The new silk road: The rise of Middle Eastern fashion brands on the global stage

The Middle East has long been a melting pot of culture, history, and tradition, and its influence on the global fashion scene is undeniable. In recent years, a new wave of local fashion brands has emerged from the region, captivating international audiences with their unique blend of contemporary design and rich cultural heritage. These brands have successfully transitioned from local favorites to global sensations, challenging and redefining the perception of Middle Eastern fashion on the world stage.Traditionally, the Middle East has been renowned for its rich cultural heritage, exquisite craftsmanship, and opulent aesthetics. However, it is only in the last decade or so that the region has started to assert its presence in the global fashion arena.This transformation can be attributed to several key factors, such as:Cultural identity: Middle Eastern fashion brands leverage their rich cultural heritage as a source of inspiration, infusing traditional elements into contemporary designs. This fusion resonates with consumers worldwide who appreciate authenticity and diversity in fashion.Innovation and creativity: While rooted in tradition, Middle Eastern designers are not afraid to push boundaries and experiment with innovative techniques and materials. This bold approach to creativity sets them apart in an industry often dominated by established Western labels.Economic growth and investment: The rapid economic growth witnessed in many Middle Eastern countries has provided the necessary infrastructure and investment opportunities for budding fashion entrepreneurs. This has facilitated the growth of local fashion industries and enabled brands to expand their reach globally.Global success stories: Several Middle Eastern fashion brands have successfully transitioned from local favorites to global icons, captivating audiences with their distinctive style and craftsmanship.Middle Eastern magic goes globalIn recent years, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have emerged as the hotbed of experimentative and innovative fashion hubs. From couture to streetwear, the emerging designers have used fashion as an art of self-expression, promoting social causes, creating political statements, and pushing a unique perspective. However, unlike their western counterparts, they have remained attached to their roots, proudly showcasing their heritage while making international waves.Let’s have a look at few of the fashion brands which have put the Middle East on the global fashion market:Elie Saab: Bridging elegance and modernityLebanese designer Elie Saab has become synonymous with luxury and sophistication. His eponymous brand, established in 1982, has gained international acclaim for its exquisite couture designs. Elie Saab's creations have graced red carpets and high-profile events globally, earning him a dedicated clientele that includes Hollywood celebrities and royalty. The brand's expansion into ready-to-wear collections has further contributed to its global appeal.Zuhair Murad: A testament to artistryAnother Lebanese fashion maestro, Zuhair Murad, has carved a niche for himself in the competitive world of haute couture. Known for his intricate embellishments and masterful craftsmanship, Murad's creations have become favorites among international celebrities. With flagship stores in major fashion capitals and a growing presence at prestigious events like the Met Gala, Zuhair Murad has successfully established his brand as a global powerhouse.Dolce & Gabbana Middle East: A fusion of culturesItalian luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana has recognized the significance of the Middle East market and has actively embraced it. The brand has launched special collections catering to Middle Eastern tastes, featuring elements of Arab culture in its designs. This inclusive approach has not only endeared Dolce & Gabbana to Middle Eastern consumers but has also garnered admiration globally for its celebration of cultural diversity.Bambah Boutique: Putting Dubai on the fashion mapHailing from Dubai, Bambah Boutique has rapidly gained recognition for its vintage-inspired designs infused with a modern twist. The brand has successfully blended Middle Eastern aesthetics with international trends, creating a style that resonates with fashion enthusiasts around the world. Bambah's unique approach has earned it a spot on the global fashion map, with a growing presence in leading luxury department stores.Madiyah Al Sharqi: Embracing elegance from the UAEThe UAE has also produced its share of global fashion influencers, with Madiyah Al Sharqi standing out. The daughter of the ruler of Fujairah, in the UAE, Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sharqi, Madiyah Al Sharqi launched her eponymous label in 2012. Her brand reflects a contemporary interpretation of traditional Emirati style, characterized by feminine silhouettes and luxurious fabrics. Madiyah Al Sharqi has showcased her collections at prestigious fashion weeks and gained international acclaim for her distinctive approach to modern elegance. Her designs have been worn by celebrities and fashion icons, contributing to her brand's growing prominence in the global fashion scene.Sandra Mansour (Lebanon): Sandra Mansour is a Lebanese designer celebrated for her romantic and ethereal designs, often featuring intricate embroidery and unique patterns. She is known for her eponymous fashion house, Sandra Mansour, which specializes in intricate ready-to-wear and bespoke bridal wear. The brand focuses on artistically driven pieces, timeless silhouettes, delicate fabrics, and attention to detail, particularly in hand and thread embroidery techniques. Sandra Mansour's background in painting and her experience in the fashion industry have played a significant role in shaping her unique vision.Mochi (UAE): Mochi, the artisanal fashion brand founded by Ayah Tabari, embodies a unique fusion of vibrant colors, traditional techniques, and sustainability values. From its inception, in 2013, Mochi has been dedicated to providing accessible avant-garde fashion while prioritizing sustainability and craftsmanship. One of the key pillars of Mochi's sustainability efforts is its commitment to seasonless designs. By creating pieces that transcend traditional fashion seasons, the brand not only reduces environmental impact but also offers customers timeless and versatile wardrobe options.As Mochi continues to evolve, it remains committed to offering beautifully crafted clothing that reflects its values of sustainability, accessibility, and timeless style. With its unique blend of creativity, tradition, and eco-consciousness, Mochi stands out as a beacon of mindful fashion in the industry.Jeux De MainsSalim Cherfane, a multi-disciplinary artist born in Beirut, initially made a mark in the creative field as a graphic designer and art director. However, his creative journey expanded when he ventured into fashion design with his brand 'Jeux De Mains'. This transition showcased his versatility and artistic vision across different mediums. 'Jeux De Mains' quickly gained recognition in the fashion industry, and in a remarkable feat, the brand had the honor of styling the American pop icon Beyoncé in 2019. This significant collaboration catapulted 'Jeux De Mains' onto the global stage, solidifying its reputation for innovative and stylish designs.Salim Cherfane's own contributions to the fashion world have not gone unnoticed. He has been featured in prestigious fashion publications worldwide, underscoring his impact and influence as a designer. In 2019, Cherfane was bestowed with the title of Designer of the Year by L’Orient Le Jour, further affirming his talent and achievements within the industry.BouguessaBougu­essa is a Dubai-based luxury, ready-to-wear brand spearheaded by Faiza Bougu­essa. While the rest of the world thinks Middle Eastern fashion is all about traditional abayas and kaftans, Bouguessa was one of the first brands that took up the challenge to put forward a different perspective in front of the world, and they did it by reinventing the iconic abayas.Bouguessa's collections often feature tailored silhouettes, clean lines, and luxurious fabrics, catering to a sophisticated clientele. The brand's focus on timeless elegance and versatility has made it a favorite among fashion enthusiasts seeking refined, statement pieces. Bouguessa's designs are frequently seen on celebrities and fashion influencers, further solidifying its status as a prominent luxury fashion label. Their designs are so compelling that Melissa McCarthy, Sophia Bush, and even Beyoncé is a fan.The global fashion industry is undergoing a transformation, and Middle Eastern brands are at the forefront of this evolution. With their rich cultural heritage, innovative designs, and a keen understanding of the global market, these brands have successfully broken through geographical boundaries, captivating fashion enthusiasts worldwide. As they continue to redefine the industry norms, Middle Eastern fashion brands are poised to play an increasingly influential role on the international fashion stage.

Coca-Cola trials label-free Sprite packaging at Tesco Stores

Coca-Cola has announced a temporary initiative to remove labels from Sprite and Sprite Zero on-the-go bottles in a limited trial of 'label-less' packaging. The pilot project will involve the removal of labels from single 500ml bottles of Sprite and Sprite Zero, with an embossed logo replacing the label on the front of the pack. Product and nutritional information will be laser-engraved on the back of the pack.The primary aim of this trial is to simplify the recycling process. By removing labels, consumers won't need to separate them from the bottles during recycling, thereby reducing the amount of packaging material used overall. This initiative aligns with Coca-Cola's ongoing efforts to reduce packaging waste and enhance recyclability.The label-less bottles will be available for purchase at eight Tesco Express Stores located in Brighton and Hove, Bristol, London, and Manchester from January to March 2024. These bottles will maintain the familiar clear, 100% recycled PET material, with green and transparent attached caps indicating whether it's Sprite or Sprite Zero.Coca-Cola has been implementing various design changes aimed at reducing packaging waste, such as transitioning Sprite bottles from green to clear plastic for easier recycling. Additionally, they've introduced attached caps to prevent littering and invested in lightweight bottle designs to minimize materials used in external packaging.Stephen Moorhouse, GB General Manager at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, highlighted the company's commitment to creating a future where plastic drink packaging has multiple lives. He emphasized that while labels contain valuable information for consumers, technology allows for alternative methods of sharing this information while reducing packaging usage.Javier Meza, VP Marketing, Coca-Cola Europe, described the trial as a significant milestone for the industry, noting it as the first time these technologies have been combined in a pilot globally. He emphasized the potential for longer-term changes in how brands communicate with consumers.James Bull, Head of Packaging and Food Waste Strategy at Tesco, expressed support for initiatives aimed at minimizing environmental impact and reducing plastic and packaging. He sees the label-less packaging trial as a positive example of brand innovation in providing sustainable solutions.

Azizi Developments appoints Saurabh Bakshi COO of Hospitality

Azizi Developments, a leading private developer in the UAE, has appointed Mr. Saurabh Bakshi, a renowned leader in the hospitality industry, as Chief Operating Officer of Azizi Hospitality.Azizi plans to invest up to AED 60 billion over the next five years, adding close to 20,000 new keys to Dubai’s hotel stock through the launch of 50 upmarket luxury hotels and resorts and an ultra-luxury, seven-star hotel in Dubai, operated by Azizi Hospitality.Mr. Saurabh Bakshi, a seasoned hotelier with a distinguished career, brings with him over 23 years of management experience in the hospitality industry. From his early days at the Grand Hyatt in New Delhi to his most recent role at Vinpearl Resorts, Mr. Bakshi’s has also held several other senior leadership positions across the world’s most prestigious hotels and resorts chains, including Kempinski, St. Regis at Marriott International, Aldar Hotels and Hospitality, Sheraton Hotels, IHG, Radisson Hotels, and Rotana, among others. His profound expertise in leading hospitality brands through periods of growth and innovation across the UAE and China, among other dynamic high-tourism markets, his strategic approach to operations, his ability to seamlessly drive the success of multiple assets, and his customer centric mindset are among the qualities that Mr. Saurabh brings with him to his new role and that position him as the ideal candidate to spearhead Azizi’s debut into the hospitality sector. He has also received numerous accolades throughout his career, including a recognition as General Manager of the Year, Outstanding Talent Developer of the Year, and Best Professional in the Industry.In his comments, Mr. Farhad Azizi, CEO of Azizi Developments, said: “We are proud to announce the hiring of Mr. Saurabh as the new COO of our hospitality division. We see his remarkable skillset as the perfect fit for our endeavors in the realm of high-end hotels and resorts, and are excited to soon launch our hospitality brand with his help and guidance.”Azizi Developments recently announced the start of construction of its tower on Sheikh Zayed Road, soon to be the second tallest skyscraper, which will feature a vertical mall, luxury residences and opulent penthouses, a seven-star hotel, a one-of-its-kind observation deck, and numerous high-end F&B options, among other unique and exciting features and amenities.Azizi Developments’ Sales Gallery can be visited on the 13th floor of the Conrad Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Zain KSA listed among ‘Top 50 Saudi Brands’ in social responsibility

Zain KSA was ranked as one of the 50 most socially responsible brands in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A list published by Forbes Middle East, in cooperation with the National Center for Responsibility and Studies (Saudi CSR), sheading the light on public entities, private companies, and NPOs in Saudi Arabia for their responsibility initiatives impact.The ranking is a result of Zain KSA’s diligent efforts and initiatives as part of their integrated social responsibility strategy. Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the best global practices in the field of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG), Zain KSA’s strategy supports Saudi Vision 2030’s goals for sustainable development and improved life quality.Embedding ESG across their entire value chain, Zain KSA’s sustainability actions included targeted programs for improving the quality of life for all segments of society. The Women in Technology (WIT) program supports recent female graduates in STEM fields. Through the ‘EVOLVE’ training program, Zain KSA provides recent graduates with practical experience and global know-how to prepare them for the job market. Through a collaboration with the ‘E7twa22’ charity group, Zain KSA employees made in-kind donations to more than 3,000 low-income families during “Kiswat Farah” initiative.Additionally, Zain KSA is a strategic partner of the “Family Safety Program”, which enhances their role in assuring child safety by endorsing the “Saudi Child Helpline” initiative with a comprehensive framework to support future generations in both the physical and digital worlds. The initiative targeted more than 3500 children along with their families through awareness campaigns.Zain KSA recently signed an MoU for a strategic partnership with “Kebar” Association. The partnership aims to bridge the digital divide and empower the elderly to embrace a tech-driven society through a targeted training program.

AI Workshop for senior executives to be held in Dubai

Cyber Gear and Bellamy Alden Institute for AI-Enablement have partnered to create an AI Workshop for executives who wish to learn the power of ChatGPT and GPT-4 to boost the productivity of their operations. The workshop will be held on 5 March from 9 am to 1 pm at Villa Rotana Hotel in Dubai.According to Sharad Agarwal, CEO of Cyber Gear, “This workshop focuses on helping senior executives grasp the transformative power of Large Language Models (LLMs) like GPT-4 and ChatGPT to drive operational efficiency and strategic innovation in your business.”About the TrainerFahed Bizzari is the founder of the Bellamy Alden Institute for AI Transformation and ChatGPT Accelerator.With a track record of 18 years in software development, over 3,000 hours mastering ChatGPT, two decades in entrepreneurship, and years in consulting and training, he is an international thought leader in the professional application of ChatGPT. This diverse and substantial experience makes him the authority on ChatGPT you'll want to listen to. Moreover, he's fine-tuned his communication skills with significant investments, ensuring that you're learning and truly engaged.He has a genuine mastery of ChatGPT, an intuitive understanding of its practical applications, and a knack for making the complex easily understandable. He can relate to those who are new to ChatGPT and can speak the language of professionals from all walks of life. When you learn from him, you're getting insights that are deeply informed and exceptionally well communicated.Course CurriculumEmpower Your LeadersGain LLM clarity to integrate AI seamlessly into strategic planning.Harness practical, innovative LLM applications for departmental growth.Adopt a visionary mindset for a culture of continuous AI advancement.Experience hands-on LLM tools to drive effective unit-specific solutions.Build risk awareness to navigate AI implementation challenges.Advance Your OrganisationLeverage LLMs for strategic insights, enhancing decision-making and efficiency.Boost operational productivity and cost-effectiveness through AI integration.Elevate customer satisfaction and loyalty with LLM-enhanced service models.Upskill your workforce with AI literacy, fostering a culture of innovation.Mitigate risks and protect operational integrity during AI adoption.

