ME Digital Ad Spend Could Hit $1bn In 5 Years – Expert

Regional online advertising spend is growing at a rate of around 25-30 per cent every year.

Digital advertising spend in the Middle East currently stands at between eight to 10 per cent of the total ad spend, and is expected to grow rapidly in the next five years, according to an industry expert.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Digital Media Forum, Dimitri Metaxas, executive regional director- Digital at OMG MENA said that he expects online ad spend to continue growing at around 25 to 30 per cent year-on-year.

“So potentially – if all the factors and particular variables align – we could reach $1 billion in five years from now,” he told Gulf Business.

“But whenever forecasts like this are made, they are always revised – that’s because we look at growth in a linear fashion, we don’t look at the exponential growth that happens,” he added.

Industry estimates suggest that online ad spend in the region currently stands for around four per cent of the total spend – roughly $200 million. However, Metaxas says that the actual percent is much higher.

“For the most part, when we speak about the size of the industry, we tend to focus solely on the agency business, and agencies tend to represent the top 100.

“But if have an honest sit-down with some of the publishers in our market like Google or Facebook or Dubizzle, they generate more investment not from those 100 businesses but actually from smaller shops or individuals. These [publishers] have given the tools to small companies to be able to advertise and the space that they never had access to before,” he said.

“My point is that we are a lot bigger than what people think. Digital is often discussed as cannibalising things like TV or print or radio – shift of dollars from one hand to another. But actually digital as an industry is doing a phenomenal job in expanding the pie in general by giving access that was never really there in the traditional days,” he added.

Going ahead, the industry does face many challenges, admits Metaxas. Most advertisers find it hard to embrace new technologies and prefer sticking to their comfort zones. Another main issue is the lack of talent in the region.

“However in our industry, we are no longer having the debate about why online. Now the discussion has moved forward to how and where – the dialogue has shifted. It’s not as much about selling the concept as about how do we capitalise on it, and that’s where we need to be,” he said.

Brands have also begun to appreciate the importance of digital.

“It has reached the tipping point. The results speak for themselves and slowly brands have started getting addicted to the measurability that you get, the optimisation capabilities, all the new technologies that are coming in and all the hype – it really sucks all the people in and I think once they get accustomed to that, they are confident,” he added.