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Whatever next?

Campaign asked interns and recent graduates about how they see their role in the industry changing in the next five years.

Grads FP

(An abridged version of this article appeared in the August 28, 2016 Graduate Issue of Campaign. Read our respondents’ full responses here.)

Name: Yasmine Hamadallah

Age: 18

Degree: Economics, politics and international studies, University of Warwick, UK

Position: Strategic planner intern, TBWA\Raad

The advertising industry is at a crossroads today more than ever. Advertising, marketing and PR, which used to be distinct fields, are now becoming increasingly intertwined. More and more, the internet and social media are giving rise to an era of do-it-yourself advertising for brands and entrepreneurs, leaving many in the advertising industry wondering if the days of all-encompassing Mad Men agencies have now become obsolete. While it is undeniable that the industry is changing at lightning speed, I believe that rather than disintegrating completely, agencies will merely evolve and adapt. Now, what does that mean for someone like me, just starting out in this industry? Well, a couple of things.

First, advertising will likely become far more specialised. Today’s watchwords are Faster, Smarter and Cheaper. New advertisers such as myself will be working on a smaller segment of advertising. Advertisers will need to deepen their knowledge about specific segments in order to speak their client’s language.

This is directly linked to the second shift we will likely be witnessing: the necessity for advertisers not only to present content but also to help clients build content. The speed at which the world is moving means clients have now become active participants in the advertising of their product.

What value-added can an actual advertiser then bring to the table? Knowing what content is relevant and will resonate with the targeted demographic. Indeed, while brands may now possess the tools to market themselves, advertisers still better understand which content will have an impact. And therein lies their power.

Finally, I believe there is something to be said for the increasing importance of influencers in advertising. Indeed, social influencers and new media sources are quickly becoming invaluable assets to agencies and this is likely to be even more prevalent in the coming years. Advertisers should therefore take advantage of these new resources and unlock their potential by working with influencers as a channel for advertising.

Overall, I believe the future ahead remains bright. Things are changing, yes. But with change comes new challenges, and that means exciting new opportunities and career prospects for budding advertisers.

 

Name: Mia Lahoud

Age: 23

Degree: Master’s in management, specialised in international marketing and business development at ESA Business School, Lebanon, 2016

Position: Digital Media Executive, Performics (Publicis Media)

It has only been three months since I joined the Performics team in Lebanon, and I can already say that I have grown a lot on both a personal and a professional level, so I can only imagine how my role would evolve later on. I would really like to be seen as someone with great value in this particular field and I know that in my current position I will have the opportunity to develop my personal competences and take on challenging projects, working with people I can learn from.

In the next few years, I see myself leading a team and a few projects of my own, profiting the most from the organisational and managerial skills that this job offers. I’ve been lucky enough so far to work with some great leaders, and so developing into a great team leader myself is something I’m really looking forward to.

 

Name: Hiba Faour

Age: 22

Degree: Business administration (emphasis on marketing and finance), American University of Beirut, 2016

Position: Media executive, Starcom Kuwait

As a media executive at Starcom, my role is to be part of developing our clients’ communication strategy by optimising effectiveness of their campaigns. Over the last years, our role as a media agency has shifted from planning and buying to become a full-fledged consultant for our clients, ushering them into the digital revolution.

Today, the industry is facing an era of marketing velocity, where consumers engage with multiple platforms at the same time. Our role is to reshape the client’s presence in the market; to optimise reach and provide their consumers with relevant and meaningful experiences that can impact their lives.

Our role as consultants will continue to evolve to meet the market’s ever-changing landscape. We are not there to explain to the clients what they need to be doing, but rather help consolidate between their ideas and the optimal strategy.

 

Name: Galia Seraydarian

Age: 23

Degree: BSc in marketing from the Lebanese American University, 2016

Position: Intern, FP7

Having changed majors twice, what pushed me into marketing was the relation a marketer has with the product/service he offers. In my opinion, for a person to love and to succeed in what he does, he should be involved in each step, and watch his product develop and grow until he sees it succeed, which leads to more motivation. If he sees failure instead, it will push him into wanting to work even harder.

