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Leo Burnett: “A brand’s message will need to be constantly relevant”

Ahmad Abu Zannad,  Head of Strategy,  Leo Burnett

Ahmad Abu Zannad,
Head of Strategy,
Leo Burnett

IP&TV News talks to Ahmad Abu Zannad, Head of Strategy, Leo Burnett, about next generation advertising…

IP&TV News: What are the main ways the connected TV ecosystem has changed the rules of engagement for brands?

Ahmad Abu Zannad: The changes in the new ecosystem are having major impacts on the rules of engagement for brands on two fronts. One is specifically for the brands within the ecosystem where brands from a multitude of adjacent industries are competing against each other – what defines competition is becoming very blurry for all involved and this definitely changes the rules of engagement.

The other front is generally for all brands attempting to use TV as a vehicle to engage people. The connected TV offers a long list of opportunities: from data collection to tools to further engage the connected TV viewer. However, it also brings a lot of challenges that are mainly around the empowerment the connected TV viewer now enjoys, people will watch what they want, when and where they want to, this means that a brand’s message will need to be constantly relevant, meaningful, enticing, entertaining, rewarding, impactful and probably actionable.

What are the most advisable strategies with which brands should approach this new ecosystem?

The advisable strategies would be very similar to the ones we have been recommending in the overall digital space. Generally speaking, the biggest and most impactful change is neither around the fancy technical platforms brands can develop nor is it about the big data brands can attain, it is around people and their behaviour: brands should be paying very close attention on how all this connectivity and interaction with smart devices are changing the way people are behaving in their overall daily lives and how they are interacting with brands.

It is only through such deep understanding of people and their behaviour that brands can identify a meaningful and relevant role they can actually play in the lives of these people: next comes the challenge of constantly bringing this role to life, this is where technology and data plays a more prominent role where brands should be able to activate their role with acts that invite people’s participation.

Who are the main competitors in this ecosystem, and how are they performing?

As mentioned before, many players from adjacent industries are entering this ecosystem: this includes TV manufacturers, content providers, platform/operating-systems developers, connectivity providers, game consoles manufactures and the list could go on.

What is interesting here is the fact that if history could teach us something, it is that all these players cannot coexist; only one or two will prevail. We have seen this in the personal computing industry during the late 80s where only Microsoft prevailed, in the music industry during the early 2000s where Apple prevailed and recently in the Smartphone industry where only Apple and Google/Samsung prevailed, and even for smartphones; industry analysts such as Wired magazine’s Fred Vogeistein are raising major questions as to whether these two players will continue to coexist. The same destiny is definitely predicted to happen in the connected TV industry.

Are the current changes in advertising the biggest in many decades – or is this part of an ongoing, reasonably steady evolution?

It is part of an evolution that started with every smart and connected device in people’s lives: be it personal computers, tablets and/or smartphones. What could possibly make this a bit more revolutionary is the nature of the occasions where TV is used: TV is more communal and more social. However, people still aren’t used to interacting with the TV.

Where do you see the most exciting possibilities in future advertising emerging?

It is still the same role that brands should be attempting to play in people’s lives, what is excitingly different is how brands will be able to activate this role. On one hand, if brands attempt to use the capabilities of a connected TV to conduct purposeless activities, or activities that solely attempt to sell/promote/push a product then people will use the same capabilities to simply skip through such attempts. On the other hand, if brands use these capabilities to truly have an impact on people’s lives, and to truly become a converged participant of this new TV experience, then plenty of exciting and unique brand experiences can be created.  

You’ll be appearing at this year’s TV Connect MENA. What are the most interesting regional advances over the last year?

This region has to be among the most digitally engaged societies in the world (examples: UAE has the highest and Saudi has the third highest smartphone penetration in the world. Also, Saudi has the highest daily viewership on YouTube and the second highest Twitter growth rate in the World). Also, it is among the regions where digital has made the most major impact on people and their behaviour. If connected TV can have a slight portion of the impact the overall digital space have had on the region, then plenty of interesting yet challenging times are ahead of everyone.

Players in the industry realise this and accordingly we have witnessed how brands such as Samsung, MBC, OSN, Etisalat, STC, du and Ooredoo have been very active in our region. We have also seen interesting partnerships such as the one between Samsung’s Smart TV and MBC’s SHAHID.NET. Interestingly, people in the region have been quite receptive to all these activities; according to the “Digital TV Middle East & Africa Databook”:  Digital TV penetration is forecasted to reach two-thirds of total TV households (this is approximately 89.3 million digital TV households) and pay-TV revenue is anticipated to reach $8 billion.

Ahmad will be appearing at this year’s TV Connect MENA, the only major TV event in the Middle East and African region linking key TV providers in the connected TV delivery ecosystem.

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