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ABG 2020 Virtual AGM

September 24, 2020

ABG initiatives make headway despite challenging year

“I know that this has been a very challenging year for all of us,” said ABG chair Sanjiv Kakkar, EVP of Unilever MENA, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Turkey, at the beginning of the ABG’s annual general meeting. “But I’m happy that, despite the challenges during the course of this year, we’ve done some good work.”

As with the majority of meetings this year, the ABG chairman was speaking to the group’s members via Zoom. The ABG’s message, however, remained as clear as ever: to unite the industry around responsible practices that protect the consumer and help the industry to grow.

“I’m really proud of the wide range of work that we’re doing at the ABG to raise industry standards and provide value to our members,” said Kakkar. That work has included progress in the areas of responsible marketing to children, gender stereotyping in advertising, media measurement, and digital media self- regulation.

Back in 2018, the ABG endorsed the GCC branch of the International Food and Beverage Alliance’s pledge to not undertake marketing to children under the age of 12. That pledge reached 100 per cent compliance across TV, print and online advertising in 2019. Verified by an independent auditor, such compliance is a “very strong example of the value and power of industry self-regulation in action,” said Kakkar.

Following ABG sponsored research by Zayed University into gender stereotyping in advertising, the ABG released its gender portrayal guidelines in November 2019. Compiled by a committee of six ABG members, the guidelines were modelled on the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority guidelines and adapted for the UAE. The ABG also joined hands with UN Women, which is set to launch the UAE chapter of the Unstereotype Alliance in November.

The ABG has also initiated a UAE Cross Media Measurement Project. Audited and with cross-party support, the initiative is being driven by a steering committee lead by Asad Rehman, Unilever MENA director of media and digital transformation. The ABG hopes to align the project with the World Federation of Advertisers’ (WFA) key global principles for cross-media measurement. To that end, it has appointed Houda Koussa, a consultant at Archers, to undertake research and forge closer links with the WFA.

The ABG’s initiatives around digital media self-regulation covered consumer experience, data protection and transparency within influencer marketing. The former led to the ABG actively supporting the Coalition For Better Ads, while in January the ABG held a wide-ranging discussion on the topic of data protection as part of its Speaker Series. In June, it organised an interactive webinar on ad fraud as part of a new initiative called LEAD (Learn, Engage, Activate, Drive). Developed in partnership with MediaQuest, the next event under this banner will be on influencer transparency.

“In late 2019 we designed a transparency guide on influencer marketing and we have an upcoming workshop to engage the wider industry and develop a charter in order to be able to drive this agenda forward,” said Kakkar.

Complimenting all of this activity was the ABG’s continued engagement with university students and the production of exhaustive online training programmes, especially relating to responsible marketing to children. The ABG also maintains a platform for dispute resolution.