This resembles a mother and her child: seeing her child succeed in life after years of sleepless nights will make her the proudest soul, but seeing him fail will make her tougher until she knows she has him on top of the ladder. This is what marketing is about: developing, introducing, growing, maturing and declining.

Although I might have started from the middle of the product life cycle with my internship at FP7, which is in advertising, I can’t help but say I learn more and more every day. I have been realising that the advertising industry shifts year after year. New digital platforms appear, some survive and others die, and companies should adapt to each of these new platforms as fast as possible to stay on top of their game. Through all these changes, there still is one factor that is continuous, a factor that all these changes revolve around, and that is technology. Technology is key, and this is where the game is changing.

The first group being affected by changes in technology is the people, the public. They make it work or fail, because they use it on a daily basis. What technology offers is somehow based on their evolutionary needs, so why not include them in one way or another to play a role in this industry since technology is part of their daily life.

The way I would like to change how advertising companies work is through multidisciplinary teams, where one advert is handled by people from different fields, different backgrounds, different imaginations.

As much as robots are trying to imitate humans, humans have not yet become robots. Their brains get tired, they run out of ideas, their creativity fluctuates day-to-day. I would stop relying on the same group of people in a company to work on different adverts for years, using their same imagination and creativity. Instead, have a team specialised in always hiring new groups from the public, who then become the source of new advertising ideas and imagination, coming from different backgrounds, having different visions and specialising in different majors.

I would create a “bottom-to-top” relationship, making people more involved with the advert while they are working on it. With this, I would be creating a new platform for the public where they become not only the receiver, but the producer as well.

Every product that needs to be promoted is unique, and therefore needs a unique advertising approach. Having the same limited group of people work on countless products and projects somehow limits this uniqueness.

Advertising is a mixture of technology, imagination and art, and what better way to get this combination than from random sampling, where technology is perceived differently from person to person, imagination is limitless and art comes from multiple backgrounds?

 

Name:Dana El Hassan

Age:22

Degree: Bachelor of business administration, American University of Beirut, 2014

Position: Senior executive, The Innovation Group MENA, J. Walter Thompson

My first job – data mining for the intelligence unit at J. Walter Thompson MENA – wasn’t the sexiest of disciplines. However, as a self-proclaimed nerd, I took comfort in knowing I would hide behind the scenes, taking cover under piles of facts and figures, far, far away from the glitz of #AgencyLife. In fact, I cherished every aspect of the function, diving into the souls and wirings of people around the globe, even becoming borderline telepathic. Who wouldn’t want that for a first career? But despite my fresh-grad optimism, I knew that we data-crunchers would always be overshadowed by the glamour of Planning or the ingenuity of Creative.

And yet, here we are, two years later in a very different world, where deep learning algorithms have recreated the first data-generated work of art derived from Rembrandt’s 346 paintings. Now if this isn’t sexy, I don’t know what is. Data is at the forefront of our industry. It is a core pillar of our brand-building capabilities, a key driver of innovation, measurement and optimisation. In some parts of the world, data-fuelled machines are not only drawing new masterpieces but writing movie scripts, music compositions and copy. Yes, copy for brands.

So where does this leave my fellow analysts and me? While data mining was once done manually, the ‘algorithmic wizardry of AI’ is ushering in a more efficient, seamless and far more intuitive way of doing things. Presenting an exciting new frontier, robot-assisted systems will drive us to unparalleled levels of predictive emotional and social intelligence that can better humanity. Will we really be able to predict the future? With the speed of change nowadays, this doesn’t seem like a very far off concept for five years down the line.

The machine vs. human debate has brought about many existential conversations, and not only in Adland. I regard this conflict as a winning combination rather than a losing battle. Watching IBM’s Watson crush humans at Jeopardy, or Google’s AlphaGo defeat Go champion Lee Sedol, does give me the chills. Yet there is a certain depth to what we do that still requires an intrinsic knowledge of people; an understanding of the unspoken word; an ability to decrypt buried emotions. Call it fresh-grad-romanticism, but there’s nothing as sexy as reaching into people’s hearts, if you ask me. And that is our edge as human beings.

 

Name: Nagham Samy

Age: 24

Degree: Chemical engineering, American University of Sharjah, 2015

Job title: Social media executive, Wavemaker (MEC)

Who is a social media executive? Sometimes, it’s just a community manager. Other times, it’s just the person who writes your content and manages the client relationship. But at MEC, the social media executive is a hybrid creature. Some social media executives specialise in content; others specialise in paid media and analysis. But in the end, the role of a social media executive is evolving as quickly as a newsfeed algorithm.

A social media executive must be 10 steps ahead of whatever the current social scene is. So where do we think social will be in five years? For this to be a valid question, we need to stop looking at social as the online extension of a campaign and begin to see it as a platform (possibly) more powerful than TV.

The breakdown of the social media role is usually very clean and structured. Every social team has a community manager, content writer, analyst and strategist. But what if this structure were to disintegrate to give rise to the social media hybrid?

Many people seem to think that the community management aspect of social media will shift from the social media teams to chatbots and in-house brand teams. But while the customer care answers may be standard, what about the mine of insights that is authentic fan engagement? Then comes the segregation between content and analysis… Ahhh! Where to begin? In order to provide your client with the best strategic approach and execution, data must be the driving force behind your content. And for social media, this simply means:

Quantitative data (engagements) + qualitative data (community management) = successful social media presence

The social audience has its own needs and consumption habits, and social media as a group of platforms is an armoury of tools to increase return on investment and drive conversions. For this reason, and as clients begin to shift their attention to social and digital, a social media executive can no longer only be a superb community manager and content writer. A top-notch social media executive will be a trend hunter, pattern spotter, master strategist and number guru too. This 360-degree approach to social will give rise to the social media hybrid, the key to social media success.

 

Name: Nour Montasser

Age: 22

Degree: Digital enterprise management, University of Toronto, 2015

Position: Junior biddable media executive, MEC Interaction

The social media scene is constantly evolving, especially on the paid side. The dynamics of my role were different a year ago from what they are today. From what I’ve seen, a good majority of the social media updates that roll out are game-changing for the platforms they occur on.

One truth cannot be denied in the media industry: this is a competitive environment. Platforms are neck-and-neck with audience sizes, which makes them eager not only to retain their users, but also to lead in acquisition. Not to mention the thriving culture of entrepreneurship that keeps all existing businesses on their feet. This environment is the glimmer of the industry; no two days are the same, and you can never predict what tomorrow will bring.

For me, the most powerful phenomena on social media are virality and shareability. The ultimate goal as an advertiser is to put content out there that moves the target audience enough to feel something and share their thoughts about it. I think the primary change in the coming years will be going beyond celebrating the buzz to celebrating the impact. We’re moving past the concept of digital and enterprise as two separate entities and moving into the era of digital enterprise. For brands, this means creating a strong synergy between online engagement and online sales.

The stories of paid social media are told through numbers, making their best impact where time is spent most. Our options in this digital era are ample. As a result, we get bored faster, distracted easier, yet somehow we still remain hungry for more.

So to answer the question: in five years’ time my job will still be dedicated to the crowd and the drive for numbers, but which platform that will be on? We’ll let the people decide on that one.

 

Name: Rana Daoud

Degree: Journalism graduate, American University in Dubai

Position: Associate planner at Leo Burnett Dubai

On my first day at the strategy department at Leo Burnett, my mentor, Mark, told me that I shouldn’t worry about stepping into a field I thought I was clueless about. “As a journalist you research people and find stories, right?” he said. “As planners, we research people and find insights. In both scenarios, your job is digging into human behaviours. You’re still the storyteller.” About six months have passed since Mark and I had that conversation, and I have managed to uncover an underlying story: embracing risk.

Moving to Dubai to study journalism was a risk I took four years ago, yet fast-forward to this year, when I was the producer of a short documentary, Ta Marbouta, that has won prizes.