Royal Commission for AlUla launches 'I Care' to preserve cultural heritage of NA

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), the cultural custodian of northwest Arabia, has launched a new, inclusive heritage conservation campaign that aims to deepen and enrich the public's knowledge, awareness, and desire to protect and uplift AlUla's ancient history.The I Care campaign, which launches 1 February, shines a local, national, and global spotlight on the importance of RCU's diverse and ongoing heritage protection projects in AlUla as the county continues to be developed into the world's largest living museum.I Care will promote the need to safeguard AlUla's diverse landscape of cultural assets, including natural and manmade monuments, as a means of boosting economic development, driving community engagement, and expanding people's knowledge and appreciation of their AlUla's storied past – goals that align with the aims of Saudi Vision 2030.As an iconic first phase of the campaign, RCU has partnered with the acclaimed US artist David Popa to create a unique, landmark piece set within the landscape of AlUla itself. The artwork, which takes the shape of two protective hands, is constructed around the iconic Tomb of Lihyan, Son of Kuza, at Hegra which was designated as Saudi Arabia's first World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008.An impressive and ephemeral piece of creativity constructed using exclusively natural elements, including yellow earth from Europe and red earth from the Middle East, it is one of Popa's largest to date. Designed to disintegrate in a matter of weeks, Popa's artwork highlights the pressing need for collective action to safeguard cultural heritage locations in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, and the wider world.Dr Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, Executive Director of Archaeology, Conservation and Collections at RCU, said: "The roots of Saudi culture and tradition can be traced back millennia, influenced by civilisations as diverse as the Nabataeans, Minaeans and Lihyanites. The I Care campaign is an important and inclusive step towards increasing the AlUla community's awareness and appreciation of the incredible history that exists on their doorstep."The Kingdom has made great strides to conserve and develop its cultural heritage and rich collection of assets, including AlUla with its 200,000 years of human history. As guardians of this unique crossroads for civilisations, RCU is focused on raising people's awareness of the need to engage with conservation efforts through the new I Care campaign. This will help to deepen RCU's connection with our community as we work towards a common, shared, and inclusive purpose – to protect and celebrate our heritage so it can be enjoyed for generations to come."US artist David Popa said: "Working on this project has been an immense privilege. I Care is not just a campaign; it is a celebration of AlUla's and the Kingdom's legacy and traditions. AlUla's heritage is a treasure for the entire world, and I have been enriched by the enlightening conversations I have had with the local storytellers, the Rawis, the Heritage Rangers, and the young ambassadors being trained in the Hammayah programme to take on guardianship of this invaluable heritage."A key audience of the I Care campaign is AlUla's younger generation. RCU will provide schools with comprehensive toolkits to educate and empower youngsters and their teachers through a series of carefully designed workshops that focus on the importance of heritage protection and how landmarks connect with the community stories, life, and traditions. RCU will also host school visits and community activities at AlUla's diverse collection of historic landmarks, such as Hegra.The community, young and old, have an active and key role to play in helping to conserve AlUla's cultural landscape, with the I Care campaign seeking to fill any knowledge gaps and promote future discovery amongst residents, visiting tourists, and Saudi citizens.AlUla is now established as a new global destination for culture, history, archaeological discovery, and the sharing of ancient knowledge.AlUla is home to the extraordinary Nabataean city and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra; the city of Dadan, which was the capital of the Dadanite and Lihyanite kingdoms; the Jabal Ikmah open-air library, whose ancient inscription are now included in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register; and AlUla Old Town, which has been named as one of UNWTO's Best Tourism Villages.

Cressida Pickavance joins Cheil MEA as Director of DTC Strategy

Cressida Pickavance, formerly a key member of Cheil UK's leadership team, has been appointed as the Director of Direct-to-Consumer Strategy at Cheil MEA. With a strong background in e-commerce and digital expertise, Pickavance brings a wealth of experience to her new role. Her responsibilities include spearheading strategic initiatives and leading cross-functional teams across various digital disciplines.Given her extensive track record, Pickavance is poised to drive innovative and effective digital solutions for Cheil MEA's clients. In her statement, she expressed enthusiasm about her new role and the opportunity to contribute to the agency's growth within the dynamic digital landscape of the Middle East and Africa region. She highlighted the region's significant eCommerce growth rate and Cheil's strategic position to help clients capitalize on these opportunities.Pickavance looks forward to collaborating with the talented teams at Cheil MEA to achieve business growth objectives for both existing and prospective clients. Her appointment signifies Cheil MEA's commitment to staying at the forefront of digital innovation and delivering value to its clientele.Cressida Pickavance, formerly a key member of Cheil UK's leadership team, has been appointed as the Director of Direct-to-Consumer Strategy at Cheil MEA. With a strong background in e-commerce and digital expertise, Pickavance brings a wealth of experience to her new role. Her responsibilities include spearheading strategic initiatives and leading cross-functional teams across various digital disciplines.Given her extensive track record, Pickavance is poised to drive innovative and effective digital solutions for Cheil MEA's clients. In her statement, she expressed enthusiasm about her new role and the opportunity to contribute to the agency's growth within the dynamic digital landscape of the Middle East and Africa region. She highlighted the region's significant eCommerce growth rate and Cheil's strategic position to help clients capitalize on these opportunities.Pickavance looks forward to collaborating with the talented teams at Cheil MEA to achieve business growth objectives for both existing and prospective clients. Her appointment signifies Cheil MEA's commitment to staying at the forefront of digital innovation and delivering value to its clientele.

Radio still rules the waves in the UAE

In the new age of podcasts and audio streaming, radio remains a popular medium in the UAE, with one study revealing that about 8 million listeners tune in to radio stations in the UAE every week, representing 97 % national reach.According to a 2021 study by Nielsen Data Research, listeners of all ages tune in to the radio nearly 8 hours every week, with 70% of listening at home, 20% while traveling, and 10% at school or college. Interestingly, 85% listen to the radio online, mobile apps and the web.The enduring popularity of radio across the UAE has prompted universities to offer specialized programs in mass communication with a traditional focus on radio broadcasting.The American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK) has adopted a unique approach in which radio is not just a legacy medium; it has been reimagined and revitalized as a multimodal platform. The curriculum goes beyond traditional broadcasting, integrating new media technologies and dynamic content creation strategies to provide a comprehensive, modern learning experience in radio communication.“In the evolving mass communication world, radio continues to hold sway over people all over the world, more so in the UAE, where a large and diverse expatriate population has given rise to niche radio channels,” said Prof. Stephen Wilhite, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Success/ Provost, AURAK. “The format of radio programs has changed over the years, making it necessary for aspiring radio professionals to learn new skills in digital technologies. In this scenario, AURAK offers one of the most comprehensive mass communications bachelor programs, incorporating intensive radio-specific elements.”The AURAK Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication has been meticulously designed to offer a comprehensive education in radio, segmented into three core areas. First, the production aspect delves into the technical intricacies of radio broadcasting, covering skills in recording, mixing, and overall sound production. Second, the focus on content creation equips students with the expertise in programming, news and journalism, fostering talents in areas like being a Radio Jockey (RJ) and on-air presentation. Finally, the marketing & promotions component immerses students in the creative process of advertising, teaching them to craft compelling scripts for commercials and develop effective marketing strategies.Through this structured approach, the program prepares students for a wide range of career opportunities in the radio industry. Graduates can aspire to roles such as DJ/presenter, radio producer, broadcast journalist, program director, copywriter, and specialists in sales, advertising, marketing, and promotions. Each career path reflects the diverse skill sets honed through our dedicated segments of radio education, ensuring our students are well-prepared for the dynamic landscape of broadcast media.In the crowded media space, radio still holds many advantages. It offers the ability to reach a highly targeted audience and address a specific demographic. Radio advertising is relatively inexpensive, ideally suited for small businesses or startups that have a limited marketing budget.During the first quarter of 2021, according to the study, 7.82 million people in the UAE tuned in every week to listen to the radio. These listeners spent an average of 7 hours and 28 minutes each week on the radio.Radio manages to reach a diverse audience, both in terms of nationality and age group. The study found that the youngest listeners range from 10 years and above, and they spend on an average of 6 hours and 12 minutes per week listening to the radio. People in the age group of 25-34 years spend 7 hours and 44 minutes weekly.The Nielson study also offered some other interesting statistics about radio in the UAE. Over 1 million UAE residents aged 35+ listen online each week. Over 427,000 UAE residents turn on the radio every 15 minutes. More than 85% of the UAE’s population listen to UAE radio online, or through mobile apps, websites, or smart speakers and 15% listen on FM.“The focus of our Bachelor of Mass Communication is to produce well-rounded and versatile digital media professionals, of which radio is a key component,” said Prof. Hariclea Zengos, Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, AURAK. “The program offers critical tools needed to carve a niche for oneself in the expanding field of mass communication.”

Sports Boulevard launches Riyde, Riyadh’s immersive cycling experience

The Sports Boulevard has launched Riyadh’s immersive cycling experience, RIYDE, in partnership with global technology company the pioneering virtual cycling simulator and sports technology innovator, to develop a cycling experience aimed at increasing fitness rates in Riyadh.RIYDE, which has been created by the Sports Boulevard, will use cutting-edge technology to bring cycling to Riyadh’s residents, allowing them to ride virtual routes and compete against one another in an immersive cycling booth. It will also feature world-class hardware, delivered by implementing partner.With a total of 220km of cycling pathways being created as part of the Sports Boulevard, RIYDE has been designed to encourage a culture of cycling and sports in the capital whilst construction of the Sports Boulevard is underway.Opening for an initial period of two weeks, the RIYDE booth will be at a number of public places and offer the opportunity for friends, family, and colleagues to socialise, exercise and compete against each other whilst enjoying a new sport in an indoor, air-conditioned booth.The booth will be open for residents to visit and the cycling experience will consist of a virtual 5.24km route, the equivalent of 10-15 minutes of cycling, that can be tailored to differing fitness abilities. In addition to participating in the RIYDE experience, visitors to the booth will also be able to use virtual reality technology to explore how the Sports Boulevard will transform Riyadh once completed.  Jayne McGivern, CEO of the Sports Boulevard Foundation, said: “Promoting grassroots sports and unlocking the benefits of exercise for Riyadh’s residents is at the centre of the Sports Boulevard’s mission. Fitness technology has played a key role in improving people’s access to sports and exercise, so I am delighted to be launching RIYDE today, the immersive RIYDE experience is a fantastic way for the Sports Boulevard to provide residents with cycling facilities and to boost sports participation whilst we’re building the Sports Boulevard’s city-wide infrastructure.”Alvaro Galindo, Head of Business, BKOOL, said: “We are proud to announce our partnership with the Sports Boulevard, bringing the RIYDE experience to life for the residents of Riyadh. We are passionate about cycling and we want to inspire a new generation of cyclists. Our innovative, immersive technology will make this a reality, offering residents a new and fascinating opportunity to learn a new sport and passion.”The Sports Boulevard is one of Riyadh’s mega projects launched by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz on March 19th, 2019. Supported by HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. The project extends more than 135km on Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Road connecting Wadi Hanifah in the West with Wadi Al Sulai in the East through a grid of safe green pathways for pedestrians, cyclists, athletes, and horse-riders. The project includes more than 4.4 million square meters of greenery and open spaces, and up to 50 multidisciplinary sports facilities.

Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open returns with action-packed day on and off court

Day one of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open included the main draw for this year’s competition, with Grand Slam-winner Emma Raducanu handed a tie against Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova. Spectators were also treated to fantastic on-court action as Wimbledon mixed doubles champion Heather Watson produced a brilliant performance and Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins cruised to victory.The second edition of the WTA 500 tournament officially began at the International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City, where Grand Slam-winners Watson and Sofia Kenin went head-to-head in the headline game of the day.American Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion, claimed the first set 6-3, before Watson took control and dominated proceedings, eventually brushing her opponent aside comfortably to run out 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 winner.Elsewhere in qualifying, Collins eased to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Despina Papamichail, with wins also for the likes of Ashlyn Krueger, Linda Fruhrvirtova, Cristina Buc?a and Mai Hontama.Saudi star Yara Alhogbani, meanwhile, was beaten in straight sets by Sara Sorribes Tormo, the Spaniard easing to a 6-1, 6-0 win.Backed by a large proportion of the crowd on the stadium’s main court, Alhogbani showed glimpses of her sporting prowess but ultimately fell short against her more experienced opponent.Off court, the main draw for the competition took place this afternoon and with Raducanu set to face Bouzkova, there is the possibility of two highly anticipated second-round matches, which would pit the Brit against fan favourite Ons Jabeur and Naomi Osaka, who faces a qualifier, against Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, the highest-ranked player in the tournament.Japan’s Osaka, former World Number. 1, recently returned to the sport following the birth of her daughter and having competed at both the Brisbane International and Australian Open, the wild card entrant will now hope to progress in Abu Dhabi and set up a huge clash with World Number. 5 Rybakina.Raducanu also enters as a wild card after recently returning following a spell of injuries. The 21-year-old kicked off the year by playing in the ASB Classic in Auckland, before participating in the Australian Open.Xiyu Wang, a late wild card entrant, helped conduct the draw and finds herself facing sixth seed Beatriz Haddad Maia.The tournament’s four top-seeded players - Rybakina, Jabeur, Maria Sakkari and Barbora Krej?íková - are awarded byes to the next stage of the competition.Tournament Director, Nigel Gupta, said: “We are pleased the main draw for the competition has now taken place, which only adds to the sense of excitement and anticipation.“This year’s event is blessed with a wonderful field featuring some of the world’s best players, many of whom will be confident of going all the way, and fans attending are guaranteed to see some brilliant matches.”"The draw for this year's Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open features a formidable lineup of talent poised to deliver a captivating tournament. Each match promises to showcase the grit, skill and athleticism that define women's tennis at its very best”, said Umayma Abubakar, Executive Director of Executive Communications & Corporate Center at Mubadala.“We extend a warm welcome to our returning players and introduce the next wave of talent to the Abu Dhabi stage. This year's event will strengthen Abu Dhabi's reputation as a premier destination for world-class tennis and as a place where fans can experience sporting excellence first-hand”.Aref Hamad Al Awani, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, confirmed that organizing the WTA 500 event for the second time in a row reaffirms Abu Dhabi’s prowess in hosting major international events, and comes as a natural result of the confidence of international federations, institutions and sports bodies in the capital city. This makes the tournament one of the most prominent global events hosted by the capital throughout the year, in accordance with the highest professional and international standards.Al Awani praised the “Road to the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open” community initiative, which was launched last September on the sidelines of the upcoming edition of the World Championship and aims to advance the sport of tennis in the UAE by developing local emerging male and female talents.While naturally much of the opening-day focus centred around the tennis action, there was plenty of entertainment away from the courts with musical performances from the likes of Melissa Jeffrey and DJ Akmaral, candle making classes and tea demonstrations, along with tennis-themed activations for all the family in the Fan Village.

