Beyond Ad Bots: Elias Karam's human-centric vision for advertising

Elias Karam, Strategy Director at Grey Dubai, stands at the forefront of advertising innovation, constantly challenging conventional norms. In this exclusive interview, he sheds light on a critical aspect of AI in advertising—its inability to generate captivating positioning or creative ideas. From his journey spanning finance to marketing and now advertising, Elias shares insights into his passion for understanding human psychology and crafting strategies that resonate. Join us as we delve into his experiences, strategies, and vision for the future of advertising.Please share your professional journey with us. How has it been with its highs and lows?It’s been nothing short of a rollercoaster, I’ve always been about having a job that excites me and challenges me, and I’ve dedicated my career so far in search of that. I started out in finance in a tobacco company, and found it too mechanical, lacking the human relationships that I found more interesting.After completing my master’s programme, I transitioned into marketing in hopes of finding what I was looking for in that field, but it wasn’t long before realized that the aspect of the work that I enjoyed the most was the one around brand perceptions and consumer behaviour, and, amusingly, it was there that I discovered the world of planning in the advertising field. Like a puzzle that finally fit, I discovered a profession dedicated to my love of writing and deep interest in consumer psychology.Making the shift though was an incredible challenge for me and it was only later that I realized that planners were not only a scarce commodity in the industry but also one without a clear linear path to break into, so understandably few agencies were willing to take a bet on me. By serendipitous fortune, after a series of interviews and a case study, I got a chance at Publicis to be a planner.Ever since, I’ve been hitting the ground running and grateful for every moment I’ve been a planner.As you have mentioned you started with finance, then marketing and now in advertising. So where does your real passion lie? How would you rate yourself in advertising?My passion lies in decoding human psychology, what motivates people, what interests them, and, more importantly, why it does. I've recently been fascinated by the signals and behaviors that many platforms capture to paint a personalized portrait of people. I see the potential for marrying my role as a planner with technology to transform our conversations with consumers, shifting from generic shots in the dark to ones of intimate understanding.It's hard to say how I would rate myself in advertising, but I do love smart campaigns, ones that zero in on an insight and then through the power of creativity and technology deliver on something impactful. A great example is Cadbury’s ‘Shah Rukh Khan My Ad’ which brilliantly blends all three components. The industry is constantly evolving, and the lines between where advertising starts and stops is getting blurry; so what we may have known about advertising a few years ago may not apply today.Can you describe your experience in developing and implementing successful advertising strategies at Grey Dubai? What is your approach to understanding a client's business and target audience when developing a marketing strategy?I’ve had a great time developing both campaign and brand strategies at Grey Dubai. We have such a diverse set of clients across different industries from FMCG to retail to fintech, and the approach is almost entirely different each time.Going back to consumer behaviour, within each category there is a sandbox of emotional territories to tap into that the brand can credibly deliver on to its target audience. At Grey, we employ our 'Famously Effective' Methodology to uncover and pinpoint that space within the context of culture, ensuring it holds unique and relevant meaning for our consumers.Can you provide an example of a campaign where your strategic direction significantly contributed to the client's success? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?Out of respect for my current clients and the confidentiality of our recent projects, I'll share an example from a previous campaign I led for Nescafe.Around two years ago, Nescafe was gearing up to launch a second burst of its Nescafe Ice product, and they sought to adapt the previous campaign to fit the summer season. The challenge presented itself twofold: how to uphold the essence of the previous campaign's line and look & feel while infusing it with freshness, and how to avoid succumbing to the temptation of portraying the ice beverage as merely a means to cool off in the scorching Gulf heat.By delving into what the category did and how people’s lifestyle changes during the summer season, I noticed that people struggled to maintain that coolness and cheerful state during the season as everything became indoors; friends and family were out of town, and all iced beverages could do was keep them refreshed during the heat. So we leveraged those two realities to create a new take on the season that fit well under the ‘Be Ice’ platform for the product. It was one of those moments where the creative work and strategy were harmonized and in sync that it immediately got bought in by the client from the first round.In the rapidly evolving landscape of digital advertising, how do you ensure that your strategies remain innovative and effective? Do you think AI is the next step for innovations?I often work on an integrated level, getting insights and data from media, social agencies, and platforms to understand what elicits the best results and what is trending. A big part of planning is research and staying up to date on the latest campaigns, new approaches, and new trends across social to best leverage where it's relevant for our brands.AI is indeed becoming increasingly indispensable in our daily operations. However, its Achilles heel, in my view, lies in its inability to make the creative leap when it comes to crafting intriguing positioning or generating innovative ideas. While AI text generators like Bard and Chat GPT can offer smart and logical strategies, they often fall short in presenting something truly creative or disruptive.What role does consumer research play in your strategic planning process, and how do you ensure that insights are effectively incorporated into campaigns?It’s the cornerstone of any campaign or strategic task, that serves as our starting point for what the brand can do for a consumer. Consumer research comes in many forms, and at Grey we try to collate as many different sources as possible from focus groups to commissioned studies to trends tools to create a data-driven approach from the smallest moment marketing campaign to a brand repositioning strategy.Obtaining data is one aspect of the equation; the other lies in transforming that data into actionable insights for the creative team. I typically ensure insights are integrated into the work through two methods. Firstly, during the briefing, I showcase references that encapsulate a similar insight and initiate discussions with the creatives to gauge their thoughts on it. Secondly, when the creatives present their concepts, I reverse engineer the idea to verify if the insight I arrived at aligns with the one used in the briefing.As a strategy director, how do you balance the need for creativity with the need for measurable results in advertising campaigns?What really matters here is understanding what ‘measurable’ results we’re looking for to help inform the type of creativity we need. My role as a planner is to keep adjusting the thermostat on the creative license as we go through the funnel, helping them dial it down when giving way to more specific messages that have little flexibility.What emerging technologies or platforms do you believe will have a significant impact on the advertising industry in the next few years, and how are you preparing for those changes?Generative AI is revolutionizing our industry, with tools like Runway and Midjourney becoming essential not only for creatives with an art background but also for planners seeking to bring their strategic propositions to life. These tools have democratized the visualization process, granting individuals without an art background the ability to act as visual creators with just a few prompts.Another key platform to watch out for is TikTok which has redefined what content should look like. Once upon a time, classic 30-second films needed high production budgets and a very staged look. As TikTok took the world by storm, we saw more and more consumers want authentic raw content, demanding the insights, the casting, and the content to feel closer to home. This had larger implications on how consumers wanted to see content, even outside TikTok.While these are just two of the many new and changing faces that are impacting the industry. We have already made great strides in embracing those changes rather than pushing them away. We work closer with the platform, using different tools to understand new trends and content formats that best serve the consumer. Regarding Generative AI, an increasing number of team members across departments are enhancing their capabilities through these tools to streamline processes. However, it's crucial to ensure that despite the utilization of AI, the creative and human touch remains integral to our work.Where do you see yourself in five years from now?I don’t think I’ve ever been able to answer this question with any degree of accuracy; I often change my point of view within months! While I don't know where I’ll be, I certainly know that what I’ll be doing will revolve around data & technology and using it to better understand human behaviour to help brands genuinely get closer to its audience.

