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Metaverse and AI are the new arsenals in UAE and Gulf advertisers' brand building program. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: ‘Got an idea for brand marketing in the Metaverse?’

If advertising agencies answer ‘Yes’, then they stand a better chance of progressing in client pitch. That’s the real-time reality the virtual world of the Metaverse is bringing to the UAE and Gulf’s advertising and marketing scene.

“Although widespread adoption of the Metaverse may take some time, marketers would be remiss if they didn’t start exploring the offering,” said Christine Najarian, Head of Client Engagement at OMD MENA. “Especially with the major investments in the metaverse infrastructure, and with the rise of new consumers that are more familiar with the virtual worlds than previous generations.

“Now is the right time to adopt a test-and-learn mindset, to experiment and move on from failure and capitalize on success. Brands in the region that are testing the environment want to be the early adopters before it becomes scalable.”

The (Metaverse) landscape is still unclear in the region as the adoption of VR is at its nascent stage and Oculus (headset) distribution is limited vs. other markets like the US. However, now is the right time to adopt a test-and-learn mindset.

- Christine Najarian, Head of Client Engagement at OMD MENA

In other words, make sure that they have the scale up in the Metaverse before others do.

A world of AR/VR

Dubai has been one of the early movers into the augmented-virtual reality world that is the Metaverse, which advertisers and marketers believe will be the new frontier for brands and brand building.

“The Metaverse has become a creative buzzword over the past year - and not one creative review or pitch is complete without the inclusion of a ‘Metaverse’ concept,” said Joao Medeiros, Executive Creative Director, Havas Middle East.

The issue is that we are only scratching the surface of how the industry will embrace the Metaverse. I’ve recently been judging a significant industry award show and it seems every other idea relates to it. Still, few show the needed spark of creativity, and rather rely on the earned media factor of being the first to claim a stake in this new world.

- Joao Medeiros of Havas Middle East

“Scott Galloway has said: ‘Defining the Metaverse is the kind of thing nerds fight to the death over’. As a creative, the specifics of the definition matter less to me than the practicality of what can and will be done. It is simply the inevitable development of communication tools.”

Good times

Whatever the new world of Metaverse has in store for the Gulf’s branding industry, it’s been going for the Middle East advertising and marketing sectors. A FIFA World Cup in Doha and before that the Expo 2020 in Dubai provided enough scope for clients and consumers to spend big bucks.

Thirty years ago, we didn’t have SEO; 20 years ago, we didn’t have Facebook nor YouTube; 10 years ago, no TikTok or Snapchat Stories. As the digital universe becomes more complex, it creates new advertising spaces and languages for creative narratives.

- Fabio Silveira, General Manager, Havas Creative

Digital ad spends continued to make more inroads, while television commercials scripted a fine performance. Consumers in the Gulf were willing to spend, and brands of all shapes and platforms were going out of their way to help them decide what to buy or ‘experience’.

“The UAE leads the recovery of media spend in the region, and we had an overall spend of more than 5 per cent compared to 2021,” said Satish Mayya, Advisor at the Dubai-headquartered BPG Group. “The share of online media spending more than doubled in 2022.

“As expected, the ad industry recovered during 2022 and we are seeing the same trend in 2023. We are not seeing any impact of inflation or consumer worries as of now. We have to see how the industry does in the first quarter and this will set tone for all of 2023.”

Digital media spending recorded growth in the UAE by almost doubling its share during 2022. The same trend continues in 2023

- Satish Mayya of BPG Group