Complex Made Simple

Native advertising in the Middle East: Are we past the infancy stage?

It is clear the native advertising is the new way to go for the coming future

Native advertising has been gaining a lot of popularity among agencies and brands over the past few years, but in the Middle East region, it is still in its infancy.


It is a form of disguised advertising, usually online, that matches the form and function of the platform on which it is placed, whether in an article or a video. A native advertisement appears to the user in a seamless experience as he or she consumes the content appearing on the given platform.


Industry experts discussed the topic in a dedicated session at the ArabNet Digital Summit, held in Dubai on May 30 and 31.


The session was moderated Hussein M Dajani, chief operating officer at Hug Digital. Speakers included Rami Saad, deputy chief operating officer at Digital Media Services; John Ekambi, associate digital director for MENA at MEC; and Farshad Dabeshkhoy, head of business development for MEA at Criteo.


Prior to 2013, older advertising methods, such as TV commercials, newspaper ads, radio spots or outdoor banners, were more prominent, but native advertising became an increasingly favourable and natural form that brands are seeking.


“It has a lot of ambiguity, because people describe it in different ways,” Saad said in an attempt to simply define native advertising.


“It blends into the content without disrupting users experiences,” he added, explaining that, with native advertising, a user’s experience is not interrupted in any way. However, he noted that “digital is a key enabler” for this type of advertising.


Meanwhile, Ekambi finds that there are “a variety of definitions” to native advertising, but it offers a “nice palette” through the different formats in which advertisements can be carried, such as articles, videos, music, text and images.


“We need partners from creative, clients and publishers. Publishers are in the best position to create the content for their audience; they know their audience well,” Ekambi said.


Yet, many advertisers prefer showing their ads on premium platforms, which restricts the options available.


However, at the end of the day, it was clear the native advertising is the new way to go.


“A lot of agencies and brands want to be more on premium platforms. Advertisers are based on sales; we provide products within units and that is based on users’ behaviours on a site. This makes content more relevant than a campaign – people are actually seeing and are interested to continue to see the ad,” Farshad explained.