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Leo Burnett MENA’s CINO: ‘everything yet nothing has changed’ for marketing

Expert discusses the “hype cycle” that every new technology is said to undergo

Asma Ajroudi

Published: Updated:

Despite the technological breakthroughs and continuous changes in the advertising and marketing industries, the core of the job remains the same, a leading Middle East and North Africa (MENA) digital marketing expert said Wednesday at the Digital Media Forum (DMF) in Dubai.

“Think about the world an 18-year-old lives in today,” said Yousef Tuqan, the chief innovation officer at Leo Burnett Group MENA, during his speech at the DMF.

“We’re all walking around mostly ignoring each other with a piece of glass that weighs less than 200 grams in our hand. With this piece of glass I can access every film ever made, every piece music ever written, every story ever told.

“I can buy stuff online. I can buy my lunch. I can book flights. I can see every star in the sky. You can probably find a husband or wife on these things as well these days.”

Tuqan said 55 percent of the population of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council is under the age of 25.

“This is the same audience that unlocks their phones over a 100 times a day… and accesses Facebook at least 14 times a day expecting a completely personal experience every time they open it,” Tuqan said.

“It’s quite daunting [for advertisers and marketers], yet nothing has changed because we’re still marketing to people.”

Storytelling

For the past 150 years, marketers had one purpose: to “turn into words whatever they’re trying to sell to people,” said Tuqan.

“Because stories still matter. Because stories... let us play rational and emotional connections between cause and effect. And we connect the dots ourselves: the moral of the story.

“Just think about the power of religion and the power of the story. Stories that are thousands of years old, of people’s lives and the lessons we learned, are stories that still guide us today as peoples and societies. That’s the power of story.”

Technology means that the audience no longer needs to sit through advertising and marketing interruptions.

Facebook and YouTube are the “two most powerful channels in marketing today,” said Tuqan.

Yet YouTube’s “five-second skip button,” and Facebook’s “I don’t want to see this” and “hide all” buttons can be “scary” for marketers and advertisers, he added.

“If we’re not really giving people something they want, they don’t have to sit through it anymore,” said Tuqan, adding that advertising and creativity need to improve.

“People don’t hate brands. People love brands. People hate advertisers because increasingly advertising feels like the unwanted guest at a party.

“Do something that adds to the culture of the world. Make me laugh, inspire me. This is where technology becomes so powerful, because technology doesn’t replace creativity... Technology makes creativity better. It allows me to interact. It allows me to tell better stories.”

Hype cycle

Every technology or product follows a “hype cycle,” said Tuqan. Every product starts with a “technology trigger”: “We invent something. ‘Hey, I’ve got this new thing; it’s going to be great; it’s going to change the world.’ The hype starts to build, and we talk about it more and more…”

Then it reaches the “peak of inflated expectation,” where consumers begin to set high expectations for the awaited product, only to be disappointed.

“Maybe it’s too expensive. Maybe it doesn’t work. Maybe your friends don’t have one… then we reach what we call the trough of disillusionment…‘Oh my God, who came up with this idea? It’s stupid’.”

Then “someone figures it out: what if we make it a bit cheaper? What if we make it a bit smarter? Suddenly it goes up the slope and everyone starts to buy one.”

A product that has gone through the “hype cycle” is Google Glass, said Tuqan. “It’s expensive. It doesn’t really do anything your phone doesn’t already do… It’s a bit bulky. It’s a bit heavy.

“That’s the trough of disillusionment, but... a year from now, they’re going to figure it out. Now they’ve realized that consumers don’t want them, but businesses do.”

MENA

Tuqan told Al Arabiya News that marketers and advertisers in the MENA region are still designing advertising using a pan-Arab advertising broadcast model, and “haven’t adapted to the new reality yet.

“As advertisers, we’re used to making one TV ad showing to 391 million Arabs and expecting everybody to have one reaction.
“It’s going to take a lot more bravery from the agencies and advertisers to start designing new advertising that’s much more focused, targeted and insightful, but also designed for the social and mobile world.

“For the sake of the long-term success of our industry, we have to force ourselves to change. We have to shoot the cash-cow in order to be able to adapt to that new reality. There’s a need for innovation and to build your own intellectual property.”

The two-day annual forum, themed “Digital Technology: Bringing the Future Closer” this year, has hosted internationally-recognized key-note speakers such as Naseem Javed, president of ABC Namebank; Igor Beuker, professional speaker and marketing and media expert; and Fares Abouhamed, president of Interone Resonance Middle East LLC, and chairman and world president of the International Advertising Association.