Measuring impact: John von Hofsten discusses HOP's approach to success

Digital agency Home of Performance (HOP) has recently forged a strategic partnership with FitConnector, a groundbreaking mobile app connecting fitness enthusiasts with passionate professionals. The collaboration aims to redefine the fitness landscape across the region. In this interview with Adgully Middle East, John von Hofsten, the Managing Director of HOP, delves into the vision and strategies behind this partnership, and much more. Excerpts:In light of HOP's partnership with FitConnector, how do you envision leveraging your strategic expertise to contribute to the transformation of the fitness and wellness experience for individuals across the region?Partnering with FitConnector allows us to tap into our strategic expertise and truly reshape the fitness landscape. We plan to create targeted campaigns that go beyond just promotion, connecting users with the perfect coach based on their needs and goals. Imagine AI-powered recommendations, personalized content, and gamified challenges that build an engaging community around fitness. We'll leverage social media, influencer partnerships, and innovative marketing strategies to ensure FitConnector reaches diverse audiences and makes fitness accessible and appealing to everyone.FitConnector emphasizes democratizing access to quality fitness guidance. How does HOP ensure a client-centric approach, and what steps are taken to understand and address the diverse needs of clients in the evolving digital landscape?Client-centricity is embedded in everything we do at HOP. We actively engage with FitConnector users through surveys, polls, and social media interactions to understand their backgrounds, fitness goals, and technological comfort levels. This data informs our content strategy, user interface design, and even coach selection. We strive for inclusivity, ensuring the app caters to diverse needs, cultural backgrounds, and fitness levels. This continuous feedback loop allows us to adapt and personalize the experience for everyone.With the increasing role of technology in the fitness industry, how does HOP plan to integrate digital innovations to enhance the user experience within the FitConnector app and stay ahead of industry trends?The future of fitness lies in seamlessly integrating technology. We're exploring AI-powered workout recommendations that adjust based on real-time performance data, gamified challenges that motivate and reward users, and even adaptive training plans that personalize the experience. Imagine FitConnector suggesting healthy recipes paired with your workout or virtual challenges with friends, making fitness fun and social. We actively monitor industry trends and invest in R&D to ensure FitConnector remains at the forefront of digital fitness.Given the competitive landscape in the digital agency industry, what specific strategies or initiatives do you believe set HOP apart and contribute to its success in driving results for clients?While the agency landscape is crowded, HOP stands out through our unwavering focus on performance. We deliver tangible results, not just vanity metrics. We also value long-term partnerships, working collaboratively with clients like FitConnector to evolve their digital presence. Our data-driven approach allows us to constantly optimize campaigns and track ROI, proving every investment delivers a measurable return. Finally, our team combines passion, creativity, and tech expertise, giving us the edge in crafting effective and innovative digital solutions.Could you share insights into your leadership style and how it aligns with the dynamic and innovative nature of the digital agency environment?My leadership style reflects the dynamic nature of the digital world. I foster open communication, encouraging brainstorming and innovative ideas. Collaboration is key, and I empower individuals to leverage their strengths and take ownership. This creates a sense of purpose and dedication, driving us to exceed expectations and propel collaborations like FitConnector to success.How does HOP define and measure success? Are there specific KPIs or milestones that you consider crucial in evaluating the impact and effectiveness of collaborations?HOP's success goes beyond awards. We measure it by the tangible impact we create for our clients. For FitConnector, it's the number of lives transformed, the thriving communities built, and the positive shift in people's approach to fitness. We track key metrics like app downloads, active users, engagement rates, and user feedback to assess our progress and identify areas for improvement. These KPIs demonstrate the real-world impact of our collaboration and guide our efforts to continuously create positive change.Considering the evolving landscape of digital agencies, what major trends or shifts do you foresee in the industry (such as AI), and how does HOP position itself to adapt and capitalize on these changes?AI is a game-changer, and HOP is actively embracing it. We envision AI powering personalized recommendations, optimizing training plans, and even providing on-the-go feedback through voice assistants. We're also keeping an eye on the rise of augmented reality and the metaverse, where virtual fitness experiences could hold immense potential. HOP thrives on agility and continuous learning. We invest in training, attend conferences, and experiment with new technologies, ensuring we remain prepared to adapt and capitalize on these evolving trends.

Gifting innovations: Tarun Joshi's odyssey with IGP in the Middle East

Adgully Middle East recently interviewed Tarun Joshi, the Founder of Join Ventures in India, which is the parent company for IGP in the Middle East, and various other brands.From his roots as a DRDO scientist to steering Join Ventures, Tarun unfolds the narrative of IGP's expansion into the Middle East and the strategic vision driving its success in the region. Tarun, a seasoned technology entrepreneur and investor, is notable for establishing Join Ventures, a company with substantial holdings in the online gifting sector. Under his leadership, Join Ventures owns, recognized as one of the world's premier online gifting companies. Additionally, Tarun has strategically positioned the company to oversee, the Indian business of the world's largest floral company.In the interview, Tarun Joshi discusses his entrepreneurial journey from being a DRDO scientist to his current ventures. With his business acumen, he has successfully expanded IGP to the Middle East. The discussion will explore further insights into his business plans for the Middle Eastern region.Could you share your entrepreneurial journey and the genesis of the Join Ventures?My entrepreneurial journey has been a tapestry woven with threads of diverse experiences, each contributing to the fabric of Join Ventures, one of the world’s fastest-growing direct-to-consumer (D2C) platforms. At the helm of this venture, I find myself at the intersection of technology, innovation, and a relentless passion for creating meaningful connections through gifting and flowersThe genesis of Join Ventures can be traced back to my early days as an aerospace scientist, playing a pivotal role in designing the flight control systems for Tejas, India's first supersonic fighter aircraft. This experience ingrained in me the importance of precision, innovation, and the ability to navigate challenges with resilience. Building on this foundation, I embarked on a journey to harness technology for societal impact.Another turning point in my career was the design of the world's first biometric ATM, a pioneering initiative that broke down language barriers and facilitated financial inclusion for low-income microfinance consumers in India. This project fuelled my belief in the transformative power of technology to bridge gaps and enhance lives. It was a testament to the idea that innovation can be a force for positive change, fostering financial empowerment and inclusion.With over 12 years of experience at leading private equity firms, including 3i and CVCI, I honed my skills in strategic financial management. Managing investments exceeding $500 million in Asia provided me with a comprehensive understanding of market dynamics and a keen insight into the potential of emerging industries. This experience became a cornerstone for my venture into the entrepreneurial landscape.As an active angel investor in start-ups, my interests spanned diverse sectors, including e-commerce, financial services, technology, and consumer companies. These investments were not merely financial; they were strategic bets on the potential of visionary ideas and innovative solutions. Each investment contributed to shaping my entrepreneurial philosophy, emphasizing the importance of agility, innovation, and purposeful leadership.My passion for sports, particularly my achievements as a state champion and 11 times national level player in Badminton, instilled in me the values of discipline, determination, and a team-player approach. These values have been integral to my leadership style, fostering a culture at Join Ventures where talent thrives and evolves to meet the demands of the dynamic digital-first ecosystem.Join Ventures, with its flagship entities and, reflects my commitment to creating a platform that goes beyond transactions, focusing on creating memorable experiences for individuals across the globe. The vision is to redefine the landscape of online gifting and flower delivery, leveraging technology to forge emotional connections.In essence, my entrepreneurial journey is a mosaic of technological innovation, financial acumen, and a deep-rooted belief in the transformative power of purposeful leadership. Join Ventures is not just a business venture; it is a culmination of my experiences, values, and relentless pursuit of excellence in creating a positive impact on people's lives.IGP, a renowned gifting company, has embarked on its journey in the Middle East. What motivated the decision to introduce the brand in this region?The UAE has over 10 million people, and out of which 85% are immigrants who want to stay connected to their families and build and enhance their social graph in the UAE. Our sole reason for existence is to help our consumers stay connected to their friends and families back home and to enrich new relationships, whether personal or corporate. We view the UAE as our gateway into the MENA region, considering the warmth and sociability of the culture, which is consistent across the entire MENA region.What are your perspectives on the e-commerce landscape in the UAE? How do you intend to navigate and capitalize on this dynamic market with IGP?The e commerce landscape in the UAE has strong tailwinds. Given the increase in the migrated population in the UAE and preference for convenience, over 70% of people in the UAE are going to continue ordering online. This is expected to deliver over 30% growth p.a. to the online ecosystem in the UAE over the next 3-5 years.What strategies will you employ for marketing to ensure IGP's success in both the UAE and the broader GCC market?The entire GCC market is very aspirational and values the overall service experience. Our marketing strategy would be a mix of providing a strong AI-powered technology platform that reminds every important moment in the life of our consumers, best product portfolio spanning across flowers, cakes, personalised, home and fashion accessories, and on top of that delivery of all these products within 60 minutes.In the midst of the festive season, how can brands seamlessly integrate into the evolving e-commerce landscape in the UAE? How can a corporation develop a profound understanding and adaptability to market dynamics, ensuring a sustained impact in the gifting sector?Providing a superior delivery experience is the key to all brands. In a digital-first world, convenience and variety are of foremost importance. Gifting for example is very demanding as the consumers remember an occasion at the last minute and expect the best products to be delivered in the shortest amount of time. Sustainability is very important to be measured and implemented across the organisation.For IGP, if we want the world to be a happy place, we strive to ensure that we have to first give back to the society and the environment at large. We therefore monitor the carbon footprint of every single product, including the flower stems used in our bouquets, and make sure that we run a carbon-neutral organisation, which is making the entire world a happy place.Do you identify gaps in the gifting market, and if so, what is your approach to filling these voids?The biggest gap that I feel in the gifting market in the UAE is the lack of personalised options. Increasingly, consumers are looking at unique ways of expressing their heartfelt emotions for every special moment in the lives of their loved ones. We at IGP believe in bringing a smile to every recipient for every special moment.Currently, customized gifts are gaining popularity in the gifting sector. How does IGP plan to redefine the art of thoughtful and personalized gifting experiences?Every gift has a feeling associated with it. Customization is the best way to express a multitude of feelings. These feelings are the glue between people and their relationships (close or distant) and special moments (small or big and sad or happy).In the competitive landscape of gifting brands in the UAE and GCC markets, what is your strategy for IGP to stand out? What sets IGP apart from its competition?IGP is all about enriching relationships for over 10 million people in the UAE and over 50 million in the GCC. Our endeavour would be to present the best assortment of over 2500 gifts to express the relevant feeling for every occasion and relationship.Can you outline the cities where IGP is set to expand across the Middle East in the coming years? What are the future expansion plans for the brand?IGP has created a state-of-the-art 20,000-square-feet facility in the heart of Dubai, and will look at opening similar facilities in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Jeddah.

X expands partnership with Shopify for new opportunities

X (former Twitter) is making strides in its "everything app" plan through a new partnership with Shopify. The partnership aims to provide more opportunities for Shopify merchants to promote their products within the app.The deal is expected to introduce new ways for Shopify sellers to advertise on X. This could potentially enhance the visibility of Shopify products on the platform.X and Shopify are working on facilitating easier catalogue uploads. Shopify merchants may have a streamlined process to showcase their products on X, making it more convenient for both sellers and potential customers. The partnership is intended to enable broader product awareness actions. This could mean increased visibility and exposure for the products offered by Shopify sellers on the X platform. X is working on securing payment transmitter licenses in U.S. states, and there's confidence in enabling peer-to-peer payments in the app. If successful, this could open up new opportunities for retailers, with Shopify merchants leveraging X's reach for in-stream payments and transfers.Shopify's President, Harley Finkelstein, emphasizes the importance of reaching customers wherever they are and suggests that the partnership will boost exposure for Shopify sellers.Elon Musk's "everything app" vision, hints at a comprehensive platform that covers various aspects, potentially including commerce. The success of this vision could significantly impact how businesses operate on the platform.While the details are still to be determined, the collaboration between X and Shopify appears to hold potential for both parties. If the "everything app" vision materializes and in-stream payments become a reality, it could indeed lead to significant opportunities for retailers, particularly those on the Shopify platform.

Mashreq Launches New Mobile App for Superior Digital Experience

Mashreq, one of the leading financial institutions in the MENA region, announced the launch of its innovative mobile app, Mashreq UAE, aimed at providing a superior digital experience for its customers. This cutting-edge solution represents a significant leap in mobile banking, merging the Mashreq app with the Mashreq NEO app to deliver a unified, single-login platform. This consolidation allows customers to view all their financial relationships across products and services, enhancing convenience and simplifying their banking experience.The newly enhanced Mashreq NEO experience offered through the Mashreq UAE app, has been specifically designed with the customer in mind, offering a personalized experience with features like tailor-made offers for credit and debit cards visible on the app dashboard. The app's simpler branding is aimed at providing a consistent experience across different customer segments and variants, truly embodying the essence of intuitive customer focus.Fernando Morillo, Group Head of Retail Banking, Mashreq, said:“Banks that are focused on enhancing their digital infrastructure are set to see a dramatic spike in engagement, thanks to a consumer base that is evolving to be more tech-savvy, seeking convenience, simplicity and personalization. As one of the leading financial institutions in the region, Mashreq has had a history of going beyond just offering new products and services, which has enabled us to pioneer the best-in-class experiences that benefit our customers. Because of the demonstrated success of our digital banking platforms in the UAE and other global markets, we have undertaken expansion to new markets, such as Egypt, Pakistan, and scaling up our presence in the GCC. The new, supercharged Mashreq NEO experience we have introduced through this launch, is yet another incredible milestone in our journey to creating truly game-changing digital experiences for our customers.”Radu Topliceanu, Head of NEO and Personal Banking, Mashreq, said:“As we embrace the future of banking, the revamped Mashreq NEO experience is more than just a technological advancement. It is a strategic pivot towards fully integrated, customer-centric digital experiences. The app is not only a gateway to efficient and secure banking but also a reflection of our commitment to understanding and addressing the unique financial needs of our customers. We are redefining the standards of digital banking, ensuring that every interaction is personalized, secure, and above all, effortlessly intuitive. Our aim is to not only meet but exceed the expectations of our digitally-savvy customers, making Mashreq the go-to bank for innovative and reliable digital banking services.”The app is particularly designed for the digitally connected consumer and busy professionals who manage their finances on the go. It offers existing Mashreq customers a consolidated view of their relationships with the bank, a single login for ease of use, and a personalized experience. The app’s 24/7 customer service via the Digital Chatbot – Mashreq Virtual Assistant is a highlight, offering instant support and transaction management. Customers who are new to the bank will benefit from a 100% digital onboarding journey, allowing them to open an account quickly and securely with just a face scan. This biometric face validation provides a fast, secure, and streamlined process, making decision-making simpler for the customers.In terms of growth and engagement, the launch of the Mashreq UAE app is anticipated to significantly boost user engagement rates. The bank forecasts considerable increases in these areas, showcasing the app's potential to transform the digital banking experience for its users. These enhancements align with Mashreq's vision for the app over the coming years, aiming to onboard all customers digitally, offer a comprehensive range of services, and establish itself as the most rewarding banking app in the market.

TikTok releases Season two of The Future of Retail podcast series

TikTok launched the second season of its podcast ‘The Future of Retail’, hosted by Aref Yehia, Head of Retail & E-Commerce Business Partnerships at TikTok MENA. The podcast hosts prominent retail industry CEOs to discuss the industry’s evolving landscape as the region continues to be a thriving hub for retail and embraces the transformative potential of emerging technologies. Full episodes will be accessible for streaming in both audio and video formats via TikTok channels.The region’s retail industry stands out globally, with the UAE’s retail market is expected to reach USD 37.70 billion by 2027. With a projected compound annual growth rate of 5.88%, the growth is a testimony of the increased competition and promising future of the dynamic promising retail landscape. In this podcast, TikTok dives deep with industry leaders to understand shoppers’ needs and identify the opportunities that will shape the future of commerce.Aref Yehia, Head of Retail & E-Commerce at TikTok MENA, shares his anticipation for the upcoming season, “This season, we're continuing our deep dive into the real innovations reshaping retail and e-commerce. Our guests this season bring a wealth of experience and perspectives on the transformative trends that are redefining the retail and e-commerce landscape. We're focusing on the heart of retail evolution – customer-centricity. This season is about unraveling how businesses are ingeniously adapting to the ever-evolving needs and preferences of customers."‘The Future of Retail’ will feature bi-weekly episodes, with the first episode viewable here. The first episode features the CEO of Talabat Tomaso Rodriguez, discussing all the innovations happening in the field of quick commerce and food delivery. The lineup for Season 2 also includes Hani Weiss, CEO at Majid Al Futtaim Retail, and Toufic Kreidieh, Co-founder & CEO at Brands for less.

