Complex Made Simple

Print on the way out, could digital adverts be the best route?

Print is dying, and with it billions in advertising spend. Where is that money going next?

Publishers hope to translate online advertising into big-time revenues but they have been met with increasing frustration over their inability to do that.

With the rise of social media platforms in the MENA region and beyond, and a flock of millennials joining the workforce, advertising has had to adapt and transform, and it looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Digital marketing has seen the introduction of social media advertising taking many shapes and forms, with unprecedented spending in the billions of dollars.

How is digital advertising doing in the MENA market today?

Social media ad spending in the billions

According to IAB’s latest Internet Advertising Revenue Report, social media ad revenue in the U.S. alone amounted to $13.1 billion in the first six months of 2018, up 38% from the first half of 2017, Statista notes. Social media advertising now accounts for 26% of total internet advertising revenue, a sharp increase over its 8% share in 2012.

According to IAB, digital ad spending is on track to pass the $100 billion milestone for the first time this year. Total internet ad revenue amounted to $49.5 billion through the first six months of the year, with ad spending typically picking up ahead of and during the holiday shopping season.

(Graph by Statista)

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Hope for the MENA market?

In the Middle East, however, spending on digital advertising was not as great.

Unlike global markets, TV has the biggest share of ad spending, according to Northwest University Qatar estimates in their Media Industries in the Middle East 2016. Digital Marketing Consultant Yasser Ahmad believes though that GCC countries are expected to be on the fast track with digital ads.

The overall advertising sector in the region was hit significantly by the 2014 oil price slump and ongoing geopolitical tensions and has suffered in the following years. Data firm Zenith estimates that ad spend dropped 18.6% in MENA in 2017, following 10% decline in 2016.

While Zenith cautions that overall ad spending in MENA will decline by 6.3% in 2018, the prospects for the digital advertising sector are still positive. According to its data, digital not only holds 31.9% of the overall ad spend in MENA region, but is slated to grow at 10% in 2018. The forecast also states that digital advertising would comprise 44.1% of MENA advertising in 2020. eMarketer estimates an approx. 112% growth in spending between 2016-2020, from $3.06 billion to $6.51 billion.

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Specialized advertising like no other

The beauty of digital advertising is that it permits a very customized and specialized service to advertisers, allowing them to target very specific segments and demographics down to the individual.

The Middle East is a prime location for digital advertising, as countries like the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar rank in the top 5 countries in the world in terms of internet penetration, with 98 and 99 as reported percentages by media agency We Are Social.

As the region still suffers from internet connection speeds that lag behind the services provided in places like Europe and the US, some digital advertisers have been reluctant to spend in certain MENA countries.

“MENA countries that have better quality connections and better speeds like Saudi Arabia and the UAE encourage digital advertisers to spend more, as the population is more active online,” Roy Farah, Automated Marketing & Lead Acquisition Specialist at Digital Smarter, explained. “More accurate data and statistics can be recorded from those countries as well, which allows advertisers to target more accurately and spend more efficiently.”

Prevalent types of digital ads

With regional record numbers among YouTube users in Saudi Arabia, video ads on the video streaming platform have great reach. In fact, Saudi Arabia is YouTube’s biggest market (globally) in per capita consumption, as reported by the Arabian Gazette, with a large percentage of young users. Deezer, a French-based music streaming service that just launched in the Middle East last month, flooded YouTube with its ads in an attempt to capture millennial interest.

Instagram is another super popular venue for digital ads. With influencers taking the region by storm, advertisers rely on Instagram ads and influencer sponsorships to push their products and services to customers. When you have beauty influencers such as Huda Kattan building multi-million-dollar businesses from their social media accounts, companies are quick to take notice, and so sponsorships are their greatest route to consumers. Around 43% of UAE marketers spend up to $10,000 per social media influencer campaign, the 2017 BPG Cohn & Wolfe Influencers Survey, in association with YouGov, revealed.

While Facebook is declining in popularity abroad, it is still very popular in the Middle East, with 164 million monthly active users reported in December last year.

Snapchat is another rising powerhouse. According to Forbes, “9.4 million people use Snapchat every day, with around 75% of aged between 18 and 25, and 20% of those aged 35+, regularly using the platform.” Snapchat ads and filters are effective, with corporate data showing that the company can add a further 8% incremental reach beyond that of TV even with 1/25th of TV spend. It also delivers 8x higher return efficiency than TV in driving sales – for example, up to 10x for carbonated soft drinks. Given the significant TV ad spend in the region, Snapchat could offer a great complimentary service.

Likewise, Twitter offers timely, targeted ads to tweet-inclined users, such as during this year’s FIFA World Cup. Ramadan is another period popular for Twitter advertising. ME ad agencies had a blast pre and post the announcement that women could finally drive in Saudi Arabia, with automakers tweeting creative content.

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