Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mike Gillam got balls of steel

One has to admit the serious balls Mike Gillam must have to stand up to publishers and demand audits. It's the kind of thing that either makes him a legend or breaks him completely. Apparently there are many who have threatened him personally, but he's not naming names. However, truth be told, MindShare is high on the list of those who would definitely be taking a very hostile stance against Mr. Gillam.

Audits not only help advertisers but PR firms as well. People seem to overlook the parallel line PR takes with advertising. Perhaps it is because PR has an estimated value as opposed to a concrete figure, but at the end of the day, all figures add up. Today's PR firms grade publications in order to avoid relying on circulation. Of course, one cannot completely omit circulation from the overall formula, but it is marginalized since it is completely pointless without audits.

From Dubai Media Observer, we say, kudos to you Mr. Gillam. We are fully behind you.

Cultural sensitivities are amiss

Herbal Essences commercial on TV is rather disturbing. There aren't many creative ways to advertise for a shampoo if you don't show the hair. However, it is ridiculous how the ad shows the woman wearing a Hijab that she later takes off, 'liberating herself'.

Personally, I identify with the concept -- but one has to understand the kind of cultural sensitivity we have in the region. Taking off the Hijab is not exactly considered a liberating act.

Let us try and not mention the name of the advertising agency responsible for this, but rest assured it will be mentioned should they screw up again.

When freedom of speech is stupid

Everyone and their dog thinks freedom of speech is such an important part of life. Well, that's in societies where every family has a dog. The Danish seem to think so. When the Danish Jyllands-Posten, Denmark's largest circulation daily printed caricatures depicting Mohammed, the Muslim's prophet, the Muslim world was outraged. Norwegian Christian paper, Magazinet, followed suit recently, reprinting the same caricatures, which do not hold the prophet in kind light, either.

"Just like Jyllands-Posten, I have become sick of the ongoing hidden erosion of the freedom of expression," wrote Magazinet Editor Vebjoern Selbekk.

The problem here is that this has affected all Danish and Scandinavian products in the region. The Saudi's are calling for a boycott and they are very serious about it. Why would Lurpak, for instance, have to suffer because some editor thinks that printing offensive caricatures is a way to combat the erosion of the freedom of expression as he put it?

Freedom of speech is all fine, but offending people needlessly, under the pretext of 'freedom of speech' only hurts your economy. Think about it. Now you have all those companies having to fight a PR scandal that they have had nothing to do with. Well, at least it's keeping the PR companies busy here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Media free zones spree

January 3rd witnessed the launch of the RAK Media Free Zone. Late 2005 we also heard about Fujairah's plans for Fujairah Creative City. Every emirate is trying to jump on the media free zone bandwagon. What those emirates are seeing is smaller companies suffering as a result of spiraling rents in addition to the simple lack of office space.

Dubai Media City seems to have no issues giving out licenses to companies, taking their money for the first 3 months' rent and simply saying, "Sorry, we cannot tell you when we will be able to provide you with office space." When an investor protests, they tell them to go elsewhere if they don't like it. Well, RAK and Fujairah saw an opportunity.

The question is, will RAK and Fujairah be able to match Dubai's success in building a brand for their emirates? Dubai Media City didn't come out of nowhere like the others. It built its reputation on Dubai's. Will cheaper rent justify the move of big players to those new free zones or will it simply attract the smaller fish?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Blog advertising

There seem to be mixed feelings from the blog service providers in the region about the advertising potential of blogs. Mark Saunt of the Al Bawaba Group says it is "somewhat unethical and generally a waste of money for the advertiser." whereas Jeeran's Omar Koudsi claims that "Blogs, being one of the most powerful web tools by far, are offering endless opportunities in the advertising world. Soon we will see more large advertisers turning to blogs to increase sincerity of their campaigns."

It is worth noting that Mr. Koudsi comes from a technical background, spitting a bunch of techie jargon in his interview on Campaign, while Mr. Saunt comes off as one who takes the moral high ground.

What both can't seem to understand is that advertisers will never advertise with 'random' blogs. However, an advertiser may want to advertise with very popular blogs (Secret Dubai Diary comes to mind, for UAE blogs). There is no question that advertisers will sooner or later look into advertising on blogs seriously.

The question that no one seems to be asking is, how does this affect the legitimacy of a blogger allowing major advertisers to advertise there? Where do PR agencies stand on this? Currently, not a single PR or media monitoring agency has begun to even attempt to monitor blogs. For the most part, most folks in the media industry are still not taking blogging seriously enough. This is going to change as more quality and topic-specific blogs begin to surface. What do you think?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Campaign awards

Campaign Middle East emerged into the scene antagonizing just about everyone in the industry. On many occasions media professionals would call the folks at Campaign "the outcasts who were rejected by the industry, now seeking revenge." It is interesting how this strategy has worked out so well for them. In fact, it has now become a rather popular publication, read by the same people who despise it very much.

Now with the "Campaign Awards" coming up, it is rather amusing how everyone now is actually looking forward to those awards. Kudos to the folks at Campaign for bringing some refreshing change to the industry.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Audit or shut it?

It is no secret that advertising is an extremely important part of any marketing plan for any organization. It's not something only newly launched companies need, but even existing and well established companies absolutely need to sustain its position and growth.

Advertising costs have consistently been increasing in the Middle East. Increasing costs for what is already overpriced is nothing new to the region. What is interesting here is that this is happening despite pleads, followed by threats by major advertisers to audit publications. Those very publications that are failing to audit are the ones increasing the advertising rates.

Could it possibly be, that they are attempting to maintain their revenue from the expected boycott from some of the main players in the advertising industry? If so, such tactics will not last for very long. Only big players can afford to pay such high rates and so that takes them back to square 1.

Auditing may be a bad thing for some in the short-term. However, it most certainly is going to be of benefit to a lot of publications, giving them legitimacy and proof of their success. Or will it?