MCN and its agencies across the region achieve Great Place to Work certification

MCN (Middle East Communications Network), along with all its agencies in the UAE, Qatar, and Egypt, proudly announce its continued recognition as a Great Place to Work® for the year 2024. This prestigious certification, awarded by the Great Place to Work (GPTW) organization, reaffirms MCN's commitment to fostering a positive and thriving workplace environment, marking a new standard for excellence in the industry.The extensive analysis conducted by Great Place to Work® Middle East, based on direct feedback from employees through an anonymous survey, highlights MCN's dedication to providing an outstanding working experience. This distinction is a collective achievement of the entire MCN community, which includes the following agencies: FP7McCann, Momentum, McCann Health, MRM, Mullenlowe, UM, Magna, KINESSO, Initiative, Weber Shandwick, Jack Morton, Commonwealth//McCann. MCN's success in achieving the Great Place to Work certification solidifies its position as a leader in employee satisfaction and as an employer of choice."We are incredibly proud of this unprecedented collective achievement in the UAE, Egypt and Qatar. This recognition is truly special; it resonates with the voices, votes, and sentiments of our exceptional teams. It is a testament to the passion and unity of our MCN family and the love people have for each other and for working together." Said Ricarda Ruecker, Chief Talent Officer, MCN.MCN looks forward to continuing its journey of fostering an exceptional workplace culture and is committed to annually renew the Great Place to Work certification and expand it to additional countries.

Dubai-based fintech platform Znap rebrands as TOTL

Homegrown cashback rewards platform Znap revealed today its new brand identity, TOTL, as part of an extensive visual and service delivery transformation strategy.The rebranding marks a significant turning point in Znap’s corporate trajectory and underscores the firm’s unwavering commitment to delivering need-driven fintech solutions to consumers and partners in the region.The new look will include a logo refresh, which represents “in our mind” contactless payments with exciting colours – green, which represents growth, health, and tranquillity; purple, which represents creativity, luxury, and wisdom – and attributes that evoke emotions and brand association.The rebrand from Znap to TOTL (pronounced Total) modernises and simplifies brand recall among consumers while delivering solutions that ultimately bring people together and improve lives.According to Uday Rathod, CEO and Co-Founder of the brand, TOTL, which represents payments with Value back (cashback), is an innovative approach that transforms cashback into a seamless and straightforward process for customers and local businesses.“We’ve reached a critical turning point that began with the unveiling of Znap in 2017 – a platform that was at the time solely designed to help consumers upload their billd and earn cash rewards on every product listed in the FMCG sector. However, as business dynamics and consumer preferences evolve, there is a need to move the brand to the next level. By rebranding to TOTL, we are now on a mission to help consumers get value for every Dhiram spent in a way that’s a win-win situation for both business and consumers,” said Uday.Despite the growing competition within the industry, TOTL has been making meaningful strides in the region. From 2021 until now, TOTL has seen exponential growth, with transactions surging by over 100X thanks to the increased cashback utilisation. Moreover, boasing an impressive customer return rate exceeding 83%, the company has experiences remarkable progress.Driving loyalty and salesOver the last few years, the cashback rewards industry has become an integral part of most businesses’ growth strategy in the UAE and regionally, as the concept continues to help homegrown retailers drive customer loyalty and increase sales. According to research firm Statista, the global cashback industry is expected to be worth more than US$200 billion a year by 2024, with participating retailers growing their revenue up to two and a half times faster than competitors who do not use them.On its part, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been experiencing a ballooning adoption of loyalty programs by businesses of all sizes, led by e-commerce platforms increasingly tapping into loyalty programs to boost repeat purchases and drive revenue growth. With its loyalty market, which includes cashback and rewards programs, poised to grow by over 12 per cent annually to reach US$1,423.7 million in 2023, the market is expected to increase from US$1,269.7 million in 2022 to reach US$2,214.5 million by 2027.Before the rebrand, Znap had partnered with over 600 businesses and with the new brand outlook, the company is now expected to aggressively into other untapped markets, including Abu Dhabi, Ajman, and Ras Al Khaimah, in a bid to tap different potential categories such as food and beverages, beauty and wellness, optical floral stores, pet care and more.

'Mall Millionaire' campaign concludes with grand prize and car winners announced

Line Investments & Property LLC has successfully concluded the exciting 'Mall Millionaire' campaign, announcing the lucky winners of the AED One Million grand prize and five T5 EVO cars. The campaign held, across thirteen malls in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and Al Dhafra, redefined the shopping experience, offering customers an array of rewards, entertainment, and shopping deals. The grand prize draw was the highlight of the campaign, with one fortunate shopper winning AED One Million. The lucky winner, Mr. Mohammad Sameer took home a million dirhams. Additionally, five lucky winners drove away with brand new Forthing T5 Evo 2024 cars. Throughout the campaign, shoppers also enjoyed winning Lulu Trolley gift vouchers, AED 20,000 Laka Cards worth up to AED 500K, and other instant prizes. "Witnessing the joy and excitement among our shoppers has been truly rewarding," said Wajeb Al Khoury, Director of Line Investments and Property LLC. "The 'Mall Millionaire' campaign's third edition has not only offered fantastic shopping deals but has also created unforgettable moments and happy winners. It's gratifying to see our vision for a unique shopping experience come to life across our malls." Biju George, General Manager, Line Investments, commented, "The overwhelming response to the 'Mall Millionaire' campaign underscores our commitment to offering exceptional experiences to our shoppers. We are thrilled to have brought back this campaign, making the shopping season memorable. Congratulations to all the winners, and we look forward to hosting more such engaging events in the future." The campaign's success has set a new benchmark for shopping extravaganzas in the region, with weekly prize-giving ceremonies, daily draws, and the mega prize of AED 1 million plus cars. The participating malls witnessed an unprecedented turnout, reflecting the campaign's popularity. Line Investments & Property LLC extends its gratitude to all the participants and partners who made the 'Mall Millionaire' campaign a phenomenal success and promises to return with more exciting initiatives in the future. Participating malls included Al Wahda Mall, Mushrif Mall, Khalidiyah Mall, Al Raha Mall, Mazyad Mall, Forsan Central Mall, Al Falah Central Mall, Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre and Gold Centre, Hameem Mall, and Mafraq Mall in Abu Dhabi as well as Al Foah Mall and Barari Outlet Mall in Al Ain and Al Dhafra Mall in Al Dhafra.

Thriwe launches exclusive membership program ThriwePrime

Thriwe, a leading technology-driven B2B Benefits-As-A-Platform company, has launched ThriwePrime, an exclusive membership program designed for the KSA region. As part of its expansion into the Saudi market, ThriwePrime offers unparalleled access to a myriad of premier brands including Spotify, Nahdi Pharmacies, Amazon, Uber, Mrsool, Careem, and more across Travel, Entertainment, Shopping, Digital, and Healthcare at exclusive discounted rates.Thriwe, specializes in rewards, loyalty with a decade of experience, and offers innovative solutions to Acquire, Engage, and retain customers. Renowned for its decade-long expertise, Thriwe has broadened its service portfolio to encompass various verticals. With over 30,000 strategic partnerships and associations, it is now venturing into user-oriented technology-driven holistic platforms. These platforms aim to provide a spectrum of lifestyle and wellness, dining, digital, and travel benefits and services, all while maintaining its core ideology of delivering excellence consistently.Dhruv Verma, the Founder & CEO of Thriwe, expressed enthusiasm about the launch, stating, "ThriwePrime marks our dedication to empowering businesses and individuals with an exclusive membership experience that goes beyond traditional benefits. We are excited to bring this innovative program to the KSA market, providing our users with a seamless journey towards elevated lifestyles and enhanced well-being."Sachin Sharma, Chief Operating Officer of Thriwe for the KSA region underscored, "The launch of ThriwePrime in the Saudi market seamlessly aligns with Vision 2030, emphasizing the progression of digital services and delivering unparalleled value to our users. Witnessing rapid growth in the tech-based retail market in KSA, further solidifies our commitment to meeting the dynamic demands of this flourishing sector."ThriwePrime offers three distinct membership tiers – Silver, Gold, and Platinum, with prices starting from SAR 149. The platform's user-friendly redemption process includes visiting the ThriwePrime official website, selecting a membership bundle, providing contact details, making the discounted payment, unlocking a unique membership ID, downloading the Thriwe App, and registering with the same details to access benefits.In navigating the new market landscape of Saudi Arabia, Thriwe is strategically opening its doors to users, including decision-makers across diverse businesses. Recognizing the substantial impact of experiences in decision-making, Thriwe is launching an initiative that enables decision-makers to directly encounter their services on behalf of their customers. This proactive approach underscores Thriwe's commitment to understanding and meeting the unique needs of the Saudi market.Thriwe's track record of strategic partnerships with renowned financial institutions and its global presence in over 130 countries has positioned it as a trusted leader in the B2B benefits space. With a goal of generating USD 100 million in revenue from the Saudi Market over the next 36 months, Thriwe remains committed to revolutionizing benefits platforms and enhancing user experiences across various industries.

Sherpa Communications among Communicate’s Best Places to Work 2024 in MENA

Sherpa Communications, an award-winning B2B-focused communications agency based in Dubai, has been featured among Communicate’s Best Place to Work 2024, a list of organisations in MENA’s marketing and advertising sector that are actively working to create a workplace dedicated to cultivating environments that attract, retain, and support top-tier talent.Communicate Magazine, a leading voice in the marketing, advertising, and creative industries, had a refined process to gather insights and analyse organisations based on their workplace initiatives, employee benefits, opportunities for professional development, and commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in their operations. This helped them shortlist companies that upheld commendable work policies, culture, and practices. Selection for this list was determined through an anonymous survey completed by employees, serving as the key factor in the shortlisting process.On this occasion, Anastasiya Golovatenko, PR Director, at Sherpa Communications, said: “We are incredibly honoured to be recognised by Communicate as one of MENA’s Best Places to Work. This acknowledgement validates our commitment to fostering an inclusive, collaborative, and inspiring workplace where our team members can excel and grow professionally. At Sherpa, we believe in cultivating a culture of 'sharing and caring' among our team members, bridging connections and fostering collaboration. Our focus extends beyond mere business strategies; the company is a platform that cultivates professional growth opportunities, empowering our team, and nurturing a sense of belonging and purpose within the workplace.”Sherpa Communications, an expert in Public Relations that understands the importance of human-centred approach, places a strategic emphasis on cultivating a robust corporate culture, recognizing its significance and importance. This conviction is supported by various studies, including a Glassdoor survey, which revealed that 77% of potential employees assess a company's culture before applying. By implementing progressive initiatives and offering comprehensive professional development opportunities, Sherpa Communications cultivates an inclusive and supportive environment that encourages creativity and individual growth. Their commitment to pushing boundaries and fostering innovation ensures their employees feel valued and motivated to deliver their best.

Advanced Media Trading and EditShare explore the future of cinema

Advanced Media Trading recently launched CINETomorrow, the third edition of its biannual digital cinema community event, as an interactive intersection of digital cinema, virtual production and sustainability in media and entertainment from January 11-13, 2024.The three-day event from January 11 to 13, 2024 was broken down into three main themes: “Light, Sound, Action!,” “Behind the Scenes,” and “Future of Cinema.” Every theme corresponded to a day of workshops and addressed the main subjects associated with the theme. Day three, “Future of Cinema,” focused on how environmental concerns have shifted productions from physical to digital with virtual production and cloud technology. “ On January 13th M&E technology expert Iain Churchill-Coleman kicked off the day with a 90-minute workshop on “Mastering Remote Production for Video Editors.” Powered by EditShare, the workshop emphasized how navigating remote video production demands not only requires technical knowledge but also a good understanding of project management, permissions, and IT security. In this era of rapid change, remote editing has become an essential skill for editors and content creators. “We have called it the future of cinema but it is really the present. The amazing technology developed by EditShare and the services provided are already revolutionizing cinema for the better. We cannot recommend them to productions enough,” Abdelrahman Elalfy, Corporate Sales Manager at Advanced Media Trading.EditShare is an Emmy Award-winning technology leader, supporting storytellers through collaborative media workflows across on-premise, cloud and hybrid architectures. The market-leading open software solutions and robust APIs improve workflow collaboration, third-party integrations and content sharing across the entire production chain. Designed specifically for media applications, the high performance line-up provides shared storage, archiving and backup, and intelligent media asset management.Through a recent merger with Shift Media, EditShare now also integrates tools for content review and distribution, the creation of customized and branded pitch reels, and secure preview of high-value pre-release content. The workshop led by Iain Churchill-Coleman was designed to empower editors with the indispensable knowledge and techniques required to operate efficiently in remote work. "I was delighted to participate in the inaugural CINETomorrow event. It was a great opportunity to showcase Editshare's commitment to advancing efficient remote production and collaborative media workflows" remarked Churchill-Coleman.CINETomorrow is an edition in a series of digital cinema events organized by Advanced Media. After receiving a positive response from the workshop attendees and event participants, both Advanced Media and EditShare hope to curate more training opportunities together both in the region.

Alstom appoints Dr. Dalya Al Muthanna as Managing Director & CEO

 Alstom has announced the appointment of Dalya Al Muthanna as the new Managing Director & CEO in Gulf (UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain).With a track record of customer-oriented success in the Gulf, Dalya held the position of President at GE in the UAE and global Chief of Strategy & Operations for GE International Markets, as well as previously holding the position of President & CEO for GE in the Gulf region. Her educational background includes a Ph.D. from Imperial College London and an MBA from the American University in Dubai.“With Dalya Al Muthanna on board, Alstom is poised to elevate and further localize its presence in the Middle East's dynamic mobility sector. Her role is crucial as we align with each country's drive towards net-zero carbon emissions. We are enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead, particularly in areas of infrastructure enhancement, digital optimization, and innovative sustainable mobility solutions,” stated Andrew DeLeone, President, Africa, Middle East and Central Asia Region at Alstom.In her role at Alstom, Dalya will be instrumental in steering the company's growth and enhancing relationships with key stakeholders.“I'm excited to join Alstom and lead a dynamic team dedicated to pioneering sustainable mobility solutions. Alstom has been an integral part of the region’s growth in rail transportation, and I'm honoured to contribute to this legacy. We are committed to deepening our impact and fostering broad-based collaboration, ensuring Alstom continues to play a crucial role in the sustainable development for years to come.” says Dalya Al Muthanna.Alstom, a global leader in rail transport and mobility, has a long-standing presence in Qatar and UAE. The company has delivered major successful projects in the region. For example, Alstom delivered the Dubai tramway, the first fully integrated tramway system in the Middle East, and the world's first 100% catenary-free line, which was opened in November 2014. The company provided the complete railway system in Dubai Route 2020 Metro, the world's fastest-built turnkey metro project, and also built the first tramway in Lusail Qatar, the largest tramway system project in the Gulf region.

