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Wahid Omer – Toffee PVT

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Transcript


Asil

Hi everybody, and welcome to another episode of Turbo Thinker. So today, we’re going to be talking about digital media in a new era of influence. And believe-you-me, it is definitely going to be a new era for all of us. I’m delighted to be joined by Wahid Omer – a digital media marketing expert, a diversity advocate, and a digital monetization strategist. Wahid has worked with the likes of Google, Adidas, and L’Oréal, to name a few. Salaam aleikum.

Wahid

Wa aleikum al salaam

.

Asil

Welcome to Turban Thinker.

Wahid

Thank you. Thank you for having me and yeah, I’m excited to share my views. Especially because I’ve kind of been going a bit crazy during the lockdown so it’s given me something else to do. So brilliant- thank you.

Asil

 Yeah, it’s a fantastic time to really – actually – engage and a great medium for us to reach out to all the network, and get everybody’s insights, and how they’re feeling actually as we’re going through all of these surreal times. But first of all, I want to make sure that yourself and your family are all well – safe and sound. 

Wahid

Yes.

Asil

Thank you so much for taking the interview.

Wahid

No, that’s fine. Everyone is great. I think I was actually telling you this in my call with you a couple of weeks ago. The first week was really difficult because obviously, we’re used to kind of being out and about, and doing things in our business and in the business world. Nine to five – Monday through Friday. Now being here –  ten days of being in shutdown mode and kind of in each other’s face constantly – 24 hours of the day.

Asil

You’re surviving to tell the tale!

Wahid

(light-hearted laughing) I think we’ve come out of it stronger and better as well.

Asil

Well, we’re not over it yet so it’s definitely going to trial – you know – your relationship.

Wahid

Yeah, I know. Exactly.

Asil

Obviously, it’s – you know – it’s fantastic that so many people have realized that you can work from home. And actually, that’s going to be – I’m sure – everybody talks about one of the key changes for many businesses that as we go into our very near future. So let me just get right into it, Wahid.

Wahid

Sure.

Asil

So we’re talking about digital transformation in this new era. And one of the things that I definitely have felt over the number of years now is that digital transformation – as we know it – has changed the way that many organizations operate. And social media really is ruling and running our day-to-day life. I mean, every day, we wake up in the morning and the first thing we do is we get onto our smartphone and we start to get into social media. We’re bombarded with messages, with products, with brands, with individuals. And for some reason or another, over the last couple of years or maybe two or three years, we’ve definitely felt this pressure – this constant pressure to be perfect. And really, social media is playing a role in this unrealistic reality  – that’s what I call it. So, I was looking at some stats the other day and I was amazed to see that six and a half hours of our day – I mean, for me it’s no more than a half-hour, I can tell you that but maybe because I’m post-50 and old school – but six and a half hours a day, everybody’s on their smartphones or on some digital platform.

Wahid

Mhm.

Asil

And I’m sure – certainly – over the last few months and weeks, it’s definitely going to be around ten hours a day, if not more. So how do you believe – one of my first questions is – how do you believe that this pandemic is going to change the face of digital media? And I know it’s a really broad question. And this concept of following obsessively, how do you think this is going to affect our day to day lives for businesses, individuals, everything?

Wahid

Well I think first and foremost -you know – we’re in the information age and now more than ever. Because – you know – this isn’t the first pandemic that’s occurred, even in the last decade. You know – you look at swine flu, you look at Ebola, you look at Zika – you know – all of these pandemics have struck over the last ten years. However, the difference was social media wasn’t as prevalent, especially in the earlier times. And what we found was now more than ever, everyone is constantly looking for information. And we’ve even seen the style of government change. Even how they’re relaying information and the relationship with the media – you know – these daily briefings, and these daily continued information, Q&A sessions with the media and the government. This is unprecedented. It never used to be like this – historically. But now, the governments – you know – they understand that this is necessary. They need to sate the appetite for the general public to have information and to have an understanding. And also – it’s two ways, right? What you’re finding is, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. And that’s even more dangerous than not having information. So what they’re having to do is, they’re having to make sure that because of – you know – you’ve got these concerns. For example – my parents. My parents themselves do it – they don’t actually review messages that they receive via WhatsApp. You know, they get something in their inbox and before you know it, they’ve shared it and forward it on without actually checking if it’s real. And these are the kind of things that so many people out there are doing this. And this causes real, real problems. But yeah, no. I think in terms of what we’re seeing now is – you know – already Twitter.  We know Twitter. They for example, if we look at – moving away from the pandemic – but if we look at Twitter banning political ads, that was a great step that they took. Admittedly, political ads for Jack Dorsey – CEO of Twitter – political ads made up less than 10 percent of the revenue that they generated. However, that was a great start. You look at TikTok. TikTok, in terms of the traction that TikTok has gained – gaining in terms of the numbers – it’s amazing. I think there is no other social media platform that has scaled as aggressively and as effectively as TikTok has. And one of the key things that they did was they said – you know, we’re not going to run any political advertising campaigns. Because to be honest – in real-time – it’s too difficult to fact check. You know, we saw Mark Zuckerberg which his thoughts were – no we won’t stop. And we saw all of this during the 2016 presidential campaign in the U.S. 

