Musk’s X or Zuckerberg’s Meta: who’s winning advertising dollars?

In July, Musk admitted that Twitter revenue was down 50 percent. (AFP)
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Updated 15 September 2023

Musk’s X or Zuckerberg’s Meta: who’s winning advertising dollars?

  • Agency experts weigh in on the battle between the various social media platforms

DUBAI: There has recently been a flurry of activity in the social media industry with acquisitions, rebrands and new launches — with much debate on who will eventually emerge the victor or at least the dominant force in the market.

Most notable among this activity was Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s tumultuous takeover of Twitter in October 2022, followed by the platform’s rebrand to X this year.

Meta dropped its brand-new social platform, Threads, built by the Instagram team, bearing a marked resemblance to X in the same month as the rebrand.

It is not just the platforms that are battling it out; the tech titans are too with Musk inviting Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to a mixed-martial arts bout, which now seems unlikely to take place.

Meanwhile, other platforms including Snapchat and Instagram are maintaining their edge with new offerings — such as integrating social commerce — to win advertisers, while TikTok, the youngest kid on the block, continues to surge in popularity and revenue.  

“Brands are constantly adapting to the evolving nature of customer behavior, and the recent movements by X and Meta are examples of how the platforms are constantly looking to create new ways to capture and retain a higher share of people’s time, attention, and demand,” Pedro Goncalves, head of digital media at PHD, told Arab News.

The constant changes in the social media space come as advertising budgets recover from pandemic levels, making it ever more important for companies to invest their ad dollars wisely.

Many advertisers left the platform soon after Musk’s takeover with 50 of the top 100 advertisers announcing they would stop advertising on X, according to a report by media watchdog Media Matters.

These advertisers accounted for nearly $2 billion in spending on the platform since 2020, and over $750 million in advertising in 2022 alone.

In July, Musk admitted that Twitter revenue was down 50 percent.

It seems clear that Meta’s family of apps is leading the way when it comes to advertising revenue, while TikTok is also a popular choice.

“TikTok and Meta are certainly getting the lion’s share of the spend as platforms,” said Mazher Abidi, head of strategy and insights at advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi.

The others are not too far behind with Snapchat, for example, being an outlier in Saudi Arabia.

It is important to note that its proposition differs from other social media platforms making it a bit niche, and although Snapchat does not boast the same scale as the TikTok and Meta apps, it “does still have a place in the heart of audiences in our region, certainly in Saudi Arabia,” Abidi told Arab News.

PHD’s Goncalves said: “We observe a natural tendency and well-established role for each one, with Meta currently ahead in direct response KPIs (key performance indicators); X and Snapchat quite balanced in terms of engagement and traffic, and TikTok increasingly delivering more in terms of ad recall and attention.”

Meta remains one of the largest platforms for advertisers, according to Aneesa Rashid, social and influencer lead at media agency UM MENAT, because its apps Facebook and Instagram “combined provide cost efficiencies, mass reach and strong lower funnel capabilities.”

TikTok and Snapchat, on the other hand, “play a bigger part in producing authentic and unique content experiences, fueled by creators, whilst also diving in further to the social commerce space,” she said.

The former “has emerged as a major player in the social media landscape, surprisingly not just with younger audiences, (but) as momentum grows amongst older demographics,” and the latter has been a “key pioneer platform in the region, especially in markets such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt,” Rashid added.

While X seems to be trailing behind in terms of advertising revenue, Abidi said: “If you take a step back and look at the direction of travel of advertising on X, it has been going down for a while.”

The reasons range from geopolitical concerns to polarizing content on the platform, but “brands have been finding alternatives for a while, shifting spends to other established competitors, such as the Meta platforms, and even TikTok,” he added.

X did not rank in consumers’ or advertisers’ top five platforms for ads, according to the latest Media Reactions report by analytics firm Kantar.

Moreover, among marketers, its receptivity was in the negative with more marketers claiming they will decrease spend on X in 2024 than increase it, the study found.

Despite headlines about X’s declining revenues, the Middle East is seeing a different story playing out.

“In the Middle East, we did initially witness a reduction of ad spends on the platform as a precautionary measure,” said Rashid.

However, “X’s recent launch of performance driven products including mobile and website conversions ads, has helped optimize campaign performance, and since we’ve seen brand interest shift back,” she added.

She also predicts that the company’s developments “will see advertisers coming back to the platform in anticipation as they plan for 2024 social strategies.”

Abidi echoed the sentiment, saying: “I think X has quite a unique position in our part of the world particularly in Saudi Arabia, where it has been an outlier in terms of popularity; Saudis use and love Twitter with more passion and use it more actively than most other markets around the world.”