Flextock reports: Sales 3x amidst KSA’s digital growth surge in Q4 of 2023

Flextock, a leading e-commerce enabler in the Middle East, cites that the KSA was on pace to reach an impressive $13.71 billion in digital sales by the close of 2023 and a projected annual growth rate of 14.37% leading to a market volume of $23.46 billion by 2027. Against the backdrop of this digital growth, Flextock has emerged as a notable success story, capitalizing on the flourishing market to contribute significantly to the evolving landscape of e-commerce in the area.The company most recently displayed this during White Friday & Riyadh Season 2023. While traditional companies typically see a doubling of sales during this period, Flextock boasted a noteworthy triple surge. The strategic approach of Flextock’s machine learning algorithm in predicting high-demand SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) enabled the fast and accurate delivery of the orders which minimizing the opportunity loss for merchants in the KSA to below 1%; this is a remarkable achievement compared to the industry benchmark in the region of 3-5%.With consumers in the Kingdom increasingly gaining confidence through internet penetration of 98% and a growing young population, the expansion of e-commerce platforms is rapidly growing. Moreover, with the Saudi government promoting digital transformation as part of its Vision 2030 initiative to diversify the economy, the increased use of mobile devices for online shopping is progressively being seen by consumers to contribute to the overall expansion of the sector.Looking ahead Saudi Arabia is anticipated to surpass a remarkable 20 million digital economy users by the year 2030. To stay on par with the bolstering growth, Flextock’s machine learning algorithm accurately predicts what is in high demand and estimates the velocity of SKUs efficiently to benefit all their merchants and minimize turnovers as well as maximize delivery time to under three days as opposed to the industry standard of just over three days.Mohamed Mossaad, CEO of Flextock commented: "Our pioneering strategy for merchant growth in Saudi Arabia has been instrumental in solidifying our impactful presence, highlighting the direct link between our merchants' success and ours. In the White Friday and Riyadh Season frenzy, where consumer activity reaches new heights, the demand for flexibility and agility has never been more pronounced. Our recognition of this paradigm shift led us to prioritize our promptness in product delivery, as well as our versatile approach to help ensure availability during peak seasons allowing us to streamline the process for our merchants. Understanding that consumer outreach extends beyond the day-to-day social media platforms, tapping into diverse channels ensures a widely accessible and agile shopping experience, allowing us to align with the pace and preferences of today’s dynamic marketplace in the region.”With e-commerce experiencing a notable escalation in the KSA, consumers rely on social media platforms for their shopping needs such as Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat, among other platforms. In response to rising advertising costs, Flextock strategically diversified its sales channels, providing consumers with an outlet to not simply rely on traditional platforms which ultimately resulted in an additional 35% of merchant orders that led to their success.   With a diverse range of users, Flextock is not only accommodating micro-brands and large-scale retailers during busy seasons but also all year around.

Dubai Lynx announces first wave of speakers

Dubai Lynx, MENA’s leading platform for creative excellence and effectiveness, has announced the first wave of speakers confirmed to take to the stages this March. The Festival will see a curated programme of talent and experts from across the spectrum of creativity, on two stages of content, featuring Mastercard, ESL FACEIT GROUP, HungerStation, Kraft Heinz and the Saudi Ministry of Culture. Ian Fairservice, Vice-Chairman, Dubai Lynx, said: “This year’s Dubai Lynx will see content that addresses the challenges facing the industry in MENA today. The key themes will look at creative effectiveness, talent and culture, creative risks and AI and innovation, with each session built to provide delegates with future-facing views as well as actionable advice that they can take away. We’re delighted to bring together some of the top talent from the region and beyond, and we look forward to the abundance of learning, knowledge and inspiration that these creative minds will bring to the Festival.”This year’s Dubai Lynx will host some of the region’s most creative leaders to give delegates the tools they need to create more impactful work that drives business results. Highlights include deep dives into the mind of a CMO, featuring Mustapha Kassem, Senior Vice-President, Marketing & Communications, Middle East and North Africa, Mastercard. Kassem said: “Dubai Lynx has set the industry benchmark for creativity and innovation. It is an incredible opportunity to connect with passionate minds, share insights and exchange ideas that can push the boundaries of creativity. For more than 25 years, Mastercard has differentiated itself as a brand, through our ever-evolving Priceless platform which remains at the heart of everything we do. I am excited to join this prestigious event and join the conversation with the region’s marketing leaders as we explore and nurture the region’s dynamic creative landscape.” Elsewhere, Fabio Tambosi, Senior Vice-President, Global Marketing, ESL FACEIT GROUP, will share the most challenging issues some of the top brand leaders in the MENA region are facing right now. Tambosi added: “I believe in the power of brands to open people’s perception of the world and I use marketing as a catalyst and platform to change the way fans emotionally connect with brands. This is exactly what we co-create with the gaming community every single day at ESL FACEIT GROUP, and something for which Dubai Lynx has long provided a platform, consistently unleashing limitless creativity for the marketing community. I’m excited to take to the stage to talk about how esports is rising as the new global sport, and changing people’s relationships with premium sport entertainment to a point where marketers can no longer afford to ignore or fear.”Industry legend Josy Paul, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer at BBDO India, Gabriel Schmitt, Global Chief Creative Officer at Grey, and Marie-Claire Maalouf, Chief Creative Officer at Edelman, will discuss why proving the effectiveness of your creative work is important for both creatives and marketers. Donya Abdulhadi, Director of Marketing and Communications, Saudi Ministry of Culture, and Mohammed Jefri, Chief Marketing Officer, HungerStation, will take to the stage to look at best practices for working with Saudi brands and agencies and how to engage consumers. Dubai Lynx will also focus on how AI is allowing brands and agencies to make more creative work, featuring speakers Rebecca Bezzina, CEO EMEA, R/GA, and Nick Pringle, Chief Creative Officer EMEA, R/GA. Philip Thomas, Chairman, Dubai Lynx, commented: "This year’s programme features an exceptional line-up of regional and international talent. We’re looking forward to taking a deep dive into the region’s trends and challenges with these experts and leaving with tangible learnings that can be applied day to day to drive growth and progress.” The full content programme will be announced on Monday 29 January, with Festival Registration, including Press Accreditation and the Awards Ceremony & Dinner, opening on Thursday 18 January. Further information on the Festival programme can be found at

TrillerTV secures broadcasting rights for AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023

TrillerTV, previously known as FITE, has revealed its exclusive acquisition of broadcasting rights for the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 in the UK and Ireland. Under this deal, all 51 games of the tournament will be accessible live through the TrillerTV+ subscription. The AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023, featuring top talent from 24 Asian nations, will be available for TrillerTV+ subscribers in the UK and Ireland, allowing them to watch live matches and on-demand highlights presented in a tournament-style group stage and knock-out stage format. The streaming service's expansion into diverse sports content, facilitated by the sports marketing agency AFG, showcases its commitment to delivering premium sports and entertainment to its dedicated audience beyond its initial focus on combat sports.

How Agencies are Weaving Ethics into Marketing and Public Relations

Agencies hold the onus to communicate the intricacies of the brands they represent. In today’s hyper connected and technological savvy world, it is important to communicate the right thing to the audience. The days of unquestioned brand narratives and hollow promises are gone. The new currency for brands to gain trust is transparency, authenticity, and social responsibility. This has led to a major change in public relations and marketing: the integration of ethics. Leading agencies have recognized the ethical imperative to move beyond the mere campaign results to consider the broader impact of their communication strategies. This integration manifests in several key ways as Ms. Bhagyashree Singh, Director CEO of Merakii Group, emphasizes: Prioritizing Transparency: Misleading claims and exaggerated narratives are fading away and are replaced by direct and honest communication. This entails conducting thorough fact-checking and owning up to mistakes. Customers value companies that accept responsibility for their shortcomings and aim for sincere communication. Fostering Sustainability and Societal Impact: In order to address concerns like climate change, responsible waste management, and community development, agencies are more often working with clients to include social responsibility into theircampaigns. This promotes sustained brand loyalty in addition to being consistent with consumer values.Supporting Diversity and Inclusion: To ensure that messages connect with a larger audience and avoid damaging beliefs, agencies are actively supporting a range of voices and opinions. Naturally, creating more compelling and inclusive narratives is essential. Being inclusive is a strategic benefit in engaging with today's consumers, not merely a box to be checked.Building an Ethical Culture: Top agencies must integrate moral values into their corporate cultures. This entails giving staff members the opportunity to voice issues, creating clear norms, and providing regular ethical training. The agency's ethics become ingrained in its operations, guiding ethical decision-making at all levels. Ms. Bhagyashree Singh states that, “The path of ethical communication is paved with challenges and constant learning. But it is important to keep in mind that the price of being dishonest and making false promises is far higher than the effort required to act morally. We should approach our responsibility as communicators with unwavering commitment to moral narratives, for the benefit of our clients and the audience at large.”

Sony Honda partners with Microsoft to create a personal agent for mobility

Sony Honda Mobility Inc. (SHM) is exhibiting a booth at CES® 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA starting on Tuesday, January 9, 2024 (local time).In advance of CES® being opened to the public, Sony’s press conference was held on Monday, January 8 (local time). Representative Director, President and COO Izumi Kawanishi took the stage. During the press conference, SHM announced a collaboration with Microsoft Corporation. (Head Office: Redmond, Washington, USA; Chairman and Chief Executive Officer: Satya Nadella) in creating a personal agent for mobility. The following is a summary of the announcement of this collaboration at the press conference.AnnouncementsSHM aims to revolutionize how people move, making mobility interactive and expressive, redefining the relationship between people and mobility, enhancing “emotional experience”.SHM has also entered into an agreement with Microsoft to develop a conversational personal agent, using Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service.AI plays an essential role in achieving our goal to redefining the relationship between people and mobility, enhancing emotional user experience. Microsoft is a key partner to provide conversational personal agent. We are pleased to be working with Microsoft to realize our vision.Izumi Kawanishi, Representative Director, President and COO, Sony Honda Mobility“Generative AI is a new canvas that is amplifying human creativity and creating opportunities for creators and designers to completely transform the in-vehicle experience. We are proud of our collaboration with Sony Honda Mobility and excited to see their innovative use of Azure AI technologies and their ability to build with confidence knowing Microsoft Azure is providing a trusted platform as the AI landscape and mobility industry evolves. As these new technologies come forward, safe and responsible AI will continue to be a top priority for both organizations”.Jessica Hawk, Corporate Vice President ?Data, AI, Digital Applications Product Marketing, Microsoft“As a Mobility Tech Company that connects diverse inspirations and pursues cutting-edge technology, Sony Honda Mobility Inc. will realize innovations in mobility that affect people’s sensibilities and behavior”.

Chaffic Haddad joins VML MENA as Chief Creative Officer

Chaffic Haddad has been appointed as Chief Creative Officer in VML MENA. Haddad, prior to joining VML, was with Wunderman Thompson, MENA as Chief Creative Officer. Chaffic Haddad has made the announcement of his joining on his LinkedIn: “I’m happy to share that I’m starting a new position as Chief Creative Officer, VML MENA.”He has over a decade of experience in creative advertising.

Porsche sales grow 11 per cent in Middle East, Africa and India region in 2023

Porsche has delivered 9,135 cars in the Middle East, Africa and India region in the 2023 calendar year.This represents 11 per cent growth compared to 2022, and follows a 20 per cent increase the year prior. New car deliveries since 2020 have now grown 47 per cent.“2023 was another year of growth for our region thanks to our exceptional Porsche product line-up, in conjunction with the efforts of our importers and staff,” said Dr Manfred Bräunl, Chief Executive Officer, Porsche Middle East and Africa FZE.“We continue to work hard as a team to deliver ‘dreams’ to our customers. It was a busy year of exciting events and new product launches, as we celebrated 75 years of Porsche sportscars.”The Cayenne was again the best-selling model for Porsche in the region, in a year when a new, updated model was launched.It was the strongest year yet for sales of the Taycan all-electric sports saloon, which enjoyed growth of 80 per cent compared to the prior year.Porsche community celebrates in 2023The third edition of the Icons of Porsche festival in Dubai attracted over 27,000 fans in November, almost twice as many fans attended one year earlier. The event saw the first public display in the world of the new Panamera, as well as well as commemorating 75 years of Porsche sportscars and 60 years of the iconic 911 model.In September, the Geneva International Motor Show in Qatar saw the regional premiere of the all-electric Mission X hypercar concept and the amazing 911 S/T.Across the region, market activities included a series of ‘Festival of Dreams’ events to acknowledge the Porsche milestones of the year, as well as various facility openings and upgrades, including the inauguration of five facilities in India in a single week.“After an enormous 2023, we have another exciting year ahead this year,” said Bräunl.“There will be several major product launches, including the all-electric Macan and Taycan models, as well as many new facility openings across the region.“Therefore, 2024 will be an ‘electrifying’ year in which we continue to work hard to deliver for our Porsche owners, as well as support and empower our trusted importer partners.”

Tata Soulfull launches in UAE and Kuwait

Tata Soulfull, a pioneer in the good-for-you Snacks and Breakfast Cereals segment, has launched in the GCC. Tata Soulfull is part of Tata Consumer Products Limited- a focused consumer products company uniting the principal food and beverage interests of the Tata Group under one umbrella.Signature products from Tata Soulfull’s award-winning portfolio of millet-based snacks and cereals are now available across the UAE and Kuwait with plans to expand further across the GCC over the next 6-12 months.With the declaration of 2023 as the International Year of Millets by the United Nations, these ancient grains have garnered the spotlight, reflecting a growing recognition of their potential in strengthening food security, and contributing to sustainable agriculture.Tata Soulfull has rightly taken the initiative to create innovative and delicious products that celebrate this nutrient-rich game-changer rich in proteins, iron and calcium and is catering to evolving consumer preferences. This innovation happens at India's largest fully customised value-added millet processing unit.Products currently on the shelves include Tata Soulfull Millet Muesli Crunchy and Millet Muesli Fruit & Nut from the muesli range and Tata Soulfull Ragi Bites Crunchy Choco and Ragi Bites Choco Fills from the finger millet based cereal range. These are perfect, wholesome options either as an anytime snack or to kickstart one’s day.Tata Soulfull Ragi bites Crunchy Choco and Ragi bites Choco Fills are both crafted with chocolate and reinforce the brand's emphasis on providing both taste and crunchy bite in one delightful snack. With their Maida (refined wheat flour) -free composition, offering a wholesome alternative for children, these products are designed to win the approval of parents and their little ones.“The global health and wellness trend is driving consumers towards more nutritious and wholesome food choices. Millets fit well into this narrative with their myriad health benefits,” said Prashant Parameswaran, MD & CEO of Tata Consumer Soulfull, “People want to eat healthy and our research for new products is now based on these findings. Where we score is in creating imaginative, attractive, and super tasty cereal mixes and snacks that are irresistible and nourishing, both for children and adults.”“The popularity of our Tata Soulfull Muesli has grown exponentially, and Ragi Bites No Maida Choco recently won the Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Award 2023 for product ingenuity and delivering value at scale. This acknowledgement of our continuous efforts to revive Indian Millets in more unique and convenient formats is what drives us, and we are confident that the Middle East’s discerning consumers will follow suit and choose Tata Soulfull.”“In a world where water is scarce, millets are an ideal crop. In addition to their high nutritional benefits, millets can grow in conditions that many other crops can’t tolerate. They are heat tolerant and need significantly less water than other grains. Millets are now also seen as a smart food that needs to be incorporated into one’s diet as we aim for a more eco-conscious future,” he added. Tata Soulfull cereals are now available in leading retails stores across the UAE at attractive prices.

CEOs in the ME most forward-looking as they face a new age of disruptions

Businesses in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates remain optimistic about the prospects for their company (80%) and the overall economy (85%) as they continue to navigate the challenges ahead, working closely with their respective governments. This is according to findings from global consulting firm AlixPartners’ Disruption Index (ADI), an annual survey that canvasses more than 3,000 CEOs and executives from around the world to uncover the latest global business concerns.Regional CEOs are confident in embracing and responding to disruption with nearly all (90%) believing that their natural leadership style thrives in a disrupted environment, far higher than 75% globally. Top defensive actions they have taken to navigate disruption include developing action plans and scenario planning/analyses (80%) with 7 in 10 currently prioritizing revenue growth over profitability and building core business over valuable new businesses.Executives in the region were second-highest disrupted, after China, with 68% saying they were highly disrupted in the past year. Regional CEOs, like many of their peers in other regions,worry that their company is not adapting fast enough to the pace of change (67%), with over 60% actively changing their business models, either currently or within the next year, an indication that a significant number of regional companies are embracing transformation.Business leaders in the two countries are also investing more in digital tools and technologies than they were in the prior year, more than 5 points higher than the global average. Workforce challenges are still significant, with 85% saying that the pace of change is making their employees’ skills obsolete (compared to a global average of 58%), and 80% saying that their employees were not open to change (compared to 55% globally). However, they also noted that visa reforms have made hiring and retaining qualified workers easier now than it was two years ago.“It is difficult to imagine a region of the world where both the threats and opportunities of our disruptive age are more on display than the Middle East,” said Gabriel Chahine, Middle East Leader at AlixPartners. “While there are climate pressures across the region, and global geopolitical tensions, governments and businesses in the region are among the most forward-looking in the world—accelerating investments into education, infrastructure, the green transition, and digital technologies.”Digital Adoption a PriorityAI and automation were the primary disruptive forces as per this year’s results at 87% (v/s 46% globally), with 64% planning to invest the most in digital transformation to ensure growth for their business over the next 3-5 years. 50% of CEOs are also prioritizing process automation as the key technique they need to address in the coming year (twice as high as the global average), in line with the region's focus on leveraging technology for transformation.9 out 10 executives reported that their company has the resources needed to invest in new technology and digital solutions and nearly half reported that their company is investing more in digital tools and technology than they were the prior year. For executives in the region, return on investment is the top consideration when making decisions around technology investments (55%) followed by the ability to integrate within existing systems and processes (41%).“The rise of generative AI is both exciting and daunting for many leaders in the world, but from what we’re observing here in the region, companies are embracing this adoption as priority, following in the footsteps of the governments visions,” noted Chahine. “The prospects for business making this adoption are significant and often result in massive productivity gains, as well as new vectors for revenue growth, value protection, and job opportunities, and those organizations who embrace it will be the ultimate winners.”

