INTERVIEW: Influencer marketing has matured a lot in the region – Arab News
DUBAI: AnyMind Group, a brand enablement platform for influencers, marketers, publishers and businesses, recently announced new updates to its influencer marketing platform, AnyTag, which it launched at the beginning of this year.
Since launching the AnyTag platform for marketers and the AnyCreator mobile app for influencers in the Middle East and North Africa region, the company has seen significant growth with a current database of more than 5000 influencers across 11 countries, and agency partners and marketers including Pizza Hut and Talabat.
The new features on AnyTag include automated recommendations of similar influencers through lookalike modeling of an influencer’s content, the detection of brands an influencer has worked with in the past, and the identification and visualization of hashtags an influencer frequently uses.
AnyTag also has a social media analytics module that enables users to track key statistics on a brand’s own social media channels, together with competitor analysis, hashtag analysis and interactions analysis to identify the performance of mentioned and tagged posts of a brand by social media users.
Arab News spoke to Maha Mahdy, head of AnyTag for AnyMind Group in MENA, to discuss the evolution of influencer marketing from the days of YouTube and Facebook to Snapchat and TikTok.

Maha Mahdy, head of AnyTag for AnyMind Group in MENA. (Supplied)

Influencer marketing has been around for a while. How has it changed and where is it at today?
Over the past two years, influencer marketing got a really big boost in popularity; in part, due to the fact that there were a lot of budgets to spend, which would otherwise have been spent on things like events and so on, which got canceled.
There was also a huge shift in how influencer marketing operated in the past two years because everybody was adapting to the new normal. So, we saw people trying out different platforms and topics. For example, travel influencers were no longer traveling so they would talk about other topics such as fitness.
With that shift in platforms, formats and topics, brands started to jump on to see if there were new ways to work with influencers that didn’t necessarily fit the brand before.
One of the most interesting things about influencer marketing in the region is that it has matured a lot — both from a client and influencer perspective.
What does that maturity look like for clients and how is it reflected in the marketing?
If the target audience wants something, you need to find a way to give it to them and put your brand in the messaging. And so brands have started to let go of the reins; they held on very tightly for the past five years because it’s very difficult to trust somebody from outside the organization to communicate on your behalf.
But, it’s about finding that sweet spot — how do I, as a brand, give them (influencers) guidelines but then let them create the content? That’s massive maturity for a brand.
As marketers maintain that balancing act between their own corporate guidelines and influencers’ creative freedom, what are the things that they need to keep in mind when working with influencers?
One of the key things is to let go of the reins a little bit. Another thing that you would think is quite basic, but is still so important, is choosing the right influencer — it’s so crucial to select the right influencer to work with.
A lot of brands are still looking at the number of followers an influencer has, and quite frankly that doesn’t give you much on what an influencer can do for you. That’s why we have a multi-point, data-driven approach through the AnyTag platform wherein we look at everything from influencers’ engagement metrics to demographics.
There also needs to be brand synergy. When people see this person talking about your brand, does it make sense or does it look forced? We also look at things like their collaboration history, which includes whether they have worked with competitors or have bad-mouthed the brand in the past.
Looking at the platform side of influencer marketing, how has that changed from it being predominantly Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to now Snapchat and TikTok?
Selecting the right platform is one of the most important things when we’re planning out a campaign and that comes down to the target audience. We’re also looking at the category, so, for example, when it comes to fashion, we know Instagram is inspirational and aspirational; with gamers, it’s YouTube.
The target audience and category work hand in hand. So, if I’m looking to target Gen Z, instantly our first thought is exploring TikTok. However, if I want to communicate with Saudi moms, I have to integrate Snapchat, because these target groups live and breathe TikTok and Snapchat respectively.
Then there’s also the format. Using the same examples, Gen Z and Saudi moms both like quick content formats so TikTok and Snapchat make sense versus older millennials who would like a good 15-minute IGTV video on an interesting topic.
Is there any particular platform that outperforms others for influencer marketing?
Looking at the campaigns we have run on AnyTag, I can see a clear preference for Instagram in the MENA region. The reason for that is the ease of use of the platform, a very high level of data availability, and the numerous content formats. Instagram really won the game with content formats because it has everything from Stories, to photos, to different video formats like Reels, which is quick, and IGTV, which is long-form.
So, Instagram dominated the space but TikTok also cemented its position last year and YouTube will always be a strong player for the MENA region because there are really strong technology and gaming influencers, as well as children’s channels, on the platform. In Saudi Arabia, however, I would rank Snapchat as high as Instagram, but that’s only in KSA as we don’t see much demand for it outside the Kingdom.
LONDON: Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, considered by many to have revolutionized Italian journalism, died on Thursday at the age of 98.
In 1978, Scalfari founded La Repubblica, one of the country’s leading newspapers, where he held the position of editor-in-chief for its first 20 years.
La Repubblica changed Italian print media by helping popularize the tabloid format, which provided readers with an alternative to the more traditional broadsheet layout.
“Eugenio Scalfari combined the main qualities of La Repubblica’s editorial team: Innovation and reformism,” Maurizio Molinari, the current editor-in-chief of La Repubblica, told Arab News.
