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MIDDLE EAST
10 FEATURE
30 November 2008
ONLINE
OVERVIEW
LONG TI M E
COM ING
As regional marketers face up to
economic reality and tighten their belts,
has online’s time finally come in the
Middle East?
By DUNCAN FORGAN
ood things may well come or even 50 per cent of their media consumption time The global reach of the world wide web and online
G
to those who wait, but that on the internet, only 1 per cent of marketing spend is advertising’s unique capacity for targeting specific
doesn’t stop the delay being being spent there, while newspapers, outdoor, pan- genders and demographics may look like a no-
a bit of a drag. For years now, Arab TV—all the usual suspects basically—still hog brainer for ambitious and forward-thinking clients,
experts have been eager the lion’s share of what advertisers are spending.” but, despite some promising signs of change, old
to usher in the seemingly One of the biggest hurdles facing online habits still tend to die hard.
inevitable dawning of a marketing evangelists in the region, according to “You have real estate companies taking out full
golden age of regional online Tuqan Tuqan and other key movers in the field, is wraps on traditional daily papers here where 99
marketing only to be foiled the ingrained traditionalism that is part and parcel per cent of readers can never even dream of being
and surprised by the durability of traditional of operating in this part of the world. The Middle able to afford the properties being advertised!” says
advertising mediums. East, and the hyper-ambitious cash saturated Gulf Tuqan Tuqan incredulously. “It makes no sense, but
While the practice of showcasing products and the reason for it is that there’s still a plethora of old-
services in the print media, on television and on school marketers who don’t get the web and don’t
outdoor billboards is tried and tested, the potential
The economic downturn
really see the kind of potential that it can bring. For
of the internet as a means to capture the public’s
may well be a blessing in
many of the companies the internet is this weird
attention would appear to be limitless. It’s no
disguise for us. Clients
kind of Star Wars thing that nobody really believes
surprise, then, that those in the vanguard of the in yet.”
new school in the UAE can’t help but show their
are going to want more
It’s impossible to miss the frustration in Tuqan
frustration at the snail’s pace of change.
accountability for their
Tuqan’s voice. Banging your head against a brick
“Every year we think the next year is going to be
the big year,” sighs Yousef Tuqan Tuqan, CEO of Neo
spend. Plus, aside from all
wall is never the most gratifying of pursuits—
especially when you are extolling the benefits of
Digital, Dubai-based online overlord Flip’s media the other benefits, online is a medium whose ability to provide pinpoint, not
buying arm, when quizzed by Media Week about
substantially cheaper than
to mention cost-effective, solutions makes it so
the current state of play. “I’ve been thinking that obviously appealing.
for the past 12 years, since I left university in Dubai.
other media.
Nevertheless, the conviction that relentless
Although all the research shows that consumers are persuasion and quantifiable results will eventually
spending more and more time on the internet, the states in particular, may be hurtling headlong into swing the balance more emphatically in online
amount of average spend online overall is less than the modern age in many ways, but as anyone who marketing’s favour means that any angst at the time
1 per cent of all media spend. has spent any length of time in the region knows, it’s taking to get the creaking wheels of the old-
“So what you are finding is that although we live in this breakneck progression is often tempered by an school in motion is counterbalanced by a quiet air of
a region where many consumers are spending 30, 40 innate conservatism and distrust of innovation. supreme confidence that things are about to change.
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