Six months ago, I’m not sure that I could have helped brands with creating a video marketing strategy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). But, then I taught several modules in the first Impact Digital Creator Program at the New Media Academy. And now I know 22 content creators and social media influencers who a wide variety of global and regional brands will want to partner with to build successful sponsored video campaigns not only in the UAE, but also across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Now, according to the FTC, I don’t need to declare that I don’t have a financial relationship with these 22 content creators and social media influencers. I was just one of their instructors, but I got to know them fairly well by looking at their Instagram accounts and YouTube channels as well as interacting with them on Zoom and Google Classroom for more than 18 hours over a six-week period.
And even though I can’t read or speak Arabic, all 22 of the participants in the first cohort of the Impact Digital Creator Program speak English fluently. This shouldn’t be that surprising, since English is used in the Emirates not only as a foreign language, but also as a second language, and a de facto lingua franca.
According to a research paper entitled, “The Role of English in the United Arab Emirates and Resulting Implications for English Teaching,” by Cynthia Dorsey of the University of Portsmouth, “Emirati nationals make up only 19 percent of the population of the small country. Immigrants from South Asia are 50%, from other Arab countries and Iran, 23%, and Westerners and East Asians make up the remaining 8% (Index Mundi, 2014). With such a diverse population, it is no wonder that English plays an important role in the UAE.”
She adds, “It is possible, and even easy, to live in the UAE without any knowledge of Arabic, as long as one has a decent command of English. Almost all official documents are available in both languages, as are government and business websites. Street signs, advertisements and shop signs are all bilingual. Workers from the Philippines make up the bulk of the commercial workforce in shops and restaurants, and many of them have little or no Arabic. They operate almost exclusively in English commercially. The local population of Emiratis are finding that knowledge of English is no longer optional in their own country. It is becoming necessary (Randall and Samimi, 2010).”
So, even English-speaking decision makers at global brands won’t have to overcome any language barriers to work with any or all the 22 graduates of the Impact Digital Creator Program who can help them reach many of the 422 million people in MENA and other parts of the world who speak Arabic. And even the Arabic-speaking decision makers at regional brands won’t even need to spend hours hunting down the showreels for this cohort because they can watch the 11 videos below that can be found on the New Media Academy’s YouTube channel.
Mumkin Net3araf – ممكن نتعرّف (Can we get to know each other?)
So, let me introduce the 22 influential and creative individuals who:
- Were carefully selected by the academy based on rigorous scientific assessments,
- Participated in a unique training program that was built with the help of the world’s brightest minds in the field, and
- Are qualified to lead the media and digital content sector not only in the UAE, but also across MENA.
It’s relatively easy to do that because the 11 videos below feature two people interviewing each other in a series that roughly translates, “Can we get to know each other?” Plus, I’d started my first class by asking these content creators and social media influencers who their target audiences are. In addition, they asked lots of great questions during all six of classes that I taught. So, I don’t need captions in English to get the gist of what their conversations with each other are about.
For example, the most popular video on NMA’s YouTube channel is entitled, “إماراتي يتحدّث اليابانية – ممكن نتعرّف,” which roughly translates, “An Emirati speaks Japanese – Can we get to know each other?” This video is 5:42 long and features Musab Khudada, who is fond of Japanese culture, and Myth Journey, who loves drawing and game design. Uploaded on August 19, 2020, it already has over 27,100 views and 104 engagements.
The second video in the series is entitled, “زيادة فرص نجاح استثمارك – ممكن نتعرّف,” which roughly translates, “Increase the chances of success of your investment – Can we get to know each other?” It is 7:35 long and features Ahmed Al Marzouqi, who is skilled in economic forecasting, and Dr. Saif Darwish Al-Tamimi, who shares health tips with his audience on Instagram. Uploaded on August 24, 2020, it already has over 17,300 views and 38 engagements.
The third video in the series is entitled, “كيف تساعد ذاتك حين تساعد الآخرين – ممكن نتعرّف,” which roughly translates into “How to help yourself when you help others – Can we get to know each other?” It features Moza Al Hameli and Hadeel Al Khamis, who are both life coaches who have gone through a lot of experiences around self-discovery, specialization in motivation, and a positive outlook on life. The 6:28-long YouTube video of their conversation was uploaded August 26, 2020, and currently has over 12,100 views and 55 engagements.
The fourth video in the series is entitled, “تصريحات نارية بعد الزواج – ممكن نتعرّف,” which roughly translates “Fiery statements after marriage – Can we get to know each other?” It features Zainab Al-Sawalhi, who is interested in spreading positive thinking messages, and Abdul Razzaq Al-Khaja, her husband and an Emirati comedian. A 7:50-long YouTube video of their conversation was uploaded on August 31, 2020. It currently has 18,000 views and 89 engagements.
The fifth video in the series is entitled, “صوتها سيدهشك – ممكن نتعرّف,” which roughly translates, “Her voice will surprise you – Can we get to know each other?” It features Khaled Al Awar, who is fond of technology and the digital world, and Fatima Alhashmi, who is an Emirati pianist and opera singer. The 8:13-long YouTube video of their conversation was uploaded on September 2, 2020, and currently has 20,200 views and 73 engagements.