Coming to the advertising industry was double the risk. I haven’t been equipped academically for this position, and I do not have solid experience in the field, yet I chose to discover what it has, and the agency chose to discover what I have. It isn’t strange for an agency whose founder, Leo Burnett, held a degree in journalism to invest in a journalism graduate, but it’s a risk nonetheless. The agency hunts for different types of talent, injecting diversity in its planning team. Organisations need to drop typical standards every now and then and experiment with something new. Because, really, what is life without taking risk and taming it?

Today, I am confident that my career decision made me find a passion in strategy. Discovering people’s behaviours is what makes me get up every morning; I collect the ingredients of my stories from different channels, chasing trends and identifying insights to build arguments. I have covered advertising festivals in the past as a reporter, but who knows; I could be seeing campaigns I contributed to in upcoming festivals. This year at Leo Burnett has taught me that our lives would not happen without taking the risks we are offered, because we, humans and agencies alike, need to step out of our comfort zones more often to realise our potential. In the process, we’ll find new stories that are worth telling.

 

Name: Tala Ali
Position: Creative copywriter, Saatchi & Saatchi, Dubai

Winston Churchill said: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” We’re lucky to work in an industry driven by change, and half of the excitement is predicting the type of change heading our way.

The way I see it, change in advertising is happening right now in our region, slowly but surely. And it’s all about data and sales. The concrete stuff that gives our creative work the foundation needed to actually be made. That’s how things are going to evolve in the next five years. We’re no longer going to be able to sell work to the client based on a gut feeling or perceptions alone. We’re going to need solid predictions, presented in numbers. Without the promise of making the client some money, our ideas won’t be invested in. Especially when there are hotter shops out there with that understanding (along with trendy values and the drive to attract clients by simply living in the now).

It’s no surprise that “traditional” advertising agencies are becoming less and less significant to brands. There are so many digital shops, and even media agencies, that are way ahead of us in the ‘control’ of data and how we use it effectively with clients. But then again, that’s where things are headed: towards a faster, quintessentially digital universe that plays to every brand’s perception of what today’s world needs.

Agencies in the region are starting to shift and work towards keeping up with this change, but compared with the rest of the world, we’re still a long way away. The good thing is, no matter how strong the wind blows, our traditional – or, rather, original – roles won’t change. Our core will always be in demand. Creatives will always be creatives, planners will always be planners, and account managers will always manage accounts. What will change is the way in which we work, and that’s to truly and effectively work together.

By Churchill’s measure, we’re not perfect yet. But we’re definitely improving.

 

Name: Ayah Qaddoumi

Age: 22

Degree: Bachelor’s in mass communication (concentrating on advertising, minoring in marketing), American University of Sharjah, 2013-2016

Position: Marketing intern at L’Oreal Middle East

Over the next five years, people and brands will become best friends. As we live in a world that is taken over by technology, our role as marketers is becoming more difficult.

A long time ago, marketers had the power to create their own content, and consumers had no choice to change that. Nowadays, consumers have the power to change a whole brand and modify it based on their interests.

Currently, the competition is increasing as more and more companies acknowledge the digital tools that consumers are using. That is why we are constantly required to come up with new strategies to break through the clutter.

I have a saying that I always keep reminding myself of: “Think like a consumer.” This is my key to successful marketing.

People do not like to feel that you are a brand that is trying to sell them a product or a service. What they want is a valuable relationship, a best friend, who accompanies them wherever they go and whenever they want.

A brand can be a consumer’s best friend through the use of digital, but it is very important to understand how to build this relationship from the beginning. It is important because marketers hold huge responsibilities, and the industry is changing and the world is evolving. They should always be flexible to change and willing to become part of the technological evolution.

In the future, people will want more than just a brand marketing to them. They want to have a conversation and an interaction with what they love, and with the right use of digital tools a brand can meet these needs and win consumers. If a brand wins the heart and the mind of a consumer, it will eventually build on its sales.

