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2014 in review

If this year taught us anything, it was that great stories come in all sizes. The Resolution MENA team got together to present you with their 2014 in review, giving us their thoughts on the most groundbreaking developments of the year. We list the top 5 in no particular order:

SERIAL TAKES THE WORLD BY STORM

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Surprise smash-hit podcast Serial grabbed the world’s attention. It quickly became a gripping, overnight cult sensation, with widespread discussion on social media. I was hooked and utterly fascinated. Why?

  1. The storytelling was superb: We heard a real-life murder mystery unfold every week, via a podcast, while taking cues and clues from social media sources. New people revealed themselves, fresh evidence turned up and lawyers discussed the story with family members. It was a masterclass in investigative journalism.
  2. It was unlikely: In the age of video, a humble podcast stole the content limelight. Instead of Twitter, Reddit was the place to be. Instead of Instagram, we had to follow Imgur. It provided a great lesson in being brave and forthright; of claiming a medium and using it to its full potential. As brilliantly parodied in this Funny or Die clip, Sarah says, “What do you want!? I do a podcast! It was supposed to be for four people! Do you think that, if this was going to be something, I’d have MAILCHIMP sponsor us?!” Which brings me to my third point – brand integration.
  3. Mailchimp are laughing all the way to the bank: In another unique turn, the podcast’s sponsor has become about as big as the show, complete with its own meme (#mailkimp). This easy-going, light ad is so simple, yet it’s caught the hearts and minds of listeners. Why? I think it’s a combination of things. It’s a good fit with both the audience and the intention behind Serial.

The takeout for me is dear to my heart as a marketer. Be brave. Be bold. Look beyond the ordinary. Serial encompasses all that delightfully!

Meredith Tuqan, Group Director – Content

FACEBOOK ACQUIRES WHATSAPP

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The highlight of this year in social, content and mobile has to be Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp. The tech company has gradually grown in popularity to become one of the most widely used mobile messaging service, with over 600 million monthly active users. So why do we think it is exciting?

  • Endless possibilities for integration: WhatsApp made assurances at an early stage that the service will remain autonomous and operate independently. However, Facebook has always pioneered the way we use social media. We’ve seen the results of their combined efforts with Instagram, as well as their acquisition of Oculus rift, where both scenarios have influenced the way we consume and share media. These tech giants could reshape the way we communicate, as well as jumpstart a movement that extends the way we connect with each other and the world around us.
  • Changing the way we connect: According to Mark Zuckerberg, “the acquisition supports Facebook and WhatsApp’s shared mission to bring more connectivity and utility to the world by delivering core internet services efficiently and affordably.” Why would a social media platform, with a messaging capability of its own, go for another messaging platform? Facebook has always been interested in connecting people. International growth, particularly in the developing world, has recently become a prime objective of the company, making WhatsApp’s user base invaluable.
  • The newest [and biggest] traffic driver: This report from the Neiman Journalism Lab (we love NJL, by the way) shows a hidden side to WhatsApp—the app has been a major traffic driver, sometimes even bigger than Facebook itself. Maybe this social dark horse’s power comes as a surprise, but it certainly has momentum. The ever expanding user base could completely change content distribution (publishers like BuzzFeed discovered that effectively targeted native ads on social media platforms can set off a chain reaction of social traffic). Combine that with chat app sharing and you have content magic.

The potential for growth the messaging app has opened for Facebook is undeniable and they’ve only just begun tapping into it. It’s for us to wait and see what future holds for WhatsApp.

Samer Chehab, Associate Director – Content; Khaled Sharrouf, Manager – Content; Rishna Patel, Manager – Mobile & Web

THE YEAR OF THE BEACON
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This was the year of mobile collaborating with beacons to bridge the gap between online and offline across different industries. Beacon technology has opened a lot of doors for marketers and they have particularly embraced it this year.

One of the most interesting examples of this comes from McDonald’s. This year, on Cyber Monday in the USA, the company saw an 8% increase in sales for certain products due to the strategic positioning of beacons in 17 of their stores in Columbus, Georgia. The overall results from the test were convincing enough for the quick-service restaurant to roll out beacons in 263 other locations. By enabling mobile payments and instant offer redemptions, the company saw increased buy-in from consumers. Data shows that 60% of enabled users open and engage with beacon content and over 30% redeem the offers in stores. A survey found that 60% of shoppers would buy more as a result of receiving beacon-triggered marketing messages. The beauty of beacons is that you have to opt-in to the experience. As long as the content is fresh and instantly munchable, users will continue accepting them.

Satrajit Duttagupta, Manager – Mobile & Web

BRAND BUILDING THROUGH SEO AND SOCIAL

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How Google measures brand authority and popularity has always been a subject of debate over the past couple of years, whether it be measuring the number of links pointing to a website or how the brand is mentioned across the entire web. Of all the algorithm updates that Google released this year, Penguin was the most interesting. Google made it very clear that the traditional link-building rating is not as strong a factor anymore and the update began to penalize any site with manipulative link strategies.

It is no secret that social media is playing a superhero role for reputation building, especially after the launch of the Hummingbird update in 2013. But it doesn’t stop there. Several factors now contribute to brand visibility over the Internet, as well as how Google measures its existence and display results in a tangible way. While social media producers are giving their utmost to provide audiences with quality content to boost awareness, Google+ expanded brand visibility on search engines with reviews, maps, hashtag results, etc. If the search updates of this year have proven one thing, it’s that SEO can no longer rely on traditional methods of link building. Moving forward, the only way to win the organic visibility war is through brand building.

Bemoi George, Senior Executive – SEO

THE CLASH OF THE MEDIA TITANS

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Throughout 2014, Google aggressively branched out of search to take on Amazon by developing its e-commerce platform, with services including home delivery (Google Express). They also had new advertising formats, suited to retailers; here are some examples of this:

  • Product Listing Ads: Released in 2014, this tool showed up in Google searches, directing users to online retailers. These listings give retailers more control over when their ads appear in the Google Search engine and for products that the retailer chooses. In addition to this, Google also released tools that let retailers highlight the nearest physical store to the search user’s location.
  • AdSense for Shopping: In September, Google launched AdSense for Shopping, allowing retailers to display product ads on third-party websites. This was in direct competition to Amazon and part of Google’s on-going efforts to enable seamless tracking, from the served ad to the final delivery of the actual product.

As the search company continues to diversify, the battle between the media/tech giants continues to intensify. The fight to become the one-stop shop for everything has only just begun, as more companies throw their hats in the ring. We cannot wait to see who finally comes out on top.

Dominic Lynch, Operations Director – Programmatic