Published May 2017
With over 100 million customers, Saudi Telecom (STC) is the largest telecommunication services company in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It’s the leading operator within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and its international presence extends to nine countries. STC services are divided into three categories: mobile network, landline network and enterprise services.
In 2012, STC launched QUICKnet in Saudi Arabia. QUICKnet is a suite of 4G internet-enabled phones, routers and devices targeted at young, tech-savvy consumers. The company turned to Starcom, a Publicis company, to help promote this new brand.
We always challenge ourselves to seek better communication channels for our clients. We’re happy to venture into native ads on DoubleClick to do just that, creating better results for our clients' investments.
Starcom encountered a few key challenges in promoting QUICKnet. First, QUICKnet had limited brand awareness, so direct response campaigns weren’t effective. Traditional banner ads also presented difficulties, as the younger consumers who STC was hoping to engage — and who represent over 50% of the population in Saudi Arabia — did not respond to banners." STC wanted to build loyalty with this demographic, while reaching a diverse, multilingual expat community across Saudi Arabia. This required STC to create campaigns that would both scale and provide targeted messaging for each audience.
Leveraging DoubleClick’s rich feature set to reach consumers programmatically
Starcom began advertising QUICKnet with DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM) to reach their target customers efficiently and at scale.
Ibrahim Jabri, a Digital Media Manager at Starcom shares, “Programmatic allows us to access inventory across multiple publishers to increase reach. We reached the targeted audience segments through Google and third-party data with dedicated messaging, while remaining very cost efficient, as compared to traditionally reserved native buys.”
Elie Milan, an Associate Director of Programmatic at Starcom adds, “The degree of functionality we get with DoubleClick — through data, formats, customization and automation — is unparalleled. We also get robust dedicated support from DBM that’s not replicated with any other partner.”
Reducing fragmentation with programmatic native ads
When DoubleClick began offering native ads programmatically, Starcom and STC quickly launched a test campaign.
“Setting up our first native campaign with DoubleClick was easy and streamlined, mirroring other DBM campaign implementations,” Milan says.
In the past, Starcom bought native ads directly from publishers, but consolidated the rest of their buys through DBM, which has helped prevent fragmentation of their data. Jabri explains, “Being able to access native inventory programmatically has been quite beneficial. We’ve managed to scale our campaign to multiple publishers, which is very valuable for us.”
Starcom likes how native ads enhance the surrounding content instead of distracting from it. Milan shares, “Native allows us to deliver ads that look good, with appealing text and information, for users to learn about products. We’re able to provide users with an integrated experience.”
Increasing efficiencies throughout the advertising process
Consolidating all their buys through DoubleClick helped Starcom streamline their strategy. Fatma ElGendy, a DoubleClick Sales Specialist for Google Middle East and North Africa explains, "Consolidating native and programmatic buys eliminates inefficiencies for advertisers. Decreasing data fragmentation allows advertisers to have a better view and understanding of user behavior online and across devices. Advertisers can improve the user experience through customized targeting to ensure their brand’s safety.”
Over the course of 2016 we've been accelerating our programmatic activities with a focus on consolidating our data onto one platform. We were excited to be the first in MENA to launch native advertising that looks and feels like part of the publisher’s page through DoubleClick. Scaling native buying allowed us to further consolidate our activities and, as a result, achieve a single user view with incredible reach results.
Driving awareness through reach while lowering cost-per-engagement
Although this was Starcom’s first native programmatic campaign for STC, the results were very promising. Milan notes, “In addition to driving reach and awareness, our click-through rate increased by 132% and cost-per-click decreased by 20%, even though we were buying at higher CPMs. In the end, we reached 30% more unique users while lowering cost through increased engagement. This increase in engagement showed us that users actually appreciated the ads. They weren’t annoying the user, but instead were informative and helpful.”
More native campaigns on the horizon
Based on their success with native programmatic ads, Starcom will continue to leverage this format to achieve a range of business objectives for STC, including increasing the target audience’s awareness, consideration and purchasing. “We’ll definitely be integrating this type of format more and more within our upcoming efforts,” Milan says. “The more these ads and our marketing efforts get streamlined and integrated within the overall user experience, the deeper the impact they'll have on STC’s sales and brand.”