The key to success is the consumer: always listen to what they have to say, because most of the branded content will come from the consumers, as user-generated-content. In the future, your ideas and your campaigns will simply come from your consumers. Therefore, always engage your consumers and build an authentic connection so you add value. This friendly relationship and the value you provide is what will increase your sales.

 

Name: Aleesha Sayyed

Age: 25

Degree: MBA in Marketing & Finance, BIMHRD, India, 2014

Position: Media executive, Mediavest

“You have to be a hybrid” is what I keep hearing from people in the industry; and it’s true. We are witnessing the need to develop a 360-degree communication planning solution to reach audiences.

Gone are the days of traditional one-dimensional planning models. Now, more than 78 per cent of consumers within the GCC multitask while watching TV, giving rise to cross-TV platforms, which enables broadcasters to reach new consumers.

The market and the audience are continuously evolving and, as a communication specialist, I feel the need to expand my skills to master both verticals. However, be it comprehensive digital planning or an in-depth know-how of offline media, I personally feel that using data and innovation together as an infused platform will help engage audiences.

 

Name: Karen Abou Jaoude

Degree: BSc in economics, Northeastern University, Boston

Position: Business development executive, Dentsu Aegis Network

The expression ‘hitting the ground running’ is very apt from when I started at Dentsu Aegis Network six months ago. After a career change from the finance industry, I was catapulted into an environment where agility, innovative thinking and creativity are paramount.

With my role in the business development department, no day is like any other. As the region’s media consumption continues to grow and evolve at a rapid pace, we are prompted to think quickly on our feet, developing with the market.

In our digital forecast for 2015, we predicted that 2016 will be regarded as the year in which the MENA market graduates in digital after a three-year run of making significant advancements in social, mobile, technology and commerce. On our everlasting quest to keep innovating our work, we are constantly on the lookout for unprecedented and creative ways to build and develop new products that benefit the campaigns we roll out for our clients.

Essentially, business development will not change. I believe the identity of the role will remain the same but my focus will be redirected. Dentsu Aegis’ vision of being 100 per cent digital by 2020 and catering to our clients’ needs with state-of-the-art technology, innovation and services within the digital economy might mean my title changes to ‘digital development executive’.

We are currently developing a full 360-degree scope of services that cater not only to our clients’ current needs but also to their future needs. As technology develops in the region, not only will new creative outlets for campaigns emerge, but also we will be able to delve deeper into understanding consumers and collecting data to support our media choices. Being able to track and monitor digital spends and more sophisticated data will push our digital movement even further.

The way I see my role changing is built on this particular element of the agency’s digital focus, with more immersive and interactive campaigns and aligning technological developments in other sectors to the media industry. Business development has always been competitive in nature, and with the digital evolution and adaptation in the region, I foresee a period of rapid and exciting change for the industry as agencies compete to stay ahead of the game. On your marks…get set…GO!

 

Name: Omar Takkouch

Position: Media Executive, UM MENA

As a new-joiner within the media industry, telling people what I do at first seemed difficult. My job description to friends and family varied from “advertising for brands” to “media bookings”. This, however, was my first month in media. Following this, my first year working with UM taught me a lot. Not only was my role exciting, but was different from what people assumed I do. Being a media executive is much more than the designation mentions. And now when I’m asked what I do, my answer has convincingly shifted to: “I invest my clients’ marketing budgets, and build brands.”

Throughout this year at UM, I’ve learned that not only are we required to be media-savvy, but we also need to be well-versed with technology, trends and the economy. Currently, we as media planners have integrated offline, social and digital platforms to provide the most effective strategies to our clients as a standard practice. With the support of our specialists in creative, content and tech, we are adding a whole new blend to our expertise. However, a few years from now the industry will integrate these three pillars (content, creative execution and tech innovation) as well to build a new standard and  all-powerful media “con-crea-ters” instead of just “planners”. We have seen the results of an integrated campaign and this future integrated media professional is sure to deliver the best outcomes to clients and their consumers, delivering an end-to-end strategy. Of course, the creative and tech specialists will always be there to lead and guide the strategies, but we if we take a look at the media industry and its evolution over the years, we can assume that this level of integration is inevitable.

