INTERVIEW: TikTok’s Fahad Almaghrabi on travel in the age of TikTok

INTERVIEW: TikTok’s Fahad Almaghrabi on travel in the age of TikTok
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Fahad Almaghrabi, head of business partnerships at Global Business Solutions for TikTok in Saudi Arabia.
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Fahad Almaghrabi, head of business partnerships at Global Business Solutions for TikTok in Saudi Arabia.
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Updated 06 August 2022

INTERVIEW: TikTok’s Fahad Almaghrabi on travel in the age of TikTok

INTERVIEW: TikTok’s Fahad Almaghrabi on travel in the age of TikTok
  • In Saudi Arabia, more than 70 percent of people look at TikTok for discovering travel ideas

RIYADH: Digital platforms have changed people’s lives across every area from work to play, and travel is no exception. Online and social media have changed how people discover destinations and deals, how they book their travel, and even how they share their travel experiences.

In Saudi Arabia, for instance, residents start dreaming about travel 10 weeks before their journey, with video and digital platforms inspiring 50 percent of their choice of destination, according to Fahad Almaghrabi, head of business partnerships at Global Business Solutions for TikTok in Saudi Arabia.

More than 70 percent of people look at TikTok for discovering travel ideas, while 64 percent book a trip after getting inspired by TikTok content, he added.

Arab News spoke to Almaghrabi to learn more about the role the short-form video platform plays in travel.

Tell us more about travelers today and how they have changed in the last decade

Over the past two decades, digital platforms have transformed how we live our lives, permeating every sphere of activity, and shaping how we interact with each other and the world around us.

This generation of “always-in market” travelers — dreaming, considering, or booking a getaway throughout the year — have also developed a penchant for a real and authentic travel experience, and that’s why they love going to their community for trustworthy travel inspiration.

Today’s intrepid travelers are just as keen to share their compelling stories and authentic visuals of journeys on entertainment platforms like TikTok, rounding off a creative cycle that in turn inspires countless others.

A study by Amp Agency found that 84 percent of millennials and 73 percent of non-millennials today were highly likely to plan a trip based on someone else’s vacation photos or videos or social media status updates.

How does this affect the way tourism destinations market themselves?

These authentic vignettes have re-ignited the demand for travel and significantly altered how destinations are being marketed globally, with travel and tourism marketers increasingly leveraging the opportunity presented by this new breed of digital platforms.

What role does TikTok play in this space?

This is a journey in which TikTok has taken the global lead as a disruptive platform with undeniable potential and momentum — and the Gulf and Middle East markets are no exception.

But TikTok’s success in becoming the platform of choice for travelers and in shaping digital travel and tourism trends across the industry is no happenstance.

Travel and tourism is a key segment of interest for a global and expansive hyper-engaged community of more than 1.8 billion users that straddles all markets and is growing at an astounding rate. This provides the perfect backdrop for TikTok to emerge as a platform where the community is primed not only to consume, but also to express themselves and tell their stories through authentic, visual, and geo-tagged content that is at once enticing and liberating.

This is enabled by easy-to-use editing tools, native content on the platform, and creators that fuel dynamic content.

This powerful combination of the medium and the message amplifies TikTok's power as a creative platform and enables it to be the internet’s repertoire of travel & tourism inspiration.

TikTok is that intimate, accessible, and inspirational window through which travelers take a trip before deciding if it’s worth it — the trip before the trip.

Can you give us some examples of how TikTok has influenced travel decisions?

While TikTok continues to induce FOMO in would-be travelers with content highlighting some of the world’s most beautiful and established destinations, there are also plenty of examples of TikTok’s effectiveness in driving a surge of interest to hitherto unknown destinations, which led to a dramatic rise in tourist footfalls overnight.

At least 83 percent of Saudi residents have either gone or plan to go on an international trip in the next six months with Egypt, UAE, and Turkey being the top short-haul and France and Germany being the top long-haul destinations.

HIGHLIGHT

Today’s intrepid travelers are just as keen to share their compelling stories and authentic visuals of journeys on entertainment platforms like TikTok, rounding off a creative cycle that in turn inspires countless others.

More significantly, 74 percent of users were found to look for travel discoveries on TikTok and 73 percent were found to have impulse purchased their trip in a short span of time.

What does this mean for brands?

With such lucrative figures at their disposal, brands can natively integrate into major travel conversations and leverage the community to speak with them, about them, and for them.

In essence, this represents a paradigm shift in the typical acquisition process for travel and tourism operators to stand out within an increasingly saturated ecosystem and collapse the sales funnel to move travelers directly from the “inspiration” phase to the “booking” phase.

