On December 6th, the Advertising Business Group (ABG) held its first Annual Event for its members to provide an update on its progress in the last one year.

Chaired by Sanjiv Kakkar, ABG Chairperson and Unilever Executive Vice President MENA, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, the event saw speakers from International Council of Self-Regulation (ICAS), World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) as well as Google and Zayed University who presented the results of a locally initiated consumer focused research.

In his opening address, Sanjiv shared the following key updates:

  • An ongoing focus on driving membership, and which has seen 5 new members – Starcom, GroupM, MIS, Ferrero and Publicis Communications – raising total ABG membership to 20 companies comprising many of the region’s leading advertisers as well as media, agencies and digital companies.
  • The setting up of two important global affiliations that will enable the ABG to anticipate global developments, share knowledge and foster best practices with other similar bodies worldwide. These are the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), and the International Council for Ad Self-Regulation (ICAS).
  • Another crucial step has been the finalization of the Advertising Code of Ethics for the ABG. The final code has been devised in consensus with all members and lays out advertising standards that all ads must subscribe to, the scope of the Code and details regarding the Disputes Committee and resolution mechanism.
  • An introduction to the members of the Disputes Committee which comprises 14 key members from a cross section of NGOs, Academia, the industry and academia, writers and senior members of the advertising fraternity.
  • Kakkar also shared details of ABG’s external engagement via presence at the recently concluded blogger event VIDXB as well as the ABGs upcoming participation in the Dubai Lynx 2018, which is MENA’s biggest creative communications event.

The ABG’s 2018 priorities were also clearly outlined. Top priority is promoting the newly defined ABG Code of Ethics. This will be executed through a number of initiatives such as offering gratuitous creative advice to the industry, engagement with students and those entering the marketing and advertising industry, offering a plethora of online trainings, encouraging sharing of best practices amongst members, undertaking relevant local research and continuing to engage externally as appropriate.

The ABG will also work to extend the Code to other relevant key areas such as digital marketing, positively influence marketing specifically targeted at children or that which involves stereotyping of gender roles.

ABG will continue to drive membership aggressively through the year and add as many new members as possible, in its bid for self-regulation of the Middle East advertising industry. Finally, the ABG is committed to providing a platform to resolve any dispute that may arise among members, with a view to settling it in the most amicably manner.

José Domingo Gómez Castallo, ICAS President and Head of Autocontrol (Spain’s self-regulatory body), discussed the value of ad self-regulation and many benefits to all parties concerned. He also outlined the role of ICAS at a global level and how it acts as a central contact point. He wrapped up his address with an interesting overview of current global challenges for ad self-regulation such as regulation in a digital ecosystem, ad blocking and ad fraud for online advertising, data protection and privacy and more. You can view the entire presentation here: SR Developments and Challenges.

Will Gilroy, Director of Public Affairs and Communication at the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), presented the results of a global online research, providing insights on how marketers can align with people’s changing expectations to deliver meaningful, valued brand experiences. He talked about brands having a higher purpose and why brand value is more critical than product value. He ended with a discussion on inclusive marketing, which is built on the idea of thinking of people as part of the brand and not as consumers and actively involving them in the creation. You can view the entire presentation here: Project Reconnect.

Other speakers included Alex Brunori, Creative Impact Lead, Google MENA, who made an impassioned call for marketing to change its approach, focusing on content rather than its form. A focus on users rather than brands is the need of the hour given the dramatic shift in online viewing behaviour. Great engagement in his view came from catalyst brands such as Dove, Always and Nike. And can we really make a video with the intention of it going viral? “Yes, it happens sometimes. Just not 99.99% of the time!”, concluded Alex. “So, forget about it!”

Ganga Dhanesh and Gaelle Duthler, faculty from the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University presented the initial elements of their local UAE research which the ABG initiated regarding social media influencers and disclosure and consumer trust. You can view their presentations here Social Media Influencers.

Present at the Event were all other ABG board members as well as member company representatives.

The Annual Event was followed by a training session for the Disputes Committee Jury Members. Priya Sarma as the ABG Communications Lead and Board Member familiarized the attending jury members with the ABG Code. José Domingo Gómez Castallo coached jury members on various aspects of advertising ethics and provided guidance on settling disputes.


Here are some photos from the ABG Annual Event held on December 6th, 2017: