Dubai: Mobile and TV advertising in the UAE is yet to catch up, a top global media guru said.
"Dubai in terms of the interactive and mobile is not creative at all in terms of the level of ideas and excitement. There is a great opportunity for young creative directors, to make a name for themselves in this market and to do something brilliant. You have the technology and the freedom here," Kevin Roberts, chief executive of Saatchi and Saatchi, told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.
"This is not China. It's quite liberal in terms of what you can say and what you can do."
Saatchi and Saatchi, part of the world's fourth largest communications group Publicis Groupe SA, has become a successful advertising agency, known for its creativity in the past decade under the leadership of Kevin Roberts.
In September 2006, the advertising company won a $430 million(Dh1.578 billion) JC Penney contract because of the idea of 'Lovemarks', invented and promoted by Roberts.
Roberts, who was expelled from school at the age of 16, has had an illustrious career that "really began" according to him in 1969 London, with Mary Quant Cosmetics as its brand manager. Since then, awards, an honorary doctorate and being a professor has been the norm for this world traveller.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Roberts shared his opinion on advertising in general, and particularly on the performance and outlook for the sector in the Gulf region.
Gulf News: How will the advertising sector perform due to the global economic meltdown, compared to international markets?
Kevin Roberts: You will see a major slowdown, very flat or no growth in the US, maybe even a decline, no growth in Europe, but a continued growth in Brazil, Russia, India, China and the Middle East. It will be a story of two halves, the developed countries, and the emerging tigers, of which the UAE is one.
You will still see growth here, driven paradoxically by on the one hand, a return to traditional media because some will be very nervous so they will look at newspapers with a fresh eye, and look again at magazines and television.
And the newer business, economies, and industries will use this situation to go into mobile and interactive media to connect with the audience.
Obama won the election on one message of Hopes and Dreams but on a media strategy of the new era - mobiles, internet and connectivity.
Here you will see two trends; some people will go safe, and some people will gamble on great ideas. This is a very exciting time to be in advertising. I don't think it's a time to be scared, but to be brave.
Which do you think will work better, the innovative or the traditional media?
I think it depends very much on how well you know your consumer. Where is he, where is she, how is she feeling? I think there is a tremendous amount of money being spent on outdoor advertising in Dubai that to me seems to be a waste. It's about ego. It's not touching the consumer at all.
That, in this kind of economy will be tough to justify. You should be looking for those kinds of media that engage, involve and attract your particular consumer. The winners will be those who get closest to the newest consumer.
McCain had no idea, who his consumer was. He had no idea how to talk to them and reach them. Obama won against every demographic - male, female, young, old, rich, and poor, urban and rural. McCain was lost. He didn't know his consumer.
In the past, frankly, agencies here have been lazy because there's been growth, everybody made money and business moved in different ways. Now, power has shifted to the consumer in this new world economy.
So the people who are closest to how the consumer feels, and therefore, know whether to use a mobile, or newspaper add or radio, will do the best.
And there will be greater premium on creativity and ideas because this same old idea will not work for this type of consumer.
The consumer now is insecure and scared, worried about having a job, will salary be reduced, will they be laid-off and sent home. These are all concerns so in this environment, you're going to be looking for new ideas.
Advertising creativity in the Middle East is not as high as maybe it should be. Agencies should focus that this is no longer about price or value or media. It's going to be about having an idea that touches the consumer's heart.
Do you think there will be more competition at this time or will we see it reduce?
There will be less. The big and the brave will get stronger, the small will survive and if you're in the middle& You want to avoid being in the middle this time, because people will make choices and they never choose the middle.
Are there opportunities still untapped in the emerging markets that you see?
Yes. Dubai in the interactive and mobile is not creative at all in terms of the level of ideas and excitement. There is a great opportunity for young creative directors, to make a name for themselves in this market and to do something brilliant. You have the technology and the freedom here. This is not China.
There is a great opportunity and untapped potential in the use of mobile phones and the internet as a truly engaging attracting medium. Right now, most of the mobile advertising here is just interruptive and annoying.
Does the growth in this industry seem sustainable in emerging market?
I think that the future of our world no longer lives in Europe and US. The election of Obama is a generation of cataclysmic change, which says we are appointing a black man, born in Hawaii, who lived in Jakarta, called Hussain, to run America. This is the end of the American century and the beginning of a more inclusive and a more balanced world order.
Spanish will become the number one language in the year 2050. Look at the population growth in Saudi Arabia. Iran will one day reenter the world. Iraq will one day be reinvigorated. India is growing at seven per cent.
China will pause, take its breath, absorb this new move into the middle class and then it will start to explode again. I think we are in a time of emerging new order of inclusion rather than exclusion.
So yes, I think growth in the emerging market is sustainable. It will slow down because of this Western driven recession. They are the absolute perpetrators of this. But then, it will climb again.
Are you seeing a difference in advertising spending here?
Yes, clients are becoming very anxious and looking for more with less.