Going local is something brands understand and tend to do in each market already for example by adapting their offers like McDonald’s does with its menu. However, WARC’s MENA Strategy Report 2017 highlights that in MENA countries, adapting the offering is not enough; brands must show more sensitivity to different cultures and customs.

Showing sensitivity

In the MENA region, a brand must demonstrate sincerity and trust - the fundamental elements valued by communities here. These values are paramount to the mainly Muslim population in the region and they expect brands to be “sincere, honest, friendly and committed to improving life”.
Unfortunately, sometimes brands still appear out of touch. For example, restaurants and food advertisers often run special campaigns during Ramadan but they still resort to showing images of food in a city where people cannot eat or drink during the day.
McDonald’s came up with alternative messaging, which also demonstrated their sensitivity to local customs. Its “no product” campaign in Dubai and Sharjah went viral with over 1 million shares and a 15% uplift in sales during Ramadan. The unexpected creative was unmissable, but more importantly, McDonald’s won the respect of consumers of all backgrounds around the world.
McDonald's campaign in JCDecaux UAEMcDonald’s ‘no product’ campaign, UAE

Recognise communities

Middle-Eastern countries are often a melting pot, made up of people from all corners of the globe. In the case of UAE, a whopping 89% of the population are expats. OOH is a fantastic medium with mass reach, but this does not mean that campaigns should not have targeting strategies.
As a telecoms company, Du understands the importance of effective communication. They know that generic messaging will not win consumer trust in a multinational region like the UAE; they must speak the language of their target audience. So, they launched a campaign targeting only the Filipino community. Despite communicating only to one community, Du demonstrated customer value. Which is why the campaign managed to increase its subscriber base by 24% in 6 months (14% higher than their goal) and increase its daily revenue by 110%.

Communicating to a young MENA

MENA countries have a young population, in general with 60% of the population being under 30. It comes as no surprised that 43% of all entries for the WARC MENA Strategy Prize targeted 13-25-year-olds. But how do brands target these savvy consumers?
A recent Kantar Millward Brown study revealed that young consumers are more sceptical and demanding of advertising than older audiences, they prefer traditional media and especially hold OOH in high regard for impact and building trust in brands. Brands must not forget that although young audiences are heavy social media users, campaigns need more than social to reach this savvy consumer.
Du first isolated their target audience - young tourists coming to the UAE. A cross-platform campaign targeted consumers from the moment they booked their tickets to the day they landed in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi airports. The campaign was in tune to the mentality of young travellers - appropriately using humour, tone and language at every stage, with Dynamic content elements welcoming travellers in their language depending on flight data.
Du saw a 39% uplift in overall tourist SIM sales compared to the previous year, and a 60% uplift in overall tourist sales at the airport.

The power of content

No matter the medium, audiences demand context and relevance from brand messaging. The best campaigns in the WARC list create messaging that these audiences will related to with 34% using humour, 38% using participation or user generated content and 55% using emotion.
Samsung’s campaign in Israel used all three tactics. A digital bus shelter panel displayed what appeared to be a classic static luxury watch ad endorsed by the actor Aviv Alush. That is until Aviv’s watch suddenly rang, and he started interacting with the surprised and delighted onlookers.
Young audiences are hard to please but they appreciate it when brands offer original content. They also respond positively to celebrity endorsement, especially when international brands collaborate with local figures. In doing so, brands demonstrate their understanding and consideration of the local culture and interests.
The MENA region is complex and presently, its media budgets are modest with 72% of the WARC campaigns being under $500k. At the same time, with a right targeting, strong values and a dollop of creativity, global brands can uncover untapped potential in building audiences and a strong regional voice within this valuable market.