ITP Media Group is hosting the UAE’s first Influencer Marketing Summit this morning at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai Marina, chaired by the BBC broadcaster Andrew Neil.
The event will see high profile social media stars such as Joelle Mardinian giving the first keynote speech, while also examining how influencers and brands can work together, and issues of transparency and legislation.
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12.30pm: Andrew Neil brings the day's discussion to a close. Further stories and analysis in Arabian Business magazine and online.
11.50 am: Andrew Neil asks Alanoud Badr, Founder, Lady Fozaza and Mohanad Alwadiya, managing director, Harbour Real Estate, "How an influencer chooses to work with brands?"
Badr says: “I only promote a brand if it complements me and my mission. It’s a marriage… the brand and influencer has to work together. I sit and discuss the matter so we can reach a unified goal.”
Alwadiya says: “Often I get brands approaching me to promote their products on my social media channels, TV or radio show. But if I am not convinced, I do reject their offer.”
Neil asks a question on “who influences the influencer”, Khalid Al Ameri, a motivational speaker and youth coach, says he is influenced by unsung heroes.
“There are a lot of people who come here and achieve a lot. Look at the people who are not on the forefront but when you talk to them you learn a lot and get influenced.
Alwadiya says: "I am influenced by Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed. He is a role model for Dubai."
10.45am: Andrew Neil asks the panel if anything in the legal discussion came as a surprise.
Anthony Permal, Multi-channel and Digital Marketing Manager, GlaxoSmithKline admits that there's an issue with healthcare industry. "It’s a huge concern and we need to have a conversation now."
Dimitre Metaxas, Managing Director, Resolution MENA, reveals that one of his friend’s blogs was considered defamatory. "He was facing a criminal case and so he needed to change his terms and conditions to please the authority and had to take off the content," he says.
Neil asks the panelists how they measure their return on investment on social influencers.
"We tend to look deeper into it," says Dimitre Metaxas, Managing Director, Resolution MENA. "There are social tools to understand so it is much more beyond the likes and shares … these are immediate ripple effect. There are tools that capture data every time an influencer says something about the product. It's technical, but its statistical."
Neil asks how region compares to the rest of the world. Alex Malouf, Corporate Communications and Reputation Manager, Arabian Peninsula, Procter & Gamble, says Kuwait was the first to start with influencers and then the UAE and Saudi.
"In the US and the UK it is a different game. They are ahead of us in terms of engagement process, matrix and in terms of legislation and best practices," he says.
10.20am: Next up is a panel discussion on 'Transparency in social media'. Taking part are Alex Malouf, Corporate Communications and Reputation Manager, Arabian Peninsula, Procter & Gamble, and Vice-Chair of the Middle East Public Relations Association; Dimitre Metaxas, Managing Director, Resolution MENA; Anthony Permal, Multi-channel and Digital Marketing Manager, GlaxoSmithKline.
10.10am: On the issue of employment law, Wilkinson poses the question: Are you using an influencer is he/she your employee?
"We have seen funny decision. It is an employment relationship," he says. "For influencers, there is a question on how they can do it legally.
"There are questions on freelancing or part-time. Most business activities need to be licensed. We have seen DED cracking down on home businesses then there is a probability of such a crackdown on such profession [influencers]."
10am: Dino Wilkinson, Technology, Media & Telecoms Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright, speaking about legislation, regulation and standards when it comes to social media.
What are the risks?
"I should say from start that a brand has a relation with the influencer. They go to them because they are genuine but they are some guidelines that we will look at," says Wilkinson.
Looking at advertising laws, Wilkinson says, "Influencers are not adverts but they benefit for brands. In the UAE, the main law is the publications law and you have guideline from National Media Council. We have the cybercrime law and they put restrictions on certain materials. All the laws apply to all free zones. These regulations can touch on influencers and when the campaign becomes advertisement.
"National Media Council regulations apply to all adverts. It is very clear criticism of state or flag is not allowed …if you are approving Trump anti-Muslim post… that will not go well with the authorities here so be clear of it."
He says legally claims fall on influencer and brands if the post seems to be an advertisement. "Remember, it is all about Honesty, respect, transparency and disclosure," he says.
Are are getting to issue of product liability, he asks.
"You don’t exercise control on influencers, but if you don’t have control then you hand it over to anybody you have to be conscious," says Wilkinson.
"If you don’t then you get product claims and liabilities. In world of beauty and medical products, there is a limitation to what can be said and statements have to be backed legally. If you say brand A is better than brand B, then you have to careful even if it’s on social media.
"Criminal liability is a scary one. Whatever contract you have with an influencer and if the influencer does something criminal then you face liability. You have to be careful of what influencers say something about the products. Checks are important on influencers and to safeguard."
9.40am: In conversation with Andrew Neil Joelle Mardinian, CEO, Joelle Group, says when she started working with Max Factor, people did not know the product and she had a lot of convincing to do.
Andrew Neil asks if she has turned down lot of brands. She says when the brand may not elevate her own brand name, she says 'no'.
"It is to protect my brand and they should protect their name and what is the important money or brand name?" she says.
Neil asks if brands let you promote their brands as you want to.
"I have a struggle with the agency and not brands. No one from agency understands makeup and salons as I do," she says. "Advertising must be convincing, honest," she adds.
"It works if they give flexibility to the social influencer but not when they give us rigid guidelines."
9.25am: "I want to let people see how I think how I grab businesses and look for new opportunities," says Joelle Mardinian.
"When it comes to sponsorship I am super careful. Before there was no social media, so brands looked for actors and personalities. I wanted to look for a big contract. They might watch but not believe what I am saying and preaching … so it is a very tricky thing and it takes a lot of thought and planning and they I wake up I have to think what I have to post. It is a full time job."
She says social media works is you have a "strong voice".
9.15am: Joelle Mardinian, CEO, Joelle Group, who has over 5 million followers on social media, says she takes her various social media platforms very seriously.
“I don’t have a personal Facebook and I won’t have it,” she reveals.
“From day one I am using media for business purposes and I love the fact and celebrity for 13 years and I could on to show my audience and fans only through my show. Twitter gave me a powerful voice,” says Mardinian.
She says Twitter was good at at being able to influence her fans, but then came Instagram, where everything has to be perfect.
“It’s all about pictures and I became addicted to Instagram,” she says. “I show my fans what I like to eat, clothes that I wear, socialising.
“Social media platforms are genuine and I have shared my lifestyle and how my ex-husband enjoying with my son though it was controversial but I want to share my voice and my bond with my fans.”
9.05am: Andrew Neil, Chairman, ITP Media Group, opens the first ITP Influencer Marketing Summit.
“We are looking for digital age and we are looking at importantly for social influence as a brand,” says Neil.
“We have signed up 27 influencers and sweet of the opportunities to brand and market our ITP projects. We see a remarkable opportunities and we bring a trusted mainstream media brands and benefits of our clients.”
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