WRISE Group launches in Dubai

Singapore-based WRISE Group has officially launched WRISE Middle East, a subsidiary office based in Dubai. This office is specifically designed to cater to the operational requirements of high-net-worth individuals and their family offices in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the broader Middle East region. The establishment of WRISE Middle East follows the acquisition of the Category 3C license in 2022."The UAE is set to see an increase of 24.6% in the number of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) by 2025," said Derrick Tan Chairman, WRISE Group. "With an increasing congregation of the wealthy in this part of the world, we are excited to offer our services, expertise and technology to the ultra-wealthy community to meet their myriad wealth management and estate planning needs."Concurrently, WRISE Group has appointed Dhruba Jyoti(DJ) Sengupta as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WRISE Middle East. Sengupta, with over 25 years of experience in the financial industry across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, brings valuable expertise. Having held senior wealth management positions at international financial institutions such as Citibank N.A. and serving as the CEO of a family office, he is well-positioned to lead the growth of the Dubai team of client servicing experts and expand WRISE's offerings in these dedicated markets."Dubai has traditionally been a hot spot for UHNWIs in the European and the Mena regions to live and work, so with more of the world's wealthy expected to migrate here, I strongly believe that our depth of investment and wealth management expertise, together with TREX, our highly customisable wealthtech platform, will be key to meeting their modern wealth management demands in this digital age," said DJ Sengupta.

17% YoY increase in transactions, 27% in value

Property Finder, the leading property portal in the MENA region, has revealed its market performance highlights for January 2024, showing a positive start for Dubai’s fast evolving real estate sector. According to Property Finder’s proprietary data, the market witnessed a YoY increase of 17% in recorded sales transactions, over 11,000 compared to 8,712 in January 2023. Building on momentum from 2023, January also showed a significant surge in the value of transactions reaching almost AED 35 billion, marking an increase of 27% compared to the same month last year.      Key data highlights: Apartments vs Villas/Townhouses: 58% of interested property buyers were searching for an apartment, while 42% seeked villas/townhouses. In contrast, 80% of tenants in the rental market were found to be looking for apartments, while 20% were searching for villas/townhouses.  Sales property type Preferences inJanuary 2024Tenants' property type PreferencesJanuary 2024  Furnished vs Unfurnished: Roughly 62.2% of tenants seeking apartments were found to choose furnished properties, while 36.1% were searching for unfurnished options. In contrast, tenants who are able to afford villa/townhouse rentals revealed the opposite, with about 57% seeking unfurnished units and 42% looking for furnished options. Sizeable units in demand: Approximately 36% tenants searched for one bedroom units, 31% for two-bedroom apartments and 22% for studios. For villas/townhouses, 43% tenants were looking for three-bedroom units, 34% seeked four bedroom or larger options. As for ownership, 33% were seeking one-bedroom units, 36% searched for two-bedroom apartments and 14% for studios. Regarding Villas/Townhouses, 40% were primarily looking for three-bedroom units, while 44% were searching for four-bedroom or larger options. Ownership vs rental choices: Top areas searched to own apartments were Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai, Jumeirah Village Circle, Business Bay, and Palm Jumeirah. Dubai Hills Estate, Arabian Ranches, Palm Jumeirah, Al Furjan and Damac Hills were the most desired areas to own villas/townhouses. Leading areas for rentals were Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Village Circle, Downtown Dubai, Business Bay and Deira. Dubai Hills Estate, Al Barsha, Damac Hills 2, Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim were popular when it came to searches to rent villas/townhouses. Support from existing market: Existing property transactions revealed a YoY increase of approximately 8% in volume, with over 5,000 transactions. The value of these transactions surged by 31% YoY, touching AED 21 billion, compared to AED 15.7 billion in January 2023. Growing demand for off-plan: Off-plan showed more demand, with a YoY increase of approximately 25% in volume and 6,000 recorded transactions. Values experienced a surge of around 21% YoY, reaching roughly AED 15 billion, compared to AED 12.2 billion in January 2023. Cherif Sleiman, Chief Revenue Officer at Property Finder, said: “We are delighted to see January build on the great momentum from last year, revealing positive scope for sustained successes in 2024. It’s interesting to see off-plan gain further traction, promising demand for new projects. As a leading proptech portal, we continue to keep our eyes on evolving consumer choices, with an aim to empower our partners and property seekers to make more informed decisions within this thriving real estate landscape. ”All the latest information for January’s top listings and communities are available on Data Guru by Property Finder that can be accessed at or on the Property Finder app, available for download on Google Play and Apple Store.

Gerety Talks with last year's UAE Agency of the Year. Tuesday, February 6th

Gerety Talks with Joe Abou-Khaled, Atiya Zaidi and Ali Rez from Impact BBDO. In 2023 they were awarded with UAE Agency of the year.Agency & Production Company of the year by country is chosen by the local juries from the portfolio cut and requires a single film no longer than five minutes in length and includes up to three pieces of work from the past 12 months. Impact BBDO were awarded for their portfolio Cut entry that included the following spots: Election’s Edition for AnNahar Newspaper; Schoolgirls Newscasters for EBM and Despair no More for TENA.Ali RezChief Creative Officer MENAPImpact BBDO GroupNamed Creative Person of the Year twice by Campaign magazine, Ali Rez is the most awarded creative leader in the Middle East, and currently leads creative output for the IMPACT BBDO Group across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan region. Rez’s work has been instrumental in Impact BBDO being named the No.2 Agency In The World on the WARC report, while winning 29 different Agency of the Year accolades in 2022 and 2023 for bringing tremendous business success and creative excellence to the Group, and positive impact to social causes.Rez has won more than 900 international accolades in his career spanning four continents over 20 years, which include Grands Prix at all the major shows including Cannes Lions, Clio, OneShow, Loeries, Effies – awards which have led him to be ranked No.1 ECD in MENA and APAC on several creative rankings. In 2023, he was the first jury president ever at Cannes Lions to represent the Middle East.Moving from California, Rez currently lives in Dubai, where he is an avid mountain biker. Besides lecturing at Oxford University, Rez has exhibited at Tate UK, spoken at Tedx, and has traveled to 139 countries.Joe Abou-KhaledIMPACT BBDORegional Executive Creative Director - MENABorn, raised and based in Beirut, Joe leads a big chunk of the agency business in the Levant, the GCC and Africa. He has a diverse work background covering fully integrated multilingual campaigns across the MENA region.With more than 20 years’ experience at BBDO, he has won awards across most categories and major festivals, including 3 Grand Prix at Cannes Lions in the last 4 years.Today, Joe is ranked #1 ECD in MENA by the One Show 2023 Global Rankings and #14 in the world by the Drum World Creative Rankings 2023.Atiya ZaidiChief Executive Officer/Chief Creative OfficerBBDO PakistanAtiya is a creative who loves to create. She has over 20 years of experience in the advertising industry working on an array of local and international brands. Winner of the first ever Glass Lion at Cannes Lions 2023, for Pakistan, she is also the first Pakistani woman to be selected for Cannes Lions See it Be it program, D&AD’s Rare creative program and also the Pitch magazines’ 100 Superwomen list 2019. She also wrote a film which is available on Netflix.

Haltia.AI pioneers research into real-time knowledge capture with LLMs

In a significant advancement for AI technology, Haltia.AI, a dynamic AI startup based in the UAE, has published a pioneering research paper titled "Prompt-Time Symbolic Knowledge Capture with Large Language Models" on . This achievement distinguishes Haltia.AI as the only fully private entity in the UAE to advance the field of AI through published research, an endeavor typically reserved for larger, more established corporations.In this latest research endeavor, Haltia.AI's team sought to push the boundaries of Large Language Models (LLMs), vital tools in transforming human-machine interactions. Despite their proficiency in conversation, LLMs have shown limitations in learning from user-provided data. This study addresses the LLMs' challenge in assimilating knowledge beyond their training, particularly in capturing aspects of users’ personal lives and interactions.To address this, the team, led by Dr. Tolga Çöplü and comprising Arto Bendiken, Andrii Skomorokhov, Eduard Bateiko, Stephen Cobb, and Joshua J. Bouw, developed three fundamental methods to enhance LLMs' ability to capture symbolic knowledge from user inputs. This approach aims to pave the way for more sophisticated, adaptive, and personalized AI applications, driving AI systems that can engage in dialogue and learn in a manner more congruent with human interactions.The research introduces innovative methods for equipping LLMs with the ability to directly capture knowledge from user prompts. It thoroughly explores zero-shot prompting, few-shot prompting, and fine-tuning methodologies, assessing their efficacy in knowledge assimilation, a feature previously lacking in LLM applications.The paper delves into the generation of prompt-to-triple (P2T) knowledge structures, examining methods to extract and structure user-provided information. This advancement promises to create more adaptive, personalized user experiences and significantly contributes to the AI and machine learning fields. The team's focus on knowledge graphs is crucial due to their clear structures and capacity for factual reasoning.Reflecting on the research's impact, lead author Dr. Çöplü stated, "Our research marks a new chapter in AI's interaction and learning capabilities. By concentrating on prompt-driven symbolic knowledge capture, we are setting the stage for AIs that are not only conversational but also truly understand and learn from human input. This publication exemplifies our dedication to pioneering AI research and underscores our unique position as an innovator in the UAE's tech ecosystem."This publication represents a significant stride for Haltia.AI in advancing AI technology. It showcases the startup's capacity to contribute valuable insights to AI research, rivaling global tech giants, and sets the stage for future innovations in personal AIs and other real-world AI applications.The full research paper is accessible on, with the accompanying code and datasets available on GitHub . This open-source approach highlights Haltia.AI's commitment to collaborative innovation and the democratization of AI research.

Arab Youth Center launches 3rd Arab Youth Podcast training programme

The Arab Youth Center (AYC) has launched the third edition of the Arab Youth Podcast training programme. The programme aims to empower talented youth from various Arab countries with the skills of preparing audio digital content that touches the priorities of young people, support human development paths, economies and knowledge societies in the Arab region using the latest tools and technologies.The new edition of the programme is organised by the centre in cooperation with leading institutions in the Arabic content industry, including the international platforms Sawt, Content, Molham Plus, Anghami, the knowledge application Wajeez and Sky News Arabia Academy.The third edition of the Arab Youth Podcast training programme will welcome participants aged between 15-35 who are interested in podcasting, designing, planning, implementing and producing creative audio content in Arabic.Moza Al Hinai, Director of Strategic Research at AYC, said: "Through this programme, we seek to improve audio content, contribute to the production of high-quality Arabic youth audio channels, enhance the skills of Arab youth in the field of audio colouring, and provide young people with the basic and advanced skills necessary to launch their own audio platforms with the support of specialists and experts in the field of podcasts from the programme's partners, in addition to their participation in training courses and workshops in the field of podcasting and podcasting industry, in addition to direct advisory sessions between Young, experts and inspirers in the world of podcasts.”The programme includes specialised courses in podcast production, audio recording and audio colouring, in addition to podcast montage and marketing workshops, and the top 20 finalists will have an intensive training stage. This includes hours of technical consultations with experts in the field to develop ideas, improve the work plan, and answer questions, within direct sessions on developing business plans, developing technical production, and creating publishing and marketing plans. The training takes place in two stages - the first of which 100 men and women participate to present podcast episodes at the end, from which the programme committee chooses the best 20 episodes, to qualify their owners for the second phase. The second phase includes training sessions, ending with the selection of the winning projects to honour the top three.

evision and Disney Star announce content partnership

Evision, the UAE's entertainment streaming service, and Disney Star, Indian media and entertainment company, have joined forces in a strategic partnership. The goal is to provide viewers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with access to an exceptional content library, solidifying evision as the ultimate destination for entertainment in the region.This partnership unlocks a diverse world of content, starting with an extensive channel portfolio from Disney Star. Popular linear channels such as Star Plus HD, Asianet Middle East, Star Gold and Star Vijay will be accessible to UAE subscribers on elife and Switch TV. Subsequently, these channels will also be available on evision’s OTT streaming platform, STARZ ON, across the GCC region. Disney Star’s linear channels will be available on Asiana packages in the UAE and MENA region.This collaboration will also provide viewers with access to the most popular on-demand content, including the latest premium originals and an extensive library from the Hotstar Specials catalogue specifically tailored for South Asian audiences in the MENA region.This collaboration transcends mere content expansion; it ushers in a revolutionary entertainment destination destined to captivate audiences across the region with licensing rights for Advertising-based Video on Demand (AVOD) and Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television (FAST) channels offered throughout MENA.Olivier Bramly, CEO, evision, said: “The strategic alliance with Disney Star expands our premium content and enhances the entertainment destination for audiences across MENA. This collaboration reaffirms our commitment to delivering the best in TV entertainment. evision enables the audiences across multiple platforms and services to experience the best of South Asian entertainment and Sports.”“We are thrilled to further extend the reach of our compelling and multi-lingual content portfolio in the MENA region through an enhanced collaboration with evision. The MENA region has shown great interest in our series and format shows, broadcasted on our leading TV channels across languages. In addition to our much-loved channel offerings, we are excited to introduce our most sought-after Hotstar Specials to viewers in the region. This collaboration with evision reflects our ongoing commitment to engaging with our audience and represents a significant stride in that direction,” said Gurjeev Singh Kapoor, Head – Distribution & International, India, Disney Star.With this landmark partnership, evision and Disney Star mark a new era in MENA's entertainment landscape. Viewers can look forward to a universe of stories, all from the comfort of wherever they prefer to relax and enjoy content.This strategic collaboration signifies a defining moment in evision's journey, solidifying its position as a pioneer in delivering world-class entertainment to MENA. Together, we embark on a thrilling narrative, one that promises to enthrall audiences and rewrite the entertainment landscape.

