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Here’s how Influencer Hasan Shah got footballer Benzema’s attention

We spoke with Hasan about how he got Benzema’s attention, what it felt like, and what he has planned next

Benzema Notices Influencer Hasan Shah

Hasan Shah created an AR Snapchat Lens to celebrate his love for football and this year’s Saudi Pro League, and the next thing he knew, he was being reposted by footballer Karim Benzema himself.

We spoke with Hasan Shah about his inspiration, how he felt getting noticed by Benzema, the future of augmented reality in the MENA region, and what he has planned next.

Tell us a bit about yourself & your work as a Chief Growth Officer. What is it you do exactly?

I grew up here in Dubai and went to school when YouTube was starting to get popular. I didn’t really want to just talk about cars or football – and I didn’t have a millionaire lifestyle – but I did feel there was room for someone to just talk honestly and confidently into the camera about his everyday life. I guess you could say I was one of the first ‘lifestyle’ vloggers in the region!

I went to the UK to study, and after graduating with my Law degree, I ended up back in Dubai – at Snapchat. My role was to help the team develop filters or lenses for big brands across the region. I learnt a lot about tech, creativity, and brands, but always had the itch for start-up life.

So that’s where I am now; I’m the Chief Growth Officer for Atomic Digital Design – the first agency in the world doing AX – we are a team of tech, creative, and strategy experts who help brands design and deliver Augmented Experiences agency. We’re a small business still, so I wear many hats every single day – but it could range from developing business strategy, exploring partnerships, and scaling operations, through to client projects and platform relationships. Our main focus right now is MENA.

You had a Law degree but decided to switch fields. What made you think to get into the design and development of these lenses/filters?

My style of content works – everyday stuff, face-to-camera, not overly polished – always worked well on Snap, so it’s a platform I’ve always loved. I’ve always been into tech, and I was curious about new ways to tell stories and express myself beyond pure, passive video. Turns out augmented reality – or lenses/filters – is an easy way to do this. And I saw the role at Snap as an opportunity to learn. It was my introduction to the world of augmented reality and the real business of creativity, and it was the best school I could’ve had. In 2021, I reckon we delivered over 375 Branded Lens experiences for over 150 different clients.

One of the best agencies I worked with and came across was Atomic Digital Design. So when the opportunity arose to join their team, I took it. It’s absolutely the right next step in my career, especially in this region where creativity is being unleashed and explored at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world.

What was your inspiration behind creating the “Benzema Wrap” Lens?

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a huge football fan, so we wanted to do something around football. When I saw the news of Karim Benzema’s transfer, I felt there was a massive opportunity to show it by creating a Snap Lens that would allow fans to virtually try on Benzema’s iconic hand wrap, on their own hand, in the unmistakable Al-Ittihad FC yellow and black. We decided to walk the walk, instead of talking the talk.

We decided to build the Lens experience proactively, and then hope [it gets noticed]. We lobbied everyone we knew to get it in front of him, to get it approved, to get him to promote it… and hopefully, encourage Al-Ittihad FC to support it too. In the end, we got lucky and the incredible Sports team at Snap decided to help us!

Now, everyone can try the famous ‘Benzema Wrap’, just by visiting the Al-Ittihad FC page on Snap and looking at the Lenses tab – or by going to Karim’s official page on Snap. Beyond trying it, fans can also post and really engage with Benzema in a dynamic way, through their phone camera, on Snapchat. More than anything, this proves how the technology already exists today for brands and creators to transform how people interact – and it’s possible to create really clever and interesting tools to help people amplify and tell your story.

How did you react when footballer Karim Benzema reposted?

It was a Champions League evening, so I was enjoying the football. I wasn’t really looking at my phone, and then I saw a ton of calls, texts & even emails prompting me to check one account on Instagram… It was special!

I grew up watching Karim Benzema play at the top level, and now he plays in the region I call home. It was a dream come true. I’m very pleased that both Benzema & Al-Ittihad FC liked it!

What are some ideas you have that you’re hoping to execute soon, design-wise? What can we look forward to?

Honestly, the sky’s the limit… but I’m probably most excited about two things.

Firstly, I love some of the new viral CGI/3D videos that are so popular right now. That’s something we can do really well.

And secondly, the opportunity around mixed reality really excites me. By this, I mean when the virtual world and the physical world become one. A simple example of this might be a poster that comes to life to launch a game or reveal a discount. But it could go much bigger, with augmented maps, virtual concerts, connected games, and AI-powered tour guides.

We have a rockstar team of developers, and we can pretty much make any idea become a reality. The use cases for sports and entertainment brands, real estate companies, destination marketing, and retailers are already proving to be highly effective; we want to partner with brands and creators who don’t want the same old films. We can help them bend, flex, and even break the screen, so people can start really getting involved and start enjoying advertising again!

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