Integrating digital technologies into existing business processes while keeping culture and customer experiences in mind has become critical to adapting to changing market requirements. Nourah AlFayez, Head of Transformation at Google MENA, sheds light on how reimagining business in the digital realm can help accelerate efforts in the Media and Entertainment space.
How can digital transformation help entertainment businesses in the region?
Digital transformation can help an organisation’s operations in a range of ways such as digitising payroll, and in recruitment by using AI to help identify relevant candidates. Likewise, digital transformation can lead to high impact in the entertainment industry within the context of measurement, automation and ad sales.
Technological advancements and changes in consumer behaviour have caused a range of changes within the entertainment industry. For example, the transition from terrestrial TV to IPTV, to OTT and streaming services has resulted in shifts in how broadcasters operate. A fundamental change is access to real-time data and signals about the content being created, whereas in the past, production houses relied on test screenings or focus groups to understand how their films or TV shows would be received.
Digital transformation can also lead companies to greater efficiency through the automation of production, sales and operations activities. Leveraging the cloud, for example, allows production houses to distribute their content more efficiently to broadcast networks or OTT services. By having their content on the cloud, they can measure and monitor the full process to ensure content is delivered with the highest quality. Moreover, machine learning can be used to optimise and streamline the production process, like surfacing content ideas (what topics will drive engagement) and using cloud to segment shots with contextual cues and sentiment analysis of reviews, to understand where improvements can be made.
Another area that can be digitised is the advertising space within the entertainment industry, which will pave the way for programmatic TV and lead to a more efficient ecosystem and data-powered buys. Currently, the number of manual steps involved in executing TV ad buys is exceptionally high. Theprocess involves an exchange of Excel sheets between sales houses and agencies, along with many manual exercises to then analyse/reconcile the buys against actual ads aired. If all of this can be done at one click via programmatic buying tools, the amount of time saved would be astounding. If we couple this with the ability to establish a unified measurement system on TV set-top boxes, we could then add audience targeting to make ads much more relevant.
For production houses and film businesses looking to transform digitally, what do leaders need to consider?
Deciding to implement a digital transformation programme in any organisation requires leaders to first consider their strategic vision for the next five to ten years, and think of their people and their culture, before evaluating which tech tools and programmes to adopt.
The leadership teams must be open to changes coming their way. To do this, they need to invest in talented people who are equipped with analytical and problem-solving skills and have the curiosity to innovate and create solutions using new technologies, and drive digital transformation. Leaders must encourage teams to have a growth mindset; they also need to establish the right culture for their teams where they can embrace experiments and learn from failures. As a next step, the leadership team needs to understand all the operations and processes within their organisation to identify the areas where digital transformation will have the biggest impact, and assign a leader for each project.
How can digital transformation help production teams and entertainment professionals provide better opportunities in terms of talent and culture?
When businesses embrace transformation and implement innovative solutions, they create a cultural shift in their organisation that appeals to talented and creative minds, especially the younger people who are digital natives and more data-driven in their decisions.
What do you think about the need for online privacy due to streaming and e-commerce in the region?
Protecting people’s personal data doesn’t have to be at odds with business growth. Google introduced the Privacy Sandbox initiative, which aims to create web technologies that both protect people’s privacy online and give companies and developers the tools to build thriving digital businesses to keep the web open and accessible to everyone. This will not only promote business growth for companies but could also increase competition in the sector overall, by making it a healthier place to advertise and grow while still meeting consumers’ expectations.
Today, Chrome and others have offered more than 30 proposals, and four of those proposals are available in origin trials.
“With the huge acceleration of streaming and online content, privacy and safety are vital. Protecting people’s personal data doesn’t have to be at odds with business growth”- Nourah AlFayez, Head of Transformation, Google MENA
What is quickly changing in terms of online consumer behaviour?
The need for immediate satisfaction – Consumers now expect to get or find what they want immediately, as people’s attention spans continue to shorten. This is why shorter content is becoming more popular, especially when it comes to entertainment, from YouTube Shorts to TikTok and Instagram Reels. The lack of patience also leads to cross-screen viewing as boredom drives people to check social media, for example, while watching TV or other platforms. Bringing these together seamlessly is an important aspect to consider, like being able to reach someone on their phone based on what they are consuming on TV.
Likewise, from an e-commerce perspective we continue to witness providers offering same-day delivery options. We also expect to see more integration between e-commerce and media, where you can purchase products you see via the content you are consuming, all within one platform.
Shifting from ‘the best’ to ‘the best for me’ – We saw an increase in searches for ‘the best’ among users, where they’ve previously prioritised looking for ‘the cheapest’ products. As people are looking to find products that answer their specific needs, they will start expecting better customisation to their needs and wants. The recent trend of “choose your ending” films, for example, is reflecting this same interest. Consumers want to have a say, and they want products to meet their likes and dislikes more closely.
Conscientious consumption – Consumers are now more vocal about their own values, and they will resist buying from a brand that goes against their values, whether related to wellbeing, discrimination and eco-friendliness, among others.
How can regional entertainment providers leverage first-party data to adapt to changes in consumer behaviour?
Entertainment providers that cover multiple geographies will have to factor in the different privacy regulations applied to each country and determine the best way to abide by them all. This increases the importance of first-party data and being able to surface insights from them.
In our region, people meters are still nascent, which means we don’t yet have a unified view across all broadcasters to understand the viewership patterns. But those with OTT offerings or online streaming services can access immediate data about their consumers’ watch trends, which allows them to be agile and to respond quickly to changing consumer behaviours and preferences.
Do you think we are headed to an era with a need for creative people who can adapt to being digital natives?
We’ve been living in this era for some time. Unfortunately, many creative agencies have not yet adapted, and this has created a sizeable gap for this expertise in the MENA market. We rarely see tech and data being considered in the ideation process at many creative agencies, which means they miss out on developing concepts that are innovative, powered by technology and can be measured effectively.
As the head of digital transformation, what is the most essential strategy when going digital?
Never lose sight of the problem you are trying to solve. Adopting technology for the sake of it is pointless; digital transformation is a way to achieve your goals in a more effective way. Also, keep in mind that there is no end point to digital transformation, so you should always have your finger on the pulse of your industry and tech developments, to identify the best opportunities for your business.