INTERVIEW: Influencer marketing has matured a lot in the region

INTERVIEW: Influencer marketing has matured a lot in the region
AnyTag has a social media analytics module that enables users to track key statistics on a brand’s own social media channels. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 December 2021

INTERVIEW: Influencer marketing has matured a lot in the region

INTERVIEW: Influencer marketing has matured a lot in the region
  • Maha Mahdy, head of AnyTag for AnyMind Group in MENA, discusses influencer marketing’s growth and evolution in the region

DUBAI: AnyMind Group, a brand enablement platform for influencers, marketers, publishers and businesses, recently announced new updates to its influencer marketing platform, AnyTag, which it launched at the beginning of this year.

Since launching the AnyTag platform for marketers and the AnyCreator mobile app for influencers in the Middle East and North Africa region, the company has seen significant growth with a current database of more than 5000 influencers across 11 countries, and agency partners and marketers including Pizza Hut and Talabat.

The new features on AnyTag include automated recommendations of similar influencers through lookalike modeling of an influencer’s content, the detection of brands an influencer has worked with in the past, and the identification and visualization of hashtags an influencer frequently uses.

AnyTag also has a social media analytics module that enables users to track key statistics on a brand’s own social media channels, together with competitor analysis, hashtag analysis and interactions analysis to identify the performance of mentioned and tagged posts of a brand by social media users.

Arab News spoke to Maha Mahdy, head of AnyTag for AnyMind Group in MENA, to discuss the evolution of influencer marketing from the days of YouTube and Facebook to Snapchat and TikTok.




Maha Mahdy, head of AnyTag for AnyMind Group in MENA. (Supplied)

Influencer marketing has been around for a while. How has it changed and where is it at today?

Over the past two years, influencer marketing got a really big boost in popularity; in part, due to the fact that there were a lot of budgets to spend, which would otherwise have been spent on things like events and so on, which got canceled.

There was also a huge shift in how influencer marketing operated in the past two years because everybody was adapting to the new normal. So, we saw people trying out different platforms and topics. For example, travel influencers were no longer traveling so they would talk about other topics such as fitness.

With that shift in platforms, formats and topics, brands started to jump on to see if there were new ways to work with influencers that didn’t necessarily fit the brand before.

One of the most interesting things about influencer marketing in the region is that it has matured a lot — both from a client and influencer perspective.

What does that maturity look like for clients and how is it reflected in the marketing?

If the target audience wants something, you need to find a way to give it to them and put your brand in the messaging. And so brands have started to let go of the reins; they held on very tightly for the past five years because it’s very difficult to trust somebody from outside the organization to communicate on your behalf.

But, it’s about finding that sweet spot — how do I, as a brand, give them (influencers) guidelines but then let them create the content? That’s massive maturity for a brand.

As marketers maintain that balancing act between their own corporate guidelines and influencers’ creative freedom, what are the things that they need to keep in mind when working with influencers?

One of the key things is to let go of the reins a little bit. Another thing that you would think is quite basic, but is still so important, is choosing the right influencer — it’s so crucial to select the right influencer to work with.

A lot of brands are still looking at the number of followers an influencer has, and quite frankly that doesn’t give you much on what an influencer can do for you. That’s why we have a multi-point, data-driven approach through the AnyTag platform wherein we look at everything from influencers’ engagement metrics to demographics.

There also needs to be brand synergy. When people see this person talking about your brand, does it make sense or does it look forced? We also look at things like their collaboration history, which includes whether they have worked with competitors or have bad-mouthed the brand in the past.

Looking at the platform side of influencer marketing, how has that changed from it being predominantly Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to now Snapchat and TikTok?

Selecting the right platform is one of the most important things when we’re planning out a campaign and that comes down to the target audience. We’re also looking at the category, so, for example, when it comes to fashion, we know Instagram is inspirational and aspirational; with gamers, it’s YouTube.