Landvault appoints Mohamed Khalifa as the VP of Metaverse

Landvault, a leading virtual experience developer, has announced the appointment of Mohamed Khalifa as the Vice President of Metaverse, to further fuel the company's Middle East expansion. Khalifa’s experience encompasses serving as CTO for blockchain and game studios, at the intersection of technology, gaming, and decentralized systems. His commitment to remaining at the forefront of technological advancements is evident through his exploration of emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), the broader scope of the metaverse and its digital economy. Notable experiences include contributions to Dubai Expo 2020 Metaverse Expo, PUBG, Avatar 2, Sensorium Galaxy Metaverse with Carl Cox, Arab Hope Makers Dubai Game Fi, Nor Platform, and its C9 Games.Landvault, renowned for constructing immersive, virtual experiences for major brands and organizations like Abu Dhabi Government, Mastercard, Standard Chartered, and Hershey, continues to pioneer technological advancements in the GCC region. Following its expansion into the UAE earlier in 2023, the company is substantially investing in the region - collaborating with local governments, real estate firms, and other undisclosed projects slated for reveal in Q1 and Q2 2024. Mohamed Khalifa's role will include crafting top-tier metaverse-engineered experiences that seamlessly blend technology with user-friendly accessibility. Khalifa is dedicated to creating enjoyable and easily accessible experiences, eliminating the need for third-party installations. His commitment extends to developing internal and external tools that empower users to integrate and shape their metaverse experiences."Exploring the vast landscape of the metaverse and the ever-evolving realm of technology has become a captivating journey for me. I'm eager to collaborate with Landvault due to the unparalleled experiences they have in the pipeline. Their commitment to interoperability aligns with my advocacy, allowing seamless movement of characters and assets across diverse virtual worlds. I've always emphasized this in my lectures, illustrating how, through platforms like Landvault's Matera Protocol, an individual in a remote village can sell art globally by tokenizing and minting it as an NFT in a metaverse art gallery," said Khalifa. “Khalifa's interest in the metaverse and technology is fueled by a passion for innovation and a strategic vision, and we look forward to the innovative advancements and transformative experiences that will arise from his leadership in the metaverse space,” said Samuel Huber, CEO of Landvault.

Apparel Group opens five stores at Al Reem Mall

Apparel Group has announced the opening of five iconic stores at Al Reem Mall: Skechers, Nine West, La Vie en Rose, Birkenstock, and Aldo Accessories. This expansion represents Apparel Group's dedication to diversifying the region's retail offerings and enhancing the shopping experience for its customers.Apparel Group's selection of brands for the Al Reem Mall encapsulates a wide array of styles and preferences:Skechers offers innovative and comfortable footwear suitable for all ages.Nine West brings its latest collection, blending contemporary fashion with timeless elegance.La Vie en Rose introduces a luxurious touch to the mall, showcasing premium fashion apparel.Birkenstock presents its sustainable and comfortable footwear range, emphasizing quality and design.Aldo Accessories completes this diverse portfolio with its chic and modern accessories.Neeraj Teckchandani, CEO of Apparel Group, said: "Our initiative at Al Reem Mall is just the beginning of our ambitious strategy. By unveiling these first 5 stores, we're not only setting a strong foundation but also aligning with the broader economic goals of the UAE. This expansion reflects our commitment to supporting the government's vision for a diversified, sustainable economy, and it's a testament to our belief in the region's potential. As we continue to open the remaining 29 stores and plan further expansions this year, we remain dedicated to being a driving force in retail, significantly contributing to the economic and cultural fabric of the region."Apparel Group’s expansion at Al Reem Mall is the beginning of a comprehensive strategy to elevate the shopping experience across the region. The Group is set to continue its growth trajectory, with plans to open additional stores, bringing new brands and unique shopping experiences to customers throughout the year.

AVIA appoints new Board Chair and Adds two new Board Directors

A new chairman of the board of directors of the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) has been appointed and two new directors have joined the board. Phil Hardman, Senior Vice President and General Manager of BBC Studios Asia, has been appointed as the new chairman following Clément Schwebig stepping down. Schwebig was previously President and Managing Director of Warner Bros. Discovery for India, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea, before moving on to be President, Western Europe & Africa.Also joining the AVIA board this year are Emily Yri, Vice President, International Marketing, PubMatic, and Shonali Bedi, Head of Strategy, Partnerships & Insights, APAC, Warner Bros. Discovery.Louis Boswell, CEO of AVIA, commented, “The board of AVIA and I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Clément Schwebig who chaired the Board for the last three years, taking over in the middle of a pandemic and helping steer the association to safety through those difficult times. He was a strong and vocal advocate for the industry. The board and I are now looking forward to working with new Chairman – Phil Hardman, to help guide AVIA through what are clearly challenging times. Phil also has an energy and passion for the industry, and I am sure will make a significant contribution to developing the next chapter in the AVIA story.”Phil Hardman added, “AVIA stands at the intersection of the diverse challenges and opportunities in the media industry across Asia bringing much needed insight, thought leadership and regulatory & anti-piracy initiatives that benefit its members. BBC Studios has been a long-term Patron Member of the association, and I am honoured to become chairman of AVIA at such an exciting and innovative time. I look forward to working closely with our board members and the AVIA leadership to help AVIA guide the industry through a time of such transformational change.”With the two new additions to the board, AVIA now has four female board directors, or one third of the board.

BBC Kids launches in the Middle East

BBC Studios has announced its agreement with MBC GROUP to launch BBC Kids content on the world’s leading Arabic streaming platform, Shahid from 8 February 2024.The collaboration will bring BBC Studios' exceptional children’s content to a wider audience in the Middle East, providing families and children aged 0-12 with digital access to a diverse range of inspiring, entertaining and educational shows. With a commitment to delivering content that sparks imagination and creativity, BBC Kids aims to enrich the viewing experience for children and parents alike. This launch makes the Middle East the sixth market to introduce the BBC Kids brand following previous launches in Australia (April 2021), US (January 2022), Taiwan (July 2022), South Africa (September 2022) and most recently in India, where it has been available to audiences on Prime Video Channels since July 2023.Curated to offer dedicated sections aimed at pre-school children and older children, BBC Kids will offer 200 hours of premium programming, fully dubbed into the Arabic language, in a safe environment. New series available on the SVOD service for pre-schoolers include JoJo and Gran Gran, and several titles from children’s favourite Andy’s Adventures collection. Older viewers will enjoy tracking down the most deadly animals on the planet in Deadly 60 and following best young bakers competing in Junior Bake Off.In addition to the launch of BBC Kids, BAFTA and International Emmy® award-winning pre-school animation Hey Duggee (Series 1-3) will make its free-to-air debut across the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and North Africa through children’s channel MBC3. Created and written by Grant Orchard, Senior Director of Studio AKA, Duggee is a big loveable dog who inspires pre-school children to be energetic, explore and problem solve. Each episode starts with Duggee welcoming the Squirrels to discover new things about the world around them. Bringing smiles, laughter and hugs along the way, the Squirrels enjoy every moment on their amazing adventures in the care of huggable Duggee who has A-woof for every occasion! Hey Duggee is a Studio AKA production with CBeebies and BBC Studios."We are excited to bring BBC Kids to Shahid allowing our critically acclaimed content to connect with a broader audience and enhance the entertainment experience for kids and families in the Middle East. The inclusion of Hey Duggee on MBC3 channel strengthens our commitment to providing exceptional content that teaches valuable lessons in a fun and accessible way, and is accessible both in digital and linear – said Andrea Raman, Director, Business Development for Nordics, MENA, Turkey at BBC StudiosTareq Al-Ibrahim, Director of Content at Shahid, added: “Shahid’s exciting kids’ library stands out thanks to the richness of its educational and entertaining content, while also ensuring a trusted and safe viewing experience for families across the Arab world. Today, with the launch of BBC Kids, we are bringing more globally renowned and award-winning content to the Middle East and North Africa through Shahid and MBC GROUP’s channels.”He continued: “We’re excited to add a plethora of titles online, bringing over 200 hours of new kids’ content to Shahid. We’re always looking to add the best value and experiences for our important young viewers!”BBC Kids is an ad-free video destination available to Shahid subscribers. All programming features Arabic dubbing. The new digital proposition complements the youngest audience's experience in the Middle East, adding to the CBeebies Pre-school linear channel already available in the region since 2016.

Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle unveils Poltrona Frau

Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle, a pioneering leader in lifestyle retail across the GCC, today announced the grand opening of Poltrona Frau the 112-year-old luxury Italian furniture brand, at Mall of the Emirates. The milestone marks the brand’s second store in Dubai and the first mall-based store worldwide.Following the successful debut of the newly designed showroom in Jumeirah, the iconic Poltrona Frau brand now graces a line-up of high-end luxury names in the UAE’s premier shopping destination. Since partnering with Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle in January 2023, Poltrona Frau has seen around a 30% growth in the UAE, with revenue expected to double this year. The local brand success is largely attributed to effective designer collaborations, strategic partnerships, and operational enhancements including the significant reduction in stock order fulfillment, streamlined from three months to just a few days.Fahed Ghanim, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle, said:"Introducing Poltrona Frau's first-ever mall store worldwide is about more than just expanding our offerings, it's a strategic move to enhance the luxury living and shopping experience for our customers.”"Mall of the Emirates perfectly aligns with Poltrona Frau's ethos of offering a unique blend of luxury and sophistication, resonating seamlessly with the discerning tastes of customers who frequent the destination. We're not merely showcasing a brand, we're creating an immersive destination for luxury furniture design enthusiasts. This store is an opportunity for visitors to delve into the essence of Italian craftsmanship and design, a celebration of sophistication and comfort that defines Poltrona Frau's enduring legacy." The new 500 sqm store at Mall of the Emirates features an immersive layout designed by AMDL CIRCLE for Poltrona Frau, and includes distinct rooms, an exhibition path to engage customers and material, and object libraries. The store design incorporates recurring structural elements to create versatile settings with a neutral palette, extensively using wood on floors and ceilings, reminiscent of traditional Italian lacunari.This dynamic layout creates a fluid and flexible environment that encourages interaction, and serves as a source of inspiration, drawing influences from the hotel industry, fashion retail and industrial spaces.The store showcases a curated selection of Poltrona Frau’s most renowned collections, including the 2023 Beautilities range, which introduces everyday accessories for well-being such as The Pet Collection, Games Collection, and Fitness Collection, enhancing the brand’s commitment to holistic living. The Infinitamente sculptural table, a masterpiece by Roberto Lazzeroni is also available in-store. As a limited edition piece, the table is a testament to the ongoing artistic exploration of marble, boasting intricate workmanship and a unique visual appearance.Nicola Coropulis, Chief Executive Officer of Poltrona Frau, said:“This new store marks a significant milestone for Poltrona Frau as we expand our partnership with Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle and extend our footprint and craftsmanship excellence to a broader audience. The decision to open our inaugural mall store in the heart of Dubai is a testament to the seamless synergy between the refined preferences of the region's customers and the timeless allure of Poltrona Frau's luxury furniture.”Renowned architect and designer, Roberto Palomba joined Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle and Poltrona Frau leadership for the store’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on 1 February. Known for contributing to Poltrona Frau’s legacy, Palomba’s signature pieces took centre stage at the opening, providing guests a glimpse into the seamless fusion of artistry and functionality, and the elegance and innovation synonymous with Poltrona Frau. His creations for Poltrona Frau include the soft, rounded, and welcoming Happy Jack sofa, his latest design for the brand; the iconic Let It Be, inspired by the famous Beatles song; and the Get Back Sofa & Come Together Sofa currently displayed in the store.

Sela and adidas announce strategic partnership

Sela, a leading live events and experiences company, and adidas, a global leader in the sporting goods industry, have proudly unveiled a ground-breaking partnership focused on strategic collaborations and joint developments.This milestone agreement, driven by brand synergies and a shared vision for mutual growth, marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for both organisations.The partnership is global, but with a strong focus on activations in Saudi Arabia with both parties keen to explore tactical initiatives to develop new youth programmes, using shared experience and expertise across sport and lifestyle to make a positive impact. Sela, who are also a primary sponsor of Newcastle United, will explore opportunities across retail and brand activation with adidas, as well as consider broader areas such as sponsorships, events, grassroots programmes and collaborative content.Key principles of the partnership include:Strategic CollaborationsThe partnership between Sela and adidas is a strategic alliance built on the foundation of shared values, innovation, and a commitment to excellence. Both companies recognise the tremendous potential for growth by leveraging their respective strengths to co-create products and experiences that will resonate with consumers globally.Strong Values for GrowthSela and adidas are united by a common commitment to innovation and excellence. This partnership is rooted in the belief that combining their experience can enhance the competitive edge of both organisations and set new standards for industry collaboration.Shared Interest in Youth Programmes with Focus on Sport and Lifestyle:Beyond the business realm, both partners recognise the transformative power of sports and lifestyle in shaping the lives of young individuals.This collaboration will see the joint development of initiatives aimed at empowering youth, promoting inclusivity, and encouraging healthy, active lifestyles. By aligning their efforts, Sela and adidas aim to make a meaningful impact on the communities they serve.Commenting on the partnership, Ibrahim Mohtaseb, SVP at Sela, stated: "We are thrilled to embark on this strategic journey with adidas, a global leader whose commitment to excellence mirrors our own. By combining our strengths and focusing on mutual growth, we are confident that this partnership will not only redefine industry standards but also create innovative solutions that resonate with consumers worldwide and within Saudi Arabia."Bilal Fares, General Manager, adidas EMC said: added: "This partnership is a testament to the shared values and vision of Sela and adidas. Together, we aim to set new benchmarks for collaboration and deliver products and experiences that reflect the best of both brands.”

