting messages that will resonate with the crowd. Even though many may claim that digital ads will attract larger crowds, a good static ad will always have greater reach than an non-engaging digital one.

Ultimately, change in the industry always keeps the dialogue in advertising fresh, as it forces us to assess what the core ideas are that drive us. With mass communication, helping brands connect successfully with target markets is the underlying foundation. Luckily, the digital transformations that are shaping this landscape are still very in-tune with the basic drives of man, and therefore assure success for the next cycle of change to come.