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Transparency is a murky word (Radio Interview)

 

DIGITALORCHESTRA_TRANSPARENCY
Picture credit: Murky Fish by Joybot, Hong Kong Wetland Park

 

When you know you’ve got only a seven minute slot on the radio as the advertising industry insider one weekday evening, 610pm, do you plan what you’re going to say. Of course you do. And better, if you’ve got a chance you can prep the presenters as to what you think they will find interesting to talk about.

Here’s how it went recently. Forgive me if it’s a bit glib. But it’s not for an industry audience, it’s for the mass audience of Dubai commuters driving home.

We talk about disruption, personally identifiable information, relevant advertising, dynamic creative optimisation, industry collaboration, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), bang for your buck, consumers are key let’s not forget that… and finally “transparency is a very murky word”.

Recorded in Feb 2017 on the Tim Elliott and Alex Hirschi Drive Live Show on DubaiEye1038.com

 

 

#OnTheCouchWith… Augmented Humanity

onthecouchwith_episodeone-001-jpeg-001-jpeg-001[This is taken from the research project, TheFuture:Exposed (aka #onthecouchwith) which was kicked off by interviewing thought leaders in Dubai. This research will continue, on stage, at Dubai Lynx, the festival of creativity, on Sunday 5th March, 2pm, with two inspiring thought leaders, PK Gulati and Philippe Blanchard. Hope to see you in the audience!]

EPISODE ONE

https://youtu.be/_bn4GmIQ9co

In today’s world we’re all having to learn how to cope with the pace of change and how to respond. The pace of change is something that – as consumers – we adopt without blinking but as businesses, we get stuck with the legacy of yesteryear.

This is why adaptation is key and one of the fastest ways to grow is to understand the psychology of people and trends across this distinct and exciting region.

The region is exciting but without a sense of purpose it’s easy to drift rather than drive. The only way to drive in the right direction is to find a meaning to what you do. And then to fight for a way forward, fight until you win; fight like a gladiator. Continue reading “#OnTheCouchWith… Augmented Humanity”

BRING ON BLOCKCHAIN

 

[NB #nextmoneydxb events are regular. Sign up here, today: www.nextmoneydxb.com]

The problem with blockchain is that same problem that all today’s technologies face. Most people seem to be focused on the technology and not the benefits. The result: the man on the street might feel that blockchain isn’t of interest. But within a few years, blockchain will underpin all sorts of industries. This was a recurring theme during the last “FINTECH Hangout”, a collaboration between Next Money DXB and Emirates NBD.

blockchain
A full house at Dubai Future Accelerators for the NextMoneyDXB event, Bring On Blockchain

Blockchain is still in its infancy. One day, Zahir Khoja of MasterCard, the moderator for this first “FINTECH Hangout”, assured us, no one will Continue reading “BRING ON BLOCKCHAIN”

An anthropological study, #ONTHECOUCHWITH …

onthecouchwith_02An anthropological study of change agents in the Dubai business community.

Stepping down from the dais after being on “the breakfast panel” at the Siegle+Gale “future of branding” event a couple of months ago, I started chatting with one of the audience who had asked a specific question about the future of video branding. You could tell this Frenchman was a creative, he looked the part and his passion was evident from the outset.

This was my introduction to Gilles G Vidal, the creative director and co-founder of WOW Agency, the video content strategy team. I told him about my upcoming initiative to film business leaders with my smart phone in Dubai asking them a few questions about the future. He looked serious all of a sudden and asked simply, “Why don’t we do it properly?” And he proceeded to tell me about his upcoming work to “interview people in unusual situations, to find something more deep, based upon their own personal vision, experience, less corporate and business…but more on a human way.” And so it came to be.

With thanks to amazing art sales houses, La Galerie Nationale and Ikonhouse, Alserkal Avenue (Dubai), the first “On The Couch With” series has now been filmed; the business leaders all took a deep breath and looked into the deep recess of their minds for answers. Many were uncomfortable at the outset – lying down on a luxurious sofa in one of the art galleries – but many didn’t want to leave when their time was up, as if their session had hardly begun.