New report: Global social media users pass 5 billion milestone

 Meltwater, a global leader in media, social and consumer intelligence, and We Are Social, the socially-led creative agency, have released Digital 2024, their latest annual report on social media and digital trends worldwide.In a year full of digital milestones, Digital 2024 shows that active social media user identities* have passed the 5 billion mark (5.04 billion), equivalent to 62.3 percent of the world’s population. The global total increased by 266 million over the past year - an annual growth of 5.6 percent.The typical social media user now spends 2 hours and 23 minutes per day on their social platforms of choice, and uses 6.7 platforms each month. TikTok has the highest average time per Android user of any social platform globally, clocking in at an impressive 34 hours per month - equating to more than an hour per day using the platform. In second place is YouTube, with the average user spending just over 28 hours per month on its Android app.In terms of the world’s ‘favorite’ social platform, Instagram has taken the crown from last year’s winner, WhatsApp. Digital 2024 shows that 16.5 percent of internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 consider Instagram their most loved platform, pushing WhatsApp into second place with 16.1 percent.Digital 2024 is a 550+ page report that covers data points from across the entire online ecosystem, from social media to smart devices, gaming to social commerce. Other key highlights from the report include:The typical internet user now spends 6 hours and 40 minutes online each day - up by 3 minutes per day, or 1 percent, year-on-year.Facebook - which celebrates its 20th birthday on 4th February - grew its global ad reach by more than 200 million over the past 12 months, delivering year-on-year growth of 10.5 percent.LinkedIn, Snapchat, WeChat, and Pinterest all reported strong user growth year-on-year.Digital ad spend grew by 10 percent year-on-year, with almost $720 billion spent on digital ads in 2023. Social ad spend increased by 9.3 percent to USD $207 billion, and investment in influencer activities increased by 17 percent.The typical internet user now spends 17 minutes per day less watching TV content than they did this time last year - a decline of 8.2 percent year-on-year.In a rich analysis of TikTok hashtags, Digital 2024 reports that TikToks tagged with #fyp (for your page) have amassed a total of 55½ trillion views - making it the platform’s top hashtag.Alexandra Saab Bjertnæs, Chief Strategy Officer at Meltwater, said: “As social media enters its next chapter with five billion-plus users, understanding usage patterns, engagement, and emerging trends is crucial to helping brands find their unique voice amidst all the online chatter. The rise of TikTok, coupled with Instagram’s ‘favorite’ status and the growth of professional networking platforms like LinkedIn, paints a picture of evolving preferences. With so many platform choices, brands need to really understand where their target audience is going for information—and shape compelling narratives that engage them with unparalleled precision and authenticity.”Nathan McDonald, co-founder and group chief executive at We Are Social commented: “Social media continues to be a vital part of the way we connect with one another, from building communities to researching purchases and everything in between. TikTok’s continued popularity has changed the way that people behave online - social is not somewhere where a broadcast approach works for brands, and the importance of thinking social first has never been more important. It’s encouraging to see strong growth across multiple social platforms, each offering something different, whether that’s Pinterest for social commerce or Facebook for connecting with communities. For marketers, understanding platform nuances - and how to use social media to connect in culturally relevant ways - will be more crucial than ever.”

Ziad Soukkarie joins OMD as Saudi Arabia MD

OMD MENA, the media agency network of Omnicom Media Group, has announced the appointment of Ziad Soukkarie as Managing Director for Saudi Arabia. His mission at OMD will be to cultivate talent, foster team success, enhance client capabilities, and outpace the market in terms of growth.  Soukkarie brings with him over 18 years of industry experience gained in the region, mostly in KSA. Most recently, he was the General Manager of UM KSA. Over the years, Soukkarie has navigated the rapid evolution of the local media market and led the team handling the country’s largest advertiser. He owes his success to his deep understanding of the country’s marketing landscape and the needs of its advertisers.  “Working with Saudi Arabia’s growth momentum and its ambitious vision, Ziad’s experience and proven track record to date bodes well for our next chapter in the Kingdom,” commented Saleh Ghazal, CEO of OMD MENA. “Ziad is ideally placed to help us accelerate our growth, with his grasp of the dynamics and mechanics of the unique Saudi market. I am delighted to have a seasoned and respected leader joining the executive team and confident that we will create an exciting future for our talent, clients and partners.” “I’ve always had the greatest deal of respect for OMD, and I now realise it is because we share the same vision and values. Joining OMD feels like a home coming of sorts, a natural step in my professional journey,” Soukkarie explained. “I am very excited about what’s coming next, and I look forward to meeting, exceeding even, the ambitions of our business partners.”

Saudi Crown Prince unveils Alat: A leap towards global tech hub

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the launch of Alat company, aiming to make Saudi Arabia a global hub for electronics and advanced industries. Alat aims to create 39,000 direct jobs and contribute $9.3 billion to Saudi Arabia's non-oil GDP by 2030. This underscores the company's commitment to fostering economic growth and reducing dependency on oil revenues.Alat will focus on seven key strategic business units, including advanced industries and semiconductors, smart appliances, smart health, smart devices, smart buildings, and next-generation infrastructure. These areas align with global trends in technology and innovation, positioning Alat as a competitive player in the international market.The company plans to establish strategic partnerships with leading international players in manufacturing and technology. These collaborations will not only enhance Alat's capabilities but also contribute to the development of the local and regional economic ecosystem.Alat aims to provide sustainable manufacturing solutions, leveraging clean energy sources to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. By embracing environmentally friendly practices, the company demonstrates its commitment to responsible and sustainable growth.Alat prioritizes innovation, manufacturing, and research and development. By investing in these areas and localizing expertise, the company seeks to drive technological advancement and create job opportunities in the industrial and electronics sectors.The establishment of Alat aligns with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, particularly in diversifying the economy and promoting sustainable growth. By expanding into priority sectors and strengthening local supply chains, Alat contributes to the realization of the vision's objectives.Overall, the launch of Alat represents a significant milestone in Saudi Arabia's journey towards economic diversification and technological advancement. Through job creation, strategic partnerships, and a commitment to sustainability, Alat aims to position the kingdom as a global hub for advanced technological manufacturing

Online abuse puts sports at risk of losing stars – UAOA survey finds

International sporting federations and NGOs have come together in the first ever industry-wide barometer survey to express grave concerns about the harmful effect that online abuse is having on sport and its competitors.Among the headline findings of the survey, undertaken by the United Against Online abuse campaign, was a concern among the 22 sporting federations and NGOs which participated that abuse is driving sports stars from competition.Organisations including FIFA, UCI, ITF, World Athletics, World Netball and the FIA contributed to the new research examining the extent and impact of online abuse.Their responses paint a clear image of a challenging and aggressive social media environment. Three quarters of federations said that sports stars regularly face threats of harm against themselves or their families, with 90% saying that this is likely to lead to them quitting the sport.Respondents also set out their solutions, with 95% saying that social media platforms have a key role to play in tackling the problem, either voluntarily or under obligation.The statistics come in the wake of a spate of high-profile online abuse cases, including those against former England midfielder Eni Aluko, world tennis No.8 Daria Kasatkina, Chelsea forward Lauren James and recently-retired World Cup rugby referee Wayne Barnes. In fact, one of the main triggers for the FIA’s launch of UAOA was the abuse suffered by an FIA female steward from Spain at the time of the Mexican Grand Prix in 2022.Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Founding Partner of UAOA and President of the FIA, said: “Online abuse is a persistent issue within the sporting world. A number of international federations have voiced their concerns via our barometer survey and in regular discussions we have held since the campaign launch in 2022. The survey findings highlight the importance of united anti-abuse efforts across sporting ecosystems and beyond.“As part of the UAOA campaign, the aim of our coalition is to rid our sport of the scourge of online abuse. Together we seek to bring about behavioural and regulatory change to create a safer, more harmonious environment free of abuse, hate speech and harassment. We already have the support of a number of sporting bodies and governments and are in discussions with other stakeholders to grow our support base.”The United Against Online Abuse campaign is leading the way in these efforts. Drawing together international federations, governments (from Albania, Belgium, France, Greece, Malaysia, Slovenia, Spain) and NGOs (including Peace and Sport), the group has carried out extensive research into online abuse and hate speech, alongside its research partner Dublin City University (DCU). The coalition recently onboarded three DCU scholars, who will continue to bolster this research and strengthen industry understanding of the issue.Professor David Hassan, Principal Investigator for the UAOA Research Study, said: “This research provides us with a baseline for our work going forward. Now that we have established the extent of the problem across sporting federations, we are well placed to address this issue and tackle its root causes, alongside other researchers, governments, and campaign groups.“In conversations with IFs like the IOC and FIFA, there is a common desire to gain a better understanding of the cause and effect of online abuse. That is one of the main goals of our research scholarship programme in collaboration with DCU. The findings of that research will inform our strategic approach going forward.”Coalition members have been united in their desire to join forces to rid sport of online abuse. Several members reiterated that commitment in their responses to the UAOA barometer survey.Dame Liz Nicholl, DBE, President of World Netball, said: "At World Netball, our vision is to make netball a sport that is open to all, and this stretches to the online space. We want all of the Netball Family to feel included and respected on social media. There is no space for abuse.“It was important for netball to be part of this UAOA initiative, and we look forward to helping to make social media safe for all those within our game; from the fans to our officials, and of course our athletes at every level.”Jorge Viegas, President of the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), said: the global governing body of motorcycle racing, said: “The FIM is proud to be an UAOA partner and to be part of this initial step so that we can gauge and analyse the findings in order that we can better protect our riders and motorcycling sport in general from online abuse.“By co-operating and collaborating with other sporting federations, our united approach is one of the best ways to limit this kind of abuse. From the results of the survey, we can now look to strengthen certain areas and ensure that we focus our efforts for the next part of this important process.” Boban Totovski, General Secretary of the International Esports Federation said: “The International Esports Federation is built on respect, not rage. Whether you're a pro player or a weekend warrior, let's spread positive vibes and make Esports a community, not a battleground. Level up your sportsmanship, not your toxicity. Remember, the real victory is respect, not burning books. Let's make Esports a place where everyone feels welcome.”

CARMA announces acquisition of mmi Analytics

CARMA today announced it has acquired mmi Analytics (mmi), a media communication and eTail measurement platform for beauty, fashion, and lifestyle brands. This strategic acquisition marks a significant step in CARMA’s commitment to expanding its full-service offerings and strengthening its position in these key vertical markets.The acquisition brings together CARMA’s global reach, technology, and comprehensive services with mmi Analytics’ deep expertise and established presence in the beauty, fashion, and Lifestyle sectors. It will enable the optimisation of the customer journey by building targeted brand strategies and evaluation methodologies across retail media, influencer communities, and traditional media networks around the world.mmi, headquartered in London, will operate as a brand within the CARMA group and be supported by CARMA’s global scale and award-winning client service, technology, and expertise. With 22 offices worldwide, CARMA’s acquisition will enable mmi to double down on its regional strength in the sectors while supporting clients in dynamic global markets.Mazen Nahawi, CEO of CARMA said: “I am delighted to welcome mmi to the Carma family. The beauty and luxury goods sector is an exciting category. It is robust, innovative, and fast-moving and is growing double-digit across our strategic markets in the Middle East and Asia. Acquiring mmi means that we can now further optimise beauty clients’ digital communications strategies on a global basis.”Christian Eckley, CEO of mmi Analytics said: “This acquisition is great news for our team and our clients. It provides us with superior media insights technology, service, and capabilities while enabling mmi to enhance and scale its offering as part of a truly global organisation.”

Burger King's Whopper Island ad takes aim at McDonald's in playful rivalry

Burger King's latest campaign, created by DM9 Brazil, has stirred up attention by inviting people to participate in renaming an island to "Whopper Island." The island in question currently shares its name with Burger King's famous rival, McDonald's, adding an extra layer of wit to the marketing initiative.The campaign, launched through a mockumentary-style ad and user-interaction campaign, cleverly plays on the rivalry between the two fast-food giants while engaging the audience in an interactive way. By encouraging people to join the movement and interact with the campaign online, Burger King Brazil is leveraging the power of user-generated content and social media to amplify its message.The call to action for viewers to join the online movement by using the hashtag #IlhaWhopper and leaving comments on Google Maps not only engages consumers but also generates buzz and virality around the campaign. Offering Whopper discount vouchers as incentives further incentivizes participation and helps spread the message even further.This approach not only generates buzz and excitement around the brand but also fosters a sense of community and participation among consumers. By tapping into humor and creativity, Burger King Brazil continues to demonstrate its innovative and playful approach to marketing, further solidifying its position as a bold and attention-grabbing brand in the competitive fast-food industry.<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Celebrate Chinese New Year on Hudayriyat Island

Bring your friends and family to welcome the Year of the Dragon with amazing Chinese-themed shows and activities at Marsana on Hudayriyat Island, Abu Dhabi’s premier leisure and sports hub developed by Modon. Keep an eye out for the stilt walker and dragon show that will be roaming around the vibrant venue against the backdrop of beautifully decorated sets and breathtaking waterfront views. Take a seat to enjoy the drummer duo show, the dragon dance, the traditional umbrellas dance, and the kung fu show that will be happening throughout the evening. And if you stay until the end, you get to watch all the performers come together to put on a spectacular final show. For a hands-on experience, you can try various artistic activities, such as fan painting and kids’ artwork. Location:    Entertainment area at Marsana, Hudayriyat IslandDate:          Saturday, February 10, 2024 Timings:     Roaming Dragon Show:                                 4pm – 4:30pm                   Traditional Umbrellas Dance:                          4:30pm – 5pm                     Roaming Stilt Walker + Kung Fu Show:           5pm – 5:30pm                    Drummer Duo Show with Dragon Dance:          5:30pm – 6pm Traditional Umbrellas Dance:                          6:40pm – 7pm         Dragon Dance:                                               7pm – 7:15pm Roaming Stilt Walker + Kung Fu Show:           7:15pm – 7:40pm          Drummer Duo Show with Dragon Dance:          8pm – 8:30pm Roaming Dragon Show:                                 8:30pm – 9pm          Final Show Featuring All Performers:              9:00pm – 9.15pm                       Entrance fees: No Entry Fee

