When Arab News arrived in Japan

When Arab News arrived in Japan
Ali Itani, region head for Japan of Arab News, Faisal J Abbas, the paper’s editor-in-chief, and Abe Shinzo, the Japanese Prime Minister in Riyadh. (AN)
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Updated 20 April 2020

When Arab News arrived in Japan

When Arab News arrived in Japan
  • In a first for a media outlet in the Arab world, we launched an online edition in Japanese
  • The launch took place in Tokyo on Oct. 21, 2019, the day before Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement

TOKYO: On Oct. 21, 2019, Arab News did something no other media outlet from the Arab world has done: Launch a dedicated online edition in Japanese, as part of its ongoing global expansion.

The launch, which took place in Tokyo the day before the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito, was a reflection of the cordial business, trading and cultural relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan.

The news website, www.arabnews.jp, which is available in both Japanese and English, focuses on enabling an exchange of information between Japan and the Arab world in a number of fields, including business, current affairs, and arts and culture.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Kono Taro, the Japanese minister of defense, said: “It will be good to have news in Japanese so many Japanese can read about the Arab world.

“We need to know what people in the Middle East are actually thinking, what is happening on a daily basis, and we didn’t have a source for that, but now Arab News is in Japan.”

Kono reacted with great encouragement when Faisal J. Abbas, the editor-in-chief of Arab News, raised the idea of a Japanese edition of the newspaper when he met Kono, at the time the minister of foreign affairs, for an interview in July, 2019. Japan hosted the G20 last year, before a historic handover of the presidency to Saudi Arabia for 2020. The Kingdom is the first Arab and Islamic country afforded the honor.

The Japanese edition of Arab News is the first international edition published in a language other than English, and the second after the successful launch of Arab News Pakistan edition. The launches are in line with what Abbas described as “part of our more digital, more global direction.”

“Japan is a long-time, reliable strategic partner and friend,” Majid Al-Qasabi, the Saudi minister for commerce and investment, said during the launch in Tokyo.

“Since 1955, business has been great between the two countries. We appreciate all the cooperation, the partnerships and the business with the Japanese community. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a special relationship, especially the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, with the new Emperor.

“We hope that Japan will have a fruitful future and I would like to congratulate Arab News; this is a great opportunity, a moment in history.”

Koike Yuriko, the first female governor of Tokyo, also congratulated Arab News at the launch of the Japanese edition. She is no stranger to the Middle East and the Arab world: she spent five years in Cairo in the 1970s, and studied Arabic at the American University in the Egyptian capital, graduating in sociology.

Less than three months after its launch, Arab News Japan was quoted by Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Motegi Toshimitsu during a press briefing. He cited a special report by the newspaper titled “How Arabs view Japan,” which was based on a survey conducted by Arab News in conjunction with YouGov. The report, which asked more than 3,000 Arabs in 18 countries for their views and perspectives on Japan, was widely circulated in the Japanese media.

Arab News Japan was also in a unique position when former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn fled from Japan to Lebanon while facing allegations of financial improprieties in his business activities. It was able to deliver regular updates and reports about the case, including exclusive interviews carried out in Lebanon, to the Japanese people in their own language.

This year began with a landmark visit by Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo to Saudi Arabia to discuss matters of State with King Salman in Riyadh and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in AlUla.

Arab News produced extensive coverage of the three-day visit to the region, including a special edition printed to mark the occasion. In addition, the newspaper was honored when the prime minister personally thanked the editor in chief for the launch of the Japanese edition during a private meeting, at which Abe was presented with a special hand-drawn cover in Japanese welcoming him to the Kingdom.

• Ali Saleh Itani is the region head for Japan at Arab News and oversees ANJP.

 


‘How do we get smarter? With better data’

‘How do we get smarter? With better data’
Updated 22 January 2021

‘How do we get smarter? With better data’

‘How do we get smarter? With better data’
  • Media innovator Tarek Daouk on the key trends shaping the Middle East’s business future

DUBAI: In January 2020, Tarek Daouk, CEO of media and advertising group Dentsu MENA, sat with his leadership team discussing what they believed was a generally optimistic year ahead for business. Fast-forward six weeks later and the whole world was in crisis.