MDLBEAST Records celebrates 200mln broadcasts in two years

 Matthew Dicks, Executive Director of Music and Talent at MDLBEAST Records, highlighted the growing influence of Arabic music on the global stage, reaching European countries like Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom.Speaking at "Balad Beast" music festival that was held recently in Jeddah, Matthew emphasized the unique platform MDLBEAST festivals provide for discovering young talents and fostering the local artistic community. Matthew Dicks stated, "We are proud that 30 of our artists are Saudis. In just two years, we have achieved remarkable milestones, including over 200 million streams on digital platforms, collaborations with 37 international artists, including Arab diaspora and 43 regional artists from the Middle East and North Africa, and the release of 159 singles, four albums, and nine EPs. Also, through our talent development and management, we are already exporting our talents and music worldwide where they have performed in 2023 across Europe, UK and the US at festivals and legendary clubs."Expressing his delight in participating in Balad Beast, he said, "It has been an incredible opportunity to connect with the remarkable community of artists and music enthusiasts in the Kingdom. The support for various music genres, from hip-hop to house and R&B, is impressive and continues to evolve within a dynamic and creative music scene."He praised MDLBEAST's exceptional ability to identify promising voices and talents, creating a global appeal through collaborations with renowned international artists. He highlighted the successes of MDLBEAST Records and its imprints, showcasing the rise of Saudi talents like Cosmicat, Dish Dash, Baloo and Vinyl Mode, who have become shining stars in the Saudi music scene. He further emphasized MDLBEAST Records' mission to discover local talents, collaborate in the Kingdom with international and regional artists, and provide growth opportunities for emerging talents.In conclusion, Matthew commended the MDLBEAST Records team, which comprises of predominantly local Saudi team members and a diverse mix of international, regional executives. Their expertise and dedication have contributed to the achievements and world-class level of MDLBEAST Records.

Ipsos appoints Ziad Issa as new Media CEO

Market research company Ipsos has appointed Ziad Issa as the new Media CEO, succeeding Elie Aoun, who has decided to step down after an exceptional 32-year tenure at Ipsos in MENA.In his new capacity, Ziad will lead and manage the media research business and the audience measurement at Ipsos across the MENA region. Ziad will play a crucial role in advancing the media business with a primary focus on commercial activation and the introduction of new media services. In his new role, Ziad reports directly to Edouard Monin, the CEO of Ipsos in MENA.“With his expertise in Media Research, Ziad is well-positioned to accelerate our progress. I am delighted to welcome such a seasoned and respected leader to our executive team. Together, we will foster a collaborative spirit for our clients and a bright future for our talent,” commented Edouard Monin, CEO of Ipsos in MENA.Ziad, who joined Ipsos in January 2005, has demonstrated unwavering dedication and strategic thinking throughout his tenure. Progressing through various roles, including Media Research Manager, Director, Chief Client Officer, and Chief Media Officer, Ziad is well-equipped to lead the media business and drive further success for Ipsos in MENA.“As someone who has proudly chosen Ipsos as my second home for the past two decades, prioritizing our clients' needs has always been my priority. I am dedicated to delivering exceptional service by embracing the dynamic changes within the media landscape. Our pursuit of excellence will persist as we strive to offer innovative solutions to our region,” explained Ziad Issa.

Alternative appoints Yash Ganatra as Client Service Head

Creative and digital marketing agency Alternative has appointed Yash Ganatra as Client Service Head. With an illustrious career and an innate understanding of clients' needs, Yash Ganatra is poised to elevate the agency's client service department to new horizons of excellence.He brings an abundance of experience and wisdom to his new position at Alternative. His professional journey has been a symphony of dedication to perfection and a relentless commitment to delivering extraordinary outcomes for clients. He boasts an impressive track record of forging robust client relationships and crafting ingenious solutions to address their distinctive challenges.Yash Ganatra’s mastery in client service and his strategic acumen seamlessly align with the agency's core mission, providing exceptional creative and marketing solutions to our clients. He possesses an uncanny ability to decipher clients' needs, foresee market trends, and construct effective strategies, making him the linchpin in taking Alternative Agency's client service department to uncharted zeniths.Yash Ganatra’s appointment comes at a juncture when Alternative is experiencing a meteoric rise, expanding its client roster across diverse industries. His leadership will be instrumental in ensuring that the agency continues to deliver world-class services, retaining its vanguard position in the industry.Alternative stands as a pioneering force in the realm of creative and digital marketing solutions. Specializing in brand activation, digital video content, social media management, mobile applications, wearable technology, innovation marketing, online advertising, and the artistry of bespoke websites with custom CMS, the agency boasts a dedicated coterie of creative virtuosos.