In addition to this integration, I do think media planning and strategy will be skewed towards technology, which I personally am looking forward to, being mobile savvy and an internet-of-things enthusiast. So I am definitely awaiting this self-predicted trend, to build client strategies and brands through compelling and reactionary ideas of innovation.

 

Name: Vanessa Amaral

Degree: International relations and economics, State University of New York at Geneseo

Position: Account executive, DDB Dubai

One of the key ways in which I see advertising evolving is the role of brand transparency in marketing communications. Looking back to when access to information was limited and communication was usually one-way from brand to consumer, brands would largely control the narrative through what was communicated in their campaigns. Now, with information a Google search away, consumers easily take notice if the gap between claim and reality is wide.

More than buying a product or service, consumers are interested in brands that they believe in, with which they share values and that make a positive impact on their lives and also in society. Brands that leverage their essence will gain consumers’ trust, and I believe that, five years from now, the environment will be such that an increasing number of clients will be open to this type of communication. For some brands, transparency could mean joking about their weakness: an example is Marmite’s Love It or Hate It brand campaign, owning the fact that the product is polarising and using this fact to drive up sales. For other brands, it could mean publicly apologising for a mistake and showcasing the necessary measures to fix it, such as Domino’s big revamp of its pizza recipe as a response to its critics. Finally, for others, it could mean having a clear set of values and expressing them in all aspects of the brand: Apple immediately comes to mind, with its DNA coming across in its corporate culture, the quality of its products, and its brand communication.

Brands that communicate their truth are perceived as bold and relevant, while a lack of transparency will put brands in jeopardy. The role of account management in this move toward brand transparency is crucial, given that only a client-agency relationship with a strong foundation of trust is able to break such ground. There are plenty of examples in the industry of the best work coming from true partnerships between clients and agencies. Ultimately, both parties need to be open to each other regarding the client’s – and the agency’s – strengths and vulnerabilities, and how to best portray them to their target consumers.

This can sound like wishful thinking to many – and my more pessimistic side can see how it could take a bit (or a lot) longer than five years for it to unfold. That is also transparency.

 

Name: Kamala Ram

Degree: MA in advertising and design, University of Leeds, UK

Position: Junior advertising executive, digital planning, PHD

As one may guess from my title, my day-to-day job largely consists of planning and implementing our clients’ digital activities, analysing campaign performance and extracting valuable insights from them, and, of course, managing relationships. However, given the fluidity of media, my role will inarguably change in coming years, developing in line with technology and how it alters the way marketers reach and influence consumers.

To illustrate this, just take a look at how much the industry has transformed as a result of technology over the past five years alone. Back then, there was clearly a stronger preference for direct buys over the programmatic model, while today the opposite holds true. Not only has programmatic allowed us to start thinking about the consumer in a more direct and personalised way, it has also enabled us to build even more layers of data around them and, in turn, improve the outcome of each campaign in a more cost-effective manner.

As the lines between offline and online continue to blur, we will witness a data-driven programmatic approach being applied to traditional media as well, starting on an experimental basis. With TV for instance, instead of buying spots on select channels at times that you think a particular audience will most likely be tuned in, you will begin buying against an audience group, based on their demographics, interests or other relevant parameters. As a result, ads will show up dynamically across a number of channels, during programming that is relevant to the precise target audience, perhaps even at a moment that better suits their emotional state. Such developments will inevitably shift our planning away from that of just smartphones, websites and apps, and towards all media platforms instead.

Although we can only guess what the future will look like based on where we are heading today, one thing I am confident about is that technology will become even more intertwined with the way we work and live, pushing us to become well-versed with an ever-evolving digital language. Data will remain king, but only those who can stay up-to-speed in analysing it and translating it into tangible business results will retain control of the kingdom, meaning we may all forever be ‘fresh graduates’. But that’s what makes being a part of this industry all the more satisfying; there will never be a dull moment or a point where you stop growing.

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