The target audience and category work hand in hand. So, if I’m looking to target Gen Z, instantly our first thought is exploring TikTok. However, if I want to communicate with Saudi moms, I have to integrate Snapchat, because these target groups live and breathe TikTok and Snapchat respectively.

Then there’s also the format. Using the same examples, Gen Z and Saudi moms both like quick content formats so TikTok and Snapchat make sense versus older millennials who would like a good 15-minute IGTV video on an interesting topic.

Is there any particular platform that outperforms others for influencer marketing?

Looking at the campaigns we have run on AnyTag, I can see a clear preference for Instagram in the MENA region. The reason for that is the ease of use of the platform, a very high level of data availability, and the numerous content formats. Instagram really won the game with content formats because it has everything from Stories, to photos, to different video formats like Reels, which is quick, and IGTV, which is long-form.

So, Instagram dominated the space but TikTok also cemented its position last year and YouTube will always be a strong player for the MENA region because there are really strong technology and gaming influencers, as well as children’s channels, on the platform. In Saudi Arabia, however, I would rank Snapchat as high as Instagram, but that’s only in KSA as we don’t see much demand for it outside the Kingdom.


Woman claims her avatar was sexually assaulted in the metaverse

Woman claims her avatar was sexually assaulted in the metaverse
Updated 27 May 2022

Woman claims her avatar was sexually assaulted in the metaverse

Woman claims her avatar was sexually assaulted in the metaverse
  • SumOfUs director Vicky Wyatt said that while the attack did not take place in real life, “it still counts, it still has a real impact on users”  
  • Wyatt said that Meta needs to act now to deal with issues as it is not the first time Horizon Worlds accused of virtual harassment 

LONDON: A 21-year-old researcher with corporate accountability campaign group SumOfUs claimed on Thursday that her avatar was sexually assaulted in Meta’s virtual reality platform Horizon Worlds. 

In the footage, the woman’s avatar is seen in a virtual room in Horizon Worlds with two male avatars. One of the avatars is watching while the other appears very close to the woman. Both of the male avatars are seen making sexual comments.

SumOfUs director Vicky Wyatt said that while the attack did not take place in real life, “it still counts, it still has a real impact on users.”  

The group claims that the researcher also witnessed homophobic slurs and virtual gun violence.

Wyatt said that Meta needs to act now to deal with issues.

 

 

“Rather than Facebook rushing headlong into building this metaverse, we’re saying look, you need to stop and look at all the harms that are happening on your platforms right now that you can’t even deal with. Let’s not repeat and replicate those in the metaverse. We need a better plan here on how to mitigate online harms in the metaverse.”

This is not the first time Meta’s Horizon Worlds has been subject to allegations of virtual harassment and sexual assault. 

In February, a psychotherapist spoke out about her experience of being “virtually gang raped” in Facebook’s metaverse, citing that the technological advancement of the simulation made it feel like it had happened in real life.

The metaverse researcher said that she was left “shocked” after three or four avatars attacked her moments after she stepped into the virtual world.

Following the incident, Meta added more safety features to prevent similar attacks, such as “Personal Boundary,” which stops users from imposing on each other’s personal space and is activated by default.


Palestinians: Israel deliberately killed Al Jazeera reporter

Palestinians: Israel deliberately killed Al Jazeera reporter
Updated 26 May 2022

Palestinians: Israel deliberately killed Al Jazeera reporter

Palestinians: Israel deliberately killed Al Jazeera reporter
  • The findings echoed the results of a preliminary investigation announced nearly two weeks ago and were widely expected
  • Witnesses and Palestinian officials have said she was hit by Israeli fire

