I recently wrote an op-ed about data and measurement. That itself isn’t anything new, as I’m sure you’ve all noticed by now that I’m pretty vocal in this space, but towards the end, I wanted to issue a ‘rallying cry’ to the leaders of industry to start working together more. It wasn’t an empty appeal either, it’s critical to securing all of our future’s in this market; we can no longer work in silo, blind to everything else happening around us.

Few weeks back, we took the biggest leap so far in making this a reality with the formation of The IAB GCC Standards & Guidelines Sub-Committee. Myself, along with several other industry cohorts – agencies, clients, publishers, advertisers and more – will soon begin the mammoth task of examining and putting an action plan in place to see what needs to be done in order to standardise the advertising industry across the MENA market. You know, in addition to our day jobs.

All joking aside, this collective will be able to shape and enhance best practice, set up guidelines and look at regulation that’s both practical and effective, which in turn will of course help us all do our jobs better. It all goes hand in hand after all. For too long, our own benchmarks for success and narrow view on our own company objectives have held us back from making progress. Now it’s time for the bigger picture, looking initially at everything from audiences and measurement to taxonomies and GDPR, with much more to come. Bring it on!

On a serious note, I am incredibly honored and humbled to be asked to be a part of this. It really is a force for change that will shift the entire landscape for the better in the coming years. I already think the formation of such a sub-committee is a huge achievement. It’s easy to dismiss, but we’re all key stakeholders with our own agenda to push, yet in light of this appointment, it becomes irrelevant; our only goal now is to standardise processes and establish guidelines that will work for the greater good of the industry.

The beauty of these upcoming sessions will allow us to do just that. In other markets, most notably the UK and the US, the idea of collaboration is easier to digest, but up until fairly recently, this market has lagged behind here. Ironically, I think COVID has played a part in shifting mindsets from a single to a macro view. Ultimately, for us to advance and grow in this market, we need these benchmarks, we need to set a standard, we need to compete on a global level.

The IAB took a lot of time to be developed in the MENA market because of a reluctance to actually gather all stakeholders together and speak openly. Perhaps, we all lacked courage in being able to sit with the ‘competition’ or maybe we were all too focused on serving our own needs, which I can understand; we all need to answer to the bottom line after all. Still, this insular standpoint no longer works when the global economy is struggling, still reeling from multiple pressure and pain points on everything from data and privacy concerns to anticompetitive practices and changing consumer habits.

There’s a lot of work to be done and can’t wait to get started. While the purpose of the IAB itself is to improve the industry, drive growth and encourage transparency, we need to ensure we mark another milestone too; getting us all at a table (or in this case at a laptop screen) talking to each other. You forget how powerful it can be when we all work together, share information and, crucially, hold nothing back.

In the past, whenever we have crossed paths and discussed the idea of regulation and benchmarks, there would have been some witty banter and knowing smiles that whatever we talked about would never come to fruition. Real work? Practical application? Keep dreaming! Now we are changing all that. I don’t say it lightly when I say that this meeting of minds is already historic. As we layout the framework for change, we need to be realistic about the outcomes and see what is actually possible. I will say this though; myself and my fellow sub-committee members have big plans, make no mistake!

As I finish writing this, we’ve already completed the first few sessions with clients, tech providers, publishers, marketplaces and agencies in attendance, all ready to work together. In these sessions we will be the pioneers of revolutionising the media space in MENA. Not one individual will make a difference here, it will take a collective effort to implement initiatives that work for all. Everyone has a role to play, everyone has trust in one another and everyone is wholeheartedly committed to serving the mission of the IAB. Guys, let’s get started.