Haian Nayouf, a General Manager of Golin MENA is a seasoned professional in MENA’s communications realm with a diverse journey spanning over two decades. From journalism to steering strategic communications for the UK Government, he brings adaptability and experience. He is a leader navigating the dynamic media landscape, emphasizing meaningful connections and
In this exclusive interview, he masterfully intertwines his wealth of experience, adaptability, and steadfast dedication to sculpting the narrative of communication in the Middle East.
Would you mind sharing with us your professional journey across various media fields you have worked in and your role as General Manager of GolinMENA over the last two decades?
For over two decades, I’ve embraced opportunities to learn and grow, fueled by the exceptional colleagues and friends I’ve worked with along the way. My journey began as a regional correspondent for five news outlets, honing my skills in print, radio, and online mediums. This laid the foundation for my six-year stint at Al Arabiya TV and its renowned online platform, Al Arabiya.Net. Seeking a different lens, I then transitioned to strategic communications, leading the UK Government’s Arabic Media and Communications Hub in the Middle East (based in Dubai) for eight years, including serving as Arabic Deputy Spokesperson for two years.
Drawn to the dynamic world of PR, I shifted gears, working with global agencies like Edelman before joining Golin MENA in February 2022. In July 2023, I was truly honored to be appointed General Manager of Golin MENA in the UAE by Horizon Group. Now, I have the privilege of working with a talented team across diverse sectors, continuing my journey of learning and professional growth.
As a communication professional, you’ve worked in media outlets, agencies, and even in different government sectors. Has that experience helped you in your current role in terms of strategic decision-making?
Definitely! Effective decision-making, whether in client servicing or maintaining high-quality communications work across various domains, demands three key factors: deep alignment with the rapidly evolving media landscape, a thorough understanding of audiences and the aspirations of new generations, and a profound grasp of public policies and geopolitical situations. Hence, I feel incredibly fortunate to have launched my communications career in the expansive world of strategic communications, which is broader than the realm of PR. This journey has allowed me to make informed decisions that drive successful outcomes for clients and business partners.
How has the PR landscape evolved since the time you started working in the industry? What upcoming trends or changes have you predicted and how are you working towards them?
My extensive background in strategic communications and its tools has provided me with a unique vantage point to observe the PR landscape through a wide-angle lens. This perspective, coupled with the rise of social media in the region after 2010 and the emergence of new, hyper-segmented generations with distinct aspirations, has led me to believe that the PR industry in the ME region needs to shift towards a more strategic communication approach. This shift is crucial to adapt to the rapidly evolving landscape, and the possibilities are endless. For example, we can weave engaging data narratives that go beyond messaging, showcasing impact through case studies, human-interest stories, or interactive visualizations. These stories, coupled with a focus on tangible outcomes like improved brand awareness, customer engagement, or policy change, will lead to truly solid results—not just outputs.
It is safe to say the “Oh! Message” app is synonymous with Haian Nayouf. How did you come up with this idea? Seeing its success in Dubai, what are your plans for it in the future?
In September 2021, Dubai’s newspapers hailed “Oh! Message” as a “technological achievement from Dubai to the world.” My partner, Mohammed Othman, and I launched Oh! Message as the world’s most private messaging app. We envisioned it as the Middle East’s first chat app built by Arab expertise and boasting cutting-edge privacy features. Oh! Message pioneered several privacy features, such as hidden online statuses, which a global app only adopted a year later. We’ve successfully completed the first phase of our development plan and are actively engaged with potential Gulf investors to secure funding for the remaining stages. Oh! Message remains the undisputed champion of privacy, thanks to its unique feature of complete in-app message destruction, guaranteeing zero server storage.
As mobile and internet services are more accessible in the MENA region, what is your take on the growing concern about data privacy?
Addressing this question from the perspective of an entrepreneur and co-founder of a privacy-focused startup, I believe it’s crucial to raise awareness among users and advocate for stronger data protection. Recently, a funder suggested closing our startup, arguing that it doesn’t provide a service like delivering food or gifts. In response, I posed the question, ‘What about privacy in chatting? Isn’t that a service and value needed in our daily lives?’ I am still awaiting a response. We need to amplify awareness about this: just as avoiding unhealthy food protects our physical health, privacy safeguards our well-being in the digital world.
