Market Spotlight: MENA’s Digital Media Boom — How Brands Can Benefit

By Aqilliz  

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Market spotlight

A dynamic and vital region, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is home to more than half a billion people, where people, cultures, and trends fuse — often with global resonance. Already making its mark on the international stage, this diverse, fast-emerging market embodies great potential for growth. As consumer preferences grow increasingly digital, the ad industry has shifted its focus in tandem. Fuelled by the pandemic-led shift to all-things virtual, digital media channels have taken the lead in terms of the region’s share of ad spend, valued at $1.26 billion last year as reported by Ipsos. This figure is likely to grow, and it is estimated that as much as 42 percent of revenues will come from digital ads by 2024.

E-commerce is driving this growth, hitting US$17 billion in the Middle East in 2020 according to Statista. To a large degree, COVID-19 and its effects have brought the digital future forward, as consumers in the region take more control of their own media consumption across an ever-expanding range of channels and content. How can brands and advertisers take advantage of the region’s digital boom and better engage with their audiences on the platforms where they spend the most time?

Rise of social media

Today’s consumers desire convenience and connection. While print, television, and radio are still relevant, digital and social media has evolved to fulfill those needs by allowing users to connect and interact with businesses like never before. Now, a company’s presence on social media can have a major influence on their overall marketing success.

A report from GlobalWebIndex indicates that social media users in the MENA region spend over three and a half hours a day on social networks across multiple platforms. On average, a consumer in the Middle East is active on about 8.4 social media platforms during any given month, and in the UAE, that average grows to 10.5 different accounts — the highest per person, globally. With such prominence, social media platforms have the power to significantly shape shopping behaviours and consumer preferences in the region.

Mobile advertising is already one of the most widely used channels in the region because of high levels of smartphone penetration. According to Redseer, social media is fast emerging as the most preferred channel for advertisers, cornering as much as 30 percent of the total ad pie in the region last year. Crucially, these changes in media consumption and preferences require brands and advertisers in the region to consider new digital business models such as subscriptions, leveraging direct relationships with consumers, and monetising content rather than relying solely on the strategies they have used in the past.

Putting priority in programmatic

Programmatic in particular provides a good opportunity for businesses to reach their audiences and allocate their digital advertising budgets more effectively. As consumers embrace new digital devices, the rules of brand engagement will continue to evolve. To reach audiences wherever they are, brands are increasingly turning to programmatic to deliver highly relevant, effective, and measurable ads at scale. Using a combination of data and technology, programmatic automates the ad buying and selling process, with the aim to serve relevant ads to the right people at the right time.

While MENA trails other regions in terms of the innovation and adoption of adtech and marketing technologies, programmatic advertising has been gaining rapid momentum. That said, the rapid growth of the programmatic industry globally has resulted in the supply chain becoming fragmented and complex, leading to a lack of control and transparency for both buyers and sellers. Buyers are facing mounting pressure to justify return on ad spend, but siloed spending, rigid metrics, and a convoluted supply chain make it hard to prove true marketing impact on business outcomes. Marketers, at the same time, are seeking to regain control not just over their ad spend but over their campaign performance. In addition to the deprecation of the third-party cookie, this has presented several challenges for brands and advertisers, such as viewability, fraud, measurability, brand safety, and data security.

Demonstrating value with accurate measurement

An essential step when rolling out digital campaigns is to ask: “how will we know if it has worked?” On that note, establishing what success looks like, as well as the ways to measure progress against those benchmarks should be a priority in every campaign. With so much customer data to consider, effective marketing measurement is more important than ever before. In addition, the performance insights can fuel the success of future marketing efforts. To compete in a fragmented ecosystem, advertisers require tools that help them plan their cross-media media strategies efficiently and provide deeper analysis of their campaign’s performance across screens.

As the region’s media consumption evolves alongside the increased demand for more digital-first experiences, the need for accurate measurement across channels is more clear than ever. Collectively, the industry has been working towards a cross-media measurement solution that can enable advertisers to boost campaign effectiveness, increase efficiency and optimise their ROI. With such a framework in place, advertisers will be able to maximise the use of their marketing budgets by determining true, unduplicated reach and frequency. As we continue to progress towards a more transparent and ethical digital advertising ecosystem, the industry should push forward in our collaborative efforts to gain a better understanding of omnichannel marketing and cross-device behaviour.

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