RAMALLAH, West Bank: The Palestinian Authority on Thursday announced the results of its investigation into the shooting death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, saying it had proven she was deliberately killed by Israeli forces as she tried to flee.
The findings echoed the results of a preliminary investigation announced nearly two weeks ago and were widely expected. Israel is likely to reject the report as biased and unfounded.
Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American reporter for Al Jazeera’s Arabic service, was shot in the head on May 11 during an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
Witnesses and Palestinian officials have said she was hit by Israeli fire. Israel says she was shot during a battle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants. It says that only a ballistic analysis of the bullet — which is held by the Palestinian Authority — and the soldiers’ guns can determine who fired the fatal shot.
Announcing the results of his probe at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah,, Palestinian Attorney General Akram Al Khateeb said he had determined there were no militants in the immediate area where Abu Akleh was located.
“The only shooting was by the occupation forces, with the aim of killing,” he said.
Abu Akleh was in a group of journalists wearing helmets and protective vests marked “press.” He said the army saw the journalists and knew they were journalists.
He accused Israel of shooting her “directly and deliberately” as she tried to escape. He also repeated the Palestinian position that the bullet will not be handed over to the Israelis for study. He said they decided not even to show images of the bullet “to deprive them of a new lie.”
Al Khateeb said his investigation was based on interviews with witnesses, an inspection of the scene and a forensic medical report.
There was no immediate response from Israel.
Israel denies targeting journalists and has offered two possible scenarios, saying she was either shot by Palestinian militants who were firing recklessly at an Israeli army convoy or that she was hit by Israeli gunfire aimed at a nearby militant. The military has identified the rifle that may have been used in that scenario, but says it needs to test the bullet to make any final determination.
An AP reconstruction of events has lent support to eyewitnesses who say she was shot by Israeli troops. But the reconstruction said it was impossible to reach a conclusive finding without further forensic analysis.
Palestinian witnesses say there were no militants or clashes anywhere near her. The only known militants in the area were on the other side of the convoy, some 300 meters (yards) from her position. They did not have a direct line of sight, unlike the convoy itself, which was some 200 (meters) away on a long straight road.
Israel has publicly called for a joint investigation with the PA, with US participation, and has asked the PA to hand over the bullet for testing. But the State Department said Wednesday that it had received no formal request for assistance from either side two weeks after her death.
The PA has refused to hand over the bullet to Israel or cooperate with it in any way, saying Israel cannot be trusted to investigate its own conduct. Rights groups say Israel has a poor record of investigating when security forces shoot Palestinians, with cases often languishing for months or years before being quietly closed.
The PA administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Hussein Al Sheikh, a top Palestinian official, said Thursday’s report would be shared with the US administration. Copies will also be delivered to her family and to Al Jazeera, he said.
The Palestinians say they will share their results with international parties, including the International Criminal Court, which launched an investigation into possible Israeli war crimes last year. Israel has rejected that probe as being biased against it and is not cooperating with it.
The severe distrust means the Israeli and Palestinian investigations into Abu Akleh’s death are unfolding separately, with neither likely to accept any conclusions reached by the other.
Each side is in sole possession of potentially crucial evidence. Ballistic analysis could match the bullet to a specific firearm based on a microscopic signature, but only if investigators have access to both. Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler, a military spokesman, told the AP the military has additional footage from that day, but declined to say what it shows or when it would be released, citing the ongoing investigation.
Palestinians are still mourning Abu Akleh, a widely known and respected on-air correspondent who rose to fame two decades ago, during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli rule. The 51-year-old documented the harsh realities of life under Israeli military rule — now well into its sixth decade with no end in sight — for viewers across the Arab world.
Jenin has long been a bastion of Palestinian militants, and several recent attacks inside Israel have been carried out by young men from in and around the town. Israel has continued to carry out near-daily raids in Jenin since Abu Akleh’s death, which it says are aimed at preventing more.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war and has built settlements where nearly 500,000 Israelis live alongside nearly 3 million Palestinians. The Palestinians want the territory to form the main part of their future state, but peace talks broke down more than a decade ago, and Israel’s dominant right-wing parties are opposed to Palestinian statehood.
The PA itself is seen by many Palestinians as a corrupt and authoritarian body that aids the occupation by coordinating with Israel on security matters. Any cooperation with Israel on the Abu Akleh investigation would likely spark a popular backlash among Palestinians, who view her as a martyr to both journalism and their national cause.