YouTube's 'Hekayat YouTube' series engages Saudi youth and decision-makers

There has been an exciting initiative by YouTube to engage with the youth in Saudi Arabia through their flagship series Hekayat YouTube. The special edition of Hekayat YouTube focuses on Saudi youth, aiming to create a platform for dialogue between decision-makers and Gen-Z in the Kingdom.The series brings together top Saudi YouTube creators and influential public figures from Saudi Arabia to discuss various topics such as the future of jobs, artificial intelligence, wellbeing and quality of life, the creator economy, and sports.Diverse Saudi creators from various fields including lifestyle, health, technology, and investment are participating in the series. Some of the notable creators and contributors mentioned are Beeko, Faisal Alsaif, Sukkari Life, and Faris Alturki. Additionally, influential members from the public and private sectors in Saudi Arabia are participating, such as representatives from the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, the Quality of Life Program, and private sector leaders.Tarek Amin, YouTube’s Director in MENA, highlighted the importance of the vibrant creator community in Saudi Arabia and how YouTube serves as a reflection of what's top of mind for Saudi youth. The initiative aims to provide a platform for creators to engage with decision-makers and share their experiences.With 63% of Saudis under the age of 30, YouTube's reach in Saudi Arabia is significant. YouTube data indicates that the platform reached over 20 million people in Saudi Arabia over the age of 18 in December 2022, with the average person watching over 55 minutes of YouTube per day in June 2022.The series consists of five episodes and is available on YouTube Arabia’s YouTube channel, participating creator’s channels, and major podcast platforms such as Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anghami, and Deezer.The first episode, titled "Play it Forward with YouTube," premiered on January 31 on Ana Beeko’s YouTube channel, YouTube Arabia’s YouTube Channel, and major podcast platforms. Subsequent episodes will be released weekly.This initiative seems well-designed to engage with Saudi youth through content that resonates with their interests and concerns, while also providing them with a platform to interact with decision-makers

Oliver Wyman appoints new Wellbeing lead, extends paid maternity leave

Oliver Wyman, a global management consulting firm and a business of Marsh McLennan, has extended its maternity leave and has also appointed a Wellbeing Lead for across its India, Middle East, and Africa (IMEA) region. The Wellbeing Lead is a new role for the company that is designed to promote health and happiness among employees and bolster retention. Meanwhile, the increase in parental leave now means all new parents in the IMEA region are eligible for six months of paid maternity leave, or eight weeks of paid paternity leave. This change ensures consistency across the entire region, bringing the maternity leave offering in line with what was already available in India. The policy applies to offices in the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Qatar, and India.Additionally, returning mothers will be offered an additional eight paid days off in the first eight weeks after they return. Employees returning from maternity leave will also be given the option to take a 12-month ‘no-travel guarantee’ to help with a smooth transition back to work, while new fathers will be offered flexibility regarding travel arrangements.Meanwhile, many of Oliver Wyman’s newly renovated offices, such as its Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Doha offices, also feature multi-purpose wellness and nursing rooms to help new mothers with their return to the workplace. Overall, Oliver Wyman is designing its offices to suit the adjusting needs of today’s hybrid workforce – with ample collaboration areas and breakout rooms, for instance.The company has also implemented a program called BOOST 2.0, which aims to provide support to employees before, during, and after their parental leave to ease the transition to parenthood while supporting their career. A key element of the program is that the support continues into the later stages of parenting – it offers regular check-ins for parents, a buddy system for support, trainings, workshops, and more.The newly appointed Wellbeing Lead, Clare McDonald, will be responsible for managing the wellbeing of employees across the IMEA region. McDonald joined Oliver Wyman in 2013 and has worked across the company’s Talent Management function for the past 10 years – she will combine this essential experience with her qualifications in mental health, first aid, personal training, yoga, and nutrition coaching. McDonald will act as the company’s central point of contact for Wellbeing across Oliver Wyman IMEA, and her focus will be on employee support and engagement, data collection and analysis, and designing programs to enhance employee wellbeing.“To drive progress in human capital acquisition and retention, companies must go beyond traditional compensation models and foster safe, equitable, and healthy work environments. People are at the heart of what we do at Oliver Wyman and the wellbeing of our employees and providing everyone with support along their personal journey is a key part of our value proposition. We are thrilled to have Clare take on this new role, the first of its kind in our business, and we know she will approach it with a lot of passion, as well as support from leadership. Leading with heart isn't just the right thing to do, it's also good for business,” said Isabell Stobwasser, Director of Talent for the IMEA Region.“Drawing upon my own health journey, I hope to support and inspire my Oliver Wyman colleagues to thrive – physically, mentally and emotionally, both inside and outside of work,” said Clare McDonald, the new Wellbeing Lead. “Management consulting is a demanding industry, and prioritizing wellbeing is a challenge that needs to be looked at holistically.”Oliver Wyman has made significant investments globally in support of its Talent Value Proposition initiative, an internal program aimed at increasing employee satisfaction and retention. The pillars of this proposition encompass various initiatives, including an exchange program, MBA study support, and a Golden Passport program that provides consultants and specialists with opportunities to work across multiple regions. Additionally, the company also places strong emphasis on its Employee Resource Groups, which serve as spaces for employees to connect, foster allyship, and receive support. These include Women at Oliver Wyman and Family Life at Oliver Wyman.

Emirates Post Group unveils new brand identity ‘7X’ for future

Emirates Post Group Company (EPG) has unveiled its new brand identity - 7X - during an exclusive event at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. The unveiling marks a strategic leap for the Group, positioning it as a front-runner in the ever-evolving landscape of global trade, transport, and logistics.The name 7X is symbolic, representing the connectivity of the seven emirates to the seven continents and across the seven seas, marking a commitment to enabling a world in motion. This strategic shift aligns seamlessly with the Group’s ambitious five-year strategy - which prioritises operational excellence, digital transformation, customer-centricity, cultivation of strategic partnerships, and promotion of sustainable growth.With entities like Emirates Post, FINTX, and EDC under its umbrella, 7X seeks to achieve a robust return on investments across all projects. The new strategy places innovation at its core, incubating a network of trade, transport, and logistics solutions for an efficient, dynamic, and future-ready ecosystem. It is aimed at propelling growth by establishing a resilient business model that represents the group's strategy pillars: Protect, Transform and Expand.Badr Salim Sultan Al-Olama, Chairman of 7X, said: “With the launch of our Group’s new strategy and identity, we aim to connect and enable a world in motion, deriving our vision from the global stature enjoyed by the UAE and its pivotal role as a connecting the world. This achievement underscores our pioneering endeavours to support the national economy and solidifies our position as a driving force dedicated to empowering, connecting, accelerating, and sustaining the growth of trade, transport, and logistics. in addition to uphold the highest standards of excellence.”The new strategy is geared towards further strengthening the company’s global footprint and fostering a positive influence on the communities served by 7X. The brand seeks to further enhance its contribution to the UAE’s vision of smart communities through a global network that leverages technology and collaborative efforts for enhanced efficiency in global operations.In addition, the strategy sets new standards for quality, speed, reliability, and transparency in postal and express delivery. It responds to changing consumer demands by combining Courier, Express, and Parcel (CEP) services with fintech solutions, revolutionising the industry.Commenting on the launch of the new identity and its transformation strategy, Abdulla Mohammed Alashram, Group CEO of 7X, stated, "In this historic step, we embark on a new chapter under the '7X' brand, signifying our unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional customer experiences and enriching their value. Our rich legacy and growing experience in the UAE and the region have always been pillars of our socio-economic evolution, in line with the national vision for digitization, e-commerce, logistics, and financial integration. We pledge to continue our technological and sustainable investments, affirming our environmental responsibility and dedication to innovation that aligns with market dynamics."Alashram, added, "Our new strategy aims to reinforce our core operations and enhance their stability while focusing on achieving operational excellence through improved efficiency and productivity. This strategy not only highlights the expansion and diversification of our portfolio but also reflects our resolve to drive innovation in an ever-evolving sector."By embracing innovation and sustainable practices, the Group envisions not only economic growth but also a contribution to environmental responsibility and social well-being. Through strategic partnerships and continuous investment in digitalization, 7X is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping a more interconnected, resilient, and inclusive global trade and logistics landscape.

Karcher Center makes debut in Muscat

 The first Karcher Center in Oman was inaugurated at Ghala Industrial Area in Muscat on Wednesday, 31 January 2024.The official ribbon-cutting ceremony was conducted in the presence of a number of Omani dignitaries and German officials, including His Excellency Dirk Lölke, German Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, Ms. Sousann El-Faksch, Head of Oman German Industry & Commerce Office (AHK). Also in attendance were senior executives, Christian May, Deputy CEO & Chief Sales Officer, Alfred Kärcher SE & Co. KG, and Joe Lahoud, Regional President, Karcher - Middle East Region.“Karcher is a family-owned enterprise with a heritage of 89 years in business. We firmly believe in values and relationships that stand the test of time,” said Joe Lahoud. “Our customers in Oman share much of the same values, and we are confident that the Karcher Center Muscat will send a clear signal of our commitment to work together to meet their needs.”Over the last 50 years, Karcher has built a loyal client-base for its household and professional cleaning equipment across 14 countries in the Middle East. Oman is expected to be an important market for Karcher’s ambitions for expansion in the region.“The Karcher Center at Ghala will not only offer a comprehensive one-stop shop for innovative, high-quality products, it will also be a vital distribution and logistics hub for our dealers and retail partners across the Sultanate,” explained Joe Lahoud. “Moreover, we have a full-fledged service center manned by highly trained Karcher technicians, and equipped to provide best-in-class after-sales support to our Omani customers.”Karcher is a renowned brand in cleaning technology with a presence in 80 countries, a multinational team of 15,000+ professionals, a portfolio of 3000+ products and accessories, and a network of 50,000+ service centers worldwide.The company's diverse product portfolio includes high-pressure cleaners, vacuum cleaners, steam cleaners, air purifiers, municipality sweepers, scrubber driers, vehicle washing bays, dry ice blasters, watering systems, and drinking water dispensers.

Aunindo Sen joins Publicis Middle East as Executive Creative Director

Aunindo (Auni) Sen, an industry veteran with 16 years of experience working with some of the world’s leading brands and largest agencies, has joined Publicis Middle East, part of Publicis Groupe ME, as Executive Creative Director. He will co-lead the creative department together with Tuki Ghiassi, Executive Creative Director.Auni is rejoining Publicis Groupe ME after two years, having previously worked with Leo Burnett ME as Senior Creative Director. Familiar with the Groupe’s relentless focus on excellence, in his new role as Executive Creative Director, he will help drive best-in-class work for the agency’s enviable roster of brands as well as support the growth of the agency’s portfolio across verticals. As part of this, he will also join in on the agency’s objective of transforming into one of the most attractive talent propositions in the region.Previously, Auni has worked with the likes of BBDO, FP7McCann and JWT across the GCC and Asia leading award-winning regional and global campaigns for multinational brands such as Ferrero, Coca-Cola, Mars, Nestlé CPW, Unilever, Dettol, United Nations and more. He has over 150+ regional and international awards under his belt including Cannes Lions, Dubai Lynx, MENA Effies, D&AD and Adfest, and won the first Glass Lion at Cannes for MENA. He also recently served on the Cannes Lions jury, and was ranked as one of the world’s best copywriters in The Big Won report.Commenting on his appointment, Auni said: “Publicis Middle East is not just an Agency. It’s the name that represents an entire Groupe that has transformed communications globally. As the namesake Agency of the Groupe, we have our work cut out for us. But this is something I can safely say, is the part of the job that I relish the most. With the talent-first focus of Publicis Groupe ME and its Leadership, we are absolutely primed to not only mirror its reputation but to take it to a new level.”Nathalie Gevresse, CEO of Publicis Communications UAE, said:“We’re thrilled to welcome Auni back to the Groupe. His return underscores our commitment to attracting and nurturing top talent, setting the stage for an exciting new chapter of growth, creative excellence, and innovation for Publicis Middle East.”

Adgully ME in conversation with Alex Malouf

Today, we're honored to have Alex Malouf as our guest, a renowned figure in the Middle East region, especially in the realm of corporate communications. Alex has been recognized for his groundbreaking work, being named the first communications innovator in the MEA region by the Holmes Report, and acknowledged as a Rising Star and future Chief Communications & Marketing Officer by PRovoke Media.As a PRCA MENA board member and a seasoned communication veteran with two decades of experience in the region, Alex brings a wealth of insights to the table. In this exclusive conversation, he'll shed light on his journey in corporate communications in the MENA region, emphasizing his efforts in promoting sustainability within the sector. Given the growing awareness and emphasis on environmental and social issues, Alex's perspective is invaluable.What sets this discussion apart is the opportunity to delve into Alex's lesser-known journalistic background. Many may not be aware of his magazine venture from a decade ago, and we're eager to hear him share insights from that experience.Without further ado, let's dive into our conversation with Alex Malouf, where he'll provide firsthand insights into his remarkable career and the evolving landscape of corporate communications in the Middle East.<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share" allowfullscreen></iframe>

DORITOS launches first international brand platform, 'For the Bold in Everyone'

Doritos is debuting the brand's first-ever unified international creative campaign and brand platform, 'For the Bold in Everyone', strategically redefining the meaning of "bold" and inspiring people to be triangles in a world of circles. A daring call to shatter stereotypes in unexpected and humorous ways, the witty new platform is inspired by the universal human truth that sometimes people hide parts of themselves to fit in. The brand wants to encourage people to rethink their personal biases and embrace their own edges and passions. DORITOS® Launches First International Brand Platform, ‘For the Bold in Everyone’ "Doritos has always been synonymous with 'bold,' but we know it's time to redefine and evolve it's meaning to continue to drive relevance with new generations" says Fernando Kahane, Head of Global Marketing for Doritos. "Today's consumers want brands that believe in something. 'For the Bold in Everyone' aims to strike the right balance between having a point of view and delivering entertaining and humorous content that is true to the brand and the snack category as a whole." 'For The Bold in Everyone' makes its international premiere this year with a trio of unexpected and fun spots all created by Goodby Silverstein & Partners and directed by BAFTA Award-winning director Gary Freedman. The commercials showcase how a single brand idea can be flexible, telling emotional and personal stories, as well as functional to support potential brand renovations or new product launches. From challenging viewers to rethink their assumptions to celebrating the unique flavour and iconic crunch of Doritos, each commercial is unified by the overarching goal of embracing boldness in all its facets.Doritos' new campaign will run throughout 2024 and is spearheaded by a global film about a grandmother who, at first glance, is getting her license renewed, but unexpectedly reveals she is a woman who defies societal pre-conceptions and fulfils her dream of driving a Monster Truck – all told by her supportive grandson who accompanies her every step of the way on this journey full of tenderness, adrenaline, and unexpected twists."This was such a ridiculously fun idea! Funny, cinematic, absurd, and soulful all at the same time," says director Gary Freedman."This campaign is a great example of how humour can help communicate a strong message in an accessible way without losing its essence; the campaign is intended to elevate the brand on an international level and give it an expanded perspective, one that introduces a new brand philosophy," said Margaret Johnson, CCO of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, the agency behind the campaign.The campaign in the UK also includes social and digital advertising, created by Sips & Bites, PepsiCo's in-house creative agency, which features real stories from the UK and around the world, applauding those who embrace all their edges and passions. This includes Chloe Kelly, a female footballer who delivered a more powerful shot than any recorded in the top England men's football tournament 22/23¹; Pete & Bas – Britain's oldest Grime MCs; Dan Mancina, a blind professional skateboarder and Colette Zacca, the 'Dancing Granny' who took the 2019 Notting Hill Carnival by storm.Globally, 'For the Bold in Everyone' is a key priority for the future of the brand. As well as running in the UK, the campaign will launch in Australia and other European markets such as Spain and the Netherlands in Q1, with roll-out plans across Latin America and other key international markets throughout 2024 - marking the first of many stories to be told in an enduring international brand platform to drive a distinctive and consistent brand narrative over the coming years.

