UN MENAT (UM), a creative media agency, believes that better science and better art deliver better outcomes to clients in the media campaigns that matter most. The company, with its 14 offices within the MENAT region and over 400 creative minds in its HQ in Dubai, delivers some of the most ‘out-of-the-box’ media campaigns. In an exclusive talk with Adgully, Rohan Sawant, Digital Lead, UM MENAT, the man behind the company’s digital campaigns success, shares more about himself, the company, and the future of the digital market scenario in the MENA region. Excerpts:Can you provide an overview of your career journey and how you've gained experience on both the advertiser and publisher sides of the digital advertising industry?My career commenced in 2009 as a management trainee for Logicserve Digital, responsible for SEM campaigns for SME businesses based out of the UK. While at Logicserve, I was also exposed to Affiliate Marketing and was involved in managing coupon code websites. I moved to Komli Media as Key Account Manager for SEM and Social campaigns for clients based out of India. Komli Media was an official reseller in India for several digital media and ad tech platforms like Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Adobe Adlens, etc. This exposure helped me develop meaningful relationships with Advertisers. The video OTT space in India had just started booming when I had the opportunity to join Disney Hotstar to manage Ad Operations on VOD and Live Sports content. Towards the fag end of my stint at Disney Hotstar, we were venturing into Programmatic. This exposure took me to Times Internet, where I consulted Advertiser campaigns, direct and programmatic, across the comprehensive inventory and audience coverage across Times network. I had an opportunity to join MCN / IPG group and move to the UAE in 2018 to manage MENA-based clients. Since then, I have been working on the agency side at UM MENAT. Could you share a specific challenge you've faced and successfully overcome in your career?A gap in understanding the client's business, a crack in team skill or a lack of process or process non-compliance are the biggest challenges I had to face, and these are, of course, universal in the broader realm. The solutions to these may seem straightforward. However, it may take a while to get it right. For instance, to really understand the client's business, you should have no assumptions. Spend enough time with the client, ask questions, document what you uncover from your interactions and have recurring debrief sessions with your wider team. Walk in their shoes. Likewise, to cover the skill gap, most team members need to have a "let's figure it out" attitude. In today's internet age, with the likes of Chat GPT and Google, it is highly improbable not to find the correct answer or solution to a problem.Given your familiarity with terms like Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) and Supply Side Platforms (SSPs), how do these platforms contribute to the programmatic buying process, and what benefits do they offer to advertisers and publishers?Programmatic advertising has stood the test of time and emerged to be a strong, effective, and efficient media channel. The entire ecosystem has evolved, involving inventory partners, verification partners, data partners, viewability and attention partners to allow a robust channel for Advertisers. The benefits extend to publishers as well, with their ad inventory being monetized. DSPs and SSPs, which are two sides of the same coin, play a pivotal role in Programmatic Advertising. With DSPs, the advertiser has access to a platform that allows exploring inventory, researching audience segments, discovering creative formats, and running ad campaigns. SSPs are an ally for publishers, allowing them to integrate their ad inventory across multiple ad exchanges and generate ad revenue.Data plays a crucial role in today's digital advertising landscape. How do Data Management Platforms enhance campaign targeting and effectiveness, and what role do they play in optimizing advertising strategies in the MENA region?Digital advertising is heavily reliant on data for targeting accuracy and user engagement. This data capture is possible via cookies. Cookies are either first party (own data of Advertiser or publisher) or third party (accessed data by exposure to 1st party cookies). Data Management Platforms allow an Advertiser to harness its own data from multiple sources in an organized manner. In addition, DMPs have access to thir party cookies, which the advertiser can leverage to reach potential audiences with high affinity to his own data. DMP had a robust data utility and thus became popular in the GCC region. However, due to rising privacy concerns big players like Apple and Google have decided to phase out support for 3rd party cookies by early 2024. This is a huge setback for DMP as its overall utility is severely affected. DMPs can still be used to organize 1st party data and make it accessible for targeting in media platforms and personalization, however, licensing costs are an essential consideration factor for the Advertiser to gauge the viability of continuing with DMP. Advertisers in the MENA region are now focusing on increasing their 1st party data volume and moving to CRM platforms for data collection.How do you approach the management of digital advertising campaigns that span across different mediums such as display & video advertising, SEM, social media, and remarketing?To start with, a multi-channel approach is the RIGHT approach. As an advertiser, you wouldn’t want to miss any opportunity of engagement with your target audience. Broadly speaking, for mid and lower-funnel activations we ought to focus on effectiveness, whereas for the upper funnel we ought to focus on efficiency. To elaborate, for a campaign focused on reach and virality, it is necessary to be visible across multiple channels; however, the investment allocation across channels needs to be fine-tuned for maximum efficiency. At UM, we regularly use our best-in-class internal tools to identify audience overlap between channels to plan our activations with optimum budget allocation. On the other hand, channels such as Google Ads and Amazon Sponsored Ads need their own practices to deliver best results.As someone who has managed campaigns both as an individual contributor and as a team manager, what skills and qualities do you believe are essential for fostering a successful and collaborative advertising team?I believe discipline and the ability to figure problems out are most important for a team to function at its peak. Discipline is guaranteed to achieve standardization, which can stem from process compliance, ensuring the operational aspects are as streamlined as possible. The ability to figure out is an underappreciated skill. As an individual, being open to seeking answers from any source is inspirational for peers and superiors. More importantly, knowledge sharing is crucial for a team’s success.Digital advertising is constantly evolving. How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in the industry?I think staying up-to-date is a good challenge. There are a host of resources I depend on, such as platform specific updates and published case studies. At UM, we have a vast network or resources spanning the globe. While working for global brands, we can also access activations carried out in other markets. Lastly, I really enjoy finding insights and articles on LinkedIn, which can also be a good source of relevant industry information.Where do you see the future of digital advertising heading, and what emerging trends do you think professionals in this field should be prepared for?I see retail media growing well in the coming years in the MENA region, specifically in KSA, the UAE and Egypt. With all platforms integrating AI, the efficiency of optimization should improve. As professionals, we should be aware of the extraordinary work being done in the region, take inspiration from it and continue 'changing the game for brands to win', our motto at UM MENAT.