The year ahead for digital advertising, Gamned’s Yves-Michel Gabay

As the region’s consumers get their media through more channels, marketers also need to widen their outlook, writes Gamned’s regional managing director, Yves-Michel Gabay.

The digital ecosystem is constantly changing, and programmatic advertising is no exception. This makes long-term predictions risky and often incomplete. Nevertheless, we can identify the major trends that will guide the MENA digital marketing world during this year.

Time to prepare for the post-cookie era

The market is actively preparing for the end of third-party cookies by 2023. Indeed, while the announced disappearance of cookies made a huge boom in the market, the path that the ad tech ecosystem is taking is quite reassuring for the future of digital advertising. Beyond replacing the targeting capabilities inherent to third-party cookies, it seems that emerging solutions are even shaping a brighter future for the market. Those solutions decompartmentalise buying platforms and environments (web, mobile, in-app), enable centralised campaign management and move the entire industry toward a more people-centric advertising model.

While this new regulatory framework disrupts existing models of tracking user behaviour, it also opens the door for advertisers to collect data with consent. The scale may decrease, but in the long run this policy will increase the quality of the data available. It’s now time for Middle East publishers and advertisers to implement real first-party data strategies to bridge the gap with what is already happening in the rest of the world, and for the ad tech ecosystem to continue the technological development of identification projects, while at the same time beginning to ‘educate’ internet users about these new, more transparent uses.

Emergence of new advertising playgrounds

The MENA region’s media owners and publishers need to catch up with the most advanced countries on segmented and connected TV, DOOH, audio podcasts and gaming, to be able to propose alternative localised solutions vs the big international platforms. These can offer new media means to advertisers who are looking for more flexibility and tangible results and create growth opportunities from advertisers that are staying away from these mass media for financial reasons.

An unprecedented acceleration of retail media

The e-commerce industry has been deeply affected by the crisis. While some retailers were not prepared for their digital transformation, others were able to adapt their way of working to meet the new consumer needs as well as to multiply their sources of revenue. As a result, we can see that media commerce, and in particular retail media, is gaining momentum in Europe. This trend is set to continue in 2022 and will most probably start in MENA. But if retail media is becoming a new playground for brands, it remains limited by existing competitive constraints. These offers are most often proposed by retailers, who are themselves advertisers. Therefore, it’s important for brands to orchestrate their digital strategy and choose key devices, from customer knowledge to performance measurement, including in-store sales. And it’s crucial for Middle Eastern retailers to be sure about collecting quality data and to think about how they can use it better. We can expect the majority of budgets to be reallocated in favour of customer knowledge. Players who can share browsing and shopping information should gain market share.

One more step taken for creativity

2022 should be characterised by the accelerated development of new immersive experiences, based on extended reality (XR) technologies: virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). And while the metaverse is only just beginning, advertising opportunities within these virtual environments still already exist, enabling new uses and turning the consumer from spectator to actor. Some channels manifest an impressive potential for interactive advertising: while the AR/VR market was worth $12bn in 2020, experts predict that it will skyrocket to $72.8bn in 2024. Whether it’s trying out lipsticks via an AR system on Snapchat, branding campaigns for TV series broadcast within the game GTA, or for sports betting sites in Football Manager, some brands have already been very creative. This helps them improve their reputation by encouraging interaction. Creativity will be crucial in 2022, as the attention span of consumers becomes shorter by the day.

The growing importance of adaptation and personalisation

Videos, blog posts, podcasts… In 2022, there will be more and more channels to consume marketing content, and many ways for brands to communicate with their clients to engage them. But, as there will be many more opportunities, advertisers will need to pay even more attention to the context, the format and the internet user’s respect, and even to other drivers like emotional insights. This is especially true in the Middle East where people are craving localised content and platforms even if they continue to enjoy the international formats. Each advertising journey will need to be thought out and personalised in order to maximise interactions. Moreover, it’s essential to keep in mind that everything that has worked until now may no longer bring the same success. Consumer habits have changed, and competition has increased due to the pandemic. Therefore, advertisers need to regularly check whether their approach is still delivering the expected results. Marketers must continually explore and think outside the box by looking for unconventional ways to communicate.

Values-based communication to aim at greater confidence from audiences

Internet users are increasingly demanding towards brands, leaving them no room for error. It’s crucial to invest time and money in building a strong brand image. To gain and keep the trust of internet users, brands must make their values visible in their communication, using storytelling and branding campaigns. By discovering snippets of what the brand is, what goes on behind the scenes, where it came from and how it got here, consumers will stop seeing the company as a faceless entity and connect with the people behind it. The values communicated should be aligned with the growing major social and environmental issues. This requires more responsible advertising.