With over 130 attendees, clients, agencies and sales partners, Imagine Istanbul 2011 was a huge success.
Oiled by our resident MC, Bora Turan, A&O Lead of Microsoft Turkey, Imagine, Istanbul, got off to a smooth start, showcasing fresh views, new ideas and a plethora of both regional and global perspectives as well as thought provoking case studies.
Ali Faramawy, President of Microsoft MEA, welcomed our regional guests while underscoring the huge potential, energy and momentum that MEA represents both in terms of growth and innovation. He highlighted compelling and unique characteristics of the MEA region, calling out its predominantly young demographic profile and its quick adoption of technology, particularly mobile and the internet, in driving change.
"What is good for people is ultimately good for business," said Ali, who promised that Microsoft MEA is as committed to ensuring it lives up to its human development goals as it is to its business goals. With the fall of old regimes and the rise of future hope,, MEA is both evidence and testament to the power of technology IT has become an enabler to realize the potential of the MEA region and what its people want it to be.
Despite MEA’s increasing importance as the “next consumer frontier”, given its population of 1.54 billion and a combined GDP of US$3.567 billion,, Salwa Smaoui, Regional Director, Advertising & Online MEA, questioned the irony of current digital ad investment trends, highlighting its meager 2% of total ad spend, given that internet penetration in the region stood at roughly 13% - off a 1 billion + base of people!
Salwa also shared A&O’s new vision, its core business imperatives of Creativity, Relevance and Connection, together with the re-vamped MEA wide team and its structure, tasked with delivering on these. Of particular importance, was her reassurance to the 130+ agency, advertiser and press delegates of Microsoft’s commitment to its advertising business in the region - a division that already generates of 10% of Microsoft's revenue, and which is positioned to manage and monetize Microsoft's content and media platforms. – Salwa cited Imagine as the 1st of many such initiatives aimed at bringing together advertisers, agencies and partner stakeholders from the region in sharing, collaborating and shaping the future of online within the region..
Following Salwa’s introduction, was Marc Bresseel, Vice President, Global Marketing, Microsoft Advertising whose aim was to bring our Microsoft Advertising Story to life. Marc vividly talked up our offerings across MSN, WL, X-Box Live and mobile, as well as shared key consumer and audience trends and insights. His session clarified our Global and MEA wide offerings and how they could be used to tell compelling brand stories. .
. Whether Starcom or Unilever in Dubai, Mobinil in Egypt, Nokia, Lowe or Nestle in South Africa, Vodafone, Turkcell, P&G or Pepsico in Turkey, OMD in Saudi or Mindshare in Morocco, Marc Bresseel helped change perceptions of what Microsoft Advertising represents and what it offers in being a trusted enabler in developing compelling, creative and relevant brand connections.
Next up was Alexandre Michelin, General Manager for MSN Europe
Executive Producer for MSN EMEA who shared insights into MSN’s global strategy and demonstrated how our Choose MSN strategy, aimed at moving the portal beyond passive engagement with consumers to become a destination of choice is landing with great local executions, thanks for the amazing work of Kagiso in South Africa and Link Online in Arabia. Examples from Saudi, Egypt, South Africa and Turkey reinforced our “glocal” approach. Our local sales partner work was showcased to highlight how an emerging region like MEA is using Microsoft capabilities to enable and empower audiences with locally relevant content (localized MSN Arabia). Of particular interest to the audience was the fact that the MSN portal now has 500 million users and is adding 50 million a year, while generating 20 billion page views a month and is currently the number-one portal across 26 markets.
For added perspective and to provide a gear change, Cem Sertoglu, Managing Partner
Young Turk Ventures our guest of honor from Turkey provided an external testimonial on the power of digital. Cem shared his success story – Grupanya, the Turkish version of Groupon, and how his digital business was built from the ground up!
Next up was Michael Dwan who embraced the crowd with a little dance around our MSA logo shaped stage while inspiring them with breath taking global creative examples. Whether it was Chanel or Dior (the luxury industry is key for some high GDP markets like the UAE) or more CPG examples, delegates were clearly in awe of the possibilities and potential of online as a medium for brand engagement and expression. Dwan spoke passionately on the partnership model required to fulfill the type of creative and innovative solutions demonstrated by his case studies, extolling the virtues of creative agency, media agency, client and publisher collaboration. It is now our challenge as a regional team to make sure we have “more of the Magnum campaigns in MEA” (quoting David Porter, Media Director, North Africa & Middle East.
The afternoon session was kicked off by Kelly Jones Head of Marketing Insights, Global Insights and Analytics Microsoft Advertising who shared some thought provoking research insights gleaned from both regional MEA and country level data..
. The Consumer Shopper journey and Meet the Screens (great to have a global research including MEA with Saudi Arabia) were highly relevant
Kelly demonstrated that the being in an emerging region has key advantages: high consumption and high involvement – this is where brands need to leverage the power of digital still being the new media kid on the block.
After a short sugar break, brought to our audiences by MSA cupcakes …
a panel discussion tried to find reasons behind the % adspend vs time spent online disconnect in the MEA region. Overall, digital adspend lags more developed markets dramatically, even as digital audiences have grown and use of social media has familiarised people with digital environments.
The panel, moderated by our own A&O lead from South Africa Nazeer Suliman, included fellow South African Wayne Naidoo, group CEO at Lowe Bull, as well as Ilkay Gurpinar, ECD and VP at TBWA\ISTANBUL, Rayan Karaky, GM digital operations at Starcom Dubai, and Demet Ikiler, CEO of GroupM, Turkey.
Some of the controversial questions asked, were
- How do we grow digital in MEA, how is MEA different than other emerging regions in the world?
- Do agencies have the capabilities, resources and digital capacity required to keep up with today’s new consumer?
- Should the online pitch be moved upstream, directly to the “creative teams” in creative agencies, at campaign conceptualization stage?
- Are media and creative agencies collaborating in ensuring that online is integrated upstream into campaign strategies, as opposed to it being an appendage, that is stuck onto media plans as an after -thought?
- How do we move beyond the transactional side of online media deployment into bigger, integrated campaigns?
this debate sparked a lot of side conversations at the end of the day which continued later on that night at the dinner party. What an amazing panel!
Finally, the whole A&O MEA team took to the stage to take questions from the crowd: how can we leverage or create more innovative solutions in our region, how do we better help in educating our clients about online and digital.
Tamer Ozmen, GM of Microsoft Turkey wrapped up the day by thanking the audience for attending Imagine Istanbul 2011 and thanking A&O for bringing in fresh excitement and a radical make over with the Story Forward branding in the building. Story Forward!!
Delegates were later hosted at an exclusive dinner and party at Cubulka, after a magnificent 30 minute cruise on the Bosphorus!. Party pictures to come soon!
Day 2 was all about interaction with 4 consecutive sessions:
- Kelly Jones shared into more specific Microsoft Advertising research such as Consumer Journey, Meet the Screens, and Social.
- Michal Dwan inspired the crowd with global creative solutions, highlighting the fine differences between branded content, branded entertainment, original content and beyond. Inspiring as usual, we could not stop the questions in this interactive session!
- Kerim Ozbakirci shared the beauty of the web with a deep dive on IE9.
- And last but not least Mitri Azaroglu spent time showcasing how to build brand stories on WL and MSN, a very hands-on session with lots of examples of Windows live opportunities in our region as well as editorial content opportunities.
2 days of creative, relevant and connected opportunities with our clients.