The State Of Video Content In MENA By Digital Ape

Video content in MENA is on a boom. YouTube is a classic example. Some interesting stats: -digital ape
  • Two hours of content is uploaded on YouTube every minute the region
  • Videos are viewed 260 million times a day in the region.
We met Paul Kelly who is the Co-Founder & Creative Director of Digital Ape, a digital agency based in Dubai. Paul is the creative guy and the techie who leads all technical and creative implementation across all platforms and design services.

The Interview

What is Video Content to you?
“Video content is about telling a story – it’s no different to journalism or advertising in many ways, but it’s done in a more human way. It’s basically doing what TV has done with programming over the last 50 years, compressing it and making it available on demand to a much wider array of people. It’s a really exciting thing, and when you start taking brands on that story-telling journey into genuine, creative stories then you can really understand the power of video content.”
In your opinion, what is the current status of Video Content in the MENA region? Any change from the past?
“Certainly there’s a much bigger focus on the entertainment value, and engagement, that video can bring. 100% of the campaigns we work on are now video-driven and I think that’s definitely going to continue. We content producers in the region have to be smarter in connecting with people and making their experience more organic, but that will come as we’re able to connect the dots with better data and trends.”
In your opinion, which video content language is leading in the MENA region? Arabic or English?
“Arabic by far – often we see on dual-language campaigns a 2 to 1 ratio of consumption of content, and sharing increases (at least on our last 3 campaigns) by 140% if the content is in the user’s native language. Now for 90% of our content there are Arabic subtitles on any English stories that are produced. People like to relate to people – and there’s no better way to do that via someone’s own native language – sometimes that’s easy to forget in an internationalist place like Dubai.”
In your opinion, which video content type is leading in the MENA region? Comedy? Entertainment? Edutainment? News?
“Comedy and drama is number 1, but we’re seeing trends towards a lot more diverse, specialised content. It’s really about entertainment a lot of the time, and the content needs to follow our three principles of ‘Relate, Entertain, Engage’ – if it follows those then any genre can be successful - from baking through to documentaries about creative people – as long as you understand the audience, then you can get traction no matter the subject.”
In your opinion, which countries are leading on Video Content in the MENA region?
“We all know the Saudi story – it’s the #1 country for engagement and that’s obviously a very strong allure. In the GCC Kuwait and Bahrain are very engaged countries, while Egypt and Lebanon provide really engaged audiences across a number of topics. In our recent campaigns, we’ve seen the most amount of engagement on videos (length of view, sharing etc) come from Saudi Arabia (33%), then it’s fairly even between the other countries – which is interesting in itself. We’re seeing a better mix of targeting as well – so content is being created to appeal to certain countries, which performs 5 times, on average, better than generic, region-wide content.”
In your opinion, what is the future of Video Content in the MENA region?
“Aside from getting stronger in terms of quality and nature of content, I think a lot of the storytelling will become more organic. We’re already seeing that YouTube is a more valuable platform than many others, and the mix between self-produced content and branded content is already pretty even in terms of entertainment. Hopefully what we see is people filling the niches for country-based, or even language-base, content that appeals to a wider audience. I think the future is bright, but we need to understand our audiences first to relate to them. No matter what the subject matter, that’s the most important thing.”
Are advertising / media / digital agencies doing enough to push Video Content in the MENA region?
“Yes and no. One one hand, there are a lot of people pushing to tell their stories via video and are pushing it, but on the other hand a lot of this content seems to be for content’s sake – it’s almost like “OK, we have to go and make some videos for YouTube”. That’s obviously not the right way to think about video engagement. There doesn’t seem to be enough diversity, especially in Arabic content, of people from the target audience for a campaign, influencing the decision-making and creative process.”
Are there enough / alot of companies specialized in Video Content productions in the MENA region?
“There are a lot of great production houses, but I think a lot of them still think in terms of TVCs when they make online content and are struggling to adapt their ways to digital-native audiences. On the other hand, Agencies are trying their hand at internal content production, to varying degrees of success. No-one, in my opinion, is looking at digital-native video content in an A-Z way that clients can understand and use across a plethora of platforms. Except for us of course!”
Are brands receptive of Video Content production in the MENA region?
“Some brands more than others! I think generally yes, but whether they fully understand the benefits is another matter entirely. It’s certainly a different landscape to when we started out in 2009, and some brands who didn’t have any digital footprint back then are now embracing the benefits of digital content, and videos especially. At the end of the day, if a brand can entertain and engage someone with moving images, instead of traditional methods, and can have greater control and flexibility over how that story is told, it’s a great thing – and this is beginning to be better understood.”
On top of your mind, can you please name a couple of brands being avant guardists with regards to Video Content?
“There are quite a few – but the ones that stand out are Red Bull, Ford, Gap, Sprite, Dubai Tourism and EmiratesNBD.”
What do you do ? 
“Day to day we run two websites  and where we interact online on a daily basis with the creative community of fashionistas , filmmakers, musicians and photographers from the middle east. We create original content daily for our owned and operated platforms  and as often as possible  we work with our creative community to create amazing branded content for forward thinking international and local brands.”
We asked Digital Ape team to provide is with their credentials along with case studies of some of the work they have done. They were kind enough to share with us the following slideshare:


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