MENA Fintech Association reignites SHIFT – Payments Working Group

The MENA Fintech Association, the premier not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving fintech startups and established players across the Middle East and Africa, is excited to announce the reignition of its Payments working group known as SHIFT, marking a significant leap forward in the evolution of financial technology within the region. The association is delighted to appoint Akshay Chopra and Imane Adel as Co-Chairs to spearhead this revitalized effort.Founded in 2018, the MENA Fintech Association has earned recognition as one of the top 4 fintech groups globally. With a strong presence in the Middle East and Africa, the association has been at the forefront of driving innovation and fostering collaboration in the fintech industry.In a strategic move to amplify its commitment to advancing payment solutions and fostering innovation, MFTA has chosen industry leaders Akshay Chopra and Imane Adel to guide the SHIFT – Payments Working Group. Their wealth of experience, forward-thinking approach, and dedication to pushing the boundaries of fintech will undoubtedly elevate the group's impact.Nameer Khan, Chairman of MENA Fintech Association and Founder of FILS, stated the following, "The resurgence of the SHIFT – Payments Working Group is a testament to our commitment to driving fintech innovation in the MENA region. With Akshay Chopra and Imane Adel as Co-Chairs, we are confident in the transformative potential of this collaboration. Their expertise and vision align seamlessly with the association's mission to shape the future of finance. Together, we aspire to lead the charge in revolutionizing payment solutions, fostering collaboration, and championing an inclusive fintech landscape across the Middle East and North Africa.Akshay Chopra, a veteran fintech investor, inventor, and practitioner, serves as Managing Partner at 237 Ventures. 237 Ventures grows businesses via investment, product advisory, coaching, and board directorship. He serves on multiple boards, including the MENA FinTech Association. Akshay holds 7 fintech patents, and his former executive roles include VP heading innovation, product design & crypto solutions for Visa CEMEA.Akshay stated the following upon taking over this role, “I am honored to co-chair the SHIFT – Payments Working Group alongside Imane. In an era of unprecedented innovation, this platform provides a unique opportunity to shape the future of payments in the MENA region, co-creating with large players, new entrants, policymakers, and enablers. We will also work closely with regulators to share the ecosystem’s inputs.”Imane Adel, EVP of Strategy at Paymob, is a seasoned payments professional with tenures at Visa and Mastercard, a member of the Forbes Technology Council, and a Strategic Adviser to regional startups, stated the following upon joining SHIFT,” As we embark on this exciting journey co-chairing the SHIFT – Payments Working Group, I am thrilled to collaborate with industry leaders and innovators to shape the future of payments in the MENA region. The convergence of technology and finance presents unprecedented opportunities, and together with Akshay Chopra, we aim to drive a wave of innovation, foster strategic partnerships, and advocate for a regulatory environment that propels fintech forward. This is not just a working group; it's a collective force shaping the narrative of financial technology, and I am honored to be a part of it.”

Netflix has 23 million global viewers on its ad-supported tier

Netflix provided another update on the viewership numbers for its ad-supported tier on Wednesday. The Netflix Standard with Ads plan has now reached 23 million monthly active users globally, a substantial increase from the 15 million reported in November.While subscriber count denotes the number of paid accounts a streaming service has, monthly active users represent the number of individual profiles within a paid account.Netflix also disclosed its intention to introduce pause ads in the coming months.It seems that Netflix is finally witnessing the desired momentum in subscriber growth since it introduced ads just over a year ago. In May, the global monthly active user count for its ad-supported service was only 5 million, and by August, it had doubled to 10 million. For comparison, Disney is also undergoing a similar growth trajectory, with its last reported AVOD subscriber count around 7 million in November.Advertisers had voiced concerns about Netflix's initial lack of scale as recently as May. However, with its current growth rate, Netflix is better positioned to appeal to marketers. As buyers aim to reach a sufficient number of viewers to justify their investments, particularly in the context of allocating funds for streaming during the upfronts, media companies are already taking notice.Regarding upfronts, Netflix is expected to have a broader range of ad inventory available for negotiations in the coming months.In a few months, Netflix will launch pause ads, appearing after a viewer pauses a stream for at least five seconds, aiming to be minimally disruptive. The introduction of binge ads was also announced in November, offering brand sponsorship deals that allow viewers to access an ad-free episode in exchange for watching a sponsored message. Additionally, advertisers will soon have the option to include QR codes in their ad creatives.

TrailRunner International expands operations in the Middle East with key hires

 TrailRunner International (TRI), a leading global strategic communications advisory firm, today announced the expansion of its Middle East operations. Following the recent appointment of Seth Hand as the new Head of Middle East, TRI has further enhanced its presence in the region with the addition of three new senior team members.The new hires reaffirm the firm's commitment to the dynamic and rapidly developing MENA region and are in direct response to growing demand from TRI's diverse client base. To meet this demand, TRI established offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai last year.Joining the team are Anan Ibrahim and Christoph Diesch, both appointed as Directors, bringing a wealth of regional experience. They are joined by Associate Hannah Guenther, who recently transitioned from TrailRunner’s New York City office, adding her significant U.S. and international expertise to the firm's local capabilities in the UAE. “This is a real statement of our commitment to investing in top talent and expertise, particularly across the key sectors of energy, technology, and finance,” said Seth Hand, Managing Director of the Middle East. “Strengthening our team in the Middle East, a region of immense growth and opportunity, will help us serve the dynamic needs of our clients as we kick off 2024.”With 15 years of experience in communications, Ibrahim will work closely with TRI’s team in the U.S. to build TRI's expanding energy portfolio. Her notable achievements include leading the energy practice in the UAE for Edelman and serving as Head of Media Relations for the Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC).Diesch brings over a decade of experience across government, corporate, and startup sectors. His expertise in technology, built through his leadership of projects for notable clients at other global agencies in the region, including Edelman and APCO Worldwide, will be invaluable in his new role at TRI.Guenther, with more than five years at TRI’s New York office, will leverage her extensive experience in government, finance, technology, and healthcare sectors to directly support both TRI's regionally based clients and international clients looking to unlock opportunities in the region.TrailRunner International is poised for an exciting year of growth and innovation in the Middle East, driven by its expanded team and enhanced regional capabilities.

A trio of Gold Wins for myco and Xapads at Mobexx Awards 2023

myco, the web3 video streaming platform and Xapads, a global ad-tech platform together celebrated a triumphant triple victory at 7th Mobexx 2023 Awards. These awards are a testament to innovation, creativity, and impact, underscoring the seamless integration of Myco's cutting-edge video streaming platform with the advertising technology expertise of Xapads. The three awards they won are Best Mobile App for Video, Entertainment & Sports (Global)myco's innovative mobile app, designed to cater to the dynamic preferences of users in the domains of video, entertainment, and sports, received the highest accolade in this category.Best Mobile App of the Yearmyco's mobile app stood out as the Best Mobile App of the Year, winning the Gold in this fiercely competitive category. The recognition underscores the app's exceptional features, user interface, and overall impact on the mobile app landscape.Mobile Advertising Excellence in Integrated Campaign (Global)Xapads executed this campaign across YouTube through Pulse,their AI-based platform designed to pinpoint the ideal audience and engage their interests effectively with the help of context driven video level targeting.Adding to this Gagan Uppal, Country Head-MENA Xapads, said “ We are honoured to have secured three gold awards alongside our esteemed client. Elated that the campaign strategies resonated with the panel for its innovation, as well as ability to meet the right audience and exceed KPIs”.Xapads and myco’s combined achievement highlights their dedication to elevating innovation in the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing.

AppsFlyer launches new AI solution to enhance creative process

AppsFlyer today launched Creative Optimization, its new product that provides marketers with unparalleled insights into their creative assets and data-driven guidance on maximizing their impact. Coupled with Artificial Intelligence (AI), Creative Optimization identifies patterns, trends, and features that drive optimal audience engagement, enabling marketers to capture the most value from their ad spend while enhancing the effectiveness of their creative content and campaigns.  Creative Optimization empowers stakeholders across performance marketing, creative, and Business Intelligence (BI) teams to collaborate to craft diverse asset variations, test, and validate winning variables within advertisements — saving time and resources while elevating performance. Marketing teams now possess the tools to make creative decisions that marry human intuition with the precision, speed, and scalability of the AI capabilities embedded within the product. “The new Creative Optimization product presents a real breakthrough for marketers, bridging the gap between creative and growth marketing teams while addressing key pain points to drive success for both,” said Yevgeny Peres, EVP of Product Strategy at AppsFlyer. “By delivering sophisticated, in-depth creative insights, it enables growth marketing teams to optimize spend, increase scale, and drive profitability by automatically identifying which creatives perform best in campaigns. Simultaneously, it equips the creative team with valuable insights on the attributes of winning creatives, empowering them to focus on the most effective elements and allocate their time and resources more efficiently. This seamless collaboration closes the feedback loop, boosts confidence in creative production, reduces risk by minimizing investment in underperforming creatives while scaling the production of winning ones to drive profitability at scale.” AppsFlyer worked with more than 100 companies, including fintech company Dave and mobile gaming leader Papaya Gaming, through the development and testing of Creative Optimization over the last year. Companies across gaming, fintech, e-commerce, and entertainment industries employed the product to enhance their marketing efforts to great effect. Brands utilizing the product were able to grow their ad spend by as much as 300% while seeing vast improvements in key performance indicators. Campaigns resulted in increases in ad click-through rates of up to 50%, decreases in cost-per-install by as much as 30%, and saw up to 100% uplift in customer retention and revenue metrics. “AppsFlyer's Creative Optimization has been a game-changer for our cross-team creative collaboration efforts,” said Christian Espinoza, Senior Marketing Technology Manager at Dave. “We've seen a significant increase in efficiency, and it's transformed our creative optimization process by providing a deep understanding of what works best on specific channels and allowing us to extract maximum value from our top-performing assets. We’ve seen a major increase in efficiency — what used to take us 8-10 hours a week, we can now effortlessly pull and share reports with the creative team, making data-driven decisions without the need for manual data extraction or platform hopping.” “Creative Optimization is transformative for our campaigns, allowing our marketing team to reach larger audiences, improve our efficiency and collaboration,” said Dan Hayoun, Performance Group Manager at Papaya Gaming. “This has led to great results and helped turn the creative marketing process into a growth engine across our award-winning portfolio of games. As a leader in the next generation of gaming, we are constantly looking for cutting edge tools that can help us operate on a larger scale, while providing the best options for attracting and retaining players to continue growing our business.” Creative Optimization enables users to marry best-in-class AI creative capabilities and AppsFlyer’s analytics-driven dashboards to deliver the most efficient and effective campaigns: ?     AI-powered insights for maximizing ad spend and creatives’ effectiveness. Creative Optimization automatically analyzes creative assets, breaking them down into scenes, and provides performance data and guidance for effectively replacing underperforming elements. ?     Access granular performance data to uncover the winning formula for your creative strategy. Creative Optimization aggregates all creative performance data in one place, providing an unbiased, comprehensive overview of creative performance, including cost, installs, clicks, and down-funnel metrics like retention, lifetime value and more.?     Turn creative performance into meaningful data for your BI system. Creative Optimization consolidates all creative data, offering a reliable and up-to-date system that incorporates recent changes in the marketing ecosystem. This streamlines the data integration process and ensures a credible and trustworthy source for creative data within the BI system.

LeadGen Arabia appoints Wassef Koleilat as Associate Media Director

Wassef Koleilat has taken on the role of Associate Media Director at LeadGen Arabia in Saudi Arabia. Drawing on his extensive experience in the evolving digital landscape and a successful track record with global brands such as P&G, adidas, Samsung, and McDonald’s, Koleilat appears well-prepared to lead major agency clients and foster the agency's growth.In his capacity, Koleilat will play a pivotal role in steering digital transformation efforts for LeadGen clients and contributing to overall business expansion, aligning with the agency's dedication to innovation in the dynamic Saudi Arabian market.Elie Zenieh, the Managing Director of LeadGen Arabia, expressed excitement about Wassef's addition to the team, highlighting his media expertise and anticipating that it will bolster the agency's standing in the Saudi market.Wassef Koleilat conveyed his enthusiasm for joining the LeadGen team, underscoring his strategic approach and insights into digital trends that are expected to enhance the agency's ambitious growth plans. Observing the impact of his leadership on the agency's offerings and market presence will be intriguing.

The Brill Collective appoints Tryph Greenwood as Director of Client Services

Bridging the gap between freelance consultants and traditionally structured agencies, disruptor-model marketing and communications agency, The Brill Collective has signed Tryph Greenwood as Director of Client Services.Founded in May 2023 by PR and Communications powerhouse and former Head of PR at M&C Saatchi UAE, Amy Brill, the business taps into the extensive expertise and skillset of individual consultants who want to deliver excellent results, without being tied into a traditional agency work routine and contract.For clients of The Brill Collective, this signifies access to some of the industry's best and brightest minds, expertly paired with them by The Brill Collective’s core team. Meanwhile, consultants can set their own working hours, workflow, and location, while working with clients and colleagues who resonate with their industry or skillset expertise.After a successful start-up period, Tryph has joined to assist Amy and the core team in bolstering the agency as it moves into its next phase of growth. With more than 17 years of communications experience under her belt, including nine years in the UAE, Tryph will be working with a huge roster of talented consultants and a growing client portfolio to ensure excellent results, a healthy new business pipeline, and explore ways in which The Brill Collective can continue to challenge the traditional agency red tape.“Since our inception, we've experienced substantial growth and now boast over 150 consultants in various fields—from planners to publicists, content creators to copywriters, and everything in between—all meticulously vetted to combine best-in-class knowledge, reach, and influence. Our client roster also continues to expand, and the feedback on our model and approach has been incredibly positive. We’re moving with the flourishing freelance market of the UAE and, with Tryph onboard, we’ll be enhancing our growth trajectory whilst ensuring we remain true to our initial vision. I cannot wait for what 2024 holds,” said Amy Brill, Founder of The Brill Collective.“I am hugely excited to join The Brill Collective as the company ethos and mission, along with the client and consultant portfolio, are all things I feel a real affinity for. What Amy and the team have conceptualised and built so far is not only a testament to their expertise and passion but also a clear indication that there is a growing appetite for a shake-up within the marketing and communications industry in the way we attract and retain talent to deliver exceptional client results. The world has changed and, in a day and age where we are hyper-connected, there should be balance and trust; we should have freedom to choose the right working environment, rather than adhering to a more traditional working day, to maximise our output to the benefit of our clients.