The MENA media landscape has changed dramatically, as have people’s perspectives and openness. How have these changes been accepted by the audience compared to a few years ago?
The media landscape in our region has undergone a seismic shift. While some traditional outlets are proactively evolving to meet the digital age, new players emerge every day. This dynamic landscape, coupled with a surge in events, creates a bottleneck for brands and companies to stand out. Simply put, generic “great and unique” brand descriptions no longer cut it. Today’s audiences demand authenticity and purpose. They want to know how this brand will enrich their lives, support their families, or contribute to a better future.
The diversification of media channels plays a crucial role here, offering audiences a variety of information and fostering a growing appetite for authenticity, credibility, and transparency. In this social media-saturated world, audiences cross-reference stories across platforms, verifying information and exercising caution. This reflects heightened awareness and underscores the importance of reliable information in our era of media pluralism.
Let’s illustrate this with a simple example. Imagine a press release that informs us about a brand’s impact rather than simply describing its features. This shift from fluff to substance is crucial to resonate with today’s discerning audience.
CGI, artificial intelligence, and the metaverse are some of the technologies that are rapidly gaining traction in the Middle East. How has Golin MENA adapted to these changes? Will these technological advances change the PR landscape in a positive or negative way?
The region is on a technological spree, with recent studies pointing to surging demand for AI and automation solutions across various industries. For PR agencies, riding this wave of change is key to capturing audience attention and staying relevant.
The first step? Understanding the audience like never before. Data-driven insights unlock the doors to their behavior, sentiment, and preferences. Imagine customizing press releases and campaigns based on what truly resonates with the targeted audience. This precision targeting is the game-changer in today’s dynamic media landscape.
With the metaverse knocking on our doors, PR agencies are pioneering new frontiers of storytelling and engagement. GolinMENA has been a true trailblazer, organizing the region’s first press conferences within this immersive world.
However, despite the allure of AI and advanced analytics tools, I firmly believe in the power of the human factor. Especially in our region, where cultural nuances and the complexities of languages like Arabic can pose challenges for automated sentiment analysis, human oversight remains crucial.
Can you tell us about a few successful campaigns that you carried out and are close to your heart? How did you implement any learnings or successful strategies in future campaigns?
As the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world, a beacon of hope shone from Italy. I was honored to volunteer with a groundbreaking, world-first campaign in Italy that focused on amplifying positive news and inspiring stories from the heart of the crisis.
I played a crucial part in amplifying the campaign’s voice by connecting it with top pan-Arab media outlets, ensuring that the message of hope and solidarity resonated across the region. This experience transcended traditional PR and news reporting. It was about building bridges and fostering understanding during a tumultuous time. Witnessing the power of communication to unite people across borders and cultures during such darkness was truly profound.
My participation in this impactful campaign solidified my belief in the vital role communication professionals can play on the frontlines. We can shape narratives, inspire unity, and offer a hand of hope even in the darkest of hours.
Additionally, at the London Olympics in 2012, I led a campaign in the Gulf region (launched by the UK government regional Arabic media and communication Hub in Dubai) focused on Arab athletes competing during the first Olympics to coincide with Ramadan since 1980. The campaign shed light on various aspects of the athletes’ experience, including the dedicated services provided to them
during the holy month.
If there was one trend in the PR, media, or advertising industry that you would like to bring back, what would that be and why?
Of course, I won’t suggest bringing back fax machines—because nothing says cutting-edge technology like a piece of paper emerging from the jaws of a wheezing, ancient machine! Why rekindle the human touch? With the rise of automation and AI, there’s a risk of losing the human connection. Reviving personalized strategies and community outreach initiatives could rebuild trust and create more meaningful interactions with audiences.
Moreover, long-term storytelling is crucial. In today’s fast-paced digital world, campaigns often prioritize immediate clicks and engagement over building lasting relationships with audiences. Re-emphasizing long-term, narrative-driven storytelling could foster deeper connections and brand loyalty. Let’s recall classic campaigns that told evocative stories, creating strong emotional associations with the brand.