Whether it’s the assortment of clever hacks, unadulterated advice, safety tips or the sheer visual appeal of short-format videos, the power of TikTok in shaping and inspiring the Kingdom's travel trends is an opportunity that could become a model for authentic and organic tourism in the years to come.

Can you share some examples of how TikTok has boosted the visibility of a tourist destination?

In a year of restricted travel, the UAE launched the “World’s Coolest Winter” campaign to highlight all the amazing sights and activities the Emirates has to offer.

For the campaign to realize its full potential on TikTok, the ‘7’ was created, using one of TikTok’s recognizable hand gestures that looks like the number 7 in Arabic and symbolizes the seven emirates at the same time. The ‘7’ became a visual prompt that rallied residents to share their favorite hidden gems through a branded hashtag challenge.

The UAE’s top 20 creators kicked it off, including @khalidandsalama, @_m7md, @azlife.ae, @bayan.dxb, and @dxbxd – and the rest of the nation’s TikTokers soon followed.

The campaign took on a life of its own with 8,700 user-generated videos in just six days, creating a library of the UAE’s best-hidden spots and secrets available for all to explore.

The ‘7’ sign became a symbol of UAE pride, and the campaign delivered remarkable results, with a 25 percent jump in brand awareness, 85 percent increase in ad recognition, 89 percent boost in ad likeability, and over 70 million views. The campaign successfully got an entire nation smiling and moving at a time they needed it most.

Further west, TikTok was also utilized by Switzerland Tourism, the national marketing organization, to hype up the incredible country.

Switzerland Tourism spent the first six months of its business account building its following entirely organically, focusing on a test-and-learn strategy, to thoroughly understand how TikTok works.

As their established community responded well to its hashtags, #INeedSwitzerland, and #inLOVEwithSWITZERLAND, ads were a natural next step because paid campaigns would mean it could directly target a different demographic to learn more about them.

Doubling down on its popular hashtag #INeedSwitzerland, Switzerland Tourism ran its first ever TopView ad showing a three-way split screen of dramatic scenery and nature. Spurred on by this campaign’s success, it then ran three more seasonal TopView campaigns: A summer experience tips ad, a summer in the city ad, and a funny autumn-themed ad.

In just 12 months, Switzerland Tourism had driven huge momentum on TikTok, with over 700,000 likes across all its posts and a whopping 35.5 million hashtag mentions. Most of this was organic, with some videos going viral without so much as a penny behind them.

Its TopView campaigns have achieved average engagement rates of 20 percent, which is remarkably high and shows the power of a brand putting out brilliant content on TikTok.


Judge halts Twitter-Musk case, sets Oct. 28 deadline to close deal

Judge halts Twitter-Musk case, sets Oct. 28 deadline to close deal
Updated 6 sec ago

Judge halts Twitter-Musk case, sets Oct. 28 deadline to close deal

Judge halts Twitter-Musk case, sets Oct. 28 deadline to close deal
  • The trial was due to start on October 17

NEW YORK: A US judge on Thursday suspended litigation in the saga over Elon Musk’s proposed $44-billion takeover of Twitter, giving the parties until October 28 to finalize the on-again, off-again megadeal.
Delaware Judge Kathaleen McCormick, ruling on a Musk request to freeze the case that had drawn a biting retort from Twitter, said a trial originally scheduled to begin in 11 days could be rescheduled for next month if a deal is not finalized.
“If the transaction does not close by 5 p.m. on October 28, 2022, the parties are instructed to contact me by email that evening to obtain November 2022 trial dates,” McCormick said in the order.
The move buys time for a potential reconciliation between two parties that began squabbling as soon as Musk sealed an agreement in April to purchase the influential social media site for $54.20 per share.
With an October 17 trial date on Twitter’s breach-of-contract suits against Musk looming, the unpredictable Tesla boss did an about-face on Tuesday, reviving his $44-billion takeover plan on condition the Delaware court halt the lawsuit against him.
Twitter said Tuesday it expects to close the buyout deal at the $54.20 price in a statement that did not address Musk’s demands over freezing the litigation.
Legal briefs filed earlier Thursday shed further light on prickly proceedings characterized by mutual distrust.
“There is no need for an expedited trial to order Defendants to do what they are already doing and this action is now moot,” said a filing prepared by Musk’s attorneys that alluded to his latest offer.
“Yet, Twitter will not take yes for an answer. Astonishingly they have insisted on proceeding with this litigation, recklessly putting the deal at risk and gambling with their stockholders interests.”
The filing said Twitter had opposed a suspension on the “theoretical possibility” of lack of financing for the transaction, adding that Musk has access to financing to close the deal “on or around October 28.”