Saudi Film Commission launches incentive program to boost local film and creative industry

Saudi Film Commission launches incentive program to boost local film and creative industry
Updated 26 May 2022

Saudi Film Commission launches incentive program to boost local film and creative industry

Saudi Film Commission launches incentive program to boost local film and creative industry
  • Incentive program will offer financial refunds of up to 40 percent for local and international producers shooting in the Kingdom
  • SFC CEO Abdullah Al Ayyaf: We are happy to welcome local, regional and international production companies to apply for the incentive program and produce in the Kingdom

CANNES: The Saudi Film Commission has announced an incentive program offering financial refunds of up to 40 percent for local and international producers shooting in the Kingdom.

The program provides significant support to local, regional and international film producers for shows and movies shot in Saudi Arabia, thereby boosting the film and production industry and creative economy in the Kingdom.

The commission has called on both Saudi and international production companies that are planning to partially or fully shoot in Saudi Arabia to apply for the incentive program through the website www.film.sa.

They will then be able to benefit from the financial refunds of up to 40 percent of expenses eligible for incentives according to criteria that include cooperating with local staff and talents and highlighting geographical and cultural landmarks in the Kingdom.

Abdullah Al Ayyaf, CEO of the commission, said: “We are happy to welcome local, regional and international production companies to apply for the incentive program and produce in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

He added that the Saudi film industry is growing as the Kingdom continues to “invest in developing the local efficiencies, infrastructure and regulations to ensure our ability to support all business sectors.”

Over the last 18 months, Saudi Arabia has hosted three major Hollywood productions: Ric Roman Waugh’s action thriller “Kandahar” filmed in AlUla; Rupert Wyatt’s historical epic “Desert Warrior” shot in Neom, and the Russo Brothers’ crime drama “Cherry” shot in AlUla and the capital Riyadh.

In the last year, eight local features have been produced and are now ready to be aired at leading film festivals, along with various documentaries, commercials and local productions including “Norah” written and directed by Tawfik Alzaidi and “Within Sand” directed by Moe Alatawi.
Both films were recipients of a fund award at the Saudi Film Commission’s Daw Film Competition, an initiative launched by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture to support Saudi film production.

The announcement was made during the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.


Meta launches first Mideast Spark AR Challenge

Meta launches first Mideast Spark AR Challenge
Updated 26 May 2022

Meta launches first Mideast Spark AR Challenge

Meta launches first Mideast Spark AR Challenge
  • More than $50,000 in cash prizes on offer
  • Through the challenge, creators across the world will be among the first to experience the transformative potential of the metaverse

DUBAI: Meta, in collaboration with Coders HQ and the Museum of the Future, announced the launch of the first global Spark AR Challenge in the Middle East.
The challenge will be held under the theme of “Tomorrow Today — What will the next decade bring?” It encourages creators to visualize the impact of technology and innovation on future lifestyles, mobility, work and communication by designing augmented reality (AR) effects using Meta’s AR tool, Spark AR.
Fares Akkad, regional director for MENA, Meta, said: “As Meta builds for the metaverse, the developer and creator community will play a crucial role in bridging the gap between the physical, augmented and virtual worlds. Through the challenge, creators across the world will be among the first to experience the transformative potential of the metaverse.”
The program, which is running from May 23 to June 17, challenges participants to use AR to identify how modern technologies will improve wellbeing across various sectors.
The Spark AR challenge is supported by Coders HQ, which aims to empower programmers with digital skills and train them to use programming languages in line with the UAE’s national efforts.
Omar Sultan Al-Olama, UAE minister of state for artificial intelligence, digital economy and remote work applications, said: “The global Spark AR Challenge that has been organized for the first time in Middle East keeps pace with the rapid developments in the sectors that are related to human life and driven by modern technology, data and digital solutions.”
He added: “It contributes to simulating innovation, finding viable proactive solutions, and continuous improvement to build a digital economy based on knowledge and innovation.”
Emirates and Accenture have also partnered with the program. As part of the partnership, participants will be asked to create AR effects around “Mobility of Tomorrow” for Emirates and the “Opportunities of the Future” for Accenture.
Winners will get the chance to have their winning effects featured on Emirates’ and Accenture’s social media pages as well as a chance to win cash prizes amounting to more than $50,000.
Meta is also offering participants the chance to enhance their skills through workshops with two expert AR developers: Kym Fiala, a Spark AR network partner and co-founder of South Africa-based digital agency Pixel Chefs; and Balraj Bains, a creative designer, project manager and freelance AR creator based in the UK.


