by Alex Jena, Head of Research & Development, Dentsu Aegis Network MENA

The idea of an organization being more agile is more pronounced for the marketing and agency teams where digital transformation is happening very quickly. Our CCS data, for instance, reveals that smartphone penetration for Millennials in KSA increased dramatically from 2012 – 2015 rising from 35% to 76% respectively, which in turn has big implications for content, context and continuity. Across our network, the teams that have been able to innovate more effectively and challenge the status quo have kept a few working principles at heart for their planning:

The nature of the trends and new practices will have an impact beyond the immediate marketing and communications teams. Breaking down any conventional divides and silos and instead, forming multi-disciplined teams across different skillsets and expertise areas can make a true difference. An increasingly popular system is to employ this collective approach on a focused, specific area or process that needs to be addressed and then hacking or sprinting at the potential solutions. This practice of quick execution is referred to as ‘the Hollywood model’ in the business and management sphere, borrowing the analogy of multi skilled teams coming together to make a specific part of a film project and then dispersing.

Managing Risk:
Planning for the unknown will carry some element of risk but how it is handled will have a major impact on whether innovative projects see the light of day. Agency teams have a responsibility to mitigate and de-risk the unknown where possible and break down in crystal clear terms of what success will look like and how much of it is hoping to be achieved. Data has contributed to reducing risks but in MENA, more effort is needed from the industry to work on guidelines, benchmarks and best practices. The stakeholders in control of budgets also have a part to play. Willingness to make sure that every campaign brings learning or discovery element ensures progression.

Fostering a culture of innovation is likely to be a key mandate for the leaders that want to disrupt rather than be disrupted. Going hand in hand with collaboration, it’s clear that winning in the digital economy requires a shared, collective responsibility and vision for innovation – one that several individuals contribute to. In MENA, advertisers and agencies can learn from the global tech giants on how they foster such a culture. The common examples include running quarterly innovation hacks, allowing employees to leave the office to keep learning about new techniques or following and networking with other innovative companies. The latter is a real opportunity in MENA where agencies can learn a lot from spending time with startups. Whether in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Beirut or Cairo the startup community is collaborative by nature. It operates on lean resource and embraces the attitude of test. It burns and learns to continuously improve its offer. It’s not easy to keep up with the pace of change and we have to keep in mind that this is the slowest it will ever be. Thankfully, we’re in a region where digital is presenting us with more opportunities to break with convention and innovative thinkers are plentiful. The future belongs to the fast, and MENA has the momentum to keep pace.

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