Asil

I mean, Wahid, how much is too much right? Because my point being is that it’s become an obsessive reality. You know, we’re constantly on it. I mean, I actually miss the days when we just had newspapers and had a phone call, and actually – you know – were conversing with each other and not just obsessively following. And I guess to everything – obviously – there’s pros and cons, but do we not feel that we’re at a point where the tipping scale is more cons than pros? I mean  -yes – all the social media platforms have provided some tremendous opportunities and obviously, a fantastic means of communication and speed. Speed is the other thing. But my point is, are we getting to exaggeration where – I mean which other platform is coming up next? You know, how obsessive are going are we going to be? And how do you think today’s current circumstance – specifically – is going to play to the existing platforms, and platforms that are going to be coming up very soon, I’m sure?

Wahid

No, exactly. It is a double-edged sword, right? I think more than anything – I think the message that needs to be put across, and this is what I’m hoping for and this is what I’m looking for from the leadership teams within these social platforms, is responsible usage. And you’re right – it can be too much. And unfortunately, especially with the companies that are public companies, for them they’re more driven by bringing return to their investors. And unfortunately – therefore – sometimes the right thing doesn’t happen. And you know, I was talking earlier. I was just saying – Zuckerberg – that’s exactly what he did. Facebook was leveraged to the max by the various political parties. However, rather than clamping down on it the way Twitter did it, Mark Zuckerberg said he doesn’t want to restrain and he wants freedom of speech. And therefore, there are so many bad players. Elizabeth Warren – people talk about her in such positive light but she’s one of them. She is one of the most famous instances where she ran a number of ad campaigns which had completely false information on Facebook. But you’re right. You know, there needs to be more responsible usage across social media. And I think as far as people progressing – let’s bear in mind these platforms are in their infancy – when people are still navigating their way across these platforms. And we’ll find – as with any trend – normally they burn quick and fast, and then slowly and surely you will find that people normalize their behavior across these. And we are seeing it – we’re seeing it with Facebook. We’ve seen it with Twitter. And the same thing – we’ll see it across the rest of the various platforms. I speak to a number of brands and I speak to a number of marketers, and especially during this COVID pandemic – you know – I’ve had conversations with the likes of Universal Movies, GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever, Google, L’Oréal – all of them. And they’ve all completely, completely changed their strategy for their marketing during this pandemic. So you know, all the plans that were in place and some of these pieces of activity were planned more than a year ago – they’ve changed it because they understand that, actually, this isn’t the time for it – now more than ever – it’s about bringing positive vibes. The only types of marketing activity you’re seeing from these brands and the majority of it is actually, ways that they’re trying to give back to their consumers, and to the general public. And that’s by raising awareness – trying to work with the various local governments in terms of supporting the lockdown and people acting responsibly. And what we’re seeing is – a number of these brands – they’re all banding together and using social in a positive manner. And they’re not pushing their agendas in terms of their product lines or whatever their latest product is. That’s not what’s happening. They’ve all changed tact. And what they’re now running – or a majority – are running campaigns which in effect are trying to help humanity, which is the responsible thing to do.

Asil

Fantastic. So that very nicely leads me to my next question. Obviously – you know – your specialty and expertise is on diversity and inclusion. And that’s a hot topic for the last – gosh – at least five years. But I want to know from your perspective. This is a very unusual circumstance like we started in the beginning of the conversation, and saying the whole world has actually come together. The whole world is standing united – everybody is experiencing the same thing. So what is that going to mean for organizations in your quest for diversity and inclusion? Now that the world has stood together, held hands, and like I said, are sharing these experiences? And obviously, through digital media, they get to share it even more and they realize we’re not so different after all. So how do you think that’s going to – I hope – positively impact diversity, and inclusion, in the workplace? 

