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Sun 9 Jul 2017 10:23 AM

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ITP Live is perfectly positioned to be driving the social influencer industry

As one of the region’s largest media companies, our vow is to continue to operate in a transparent manner to help the local digital community do what’s right, says ITP Media Group CEO Ali Akawi

ITP Live is perfectly positioned to be driving the social influencer industry
Style and substance: Renowned fashion blogger Zeynab El Helw represents herself as a modern-day influencer.

The media world is changing. Everyone knows that. But the question is what are we going to do about it?

Having been at ITP Media Group for the past 17 years, I know how dramatic the shift has been. I vividly remember the scene just a decade ago, when most of us were still just curious about a new platform called Facebook, which had only launched in 2004. The same year saw Google go to the stock market, making many of us take real notice of the search engine for the first time.

Imagine a world today without Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, etc. You just can’t. The new digital era, social media and mass media consumption, has completely altered the way brands connect with consumers, and for companies like ours, how they spend their marketing dollars.

And a decade from now? Well, as you will read in this special issue of Arabian Business, influencer marketing is turning out to be the biggest game changer. The simple fact is, and one we can’t escape from, is that influencers are now becoming a real force when it comes to brand endorsements.

Data from influencer marketing platform MuseFind last year showed that 92 percent of consumers trust an influencer more that they would a more standard celebrity endorsement.

As the CEO of one of the largest media groups in the region, this should give me sleepless nights. But it doesn’t. On the contrary, it is the greatest opportunity for us to go forward and serve our clients and our region like never before.

The magical mix between mainstream media and social media is the key to success, in my opinion.

And we, at ITP Media Group, could not have been in a better place, 30 years in, to take the bull by the horns and lead the industry in the GCC.

We decided to launch ITP Live — the social influencer agency – a division of ITP Media Group launched in January this year. It already has 32 influencers with a reach of more than 15 million.

The new social influencer agency operates across the GCC and has quickly started working with such brands as DTCM, P&G, L’Oreal, Unilever, Samsung, AGMC and HP —  with great feedback from our clients. We use a combination of influencer marketing with traditional main stream media proving to generate the highest engagement and reach for our customers.

We have a mix of highly talented digital content creators covering every sector of the market. We signed the cream of the crop in each field.

We have designers, YouTube stars, business-thought leaders, CEOs, beauty ambassadors, fashionistas, sports heads, property experts and many more.

Today, ITP Media Group delivers quality, up-to-date content to its viewers, readers, delegates and guests through digital, print, events, awards programmes, video content and our own social media platforms. The trick, or the challenge, is to work with influencers across all our platforms offering the client a much larger reach with the highest engagement levels possible to drive through real return of investments.

At ITP Live, the influencer business is a full-time job, and our team is focussed on growing our influencers reach, expanding their client’s base and enhancing their own brand through collaboration with other influencers as well as with the 80 plus brands we own. Nowhere else can that be done. That is why we are uniquely positioned to play an even bigger role as a company in today’s and tomorrow’s ever changing world.

Having said this, the coming few years will bring their own unique challenges to our media industry. The first of these are the legal ones. We all know the issues when it comes to fake followers, and the debate over whether influencers should declare if they have been paid for specific postings.

As it stands, the market in this region is both in its infancy and unregulated. Should it be regulated? Should legislation be considered? I believe there is a case for this; and, in the months ahead, ITP Live will not just contribute to the debate, but will help move it forward.

Through our website, we are delivering back to the market, on a daily basis, the latest trends and insights from the industry. Whilst everyone else is on a learning curve, ITP Live has already established itself as the benchmark for the industry and the educator.

Today’s digital world offers us complete transparency and we embrace that transparency at ITP Media Group. The future is only going to be more difficult for traditional media companies. Brands will always want to find the most effective way to connect with consumers, and will always spend money to do so.

Social media, in general, and influencers, specifically, have in the past two years become a huge part of that ecosystem. In my view, their slice of the cake is only going to get bigger and we are happy to include that in our overall offering to our region, partners and clients.

Ali Akawi, CEO of ITP Media Group.