Dopay names Ahmed Nassef as Chief Operating Officer and GM

dopay, a leading fintech and payment solutions company in Egypt, announces the appointment of Ahmed Nassef as its new Chief Operating Officer (COO) and General Manager. This announcement was made during an exclusive roundtable event, highlighting the company's commitment to instant digital payroll for companies and financial inclusion for Egypt’s millions of unbanked workers.In addressing the challenges within Egypt's financial landscape, dopay – licensed as a banking agent by the Central Bank of Egypt – is committed to transforming the country's financial sector. Leveraging an advanced cashless payroll and payments solution, dopay makes it much easier for companies to pay their employees, freelancers, and contractors by quickly replacing high-risk and cumbersome cash payments to these workers with fast and secure digital payments.Further, dopay can deliver pre-paid cards to these workers within days, who can then use any ATM in Egypt to access their salaries, and they can also use them to shop at any point-of-sale merchant that accepts MasterCard.Ahmed Nassef brings a wealth of experience, which he amassed during his 20-year tenure in the tech scale-ups and startup business growth in several countries across the region. He played an important role in expanding access to the Internet and Arabic digital content as part of his previous roles leading and as Yahoo!’s chief executive for the Middle East and Africa region. With this appointment, he now takes on the challenge of giving access to the digital financial system to millions of Egyptian employees and workers who currently still use cash as their primary transactional method. Expressing his enthusiasm about joining dopay Egypt, Ahmed Nassef, COO and General Manager, said: "I am truly honored and excited to be part of such an important and impactful fintech company. dopay's mission resonates deeply with me — to empower and provide essential financial services to millions of unbanked Egyptian employees and workers. Egyptian workers deserve access to the financial mainstream, and we are dedicated to offering them world-class financial accessibility, starting with our dopay prepaid card."As a seasoned business leader with a long track record in the region’s technology and startup sector, Nassef will oversee all operations of the company, including sales and marketing, collaboration with businesses and financial partners, customer onboarding, support, and logistics, plus the company's people and culture strategy.

GoDaddy launches courses to empower aspiring Saudi entrepreneurs

In a move to empower the entrepreneurial spirit in Saudi Arabia, GoDaddy Inc., the company that empowers entrepreneurs around the world, has launched two educational courses in partnership with Monsha’at Academy, strategically designed to empower emerging entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia.These courses are designed to help entrepreneurs looking to establish and grow their online businesses, providing essential skills and insights tailored to the evolving digital landscape. By focusing on practical knowledge and applications, these courses offer a distinct advantage, enabling entrepreneurs to effectively launch, manage, and succeed in their online endeavors.The curriculum includes comprehensive courses such as "Start your business online and create a website" and "Start Selling online and eCommerce." These courses, offered free in support of GoDaddy's mission to empower entrepreneurs globally, cover a range of essential topics for building a robust online presence and a flourishing e-commerce platform. The content spans from the basics of online presence and website development to advanced strategies for e-commerce and customer engagement.Selina Bieber, Vice President of International Markets at GoDaddy, commented on the courses' success, highlighting their role in entrepreneurial development. She noted the courses' effectiveness in equipping entrepreneurs with essential digital skills, crucial for navigating today's dynamic market landscape. This initiative by GoDaddy underscores their commitment to fostering growth and adaptability among small and medium-sized enterprises, continually supporting their online journey towards innovation and success.The "Start your business online and create a website" course, available online through Monshaat Academy's e-learning Library, offers a comprehensive and flexible learning experience. This course provides an in-depth understanding of establishing an online presence, covering everything from the basics of digital presence to practical use of GoDaddy's website builder in Arabic. Designed for adaptability, students can progress at their own pace, pausing and resuming as needed. Each of the five lessons culminates in unit exams, which can be attempted up to three times for mastery. The final exam, following the same format, ensures a thorough grasp of the essential skills for effective website planning, design, and engagement.The "Start Selling online and eCommerce" course is designed to help entrepreneurs navigate the world of e-commerce. It covers various aspects of online selling, from understanding e-commerce business models to creating an e-store with GoDaddy and exploring e-commerce customer service. This course offering is particularly timely, given the Monshaat Q1 2023 report's emphasis on the rising trend of e-commerce in the region, with a notable increase in online business registrations.These courses are a part of GoDaddy’s broader mission to support the digital transformation goals of Saudi Arabia’s '2030 Vision', contributing to the development of a digitally savvy entrepreneurial community. With SMEs constituting 99.5% of the total businesses in the Kingdom, the impact of these educational initiatives is substantial.For more detailed information on GoDaddy’s range of training courses and the extensive resources available for budding and established entrepreneurs, please visit

Sunfeast YiPPee! & Bingo! now sponsors for Argentina's National Football Team

In an exciting move that is certain to delight football fans in India, Bingo! and Sunfeast YiPPee! from ITC Ltd., have joined hands with the Argentine Football Association (AFA), as their Official Regional Sponsor. The World Champion Argentina Football team enjoys huge fan following in India. The admiration for the team and game is significantly growing especially among the young audience. YiPPee! and Bingo! as youth-oriented brands, are all about fun, excitement, being playful, which beautifully resonates with the spirit of AFA. As part of this strategic partnership, YiPPee! and Bingo! will harness the rich legacy of AFA to engage with consumers through a series of unique initiatives. Participants will have the chance to win match tickets, meet and greet team players, branded merchandise, memorabilia and much more. Further, through this association the brands aim to deepen their reach and offer unparalleled experience that celebrates the shared adoration for the sport. Celebrating the partnership, the respective brands today unveiled exclusive packs featuring star players like Lionel Messi, Ángel Di María, Julián Álvarez and Emiliano Martínez, merchandise and memorabilia at an event held at ITC Sonar. Commenting on the exciting association, Suresh Chand, Vice president & Head of Marketing, Snacks, Noodles & Pasta, ITC Foods, said, “As brands, we are constantly pursuing innovative ways to connect with our audience. Our partnership with World Champion Argentina, is a testament to our continuous efforts to delight our consumers by offering them memorable experiences. Through this collaboration, we aim to elevate the fan experience and deepen our connection with consumers, offering them unique opportunities to immerse themselves in their beloved sport.”Echoing the excitement, Mr. Leandro Petersen, Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer of the Argentine Football Association said, “We are thrilled to welcome Bingo! and YiPPee! as our Regional Sponsor in India. Football possesses the power to transcend borders and cultures, and we are confident that this collaboration will not only amplify the love for the sport in India, but also create unforgettable experiences for fans. Together, we look forward to crafting cherished memories for fans across India."YiPPee! also launched a unique G.O.A.T (Greatest Offer of All Time) promo, where participants will have to sign up for the contest and share their YiPPee! happy moment with the Argentina football players to receive personalized digital memorabilia and compete to win original autographed jerseys and several other AFA branded merchandize. So, get ready to witness the electrifying fusion of football and snacking as Bingo! YiPPee! and AFA take the field together.

Emirates launches luxurious business class loungewear

From 1 February onwards, Emirates is launching an innovatively designed, complimentary inflight loungewear set for Business Class customers including a relaxed cowl neck top and drawstring pants, comfortable slippers, and a matching eye mask. The luxurious loungewear is designed to be the ideal ‘flight fit’ - perfect for sleeping in, but also suitable to wear for a social drink at the A380 onboard lounge, or as a casual outfit that takes you from aircraft to arrivals in style.Emirates’ Business Class Loungewear is composed of a super soft premium modal material, which customers find lightweight and breathable. Designed to reflect contemporary athleisure trends, the cozy fabric is in a relaxing shade of light blue, available in two sizes. The botanic fibres and jersey knit style means the loungewear has an elegant drape that flatters various body types, ensuring soft and stretchy comfort above the clouds. Presented in a complementary drawstring pouch, each set contains an adjustable loungewear top and pants, a pair of warm slippers and an eye mask.Emirates Business Class customers will be offered the loungewear set upon boarding so they can change at their leisure and maximise comfort for the full duration of the flight. On flights of 9 hours or more, Business Class customers will receive the full set with loungewear top and pants, slippers and eye mask, while on flights that have a duration of 2 hours and 30 minutes, customers will receive complimentary slippers and eye mask sets.The launch of Business Class Loungewear forms part of Emirates’ ongoing investment into elevating customer experience, ensuring customers in all classes ‘fly better’. Recent investments have included a huge retrofit project of 120 aircraft with upgraded cabin interiors, creative new menus and new high-quality ingredients, exclusive champagne partnerships, a new hospitality programme for Emirates cabin crew, live TV onboard amidst a vast library of inflight entertainment, complimentary Wi-Fi attainable for all customers, luxurious amenity kits and a world-class wine list. The multimillion dollar investment into Business Class loungewear has been in development for more than a year, designed in-house by the Emirates team to be best-in-class for comfort, style and reusability. During the trial period on routes to and from New York and Boston, customers shared highly positive feedback on the loungewear, with sets being taken home by customers to be worn again.

BMW iJack: Transforming Google Maps charging stations into BMW showrooms

The BMW iJack campaign, developed by Serviceplan Middle East in collaboration with BMW Middle East, has been unveiled across various social media platforms and YouTube. The campaign creatively utilized Google Maps' charging station listings by integrating BMW electric cars into the photos, effectively transforming the platform into a virtual showroom for BMW's electric range.The strategy behind the campaign stemmed from the recognition that potential electric vehicle buyers in the UAE primarily rely on public charging stations for their charging needs. By photobombing these listings with BMW electric cars, the campaign not only captured attention but also ensured that whenever someone searched for the nearest charging station, they encountered a BMW electric vehicle.This innovative approach demonstrated that effective marketing doesn't always require substantial budgets; rather, it's about understanding the audience and devising smart strategies. André Couto, the Creative Director at Serviceplan Middle East, highlighted the importance of identifying audience behavior and executing the campaign efficiently over an extended period.Karim Mroueh, BMW Group Business Director at Serviceplan Middle East, emphasized the campaign's alignment with BMW's ethos of innovation and constant visibility. By repurposing Google Maps' photos as virtual showcases for BMW electric cars, the campaign showcased the brand's cutting-edge approach and creativity.

Mitgo Group Launches Takefluence: Revolutionary Creators & Brands Collaboration

Mitgo Group, a global tech company focused on delivering innovative marketing solutions and promoting entrepreneurship, announces the launch of Takefluence, a platform connecting content creators and social media enthusiasts with brands in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The launch of Takefluence will allow Mitgo Group to strengthen its position in the MENA influencer marketing industry, which experts estimate at more than $1 billion. The significance of the content economy is on the rise in the MENA market, supported by the announcement of a Dh150 million fund by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to empower content creators and influencers. Sheikh Mohammed's commitment to establishing a permanent headquarters for influencers in Dubai further reinforces Takefluence's strategic position in line with the region's dedication to fostering influencer marketing industry growth. The platform aims to attract 1-3 million users within the next 1-2 years.Industry reports also project a surge in influencer ad spending at an annual rate of 10.04% from 2023 to 2027. Moreover, there is a global dominant trend of partnering with micro and nano influencers and creator affiliate partnerships which are the main focus of Takefluence. Such partnerships are proven to be up to 4-5x more effective than mega-influencers campaigns. So, the Takefluence strategic entry aligns perfectly with this upward trajectory of the influencer market in the MENA region.Takefluence is set to create a dynamic ecosystem where content creators seamlessly discover and connect with leading brands, earning from campaigns, enjoying savings while shopping online or offline. The platform distinguishes itself by offering content creators a streamlined process, from receiving promo codes to participating in brand campaigns, coupled with quick withdrawal options, hybrid earnings, an Ambassador program, and a diverse range of brand choices and promotions. For brands, Takefluence introduces a brand-formance approach, incorporating Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) and Hybrid campaigns. This approach includes pay-per-post, pay-per-reach, fixed, gifting and branding campaigns based on reach, all facilitated through content creators and user-generated content.Takefluence has already secured partnerships with 150+ brands including Noon, Namshi, YallaHub, Truegamers, Lifemost, ToysBrand, Geardoor, GetOutfit, The Luxury Closet, NiceOne, SharafDG, etc. The company is set to onboard and help any offline and online brands, malls, event organizers, marketplace brands, sellers and even individuals like emerging artists who can immediately benefit from engaging their audience and customers to create or amplify content.Archie Rudyuk, CEO of Takefluence:"As we venture into the MENA market, the growth potential is immense. The region's vibrant landscape and the unique blend of creators and brands create an exciting opportunity for Takefluence. We already witnessed a surge of interest in Takefluence from creators and local brands. They sign up for an annual partnership, launch their ambassador programs with us, and start getting first results."Alexander Bachmann, CEO of Mitgo Group:"We believe in Takefluence's vision and its potential to reshape social commerce in the MENA region. The team's dedication and innovative approach align with our values at Mitgo Group. This strategic collaboration is poised to make a significant impact on the influencer marketing landscape."Mitgo Group is committed to contributing to the evolution of social commerce, empowering, and fostering meaningful connections between content creators and brands in the MENA region.

