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the year ahead for..innovation.

Summary: The year 2012 will be a testing one for all. Engaging consumers via creativity, content and data will provide the key to success

We can't talk about 2012 without refer- encing the enormi- ty of consumer atti- tudinal shift as a result of the Arab Spring in 2011. And whilst Twit- ter and Facebook sales reps will be rubbing their hands as a re- sult, we should remind ourselves that these platforms were merely a gateway to facilitate a long overdue consumer need.

As a result, we have new digital com- munication channels to contend with, but let's not lose sight of the traditional tried and tested in all the excitement.

Social media has become the new mandatory on every mar- keting plan and everyone seems to be an expert (agencies and cli- ents alike). In reality, we are all still getting to grips with where the brand fits within the social space and how best to leverage these new channels to deliver en- gagement and results.

2012 will be a year of further testing for all. Forget thinking about sales or ROI at this stage. Whilst consumers seem com- fortable, if not addicted to their new 'Social Hangouts', brands are still struggling to get an invite to the party.

Facebook in particu- lar has made some smart chang- es to the way in which we are 'supposed' to measure success. Chairmen and CEOs want to see 'likes' at all cost.And whilst con- tent is critical, there's a suspi- cious correlation between Face- book advertising and the driving of likes.

Is this smart marketing or a smart business model from Face- book? Our 2012 challenge is to manage client expectations and budgets to ensure we balance driving likes (somewhat artifi- cially) whilst investing in creat- ing relevant and engaging con- tent within the social space.

With social and digital forming an important backdrop for con- sumers in 2012, where do we see the winners in innovation focus- ing their efforts?

Three critical areas for success this year will be creativity, con- tent and data.

Creativity

Digital is not a saviour or a re- placement for traditional chan- nels. But it has been a welcome disruption, forcing agencies to reassess both their talent make- up and structure.

Whether digital advocates or not, brands more than ever need to remain focused on break- through ideas. It's no longer a TV-led idea that's chopped up and slapped on other media. It's a digitally-oriented idea that uses the strength of all of the communication channels to am- plify that idea.

With Arab youth spending more time on digital than on TV, creativity has to have some level of digital consideration. Con- sumer's time is the currency we must secure. Brands need to de- liver creativity and engagement that earns them that time (both on and offline). Only if a brand achieves such eyeball time can we hope to create some form of consumer action as a result.

Content

In 2012, customers' lives will continue to be busy and as such innovation will have to remain focused on value.

We innovate to beat the com- petition in terms of market share. We innovate to simplify a pro- cess or reduce thetime required. Everyone wants more for less. Such a scenario is great for cus- tomers but challenging for brands and suppliers. Margins are squeezed, talent is cut and the customer is harder and hard- er to impress. This is where the quality of content will become even more important.

What is content? Content is re-ally anything that enables an in- teraction or engagement be- tween brand and customer. It could be an event, an activation in a mall, a video distributed via mobile, a game on Facebook, a contest on Twitter. Content op- tions are endless, but the current quality of content being derived or commissioned by brands is still fairly limited.

'We make orange juice not viral videos for YouTube!' This attitude from brand guardians will ensure their messages re- main unseen by customers. We only want to spend our time with content that is engaging, rele- vant, useful or entertaining. Brands that buy in to this philos- ophy and invest can jump ahead of their competition. So inno- vation via content will help chal- lenger brands steal market share this year.

Data

The region continues to grow. 2012 promises positive consum- er appetite to spend.

The winning innovators will be those who get their 'data houses' in order this year.

That means helping to organise and maxim- ise the consumer data their cli- ents have and how best to use it. How do we collect, store and use that data to its fullest capacity? How do we derive insights from that data that can help shape our creativity and future content for our clients? And how do we step- change digital communication from being just a 'pipe for deliv- ery' into being a rich platform of conversations?

Lots of questions... and lots of answers still needed. But the in- novators will continue to ask such questions and challenge their clients to remain focused on creativity, content and data.

'The winning innovators will be those who get their 'data houses' in order this year. That means helping to maximise the consumer data their clients have and how best to use it'

Tim Baker is managing director and co-founder of hug digital

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Publication:Campaign Middle East
Date:Jan 8, 2012
Words:912
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