Musk’s rebrand of Twitter seemed sudden as many users woke up to see the iconic Twitter bird being lifted with a crane and gradually being replaced by X.

However, contrary to public perception, the rebrand could well be a calculated move, part of Musk’s ambition to turn X into an “everything app,” points out Abidi.

“It’s surprising to most, but I think the real interesting story starts now,” he said.

Rashid and Abidi remain optimistic about Musk’s long-term goals as more ‘super apps’ or ‘everything apps’ crop up.

X plans to “expand beyond just social media networking to include banking, shopping and most recently a feature for video and audio calls without the need for a phone number, effectively building a global address book, so this may just be the beginning of an impressive comeback,” said Rashid.

WeChat in China or Careem in the Middle East are good examples of apps that integrate various services into one app. The “user behavior and audience receptiveness” already exist in the region, and “if some of those X features do come our way, I believe we’ll find quite a receptive audience,” said Abidi.

“The idea of a global super app is certainly ambitious, but if anybody has got the ambition and ability to pull that off, Elon Musk is one of the few,” he added.

Fatima Al-Banawi’s directorial debut ‘Basma’ to premiere on Netflix in 2024

Saudi actress Fatima Al-Banawi to make her directorial debut with 'Basma'. (Supplied)
Updated 29 November 2023

Fatima Al-Banawi’s directorial debut ‘Basma’ to premiere on Netflix in 2024

  • Actress plays title character in film that deals with issue of mental illness

LONDON: Saudi actress Fatima Al-Banawi is set to make her directorial debut with the film “Basma,” which premieres on Netflix next year.

Best known for her role in “Barakah Meets Barakah,” Al-Banawi plays the title character in the movie, a young Saudi woman who returns to her hometown of Jeddah after completing her studies in the US.

She is soon faced with the reality of a father suffering from a mental illness, broken family relationships, and struggles to recapture the home life she once knew.

“There are 7 billion versions of normal on this planet. I hope I managed to deliver one of them,” said Al-Banawi, who also wrote and directed the film.

“After we finished filming ‘Basma,’ I wondered whether there would be anything better than dreams coming true, and I realized the only thing better than that is to be able to dream.”

Hello! magazine set to launch in Middle East

Updated 29 November 2023

Hello! magazine set to launch in Middle East

  • Hello! Arabia and Hello! Indo-Arabia will focus on luxury lifestyle content with “distinctive Arabian flair,” and stories about regional and international celebrities
  • The print editions will be distributed across the Gulf region, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco; the magazines will share a website and host regular celebrity events

DUBAI: Spanish media group Hola! is preparing to launch regional editions of Hello! Magazine, in partnership with Sudhakar Adapa, the founder and CEO of Bia Brands.

Hello! Arabia and Hello! Indo-Arabia will focus on luxury lifestyle content with “distinctive Arabian flair,” and stories about regional and international celebrities, the company said.

The monthly print editions will be distributed across the Gulf region, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco, and the magazines will share a website. They will also host regular celebrity events.

The editorial offices will be in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and content will be supplied by contributors throughout the region. The editor-in-chief of Hello! Arabia is yet to be announced but Faarah Mehta has been appointed to the role with Hello! Indo-Arabia.

“We are delighted to bring this prestigious brand to the Gulf audience,” said Adapa.

Eduardo Sanchez Perez, the chairman of Hola Group, added: “It gives us great pleasure to welcome Hello! Indo-Arabia and Hello! Arabia to our big Hola! and Hello! family, so that readers from the Gulf and wider MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region will join us in savoring life’s beautiful moments with the inspiring exclusives, news and human-interest stories they will find in these two magazines.”

The magazines are set to launch in the first quarter of 2024.

Jewish BBC staff defy rules to attend antisemitism march

Updated 28 November 2023

Jewish BBC staff defy rules to attend antisemitism march

  • The employees, who work in current affairs and journalism, say their Jewish identity ‘took precedence over what the BBC thinks’
  • BBC rules on impartiality state editorial staff ‘should not participate in public demonstrations or gatherings about controversial issues’

LONDON: A number of Jewish employees of the BBC joined a march in London on Sunday in protest against antisemitism, in contravention of the broadcaster’s policy.

Staff members attended the event, organized by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, despite being reminded of BBC rules on impartiality that state editorial staff “should not participate in public demonstrations or gatherings about controversial issues.” Employees who want to participate in pro-Palestine marches are believed to have been given similar reminders.

The Jewish employees, who reportedly work in current affairs and journalism departments, told Times Radio that being Jewish “took precedence over what the BBC thinks.”