WEMADE partner with DIFC Innovation Hub to set up Web3 gaming hub

WEMADE, a global gaming company headquartered in South Korea, and the DIFC Innovation Hub, the leading centre for technology and innovation in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, have jointly announced a strategic partnership to build a global Web3 gaming hub, ‘WEMIX PLAY Center’. This initiative aims to boost the development of Dubai’s gaming ecosystem and support the ‘Dubai Program for Gaming 2033’ to position Dubai among the top 10 cities in the global gaming industry.DIFC Innovation Hub, which fosters innovation, enterprise and talent across various sectors, has welcomed WEMADE as the first South Korean gaming company to join and benefit from its accelerator schemes, innovation community, and supportive regulatory frameworks. WEMADE will collaborate with DIFC Innovation Hub to expand the WEMIX ecosystem. The WEMADE-DIFC Innovation Hub collaboration focuses on several core initiatives, including establishing the ‘WEMIX PLAY Center’ within the DIFC Innovation Hub to onboard Web3 game companies. To fully optimise this milestone opportunity, a USD100mn investment fund will be established, with WEMADE anchoring the fund and providing a go-to-market pipeline for Web3 game developers. This involves facilitating targeted access to millions of active Web3 game players on the WEMIX PLAY platform, which is WEMADE’s native game platform for Web3 games. Currently, it features over 65 games from third-party developers alongside WEMADE’s main IPs.Under this partnership, WEMADE and DIFC Innovation Hub will organise a Web3 event in Dubai in the first quarter of 2024.Henry Chang, CEO of WEMADE, emphasised the significance of this move, stating, “The UAE stands out as one of the most dynamic hubs for innovation. WEMADE’s collaboration with DIFC Innovation Hub to establish the ‘WEMIX PLAY Center’ underscores our dedication to foster Dubai’s evolution into a central hub for global Web3 gaming, and to provide an enhanced environment for global game developers and studios to leverage the unique benefits that Dubai offers for the global distribution of their games.”Mohammad AlBlooshi, CEO of DIFC Innovation Hub, said, “We are excited to welcome South Korean gaming giant WEMADE to the thriving ecosystem at DIFC Innovation Hub. Dubai has a dynamic gaming sector, and this collaboration further strengthens our position as a global hub for innovation and will help nurture the next generation of gaming industry talent. Establishing a strong gaming industry will further advance the city’s digital ecosystem, contribute to economic diversification efforts, and boost employment in the sector over the next decade in line with the goals of Dubai Program for Gaming 2033.”

Banyan Tree Group announces a shift of its name to Banyan Group

Celebrating three decades of creating exceptional experiences across hotels, spas, residences, food and retail, Banyan Tree Group is evolving its corporate umbrella brand from “Banyan Tree Group” to “Banyan Group”. This brand shift reflects the Group's evolution into a dynamic, multi-brand hospitality powerhouse.Since 2019, the Group has doubled its brand portfolio, bringing its pioneering spirit, design-led experiences, and purpose driven mission to new destinations, including Banyan Tree AlUla in Saudi Arabia, Garrya in Kyoto, and Folio in Osaka, Japan, Dhawa in Ho Tram, Vietnam, Homm in Huzhou, China and Banyan Tree Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. 2023 also marks a year of strong and steady business performance that has surpassed pre-pandemic levels.Multi-brand Growth Continues in 2024 With 19 New Openings“As we celebrate the Group’s 30th anniversary and its evolution into Banyan Group, this milestone is not only testament to the Group’s enduring success in the hospitality industry but also sets the stage for an exciting future,” said Eddy See, President and CEO of Banyan Group. “This brand evolution reflects our portfolio transformation from a single luxury brand to the diverse offering we have today. Almost half of all countries we operate in carry a multi-branded presence, most of them high-growth travel destinations. With a keen eye on expansion, we are seizing new opportunities with our distinct brands, designed to meet evolving traveller preferences and needs in these dynamic markets.”Banyan Group currently manages 12 global brands, 75 hotels and resorts, over 60 spas and galleries and 14 branded residences across 22 countries. As part of a robust pipeline of properties, the Group’s expansion in 2024 will include 19 new properties and residences in Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Mexico. Here are the highlights:The Group’s first property in Cambodia will debut with Angsana Siem ReapThe first Banyan Tree property in Japan, Banyan Tree Higashiyama KyotoFurther enhancing Banyan Group’s multi-brand presence, additional brands are set to debut in Vietnam – Angsana Quan Lan in Halong Bay and Garrya Mu Chang Chai, as well as in South Korea with Cassia and Homm Sokcho.Suzhou, approximately 2 hours away from Shanghai by train or car, will feature two complexes – The first, in Shishan, will include Banyan Tree and Angsana, while the second, by Yangcheng Lake, will include Banyan Tree and GarryaAngsana Tengchong marks the Group's fifth property in the Yunnan province of ChinaIn North America, Banyan Tree Veya Valle de Guadalupe marks the debut of the first full-fledged Banyan Tree Veya in MexicoRecord-Breaking Business Performance in 2023The robust growth slated for 2024 has been driven by a resilient recovery post-Covid, surpassing pre-pandemic metrics across various regional markets. Key 2023 metrics include:Hotels achieved higher RevPAR, up by 44%, in 9M2023 compared to 9M2022, and also surpassed the pre-pandemic performance by 27% as opposed to 9M2019, on a same store-store basis.Residence sales for 9M2023 reached 90% of the full-year sales in 2022, which was the best year on record.China has proven to be a strategic driver, with a remarkable +49% increase in RevPAR 9M2023 compared to the same period last year, and +18% increase in RevPAR compared to pre-Covid level in 2019 on a same-store basis. The operating footprint has expanded from 16 in 2019 to 25 properties in 2023, with 14 more in the three-year pipeline. Continued growth is anticipated, driven by a healthy opening pipeline and the strength of the domestic and outbound Chinese market in both residences and hospitalityThe recent buyback deal with China Vanke further strengthens the Group’s position as a key player in the hospitality industry by streamlining strategic decision-making in response to market dynamics and enhancing day-to-day operational efficiency.New Sustainability Commitments and Deepened DifferentiationSimultaneously, the company has maintained its pioneering spirit and commitment to both design-led experiences and a purpose-driven mission of stewardship and responsible tourism, making it a trailblazer for inclusive growth and sustainability.“As Banyan Group celebrates our collective success over the last 30 years, we also recognize that the progress can’t stop here,” said Ren Yung Ho, Senior Vice President, Brand & Commercial at Banyan Group. “The core beliefs and values that have guided Banyan Group to this milestone will continue to underpin our growth strategy as we remain dedicated to being a force for positive change for both people and the planet.”In 2024, Banyan Group will align with United Nations Climate Science-based Targets to develop a comprehensive 2030 Sustainability Roadmap that addresses both environmental and human capital development in line with its founding ethos of Embracing the Environment, Empowering People. It will also pioneer a circularity pilot project, reinforcing the brand’s commitment to advance the hospitality industry’s transition to regenerative practices.The Group will also launch Laguna Lakelands in Phuket, its most ambitious nature-integrated development. Spanning 110 hectares, Laguna Lakelands will encompass a Rainforest park, over 10km of treetop skywalks, and six distinct zones—orchard, lakeside, lagoon, valley, and forest—ushering in a new era of immersive living.New Programming and InitiativesDuring its 30th anniversary in 2024, Banyan Group will launch Beyond, a new digital companion that offers a holistic experience across its codified wellbeing framework, and withBanyan, an experiential members programme that rewards engagement, interactions and actions. The celebration extends globally with 11 trade pop-ups, engaging global consumer campaigns, the launch of 8 signature scents inspired by the Group's eight pillars of wellbeing and limited edition artisanal anniversary gifts, all crafted in collaboration with the communities where the Group operates.

Expo 2023 Doha launches fan zone streaming AFC matches

Expo 2023 Doha is excited to announce the inauguration of the Expo Fan Zone, a dedicated space within the Cultural Zone at Expo, located in Al Bidda Park. This innovative initiative aims to bring football enthusiasts together by streaming AFC matches throughout the competition, providing an exhilarating experience for fans and visitors alike.Expo 2023 Doha’s Fan Zone, set to open its doors on 12 January 2024, will become the ultimate destination for football aficionados to come together, cheer for their favorite teams, and soak in the electrifying atmosphere of AFC matches. The Fan Zone will be operational from 1-11 pm, ensuring ample time for visitors to catch the action live on the big screens.Ms. Haifa Al Otaibi, Expo 2023 Doha’s Public Relations & Communications Director, expressed her enthusiasm about the Expo Fan Zone, stating, “Expo 2023 Doha is committed to creating an inclusive and engaging environment for all visitors. The Expo Fan Zone, streaming AFC matches, embodies our dedication to providing a diverse and captivating experience for fans, showcasing the intersection of sports and culture.”Unlike traditional fan zones, access to Expo 2023 Doha’s Fan Zone will not be restrictive, ensuring that the public can enjoy the football festivities in a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. The location within the Cultural Zone at Expo, in Al Bidda Park, adds an extra layer of cultural richness to the overall experience, providing a unique backdrop for football celebrations.In addition to the exciting matches broadcasted on the big screens, visitors to the Expo Fan Zone can look forward to a range of activities and amenities that enhance their overall experience. Expo 2023 Doha invites everyone to join in the celebration of football, culture, and community at the Expo Fan Zone.Don’t miss out on the action – mark your calendars for the opening of Expo 2023 Doha’s Fan Zone on 12 January 2024. Be part of the excitement as we bring the thrill of AFC matches to the heart of Expo 2023 Doha.

Havas announces new leadership appointments

Havas today announces the elevations of two senior leaders. Rana Barua, based in Mumbai, will extend his remit to include South East & North Asia. Barua’s career spans nearly three decades, including the last five years spent overseeing Havas’ India operations, comprising over 2,000 people across Havas Creative Network and Havas Media Network. The expansion of Barua’s scope adds nine additional markets under his leadership in his new role as Group CEO India, South East & North Asia.Speaking about his new role, Rana Barua said, “I am extremely excited and thankful to the global leadership team for entrusting me with this additional responsibility. These nine distinct markets in South East & North Asia, provide multiple and diverse occasions for collaboration for both our global and local clients. I look forward to working closely with the regional teams and each country’s leadership to create more meaningful engagements and opportunities for our talent and clients.”In parallel, Alberto Canteli, based in Dubai, will continue as Chairman and CEO Havas Nordics, Benelux, Central & Eastern Europe, and Middle East, while taking on new responsibilities driving special projects in coordination with Donna Murphy, Global CEO, Havas Creative Network and Havas Health & You. This new area of focus will include identifying growth levers and developing actionable strategies at the global level, including new client opportunities, services, expansion, and cross selling. A long-time veteran of Havas, Canteli has been serving as a key pillar in the international expansion of Havas for more than twenty years. “During moments like these of continued disruption and transformation, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to combine my regional responsibilities in Europe and the Middle East with a new role that will facilitate a closer collaboration with our global leadership team.  AI, Web 3.0 and Blockchain among other advancements, will have a strong impact on our industry and it will be a privilege to contribute to the transformation and turnaround of our business moving forward,” shared Alberto Canteli.“I would like to warmly congratulate Alberto and Rana on their new, expanded roles. Their proven leadership skills, vast expertise and innovative thinking will create new synergies and accelerate growth, allowing our teams to further build on Havas’ integrated approach and offer our clients the best possible outcomes,” commented Yannick Bolloré, Chairman and Global CEO, Havas.

Disney studio Pixar considering workforce reduction

Walt Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios is considering workforce reductions as it wraps up production on several streaming projects. The news, following recent layoffs at other Disney subsidiaries, raises questions about the future of the animation studio.Rumours of a 20% staff cull swirled, but an insider close to the matter dismissed such speculation, emphasizing that the exact number of job cuts is still being determined. The source attributed the potential downsizing to a workforce surplus, built in anticipation of streaming productions that are now nearing completion. Pixar's Emeryville, California studio, reportedly expanded its staff to handle these projects, leaving redundancies once they finish.The potential layoffs align with Disney CEO Bob Iger's broader shift towards prioritizing profitability in their streaming strategy. Rather than focusing solely on in-house productions, Disney seeks to control costs by acquiring content from external sources. This pivot echoes June 2023's layoffs at Pixar, which saw 75 positions eliminated, including executives tied to the underwhelming performance of "Lightyear."Despite potential downsizing, the source assured that Pixar's theatrical releases remain unaffected. Further, while "Elemental," the studio's latest foray, had a shaky debut, it ultimately collected an impressive $500 million globally, suggesting continued box office appeal. Additionally, Disney's 2006 acquisition of Pixar revitalized the Disney Animation division, highlighting the studio's enduring value.While the precise scope and impact of the potential job cuts remain unknown, the news casts a shadow of uncertainty over Pixar's future. Balancing cost control with creative freedom will be a delicate dance for the iconic animation studio as it navigates this new streaming landscape.

Beyond bubbles: Stevi Lowmass on The Camel Soap Factory's sustainable saga

Dive into the extraordinary journey of Stevi Lowmass, the Founder & CEO of The Camel Soap Factory, as she unveils the brand's evolution, challenges overcome, and its impactful presence in the skincare market. From a visionary concept to a sustainable skincare powerhouse, Stevi shares insights on the brand's commitment to local craftsmanship, environmental responsibility, and its strategic shift during the pandemic.Share with us your entrepreneurial journey? What prompted you to launch The Camel Soap Factory?I originally identified a gap in the UAE market for beautiful, local and sustainably crafted gifts for the many tourists that visit the region each year. I wanted to create a space where visitors could actually see and learn about the process of sustainable manufacture. I also wanted to create something to give back to the country that had been her home for so many years.How has been the brand’s journey? You must have faced some obstacles on the way. How did you overcome them?We have had our fair share of struggles in trying to build our brand. In the early days we had to deal with counterfeits and very cheap copies of our product. We’ve changed branding and packaging to make this a lot more difficult.Moving into skincare had its challenges, not the least of which is establishing consumer trust. We firmly believe that the strong reputation of our brand, The Camel Soap Factory, known for delivering the highest quality natural soaps, seamlessly extends to our Rescue Creams.However, some of the most significant challenges we have encountered are the same ones faced by many SMEs in the region. Access to funding remains problematic and accessing working capital to fund growth has been a challenge over the years.Why did you choose the Middle East as the location to launch the Camel Soap Factory, especially considering your extensive experience working in London for many years?The opportunity presented itself in the UAE, where I was residing at that time.How has been the growth of the Camel Soap Factory in the UAE market? How many outlets do you presently have? Does the brand have its online presence as well?The Camel Soap Factory does not have a direct retail presence, but sells via a network of distributors and retailers across the UAE. We are present in most major gift stores, chains such as Carrefour, Spinneys and Waitrose and duty frees.The Camel Soap Factory has a website from which it sells products and works with an online distributor who manages its presence on platforms such as brand has been focusing on sustainability in the Middle East. In what ways are you making it healthier for the environment?At The Camel Soap Factory, our mission is to bring simple honest skincare with its roots in regional traditions and legacy. With the belief that honesty entails benefiting both people and the planet, we have consistently developed new products with a specific focus on minimizing environmental impact and reducing waste. All our soaps are in eco-friendly package and cream in fully-recyclable aluminum bottle. We feel consumers are probably now more ready to try products with less environmental impact. One of the gaps out there is the bathroom waste. Speaking to our customers, many remain unaware of the impact of their bathroom waste on the planet but we find most are ready to listen and willing to try new ways of doing things. We launched shampoo and conditioner bars at the end of 2022. These have a cult following among the converted especially in Europe, but these sorts of products have not yet become mainstream especially in the Middle East.Sustainability is gaining momentum everywhere. What inspired you to pursue the goal of creating a better environment?I have long been concerned about the accumulation of plastic waste in our rivers and oceans, and our vision has been to create simple, natural and effective products with reduced plastic-free packaging. The Covid pandemic forced a major rethink in strategy, and I have steered the company towards new product ranges which fit in with this vision. The brand has subsequently become Dubai’s premier brand of sustainable skincare products made with locally sourced camel milk and other regional ingredients such as frankincence.Are you looking for product expansion and diversification in the brand’s portfolio?The prolonged pause in tourism to the region, and travel in general, especially during the peak of the pandemic, posed significant challenges for us. Our response to the temporary loss of the gift and souvenir market was to expand product lines, embrace e-commerce and to move into FMCG products.Our strongest B2C selling point is still being local and natural. However, our commitment to sustainability and minimizing environmental impact, though significant, is not as widely recognized.Contract manufacturing has become a pivotal element of our strategy. We emphasize low Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) coupled with exceptionally high-quality production.What all marketing strategies have been undertaken by the brand for its success in the UAE? Have you tied up with any PR companies for its success?We leverage fundamental marketing elements for our products, incorporating a robust brand image, visually appealing design, and unique packaging. These are reinforced by consistently positive messaging, emphasizing individual empowerment to make choices that contribute to a positive impact.However, engaging consumers about sustainability when they are not already aware of, and invested in, actions to reduce individual impact on the planet presents a challenge. At The Camel Soap Factory we have a range of strategies employed with the goal of our products being seen, not as marketing gimmicks, but as real solutions to a real crisis.What are your aspirations for the brand five years from now, and what strategies do you plan to implement to achieve those goals?We see ourselves as becoming a brand across the world that is recognized as putting the Gulf on the map for beauty products. Our mission is to bring joy, so that every person who buys or receives one of our products feels that joy!