Reuters, one of the biggest news organizations, and The MediaVantage, a worldwide media representation firm in the Middle East, have announced a new partnership. The collaboration will enable The Media Vantage to represent Reuters in the Middle East. It will offer Middle Eastern brands marketing and advertising reach options. Reuters is a business, financial, and international news supplier established in 1851 and produces content with more than 2,500 journalists in 200 locales. They operate in accordance with independence, integrity, and freedom from biases as set forth by the Thomas Reuters Trust Principle. Campaign Middle East reports that the agreement between MediaVantage and Reuters will expand the latter’s total media offering.
What are the benefits for Middle Eastern brands?
By doing this, The MediaVantage will give regional brands direct access to the broad range of marketing and advertising options offered by Reuters. It will give brands the ability to successfully increase their worldwide marketing and advertising reach and influence.
Here’s what they said
As reported by Campaign Middle East, Dan Qayyum, General Manager Media & Sales, The MediaVantage said,
Brands and advertisers across the Middle East can now leverage Reuters legacy of excellence and unparalleled reach. We are excited to facilitate a seamless connection between our clients and Reuters advertising and marketing solutions, its content studios, and its engaged global audience of more than 52 million on Reuters.com and 54 million on social media.
Preya Shah, Head of Digital Sales EMEA & APAC, Reuters said,
The Middle East is an important market for Reuters, and we’re excited to work with MediaVantage to offer innovative ways to reach an influential audience that delivers real impact. Our award-winning journalism provides the ideal environment for marketers in the region to share their message, connecting them with senior professionals all over the world.
The MediaVantage and TIME partnered earlier this year to become sole representatives for each other’s properties. These include TIME newsletters, TIME.com, TIME.com magazine, TIME’s social media platforms, TIME signature events, and its exclusive media studio “Red Border.”
Red Havas Middle East, the Havas Group’s public relations branch in the Middle East, has announced the beginning of SWAY, a global influencer marketing program. The information was released on all of the PR firm’s social media channels. The influencer marketing effort, which had just been introduced in the area, became global on July 17, 2023. SWAY by Red Havas is a complete solution to an influencer marketing platform. It intends to assist companies in generating effective, entertaining, and realistic brand discussions via influencers.
SWAY for Influencer Marketing
SWAY by Red Havas combines PR, social media, and experiential marketing teams to create social media-first marketing campaigns with influencers that have a real impact on the bottom line. Influencer marketing is becoming more recognized as a performance channel. This led to the creation of an international practice. Through yearly market-leading insights and patterns, in-house specialist-led creative workshops, and panels with partner talent agents, the SWAY specialists will also push the influencer agenda at an industry level. Additionally, it includes premier centers in the Middle East, Australia, Asia, Europe, and North America.
Through a five-step recommended framework from recognition through measurement, the project provides an end-to-end solution for influencer marketing.
- A roadmap for a strategic cadence with a focus on genuine, long-lasting connections.
- Defined channel roles across all social media outlets.
- Provide guidance and brand reputation management for novel and developing technology trends.
- Close interactions with industry partners, and access to the best data and social media technologies.
- Tailored proxy metrics for thorough campaign assessment and reporting.
Here’s what they said
James Wright, global CEO of the Red Havas Group, and global chairman of the Havas PR Global Collective said in the announcement,
More brands than ever before are adapting their broader strategy and communications to include significant influencer activity. Some even put influencer marketing front and center, recognizing it as a full-funnel marketing channel. It’s no longer just a paid transaction. Brands are building long-term relationships with influencers who advocate their messages and experiences.
He continued by saying that the Red Havas Group has worked in this area for years. The next logical step would be to explicitly focus on this as a worldwide practice as they are now working with more than 100 businesses and organizations on their influencer activities.
Dana Tahir, Managing Director, Red Havas Middle East added,
SWAY empowers us to leverage the technical prowess of the Red Havas network, combined with deep local understanding, to guarantee unparalleled influencer campaigns to our clients, both at a regional and worldwide scale. The role of influencers, particularly in the Middle East, holds paramount significance as they hold the ability to bridge connections and foster authentic engagement, establishing a profound impact on the audiences they reach.
Lemma, one of the largest DOOH platforms, is strengthening its presence in the Middle East with an exclusive partnership with Continuum.