Google launches short video series with Saudi content creator

Google is launching a new short video series to answer the top searched questions on AI on Google by users in the Middle East and North Africa. The six-episode short video series in Arabic which aims to demystify the most common misconceptions around AI will be hosted by popular Saudi content creator, Abdullah AlAlawi and will feature veteran AI experts from Google including Mehdi Ghissassi, Director of Product Management at Google DeepMind.According to Google, Arabic queries on AI by users in the Middle East and North Africa region rose significantly in the last 12 months, and many of them are related to its daily practical uses. The six episodes will address the top searched questions -Episode 1: What is Generative AI?Episode 2: How can I use AI in my studies?Episode 3: What is the difference between AI and Machine Learning?Episode 4: How can I use AI everyday?Episode 5: How can I protect my data while using AI tools?Episode 6: How can I use AI to be more productive and creative?Googleyat will be published every week starting February 5th and will run on Google Arabia’s channels on YouTube, Instagram and X, as well as the channels of Abdullah AlAlawi on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Balqees Fathi named first Emirati regional ambassador for Guerlain Middle East

Guerlain, a brand known for its perfumes and make-up, has announced the appointment of Balqees Fathi as the first Emirati regional ambassador for Guerlain Middle East. It is touted as a significant milestone for both the artist and the brand. Fathi's values strongly align with Guerlain's, particularly in terms of sustainability and appreciation for craftsmanship, which are becoming increasingly important in today's consumer landscape. Fathi's long-standing support for Guerlain further underscores her genuine connection with the brand, making her appointment as ambassador a natural progression.On her appointment, Balqees Fathi, Guerlain Ambassador, says: “I’m thrilled to start off this year with this exciting announcement. More than an ambassadorship, my work with Guerlain is a very personal collaboration - the values of the Maison are very close to my own, and its products have been on my vanity for as long as I remember. It’s with great pleasure that I embark on this new journey with Guerlain.”For Guerlain, this partnership signifies a strategic move to connect more deeply with women across the region, leveraging Fathi's status as a cultural icon and her resonance with contemporary audiences. Jenny Dumoulin's welcoming words highlight the excitement surrounding this collaboration and the recognition of Fathi's beauty, personality, and influence.Overall, this collaboration between Balqees Fathi and Guerlain represents a harmonious blend of two forces — the timeless elegance of the brand and the enchanting charisma of the artist — and is poised to resonate with consumers in the Middle East and beyond.

Indiacast Media Distribution unveils Desisplay TV

IndiaCast Media Distribution Pvt Ltd, the content asset monetization arm of TV18 and Viacom18, is proud to announce the launch of DesiPlay TV, a South Asian ‘FAST’ (Free Ad Supported Streaming Television) Channel on Shahid in HD format. This groundbreaking partnership between IndiaCast Media and Shahid, the world’s leading Arabic streaming platform by MBC Group will bring the vibrant world of Hindi entertainment to audiences across the globe, except for India.DesiPlay TV is set to revolutionize the way viewers access and enjoy South Asian content by offering a diverse range of programs, including movies, drama series, and much more with English subtitles. As a FAST channel, it is completely free and supported by advertisements, making it accessible to audiences from any device or locations.Key Highlights of DesiPlay TV on Shahid:1.     Global Accessibility: DesiPlay TV is available to audiences around the world (except India), providing a unique opportunity for South Asian content enthusiasts to connect with their roots and explore the rich tapestry of South Asian culture.2.     Evergreen Hindi Content: Viewers can expect an exciting array of content that spans genres and caters to a broad audience, from classic Bollywood movies to cutting-edge original series and culturally rich reality shows. The channel line up boasts of some of the most loved and popular shows like Na Ana Is Des Laado, Uttaran, Comedy Nights with Kapil etc.3.     Free to View: DesiPlay TV is free to access, ensuring that viewers can enjoy high-quality South Asian content without any subscription fees.4.     Continuous Engagement: The channel will regularly update its content library, providing fresh and engaging entertainment to keep viewers entertained.Mr. Govind Shahi, Executive Vice President, and Head of International Business, IndiaCast Media, expressed his excitement about this groundbreaking collaboration, saying, "We are thrilled to bring DesiPlay TV to South Asian entertainment enthusiasts in the Middle East and around the world. Our partnership with MBC and Shahid is a testament to our commitment to delivering high-quality, accessible content that caters to a global audience. This marks the beginning of an exciting journey, and we look forward to providing an unparalleled viewing experience to fans of quality South Asian entertainment."Lina Matta, Director of AVOD at MBC GROUP added: We are excited to introduce DesiPlay TV, a South Asian FAST channel on Shahid, in collaboration with IndiaCast which has proved to be a significant addition to our diverse content offerings. We pride ourselves in delivering high-quality, global entertainment experiences, and DesiPlay TV aligns perfectly with our mission. We look forward to welcoming viewers from around the world to enjoy the rich tapestry of South Asian entertainment, available on Shahid."

Rayyan Jamjoom appointed CEO of Social Clinic

Social Clinic has appointed Rayyan Jamjoom as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).In his social post on LinkedIn, he shares: “My professional journey has been nothing short of fascinating! It all began with a solid foundation at a multinational company, Unilever, where I honed my business skills and developed my professional identity. Despite being on a promising trajectory at Unilever, in 2013 I made a bold decision to embark on a completely different path joining a local media company – FADEN MEDIA. Joining Faden was irresistible to me because of its challenging environment and the passion and sheer drive exuding from its leadership; my bosses-turned-partners. As one of the first Saudi commercial talents in the field of media, I faced numerous challenges during my time at Faden, but these experiences have undoubtedly shaped me into the leader, investor, partner, team player, and go-getter that I am today. My growth hasn’t always been due to successes. Along the way, I have also learned a great deal from experiences that were not successful including a venture in the fashion retail industry and an investment in a food-tech company.”Rayyan Jamjoom, on acquiring Social Clinic in 2017, said: “I bid farewell to the world of offline media and embrace the exciting realm of advertising and communication as the CEO of my own company, Social Clinic. I, along with an extraordinary team, have grown Social Clinic from a small digital media boutique to a full-fledged communication agency with more than 100 employees. I am thrilled to be part of a talented group of young, intelligent, and passionate individuals who are shaping the future of the communication sector.” Jamjoom's optimism and enthusiasm for contributing to Saudi Arabia's progress under the leadership of HRH Prince Mohammed Bin Salman reflect his dedication to leveraging Social Clinic's expertise to support ambitious national initiatives. His vision for the future of advertising and communication underscores his commitment to making a meaningful impact in the industry.As Social Clinic enters a new chapter under Jamjoom's leadership, it is poised to continue shaping the advertising and communication landscape, driving innovation and delivering value to clients and stakeholders alike.