Department of Community Development launches Sports for All Policy in Abu Dhabi

The Department of Community Development - Abu Dhabi, the regulator of the social sector in the emirate, launched the ‘Sports for All Policy’ that aims to promote physical activity and encourage members of society to practice all kinds of sports.The policy also seeks to establish basic standards to enhance community involvement in sports activities by identifying challenges that hinder certain members of society from participating in such activities. Additionally, it strives to find solutions to these challenges in collaboration with relevant authorities to safeguard individuals' right to engage in sports, while also recognising and promoting traditional sports.All sports entities in the emirate, including those responsible for organising sports events and managing their venues, technical specialists in the field of sports, sports professionals, and all individuals employed in the sports sector in Abu Dhabi, are subject to the policy.Commenting on this, His Excellency Mohamed Helal Al Balooshi, Executive Director of the Community Engagement and Sports Sector at DCD, said: “Maintaining a healthy and active community is one of the most important priorities for the Department of Community Development and the social sector agenda. Therefore, we are dedicated to developing our policies and programmes to consolidate the principles of both physical and mental well-being. Sports play a fundamental role in achieving this and so the Sports for All Policy has been introduced to inspire members of society to embrace an active lifestyle and engage in a diverse range of sports activities.”He added: “Sports are among the community activities that foster community integration and cohesion among members of society. Through the Sports for All Policy, we aim to make sporting activities available to all segments and individuals of society without discrimination, and to encourage groups that might be less active, such as the elderly, to actively engage in sports and community activities. Through this policy, we also aim to streamline the work of specialised agencies and clubs and support them in organising successful and purposeful sports events.”Al Balooshi urged all members of society to embrace an active lifestyle and engage in regular sports activities. Furthermore, he appealed to sports authorities to adopt the policy of sports for all to make sports in Abu Dhabi more inclusive.  The Sports for All Policy includes comprehensive guidelines to physical activity that are aligned with WHO standards. It ensures infrastructure meets the needs of all community members and encourages volunteerism and corporate social responsibility in sport.The policy is dedicated to establishing equality in the right to engage in sports, ensuring that all members of society enjoy the same right to participate in sports activities and access sports facilities and events without any discrimination.The DCD is committed to coordinating with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and other relevant stakeholders to raise the level of sports participation across all segments of the emirate's society, with a focus on supporting groups that need special support and enabling them to practice physical activity and sports easily.

Patty&Bun lands in the Middle East

 Patty&Bun, the burger sensation known to top the best burger list in London, is officially launching in Dubai by Big Belly Hospitality.Set to begin with two cloud kitchen locations in Hessa Street and Mirdif, Patty&Bun will be available via Deliveroo to allow customers across the city to enjoy its signature burgers and milkshakes, marking its official debut outside the UK. A food truck at BoxPark is set to launch within the quarter, followed by a flagship brick-and-mortar location within the year. With a culinary philosophy centered around mastering the basics, Patty&Bun has carved a niche for itself over the last decade by delivering an exceptional, perfectly cooked pink and juicy burger. The widely celebrated brand is known for its aged beef patties, unique smokey mayo, and soft brioche buns, a secret combination behind its rise to fame as it grew from one to eight outlets across London and Brighton. Patty&Bun's UAE launch is poised to bring its classic favourites to Dubai, promising to satisfy those juicy burger cravings like no other in the city. Patty&Bun's menu showcases an array of signature offerings, including the Ari Gold, Smokey Robinson, Jose Jose Chilli Burger, and the Hot Chic burger. Catering to a wide range of palates, the brand introduces fan-favourite plant-based Impossible 'vegan' chicken nuggets, accompanied by an array of sides, sauce pots, and shakes.Big Belly Hospitality was newly formed by Pallav Patel, one of the previous Founders and Owner of the Black Spoon Group, the parent company of renowned restaurants Allo Beirut, Ibn AlBahr, Bombay Bungalow, House of Curry, and Nafas. The complete Black Spoon group and its F&B portfolio were recently acquired by Jadwa Investment, a leading Saudi-based investment management and advisory firm.

AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 set to kick off exclusively on Abu Dhabi Sports Asia

The AFC Asian Cup 2023, Asia's premier continental football competition, kicks off in Qatar on 12th January. This highly anticipated tournament will feature the participation of 24 teams as current champions Qatar look to retain their title on home soil. All matches will be broadcast exclusively in the UAE on Abu Dhabi Sports Asia 1 via STARZPLAY.The action starts on Friday, as host nation Qatar kick off the defence of their title against Lebanon at 20:00 UAE. The journey concludes with the grand final on February 10, at the iconic Lusail Stadium, where two finalists will compete for continental glory at 19:00 UAE.The illustrious 88,000-seater Lusail Stadium, inaugurated in September 2022, has already etched its name in history. In October 2023, it witnessed Lionel Messi's triumphant moment in the 2022 World Cup final. This iconic venue is all set to host the AFC Asian Cup 2023™, promising fans an unforgettable experience.The AFC Asian Cup, now in its 18th edition, was initially slated for 2023. However, the tournament was rescheduled to 2024 due to high summer temperatures and Qatar's participation in the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup.Football fans in the UAE can catch all the action live and exclusively on Abu Dhabi Sports Asia via STARZPLAY. Don't miss a moment of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 football fever.When and where to watch?Match: Qatar vs LebanonVenue: Lusail StadiumDate and Time: January 12th 20:00 UAEWhere to watch live: thousands of hours of premium content including the best western content, Arabic shows, Turkish favourites, anime, and live sports, STARZPLAY is fast solidifying its position as a leading multi-faceted entertainment hub. The service is available in 19 countries across the MENA for fans to enjoy quality content anytime, anywhere, and from any device.

Riot Games and HP join hands for global partnership

HP's gaming brands, Omen and HyperX, have entered a global partnership with Riot Games, the developer of popular titles like League of Legends and Valorant. This partnership signifies a strategic collaboration aimed at enhancing the gaming and esports experience globally. HP will serve as an official technology partner for Riot Games. This means that Omen and HyperX will have the opportunity to connect with Riot's extensive player base by providing them with cutting-edge hardware and technology solutions.The collaboration will extend beyond technology, as the three brands plan to work together on co-branded marketing campaigns. These campaigns will likely aim to engage and attract the gaming community, leveraging the popularity of Riot Games' titles like League of Legends, Valorant, and Teamfight Tactics.HP's gaming brands, in conjunction with Riot Games, will collaborate on developing new gaming products and technical innovations. This could lead to the creation of specialized gaming hardware designed to enhance the gaming experience for players.Omen and HyperX will actively support Riot Games' esports events, including LoL Esports, VCT (Valorant Champions Tour), and TFT (Teamfight Tactics) Esports. This support will manifest through various touch points, including digital and on-site event activations, fan engagement activities, and branded segments, as well as product placement during competitions.In 2024, Omen and HyperX will provide their gaming PCs and monitors to outfit all Riot Games Esports global events across LoL Esports, VCT, and TFT Esports. This ensures that these events will be equipped with top-of-the-line gaming technology for players and spectators alike.Josephine Tan, Senior Vice President & Division President of Gaming at HP Inc., expressed excitement about the alliance, emphasizing the combination of cutting-edge technology with Riot Games' player-focused approach to deliver unparalleled gaming experiences.John Needham, President of Esports at Riot Games, highlighted the company's commitment to being the most player-focused gaming company globally. He sees the partnership with HP as a means to further enhance the gaming experiences offered to players.This partnership not only solidifies HP's presence in the gaming industry but also showcases a commitment to elevating the gaming and esports experience for a global audience through a combination of advanced technology, marketing efforts, and event support.

Microsoft returns to the top spot as the most imitated brand in phishing attacks

Check Point Research (CPR), the Threat Intelligence arm of Check Point® Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHKP) and a leading provider of cyber security solutions globally, has published its Brand Phishing Report for Q4 2023. The report highlights the brands that were most frequently imitated by cybercriminals in their attempts to steal individuals’ personal information or payment credentials during October, November and December 2023.Last quarter, Microsoft claimed the top spot as the number one most impersonated brand, accounting for 33% of all brand phishing attempts. The technology sector stood out as the most targeted industry overall, with Amazon securing second place with 9% and Google in third on 8%. Social networks and banking represented the other two most targeted industries.Consumer spending associated with the festive period saw cybercriminals continue to target retailers and couriers in Q4 2023.The widely recognized package delivery brand DHL moved into the top ten, possibly due to increased activity during the November shopping month, while Amazon’s ranking can largely be attributed to the annual Amazon Fall Prime Day sale that was scheduled during the second week of October.“While we have said goodbye to 2023, one thing has followed us into the new year and that is the threat of phishing. Even cybercriminals with limited IT expertise can accurately mimic legitimate brands to deceive unsuspecting customers and carry out social engineering attacks” said Omer Dembinsky, Data Group Manager at Check Point Software. “Following the widespread use of AI, we can expect to see a higher volume of phishing campaigns this year that are even more indistinguishable from genuine company communications. As the biggest names in technology, social networking and banking continue to be imitated, end users need to be extra vigilant when engaging with emails claiming to be from a reputable brand.”Top Phishing brandsBelow are the top 10 brands ranked by their overall appearance in brand phishing events during Q4 2023:Microsoft (33%)Amazon (9%)Google (8%)Apple (4%)Wells Fargo (3%)LinkedIn (3%)Home Depot (3%)Facebook (3%)Netflix (2%)DHL (2%)Microsoft Phishing Email - Email Verification ScamThis deceptive email, posing as the Microsoft account team, claimed to require email address verification and urged recipients to click a verification link. It featured a subject line "Microsoft: Verify your email address" aiming to create a sense of urgency. The phishing link included in the email was: “cloudflare-ipfs[.]com/ipfs/bafybeigjhhhd64vhna67panxz6myhaelya6vphjbic65jog5hvm4mmgpum”.This link is not associated with Microsoft. The email requested recipients to verify their email address and may potentially lead to fraudulent activities.

ROSHN and EVIQ Accelerate EV Adoption in Saudi Arabia

ROSHN Group, Saudi Arabia’s leading real estate developer and PIF-owned giga-project, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Company (EVIQ), a leading provider of EV charging solutions to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) across Saudi Arabia.Under the terms of the MoU, ROSHN and EVIQ will cooperate in evaluating, assessing and developing direct-current infrastructure solutions for EVs within residential communities and commercial properties developed by ROSHN spanning the Kingdom. The MoU is a significant milestone in ROSHN’s and EVIQ’s efforts to promote the adoption of EVs to create a more sustainable future for the Kingdom. This represents a new era of accessibility and convenience for the public, aligning with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 objective of increasing the number of electric vehicles on the roads of Riyadh to 30%.David Grover, CEO of ROSHN Group, said: “We are delighted to be working with EVIQ as part of our strategy to implement cutting-edge technologies and partner with best-in-class collaborators. This agreement underscores our dedication to creating a robust EV ecosystem which began with ROSHN Front, the iconic Riyadh destination with over 800,000 visitors each month, proudly hosting EVIQ’s inaugural public EV charging facility. We are thrilled to be expanding our collaboration to provide EV charging infrastructure throughout ROSHN’s humanized, integrated communities across the Kingdom.”CEO of EVIQ, Mohammad Baker Gazzaz, said: “This agreement signals the alignment and commitment of both companies to a mutual objective of improving quality of life for the citizens of Saudi Arabia. EVIQ’s advanced EV charging technology combined with the coverage of ROSHN’s integrated communities and properties will result in a wide-spread network of high-speed chargers in strategic locations around the kingdom, in which will result in a positive experience to EV users and support the EV adoption objectives of Saudi Arabia.”The collaboration between ROSHN and EVIQ will also see the launch of the Kingdom's first fast-charging public site launch at ROSHN Front in Riyadh. This strategic alliance aims to leverage the expertise of both entities to enhance the infrastructure and support systems crucial for the widespread adoption of EVs in the region. The partnership with EVIQ aligns with ROSHN’s ambitions to raise the bar for the real estate industry through innovation, sustainability, and integrity.

Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority Readies for a Bustling 2024

Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) invites global travellers to embark on a journey of discovery in 2024, positioning Bahrain as a premier travel destination. The Kingdom of Bahrain, with its strategic geographical location, offers and enticing array of attractions, events, and cultural experiences, making it the ideal choice for travellers seeking a perfect blend of relaxation, adventure and cultural exploration. In 2024, one can expect Bahrain to stand out as a travel haven to those seeking short getaways, providing ample opportunities to enjoy the many long weekends the year holds. Noted as an evolving travel trend, multiple short getaways are being favored over traditional one or two extended breaks. Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority would actively like to tap this trend and position itself as an ideal long weekend destination from India.  As a short-haul destination, Bahrain is a quick flight away from India with great connectivity via multiple airlines and cities at highly competitive pricing. It offers a rich cultural tapestry and vibrant experiences to a diverse audience seeking a break from their daily routine. An island nation with pristine beaches, vibrant nightlife, host of luxurious hotels and progressive and hospitable locals, make for an ideal holiday with friends, family and spa-cation alike. For the adventure seekers, Bahrain offers thrilling activities such as indoor sky diving, F1-inspired karting and diving in search of real pearls which will keep visitors engaged and enthralled. As travellers explore Bahrain in 2024, they will be captivated by the kingdom's open and inviting culture. Bahrain seamlessly blends rich heritage with modern amenities, offering a unique experience where tradition and innovation coexist harmoniously. Bahrainis take pride in sharing their stories, traditions, and delicious cuisine with visitors, creating an immersive and unforgettable cultural experience.

BLME appoints new Head of Alternative Investments

Bank of London and The Middle East plc (BLME) today announces that it has appointed Khaled Alanani as the bank’s Head of Alternative Investments. He rejoins BLME having previously held the position of Head of Real Estate Investments.Khaled’s appointment comes as part of BLME’s next phase of growth and broader strategy to expand its investment offering. He will be instrumental in the creation and distribution of new investment products, leveraging BLME’s ‘A’ credit rating and the financial strength of its parent company, Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank.Commenting on Khaled’s appointment, Chief Executive Officer Andrew Ball said:“We’re all extremely pleased that Khaled has chosen to return to BLME. The bank has significant growth ambitions across both the UK and the Middle East, and I look forward to working with Khaled to progress these goals and solidify BLME’s reputation as the go-to bank for GCC clients. He will work closely with BLME Capital, our recently launched subsidiary in Saudi Arabia, reaching new markets and unlocking investment opportunities for our GCC clients.”Khaled Alanani, Head of Alternative Investment said:“I am really looking forward to returning to BLME. It’s a hugely exciting time to be rejoining and to be working with such a talented group of people. GCC investors are increasingly seeking innovative and sophisticated investment opportunities and this is a golden opportunity to bring BLME’s expertise to new markets and capitalise on our exceptional track record”Khaled Alanani is a veteran real estate finance professional. Beginning his career at Cushman and Wakefield in Toronto, he first joined BLME as an Investment Manager in 2015. Whilst at BLME, he worked on a number of high-value deals across commercial and residential property and helped establish the bank’s real estate investments desk.Khaled holds a bachelor’s degree with Honours from McMaster University, Canada and a Masters in Real Estate Finance from Bayes Business School, London (formerly Cass Business School).

