How did my online ventures start? Several years ago I was offered a job to head the design department in a Canadian university in Bahrain. After much consideration I declined the generous offer as I didn't want to give up my day job. I felt I would not feel comfortable teaching only and not doing any real work. However, once I declined I felt sharing knowledge was missing from my life, so I decided to start a blog where I wrote small tips and tricks about design applications and the process of design. Soon the blog outgrew itself into a forum and a critique section where members could upload their work for others to comment on. Other bloggers joined me and now we have thousands of pages of great content on creativebits.org.
My other website AdsoftheWorld.com was inspired out of my own need. I always felt the need for a website where I would find ad campaigns categorized by industry and geographical location. Whenever I got a brief on a client in an industry I had little or no experience with, I wished I could go to a site and check out what other brands and agencies have done for this category. Ads of the World gives you just that. Got a brief on Dove? Go check out the Health & Beauty section.
While Ads of the World was meant to be an archive, I thought it would be great to recreate the typical adman pub virtually, where creatives can bitch and moan about the suits and dream about metals. Therefore, the site is built with the community in mind.
Traditionally there is Lürzer's Archive for mainly print and Spots for mainly TV. Although, I would not claim Ads of the World to be a competition to these services, one must consider that both are payed services and they publish only 6 times a year, while Ads of the World is free and published daily. And, most importantly neither Lürzer's or Spots have an active community. We are social animals and in today's world we expect two way communication from most mediums. And, I think the numbers prove me right. The last time I checked, according to Alexa, adsoftheworld.com had like 100 times the traffic of luerzersarchive.net. To give you a different comparison, we have double the page loads compared to AdAge.com.
Creativebits was a success, but nothing like Ads of the World. In less than 2 years Ads of the World reached 800+ thousands unique visitors and 15 million page loads a month. And these numbers are growing 10-15% every month. Today AotW is read in practically every agency in the world and is the most visited showcase in the world. I'm in contact with many agencies world wide, so I get all the material fresh and hot out of the production departments. I don't know where this site is going to go, but definitely this is some success I never dreamed of. Recently we upgraded to the fastest server that was available and adding a second one soon. Thankfully I have a partner and a friend from 2bits.com who helps me with all the technical stuff, so we can cope with the ever growing traffic. I'm extremely grateful to our more than 11 thousand international members who are always helpful and active making the site live and interesting.
Internet users are surprisingly active in the Middle East. I dare to say that the penetration of internet in professional arenas is as high as the Americas or Europe. I always hear statistics claiming that the Middle East is behind in readership, but I don't think it is true. I think the Middle East is behind in the number of communities, that is for sure, but the readers are there. The main problem regarding online communities in the Middle East as I faced several time during my career is that companies are afraid. There are way too many taboos in the Middle East and companies are scared of the freedom that online communities give. And, even if companies are brave enough to break new ground, governments may put an end to certain projects. At FP7 we created a virtual city for Coca-Cola where teens could create their virtual personalities and socialize. It was an enormous success with several thousand registered users in the first few weeks of its operation. Unfortunately despite of the fact that I won a gold for this project at IAAA, the site was terminated within a year of its operation for different reasons mentioned above. I was involved in a few big projects that were off-springs of big off-line media publications and we always ended up cutting the community features short. This is why most people from the ME have to go to international sites rather than local sites to socialize on the internet. I have high hopes for networks like Maktoob and others, and for the brand new MediaME, as they are brave enough to break new ground.
For more information on Ivan's various online ventures and interestes, visit: http://raszl.net/