Tarek El-Mofty, VSA Partners: "Authenticity is critical to brand success."

A personalized approach delivers a better human experience for your audience

da India Fizer , AdForum

VSA Partners
Advertising/Full Service/Integrata
Chicago, Stati Uniti
See Profile

Tarek El-Mofty
Associate Partner, Executive Director, Production VSA

With over 20 years experience in print, digital and video production, Tarek El-Mofty, Associate Partner and Executive Director, Production at VSA, speaks to AdForum about his industry learnings and optimizing production process to consistently improve digital campaigns.


Can you give us a brief overview of your structure and some of the clients you work with?

VSA’s production team handles a lot of different media types, including print, motion/broadcast, presentation and digital. We’re a centralized service group collaborating across all accounts, disciplines and geographies. It’s a tight, nimble team — everyone is multitalented, which means we all have at least one area of deep expertise, plus the ability to stretch and back one another up. We can also extend our team, when needed, using our vast network of freelancers and vendor partners. 

Our team has worked with nearly all of VSA’s clients — IBM, Nike, Google, Harley-Davidson, Goose Island and many more. We work on everything from large ad campaigns, product packaging and event materials to broadcast campaigns, social video and display ads.


How does your production team utilize social listening tools to understand audience sentiment, gather feedback and adapt their strategies for improved engagement?

Social listening tools are basically like real-time focus groups. Whether you’re prepping for one big broadcast spot or working to consistently improve digital ads, you can leverage social listening tools to conduct audience research and get data-driven insights on how to best optimize your content. 

Usually teams will set up brand mentions and relevant industry keywords as “streams,” which allows you to track sentiment around campaigns, see what’s trending, and quickly compile common pain points or questions customers might have. From there, you can set up A/B testing to see what creative approaches work best, as well as create more personalized content based on your audience insights. It’s all about optimizing and delivering a better human experience for those audiences through a more targeted approach.

Beyond social listening, though, we also have a community of people we’re constantly in touch with. It’s a cultivated network of industry experts where we can discuss the most current best practices and industry learnings. 


What innovative approaches does your production team take in using new tech or augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) experiences to create unique and memorable interactions with your audience or clients?

I think one of the best benefits we’re seeing with AR/VR is how it can help during the purchase journey. Think using VR/AR for things like virtual showrooms, which allow customers to experience products through immersive environments. Or virtual try-ons leveraging AR technology so customers can see various styles and colors without needing to be in a physical store. 

AR and VR can also help with storytelling, because you can create these amazing environments for your audiences and then deliver them at scale. And enhancing product packaging with interactive elements using AR can further engage customers by providing them with additional information or impactful experiences.

On the other hand, these technologies can be really useful internally. Using AR and VR in employee training allows for “hands-on” learning before an employee even begins to interact with real customers or processes; they also tend to create better educational content that is more engaging and memorable. Any time you bring content out of the two-dimensional and into a facsimile of lived experience you’ll have better retention and more meaningful takeaways.

It’s also worth noting that with the emergence of Apple Vision Pro and the possibilities of 3D cameras and video, we’re about to see a whole new evolution of these mediums. Apple Vision Pro seamlessly integrates AR/VR for a truly blended reality. This technology can create immersive 3D videos with captured depth perception as well as allow for object recognition and tracking. Overall, it will create better virtual environments and even more practical applications. We’re really excited to see how this technology improves the current use cases for AR/VR and creates whole new realms of possibility. 

How does the localization of content for different regions and cultural contexts factor into your media strategy, and what lessons can be learned from successful cross-cultural campaigns?

Think of it as tailoring a suit — one size definitely does not fit all. When you’re aiming to reach audiences across various regions, you can’t just translate content word-for-word and call it a day. It’s much more important to understand the nuances of each culture, the quirks and intricacies of the language, and the values that resonate with people there.

By localizing content, you’re essentially saying, “Hey, we get you.” It shows that you’re not just another big brand trying to sell stuff; you genuinely care about connecting with people on their level and in a familiar tone.

We’ve learned that regardless of where in the world your audience might be, authenticity is critical to brand success. We never rely on stereotypes or assume a blanket approach for a specific demographic. Exploring intersectionality within these different demographics and how that ladders down to different need sets is key. 

For example, in our international work with Cargill, we wanted to make sure that our messaging resonated with farmers in Iowa just as much as it did with farmers in Vietnam. So we had to tweak our ads, adjust the tone to fit the cultural standard and even change what imagery we used to fit each audience’s preferences. Whether in the United States or anyplace else in the world, we target audiences based on the brand and how people locally interact and engage with that brand. But it takes more than just altering language and what images are used; from the platforms you use to the timing of your posts, every little detail counts. Localization is your best friend, authenticity is your secret weapon and empathy is your guiding light.