“Innovation in terms of the newspaper’s relationship with journalism, and reformism in its adherence to the values of liberal socialism and equality.”
The news of his death was reported by the paper he founded and announced by the Senate during a bill debate, where a minute of silence was held to honor one of the pioneers of Italian journalism.
“Between constant curiosity about new digital technologies, passion for the transformations of Italy, and attention to the European horizon, Scalfari’s words and thoughts made me aware of the strength and energy of the newspaper,” Molinari added.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi mourned the late journalist in a statement, saying that “Scalfari’s passing … leaves a gaping hole in our country’s public life.
“The clarity of his prose, and depth of his analyses (and) the courage of his ideas have accompanied Italians for over 70 years,” Draghi added, describing the journalist’s writings as “essential reading.”
Since its inception, the left-leaning Rome-based daily has achieved great success on Italy’s already crowded newsstands, and is praised by its readers for its fresh writing style and punchy headlines.
A law graduate, Scalfari began his career working for the influential postwar magazines Il Mondo and L’Europeo, before co-founding the Radical Party in 1955.
In October of the same year, he co-founded L’Espresso, one of Italy’s foremost news magazines.
He was highly praised for his writing, which consisted of weekly columns and investigative articles, in which he often explored controversial and difficult topics ranging from the economy to philosophy to religion.
LONDON: Nintendo announced on Thursday that the video gaming company signed an agreement to “acquire 100 percent of outstanding shares of Dynamo Pictures,” a Tokyo-based CG production studio.
In the statement, Nintendo said it is acquiring Dynamo with the intention “to strengthen the planning and production structure of visual content in the Nintendo group” and focus on developing “visual content utilizing Nintendo IP.”
The company expects to close the deal on Oct. 3 and will rename the production studio Nintendo Pictures under the new acquisition.
Dynamo Pictures was founded in 2011 and has a rich portfolio of projects including the animated “Pikmin” short movies — created in collaboration with Nintendo — as well as “Ghost in the Shell,” “Death Stranding,” “Monster Hunter: World,” “Final Fantasy XIII-2,” “Persona 5,” “Yuri on Ice,” “Earwig and the Witch” and more.
The acquisition comes as Nintendo prepares for the release of the widely anticipated animated movie based on the Super Mario Bros. franchise, which is expected to hit cinemas in April 2023.
The film, which will be produced by Illumination (Universal Pictures), stars Chris Pratt, Seth Rogan, and Anya Taylor-Joy and will be the first Mario movie in 30 years.
Nintendo’s acquisition of Dynamo Pictures also comes as other video game companies shift their interest towards the film and TV industry.
Earlier this year, Sony released a film based on the “Uncharted” games and is already in development on an HBO series based on the video game series “The Last of Us.”
In 2021 Riot Games debuted on Netflix with the animated series “Arcane,” a spinoff of the popular online game “League of Legends.”
Sega has also ventured into film and animation, with multiple “Sonic the Hedgehog” productions released or currently in development.
Experts believe that by purchasing the video production studio, Nintendo is acquiring the freedom to produce its own content and is likely preparing for a future where film and TV shows based on its gaming titles will be produced in-house.
LONDON: Facebook owner Meta released its first annual human rights report on Thursday, following years of accusations that it turned a blind eye to online abuses that fueled real-world violence in places like India and Myanmar.
The report, which covers due diligence performed in 2020 and 2021, includes a summary of a controversial human rights impact assessment of India that Meta commissioned law firm Foley Hoag to conduct.
Human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have demanded the release of the India assessment in full, accusing Meta of stalling in a joint letter sent in January.
In its summary, Meta said the law firm had noted the potential for “salient human rights risks” involving Meta’s platforms, including “advocacy of hatred that incites hostility, discrimination, or violence.”
The assessment, it added, did not probe “accusations of bias in content moderation.”
Ratik Asokan, a representative from India Civil Watch International who participated in the assessment and later organized the joint letter, told Reuters the summary struck him as an attempt by Meta to “whitewash” the firm’s findings.
“It’s as clear evidence as you can get that they’re very uncomfortable with the information that’s in that report,” he said. “At least show the courage to release the executive summary so we can see what the independent law firm has said.”
Human Rights Watch researcher Deborah Brown likewise called the summary “selective” and said it “brings us no closer” to understanding the company’s role in the spread of hate speech in India or commitments it will make to address the issue.
Rights groups for years have raised alarms about anti-Muslim hate speech stoking tensions in India, Meta’s largest market globally by number of users.
Meta’s top public policy executive in India stepped down in 2020 following a Wall Street Journal report that she opposed applying the company’s rules to Hindu nationalist figures flagged internally for promoting violence.
In its report, Meta said it was studying the India recommendations, but did not commit to implementing them as it did with other rights assessments.
Asked about the difference, Meta Human Rights Director Miranda Sissons pointed to United Nations guidelines cautioning against risks to “affected stakeholders, personnel or to legitimate requirements of commercial confidentiality.”
“The format of the reporting can be influenced by a variety of factors, including security reasons,” Sissons told Reuters.
