Gone are the days when a flash ad on television would influence consumers to purchase a product or service. The consumer today needs more, they are discerning and trust brands and products that fulfil a promise or stand for something.
And the influence flashy ads previously had has shifted to online influencers and creators, who connect deeper with the consumer of today. And this is true even in the Middle East.
It is to explore this market that, an advertising and influencer marketing agency founded in 2018 out of India, started its MENA operations from Dubai in 2021.
On why he chose to move to the UAE, Founder and CEO Gautam Madhavan says, “Dubai has a diverse workforce and audience, and we wanted to leverage that.”
But there is more to it. A closer look at statistics shows the market is ripe for picking.
A 2017 survey by BPG Cohn & Wolfe of 100 in-house marketing and communication experts had revealed that 43% of marketers spent up to $10,000 per social media influencer campaign. Additionally, about 85% millennials in the UAE and Saudi Arabia follow at least one social media influencer.
Over the past year, Madhavan has witnessed this emerging trend first hand.
Mad Influence is a social media influential marketing platform that connects brands with influencers, and helps companies with digital marketing, social media handling, content writing, and other consultancy services.
In the Middle East, the team has so far conducted close to 100 campaigns with brands and works with 8-10 influencers every month.
The opportunity is huge. The Middle East and Africa (MEA) and Latin America influencer marketing platform market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 34.8% between 2019 to 2025, as per Research and Markets.
How it works
Mad Influence helps brands to market their products or services through influencers, offering services like branding, marketing, production, and media buying.
Understanding the market and establishing a base came easy. “There is not much difference. Platforms like Instagram work the same way everywhere. The formula of placing ads in India and in the Middle East is also similar,” Madhavan says.
The team has worked with a diverse set of influencers so far, including Huda Kattan, Abdulaziz Baz, Noha Nabil, Mo Vlogs, among others. “Our Middle Eastern influencer network comprises over 3,000 influencers,” Madhavan says.
The startup has worked with 30 brands including TikTok, Nvidia, Noon, Landmark Group, among others. It uses a multi-channel network comprising YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Sharechat.
TikTok, which was the team’s first client in the Middle East, is used by 56% of brands using influencer marketing, as per a report by Influencer Marketing Hub. Currently, it stands as the most popular influencer marketing channel.
Madhavan says penetrating the Middle Eastern market has been a smooth experience. “The ticket sizes are bigger and complications are lesser when it comes to aspects like payment timelines, etc.”
Mad Influence presently has a seven-member team in Dubai and employs over 50 people in India. The two teams work in collaboration. The Middle Eastern team looks after frontend operations in the region, while the India team looks after backend work.
“For example, a graphic designer will be in India, while a social media strategist and video producer would sit in Dubai. Media buying, except for that of TikTok, happens in India,” Madhavan explains.
Revenue model and future
The revenue model of the bootstrapped company comprises two aspects: agency commission and advertising fees.
Madhavan explains. “Influencers pay a commission on every deal they secure. The client is charged with a premium for rendered services.”
The average ticket size is equivalent to $100,000 per month and the team makes a margin of 25-30%.
Mad Influence competes with other UAE-based companies such as The Media Lab, Amplify, ITP LIVE, Rewind Production, Starfish Agency, and Ykone.
But Madhavan is confident about the “global product” he is building. “It is a SaaS community tech tool that brings all media buyers, brands, influencers, and affiliates together to do business. It will be a marketplace for advertising.”
This product is live only for internal teams at the moment, who are running tests to analyse its overall functioning.
In the near future, Madhavan also wants to host the next season of the firm’s influencer summit outside India. The first edition of the company’s event, ‘Creators United’, was held in Goa in January 2023. The two-day event brought together content creators, influencers, brands, publishers, and social media platforms.
(Cover image designed by Winona Laisram)
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