Abu Dhabi Media Summit underscores region’s creativity and disruption


More than 400 leaders attended this year’s conference

The fourth annual Abu Dhabi Media Summit emphasised the Middle East region’s digital frontier, with spotlights on entrepreneurship, social gaming, multi-screens, social media and other popular trends.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of World Wide Web and director of World Wide Web Consortium, gave an opening address (live via satellite), making an impassioned plea for openness of the web and defence from whistleblowers, as well as adding the importance of the internet to developing countries.

Day two focused on key topics such as globalisation, creativity and disruption, which kicked off with Mark Hollinger, president and CEO of Discovery Networks International, and Man Jit Singh, CEO of Sony India, discussing the ‘big TV’, local exports, challenges and opportunities of 4G, content for wireless and the rising importance of women-centric programming.

Man Jit Singh says that, in India, the media landscape is changing rapidly. With the advent of 4G and digitisation, growth will be wireless and the country is skipping over the wired phase entirely.

“Short-form content will be watched on smartphones and content for wireless will have to be different. Music and comedy clips can work well. In India, the biggest use of a cell phone is to listen to music – it becomes your radio,” he adds.

Senior executives from Google, Twitter and Adobe were invited to discuss ways to leverage technology and new media to build strong, coherent and consistent brand narratives – from creating compelling stories for global brands to how social media conversation has changed the game for advertisers – the importance of cost-effective distribution on the internet and death of banner adverts.

Speaking about the strategies used to leverage the power and growth generated by digital disruption, Usama Fayyad, executive chairman at Oasis 500, and Eric Gertler, head of New York City Economic Development Corporation, talked about the need for start-up funding, as it’s critical for development in the region, and the importance of growing local ecosystems to support it.

Fayyad says that although there is a lot of cash in the Middle East region, a lot of it has been misallocated over the years, becoming a huge problem for the region.

The dot com generation

The way the next generation interacts, communicates and produces content – and how traditional, digital and social media will have to adapt to reflect changing technology and attitudes – were discussed by representatives from Viacom International Media Networks, United Talent Agency and Booz & Company.

Eric Kuhn, head of social media at United Talent Agency, refers to the upcoming generation as “Generation C: Young people who love content, but also love to connect, curate and create”, while Christopher Vollmer, partner and global leader of media and entertainment at Booz & Company, explains the new rules for global narratives and content development in a digital age.

“User behaviour is changing with younger people [using social media excessively], so storytelling has to change too. It has to become more responsible, collaborative and focused on participation. The most interesting formats are heading towards this and are more sophisticated and focused on co-creation. It’s a more agile kind of storytelling, less linear,” Kuhn concludes.

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