Metaverse-into-reality event Metacon to take place in Dubai this month

Metaverse-into-reality event Metacon to take place in Dubai this month
Each ticket comes with a Metacon One NFT Token. (Supplied)
Updated 26 May 2022

Metaverse-into-reality event Metacon to take place in Dubai this month

Metaverse-into-reality event Metacon to take place in Dubai this month
  • The event will feature 4 zones: MetaStage, MetaConnect, MetaArena and MetaSpaces

DUBAI: The first edition of Metacon, a one-of-a-kind “metaverse into reality” pop culture convention, is set to take place on May 28 and 29 in Dubai with tickets being sold as non-fungible tokens.

Each ticket comes with a Metacon One NFT Token, giving visitors always-on access to exclusive NFT drops, satellite events, networking sessions and more at Metacon and upcoming events.

The event aims to highlight the latest technologies in blockchain gaming and tech, eSports, NFTs, Web3, art, music and entertainment. Metacon will be divided into four zones: MetaStage, MetaConnect, MetaArena and MetaSpaces.

MetaStage will host sessions and panel discussions on the hottest topics about the metaverse; MetaConnect will feature workshops focused on practical and useful tips on kick-starting one’s blockchain journey; MetaSpaces will function as an exhibition zone, and MetaArena will be dedicated to eSports and blockchain gaming.  

The MetaStage will bring together speakers such as Dr. Marwan Al-Zarouni, member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council and CEO of the Dubai Blockchain Centre, and Jason Brink, president of blockchain at Gala Games. The panels include topics like “Metaverse Real Estate versus Traditional Real Estate by Damac Properties,” “Ethereum Towers and Master Ventures,” “The Metaverse and How it Can Save our Climate Crisis,” and “Play-to-Earn: The Future of Gaming.”

The event will also host the Metavator Challenge, a pitch competition and the first-of-its-kind platform for innovators in the metaverse, NFT, gaming and Web3, with prizes including AED 75,000 ($20,400) in cash, NFTs, mentorship support and investor connections.

The MetaArena stage will see eight international guilds competing in the first-ever blockchain, multi-game eSports tournament featuring titles such as “Axie Infinity,” “Thetan Arena” and “Spider Tank” with a $50,000 cash prize pool.

Metacon is organized by OnChain Events, the brainchild of Abdelrahman Mohammed, one of the UAE’s eSports pioneers who currently sits on the advisory board for the Emirates eSports Federation; Kyle Chasse, a cryptocurrency industry veteran and technology entrepreneur, and Domain Entertainment, a pop culture consultancy firm created by the co-founders of events such as the Middle East Film and Comic Con and ANI:ME.

“We now see ourselves at the exact spot when we first came together in 2010, at a time when pop culture was only consumed by a small eager community that was excited to discover, learn and grow together,” said Somaya Soeryadiredja, managing partner of Domain Entertainment.

“A lot of heart and hard work went into building events into well-loved IPs in the region, and we hope to create the same love for the metaverse through Metacon,” she added.