One person, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, said: “I learned last week that the BBC was barring members of staff from attending the planned march against antisemitism — and let’s face it, we’re really talking about Jewish members of staff here, because they’re the only ones who would really be wanting to go — so the BBC knew exactly who it was stopping.”

Although the BBC describes the rules as guidance, non-compliance can result in disciplinary action, the employee added.

“We understood the BBC’s rationale that staff risk creating a perception of bias by attending marches which are political or controversial but this was not a march about Brexit or the NHS, but a march against antisemitism and there is nothing controversial or political about that,” the worker said.

“Antisemitism has soared in Britain since the Hamas attacks and the start of the war on Oct. 7, and as Jews we are all-too-well aware. Whether or not we have experienced it directly, our families and communities are affected by it daily and it is on our minds, whether we are at home or at work.

“Personally, I was unwilling to comply as I felt my attendance, as a Jewish person, took precedence over what the BBC thinks and I went to the march. I know several other Jewish staff did too and I am sure there were more who I don’t know about. The march was dignified and civilized and did nothing other than demonstrate an utter rejection of antisemitism by not just Jews but other communities and faiths who also attended to show their support.”

The employee added that the BBC had shown “insensitivity towards us which is going to be hard to repair.”

Staff compared the current situation with the BBC’s stance on the Pride parades in 2020, when Director General Tim Davie granted all staff the go ahead to participate.

A spokesperson for the broadcaster said: “The BBC is clear that antisemitism is abhorrent. We have established guidance around marches, which explains that different considerations apply depending on what you do for the BBC.

“Corporately, we have not issued any staff communication on any specific march this weekend but this does not mean discussions which consider the guidance have not taken place between colleagues.”

Fast Company Middle East issues list of Most Innovative Companies

Updated 27 November 2023

Fast Company Middle East issues list of Most Innovative Companies

  • Second edition features 42 reputations across 23 sectors

DUBAI: Business news magazine Fast Company, which launched its Middle East edition last year, has unveiled this year’s list of the region’s Most Innovative Companies.

The list recognizes 42 companies across 23 sectors, which include e-commerce, retail, consumer goods and media.

Ravi Raman, publisher of Fast Company Middle East, told Arab News: “The Most Innovative Companies list not only sends a positive signal to teams and stakeholders but also resonates globally, showcasing how companies in the Middle East are pushing the boundaries of innovation.

“I am truly impressed by the profound impact each honoree is making in their respective industries, which reaffirms our belief in the human spirit to imagine, create, and improve.”

Three companies were recognized in the media category: Al Arabiya News Channel for advancing technology in news delivery; Kapturise for being a one-stop solution for content creation; and Telfaz11 for extending creative and cultural influence beyond Saudi Arabia.

In the advertising, branding and PR category, five companies were chosen, with three of the five spots being bagged by advertising network Publicis Groupe Middle East and its agencies Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi.

The list also featured media intelligence provider Carma for delivering tailor-made content, and banking firm Mashreq for its innovative campaigns.

Advertising agency TBWA\RAAD was recognized in the workplaces category for creating shared goals through dynamic and flexible policies.

OSN was the only company to be featured in the entertainment category due to its inclusive content strategy.

Other companies in this year’s list include multinationals like L’Oreal Middle East and PepsiCo Middle East, as well as local entities like Masdar City and e&.

Media Oasis opens in Paris to support Riyadh’s bid to stage World Expo 2030

Updated 27 November 2023

Media Oasis opens in Paris to support Riyadh’s bid to stage World Expo 2030

  • Event hosted by Kingdom’s Ministry of Media
  • Showcases best of Saudi cultural, development projects

RIYADH: The Saudi Media Ministry is hosting the second Media Oasis event in Paris, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, which opened on Sunday and runs through Tuesday, is being held alongside a meeting to select the host city for World Expo 2030, for which Riyadh is in the running.

Media Oasis was launched by the Media Ministry to showcase the best of Saudi cultural and development projects and initiatives to visitors from around the world.

Covering 1,200 square meters within the Pavilion at Place Vendome, it comprises exhibitions and interactive displays, hospitality and networking spaces, and “Saudi Treasures” and “Riyadh 2030” areas.

It also provides media support to international news outlets taking part in the Expo meeting.

The ministry collaborated with numerous partners on the event, including the Saudi Tourism Authority, Ministry of Sports, the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, the Asir Region Development Authority, NEOM, Diriyah, the King Salman Park Project, Sports Boulevard, the Green Riyadh initiative, Riyadh Art, New Square Co., the Royal Institute of Traditional Arts and the Saudi Konoz initiative.