New image maker for telecoms

A new branding consultancy specialising in telecommunications was launched at the Mecom conference this week in Abu Dhabi.

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A new branding consultancy specialising in telecommunications was launched at the Mecom conference this week in Abu Dhabi. Luciola DDB, a unit of the global DDB advertising group, is based in Dubai and will begin focusing in the coming months on building images for clients in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. "Our core focus is to ensure clients have the ability to connect with the consumer," said Najam Khawaja, the chief executive of Luciola. "In the Middle East the telecom industry is moving very fast, adding products at a very fast pace but not connecting with the consumer. And the consumer is what it is all about."

While multinational companies such as the UK's Vodafone group have taken the lead in building meaningful identities, Mr Khawaja said companies in the Middle East now had the opportunity to create a similar relationship with their customers.. "Players who are going to grow in this category are the ones that will innovate for the consumer, not for themselves," he said. "These companies are introducing so many new services and their brands then become a mix of all their offerings, but it is still not how the consumer is perceiving them, and that is where we can step in."

The company has developed a number of tools to assess a telecom's brand and public image, and to make recommendations on how operators should evolve. One tool, the "Telecompass", connects current trends in mobile use, such as entertainment downloads and social media, with values to be communicated by a telecoms brand, such as optimism or expressionism. "This is where the brand-building opportunities are; where you can focus, build a brand and connect with consumers," Mr Khawaja said. "This is how they perceive you, what they think of your services, your brand, you as an entity. You can benchmark this against the number one in the region or the number one in the world."

As competition intensifies and network quality becomes standardised, mobile operators in the region are boosting their advertising spending to attract and keep customers. According to data published by the Gulf Marketing Review, Etisalat raised its advertising spending by 91 per cent in the first quarter of this year; du boosted its own by 600 per cent. DDB, a division of the Omnicom Group of companies, works with some of the world's biggest advertising clients including McDonald's, Volkswagen and Unilever.

Mr Khawaja, who founded the Saudi agency Promoaction in 1988, leads the company's Middle East operations.