By Nayera Yasser
In the heart of Cairo’s opera house, the holy month of Ramadan got embodied through several creative minds on the sophisticated stage. After the success of their previous round, Creative Industry Summit returned with a smaller edition dedicated to the one and only Ramadan.
The month attracts the highest audience viewership and advertisement budget as well as unstoppable flows of drama series and is by far the year’s central point for all creative minds. Creative Industry invited each and every related figure under one roof in order to take a closer look at the industries involved in the fiesta.
The day began with a couple of enlightening keynote speeches by three leaders from the day’s main tracks; advertisements and drama. Dina Hashem, Managing Director at UM Cairo; Tamer El Naggar, CEO at TNS North Africa as well as Scriptwriter Mariam Naoum took the stage in order to induce further insight from within the growing industries.
“We have to create an extra season away from Ramadan to fix the unreasonable rush and waste of good content,” said Naoum, commenting on the unreasonable rush both industries feel during Ramadan. According to the experts, while it is the peak of the whole year, dedicating this much content to one month only is also highly unnecessary and leads to further pressure and liabilities.
The success stories from the advertisements’ track took the stage in a rather informative and practical fashion. The case studies included Mobinil, Nestle, Coca Cola, in addition to Knorr Fine Foods and Lipton.
The studies included the campaigns’ target audience, vision, mission, online presence, offline activations and the audience feedback. Each presentation was introduced by an in-house expert who worked on developing it firsthand. Marian Makary, head of Mobinil’s communications, walked the audience through the company’s “Charity Doer”, which encouraged consumers to celebrate the holy month with good deeds; something that was vividly felt on the streets.
Meanwhile, Mostafa Talaat, Coca-Cola’s brand manager, had a much more intriguing topic as the company’s Ramadan campaign crossed several traditional borders. Coca-Cola’s online campaign that ditched TV as a main medium attracted the audience attention effortlessly but it has also created some questioning ripples in the local advertising pond.
The company surprised everyone with the daring decision of posting their ads online solely while donating the money needed for the over-priced airing slots. The initiative put the actual influence of both digital media and TV under a serious microscope.
Finally, Ingy Attallah, Knorr Mashreq’s category brand manager, showcased the much-needed campaign, “Complete Your generosity”. This particular campaign fought food-waste furiously as it was equipped with few governmental and charity partners that all aimed to deliver food to the needy.
With that being said and discussed, the peak of this track was certainly the advertisements’ panel which witnessed a spectacular group of experts that has never been seen together before.
The prominent figures included Ahmed Emad, Mashreq’s regional media manager; Mohamed Abo El Fotouh, digital media manager of Nestle NEAR; Amy Mowafi, CEO of MO4 Network; Film Director Tamer Mahdy; Mostafa Talaat, Coca-Cola’s brand manager; Ahmed Hafez Youness, executive creative director of FP7 Cairo; director Omar Hilal; Hussien Faheem, founder of 622 agency and creative director Mohamed Fouad.
For over an hour they dissected each and every Ad that has been aired during Ramadan, also they shed some light on how the extensive pressure of Ramadan negatively affect the rest of the year. Apart from wasting good ideas and content that does not receive the needed attention during the year’s highest season, the ads’ qualities are also highly affected.
Even though the professionals did not directly critic any specific ad, they let the audience be the judge via explaining the characteristics of successful ones. According to the panel, brand’s character and iniquity are quite essential, positive feedback and popularity equals nothing if they are not equipped with increasing brand knowledge.
That fact directly leads to the tough equation between purpose and entertainment; while many ads introduced a fair portion of comic situations and smart lines, they did not fairly inform the audience of the product itself.
Finally, they drifted to the essential topic of viewership. Ramadan’s airing time is the most expensive throughout the year, which can sometimes affect ad positioning. The panel highly focused on the fact that ad positioning and viewership are key factor in reaching the intended target audience in contrary to just any audience.
As a transition segment, the drama track could not have started in any form other than with the hilarious team behind “Salizon”, Injy Abo ElSo’oud and Tarek Nasr. The online programme was created for Ramadan’s drama solely, as each episode tackled a different series in a rather comical criticism. The duo went through the most common questions their team has been receiving contentiously, including all the hate-mail.
Following, few masterminds from the drama world took the stage. Rawya El-Shatter from CBC network; Mohamed Abd El-Hamed, producer and creator of ‘Tiatro Masr’; script writer Mohamed Amin Rady and Director Mohamed El-Adl along with the moderator Hesham Salman.
The experts shared a complete picture of how drama series are distributed on various TV channels; they also highlighted the key qualifications calculated within the industry itself. “We all care about advertisements, and sadly the big names dominate the biggest share of the budget,” said Rady.
Walking the same line, Abd El-Hamed explained how harmful exclusivity can really be. “Exclusivity negatively affects the series itself and especially the crew behind it because it limits their exposure; meanwhile, it serves the channel in terms of Ads’ placement,” said Abd El-Hamed.
Based on her years of experience in network strategy sphere, El-Shatter explained that each network receives a brief of the script with a list of the crew in order to decide which series/programmes to buy.
“Projects such as ‘Friendly Fire’ which was written by a fresh script writer and featured a relatively unknown cast changed a lot of stabiles back in 2013; many networks take bigger risks now,” said El-Shatter. Meanwhile, Rady added that his first series, “Friendly Fire”, was the last series to get sold during its airing season.
The panel also tackled the currently growing trend of longer formats that expand to 90 episodes instead of the regular 30. “I am personally against the 90 episode format as it usually includes unnecessary parts just to reach the number of episodes benchmark,” El-Adl added. “It also places extra intellectual load on the crew.”
While the advertisement panel predicted higher standards in the future especially in light of the new risks big names are currently taking, the drama panel begged to differ. “The drama business is obviously deteriorating. In my opinion the peak was certainly in 2013; measured through the number of good series,” Rady added. “Exaggerating and crossing the maximum boundaries in all aspects will defiantly end this business.”
As the event’s big finale, Mai Aly had the honour to sum up the fruitful day. The extraordinary woman with 30 years of experience in the advertisement world rearranged the discussed ideas and created a concrete summery for the ambitious and upcoming talents among the crowd.
“This is the first time I attend an event of this nature. Unlike the norm we are here to sum up Ramadan in order to learn from our success and mistakes. It is about time that we start learning,” said Aly.
According to Aly, the creative industry in Egypt ought to create an extra season and stop depending so much on Ramadan solely. “Ramadan includes a huge production of drama and advertisement that only keeps getting better in terms of content. Content is becoming king,” concluded Aly.