HPE to acquire Juniper Networks to accelerate AI-driven innovation

 Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE: HPE) and Juniper Networks, Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), a leader in AI-native networks, today announced that the companies have entered a definitive agreement under which HPE will acquire Juniper in an all[1]cash transaction for $40.00 per share, representing an equity value of approximately $14 billion.The combination of HPE and Juniper advances HPE’s portfolio mix shift toward higher-growth solutions and strengthens its high-margin networking business, accelerating HPE’s sustainable profitable growth strategy. The transaction is expected to be accretive to non-GAAP EPS and free cash flow in the first year post close.The acquisition is expected to double HPE’s networking business, creating a new networking leader with a comprehensive portfolio that presents customers and partners with a compelling new choice to drive business value. The explosion of AI and hybrid cloud-driven business is accelerating demand for secure, unified technology solutions that connect, protect, and analyze companies’ data from edge to cloud. These trends, and AI specifically, will continue to be the most disruptive workloads for companies, and HPE has been aligning its portfolio to capitalize on these substantial IT trends with networking as a critical connective component.Combining HPE and Juniper’s complementary portfolios supercharges HPE’s edge-to-cloud strategy with an ability to lead in an AI-native environment based on a foundational cloud-native architecture. Together, HPE and Juniper will provide customers of all sizes with a complete, secure portfolio that enables the networking architecture necessary to manage and simplify their expanding and increasingly complex connectivity needs. Leveraging industry-leading AI, the combined company is expected to create better user and operator experiences, benefitting customers’ high performance networks and cloud data centers.Through its suite of cloud-delivered networking solutions, software, and services including the Mist AI and Cloud platform, Juniper helps organizations securely and efficiently access the mission-critical cloud infrastructure that serves as the foundation of digital and AI strategies. The combination with HPE Aruba Networking and purposely designed HPE AI interconnect fabric will bring together enterprise reach, and cloud-native and AI-native management and control, to create a premier industry player that will accelerate innovation to deliver further modernized networking optimized for hybrid cloud and AI.Upon completion of the transaction, Juniper CEO Rami Rahim will lead the combined HPE networking business, reporting to HPE President and CEO Antonio Neri.“HPE’s acquisition of Juniper represents an important inflection point in the industry and will change the dynamics in the networking market and provide customers and partners with a new alternative that meets their toughest demands,” said Neri. “This transaction will strengthen HPE’s position at the nexus of accelerating macro-AI trends, expand our total addressable market, and drive further innovation for customers as we help bridge the AI-native and cloud-native worlds, while also generating significant value for shareholders. I am excited to welcome Juniper’s talented employees to our team as we bring together two companies with complementary portfolios and proven track records of driving innovation within the industry.”“Our multi-year focus on innovative, secure AI-native solutions has driven Juniper Networks’ outstanding performance,” said Rami Rahim, CEO of Juniper Networks. “We have successfully delivered exceptional user experiences and simplified operations, and by joining HPE, I believe we can accelerate the next phase of our journey. In addition, this combination maximizes value for our shareholders through a meaningful all-cash premium. We look forward to working with the talented HPE team to drive innovation for enterprise, service provider and cloud customers across all domains, including campus, branch, data center and the wide area network.”Compelling Strategic Benefits• Compelling pro forma financial profile. In addition to the expected non-GAAP accretion, the combined company is expected to have attractive top- and bottom-line growth opportunities immediately and in the long term.• Positions HPE for long-term growth for shareholders and greater investment capacity.With Juniper, HPE’s portfolio will be weighted toward higher-growth, higher-margin businesses with large free cash flow potential, positioning HPE to enhance shareholder return and enabling additional investments in high-growth areas, such as AI and cloud. On a pro forma basis, the new networking segment will increase from approximately 18% of total HPE revenue as of fiscal year 2023 to approximately 31% and contribute more than 56%1,2 of HPE’s total operating income.• Complementary capabilities to deliver next-generation AI-native networking and enable new digital experiences through secure, intelligent connectivity. Networking will become the new core business and architecture foundation for HPE’s Hybrid Cloud and AI solutions delivered through our HPE GreenLake hybrid cloud platform. The combined company will offer secure, end-to-end AI-native solutions that are built on the foundation of cloud, high performance, and experience-first, and will also have the ability to collect, analyze, and act Includes HPE Intelligent Edge / HPE financials for fiscal year 2023 and Juniper financials for LTM 09/30/23 2 Pro forma operating profit includes impact of run-rate cost synergies of $450 million (assumed 100% contribution to Intelligent Edge) on aggregated telemetry across a broader installed base. This will drive even better end-user experiences and streamlined network operations for our customers.• Accelerates HPE’s strategic evolution and expands total addressable market. The acquisition increases the scope of HPE’s networking business and will create meaningful opportunities to provide even more comprehensive solutions to Juniper’s installed base of enterprise customers, communication service providers and tier-one cloud customers, as well as launches HPE into adjacent large segments, including data center networking, firewalls, and routers. It also grows Juniper’s footprint in data centers and cloud providers.Transaction Details and ApprovalsUnder the terms of the agreement, which has been unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of HPE and Juniper, Juniper shareholders will receive $40.00 per share in cash upon the completion of the transaction. The purchase price represents a premium of approximately 32% to the unaffected closing price of Juniper’s common stock on January 8, 2024, the last full trading day prior to media reports regarding a possible transaction.The transaction is expected to be funded based on financing commitments for $14 billion in term loans. Such financing will ultimately be replaced, in part, with a combination of new debt, mandatory convertible preferred securities, and cash on the balance sheet. The transaction is currently expected to close in late calendar year 2024 or early calendar year 2025, subject to receipt of regulatory approvals, approval of the transaction by Juniper shareholders, and satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.The combination is expected to achieve operating efficiencies and run-rate annual cost synergies of $450 million within 36 months post close. Strong growth in free cash flow, along with maintenance of capital allocation policies, are expected to provide sufficient room to reduce leverage to approximately 2x in two years post close. Following the completion of the transaction, HPE will continue its innovation and go-to-market investments in its networking business, one of its growth engines.AdvisorsJ.P. Morgan Securities LLC and Qatalyst Partners are serving as HPE’s financial advisors. Committed financing for the transaction has been provided by Citigroup Global Markets Inc., JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and Mizuho Bank, Ltd. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Covington & Burling LLP, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP are serving as legal counsel. Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC is serving as Juniper’s exclusive financial advisor and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is serving as legal counsel.

Surge seen in AI-powered startups, new cybersecurity tools

In 2024, there will be a surge in AI-driven startups, marked by the development of cybersecurity tools leveraging generative AI models and the integration of artificial intelligence as a supportive assistant.In its prediction for 2024, Positive technologies, a cybersecurity leader, sees setting up of services with the help of natural languages, private blockchain, trusted blockchain, and advanced encryption methods, which are fuelling the evolution of blockchain technology.2024 is set to feature an astonishing landscape of change for organisations across the Middle East especially in light of the region’s race towards digitalisation.Artificial intelligence and cybersecurityAlexandra Murzina, Head of Advanced Technologies, Positive Technologies, says new capabilities of generative AI have reshaped many industries this year. Just a year ago, few would have imagined the multi-pronged uses of AI: image generation, text generation along with text-to-speech, as well as scriptwriting and the creation of script-based videos in real time.“Today, we are witnessing a boom of AI-powered startups. Artificial intelligence has advanced so fast that it has taken root in some professional areas, forcing the workforce to master new tools.”This trend also applies to cybersecurity. AI technologies have benefited both defence teams and attackers. They have helped companies make threat detection and response processes more effective, and cybercriminals improve their cyber kill chains. GitHub now features many different cybersecurity tools based on generative AI models.AI as assistant“In addition, we are seeing a trend towards the use of artificial intelligence as an assistant. Take Microsoft Security Copilot, for example. This trend is pushing the industry to rethink conventional cybersecurity products.”The open-source community has contributed a lot to this progress by developing many of the ML solutions currently available. Companies, academies, and individual enthusiasts have trained many large language models, shared their image generation algorithms based on the Stable Diffusion model, and posted useful materials and tutorials. This has made advanced technologies more accessible than ever before.Knowledge distillation of large language models was a major trend of 2023. Training LLMs takes a lot of effort and using them is expensive. That's why experts are looking for a solution that would simplify this task and make it available to more people. This has resulted in quantified and distilled LLMs that can run on laptops, and some even on mobile devices. At the same time, guidelines and recommendations on performing these tasks are now available.Creating servicesAnother emerging trend is creating services with the help of natural languages. It is projected to make big strides as early as next year, enabling development of breakthrough technologies without coding. For example, prior to AI, if you wanted to build an application or query a database, you needed to know the language syntax to work with those tools. Now you can do it by writing prompts in natural languages, and LLMs will follow your instructions and apply the necessary format.Moreover, the industry's still trying to figure out what an artificial general intelligence (AGI) should be. AGI is a hypothetical type of artificial intelligence capable of performing any intellectual task even better than human professionals. There are many opinions and interpretations. In November 2023, for example, Google DeepMind published a paper presenting their vision of artificial general intelligence as a framework for classifying the capabilities and behavior of AGI models and their precursors.Growth drivers for blockchain projects in 2024In 2023, the world witnessed a rapid advancement of technology based on zero-knowledge proof (ZKP). ZPK technology already found application in a range of Ethereum L2 chains and Proof-of-Reserves approaches.It even started spreading beyond blockchain. Much work has been done in the field of identification. For example, the Worldcoin project, which was launched not so long ago, uses retinal scans to identify individuals and has already gained over one million users. Inter-blockchain technologies, such as the Cosmos and Polkadot ecosystems, will definitely continue to expand.The blockchain market is growing, indicating a rise in investment and innovation spending in this area. In addition to cryptocurrencies, blockchain is being widely used in industry and the Internet of Things. Since 2020, we've observed strong investment in blockchain projects, which is driving the application of these technologies in business.The geographic distribution of blockchain increases the sustainability of projects: North America and Asia-Pacific are leaders in the use of blockchain technology. The emerging standards and solutions such as private blockchain, trusted blockchain, and advanced encryption methods, are fuelling the evolution of blockchain technology.

Souq Al Jubail welcomes over 50mln visitors in 8 years

Since its launch in 2015, Souq Al Jubail has welcomed over 50 million shoppers and visitors, establishing itself as a key market, commercial destination, and tourist landmark in Sharjah, offering integrated quality services and diverse facilities.Mohammad bin Essa, Chief Asset Management Officer of the Asset Management Sector at Sharjah Asset Management, stated that this remarkable achievement of hosting a large number of visitors over the past 8 years has established the market as one of the most significant tourist and commercial destinations in the Emirate of Sharjah.This accomplishment is attributed to the foresight of H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, who is dedicated to making Sharjah an emblem of evolution, prosperity, renaissance, and civilization.Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammed has shown great interest in Souq Al Jubail, aiming to serve the residents of the Emirate of Sharjah in its diverse regions. He recently inaugurated Souq Al Jubail - Dhaid and Souq Al Jubail - Kalba, with Souq Al Jubail in Al Madam set to open in the near future. The goal is to provide comprehensive and high-quality food products to a broader segment of the emirate's population and visitors.Bin Essa commented, "Every year, Souq Al Jubail continues to witness increasing demand from visitors and shoppers. This is a result of our integrated services to meet the needs of various market visitors, successfully branding ourselves as one of the most important markets and tourist destinations in the region and globally."He asserted, "Year after year, the market witnesses an increasing influx of visitors and shoppers due to its comprehensive and high-quality services, competitive pricing meeting the diverse needs of its visitors, and the provision of fresh, imported, and high-quality products. This ensures a comfortable and distinctive shopping experience in alignment with the highest global standards and measures, making the market the preferred and foremost destination for visitors."He emphasised, "The market's extensive diversity across its sections has rendered it a unique destination, garnering significant attention, especially from seafood enthusiasts. The fish section stands out as a distinctive addition to the market, boasting over 250 varieties of fish. This significantly contributes to supporting fishermen and those employed in this sector, enhancing consumer choices, and providing more comprehensive avenues for fishermen. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in regulating and controlling the sale prices of various types of fish."A market with 261 shops spread across three main sections: fruits and vegetables, meat, and fresh fish. It also offers services like ATMs, a hypermarket, and pharmacies for convenience.The Souq Al Jubail hosts the Al Jubail 1441 Restaurant, offering stunning views of Sharjah Creek and serving seafood, Arabic and international coffee, fresh juices, and seasonal hot and cold drinks.Souq Al Jubail hosts various events and activities throughout the year, including exhibitions, festivals, and the annual Dates Festival since 2015, which attracts leading date traders and shop vendors.Souq Al Jubail in Al Dhaid is a comprehensive service destination covering 78,000 square meters and organized into four sections: meat, vegetables and fruits, fish, and a central courtyard. It includes storage and refrigeration warehouses to ensure food quality. The market has 86 diverse commercial units, including 24 for meats and poultry, 45 for vegetables, fruits, and dates, and 16 for fish, each with specific amenities and facilities.Souq Al Jubail in Kalba is a comprehensive market with specialised restaurants, a traditional café, children's play area, and prayer rooms. It is divided into three main sections: Meat, Fish, and Vegetable and Fruit, covering 33 thousand square meters. The market aims to provide high-quality fresh produce and create employment opportunities for fishermen, traders, farmers, and ranchers.Souq Al Jubail is a project of Sharjah Asset Management, the investment arm of the Government of Sharjah.

Ooredoo Kuwait launches offers to cater to customers' needs during this season

In sync with the much-anticipated outdoor and Keshta season, Ooredoo Kuwait, the leading telecommunications company, is taking innovative steps to connect with its customers. The company is introducing special offers and deals designed to cater to the unique needs of its customers during this season. As a gesture of appreciation for the desert lovers, Ooredoo Kuwait is also offering complimentary Kashta Box gifts. Recognizing the Kuwaiti passion for desert adventures in winter, Ooredoo Kuwait aims to accompany its customers every step of the way, catering to their interests and enhancing their outdoor experiences.As part of this initiative, Ooredoo proudly announces an exclusive partnership with Anker, the globally acclaimed technology brand renowned for its cutting-edge charging solutions. This strategic collaboration not only establishes Ooredoo as the sole telecom company in Kuwait to align with Anker but also positions it as the primary dealer of Anker products in the country.The featured Anker product lineup at Ooredoo branches spans a comprehensive range of essential charging solutions, including portable batteries, charging cables, wired and wireless chargers, along with charging solar panels and power stations. This exclusive partnership aims to provide customers with a diverse selection of high-quality and technologically advanced charging options, enriching their overall experience.To celebrate this groundbreaking collaboration, Ooredoo plans to surprise and delight customers by offering complimentary Anker products enclosed in specially curated Kashta boxes. These items are thoughtfully designed for use during the desert camping season, enhancing customers' experiences in the great outdoors.At Ooredoo, the company is dedicated to providing customers with the best solutions. The collaboration with Anker emphasizes this commitment. By joining forces, the goal is to enhance the overall customer experience, offering not only top-tier telecom services but also access to state-of-the-art charging solutions that cater to their evolving needs. The overarching aim is to position the company as a one-stop-shop for customers' telecommunication and technology needs.This partnership with Anker aligns seamlessly with Ooredoo's vision to be at the forefront of innovation, making advanced technology accessible to everyone. With Anker's cutting-edge charging products now accessible at Ooredoo branches, customers can conveniently discover reliable solutions to keep their devices powered, particularly during their desert excursions.The complimentary Ooredoo Keshta boxes are offered for customers at Ooredoo’s branches that display Anker products. These branches include Kuwait International Airport, Mishref, Farwaniya Co-op, Ooredoo Tower, Al Jahra, and Avenues, Phase 4.For more information about Ooredoo's exclusive partnership with Anker or to explore the range of products available, please visit one of these branches.