Interesting Read: All You Need To Know About The Rise Of DOOH Advertising
Building a Partnership in the Middle East
With its focus on the Middle East region, Continuum, a specialist media representation firm, helps Lemma drive demand for its programmatic DOOH offering while growing the company’s supply, including bringing on new DOOH screens.
Having successfully scaled businesses in India & SEA, Lemma is now expanding its services in many regions sourcing in demand and supply through global connections via the programmatic platform. With Lemma, advertisers & marketers can reach diverse audience segments that are connected to thousands of screens in the Middle East region.
Lemma offers easy access to a new digital inventory in a measurable, automated, and attainable format to instantly roll out marketing campaigns. It will build a strong local presence in one of the world’s largest DOOH markets by leveraging a wide portfolio of Ad Tech and Media technologies from Continuum in the Middle East.
With the Middle East poised to be the next thriving ground for DOOH, Lemma with this partnership plans to expand the availability of upgraded & quantifiable DOOH solutions at an accelerated pace and scale programmatic demand in the region. Moreover, the integration allows advertisers to leverage creative flexibility, contextual ad serving in real-time, and a variety of benefits to enhance outdoor communication and marketing strategies on a single platform.
Interesting Read: Power Of Out-Of-Home Advertising In The Middle East And Road Ahead
And that’s what they said
Abhimanyu Yadav, VP of Sales, EMEA expressed excitement for the partnership and introduction of programmatic DOOH advertising across the Middle East said,
Programmatic DOOH is set to transform the OOH industry & provide clients with the opportunity to target the audience more accurately with audience buying systems & measure the campaign through data & transparency. This is an exciting way to deliver brand experiences to consumers in the outdoor space with ultimate impact on viewing consumers delivered through real-time opportunities and advanced tech.
Mohammad Nayeem Siddiqui, Sales Director EMEA, said,
Continuum a leading media technology company with expertise in ad tech & emerging media solutions is committed to helping businesses adapt to new technologies & enable brands to increase their ROI.
Continuum with this exclusive partnership with Lemma, will bring programmatic DOOH solutions in the Middle east and enable marketers to explore the medium, activating ads on any Digital OOH screen.
The technology leveraged by Lemma will be a game-changer in the market. With the presence of digital signage, content is controlled by outstanding software making it much easier to manage and adapt through reliable consumer insights. It’s only a matter of time before this brings about a major shift in the outdoor advertising.
In its first phase of rollout, OMNES Technologies now offers the marketing, sale, and booking of advertising spaces in all Arab countries through its digital platform ‘Advert on Click’. A gradual expansion will follow the initial launch.
In the past year, Advert On Click has been provided with news from over 1900 media outlets from various Arab countries as part of its Beta Phase. Media outlets will be marketed on a global scale through the platform with the aim of attracting advertisers to these outlets via innovative digital ways. Advertisers will be able to network with Arab media outlets and communicate directly with them to purchase and reserve ad spaces.
For the uninitiated, Advert on Click platform offers extensive information about media and advertising outlets as well as their contact information. This includes various types of advertising and marketing means, such as print publications, magazines, TV stations, radio stations, websites, outdoor advertising, point-of-sale spaces, and other kinds of media.
Interesting Read: Power Of Out-Of-Home Advertising In The Middle East And Road Ahead
And That’s What They Said
Fahed Al Deeb, CEO of OMNES Technologies, the developer and operator of the Advert on Click platform, said the platform is one of their recent initiatives aimed at promoting the advertising industry by increasing access to advertising outlets and connecting them to a broader segment of advertisers globally. He further added,
“All Arab media and advertising outlets are currently welcome to register for free on the platform, upload their information, and take advantage of the marketing campaigns that the platform will launch to reach new advertisers worldwide. Also, advertisers and advertising agencies can benefit from the platform’s services, request quotations, and book advertising space from the media directly.”
He explains that the ‘Advert on Click’ platform uses direct deals between advertisers and media outlets, with a commission of not more than 5% on the contract value.
Interesting Read: Hypermedia plans to introduce data measurement tools
OOH- Out-Of-Home Advertising is a media format that walks with you from the time you step out of the house.
Don’t you believe me?
Let’s take a quick walk from your apartment. There is a screen in your elevator or outside your apartment. In a few yards, you’ll see a lamppost or a mupi greeting you. Speeding along at 90km/hr, you will come across attractive signage. And they are everywhere on your visit to supermarkets or malls. OOH is by your side, anywhere and everywhere in UAE all through the day in formats to engage and impress you.
