Creative boost with new mobile technology

The growth in popularity of portable communications is changing the face of advertising across the region, according to a leading figure in the global advertising industry. David Patton, head of Grey Group’s Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) division, is discussing the latest trends within his industry at Grey Group’s annual conference, which takes place at Dubai’s Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa. During the conference, which has attracted Grey Group professionals from across the world, Patton will be highlighting the convergence of traditional forms of media, such as billboards, posters and television and radio campaigns, with newer forms of electronic messaging that have been enabled through the rapid growth in use of handheld multi function communication devices.

The rapid expansion in the use of high technology personal communications devices is fuelling new means for advertisers to reach out to consumers,” says Patton. “This phenomenon has emerged over the past few years with the launch of web enabled smart phones and the newer portable tablet computers. The huge growth in their popularity has seen advertisers and content providers seeking to engage in new ways of talking to their customers something that represents a paradigm shift within the industry,” he added.

Patton was keen to highlight the increasing levels of parity now being witnessed between the Middle East and the West in relation to information technology. Just five or six years ago, he said, the buzz phrase around regional technology differentiations was encapsulated in the phrase ‘Internet penetration,’ with the highest levels of reach recorded in the West. With smart phone ownership now on an equitable footing between the two regions, any such penetration gap is rapidly closing. According to Patton, there is one other statistic that shows a disparity between the Middle East and the West in terms of portable communications technology, but far from it being something that needs to be correctively addressed by advertisers in the region, is actually whetting their appetites.

"In the West, the majority of the population is over the age of 45 years, whereas in the Middle East, it has been estimated that around 65 per cent is under the age of 30,” he said. “Research conducted following the launch of the I-Phone showed that the majority of customers purchasing the device were below the age of 45, with only six per cent being over 50 years old."

The youth demographic in the UAE and wider Gulf region is therefore particularly exciting for advertisers, as this is a relatively affluent part of the world. This is why we are expecting to see an explosion of new forms of advertising centred around mobile technology over the next few years here,” he added. According to Patton, one example of this new mobile technology being effectively employed within the marketing sphere is the growing use of QR codes, which are matrix barcodes that contain information easily accessible to owners of smart phones.

Originally designed with the rather mundane application of tracking vehicle parts, QR codes are now finding their place in marketing campaigns, being seen on billboards, posters, in store displays, print advertisements and direct mail campaigns.

"QR codes are basically two dimensional encryptions that can be read by anyone with a camera phone,” he said. “They can contain a wealth of information within them and this can lead the user to a new, easily accessible brand experience,” he added. Grey Group forms part of the WPP Group, the world's largest advertising company and the title for the organisation’s EMEA conference this year is “Believe… anything is possible."

Patton says that the symposium’s aim is to inspire and create leaders who will capitalise on new phenomena in an ever changing and fast moving industry. The highly regarded industry professional also acknowledges that it is Dubai’s position at the forefront of the regional communications industry that has led to the city’s selection as a venue for this year’s forum.

"The aim of this year’s Grey Group EMEA conference is to encourage our international teams to take a lead in effectively utilising these new trends and channels, whether they are employed in the creative, digital or business sphere,” he said.

Dubai is a natural choice for such a message to be conveyed, as not only is the city an established regional hub, the figures from the Arab Advisors Group have also shown that mobile phone penetration rates in the UAE are the highest in the Arab world a significant statistic when you consider that it is arguably mobile communications technology that is driving this new trend,” he added.
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