20 years ago to the day, when only one per cent of the world was online, Bill Gates wrote an essay titled Content is King. He started it with the following statement: “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting.” He goes on to predict everything about how we are living today from the monetisation of the internet to the globalisation of content and to the growth of user- generated content. The main thing that stood out for me is how accurately he predicted that the internet will level off the playing field for everyone.

This cannot be more true for us in the Middle East and North Africa region in 2016. The playing fields in the media sector have truly leveled off within the past few years. Just ask yourself: are newspapers not competing with television stations by offering news video reports through various social plat- forms? Take a minute to think about it. Are TV ratings really going down or is viewership of TV content going up? How many viewers missed that heartbreaking little girl’s performance on The Voice Kids singing for her war-torn country on TV? Now, how many people saw it on their friends’ social media feeds? Different types of media are quickly becoming publishers that are competing on a single platform. In 2016, media owners will have to redefine who their competition is and fight for their share of users’ attention. As if TV didn’t have enough competition, add in to the scene video on demand platforms with Netflix and the like joining the party in 2016 – and you’ve got yourself a predicament.

More and more people are starting to move away from tradition- based TV to video on-demand platforms as the world has become less patient. Attention levels are diminishing quickly and they possess a need for everything on their own terms, filtering out advertising and feeling free to stop and pick up where they have left off. In the middle of all of this media agencies and advertisers need to make data- based decisions on which channels will carry the brand stories in the most meaningful and impactful ways.

For that purpose, 2016 will no doubt be about data fusion and analytics. Fusing media and consumer data will help us get inside consumers’ minds and understand their motivations. It will allow us to interpret their behaviour beyond what they tell us. It will allow us to predict, act and react in real time. Digital breadcrumbs will allow us to build consumer journeys and technology will allow us to deploy campaigns by extracting inventory and optimising choices across multiple platforms to deliver micro- tailored campaigns, again, in real time.

In 2016, real-time will spread to all social related platforms. Consumers around the MENA region will increasingly capture moments and share them within their social circles instantaneously and immediately allowing for more engagement. Most importantly, in 2016 social strategies will drive more loyalty and amplify advocacy as advertisers move to adaptive social platforms. Advertisers will realise the importance of keeping long-term relation- ships with various influencers on how their brands are perceived to the public. Advertisers will also understand that their primary advocates are their own employees and that their social strategies need to empower these advocates to propel their brands. The economy in 2016 will take its toll on advertising spend, there is no denying that fact. Today, advertisers are more than ever looking for their return on investment and for that the culture of performance will undoubtedly spread across all media. Social platforms are already in on the game as social becomes e-commerce enabled. Understanding the contribution of different touch points to the bottom line, especially the traditional ones, will become of greater importance. But how will these touch points fare to their digital competitors remains the question that needs to be addressed.

In 2016, agencies will look into continually being more strategic, digital first and innovative as the next step. It will require us to be smarter with our tools and more adaptive to the fast changing world around us. We will keep rethinking what we do, how we do it,where we do it and it will push us even more to create campaigns that truly connect with consumers in profound ways. I feel confident 2016 will be truly fantastic and I am eager to see how the MENA region will move forward with adapting to the changes we will definitely encounter.

Bill Gates closes his essay with the following emphatic statement: “Those who succeed will propel the internetforward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content.” As we see the worldtoday, these words undoubtingly speak the truth.

Amen to that.

first published in Campaign Jan 2016