In the UAE, the world’s oldest form of promotion ‘ out-of-home ’ advertising has been evolving over the years. OOH advertising Middle-East still commands a lion’s share of the attention of the media mix. It stands on the tipping point between traditional and technological advancements. The proliferation of new technologies and changing consumer patterns have resulted in a paradigm shift. Before understanding the OOH advertising Middle-East market, let us comprehend the basic concept of Out-Of-Home advertising.
What is Out-Of-Home (OOH) Advertising?
In simple words it OOH Advertising means any visual advertising media that reaches consumers when they are outside of their homes. Outdoor advertising spaces would be lampposts, bridge banners, billboards, wrapping, and more. There is a rise of out-of-home in middle-east. It is not unusual to see huge hoardings in Dubai, bridge banners in Abu Dhabi along with the circuits of Mupis in Sharjah & the Northern Emirates. For those unfamiliar with market prices, there are many options at various price points – even among similar sites from different providers.
Out Of Home (OOH) Advertising Middle East And Africa
Outdoor Advertising is the only traditional medium that has steadily grown for the past 10 years. According to PQ Media’s forecast,2020 was the most difficult year for the entire OOH media industry. The onset of a strong recovery, however, is evident this year, with global OOH revenues projected to increase 6.6% to $55.03 billion, followed by accelerating growth in 2022.
Why is this medium so appealing and sustainable? It tackles everything that’s considered a challenge in digital media.
An independent study by Nielson suggests OOH drives online activation. The same study further reveals that nearly five in 10 US adults are engaged on search engines alone when they encounter an outdoor ad. The engagement numbers are even higher on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Statista reveals in 2020, spending on OOH advertising in the Middle-East and Africa (MENA) region amounted to 233 million U.S. dollars. Outdoor advertising is relevant and important considering we live in a mobile economy today. It has the potential and power to create a great impact on the consumers. Consumers are more likely to click on a mobile ad after seeing the ad on OOH. Some more data to help you understand the role of OOH in a brand’s growth, market presence, and loyal customers.
- an average 71% share who said digital billboards stand out better than online ads
- an average 85% share of consumers who think out of home advertising is helpful
- an average 40% boost in effectiveness for digital search when paired with OOH
- an average of $3.79 sales ROI for retail companies per $1 spent on OOH advertising
Industry Experts Speaks On the Biggest Challenges Faced By OOH Advertising Middle East
OOH’s reach and frequency make it a good medium for creating brand awareness and providing a call to action (CTA) with consumers. The hyper-local nature of OOH ads provides people with those “aha” moments. Consumers can recall the first time they saw a ‘special build’ on Sheikh Zayed Road? Or a unique hoarding at Al Kahil? Or a brand new automobile with headlights mounted on the unipole? Or Wrapping a bus on Abu Dhabi’s first transit media?
Unlike any other medium, OOH offers round-the-clock exposure and complete control of the advertising space. However, the OOH advertising Middle East industry faces multiple challenges which dampen future growth.
- There is no regulatory body for the OOH industry to resolve issues faced by the vendors which leads to unhealthy competition at times.
- Spiraling high rents by landlords in spite of softer demand and tight advertising budgets. Also, there is a mismatch in the demand-supply of locations.
- OOH is incapable of providing campaign-specific and every-moment ROI. It lacks advanced measurement tools compelling advertisers to shift to digital due to limited budget.
- Advertisers lose out on brand recall and awareness due to the transfer to digital as they look for value for money and not only impressions.
- Digitization is slow to catch in the OOH industry. MENA is trailing behind in technology and programmatic advancement compared to the international market.
“The main challenge the industry is facing is that it is still full of analogue options, which means any small mistake in or changes to the creative requires additional costs borne by the advertiser. A lack of digitalisation also means there aren’t a lot of things that advertisers can measure natively. At best, they receive a guesstimation of impressions. The other challenge is the fact that today’s consumer wants to see ads tailored to their interests.” -SAEED ALSHAMSI , Managing Partner, Lifeonscreen (OOH Guide 2019-20)
“There is a wrong perception that outdoor is competing with digital, and clients and agencies are focusing on programmatic planning via social media and online, and using OOH as a secondary medium to complement online.” – REHAN MERCHANT, Group CEO, Emirates Neon Group (OOH Guide 2019-20)
The Road Ahead
Amidst a fragmented media landscape, OOH is a relevant medium that has a wider reach and makes people stop-notice-think-buy. But what’s next for the OOH industry? Digital, Digital, and Digital.