Twitter refuted those arguments, noting that Musk’s side had still not committed to a closing date and calling Musk’s latest appeal “an invitation to further mischief and delay,” Twitter attorneys said in a filing to the Delaware court.
“’Trust us,’ they say, ‘we mean it this time,’” Twitter lawyers said in a brief that described Musk as seeking an “indefinite” time frame to close the deal.
“The obstacle to terminating this litigation is not, as Defendants say, that Twitter is unwilling to take yes for an answer. The obstacle is that Defendants still refuse to accept their contractual obligations.
“Until Defendants commit to close as required, Twitter is entitled to its day in court to... prove Defendants’ breaches so as to ensure complete relief in the event the closing should for any reason not occur,” they said.
Analysts say the litigation provides leverage to Twitter against the risk of another shift by Musk.
US media have reported that the talks are stuck in part on Musk’s assertion that the deal is contingent on billions of dollars in debt financing by major banks.
Twitter “thought they had a deal before,” said Adam Badawi, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “So to actually accept something from (Musk), it’s going to have to be as ironclad as it possibly can.”
But experts were eyeing the latest court twist as beneficial for Musk.
“I think it’s definitely an advantage to him. I mean, he obviously very much wanted to delay this,” Ann Lipton, a law professor at Tulane University, told AFP.
But she noted the advantage would shift to Twitter should Musk not seal the deal by October 28.
“If somehow that doesn’t happen, I think that Twitter will have a stronger case that he’s been acting in bad faith all along, which... justifies whatever equitable remedies would be appropriate for that,” Lipton added.
A serial entrepreneur made rich through his success with Tesla electric cars, Musk began to step back from the Twitter deal soon after it was agreed.
Musk said in July he was canceling the purchase because he was misled by Twitter concerning the number of fake “bot” accounts, allegations rejected by the company.
Twitter, meanwhile, has sought to prove Musk was contriving excuses to walk away — simply because he changed his mind.
Musk’s potential stewardship of the influential social media site has sparked worry from activists who fear he could open the gates to more abusive and misinformative posts.
Shares of Twitter, which surged on Tuesday’s news of Musk’s reversal, fell 3.7 percent to $49.39.


Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 
Updated 07 October 2022

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 
  • Leo Burnett Riyadh picks up 10 prizes for its work for client Ikea
  • Middle East region collects 36 awards at event to celebrate creativity in advertising and marketing

DUBAI: Leo Burnett Riyadh was the big winner at this year’s Cresta Awards ceremony, an annual event held to recognize creativity in advertising and marketing.

The agency collected five silver and five bronze awards in various categories — including Print Craft, Print and Out-of-Home, and The Media Magic Award — for its campaigns for client Ikea.

The Middle East region as a whole won 36 awards in the competition, which saw entries from more than 70 countries.

A total of 347 entries were shortlisted, of which 58 were from the Middle East.

The UAE was also a big winner thanks to its push toward digitization and innovation.

The UAE Government Media Office picked up two silver and seven bronze awards for its three campaigns: “The Donation Plate,” which promotes the “100 Million Meals” scheme, “The Warm Winter Livestream” tourism campaign and “The Visitor from the Future” for the Dubai Museum of the Future.

Advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi MEA won one gold, one silver and four bronze awards for its “Empty Plates” campaign for the UAE Government Media Office.

Horizon FCB Dubai picked up four gold, two silver and two bronze awards for its “Breakchains with Blockchain” campaign for the Children of Female Prisoners’ Association.

In Egypt, thousands of women are sent to prison every year for being unable to repay loans often worth only a few hundred dollars.

Working with global artists, Horizon FCB and the association created non-fungible tokens, each designed to tell the story of a woman sent to prison and priced at the amount it would cost to free her.

Among the other winners were Impact BBDO Dubai, which picked up a Grand Prix in the Print and OOH category and a gold award in the Ambient and Experiential category for its “The Elections Edition” campaign for Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar.

The Film House Doha won a bronze award in the Brand Content category for its “Unparalleled” campaign.
 


Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 

Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 
Updated 07 October 2022

Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 

Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 

LONDON: The Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM) on Thursday released new guidelines for obtaining “Mawthooq” (trustworthy) licenses to advertise in Saudi Arabia. 