WPP unveils strategic focus on AI to drive growth and margins

WPP, a major agency holding company, has outlined a comprehensive strategy to drive growth and enhance margins, with a particular emphasis on leveraging opportunities in AI. WPP aims to save £125 million through network consolidation and another £175 million through efficiency improvements. It is undergoing restructuring, incurring a £125 million hit, which might involve job losses.WPP plans to invest significantly in AI, with an annual cash injection of £250m into proprietary technology.This investment aims to capitalize on the transformative potential of AI in the industry. CEO Mark Read emphasized that AI is viewed as an opportunity rather than a threat and highlighted the belief that AI will complement human creativity rather than replace it.Moreover, WPP is actively developing AI tools designed to augment its workforce rather than replace jobs. Chief Technology Officer Stephan Pretorius explained that these tools are intended to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of WPP's work, particularly in areas such as content creation and media performance. WPP aims to unlock the full potential of creative transformation to drive growth and build world-class, market-leading brands. This involves streamlining its agency brands and simplifying its operating model. Recent efforts include merging and simplifying agency brands such as Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R to create streamlined entities like VML.WPP's strategy reflects a proactive approach to adapting to industry changes, particularly the growing significance of AI, while also aiming to enhance operational efficiency and drive growth. The company's investments in AI and efforts to streamline its operations underscore its commitment to remaining competitive in a rapidly evolving landscape. Despite challenges, such as a decline in stock value over the past year, WPP appears focused on positioning itself for future success.

Amazon Prime ad tier to generate $2bn ad revenue in 2024: Omdia

Following the debut of Amazon’s ad-supported Prime Video service this week, new and exclusive analysis from Omdia reveals the streaming platform is set to generate more than $2bn in incremental ad revenue in 2024, its launch year. This will be in addition to revenue already generated by the sale of advertising slots during live sports broadcasts on the service.Amazon Prime has successfully built a strong subscriber base of over 200 million due to the range of services it offers, including an extensive shopping range, free shipping, music, and cloud services. These services allow Amazon to remain competitive and continue to attract and retain customers.The main difference between Amazon Prime’s advertising strategy compared to other players such as Netflix is the subscription model. Amazon will place all current users into the ad-supported tier of its service, giving subscribers the option to pay extra to view without advertising. Netflix users all begin in the non-ad-supported tier and have the option to pay less for a service that incorporates advertising.Commenting on Amazon Prime’s entry into the ad-supported video market, Matthew Bailey, Omdia Principal Analyst said: “The forecasted global revenue of over $2bn for Amazon's ad-supported Prime Video tier in 2024 indicates considerable growth potential for the streaming platform and reflects Amazon's efforts to diversify its revenue streams beyond subscription fees. “A significant factor contributing to Amazon's success will be their capability to provide closed-loop attribution and the inherent advantage of having all their users ad-addressable by default. Amazon has already experimented with directly shoppable ad formats, and this would enhance their ability to monetize their platform even more.”Omdia's research also considers the introduction of new services by Amazon's ad-supported Prime Video, including shoppable TV. This feature allows viewers to directly purchase products they see in shows or movies, creating a new avenue for e-commerce within the streaming platform.Concluding, Bailey said “Omdia expects more partnerships between prominent retailers, broadcasters, and online video platform owners as they look to compete with Amazon. These will range from data-sharing partnerships to enable commerce-led video advertising measurement and targeting through to direct retailer integration with video services.”

Spotify elevates Rahul Balyan as Head of Market Strategy & Operations for SAMEA

Rahul Balyan has been elevated to Head of Market Strategy & Operations for South Asia, Middle East and Africa (SAMEA) at Spotify. He was earlier the Head of Music for India.As Head of Market Strategy & Operations, Balyan has an exciting opportunity to make a significant impact in diverse and dynamic regions.As he steps into this position, he will have the chance to shape Spotify's presence and strategy in South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, which are all regions with immense potential for growth and cultural richness.Rahul Balyan has a rich experience of more than a decade in the field of music. He has been with Spotify since three years and prior to joining his present organistaion , he was with Radio Mirchi, where he worked for almost a decadeGiven Spotify's global reach and influence in the music and entertainment industry, his work will undoubtedly have a far-reaching impact on both the company and the millions of users in the SAMEA region who rely on Spotify for their music and audio streaming needs.

Media City Qatar enters into an agreement with QFC to boost media ecosystem

Media City Qatar (MCQ), established to attract and regulate investment opportunities to support the media ecosystem in Qatar, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA), the legal and tax arm of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), a leading onshore financial and business center in the region. The MoU aims to facilitate the establishment of media companies in Qatar.Under the agreement, the QFC will register media companies pre-approved by MCQ, which will be licensed by both the QFC and MCQ. Registration and Licensing details will be recorded on the QFC platform. This partnership enables licensed companies to conduct business in Qatar according to MCQ’s permitted activities. The QFC will facilitate all necessary governmental procedures and tax-related processes in accordance with the legal framework and regulations of Qatar. Meanwhile, MCQ will diligently oversee the companies’ compliance with the applicable regulations for media entities in Qatar.Furthermore, the two parties will collaborate to promote each other’s programmes and activities and evaluate opportunities for mutually beneficial projects toward developing the media sector in Qatar.Expressing his enthusiasm about the MoU, His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, Chairman, MCQ, said, “This strategic partnership will empower Media City to attract and license media companies, further enriching Qatar’s vibrant media ecosystem. We extend our gratitude to the QFC Chairman and Minister of Commerce and Industry, His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Bin Qassim Al-Abdullah Al-Thani, for facilitating the signing of this pivotal memorandum of understanding, which sets the stage for driving growth in the media industry and contributing to Qatar’s economic diversification. We look forward to achieving Media City Qatar's vision as an attractive destination for local, regional, and international media businesses and initiatives across various scales.”Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, Chief Executive Officer, QFC, underscored the importance of the MoU, stating, "We are thrilled about this partnership with Media City, which marks a significant step in fostering media growth in Qatar. Through this collaboration, we aim to streamline processes and provide a conducive environment for media companies to thrive in the country. Together with MCQ, we are poised to unlock exciting opportunities and drive innovation in the sector.”This partnership between the QFC and MCQ signifies a shared commitment to regulatory compliance, operational excellence, and fostering growth in the media sector.

Marilyn Monroe’s wax figure brings vintage Hollywood glamour to Dubai

This February, Madame Tussauds Dubai, located on Bluewaters, will unveil its latest global joining the ever-growing list of glamourous celebrities - the wax figure of Marilyn Monroe. To celebrate the launch of the icon’s figure, which is just in time for the month of love with Valentine’s Day, Madame Tussauds is offering special discounts and offerings to visitors and tourists alike.Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, she was an iconic American actress, model, and singer, renowned for portraying comic ‘blonde bombshell’ characters. Marilyn rose to fame as one of the most popular actresses of the 1950s, with her signature glamourous style. She was a top-billed actress for just a decade, but her films grossed an impressive $200 million by 1962. Marilyn Monroe’s influence as a major popular culture icon continues today, more than half a century later.Marilyn Monroe’s figure is styled in the shimmering red sequin dress from the 1953 film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’. While her beauty look quickly evolved as her career took off, Marilyn Monroe continued to experiment with her hair and makeup, wearing her iconic curls in a variety of styles. She also proved the versatility of her glamorous look by wearing a full face of makeup for every occasion, from an on-screen appearance to a casual party at home. Her figure can be seen in her signature look: blonde curled hair, red lips and full lashes.She joins the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Jennifer Lawrence and Tom Cruise in the Film Zone, one of the six themed areas of Madame Tussauds Dubai, the other zones being: Leaders & Royals, Fashion, Bollywood, Sports and the A-List Music Party.Exclusively during the month of February, visitors (groups of up to four adults) to the star-studded attraction can enjoy a special 20 per cent discount by mentioning “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” at the entrance and can cast their hand in wax for just AED25, reduced from AED40.Perfect for a Galentine’s Day outing with friends or an alternative Valentine’s Day celebration with a loved one, there are many reasons to plan a visit to Madame Tussaud Dubai this month. Pose with Marilyn Monroe’s figure, explore interactive experiences, and marvel at the fantastic selection of lifelike wax figures. “We’re so excited to celebrate the February ‘Month of Love’ with Marilyn Monroe’s figure adding that vintage Hollywood style and glamour to our vibrant Film Zone,” said Sanaz Kollsrud, General Manager of Madame Tussauds Dubai.Notes:Opening hours:Sunday – Thursday 12pm – 8pm (last entry 7:45pm)Friday, Saturday & Public Holidays 11am - 9pm (last entry 8:45pm)Ramadan hours: 3pm to 10pm dailyStandard Admission Ticket prices:Adults (11+) AED150Children (3-11) AED125Under 3s- free of chargeExclusive Fame Experience Ticket prices:VIP Tour Adults (11+) AED305VIP Tour Children (3-11) AED240UAE Resident Ticket prices:Adults (11+) AED115Children (3-11) AED90Under 3s- free of chargeFriend & Family Ticket prices:Four Adults (11+) AED480Two Adults & 2 Children (3-11) AED440Under 3s- free of charge

ChatGPT accused of data breach by Italian authority

OpenAI's AI chatbot ChatGPT is back in the hot seat in Europe, this time facing renewed data privacy concerns from Italy's Garante data protection authority. After temporarily banning ChatGPT in 2023 over alleged EU privacy violations, Garante's investigation has uncovered further potential breaches, according to a statement on Monday.While details of the specific concerns remain undisclosed, they likely center around data collection and user consent practices during training of the AI algorithms. OpenAI, backed by tech giant Microsoft, maintains its practices comply with EU regulations and emphasizes efforts to minimize personal data usage. OpenAI has 30 days to respond to Garante's claims and defend its practices.This renewed scrutiny makes Italy the first European country to raise red flags about ChatGPT twice, highlighting the growing regulatory focus on AI and its potential privacy implications. The EU, a leader in data protection, has already taken steps towards regulating AI through its 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the recent provisional agreement on AI frameworks. Under GDPR, violators can face hefty fines of up to 4% of their global turnover.The investigation and potential consequences for OpenAI serve as a cautionary tale for developers of AI systems. Balancing innovation with responsible data handling is crucial to navigate the increasingly complex regulatory landscape in Europe and beyond. Transparency, user control, and minimizing data collection remain key principles for AI developers aiming to avoid regulatory hurdles and build trust with users.

Heinz launches global ad 'The Wait' celebrating consumers' 'Irrational Love'

The latest marketing ad from Heinz, titled "The Wait," marks a significant effort in the company's global marketing strategy, emphasizing consumers' deep affection for its products.The promotional ad highlights the phenomenon of consumers patiently waiting for Heinz condiments, such as ketchup, before starting their meals. This behavior, identified as an expression of "irrational love" for Heinz products, forms the core theme of the campaign.George Buneder, CMO for Hispanic markets at The Kraft Heinz Company, explained that the campaign draws inspiration from real consumer behavior, portraying waiting for Heinz condiments as an act of love. The absence of the Heinz Tomato Ketchup Bottle in the ad is highlighted as a distinctive feature, making Heinz the central figure even in its absence.The campaign was developed by the Chilean agency 1984, with Carat handling paid media and Zeno Group managing North American PR. It includes 15-second spots showcasing the titular wait faced by condiment-less diners. Additionally, the media strategy employs a contextual out-of-home approach, utilizing digital placements in areas where consumers typically wait, such as office lobbies, elevators, and street furniture."The Wait" campaign follows Heinz's earlier global brand platform, "It Has To Be Heinz," launched in June 2023. Previous campaigns under this platform have featured viral stars promoting limited-time sauces and have taken a stand against excessively spicy foods. Notably, Heinz introduced a limited-edition sauce called “Ketchup and Seemingly Ranch,” inspired by a viral tweet referencing Taylor Swift's condiment choice at a Kansas City Chiefs football game.<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Sandstone Media unveils its vision for PR excellence in the UAE

Sandstone Media, a trailblazing integrated PR, communications, and media solutions agency, announced its official launch in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With a unique vision centered around PR excellence, Sandstone Media aims to redefine brand connections and elevate narratives for businesses across the region.Established by visionary luminary Anand Rai, Sandstone Media is set to redefine the PR landscape through the seamless integration of traditional and digital strategies. This launch marks a strategic initiative aimed at delivering innovative and comprehensive communication solutions to businesses in the UAE.“Our focus is on creating meaningful connections between brands and audiences. At Sandstone Media, we believe in the art of storytelling, and our mission is to craft narratives that not only resonate but also elevate brands to new heights," said, Anand Rai, Founder & Managing Partner, Sandstone Media.Sandstone Media offers a comprehensive range of services, adopting a holistic approach to strategic PR integration that combines both traditional and digital strategies for maximum impact. Specializing in crafting compelling narratives aligned with business goals, the team captivates target audiences. Through media amplification, Sandstone leverages diverse channels to significantly enhance brand visibility and tell impactful stories. Embracing digital innovation, the company stays at the forefront of technology to augment online presence and engage audiences effectively. Additionally, Sandstone is committed to crisis resilience, proactively managing challenges to safeguard brand reputation and ensure resilience in the face of adversity.

Media World signs landmark deal valued over AED 100mln

Media World, a leading multi-platform media group, has announced the signing of a monumental agreement with RSG Group of Companies (RSG Group) to acquire and operate the largest outdoor high-resolution digital screen in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The long-term deal was finalised with a value exceeding AED 100 million. Strategically located alongside Dubai’s renowned Sheikh Zayed Road, the digital outdoor screen will take centre stage on the opulent Fairmont Dubai Skyline, luxury five-star hotel and branded residences project by RSG Group. The milestone deal not only marks the beginning of Media World’s partnership with RSG Group, but also a significant leap into the realm of Digital Out of Home (DOOH) advertising for the media industry in the region.Spanning an area of 1,750 square meters and encapsulating over 16 million pixels, the new digital screen, is poised to captivate audiences with its high-resolution display and dynamic content, offering advertisers an unparalleled platform to showcase their brands.Expressing enthusiasm for this transformative venture, Mr. Amer Ahrari, Chairman of Media World, said, “We are delighted to sign with RSG Group and acquire a prominent project such as the Fairmont Dubai Skyline, luxury five-star hotel and branded residences digital outdoor screen. As we continually seek new premium opportunities in the region, commencing our venture into Digital Out of Home media in this location marks an excellent beginning for us. Our partnership with RSG Group is a testament to our pioneering vision to push the boundaries of advertising technology and creating unparalleled experiences for brands and audiences alike. The acquisition marks the beginning of our journey into Digital Out of Home media, and we have ambitious plans for substantial investment and extensive growth in this domain.”Raj Sahni (Abu Sabah), Founder & Chairman, RSG Group of Companies, said, "We are delighted to join forces with Media World for the inclusion of this new LED screen into their multi-platform portfolio. The implementation of this project, featuring the largest high-resolution screen in the MENA region requires adept management, and we could not think of a more ideal choice than Media World. I have complete confidence in Media World to elevate this into the most coveted and premium advertising space in the city. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to fulfil my long-standing ambition to create an iconic project on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai.”