Mall of Muscat unveils future vision with new experiences and dynamic additions

 Mall of Muscat, leading leisure and entertainment destination, has witnessed a remarkable year in 2023, soaring beyond expectations. With over 4 million footfalls, collection of prestigious awards, and a spectrum of successful events, it has elevated its status quintessential destination for leisure and entertainment.Embarking on a journey of transformation, Mall of Muscat is undergoing a strategic refresh to elevate the customer experience. This initiative signifies a new era of vibrancy and engagement, aiming to enrich the overall ambience and service quality, ensuring that every visit is memorable. In 2023, the Mall of Muscat was distinguished with the prestigious Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Shopping Centre and Retailer Award, reinforcing its status as a frontrunner in traditional marketing excellence, specifically for its impactful cause-related marketing initiatives.Mall of Muscat is a unique fusion of elegance and excitement, where luxury seamlessly blends with adventure, providing an unmatched experience in Muscat. This destination is a shining example of the city’s vibrant evolution in both retail and entertainment sectors.The Mall of Muscat in 2023 welcomed Oud Dubai, Fatty Patty, Fun VR, Biryani Bowl, Style Passport, Al Faisal Watches, Gracia, Tjwens, Gadgets and Meito. Oud Dubai enhances the luxury retail scene with its exquisite fragrances. Fatty Patty offers a delightful culinary experience with its unique menu, while Fun VR introduces a new dimension of entertainment with its virtual reality gaming arena. Biryani Bowl tantalises taste buds with its flavour-packed biryanis and curries, each dish a celebration of rich, aromatic spices that promise a culinary journey. For fashion enthusiasts, Style Passport stands as a multi-brand store, a treasure trove of diverse styles and trends under one roof, catering to every fashion need. Al Faisal Watches offers a luxurious array of jewellery and watches, combining elegance and craftsmanship in each piece. Gracia, a Muscat-based leader in interior design and contracting, provides exceptional fit-outs and designs, transforming spaces with sophistication and style. Tech aficionados will find a haven in Gadgets Oman, offering everything from IT management to supply. Meito adds a playful twist to the mix with its delightful range of bubble teas, offering a refreshing break in the midst of shopping and exploration.In the coming months, the Mall of Muscat is set to introduce a series of captivating activations. Among them is Habib Beirut, bringing a taste of authentic Lebanese cuisine. Optimum Cafe and Roastery will offer an unparalleled coffee experience with its diverse range of in-house roasted coffees and unique brewing methods. Adventure World promises thrilling experiences for all ages, from white water rafting to skydiving, alongside high-quality outdoor gear. Dirran Organic will provide organic beauty products, marrying ancient wisdom with modern science. Additions such as Flawerma are set to contribute significantly to the mall's dynamic atmosphere.These changes align with Mall of Muscat’s commitment to offer diverse, engaging, and new experiences for our customers. The destination continue to pride itself on being a premier destination for shopping with multiple international brands and for holistic entertainment. Fabyland delights all ages with its vibrant play areas, Xtreme Zone offers adrenaline-fueled excitement, Novo Cinemas creates an unforgettable cinematic experience, Fun VR merges the digital and real for immersive exploration, and Xcape Muscat challenges minds with its thrilling escape room adventures. Oman Aquarium remains a key highlight, offering an immersive journey into the marine world.A spokesperson for Mall of Muscat said, “In 2023, Mall of Muscat achieved a remarkable milestone of over 4 million footfalls and garnered prestigious awards and hosted a series of successful events, showcasing our commitment to excellence. As we embark on a transformative journey into 2024, we continue to evolve and innovate, ensuring that the Mall of Muscat remains the leading leisure and entertainment destination, setting new benchmarks in customer experience and engagement.”Last year Mall of Muscat highlighted its commitment to community support through various initiatives. Collaborating with Al Rahma Association, Oman Tourism College, and Scientific College of Design, it supported SMEs and students by offering free stalls during Eid-Al-Fitr/Ramadan, an effort that won the Mall the 2023 MENA Shopping Centre and Retailer Award for cause-related marketing. Additionally, the Mall partnered with Dar Al Atta’a for National Day, transforming into a vibrant marketplace to support the Palestine cause, selling a range of items from local contributors, with proceeds going to Dar Al Atta’a.The Mall also enhanced retail experiences with special back-to-school offers in August, and celebrated cultural events like Ramadan's Qaranqasho with activities for children, and Eid with festive decorations, sales, and international entertainment including musical shows and acrobatic performances. These events, along with the National Day weekend's joyful celebrations, underscored the Mall's role as a hub of community engagement and cultural festivity.Mall of Muscat is evolving and redefining the shopping and entertainment experience. With these latest additions and strategic refresh, the mall continues to be a destination where memories are made, and experiences are cherished.

Merging AI and human insight for effective PR and marketing

Authored by Tanu Chopra, Seasoned PR Professional in Dubai.When we look into the public relations industry's crystal ball in 2024, we see a landscape rich with emerging trends and dynamic alterations in communication techniques. The involvement of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a force that is not just riding the wave of change but actively influencing it, is central to this shift.Gone are the days when PR and marketing were solely guided by human intuition and experiential wisdom. Today, we stand at the precipice of a new era where AI is catalysing a shift to a more analytical and data-driven approach. This transformation is not just about the efficiency of mining vast databases or the accuracy in forecasting consumer behaviours; it's about redefining how we understand and interact with our audiences. AI's prowess in machine learning, sophisticated data analytics, and automation is setting the stage for an unprecedented evolution in communication strategies and market analysis.The true art, however, is in using AI as part of a larger, human-centric approach rather than as a single answer. Let's look at how this combination will change the PR and marketing landscape in 2024.Mastering the Art of AI-Driven AnalyticsThe role of AI in data analysis and strategic planning within public relations and marketing is not just transformative; it's revolutionary.Advanced AI algorithms now delve beyond mere data analysis; they are the modern-day alchemists turning vast, unstructured data into golden insights. These insights are not just numbers and trends. They are predictive intelligence – a forward-thinking approach that anticipates market shifts and customer behaviour with startling accuracy. AI doesn't just track competitor strategies; it anticipates their next moves, offering a strategic advantage that is both proactive and pre-emptive.Renaissance of Content Creation and DistributionAI is no longer just a tool for automation, it is a creative partner. AI technologies are now sophisticated enough to collaborate with human creators, infusing content with nuanced intelligence and creativity.From the written word to the world of visual graphics, AI enhances the artistic process, injecting a level of precision and personalisation previously unimaginable. But the power of AI extends beyond creation to the sophisticated realm of distribution.In this era, content distribution is an art form, and AI algorithms are the master artists. They don't just disseminate content; they orchestrate their journey, ensuring each piece finds its audience punctually and contextually. This level of optimisation is more than just technical; it's empathetic. AI understands the audience's pulse, catering to their preferences and engaging them at a level that resonates deeply.Elevating Customer Engagement to New HeightsWe are witnessing AI transcend its role within the public relations and marketing realm and emerge as a pivotal architect of customer engagement and personalisation. AI is not just processing data but understanding and interpreting it to create a new customer interaction paradigm.The advent of AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants has revolutionised real-time customer interaction. These tools no longer offer mere assistance; they provide a conversational experience that is as engaging as it is informative. They are the new face of brand-customer interactions, operating with empathy and understanding that blurs the line between artificial and human intelligence.Ethical Considerations and ChallengesIntegrating AI in public relations and marketing is not just a matter of technological advancement but also a journey through a complex ethical landscape.The first and foremost challenge is data privacy. The ethical use of AI in PR and marketing demands a stringent adherence to privacy laws, a transparent data policy, and a commitment to protecting user data from misuse or breaches. This is not just a legal obligation; it's a cornerstone of trust between brands and their audiences.Another critical challenge is the potential bias in AI algorithms. AI systems are only as unbiased as the data they are fed and the programming behind them. In 2024, the industry must ensure that AI tools are accessible from prejudices that could skew marketing strategies or communication campaigns.Furthermore, the ethical creation and use of AI-generated content is a burgeoning concern. As AI becomes more adept at creating realistic content, the lines between AI-generated and human-created content blur. The ethical use of such content demands transparency - making it clear when and how AI is used. This transparency is crucial for maintaining public trust and the integrity of our profession.Harmonising AI and Human CreativityThe true potential of AI in PR and marketing lies in its role as an enabler of human creativity. AI tools and algorithms are adept at processing vast amounts of data, identifying patterns, and generating insights at a speed and scale beyond human capability.However, human professionals interpret these insights, infuse them with creative thought, and translate them into compelling narratives and strategies. This synergy is where the magic happens – data-driven precision meets creative storytelling.Moreover, the human-AI partnership in PR and marketing is not static; it is dynamic and ever-evolving. As AI technologies advance, they open new avenues for creative exploration, enabling professionals to push the boundaries of what's possible.Simultaneously, human professionals guide the development and application of AI, ensuring that it aligns with ethical standards and human-centric values.Preparing for an AI-Driven FuturePR and marketing strategies in 2024 must be agile and adaptable, ready to pivot as AI technologies and market dynamics evolve. This agility is crucial in leveraging AI for predictive analytics, personalised customer experiences, and complex content creation.Finally, in an AI-driven future, collaboration is critical. Professionals should seek to collaborate across disciplines, combining AI expertise with insights from data scientists, creative designers, and strategy experts. This collaborative approach will foster innovative solutions and ensure that AI integration is holistic and practical.Navigating the Path AheadIn 2024, the use of AI in public relations and marketing represents a watershed moment, but it is the combination of human intuition that is critical. While AI provides unparalleled efficiency in data management and content generation, the heart of effective communication remains human empathy, creativity, and ethical judgment.For public relations and marketing professionals, the future is about mastering the balance between AI's analytical strength and the essential human touch. This collaboration guarantees that our initiatives are original, impactful, and profoundly connected with our audiences while keeping the human element at the heart of our profession.

Ellie Chammas joins Total Media Ventures and Smartifai as MD, MENA

Elie Chammas has been appointed as the Managing Director for the MENA region at Total Media Ventures (TMV) and Smartifai. His extensive experience in the digital media industry, particularly his role in launching and driving the success of TikTok in the MENA market, showcases his ability to contribute significantly to the growth and development of the companies.Chammas's background as the Director- Head of MENA at Project Agora, where he led operations for a prominent ad tech and online media platform, further strengthens his position as a valuable asset for TMV and Smartifai. The endorsement from Herman D Souza, Co-Founder of Smartifai, highlights the confidence in Chammas's ability to align with the company's vision and contribute to regional and global scaling.In a LinkedIn post, Elie Chammas, says: “I am very happy to share that I have joined Total Media Ventures & Smartifai as the Managing Director for the MENA region. I feel blessed to be part of a very well established organization, team & product solutions.” Elie Chammas's role in leading TMV and Smartifai’s MENA operations to new heights suggests exciting prospects for the companies in the region. His unique blend of business acumen, technical expertise, and industry knowledge positions him well to navigate the challenges and opportunities in the dynamic digital media landscape.

Jury announced for Middle East & Africa WARC Awards 2024

WARC Awards for Middle East & Africa 2024, held in association with LIONS, has announced the names of its jury members. The award focuses on recognizing outstanding strategies and impact in various categories within the advertising and marketing industry. The jury members, drawn from the Middle East and Africa region, represent a diverse range of professionals with expertise in different aspects of the industry.Let us have a look at some of the jury members:Jury Chairs and Members:• Khaled Al Shehhi, Executive Director of Marketing and Communication at UAE Government Media Office. He will lead Channel Integration, Channel Pioneer, Partnerships & Sponsorships, Path to Purchase, Use of Data. • Elda Choucair, CEO of Omnicom Media Group• Babar Rahman, Vice President Marketing of Qatar Airways• Gugu Mthembu, Chief Marketing Officer of Telkom. He will oversee Brand Purpose, Business-to-Business, Cultural Impact, Customer Experience, Instant Impact, Long-term Growth• Yssem Saadi, General Manager at Mindshare Tunisia• Yvonne Gyefour, Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Head of Brand at Jumia Group• Christine Amisi-Bwire, Media Director at Starcom East Africa/ALB• Mosala Phillips, Chief Marketing Officer at Old Mutual• Dawn Rowlands, CEO for Sub Saharan Africa at DentsuAdditional Members:Middle East:• Walid Kanaan (Chief Creative at TBWA RAAD Lebanon)• Rawad El Dahouk (Head of Strategy and Planning at Wunderman Thompson Saudi)• Juman Sleiman (Senior Strategist at Imagination Middle East)• Dina El-Dessouky (Head of Strategy & Insights at Leo Burnett MENA)Africa:• Souheil Badaa (CMO at Riaya Industries)• Deepankar Rustagi (CEO at OmniRetail Technology)• Neema Masinde (Regional Lead Marketing Communications & Integrated Media at Beiersdorf Kenya)New Category:Category: Strategic Thinking• Jury Chair: Carolyne Kendi (Chief Marketing Officer at Absa Kenya PLC)After the regional awards, the chairs of all regional awards (Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Latin America, and North America) will form a super jury to award the Grands Prix, selected from all the regional Golds.Awards:Gold, Silver, and Bronze accolades will be awarded across the 12 categories.The WARC Awards play a crucial role in recognizing and celebrating excellence in advertising and marketing strategies, with a focus on the Middle East and Africa region.

Google Cloud unveils key insights for cybersecurity planning in 2024

Google Cloud has released its annual Cybersecurity Forecast report for 2024, compiling forward-looking thoughts from security leaders and experts from different teams across Mandiant, Google Cloud and VirusTotal, who are on the frontlines of the latest and largest attacks. Aiming to empower the cybersecurity industry, this comprehensive report provides essential insights and strategies to frame the fight against cyber adversaries in the year ahead.While new technologies will aid security teams, they can also expand the attack surface. In 2024, the rapidly evolving world of generative AI will provide attackers with new ways to conduct convincing phishing campaigns and information operations at scale. However, defenders will use the same technologies to strengthen detection, response, and attribution of adversaries - and more broadly reduce toil, address threat overload, and close the widening skills gap. Renze Jongman, Strategic Threat Intelligence Specialist, MEA at Google Cloud says: “While the rapid development of new technologies like AI will allow attackers to speed up and scale their criminal operations, it also offers unique ways for defenders to combat the threat. The ability to scale cybersecurity talent is particularly exciting to me: the GCC region has a growing number of young and talented cybersecurity graduates, keen to contribute to defending their countries and organizations against cyber attacks. They can now start to have an exponential impact and rapidly grow and expand their skill set by leveraging AI in their investigations and operations.”The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving, sometimes in new and unexpected ways. Defenders, often with limited resources, have the monumental task of keeping up. Here are some of the key takeaways from the Google Cloud Cybersecurity Forecast 2024 to help prepare for the year ahead:AI for attack and defense: AI is set to revolutionize cybersecurity for both attackers and defenders. Attackers are expected to leverage generative AI and large language models to create more sophisticated phishing and social engineering tactics, as well as to add scale to information operations. Defenders will utilize AI to enhance threat detection, response and attribution capabilities, as well as speed up analysis and other time-consuming tasks like reverse engineering.Continued use of zero-day exploits: An increased reliance on zero-day vulnerabilities by attackers is anticipated by both nation-state and cybercriminal groups, aiming to evade detection and maintain prolonged access to compromised systems. Edge devices and virtualization software are particularly attractive to threat actors because they are challenging to monitor. Cybercriminals know using a zero-day vulnerability will increase the number of victims and, based on recent mass extortion events, the number of organizations that may pay high ransomware or extortion demands.Growing prevalence of mobile cybercrime: Expect an increase in mobile cybercrime, with scammers using advanced and novel social engineering tactics like fake domestic help services, counterfeit social media, bank, or government communications, and deceptive pop-up alerts to trick victims into installing malicious apps on their mobile devices. Jongman adds: “This type of social engineering has grown rapidly across the Middle East in recent years, and while governments and organizations are already taking measures to protect their customers, this threat is likely to grow both in volume and sophistication across the region.” Maturing of attacks targeting hybrid and multicloud environments: With organizations around the world moving to the cloud, threat actors will look to exploit misconfigurations and identity issues to move laterally across different cloud environments.Escalating espionage and “sleeper botnet” tactics: Espionage activities will evolve and find more ways to scale, including the use of "sleeper botnets" created from vulnerable IoT, and small/home office or end-of-life devices. These botnets can be used and discarded as needed, complicating attribution efforts.Resurgence of older attack techniques: There is an expected revival in using older, less common cyberattack techniques which aren’t widely understood. These methods, often overlooked in modern detection systems, could provide attackers with a stealthy means to breach defenses.