My original plan has transformed, from something of a survey trying to capture the zeitgeist; we now have captured the zeitgeist through a creatively deep, anthropological study. That sounds grand for just twenty five interviews, but it’s the start of something much bigger.

The first part of this anthropological study – to be released over coming weeks in partnership with The Arabian Marketer – examines what makes people tick and what they can see that others might have missed.

Well, to save you the suspense – and in an attempt to whet your appetite – I’ll let you know what we’ve found. Every single one of the interviewees has a burning passion, a sense of purpose and is charming. It’s the middle attribute that makes the real difference. There are plenty of passionate and charming people. But without a clear sense of purpose those passionate people are lost – or just salesmen with a target to meet.

The similarity across the interviewees may be because our anthropological study is flawed: the sample is biased. We have invited people we’ve met already, who we think are interesting and who we thought – from the outside – are driving change right now within their businesses. There’s nothing random about this sample. These people are cherry picked.

Everyone was amused by the notion of work-life balance, echoing a sentiment along the lines of ‘if you don’t like your job, if you’re watching the clock, you’re in the wrong job’. Apart from two interviewees who were fiercely pro a division – or balance if you prefer – of work and non-work. And they promote this division actively across their business teams – and use this as a recruitment and staff retention tool.

All the interviewees were prepared for the dark times ahead as business gets tough. They were not teflon-coated in their approach, but humble insofar as they will freely admit that trial and error has been an important part of their growth to date.

But apart from this there was nothing in common with the interviewees as we discussed themes including self-motivation, the tough business climate, foundations for optimism, attracting talent in this region, what is around the corner – yes they can all see round corners, apparently – and their advice for “the future generation”. They were all very individual, to be frank. And that’s what makes this an interesting study.

Please follow twitter.com/onthecouch_with for upcoming soundbites and video episodes.

This article was first published in The Arabian Marketer, January 2017.

james-welch-column

Article by James Welch, Chief Timpanist, ORCHESTRA MIDDLE EAST

The creative concept is an original idea by Gilles G Vidal, WOW Agency, Dubai

With thanks to La Galerie Nationale and Ikonhouse, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai, UAE.

Great Balls Of Fire … On The Radio

It was late in the afternoon and I could feel that it was going to be a long night ahead at the computer… and then I started to flick through my Linkedin and Facebook feeds. Damn.

I became engrossed with a theme across several posts instead of writing that big presentation. It was all those posts about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 spontaneously combusting again.

galaxynote7
Photo thanks to @aaronhsl, driving past the big hoarding on Sheikh Zayed Road, (SZR), Dubai. “Gotta be coming down from SZR soon right? It’s not smoking yet at least.”

Then my phone rang. I felt I should ignore a number I didn’t know because there was so much work to be done. But I answered, and a super-familiar voice said, “Hi James, it’s Vasti.” I knew straightaway why she sounds like a friend: she’s on that radio show. “Would you be available to come on the show again tomorrow morning and talk about…” Yes, the Samsung brand debacle.

So I did. Have a listen, it’s just ten minutes.

Continue reading “Great Balls Of Fire … On The Radio”

ARABIAN MARKETER: What will it take to challenge Google and Facebook?

In July 2016, Verizon announced it’s purchase of Yahoo! while we were on holiday in Normandy. I received an email asking if I have an opinion. Sure I have an opinion. Below are the answers to the questions that Sana Mahmoud, Group Editor, The Arabian Marketer, put to me. At the bottom is a link to the final article quoting some far more erudite people than me!

yahoo-verizon-third-force-0011. US based telco, Verizon, has followed up its AOL buyout earlier in the year with now Yahoo, reiterating its focus on content platforms. Much has been deliberated on the significance of owning content platforms – do you see this agreed buyout augments Verizon’s content play globally?

