The Middle East’s love for Instagram (including its adverts)

Here in the Gulf we just love our pictures and photos. We love it so much that you’ll be hard pressed to find many in the Gulf who aren’t on the social media app. Only yesterday and in a period of less than five years Instagram announced that it had crossed the 400 million user mark (the app added 100 million users in the last 10 months alone). Seventy five percent of those 400 million users live outside the US, and the Gulf in particular has taken to the photo and video-sharing application.

In terms of the Gulf, it’s no surprise that Saudi leads the way – there are 10.7 million monthly active users in the Kingdom (just over a third of the population). The UAE follows with 2.2 million monthly users. And, to the West, Egypt has 3.2 million monthly active users. What’s even more impressive is daily active users – a whopping 6.1 million for Saudi, 1.2 million for the UAE, and 1.1 million for Egypt.

This all makes good news for Facebook, Instagram’s owner, which introduced advertising to the platform this month in the MENA region. Facebook rolled out advertising for select partners this month. The launch earlier this month included both regional brands such as telcos Saudi Telecom and Zain and retailers Souq and AlShaya, as well as global advertisers such as Unilever, P&G, Nestle, Mondelez, Visa, L’oreal and Pepsi. The first ad to go live was Souq’s, which you can see below.

Souq's Instagram advert was the first to be seen by Middle East users of the app

Souq’s Instagram advert was the first to be seen by Middle East users of the app

So far, from what I’ve been told, engagement with the adverts has been far higher than expected and much more than these advertisers are used to on Facebook. While there’ll be some negative sentiment from consumers who aren’t used to seeing advertising on their Instagram feeds, it seems that both Facebook and advertisers are onto a winner when it comes to Instagram advertising.

And for those of you curious people out there, the country with the highest penetration, is Bahrain which is closely followed by Kuwait. Both enjoy over 50 percent usage for Instagram; Bahrain’s penetration rate is over seventy five percent. The below visual was shared by social media expert Khaled El-Ahmed, and while the numbers may be slightly off from the above in terms of users, they’re still valid in terms of percentages.

PS For disclosure, I’m a P&G employee.

Getting engagement right – Zain Kuwait’s ‘We Know You Well’ ads

Advertising is a tortuous task – get it wrong (which most brands do) and your advert is either forgotten or, even worse, hated. Consumers will turn over as soon as they view the advert or hear the copy. But when a brand gets the advert right, the content becomes engaging, entertaining and even iconic. Think Fairy, Hamlet or Heineken.

Unlike in the UK, brands in the Middle East are loathe to do things differently. The Kuwait-based telco Zain is different however. They’re often looking at pushing the envelope in terms of both creativity and message.

My wife stumbled across a couple of adverts run by Zain this Ramadan. Named ‘We Know You Well’, these adverts which are purely aimed at promoting the brand are a fun poke at the younger generation of Kuwaitis and how, despite their lifestyle changes, they still revert to their old selves. If you know any Gulf Arabs, especially Kuwaitis, Saudis or Bahrainis, ask them to explain the particulars to you. The message in the second video is easier to understand, but the nuances and details, from the accents to the music and the voice-over text are uniquely understandable to anyone who knows Kuwait. The title of the adverts also plays on the telco’s own name (Zain means well or good in Arabic).

The adverts are simple, the message is clear, and the content is not only engaging but entertaining (both thanks to the voice-over as well as the acting). The characters are believable as well. All in all, they’re a powerful piece of content which consumers can not only understand but enjoy.

For an added extra, Zain also released a behind-the-scenes video on social media.

If you want to be bold, then look no further than Zain Kuwait and how the telco does advertising. You are truly Zain my friends…

Trying something new – the Parenting Game

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’ve been fairly busy of late. The lack of sleep and general state of red eye has been caused by the arrival of my little princess.

As a first time father I’m both delighted with living the role and taking up my responsibilities (I genuinely do enjoy the 2am feeds and burping walks).

But what I also want to start doing is blogging about this, particularly my experiences. I’m going to start reviewing things that my little one loves and which keep her safe and sound.

I hope you enjoy reading these blogs as much as I do living them with my little one.

  

#AylanKurdi, the image that has defined the refugee tragedy and what you can do to help

There are moments when we come across an image that is so powerful that it can drive us to tears. Such an image can galvanize a generation, it can melt the coldest of hearts or it can create a well of emotion inside of us. Think of the Vietnam war’s “Girl in the Picture”, of the naked Vietnamese girl who had been burned by napalm and was in agony, or the picture of the lone student protester who held up a column of tanks during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

This morning, I saw another image that was so powerful it literally made me cry just looking at my screen. The images below are of a three year old Syrian boy whose name is Alyan Kurdi. Like hundreds of thousands of others from Syria, Aylan and his family sought refuge and a new home in Europe.

As a father of a young child, all I care about is her safety and well-being. I can not imagine the horror that Aylan’s father, who was on the boat with Aylan and who lost his other son as well as his wife, is now living through.

This image of three year-old Aylan Kurdi is the story of Syria’s refugee tragedy. Alyan drowned while his parents were trying to reach the Greek island of Kos from the Turkish mainland (image source: Reuters/The Independent).

My one hope is that this image and story will melt hearts across Europe and worldwide, and drive people to step up and help those from Syria and other countries who are fleeing violence and who want to make a home for themselves in a new country, a home that is safe where they can live far from the shadow of death.

For me, Aylan’s story and the images taken by Reuters are heartbreaking. I beseech you to take action, especially if you are European. You can either the suggestions from the Independent or donate to organizations such as UNICEF or Save the Children which are supporting Syrian refugees.

Let’s do more, let’s help those in need. Let’s join together to ensure that there isn’t another Aylan.