As one of the speakers at this year’s OMD Predicts conference succinctly put it, uncertainty is the only certainty today. How to experience success and performance in this climate was a question poignant enough to drive more than 290 marketing and media professionals to this year’s conference.
Trevor McFarlane, senior editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit, provided the audience with a number of ways to reduce the effect of many of the factors which impact on global and regional economies. Whilst some, such as the effects of political instability in Syria, Egypt or Bahrain are difficult to predict or mitigate, others can be lessened. He analyzed several strategies to align companies on growth opportunities, including benchmarking and re-clustering countries based on their product lifecycle. “The GCC has a particularly interesting story to tell, compared with the anemic growth of Europe, the surprising but smaller uplift in the USA and the growing pains in China,” McFarlane said. “It has gone through the Arab Spring relatively unscathed.”
The best way for a company to handle this uncertainty, according to OMD’s chief brand officer Andrew Lazzaro, is what he termed “tactical agility”. He introduced the concept with a description of a fight between George Foreman and his challenger Muhammad Ali, who surprised everyone with his “Rope A Dope” strategy. Later described as “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, Lazzaro said it was the very essence of tactical agility. “At OMD we define it as a rapid, yet measured response and the difference between intelligent fight and ignorant flight. It is the discipline to ask, think and do in real time.” Instead of reaction, which he likened to “panic in real time” and results in careless decisions, Lazzaro advocated a response drawn from relentless focus, predictive intelligence and market confidence to better control the situation.
To adhere to the concept of “tactical agility”, companies are required to be more targeted in their approach. A more targeted approach can be achieved by using social media as a way to conduct in-depth consumer analysis, which was a topic explored by Annelies Verhaeghe, Head of Research Innovation at InSites Consulting. She took marketers on a deep dive into using online communities and social media netnography to secure meaningful and timely consumer insights. She argued that these were the best methods to find out exactly what consumers think, use and feel about a brand. “Netnography allows a brand to identify what really is important for its consumers and even evaluate products, campaigns, customer experience in the heat of the moment. It’s research without asking questions,” Verhaeghe commented. “What’s more, it unearths the natural language consumers use in relation to a brand, a learning that can be implemented in its communications.”
The final session drew from all the previous ones and discussed Real Time Bidding (RTB), with a panel comprising Nick Hugh, Yahoo’s Senior Director-Direct Response, Mohamad Mourad, Gulf Regional Manager of Google, and Dimitri Metaxas, Regional Executive Director – Digital at Omnicom Media Group MENA. Moderated by Shadi Kandil, CEO of OMD MENA, it provided a lively debate and a great deal of interaction with the audience. RTB is a relatively new method of selling and buying online advertising, which obviously impacts all industry stakeholders. “OMD welcomes new technologies like RTB as we believe that such applications will enable better cost efficiencies and improved performance for our clients,” Metaxas commented. The panelists agreed that RTB will account for most of the future of online advertising but argued whether RTB would drive prices up or down. Another area of the debate focused on data ownership and its integrity, a topic destined to be more and more relevant as the industry steps further into its data age.
“Operating in such a dynamic and agile landscape, we need events like OMD Predicts to step back, stop and think about the trends affecting us. The topics discussed at this year’s conference are on top of our agenda and having such expert speakers address them is a powerful source of actionable insight,” Dani Afiouni, Media Director Middle East & Africa at Pepsi Cola International, said.
“If technology helps to answer some of the questions marketers have about their contribution to a brand’s success, more can be achieved to validate marketing decisions”, commented Shadi Kandil. “The uncertainty caused by the economic climate brings a fresh set of questions and we hope this year’s OMD Predicts provided answers that marketers can factor in their strategies and plans. We have demonstrated that opportunities for growth exist, even in a climate of uncertainty. We all need to be able to look, listen and respond appropriately, even in real time, to realize these opportunities.”
OMD Predicts was produced with the support of Choueiri Group, MSN Arabia and The Economist Group.