Who Are MENA’s Adtech Startups?

Nadine Kahaleh , Oct 24 2017

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Today's advertisers are no longer contented with what traditional advertising has to offer; they were once mad men, however, given the technologies that are transforming their sector, they've become math men.

Brands have become more inclined into adopting a human-centric approach in their advertising strategies; thus, they’re using the recent ad technologies to support their vision. In fact, the digital media sector has been evolving across the world; we’ve got softwares for measuring campaign effectiveness, tools for automating media buys programmatically, platforms for distributing authentic content, predictive sales and lead generation technologies, and more.

On the global scale, advertising technologies are giving traditional advertising techniques a radical makeover; advertisers are shifting their ad budgets to digital channels and Adtech companies, analytics and data are redefining targeted content, ad campaigns and media placements are tailoring advertising messages to their relevant personas, and more.

The MENA doesn’t stand laggardly idle in that race, but it’s still very far behind. The region is “snailing” its way from traditional to digital media ad spend, as digital stands at 10%, compared to a big fat 30-35% spend on print, according to Mideast media. The numbers imply that the region is yet to leverage the tools it has at the reach of hand for an optimal advertising conversion; it is missing several opportunities that advertising technologies can secure. In fact, based on Zenith’s “Adspend Forecast September 2017” report, the MENA region will witness an 18.6% drop in adspend this year, and will not recover from the decline; Zenith estimated that the adspend will plummet 6.3% in 2018, followed by a 0.7% in 2019.

Finding Adtech focused startups in the midst of this stale growth has been very challenging, as the region’s ecosystem is gapped by the absence of such stakeholders and is characterized by the strong presence of international players who are behind many acquisitions. Many of the emerging Adtech startups we were able to find had already left the pack, which left us with a very modest number of them.

So, without further ado, here are the Adtech startups that caught our attention:

Iconiction, UAE - Location-Based & Beacons Ad Technology

Established in May 2014, by its founder Sebastien Marteau, Iconiction provides brands and retailers with innovative drive-to-store and in-store engagement solutions, using advanced audience modelling, location-based mobile advertising, and beacons technologies. Iconiction enable brands to reach very specific audiences such as affluent HNW tourists and business travellers via handy smartphones deployed in luxury 4 & 5 stars hotels rooms across Middle East, India and Africa. It monetize Dubai Airport Taxis Interactive Smart Screens deployed in more than 500 RTA taxis (limousine and standard). Iconiction enable also advertisers to engage with Wi-Fi UAE users across more than 400 locations in the UAE including 35 shopping malls. Iconiction has already a very diverse customer portfolio across many fields such as retail, advertising, hospitality, real estate, banks & insurance, luxury goods, perfumes & cosmetics companies, mobile network operators, car manufacturers and government organization.

LiveMail, Morocco – Advertising Technologies Focused on Email

Founded in 2014 by Saad Kemmou, LiveMail is a provider of ad solutions through email in Morocco. The LiveMail Ad Network allows companies to buy advertising on over 15 premium newsletters, just as they would buy normal display advertising, with a large focus on optimization and targeting. LiveMail developed a CRM Retargeting solution through which users can communicate with their customers through the startup's ad network. They will be able to reactive their old customers and prospects, and upsell them. The startup also offers email retargeting. LiveMail's customers’ portfolio includes YAMAHA, OPEL, Teyara.ma, and others.

Rational Pixels, Lebanon – Digital Product Placement

The Beirut-based startup was established in 2015 by Rida Sadek, and it is focused on digital product placement. Unlike display advertising, product placement in movies or videos is unblockable and unskippable, so advertised products reach more viewers. RationalPixels aims to streamline and facilitate the process, delivering the same results in one sixth of the time. The ad-space inside the video blends and moves with the camera and lighting. This solution is accessible to a wide range of advertisers, and does not require them to have experience in digital advertising technology. In September 2015, Beirut’s Speed@BDD accelerator injected $30K into RationalPixels – the only funding it has received so far. RationalPixels are currently fundraising and are at advanced stages of negotiations with VCs.

Cognitev, UAE & Egypt – Automated Advertising Solutions

Cognitev, formerly known as MENA Commerce, underwent a major rebranding in May 2017. Founded by Moustafa Mahmoud in 2015, it shifted from ecommerce to a technology company that's focused on marketing from a semantic point of view. It is currently raising a $2M round of growth capital, and has offices in Dubai and Cairo. The startup built an automated advertising solution called InstaScaler that helps start-ups and SMEs completely automate their advertising, as well as AdRelated, a semantic marketing platform that allows marketers to match their ads with engaging content relevant to their business.

dotMeta, Egypt –  Personalizing the Video Experience


Founded in November 2015 by Ahmed Mehessen, dotMETA was one of ArabNet's Startup Battle - Egypt winners. They believe in the importance of personalized content for an optimized ad performance and increased conversion rates. Having created an adaptive video platform for content creators; the platform consists of two components, the first one is for used by content creators to upload individual scenes and set the conditions upon which each scenario would play out. The second is an embeddable video player that aggregates user's data (device data, metadata, social media data, API, etc.), and therefore generates and plays the video content that is mostly compatible with the audience’s preferences. Users will be able to segment their audience and tailor their content to better appeal to each viewer.

 

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