The sixth video in the series is entitled, “كيف تضمن نجاح مشاريعك – ممكن نتعرّف,” which roughly translates into “How to ensure the success of your projects – Can we get to know each other?” It features Abdullah Al Mheiri, a coffee expert, and Chef Saud Al Matrooshi, an Emirates chef. An 8:00-long YouTube video of their conversation, which was uploaded on September 7, 2020, currently has over 16,100 views and 61 engagements.
The seventh video in the series is entitled, “ملاكمة إماراتية تلقّن غيث درساً لن ينساه – ممكن نتعرّف,” which roughly translates, “Emirati boxer teaches Ghaith a lesson he will not forget – Can we get to know each other?” It features Fahima Falaknaz, a female boxing champion who love challenges, and Ghaith Al Falasi, a male racing champ and drift enthusiast. The 8:57-long YouTube video of their conversation – which includes a boxing lesson – was uploaded on September 9, 2020, already has 11,200 views and 50 engagements.
The eighth video in the series is entitled, “محللة كرة قدم وأخرى عاشقة جيم بوي! – ممكن نتعرّف,” which roughly translates, “A football analyst and another Game Boy lover! – Can we get to know each other?” It features Sarah Al Matrooshi, a female video gamer and visual artist, and Nabaa Al Dabbagh, a female football (aka soccer) commentator and blogger. Their 6:36-long video conversation about breaking stereotypes was uploaded on September 14, 2020. This YouTube video already has 15,500 views and 165 engagements.
The ninth video in the series is entitled, “الدرون والتصوير – ممكن نتعرّف,” which roughly translates, “Drone and photography – Can we get to know each other?” If features Kalthoom Alakberi, a professional photographer who uses drones, and Fahad Abdul Hameed, a professional photographer who uses Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Their 5:14-long conversation about preserving beautiful and unforgettable memories was uploaded on September 16, 2020, and already has over 500 views.
The tenth video in the series is entitled, “لا تسأل البنت عن عمرها أو…؟ – ممكن نتعرّف,” which roughly translates, “Do not ask the girl about her age or …? – Can we get to know each other?” Now, this video is in English – although it has Arabic subtitles. And it features Haneen Odeh, a former beauty editor at Marie Claire Arabia, and Marwin Parham Al Awadhi, who is better known as DJ Bliss. They discuss creating beauty content that is unique, but also meets the expectations of followers as well as what happens behind the scenes at concerts by well-known entertainers. This 7:16-long YouTube video was just uploaded on September 21, 2020, and it already has more than 200 views.
It’s also worth noting that Haneen has 70,000 followers on Instagram and Marwin has 243,000. His YouTube channel, DJ Bliss, has 95,700 subscribers. An Instagram video featuring Haneen and Marwingot 30,200 views and 306 engagements.
Finally, the eleventh video in the series is entitled, “بين وادي السيليكون وقرى الإمارات – ممكن نتعرّف,” which roughly translated, “Between Silicon Valley and the villages of the Emirates – Can we get to know each other?” It features Khaled (a second time), who tells us about his passion for designing applications and his journey to Silicon Valley and how he transferred his passion to entrepreneurship, Sultan Ebrahim, who recalls his childhood with nature villages and his attachment to the earth and preserving the environment, which inspired him to specialize in remote sensing systems. This 6:42-long YouTube video was just uploaded on September 23, 2020, and it already has almost 200 views.
You’ll also want to know that Sultan has 2,000 followers on Instagram. And an Instagram video featuring Khaled and Sultan has already got 28,300 views and 756 engagements.
The only one of the members of the first cohort who is missing from these 11 videos is Abdulla Omar AlAli, an Al Jazira jiu-jitsu player and mechanical engineer, who has 7,600 followers on Instagram. (And you mistakenly thought that instructors weren’t as observant as teachers or professors when it came to noticing who was absent or hadn’t turned in their assignment.)
How do you pick the right partner in the UAE from hundreds of options?
There has been an astonishing growth and interest in sponsored video content over the past few years. But with more than 500 options to choose from in the UAE, how do you know your partner is the best choice for you?
Well, if you are a global brand like Procter & Gamble’s Pampers brand, P&G’s Gillette Venus brand, Tissot’s line-up of Swiss timepieces, California Garden’s portfolio of quality food products, Mastercard’s Priceless campaign to empower women in the region, or the EA SPORTS FIFA 20 esports ecosystem, then you want to identify rising stars before they become your competitor’s stars. But, if you are a regional brand like Marriott International’s “Welcome Back” offer in the UAE, Aster DM Healthcare’s support for women empowerment, or Samsung Gulf Electronics’ launch of the all-new Galaxy Z-Flip Thom Browne Edition in the UAE, then you need to identify which creators actually help us move the needle more.
Either way, the 22 content creators and social media influencers – including micro, macro, specialized, and everything in between – can help your brand open up novel, high-affinity audiences. Yes, I’m biased. As I disclosed, I was one of their instructors. But, that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
As you can see in the 11 videos embedded in this post, this cohort has already demonstrated their ability to collaborate with each other. In fact, one of the activities in our training program involved creating small teams of content creators and social media influencers, giving them one of the brands mentioned above, and collaborating on a pitch to the brand’s decision-maker on sponsoring their lineup of 2 to 3 videos, which would run across YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
That’s why I’m more than willing to recommend each and every one of these influential and creative individuals for your next sponsored video campaign – whether you run it just in the UAE or across MENA. I’ve already seen what they came up with – and I was very impressed.