Telcos used to be about pipes and cables. Now they are quickly becoming recognised as important media owners. Verizon – the USA’s largest mobile operator – is collecting some interesting media brands: Huffington Post, AOL, Yahoo. The next six months, as the deal is closed between Yahoo and Verizon a lot will come to light.
Continue reading “ARABIAN MARKETER: What will it take to challenge Google and Facebook?”

GULF NEWS: Can networking change the face of an industry?

On a roof top in Tehran, above the offices of a digital start-up accelerator, one of the global marketing industry gurus – and a start-up mentor – was telling me about a global organisation where finance and technology experts gather to talk about what’s coming next, Next Money.

GULFNEWS NETWORKING
A version of this article appeared in Gulf News on Wed 20 July 2016, while I was on holiday in France. Where were you?!

This Australian entrepreneur, based in Singapore, at the time was a mentor to Tehran-based teatalk.io, the digital start-up where global, non-English speakers congregate to practice speaking English. He was evangelising Next Money as the networking event for the community that was – and is – changing the face of finance by giving centre stage to the tech companies who sometimes hide in the wings; the tech companies that we only hear about when they go mainstream. Continue reading “GULF NEWS: Can networking change the face of an industry?”

DubaiEye103.8 FM: The “Happy Birthday, Mike!” approach to advertising

HBD-Mike2Happy Birthday, Mike. That’s how we opened the conversation on the Industry Insider segment on Drive Live on Sunday 29 May on DubaiEye103.8 FM.

Many have been ranting of late about the demise of mass marketing and how it’s a good thing. You know, where you think broadcasting your message on mass media will promote awareness to a wide audience. Of course, it’s a waste of money since when you try to talk to everyone, you’re likely to be relevant to no-one.

Well, I stumbled upon the apparently-well-known “Happy Birthday, Mike!” approach. Am sure you’ve heard about it in one guise or another:

This man walks up to you in the shopping mall. He looks like a good bloke, dressed a bit like the way your best friends dress when they are trying to impress. He comes up to you, like he knows you from way-back and you rack your brains trying to think how you know this guy. Imagine if he’s going to come up to you and say “Hey, James (or, rather, insert your name here!), it’s been ages, remember when…” and suddenly you do remember. Only this man doesn’t say that. He has all the same mannerisms but he says to you “Happy Birthday, Mike!”. Well (for the sake of this story) it’s not your birthday. And you’re not called Mike.

How do you feel about this man now? Well, I’d feel confused or perhaps suspicious he’s trying to flog me some product or service. Or maybe even steal my wallet.

And that’s the problem today. Brands are now spraying and praying Continue reading “DubaiEye103.8 FM: The “Happy Birthday, Mike!” approach to advertising”

The era of mass marketing is now truly over

June8-2016.001With the second quarter nearly over, it must be time to start to make predictions for 2017. Why?

Because everyone is still “uncertain” about 2016 and “bullish” about 2017 in the “run up to 2020”.

Rather than debate the oil price, regional turmoil and subsequent market fluctuations, one thing is for sure — 2016 isn’t as buoyant a market as many had hoped.

And budgets are being cut. Sure, it’s not 2008 all over again. But let me repeat budgets are being cut. And when that happens every dollar spent needs to be scrutinised even more than before.

Which is why by the end of 2016, there will be no more mass marketing.

Wooing niche audiences is everything. Do you remember Chris Anderson’s 2006 book, The Long Tail. In this oft-quoted tome, he spoke of Amazon’s ability to sell obscure books to obscure people while the high-street retailers only have space to sell the mainstream units. And this is now being adopted across all industries.

I was at the Step Conference in Dubai the other day. Startups and venture capitalists, mainly. And when you look at all the startups, each one of them solves a very singular problem for a niche audience.

A niche audience that will be big soon. Or so their business plan will assure you.

There’s no other reason to set up a business. It has to solve a problem. We set up Blue Logic to help businesses harness their data and add content that collects eyeballs. Monitor what the audience is doing and give them more of what they want. And monetise. Simple, right?

I met at the Step conference a startup called My-Sign.com, a new Continue reading “The era of mass marketing is now truly over”

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