Starcom and Saudi Telecom increase engagement at scale with Native Ads in DBM

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With over 100 million customers, Saudi Telecom (STC) is the largest telecommunication services company in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In 2012, STC launched QUICKnet in Saudi Arabia. QUICKnet is a suite of 4G Internet-enabled phones, routers, and devices targeted at young, tech-savvy consumers. The company turned to Starcom, a Publicis company, to help promote this new brand.

THE GOALS
Increase awareness of STC’s prepaid internet plans
Create campaigns that drive user engagement among young, tech-savvy consumers
Target a diverse expat community with custom, engaging, and relevant creatives
THE APPROACH
Leveraged DBM's native ads solution to launch scalable programmatic campaigns across desktop, the mobile web, and apps
Used Google Affinity Segments and 3rd party data to target key segments with relevant messaging
Implemented brand safety measures to deliver positive brand experiences
THE RESULTS
30% increase in unique user reach
2x increase in operational efficiency when consolidating native buying through DBM
132% increase in clickthrough rate
20% decrease in cost-per-click

Starcom encountered a few key challenges in promoting QUICKnet. First, QUICKnet had little to no brand awareness, so direct response campaigns were not effective. Traditional banner ads also presented difficulties, as young, tech-savvy customers often suffer from banner blindness. Lastly, youth in Saudi Arabia represent over 50% of the population, and STC wanted to build loyalty with this demographic, while reaching a diverse expat community across Saudi Arabia, who spoke different languages. This meant that STC needed to create campaigns that would both scale and provide targeted messaging for each audience.

Leveraging DoubleClick’s rich feature set to reach consumers programmatically.

Starcom began advertising QUICKnet with DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM) to reach their target customers efficiently and at scale. Ibrahim Jabri, a Digital Media Manager at Starcom shares, “Programmatic allows us to access inventory across multiple publishers to increase reach. We reached the targeted audience segments through Google and third-party data with dedicated messaging, while remaining very cost efficient, as compared to traditionally reserved native buys.” Elie Milan, an Associate Director of Programmatic at Starcom adds, “The degree of functionality we get with DoubleClick—through data, formats, customization and automation—is unparalleled. We also get robust dedicated support from DBM that is not replicated with any other partner.”

Reducing fragmentation with programmatic native ads.

When DoubleClick began offering native ads programmatically, Starcom and STC quickly launched a test campaign. “Setting up our first native campaign with DoubleClick was easy and streamlined, mirroring other DBM campaign implementations.” Milan says.

In the past, Starcom bought native ads directly from publishers, but consolidated the rest of their buys through DBM, which has helped prevent fragmentation of their data. Jabri explains, “Being able to access native inventory programmatically has been quite beneficial. We have been able to scale our campaign to multiple publishers, and that has been very valuable for us.”

Starcom likes how native ads enhance their surrounding content instead of distracting from it. Milan shares, “Native allows us to deliver ads that look good, with appealing text and information, for users to learn about products. We are able to provide users with an integrated experience.”

Increasing efficiencies throughout the advertising process.

Fatma ElGendy, a DoubleClick Sales Specialist for Google Middle East and North Africa explains, "Consolidating native and programmatic buys eliminates inefficiencies for advertisers. Decreasing data fragmentation allows advertisers to have a better view and understanding of user behavior online and across devices. Advertisers are also able to improve the user experience through customized targeting to ensure their brand’s safety.”

Streamlining the creative process was another benefit for Starcom and STC. Milan notes, “Our creative process was greatly simplified with native programmatic. We were able to create a single campaign that could be used on both mobile and desktop—and these assets were then able to be repurposed on social channels.”

Driving awareness through reach while lowering cost per engagement.

Though this was Starcom’s first native programmatic campaign for STC, the results were very promising. Milan notes, “In addition to driving reach and awareness, our clickthrough rate increased by 132% and cost-per-click decreased by 20%, even though we were buying at higher CPMs. In the end, we reached 30% more unique users while, lowering cost through increased engagement. This increase in engagement showed us that users actually appreciated the ads. They weren’t annoying the user, but instead were informative and helpful.”

More native campaigns on the horizon.

Based on their success with native programmatic ads, Starcom will continue to leverage this format to achieve a range of business objectives for STC, including increasing the target audience’s awareness, consideration and purchasing. “We will definitely be integrating this type of format more and more within our upcoming efforts,” Milan says. “The more these ads and our marketing efforts get streamlined and integrated within the overall user experience, the deeper the impact they will have on STC’s sales and brand.”

About Saudi Telecom Company

STC is the largest telecommunication services provider in the Middle East & North Africa. It is the leading operator within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and its international presence extends to 9 countries. STC services are divided into three categories; mobile network, landline network and Enterprise services.

About DoubleClick Bid Manager

DoubleClick Bid Manager helps brands and creative agencies create, run and measure digital campaigns across mobile, desktop and video — all from a single programmatic platform. Advertisers get instant access to top-tier ad inventory across screens, plus the real-time data and optimization technology they need to make each buy count.


"Over the course of 2016 we have been accelerating our programmatic activities with a focus on consolidating our data onto one platform. We were excited to be the first in MENA to launch native advertising that looks and feels like part of the publisher’s page through DoubleClick. Scaling native buying allowed us to further consolidate our activities and as a result achieve a single user view with incredible reach results."

- Ahmed A. Al-Sahhaf, GM Marketing Communication STC, Saudi Telecom



"We always challenge ourselves to seek better communication channels for our clients. We’re happy to venture into native ads on DoubleClick to do just that, creating better results for our clients investments."

- Ramzi Ghanem, EVP Managing Director, Publicis Media, KSA


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