Dubai-based AI dubbing startup CAMB.AI raises $4 million

Dubai-based speech AI startup CAMB.AI has raised a $4 million seed round. CAMB.AI specializes in instantaneously dubbing any performance in over 100 languages, dialects, and accents using the original voices with their nuances. Led by Courtside Ventures, the investor group includes TRTL Ventures, Blue Star Innovation Partners, Ikemori Ventures, and Eisaburo Maeda. Dubai Future District Fund were early investors in CAMB.AI, and the company was part of the Dubai Future Accelerator cohort in 2023, as well as named a Future 100 Company of the UAE.The funding will power CAMB.AI’s continued growth and progress seen since the company was founded in 2022. Since then, CAMB.AI has broken several technological barriers with their MARS TTS and BOLI Translator, built from the ground up for voice localization.CAMB.AI’s state-of-the-art techniques don’t just translate speech; they capture and convey the speaker’s original tone and nuance – preserving emotion with less than three seconds of input. This ensures that the translated content remains as powerful and engaging as the original, maintaining the speaker’s intended impact. The largest collection of resource languages, CAMB.AI has the ability to translate Afrikaans, Malay, and Basque, a testament to the company’s commitment to making global communication more inclusive.“This technology is truly remarkable,” said Vasu Kulkarni, Partner at lead investor Courtside Ventures. “Growing up in India, a land of over 700 languages, I saw first-hand how difficult it was to consume the plethora of content out there when you couldn’t understand it. For NBA fans in India to now potentially be able watch Steph Curry while listening to the indelible Mike Breen commentating in Hindi is going to globalize the game even further.”Founded in the UAE by father-son duo of Avneesh Prakash, CEO, and Akshat Prakash, CTO, who spent a half-decade researching and building the technology, CAMB.AI has seen over 100M views of its dubbed content and already counts Major League Soccer, Tennis Australia, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Nick DiGiovanni, Narin Beauty, BeerBiceps, and many other live sports properties, media companies and individual mega-creators as clients.CAMB.AI was also used in Emirati director Nayla Al Khaja’s horror film Three, which debuted two months ago at the Red Sea Festival in Saudi Arabia as the world’s first, fully AI-dubbed multilingual feature film.“I wanted to ensure my movie was able to be viewed by a global audience in any language,” said Nayla Al Khaja. “Only CAMB.AI could capture the emotional nuances blended with the horrific content and create a truly authentic experience for my viewers.”Despite the expansive reach of top-notch digital content, a substantial segment of the global population misses out on the essence of that content due to linguistic barriers. Traditional methods of translation and dubbing sometimes fall short in preserving the original emotion, subtleties, and colloquialisms that render each piece of content unique. CAMB.AI offers revolutionary dubbing, using proprietary state-of-the-art Generative AI technology to deliver colloquial, contextual translations, zero-shot cross-lingual voice cloning, cross-lingual time sync, background score preservation, and more, at a fraction of the time and cost of others in the space.“This is a monumental day for CAMB.AI and we are excited to have an investor group that sees our vision and will help us grow,” said Avneesh Prakash, CAMB.AI CEO and Co-Founder. “We’ve already seen amazing adoption of our technology and we expect this funding to fast track further development and global expansion.”The company was recently selected, from a pool of 600+ companies, by Major League Soccer to be part of the inaugural cohort of the MLS Innovation Lab; with MLS planning to test CAMB.AI’s translation technology across their vast media ecosystem. The company was also selected for the exclusive 2024 AO Startups Program, a joint-venture between Tennis Australia, Wildcard Ventures and Techstars, with CAMB.AI’s technology most recently used to provide AI multi-lingual dubbing and translation from the 2024 Australian Open."Making content that is more accessible and personalized for our global fans is an absolute priority for the AO,“ Machar Reid, Head of Innovation, Tennis Australia. “CAMB AI has the potential to deepen our connection with these audiences in a way not previously thought possible."

Barracuda appoints new Chief Legal Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer

Barracuda Networks, Inc., a trusted partner and leading provider of cloud-first security solutions, today announced Nell O’Donnell as its new Chief Legal Officer and Kim Mota as its new Chief Human Resources Officer. Both leaders bring extensive years of executive leadership experience to Barracuda, with successful track records of leading companies through business growth and expansion.As Chief Legal Officer, Nell is a seasoned general counsel with a wealth of experience in the areas of cloud technology and data security. Nell comes to Barracuda from her recent role as SVP, Chief Legal Officer at ServiceMax (acquired by PTC). She has also served as SVP, General Counsel for McAfee and Brocade.As Chief Human Resources Officer, Kim brings extensive experience in human resources leadership where she has successfully managed global teams in multi-site enterprises of varying sizes. Kim joins Barracuda most recently from Integrated Device Technology (acquired by Renesas Electronics Corporation) where she led the worldwide Human Resources function. Prior to that she held HR leadership roles at Poly (acquired by HP).“As we continue to accelerate growth in our business and people teams, we are thrilled to expand the executive leadership team with these new leaders,” said Barracuda President and CEO, Hatem Naguib. “The invaluable expertise that Nell and Kim bring aligns perfectly with our business vision and commitment to our team.”