Under the campaign name “Your ad is #Mawthooq,” GCAM revealed on its website a list of questions and answers to simplify the process of identifying which businesses need to obtain the license. 

For example, an individual promoting work on a personal social media account does not require a Mawthooq license, but working as a marketer in a bank and promoting personal loans as well as banking services on social media requires a license.

Working as a designer and promoting designs on personal social media accounts does not require a Mawthooq license. Similarly, those operating gift wrapping, non-commercial photography and workshop business and using personal social media accounts do not require a license. 

The news comes following an announcement by GCAM last August stating that from early October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator in the Kingdom who earns revenue through advertising on social media must first apply for an official permit. 

For a fee of SR15,000 ($4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, during which time they can work with as many private entities as they wish and promote any product or service, as long as it does not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.

The new regulations are being touted as legal protections, both for influencers and businesses wishing to advertise with them, so that rates and contractual obligations are standardized across the industry.

Saudi influencers, whether based in the Kingdom or abroad, must apply for the permit if they wish to work with a brand — local or international. However, non-Saudi residents in the country must follow a different track.

After applying to the Ministry of Investment for a permit to work in the country, they can then apply for an influencer permit through GCAM. However, non-Saudi residents must be represented by specific advertising agencies.


Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral

Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral
Updated 17 min 52 sec ago

Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral

Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral
  • ‘Dare to take Risks,’ featuring Amy Roko, Hadeel Marei and Maha Jaafar, will begin streaming on Jawwy TV on Oct. 17
  • It will follow them as they travel across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt participating in activities such as mountain climbing and diving

DUBAI: Warner Bros. Discovery has partnered with the Saudi Telecommunication Company’s TV service Intigral to launch a new reality show, “Dare to take Risks,” starring Arab influencers Amy Roko, Hadeel Marei and Maha Jaafar.

The six-episode series will follow the three friends as they embark on a journey across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, participating along the way in activities such as mountain climbing and diving.

“This unique project is a landmark moment within our long-standing partnership with Intigral,” said Francesco Perta, vice-president of business development and distribution for MENA and Turkey at Warner Bros. Discovery.

“We are excited for viewers to be inspired by this new generation of Arab women, with their extraordinary creativity, zest and humor.”

The show was filmed in some of the region’s most historic and distinctive locations, including the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Hegra in Saudi and Aswan in Egypt, as well as at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in Dubai.

Peter Mrkic, Intigral’s chief commercial officer, said the partnership “marks a new milestone for digital entertainment in the region as it engages a group of talents from the Kingdom and the region, and the best production and broadcast technologies.

“It will also enhance the Kingdom’s position as a production powerhouse and a hub for the latest digital entertainment productions.”

The first episode of “Dare to take Risks” will be available to stream on Jawwy TV on Oct. 17, with new episodes released each week.

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More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds

More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds
Updated 06 October 2022

More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds

More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds
  • New buttons will allow people to customize what they see, company says
  • Move is part of wider effort to improve AI systems

LONDON: Facebook has introduced a new set of features to give users more control over what appears on their feeds.

The changes mean that on all posts from individuals and communities that a user is linked to, including recommended posts, there will be buttons offering the options to “Show more” or “Show less.”

“Today, we’re announcing new ways to customize what you see in your Facebook Feed so you can discover what’s most relevant to you,” the company said in a blog post.

Depending on which button is pressed, the algorithm will temporarily increase or decrease related content, it said.

Facebook said the move was part of its ongoing efforts to improve its artificial intelligence systems.

“By offering more ways to incorporate direct feedback into feed ranking, we’re making our artificial intelligence systems smarter and more responsive”, it said.

According to Tom Alison, the head of Facebook’s core app, the algorithm will record the preference for 30 to 60 days, a time frame decided after a study of users’ preferences.

“We are looking at it as a signal you are giving us that is a little more time-bound than liking a post,” Alison said.

Currently, users of Facebook and Instagram — both of which are owned by Meta Platforms Inc. — can hide posts from people they follow or have been suggested, but the new feature will encompass Facebook posts from friends and recommendations.

The company said also it was trialing new ways to help users customize how much content they see in their feeds from the friends and family, groups and other pages to which they are connected.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the changes were part of the company’s efforts to compete with the surge in popularity of Chinese rival TikTok, whose recommendation-based algorithm has proven a hit for the video-sharing app.

“Features like these can help you discover more of the content that’s valuable to you, so you can see more of what you want and less of what you don’t,” the company said.

“As with every product change we make, we’ll use direct feedback to continually refine our approach.”