YAAP is a new-age, specialized content and influencer marketing company with a presence across the middle east, India and Singapore. The agency has worked with the likes of Visit Dubai, Sadia, Disney Games, Dell, Apple, Lufthansa, Amex and many more. Recently, YAAP partnered with US-based Tagger Media as part of its expansion into the middle east and India markets. In this interview with Adgully Associate Editor BF Firos, Arshad Zaheer, Senior Partner, YAAP, talks about how the company brings together technology, data, and content to deliver high-quality creative solutions. He explains how the 3D philosophy of design, discovery, and distribution is woven into the company's organisational fabric, and how the company identifies social, economic, and technological trends to create an ecosystem aimed at growth and expansion. He also talks about how YAAP's partnership with Tagger Media is impacting the company's growth and expansion, and how YAAP measures the success of its campaigns. He discusses how YAAP is adapting to changes in the content and influencer marketing industry in the middle east. He reveals that YAAP is gearing up for the launch of a specialized market report on the UAE’s burgeoning influencer marketing ecosystem.
Arshad, a luminary of advertising in the GCC region, is the brain behind Crayons Communications, which introduced digital marketing in the UAE, KSA and Bahrain. Following the company’s merger, he assumed the position of a Senior Partner at YAAP, the parent company. In a 25-year-long career at advertising agencies such as Euro RSCG, Young & Rubicam and Intermarkets Inc., he has left his mark on leading brands like Nissan, FitBit, TOMS, Estée Lauder, and Philips while gathering accolades from MENA Digital, Retail ME, and SPA, among others, for pathbreaking campaigns. Arshad is credited for the launch of a large, first-ever chopper-towed flying banner in the GCC region and the maiden corporate cricket league in the UAE
Excerpts from the interview:
Can you tell us more about how YAAP brings together technology, data, and content to deliver high-quality creative solutions?
The 3D philosophy of design, discovery, and distribution is woven into our organisational fabric. This ecosystem strategy involves identifying social, economic, and technological trends that define a contemporary customer. We have also adopted design-research methods such as market studies, surveys, and experiments to shape an ecosystem aimed at growth and expansion. Concurrently, we are course-correcting our value propositions in line with the trajectory of marketing and Web 3.0 technologies. That has enabled us to create a sound interplay between technology, data, and content and offer high-quality solutions.
What sets YAAP apart from other content and influencer marketing companies in the industry?
Many companies have jumped into the influencer-marketing bandwagon in recent years, creating healthy competition in the industry. So, service/product differentiation is key to success in this industry. YAAP did not merely follow the trend; we built a robust technological foundation and an ecosystem of partners beforehand. For example, YAAP tapped into Web 3.0 platforms such as the metaverse, enabling multiple brands to set up shop. We invested years and plenty of resources into making Web 3.0 and influencer marketing our core competencies. So, when the time was right, it came down to just integrating both.
How has YAAP's partnership with Tagger Media impacted the company's growth and expansion?
It is too soon to delve into the maximum scope of our partnership with Tagger Media. In the short term, however, the partnership will lead to synergistic value creation due to the combination of YAAP’s local market expertise and Tagger’s best-in-class influencer-marketing platform. Our clients will witness the epitome of data-driven influencer marketing, characterized by nuanced social intelligence and insight-led processes. Such possibilities will certainly translate to the company’s growth and expansion in the long term.
What have been some of YAAP's most successful campaigns, and what do you think made them successful?
Some of the most notable campaigns by YAAP are by our India team, particularly for the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), an umbrella organisation for all retail payment systems in the country. This campaign was consequential because of its sheer scale and holistic nature — we had a comprehensive mandate, enabling us to fire on all cylinders: Digital media buying, content creation, and, most importantly, influencer marketing. It put our end-to-end competency to the test, prompting us to engage the who’s who of India’s influencer marketing ecosystem.
The marketing element aside, the NPCI project enabled us to create a social impact by disseminating educational content on financial literacy and products to the masses. So, it was a profound experience. Similarly, the TOMS NFT project in Dubai — which, too, was geared toward social impact, with proceeds going to a reputable charity — was a resounding success. From conceptualization to development to execution on OpenSea, the TOMS NFT project brought out the best in us.
How does YAAP measure the success of its campaigns, and what metrics do you prioritize?
“Measurability” is central to our campaigns. So, we have effective KPIs in place. While measuring conventional, engagement-related indicators such as likes, reactions, shares, and comments, we also go deep into nuanced impression data. Our idea of conversion is not limited to sales; it includes referral sources, user engagement with CTAs, total page views, time spent on posts, etc. In essence, we aren’t disregarding any KPIs. Additionally, the integration with leading data-driven platforms such as Tagger Media has complemented our “measurability” importance.
How do you see the content and influencer marketing industry in the middle east region evolving in the coming years, and how is YAAP adapting to these changes?
More than half the population (about 55%) in MENA is under the age of 30, a demographic dividend that spells economic opportunities. This population sub-set carries high digital dexterity and a liking for Web 3.0 and other disruptive technologies. So, the logical conclusion is that influencer marketing will gain more traction in the region in the coming years. Taking stock of such opportunities and eventualities, we are adopting cutting-edge technologies, striking ecosystem partnerships, and gaining strategic exposure to certain domains and verticals.
How does YAAP ensure that it is providing value to its clients, and what steps do you take to maintain strong client relationships? How does YAAP balance the use of technology and data with creativity and storytelling in its campaigns?
Value creation doesn’t follow a specific rule. YAAP is in the business of providing customized services that constitute a client’s “perceived value”. That is to say, the value we offer is unique to each client. Accordingly, each client relationship involves bespoke management. At the same time, all relationships are built on a foundation of trust and transparency.
Contrary to popular belief, the increased adoption of technology and data does not undermine creativity and storytelling. Meaningful adoption, rooted in sound ethics and ethos, will make the art of storytelling all the more powerful and impactful. So, instead of treating technology adoption and creativity as opposites, we are concentrating on combining the two for higher efficiencies.
Can you share any exciting projects or initiatives that YAAP has in the works for the future?
We have several initiatives in the pipeline across our operational markets. They are inherently interesting due to the amalgam of influencer marketing and Web 3.0 projects where we are enabling brands to make a foray into the metaverse and mobilizing influencers to boost them. Concurrently, we are gearing up for the launch of a specialized market report on the UAE’s burgeoning influencer marketing ecosystem. The report, shaped by insights from leading CMOs, surveys, and empirical evidence, will be informative, clear the obscurity surrounding influencer marketing, and pave the way for further value creation.
How does YAAP approach diversity and inclusivity in its work and team culture?
YAAP has embraced diversity and inclusion from the start. We believe change starts at the top and trickles down. So, the board characterizes a balance in gender and ethnicity. The recent appointment of Sadia Akhter and Nandita Saggu as Partners is a testament to that effect.