BeIN Media Group sees thousands sign up to beIN Forum

Since the recent launch of its beIN FORUM initiative, beIN MEDIA GROUP (‘beIN’), one of the foremost sports and entertainment networks in the world, has revealed that thousands of people from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have already signed up to join its exclusive online research community as panellists.The beIN FORUM was launched with the aim of providing beIN subscribers and viewers a louder voice. As a member of the platform, each panellist is invited to give their opinion on a variety of subjects, from ideas for new shows to their personal experience of watching current shows. By playing a pivotal role in enhancing the broadcaster’s products, services, and programming, members not only have a dedicated platform to share their views on beIN presenters, pundits, and commentators, but are also guiding their own unparalleled viewing journey.With thousands of members from across the broadcaster’s 24 MENA markets, the diversity of the panel ensures the entire region is represented and that beIN’s offerings will be better positioned to appeal to the many MENA cultures and nationalities. The initiative aims to put the customer’s voice at the very heart of decision-making at beIN. The broadcaster will soon be calling all existing members, and urging new members to join the community, to provide feedback on its coverage of the ongoing AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023TM and TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations Côte d'Ivoire 2023™, as well as the various packages offered and customer engagement with various aspects of the events.Consisting of group discussions and online surveys, the beIN FORUM – which is being operated on behalf of beIN by Verve, the global specialist online research community agency – is also providing participating members with exclusive updates and opportunities to receive monetary incentives.

Makana 360 Teams Up with World Defense Show 2024 for Social Listening Services

Makana 360 is honored to announce its partnership with the World Defense Show (WDS) 2024, providing unparalleled social listening and monitoring services to one of the leading global defense and security events. Makana 360 will also offer benchmarking media analysis against similar global events and occasions. Set under the patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, WDS 2024 represents the pinnacle of innovation and future trends in the defense industry, spanning land, sea, air, space, and security sectors.As the defense industry continues to navigate through a rapidly evolving technological landscape, the demand for strategic insights and real-time analytics has escalated. Acknowledging this critical need, WDS in partnership with Memac Ogilvy has engaged Makana 360 to deploy its sophisticated digital and social listening methodology. This initiative aims to enrich the event’s strategic planning, media coverage abd audience engagement by tapping into deep insights from a plethora of digital media platforms.Strategic Insights for a Global Defense PlatformMakana 360’s cutting-edge approach will provide WDS 2024 with an in-depth understanding of media coverage, audience engagement, competitive dynamics, and industry trends. By analyzing data from diverse digital channels, including News, Magazines, Blogs, Forums and and media like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and more, Makana 360 will deliver actionable intelligence, supporting WDS in having targeting global influence and engagement with key stakeholders in the defense sector.“This collaboration with the World Defense Show 2024 underscores our dedication to leveraging social listening for profound insights,” said Abdurrahman Al-Husami, Founder and CEO of Makana 360. “Our goal is to empower WDS with a comprehensive understanding of their audience and industry trends, and how media capture the event, ensuring the event’s continued success and global impact.”

Home Centre's campaign celebrates stepfathers and remarriage in the Middle East

Home Centre’s new promotional ad, created by Leo Burnett MEA, is a significant and impactful initiative addressing an often overlooked aspect of family dynamics in the Middle East. By shedding light on the topic of remarriage and stepfathers, the campaign not only celebrates the role of stepdads but also aims to break social and cultural taboos surrounding this issue.The film's narrative, depicting the emotional journey of a child coming to accept his stepfather, is likely to resonate with many families who have experienced similar situations. By portraying the stepfather as a positive figure who ultimately earns the child's acceptance and love, this ad challenges stereotypes and encourages acceptance and understanding.The original soundtrack, "The Lighthouse and the Boat," adds depth to the storytelling, capturing the emotions and complexities of the relationship between a stepfather and a son. This metaphorical representation of their bond as lighthouses guiding each other through life's challenges is both poignant and relatable.In addition to the film, the broader initiative includes valuable content from a psychologist, Dr Saliha Afridi, providing insight and support for individuals navigating the journey of remarriage. This multi-faceted approach, incorporating storytelling, expert advice, and social content, demonstrates a comprehensive effort to raise awareness and foster dialogue around a sensitive topic.The involvement of Home Centre, a leading furniture retailer in the Middle East, in this campaign aligns with its brand purpose of enabling every home to tell its unique story. By addressing topics such as single motherhood, adoption, and now remarriage and stepfathers, Home Centre demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and diversity, while also filling a gap in the conversation within the region.Overall, this campaign has the potential to spark meaningful conversations, challenge societal norms, and ultimately contribute to greater acceptance and support for families of all compositions in the Middle East.CreditsBrand: Home CentreSiddarth Sivaprakash: Head of Marketing, Home CentreAtharv Ruparel, Hassan Khan: Marketing Team, Home CentreCreative Agency: Leo Burnett MEA (Middle East & Africa) DubaiChief Executive Officer – Publicis Groupe MENAT: Bassel KakishChief Creative Officer: Kalpesh PatankarChief Strategy Officer – Publicis Groupe MENAT: Tahaab Rais Associate Creative Director Creative: Farhan SiddiquiHead of Production: Shereen MostafaChief Executive Officer – Publicis Communications: Nathalie GevresseBusiness Lead – Communications Consultancy: Vicky KriplaniSenior Producer: Judy LamaaSenior Manager – Communications Consultancy: Maria Jabbour Manager – Communications Consultancy: Nahla JaberHead of Strategy & Insights: Aakriti GoelSenior Manager – Strategy & Insights: Anna Sadykova Production Company: Prodigious MEChief Executive Officer: Sami SalehFilm Director: Tahaab RaisProduction Lead: Myriam Abi WardehProducer: Ralph MatarDirector of Photography: Aeyaz HasnAssistant Director: Vanessa MghamesProduction Manager: George KhalafProduction Coordinator: Nour HelouProduction Assistants: Rami Noureddine, Nader Al ZohbiArt Director: Bora BaturWardrobe Stylist: Windy IshakChild: Tanmay Rishi ShahThe Creature: Mascot Maker, Cristy, Larry and MujahidGear: Gamma EngineeringGaffer: Sohail IftikarKey Grip: Ibrahim ToumaHair & Makeup: Natalie TufenkjianLocation: Bassel AlzoubiBTS: Ralph Jigger Post Production: Optix MEPost Production Lead: Nayla ChacraPost Producer: Megan MarkelEditor (Cold Cutz): Neda AhmedOnline Supervisor: Eddy FarahOnline Artist: Rita Mechedjian, Priyanka BhathejiColorist (LZRD): Karim Mira Music: Magma Music AgencyLyricist and songwriter: Tahaab RaisMusic Creative Director: Seppl KretzMusic Supervisor: Michael BertoldiniComposers: 22ghostsSound Design: Bram Van BergenVocalist: Joseph Bills

