A first-of-its-kind in the UAE, Crossfire explores a range of contrasting views on some of the region’s key issues, tapping into some of the everyday conversations generating heated debate across the region’s offices and social platforms

A weekly show from ABTV, the online television arm of Arabian Business, the format features two speakers with opposing views on a key topic, with the debate running for around 20 minutes. The discussion is moderated by ABTV’s Shruthi Nair, followed by an interactive Q&A session with a live in-studio audience.

On the second episode, which aired on Wednesday, September 18, Taghreed Oraibi, Business Director at BPG Orange and Anthony Permal, Multichannel Marketer at Julphar, wrangled over the divisive topic of whether influencer marketing is worth the investment.

According to a survey carried out by BPG Orange and YouGov, 71 percent of those surveyed said their purchasing decisions are affected by the content posted by influencers. Another survey, by the same researchers, revealed that 94 percent of in-house marketers in the UAE believe that social media marketing has a very significant impact.

Mixed reactions

Despite this, influencers have attracted mixed reactions regionally and globally, with credibility being one of the key issues in question.

Quoting an example, Anthony Permal said: “There’s one very well-known influencer and content creator who in general creates great content on his own. He was hired by one of the cell phone companies to do a promotional campaign and he was so out of place in that as that’s not his style. He was paid good money but, in the end, it was a laughing stock online”.

Another problem with influencer marketing today is that 47 percent of influencers charge for their messages, in terms of freebies, and another 47 percent charge per post/video uploaded. Followers are left often wondering if the content posted is genuine virtual word of mouth or if the influencers they choose to follow are just acting as marketing tools for a particular brand or company, especially when they fail to mention if a post is sponsored or not.

For a brand, one of the key issues here is measurability. “Measurement is one of the most difficult parts of influencer marketing. But there are ways, like a redeemable coupon. If your business is online, then you can locate the URL link that measures the click-throughs, acquisitions and so on”, said Taghreed Oraibi.

However Permal argued that a discount is not something that a customer in the region is used to asking for. They are, in fact, used to demanding it using apps like The Entertainer, Zomato Gold etc. which they purchased.

“We have a very high disposable income in the region and people usually tend to spend money on things that will make them look good. You don’t expect a lot of people to say, ‘here’s my coupon I want to get a discount’. They will instead use an app like an Entertainer for discounts,” he said.

Payment issues

However, Permal and Oraibi both agree that the way influencers charge and are paid by brands – i.e. through freebies and by payments per post – is wrong. Less than 30 percent of influencers charge for any legitimate action taken by their followers to support the reach and sales of the subject they are marketing.

Only 29 percent charge per click and 6 percent charge per acquisition. “The way we pay now in the industry is based on outputs and not outcomes. And this has to change. When I charge an influencer, micro or macro, based on acquisition or cost per click or an action, this makes more sense to me,” said Oraibi.

Oversaturation of the influencer market in the UAE was also addressed during the debate, after an audience member asked the question. “It seems there are a lot of influencers per capita in the region. Is there such a thing called being over-influencered?” Bernd Debusmann Jr from Arabian Business asked during the audience Q&A.

“I think the industry is definitely saturated but it goes back to the definition of influencer. We put bloggers, Instagrammers, Youtubers under the term influencer. Not all of them are. So this needs to change”, replied Oraibi.

Who won the influencer debate and was our Crossfire audience convinced? Check out the debate online.


Crossfire – Get involved!

Do you want to be an audience member at one of our upcoming show? Below is a selection of our upcoming debates:

  • Does Artificial Intelligence Bias exist?
  • Vegan restaurants vs Steakhouses
  • Are UAE school fees too high?
  • In the midst of streaming video services, is cable TV dead?
  • Is advertising dead?
  • Should South African expats pay income tax?
  • Bricks V clicks: Is e-commerce replacing malls?
  • Will cryptocurrencies go mainstream in the near future?
  • Is taxation good for the economy?

We film the series every Thursday afternoon. Email shruthi.nair@itp.com for more information on Crossfire, ABTV’s newest weekly debate show.

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