Sissons, who joined Meta in 2019, said her team is now comprised of eight people, while about 100 others work on human rights with related teams.
In addition to country-level assessments, the report outlined her team’s work on Meta’s COVID-19 response and Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses, which involved flagging possible privacy risks and effects on vulnerable groups.
Sissons said analysis of augmented and virtual reality technologies, which Meta has prioritized with its bet on the “metaverse,” is largely taking place this year and would be discussed in subsequent reports.
LONDON: Amazon, seeking to resolve two European Union antitrust investigations, has promised to treat third-party merchants on its website fairly, the bloc’s competition watchdog said Thursday.
The US online retail giant offered to make a number of commitments to ease competition concerns, and the European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s top antitrust enforcer, said it will now seek feedback on them from “interested parties.”
The commission launched an investigation four years ago over concerns Amazon breached EU competition rules by using data from merchants selling products on its platform to gain an unfair advantage over them.
It also opened a separate investigation into whether Amazon favors its own retail business and merchants that use its logistics and delivery system over other sellers.
The investigations are part of the bloc’s wider efforts to curb the power of big technology companies. Amazon also is facing similar scrutiny in the US
Amazon said that while it disagreed with several of the conclusions, it has “engaged constructively with the commission to address their concerns and preserve our ability to serve European customers and the more than 185,000 European small- and medium-sized businesses selling through our stores.”
The company also said it has “serious concerns” about new EU digital regulations, known as the Digital Markets Act, that it said are “unfairly targeting Amazon and a few other US companies.” The act, part of the EU’s overhaul of its digital rulebook, aims to prevent tech giants from becoming dominant by making them treat smaller rivals fairly under threat of hefty fines.
Under the commission’s investigation, Amazon had faced a possible fine of up to 10 percent of its annual worldwide revenue, which could have amounted to billions of dollars.
Britain’s competition watchdog opened a similar probe into Amazon last week, looking into concerns that the online retailer is abusing its dominance to undermine rivals.
The EU commission suspected Amazon of distorting competition by accessing and analyzing real-time data from independent vendors selling goods on its platform to help decide which new products of its own to launch and how to price and market them.
To address the problem, Amazon has promised to refrain from using “non-public data” from the vendors’ activities to compete with them through its own sales of branded goods or “private label” products.
To settle the second investigation, Amazon committed to allowing sellers on its Prime membership service to use any logistics and delivery company of their choosing and to set “non-discriminatory” criteria for who gets chosen to sell on Prime.
The company also promised to give equal treatment to all sellers when ranking their product offers for the site’s “buy box,” which lets shoppers add items directly to their shopping baskets. The box features a single seller’s product even though multiple merchants might offer the item, so Amazon also is promising to show a second, competing offer to give consumers more choice.
If accepted, Amazon’s commitments would remain in force for five years. The commission is receiving feedback on the proposals until Sept. 9.
Amazon’s dominance is also a concern across the Atlantic. In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating how the company disclosed some of its business practices, including how it handles seller data.
A month prior, federal lawmakers had asked the Justice Department for a criminal probe into the tech giant’s testimony over its competitive practices. In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, the House Judiciary Committee accused Amazon of attempting to “influence, obstruct or impede” a congressional investigation into the company’s market dominance, a charge the company denies.
Simultaneously, federal lawmakers are leading a push to pass bipartisan legislation aiming to rein in anticompetitive practices from Amazon, Google, Meta and Apple.
SAN FRANCISCO: The US securities regulator quizzed Elon Musk last month over a tweet in which the world’s richest person raised doubts over whether he would move ahead with his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter Inc. due to concerns over the number of fake users on the platform.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asked Musk in a letter whether he should have amended his public filing to reflect his intention to suspend or abandon the deal, according to the June 2 letter made public on Thursday.
The agency was referring to his May 17 tweet in which he said the “deal cannot move forward” until Twitter provided more data about how the company handled fake accounts.
The letter shows the SEC has been tracking Musk’s statements on the blockbuster deal, increasing pressure on the Tesla Inc. boss who has been locked in a feud with the SEC over his tweets about Tesla since 2018. The agency already has several open probes into Musk, according to court filings and media reports.
The SEC said in the letter it had inquired about the May 17 tweet with Musk’s legal counsel the following day, but had not received a response more than two weeks later. The SEC added if Musk did not respond, it may decide to release publicly all correspondence, including the letter.
Musk’s lawyers said in a June 7 letter that the tweet did not require an amendment because Musk’s plans for the deal had not changed at that time.
Musk said on Friday he was terminating the deal because the social media company had breached multiple provisions of the merger agreement, although on Tuesday Twitter sued Musk alleging he had broken the terms of the deal and made misleading statements about its operations.
Securities lawyers said they expected the SEC would scrutinize Musk’s public statements on the deal to assess whether he misled the market as to his intentions, Reuters reported on Thursday.
In April, the SEC asked Musk whether the disclosure of his Twitter stake was late and why it indicated that he intended to be a passive shareholder. Musk later refiled the disclosure to indicate he was an active investor.


Leave a Comment