Get Outfit invests over $5mln in creators and influencers in the Middle East

Get Outfit, the next-generation fashion discovery app, powered by a generative AI stylist and enriched with curated creators' content, is thrilled to announce the launch of the "Get Outfit for Creators" program. This initiative not only redefines the shopping experience for users with an AI stylist but also opens up new ways for monetization for influencers.Creators boasting an audience of over 1000 followers can seamlessly join the platform and start earning commissions from a diverse array of over 2000 contemporary brands and authentic designers, ranging from Nike to Jacquemus. Get Outfit enables creators to launch their personalized pages, curate collections of their favorite fashion items and share the link on social media, whether it's a selection of sneakers, bags, a capsule wardrobe for a European trip, or sharing style inspirations for special events."In our customer development discussions with creators, we uncovered a pressing issue: over 90% of them struggle to monetize their content. You share a stylish Instagram post, engage with followers about your fashion choices, but it doesn't translate into earnings. We decided to change that and give creators the opportunity to monetize their passion for fashion. Fashion is the favorite category for the emerging Gen Z, and we genuinely believe this initiative will foster a new cohort of young entrepreneurs, offering them an additional avenue to monetize their passion." said Kim Sanzhiev, founder of Get OutfitGet Outfit for Creators has already been launched, with over 50 influencers actively using the platform, including both major influencers with over 1 million followers and niche fashion micro-influencers or stylists with community pages of 2000 followers. In addition to the commission model, the team is currently testing a subscription model with creators, allowing them to create exclusive content for their audience and utilize Generative AI tools for content creation. The startup plans to introduce a dedicated section in the app featuring User-Generated Content (UGC) from the fashion community, as part of its Social Commerce mechanics development within the mobile application.Moreover, Get Outfit is committed to investing over $5 million in the next 3 years for payments to creators. This significant financial commitment underscores the platform's dedication to recognizing and rewarding the creativity and influence of content creators.This aligns with the initiative by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the UAE’s vice president, prime minister, and ruler of Dubai, who has unveiled a fund of Dh150 million ($40.8 million) dedicated to supporting content creators and influencers.

Chalhoub Group Invests in Boltable Studio for Metaverse Retail Innovation

This investment emphasizes Chalhoub Group's commitment to exploring innovative virtual retail avenues and strengthening its presence in the metaverse.In 2022, Chalhoub Group initiated its journey into the metaverse and Web3 by launching a collection of 529 exclusive NFTs for its French luxury silverware brand, Christofle. These NFTs sold out within 5 minutes. Following this success, the Group introduced phygital sneakers for Level Shoes’ 10th anniversary celebration. In 2023, Chalhoub Group continued its pioneering efforts by unveiling the first-ever web3-native streetwear label SOL3MATES. .Expanding upon the successful exploration of the Metaverse, Chalhoub Group's investment in Boltable Studio is a key element of a holistic strategy to integrate web3 and virtual retail into its business model. This strategic move positions the Group to navigate future market changes effectively while mitigating resource risks. Furthermore, it represents a significant stride toward the future of virtual Shopping. Prior to their partnership, Chalhoub Group & Boltable Studio collaborated on the virtual Roblox collection for Christofle. In 2023, fifteen virtual items, created by Boltable Studio, sold over 120,000 times on Roblox, highlighting the platform’s significant potential.The partnership with Christofle is a testament to Boltable's ability to translate traditional luxury into the digital space, resonating with a new generation of consumers. Chalhoub Group has additional partnerships in progress to introduce (luxury) brands to Roblox.Nick Vinckier, Director of Corporate Innovation at Chalhoub Group, commented: “Our investment in Boltable Studio is a strategic step towards understanding and leveraging the metaverse and platforms like Roblox. These digital spaces are not just gaming platforms; they are the community centers and shopping destinations of the future, where we can connect with the customers of tomorrow, today. Partnering with a leader like Boltable Studio, renowned for their Roblox expertise and successful in-game brand Prince Clothing, aligns perfectly with our vision to be at the forefront of retail innovation.”Zain Tambe, founder and CEO of Boltable Studio added: "Partnering with Chalhoub Group is a game-changer for Boltable Studio. Our years of experience in Roblox position us uniquely to bring luxury retail into this vibrant digital world. This partnership is more than an investment; it's a fusion of Chalhoub Group's luxury expertise with our innovative approach in Roblox, setting a new standard in virtual retail. Together, we're not just entering the Roblox ecosystem; we're redefining luxury retail for a new, digitally-savvy audience,"Based in Abu Dhabi, Boltable Studio has been a trailblazer in the Roblox world since 2016. Their in-house brand, Prince Clothing, has sold over 30 million virtual items, demonstrating their profound understanding and success in this domain.

Elie Aoun steps down as Ipsos MENA CEO after 32 years

Elie Aoun has decided to step down from his position as Media CEO at Ipsos in MENA after 32 years of service. This marks a significant transition in his illustrious career. Having joined Ipsos in Lebanon in 1992, Aoun's journey within the organization has been characterized by continuous growth and contribution to the media landscape in the region.Over the years, Aoun's leadership and strategic vision have been instrumental in shaping Ipsos' media business in MENA. His tenure saw him taking on various roles and responsibilities, showcasing his versatility and deep understanding of the industry. Notable milestones include his appointment as Global Adex Lead in 2020 and becoming a partner at Ipsos in MENA in 2015, underscoring his significant contributions to the organization's global and regional operations.Aoun's departure from the role of Media CEO does not mark the end of his association with Ipsos in MENA. Rather, he will transition into an advisory role, leveraging his extensive experience and industry knowledge to support the organization's continued success. Additionally, Aoun's future plans involve exploring personal ventures across multiple industries, indicating his readiness to embark on new endeavors while continuing to contribute to the business landscape.Overall, Elie Aoun's legacy at Ipsos in MENA is one of leadership, innovation, and lasting impact on the media sector. His departure signifies the end of an era, but his ongoing involvement and future ventures promise to further enrich the industries he chooses to engage with.