“There was no way to predict what was going to happen, and how fast and how bad this was going to affect people and businesses across the world,” he said, recalling the widespread uncertainty at the time.

Although Daouk hopes COVID-19 vaccines will help the world get back on its feet, “the unpredictability of how we plan and make the business flexible enough to react to things that we cannot predict will always be there.”

Business challenges

The key challenges that businesses faced in 2020 — and will continue to face as the economy improves — are supply and demand, and cost infrastructure.

Daouk said that many clients faced logistical challenges due to restrictions on supply from outside the region, resulting in a delay in business activities.

“Obviously, this is easiest to sort out as things go back to normal,” he said.

However, the bigger issue is that of demand. Due to lack of job stability and an economic downturn, consumers became wary and even as the supply chain returns to normal, it will be a while before consumer confidence bounces back.

“That’s also the role of businesses, especially marketing and advertising, to restore people’s confidence in investment,” he added.

The second challenge is that of cost infrastructure across cities and sectors in the region where the cost of doing business was already high. Rents, especially, play a major role, with businesses forced to close their offices still paying high rents.

Geopolitical scenario

However, Daouk sees a silver lining largely on the back of Dubai and Saudi Arabia’s potential. It is an ideal time for Dubai to play a role as a hub beyond the MENA region.

Due to its location, Dubai is a strategic spot for businesses operating across Europe, Asia and the MENA region, which is critical at a time when Europe is still relatively locked down.

“I have met a few companies that are headquartered in Europe and many are considering relocating their headquarters to Dubai,” he said.

Moreover, as company structures change, there is room for a more mobile headquarters, which can be moved from one country to another depending on the business’ focus market at a given time.

Saudi Arabia is Dentsu’s largest and most significant market in the region with the highest per capita gross domestic product. Vision 2030 has opened up new avenues of doing business in the Kingdom that are already attracting investment, with the Kingdom’s investment in tourism and local entertainment giving the country a big push and strong potential to bounce back, Daouk said.

Increased digitization

With investments in digital advertising climbing well over 50 percent of the total ad spend in 2020, it is clear that businesses are seeing the benefits and reaping the rewards of their investments.

Daouk highlights the move toward digitization for business transformation, with companies investing in moving data to the cloud through products such as Microsoft Azure, and using the data to model business and advertising decisions.

“It allows you to put a layer of analytics on top of the data to help these businesses in their decision making, which will transform to a better, smarter, more personal experience for the consumers,” he said.

Lack of advertising measurement

Dentsu MENA has helped a retail client move its data to the cloud with a predictive modelling exercise to help the sales team by collecting data from all touchpoints — from the store to an online ad.

The businesses data is much more robust than the advertising data. For instance, digital media consumption data is provided by the digital platforms without any third-party auditing. Similarly, measurability for offline media consumption remains a challenge.

Daouk said that there are initiatives in the pipeline to improve measurability, with plans to launch people meters to measure TV in Saudi Arabia. But for now, he said, “we are getting faster, bigger, more accurate data — marketing data — much faster than what we get on media consumption.”

Decline in advertising spend

The global decline in ad spend in 2020 is forecasted to be around 9 percent, but in the MENA region it has fallen by up to 25 percent.

The obvious reason behind the decline is the pandemic. However, there are other factors at play. The increase in the digitization of business transformation, for instance, has taken budgets away from advertising.

However, according to Daouk, the disparity in the decline of ad spends in the region compared with the global figure began in 2016. Most ad budgets for the MENA region are decided globally and he has noticed a decline over the years in budgets allocated to the region. This could be attributed to a softness in the market that began in 2016, coupled with reduced consumer spending and a high cost of doing business.

Moreover, as other markets such as Asia began growing, they also commanded a higher share of the global ad budget.

“This is why there might be an opportunity for the region now. The role of the region is changing, but we need to bring trust, and trust can only be brought through measurability, governance and data,” he said.