Wahid

Absolutely. So I’ve been in this space probably since 2005 is when I first started really waving the flag for diversity within the marketing industry. And in the last 15 years, things have changed dramatically. Whereas initially, if you rewind back to 2005 when I was speaking to the various brands and the various agencies looking after the marketing budgets for 4D Tier One brands, the kind of response you’d get is they would say something along the lines of – oh well you know, we don’t need to focus on the various diversity audiences, we don’t need to market to black and minority ethnic different to how we market the general public because we get them anyway so we want to campaign on ITV or on Sky One, and we’re going to speak to everybody. That’s changed, 10-15 years on now. It’s a completely different -you know – they understand the value of actually marketing to the various demographics across media environments that they have an affinity with. So you know, I think Google did amazing – hats off and kudos to Google for actually putting this together – but they did a very comprehensive study looking at the advantages of running a marketing activity across ethnic minority groups within media environments that they have an affinity with. So for example, running a marketing campaign across websites or magazines or television channels which focus on the African Caribbean audience or focus on the Asian audiences – they discovered that they actually generate 2.7 times greater return on investment when they do that. Another thing – this is another study – and this is specifically more hopeful for British and for the UK public, but they did a study and they questioned – they had a panel that went out to four figures so in the thousands, of people who were interviewed for this – and however the results were 70 plus percent of British Asians and bare in minds British born Asians – we’re not talking about immigrants – British Asians feel that mainstream media isn’t applicable for them. It doesn’t talk to them – more than 70 plus percent. I said that’s absolutely incredible.

Asil

Wow, that’s phenomenal. 

Wahid

Exactly. So in terms of resonating with them – when marketing messages – to resonate more deeply with audiences, absolutely they should be marketed to the mediums that they’re most likely to consume or they have the closest relationship with. And I think one of the things – however – which we need to recognize is diversity in the workplace. Now, this is something that’s incredibly important. And I’m talking not only from the race perspective but also from the sector perspective – so in terms of the male-female split. We look at boardrooms, we look at directors within organizations, and we’re seeing yes admittedly, a number of companies are trying to act upon this and there’s positive action taking place in terms of recruitment to ensure that. 

Asil

I tell you what, Wahid, that’s the subject  I promise you we’re going to have a separate discussion because you’re talking to an empowered woman who is few and far between in a boardroom, right? So that’s one we’re going to part because I’m going to get totally heated on this subject and we need another 20 minutes just minimum to touch on it.

Wahid

(light-hearted laughing)

Asil

So I just want to know what your advice – just to reel it back to what we were discussing – what your advice to brands and businesses are, regarding the strategies? Because you mentioned, obviously they’ve taken a decision and a stance that they’re now going to regroup and re-strategize on their original year’s plans. But really, how do you think their focus and priorities should be? What would you be advising businesses?

Wahid

That’s exactly it. So one of the main things is – keep it authentic. Historically, you see brands – and sometimes it baffles me, how did this get through the various tiers of approval – so you know, for example, you’ll see in time and time again, you see certain times where there’s a newspaper article or a celebrity passing away or someone famous passing away and then below that or in the newspaper or on the actual website, you see an advert for a life insurance company. 

Asil

Yeah.

Wahid

You see, I think it was Tamara Ecclestone. Bernie Ecclestone – his daughter – her home was burgled, and the jewelry was robbed, and below the actual article in the newspaper – you saw an ad for a jeweler. And it was just like – you know – it’s evil.

Asil

Yeah.

Wahid

Incredibly smart – tongue-in-cheek smart, or is actually in bad taste. And I think most people agree it’s in bad taste. 

Asil

Definitely agree.

Wahid

In the same way – social media – you should be A.) you should be thinking along the lines of, how can I add value – how can I provide positive information? So always try to engage your audiences but in a positive manner. Everybody’s going through tough times. The majority of people – you know – this has affected their lives in a huge way. They don’t want to be sold to at this moment in time. 

Asil

No.

Wahid

So you should be trying to engage, and you should be trying to increase the confidence level your consumers have with your brand. Number 2.) try and make sure you keep it authentic. Be authentic –  don’t do a tick box exercise. Make sure that you actually put the time into the research and planning of your content piece. 

Asil

It’s integrity, isn’t it? I mean at the end of the day, it’s about integrity as well.

Wahid

Exactly. Above all is – maintain that engagement, maintain conversation, do continue posting, do continue trying to provide whether it’s advice or whether it’s talking about something in a positive manner. But these are the main steps that need to be taken. 

Asil

Fantastic, Wahid, as always. It’s very exciting speaking to you, your passion, your energy, your intellect, and always, always a delight.

Wahid

Oh, you’re too kind. Too kind.

Asil

We’re running out of time, but like I told you, I owe you one on adversity in the workplace and we’re going to do that – Inshallah – very soon. In the meantime, Wahid, stay home – stay safe. And with Turban Thinker – you need to always be inspired, motivated, and empowered. So you have a fantastic evening. 

Wahid

Thank you. 

Asil

Thank you so much, and all the best.

Wahid

Take care. 

Asil

Take care.

Wahid

Bye.

I am delighted to be joined by Wahid Omer, a Digital media planning expert, diversity advocate and digital monetization strategist, who has worked with the likes of Google, Adidas, L’Oreal to name a few. Wahid talks to us about Digital transformation and how this pandemic will change business and organizations strategies.