Rotana announces Philip Barnes as new Chief Executive Officer

 Rotana, one of the leading hotel management companies in the region with over 100 properties in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Türkiye (MENAT), announces today the appointment of Philip Barnes as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective 1 March 2024.Commenting on the announcement, Selim El Zyr, Vice-Chairman of Rotana, said: “We are proud to welcome Philip Barnes as the new CEO of Rotana. With a rich history of leadership and a deep understanding of the global hospitality landscape, Barnes is poised to elevate our brand delivery and levels of excellence. We eagerly anticipate his innovative direction and vision that will shape Rotana’s next chapter and build on our growing pipeline across key markets.”Completing almost 25 years as part of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Barnes held several senior leadership positions worldwide, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Most recently, he held the role of Regional Vice President of Southern California (2020 – 2022). Previously, he also worked with leading hospitality brands such as Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Shangri La Hotels & Resorts among others.In the Middle East, Barnes was Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ Regional Vice President of the United Arab Emirates (2009 – 2011). In this role, he oversaw the operations for Fairmont Palm Dubai, Fairmont Bab al Bar Abu Dhabi, Fairmont Ajman, Fairmont Fujairah, and pre-opening Fairmont Abu Dhabi. Prior to this, he also held the position of Vice President of the Middle East (2007 – 2009) for the group, overseeing the developments and planned openings in South Africa, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.“I am privileged to join Rotana – a homegrown brand synonymous with providing guests with the highest service levels across the region. I look forward to working closely with the wider team to grow Rotana’s legacy and firmly position it as one of the leading hospitality players in the region. Together, we will embark on a journey to redefine hospitality, creating Treasured Time for our guests and setting new benchmarks for the industry,” added Barnes.Rotana’s portfolio currently spans 19,602 keys and six superlative brands, including an impressive 10,159 keys across 36 hotels in the UAE and 2,183 keys across eight hotels in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Jenn Jakubowicz joins Netskope as SD of Global Channels & Alliances Marketing

Netskope, a leader in Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), has appointed Jenn Jakubowicz as Senior Director of Global Channels & Alliances Marketing, with worldwide responsibility for all aspects of global partner marketing execution. The role will be integral to the company’s go-to-market scalability, accelerating growth with its channel.Ms. Jakubowicz joins Netskope with over 20 years of marketing experience, where she held pivotal senior marketing leadership roles most recently with cybersecurity companies including LastPass and BlueVoyant. Her extensive knowledge and experience in scaling hyper-growth marketing initiatives will be instrumental in leading the ramp up of channel development plans, co-marketing partner strategies, and Netskope’s new MSP partner program, while also driving continued growth with the company’s partner community.“We are thrilled to have such an experienced leader join us as we continue to accelerate our through-channel go-to-market efforts,” said David Rogers, SVP, Global Channel Sales, Netskope “Jenn’s rich 20-year partner marketing career will be invaluable to us. She is an established operator, having built and led successful teams, brought innovative demand generation campaigns to fruition, and rolled out CRN 5-Star-rated partner programs.”Ms. Jakubowicz shared her excitement about her new role, stating “I am thrilled to join Netskope at such a pivotal time in the cybersecurity landscape as we look to expand our market presence collaboratively with our partners. We have already seen enterprises step up their investment in a zero trust approach to cybersecurity, and Netskope is at the forefront of this transformation with its platform predicated on a Zero Trust Data Protection Engine.”

Impact BBDO secures top spot again at 2023 Loeries

IMPACT BBDO has once again demonstrated its dominance in the MENA region by clinching the No.1 spot at the 2023 Loeries. Their impressive haul of awards, including a Grand Prix, underscores their creative prowess and commitment to excellence. The campaign "Newspapers Inside the Newspaper Edition" for Annahar particularly stood out, earning the prestigious Grand Prix in the Print category.Notably, fifteen members of the IMPACT BBDO team have been recognized in the rankings, with individuals like Chief Creative Officer Ali Rez leading the charge. This recognition highlights the agency's depth of talent and the caliber of its creative minds. Dani Richa, Chairman and CEO of BBDO EMEA, expressed his delight at the agency's continued success and the individual achievements of its team members. He emphasized the importance of talent, dedication, and passion in driving excellence within the agency.IMPACT BBDO's commitment to pushing creative boundaries and delivering exceptional results underscores its reputation as a premier partner for brands seeking innovative and impactful communication strategies. As they continue to lead the industry, their dedication to fostering innovation and delivering outstanding campaigns remains unwavering.

SVC celebrates with SA's achievement of 1st rank in VC funding across MENA

The Saudi Venture Capital Company (SVC) celebrated its 5th anniversary and the Kingdom’s achievement of 1st rank across MENA for the first time in terms of the amount of Venture Capital (VC) funding in 2023. The ceremony was held in the presence of SVC’s partners, including leadership of related government entities, investment fund managers, entrepreneurs, and SVC’s team.The ceremony witnessed a presentation by Nora Alsarhan, Chief Investment Officer at SVC, in which she showcased SVC’s achievements since its inception and outlined the company’s future directions. Meanwhile, Vice President of Investment at SVC, Haifa Almoqbil, presented regional and global VC market insights and trends, and compared it to the Kingdom’s VC market positive position.Dr. Nabeel Koshak, CEO and Board Member at SVC, pointed out SVC’s strategic role in developing the VC ecosystem in the Kingdom. He stressed that the Kingdom’s leading position in the VC scene across the region comes as a result of the economic and investment evolution witnessed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a result of government support led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, in line with the objectives of the Saudi Vision 2030 to strengthen and diversify the national economy.Koshak added: “Because success is the effort of an integrated ecosystem, I extend my sincere thanks to the government entities that launched unique programs and initiatives to support the VC ecosystem, developed the legislative and regulatory environment and created an environment that helps startups to innovate and launch with greater flexibility and support. Also, we would not have achieved this without the active investors and fund managers who backed startups during their various growth stages. Certainly, all these efforts would not have achieved results without the innovative entrepreneurs who worked diligently to launch companies capable of fast growth inside and outside the Kingdom.”

