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‘Social media is having a profound influence on Arab brands’

‘Social media is having a profound influence on Arab brands’

Yousef Tuqan Tuqan, chief executive of Flip Media, talks about iPads, movies, and putting communications skills to genuinely good use.

May 23, 2010 3:39 by

On Naviflix.
Navuflix is a one-stop movie guide iPhone application, a first in the U.A.E. The concept behind Naviflix came from our everyday lives. As movie buffs, we found ourselves increasingly frustrated by the lack of a simple on-the-go guide to what’s playing in cinemas. So we developed our own user-friendly application that‘s optimized for mobile users. Naviflix gives users quick access to film synopses, photos, video trailers and cinema showtimes, all from an iPhone.
The app reached number one in the U.A.E. iTunes Store in its first week, making it something of a smash hit in the U.A.E. community. We’re now extending the interface to other platforms (Android, Blackberry and Nokia N-Series). It’s an elegant and simple platform and in just a few weeks we’re going to let it loose overseas, to other markets in the GCC and beyond.
It’s the second app Flip has released into the market. We were one of the first Middle Eastern developers to create an app; the first was Mumbaikar – a guide to Mumbai.

On the new iPad.
It’s an amazing device and it’s worth the hype. I think it’s the first genuine alternative to books and newspapers (and traditional computers). The screen is gorgeous, and the initial crop of applications from free content providers like BBC and NPR is great. I’m also spending a lot of time playing X-Plane and playing my touchscreen piano.
My main issue with the iPad is the lack of access to the legitimate content that’s available in the U.S., like music and video in the iTunes Store and free episodes playing on ABC. An integrated video camera would also be nice.

On Flip’s next big project.
We’ve always believed it’s better to show our abilities than tell people about them, so we’re investing heavily in the development of new applications (like Naviflix) and platforms across multiple devices to showcase what the Web can do for advertisers and governments. Right now, we’re focusing on creating new ways to develop brands across multiple platforms. Digital marketing is no longer just about having a Web site. The rise of multiple screens (mobile, interactive TV, kiosks, tablets) has made it much more challenging – and exciting – to reach audiences.

On social media.
The social media revolution is having a profound influence on how Arab brands and governments interact with users and it’s essential that we make it easy to facilitate that conversation. Users are growing increasingly demanding in terms of how and where they access content and Flip believes it’s important to find the optimal interaction between culture, strategy, design, and technology to build things that people want to use.
Too often, digital brand strategies in the region are mired in fruitless discussions about IT instead of focusing on the most important element: the end user.

On technology.
I grew up in a computer nerd’s house (my dad worked for IBM for 20 years in the Middle East), so I’ve always been fascinated by technology and its impact on our lives. If I weren’t working at Flip, I’d be working with the nonprofit sector and using technology to improve people’s lives. There’s so much that needs fixing in the region and I’m convinced that if the finest minds in the Middle East communications industry applied themselves to creating social justice and peace instead of just selling products, we could make real progress.
I’m hopeful that one day, I’ll be able to apply everything I’ve learned to help address poverty and injustice in the Arab world.

Yousef Tuqan Tuqan is chief executive of Flip Media, the largest interactive advertising agency in the Middle East.

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