OOH complements other media channels but DOOH is the ultimate. The OOH advertising Middle East industry is moving at a slow pace towards digitization but it will experience a revolution. In recent times, DOOH has taken off and cannot be easily avoided, skipped, or blocked, unlike online TV adverts. A large 3D illusion LED billboard to smart screens across the city with interactive elements like sensors, touch-sensitive links that play audio or video when touched, or facial recognition to customize content. It is necessary to develop standardized processes, measurement tools, and retargeting strategies to programmatically handle DOOH. Due to these robust technologies, OOH suppliers will better invest in resources and integrate these solutions as a part of their portfolios.
People are well on their way to embracing technology in media, and artificial intelligence with digital formats of real-time trading will have a positive impact on gaining traction. And what’s more, the transition from static to digital sites will continue
Interesting Read: All You Need To Know About The Rise Of DOOH Advertising!
The Trade Desk, a global advertising technology firm, has announced the success of a programmatic DOOH campaign with L’Oréal in the Middle East – a first for both brands in the area.
The campaign, which intended to raise awareness of L’Oréal’s new Yves Saint Laurent Libre Intense perfume, was advertised on digital screens strategically positioned in Dubai’s trendiest locations such as DIFC Gate Village and Sheikh Zayed Road.
It is the first time in the Middle East that L’Oréal has initiated a DOOH campaign using advertising inventory purchased programmatically through The Trade Desk.
The campaign successfully reached 1.4 million individuals and had a bid win percentage of 95%. L’Oréal was able to target audience groups by geography using The Trade Desk’s platform, based on where programmatic DOOH was accessible.
Universal Media (UM), a worldwide media and advertising firm, and Matterkind, an activation intelligence business, were instrumental in making the campaign a reality.
James Patterson, VP of Client Services, EMEA, at The Trade Desk, said –
“The results of our latest campaign in MENA with L’Oréal precede an exciting shift in the world of adtech – DOOH is coming back to centre stage as the world gets back on its feet. We’re thrilled to be able to support our clients with smart, user-friendly technology.”
Patterson also added this campaign is a significant step forward for the region in terms of programmatic DOOH, and that they look forward to assisting their clients in reaping the benefits of this new channel in the near future.
Bishr Hamwi, online brand manager (YSL) at L’Oréal, said that the Gulf area is ecstatic to be able to get DOOH placements via programmatic – YSL has been monitoring its efficiency and effect for brands in the UK and US and they thought it would perform well in the Gulf as well.
He said that their team was overjoyed when YSL became the first brand in the GCC area to trial it for their hero launch, LIBRE EDP INTENSE!
Hamwi added –
“Thanks to UM and The Trade Desk, the campaign exceeded our expectations and we are looking forward to accessing more programmatic DOOH inventory available in the coming months.”
It is important to note that while this is the first campaign for a DSP in the region, it will not be the last. Why?
Because The Trade Desk intends to strengthen its relationships with local partners in order to increase the presence and reach of brands utilizing the platform in the region.
Morgane Desessard, UM media supervisor said the fast-paced test-and-learn methodology of L’Oréal Luxury division to planning and buying DOOH inventory programmatically was an intriguing potential that they wanted to explore to support their digital media advertising mix.
Deseddard also added that with the help of its sister business, Matterkind, they were able to launch their first DOOH campaign through The Trade Desk. This allowed them to take advantage of benefits such as flexibility in terms of area and time, as well as access to real-time data.
Gosia Wajchert, Head of Matterkind, part of IPG Mediabrands, commented –
“Matterkind and The Trade Desk have been working on programmatic innovations and FIRST IN MENA products for a year now and I am really pleased to see the continued results that come out of our partnership.”
Implemented in association with Broadsign Reach SSP and local publishers Backlite Media and Elevision, the campaign ran for a period of two months during Spring 2021.