Looking Ahead to 2019 with Lessons from the Past in MENA

Sara Hamdan, Tahani Karrar / January 2019

As we enter 2019, looking back at Think with Google MENA’s most popular articles in 2018 was an insightful exercise into top digital marketing trends and what resonated most with our readers.

Based on top articles from 2018, here is our analysis of five pressing topics, from how to use data for precision advertising to the rise of e-commerce in MENA, to help you prepare for the year ahead.

1. Key Ramadan insights for MENA brands

Ramadan content centered around the complete process of planning a digital marketing campaign and is always one of our most read features on Think with Google MENA as the holy month is the busiest ad season of the year. During this time brands run prolonged campaigns before and after Ramadan - and the impact lasts for months afterward.

Our Ramadan Ad Guide provided key insights about what consumers were searching for during this time and how brands could leverage this data. We also highlighted how YouTube viewership rises during Ramadan while TV viewing drops in Saudi Arabia, where there is a decrease in TV viewing of 26% during Ramadan. More so than any other time of year, during Ramadan users proactively search for advertising content on YouTube. This is especially true in Egypt where these ads are highly anticipated, then shared and discussed widely.

2. Video is outperforming industry benchmarks

Online video consumption and upload habits stand out in MENA, where over 200 regional YouTube channels have over 1 million subscribers. Furthermore, the number of YouTube channels has grown 160 percent in the last three years.

Collaborating with YouTube content creators in a campaign is a great way to reach audiences with a customized message from someone they trust, as demonstrated in Unilever’s Forsaty campaign last year. Unilever worked with four regional YouTube creators on four different brands (Dove, Sunsilk, Pond's, Lipton) with outstanding results. The campaign resulted in over 20% completed watch time, double the norm, for videos up to 8 min long, and best in class examples of uplift for brand consideration and recall (17.5% for Dove and 11.8% for Sunsilk, both surpassing benchmarks). During the the campaign, Unilever's local YouTube channel become #1 for the brand’s channel globally.

Similarly, the GlaxoSmithKline case study, one of our top read articles last year, showed how view-through rates for YouTube ads during GSK’s dark-TV month outperformed UAE benchmarks. Thanks to smart upfront branding in videos, the uplift in brand recall was 28% – a best-in-class result for the category.

The MakeUp Forever video case study was another top performer on Think with Google MENA last year showcasing how a brand used video creatively to engage with their audience and drive sales. By providing educational videos centred around makeup tutorials, the all-star Helwet Ramadan campaign series on YouTube was able to achieve 11 million views in 30 days, 32 million minutes of watchtime as well as 83,000 incremental subscribers to the channel.

3. Data powers creativity and drives sales

L'Oreal's campaign for the launch of a new product, Clays face masks, utilized the power of data to create relevant audience segments that have a strong affinity towards the product, beyond the traditionally identifiable segments. By using Double Click technology, L’Oreal was able know more about their customers, target them and reach them in the best way possible.

L’Oreal’s Clays product campaign aimed to maximise awareness and reach through precision advertising. The campaign, which was booked programmatically with videos on YouTube and used retargeting to redirect customers to their e-commerce offerings, contributed 34% of all mass sales across all of the company’s e-commerce retailers.

4. The rising importance of MENA E-commerce

MENA e-commerce is growing at a rate of 25% per annum and forecast to hit $28.5 billion by 2022. Our MENA e-commerce series highlights new Google-Bain research in this field covering infrastructure, competition, user experience and online payments.

The five key trends driving e-commerce explored nuances of the region’s e-commerce market centered in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt. Electronics, Fashion, Beauty and Grocery currently constitute 80% of MENA e-commerce.

Furthermore, MENA shoppers are mobile-first and heavily influenced by Search and video - almost 56% of consumers in the UAE, KSA and Egypt start their online shopping journey using Search engines as opposed to retailers’ websites. The complete Google and Bain & Company white paper, E-Commerce in MENA: Opportunity Beyond the Hype, will be available shortly to download - watch this space.

5. The importance of timing and being in the moment

Reaching consumers at the right place and the right time is key for all industries and articles published 'in the moment' performed particularly well in 2018.

In 2018 we celebrated Saudi women drivers and delved into their online search and shopping habits. Google queries have seen a notable spike in driving interest in Saudi – a 227% increase in searches related to women driving in KSA, with more than 80% of searches related to driving coming via mobile in 2018. Searches for driving schools and lessons also surged last September and continue at higher levels than average.

We also looked into how auto buyers search for the best vehicles across MENA. Most buyers make their purchase decision within two months (71% of new car buyers in Kuwait, 68% in the UAE and 83% in the KSA) and so brands have a relatively short window to be seen.

After search engines, online video is the second most influential touchpoint among 85% of people in the KSA, 81% in the UAE and 86% in Kuwait. In fact, video enables buyers to discover new brands or nameplates: 91% of those surveyed in the KSA and 74% in the UAE said that online video introduced them to a vehicle they had previously not considered, while 84% of those surveyed in Kuwait said that online video positively changed their mind about a car or manufacturer.

Finally, yet not surprisingly, our infographic on World Cup trends proved especially popular as for the first time in history four Arab countries, including KSA, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The infographic demonstrated how brands could best capitalise on the motivations of MENA football fans online.

2019, Here We Come

Stay tuned this year for more region-specific case studies, research articles and infographics. While the topics we covered last year were varied, from precision advertising to regional e-commerce industry trends to women drivers in Saudi, the underlying theme was our subscribers wanted to learn how to reach the right consumers with the right messaging at the right time. We look forward to providing you with more digital insights and articles in 2019!



Ramadan 2020 series part 4: The 4 steps to smarter media planning