Local Planet officially launches ‘Local Planet MEA’

The world’s largest privately held media and communication agency network, Local Planet, marked its entry into the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. ‘Local Planet MEA’ strategically headquartered in Dubai, is powered by the Middle East’s leading independent full-service creative marketing agency- Tonic International, along with RMS Media and Curiosity Africa, for Middle East and Africa respectively. This move completes Local Planet's global expansion effectively to address the diverse needs of the dynamic Middle East and Africa markets.‘Local Planet MEA’ will operate across 63 regional markets, catering to the needs of regional as well as international clients through 37 offices in locations, including the UAE, KSA, Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. The network will further utilise the resources, expertise, and tools offered by Tonic International, RMS Media, and Curiosity Africa – all of which are supported by Local Planet International on a global scale.According to industry reports, the Middle East marketing and advertising agency market is projected to reach USD 9.87 billion by 2030, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.94 per cent from 2024 to 2030. Additionally, in Africa, entrepreneurs and companies are increasingly seeking specialized services due to the burgeoning growth of local and regional brands. Reports state that Africa Advertising market is projected to grow at a 4.9% CAGR by 2029. Marketing professionals can benefit from the Local Planet MEA’s thorough understanding of the local markets and the subtleties of customer behaviours that are essential to brand success both regionally and globally.Martyn Rattle, Global CEO of Local Planet, commented: “We are delighted to join forces with Tonic International and two alliances to power our Local Planet MEA operations, owing to their extensive expertise across the whole region. The rapidly evolving digital ecosystem and numerous cutting-edge technologies have had a significant and profound impact on the marketing, advertising, and media agency landscape, bringing a paradigm shift in the way companies interact with customers as well as promote their products and services. At Local Planet, our overarching goal is to provide innovative solutions and successfully meet the varied needs of diverse markets globally.”The MEA region is regarded as a favourable destination for marketers and advertisers who seek to enhance brand visibility and awareness. This appeal of the market can be ascribed to a combination of factors, including the increasing number of businesses, rising brand competition, a large population, and high internet usage rates.Arnaud Verchere, Group CEO at Tonic International and Chairman of Local Planet MEA, stated: “We are delighted to partner with Local Planet as it expands into the MEA region. Our successful track record in the Middle East, has paved the way for this broader-scale strategic move. Our distinct understanding of the local markets, our entrepreneurial spirit, and our client-centric approach position us uniquely among the agency networks in the region. We are equipped to offer cutting-edge services ensuring consistency in operations and approaches and producing remarkable outcomes for brands in the region.”Carine Conradie-Haffejee and Alexei Pashkov, Co-Founders of Curiosity Africa, said: “We are thrilled to be a part of Local Planet MEA and contribute to the transformation of the advertising and marketing landscape in the region. With our ample resources, speed, and flexibility, we are well-prepared to strengthen business solutions in the region. Our expertise lies in effortlessly integrating global marketing technology solutions into daily operations, complemented by our capabilities in business intelligence, analytics, and marketing insights, enriching the portfolio of services offered by Local Planet MEA for clients in the region.”Today, businesses in the Middle East are making significant investments in data-driven marketing, to better understand consumer behaviours and preferences, with 68 per cent of marketers seeking to increase their data-related expenditure by 2024, as per the report published by Data & Marketing Association (DMA).To address these challenges and tap into the vast potential of the Middle East and Africa (MEA) market, Local Planet MEA will develop and execute media communication strategies, utilising a team of experts with a comprehensive understanding of business requirements and media landscapes, to ensure the successful implementation of impactful campaigns and communication solutions.

Jordan Tourism Board welcomes Indian film industry delegation

The Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) hosted a media delegation from India, involving 52 journalists, newspaper editors-in-chief, influencers from the film industry and magazine editors.The visit, planned from Tuesday to Friday, aligns with JTB’s strategic plan to showcase Jordan’s tourist and archaeological wonders to an international audience, a JTB statement said on Wednesday as reported by the Jordan News Agency, Petra.The JTB highlighted the importance of attracting influential figures from the film industry worldwide to explore Jordan’s historical, cultural and natural sites, for international film production.The media delegation’s itinerary included visits to iconic locations such as Wadi Rum, Aqaba and Amman, during the filming of segments of the international Indian film “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan”.The JTB, recognising the potential of the Indian market as one of the most promising for boosting tourism to Jordan, provided crucial support for the film crew.The Royal Film Commission (RFC), responsible for logistical services for international film productions in Jordan, ensured a seamless experience by offering comprehensive information on filming procedures, obtaining necessary permits, identifying suitable locations and assisting with customs clearance for technical equipment.Director General of the JTB Abdelrazzaq Arabiyat stressed that hosting the Indian media delegation underscores the joint interests of the tourism and film industries in Jordan.He highlighted the investment opportunities available in Jordan, a symbol of stability and security in the region, boasting tourism components, climate diversity, a prime geographical location and authentic hospitality.Director General of the RFC Mohannad Bakri referred to the close connection between the tourism and film sectors. Filming in Jordan showcases its picturesque locations and distinctive culture, serving as a powerful tool for marketing Jordan as a top-tier tourist destination, he added.The delegation expressed admiration for the richness of Jordan’s tourism offerings and historical heritage, praising the warm and generous Jordanian hospitality.

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