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Consumer brands drive surge in UAE ad spend

Heavy spending built around Dubai Shopping Festival promotions

Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News Archives
People shop during the Dubai Shopping Festival 2013 at Deira City Centre. A lot of heavy adspending was built around the DSF promotions this year.
Gulf News

Dubai: The fun and frolic sectors of retail, hospitality and entertainment led the way as advertisers loosened their purse strings to ensure UAE’s ad spend during the first six months totalled $782 million (Dh2.87 billion) for the first six months of 2013.

This compares quite nicely with the $755 million for the same period last year, according to numbers released by Pan Arab Research Centre (Parc). (The numbers are based on official media rate cards and do not take into account discounts, nor do they track digital ad spend.)

The increased spending patterns in consumer-driven sectors were such that ad and marketing campaigns put out by government entities made up a fifth of the overall spend compared to a quarter two years ago, Parc estimates.

Even then, government advertising was up there as the heaviest spenders alongside malls and retail stores, travel and tourism and entertainment. Newspapers pulled in 57 per cent of the $782 million ad outlay, with English language newspapers up 6 per cent and those in Arabic down by the same percentage on a year-on-year basis.

“From all indications, the first half of 2013 seems to have had the right trajectory through revival of spend in certain categories, especially retail, financial, tourism and real estate,” said Sanket Jatar, general manager at BPG | Bates. “As for campaigns, there does seem to be a marked shift in approach with brands increasingly looking to recognise and reward consumer behaviour.

“In my opinion, we are shifting from ‘brand in theme’ to ‘brand in action’, where there is an attempt to provide more value to the consumer.”

Dubai’s Expo bid

Not surprisingly, a lot of heavy spending was built around the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) promotions, which this year also leveraged the tactical campaign being run to support Dubai’s bid for Expo 2020.

According to Shaharyar Umar, marketing director at Parc, the entertainment sector recorded a 33 per cent increase during DSF. Real estate-specific ad spend is also making a strong return to the limelight, up 24 per cent from last year. Even then, it is still only 6 per cent of the total spend in the market.

With consumer-facing sectors on the upturn, brands are upping the ante... and marketing budgets. “Yes, there has been a considerable increase in our ad spend behind both our brands, Samsonite and American Tourister,” said Jai Krishnan, regional vice-president at Samsonite. “Our ad spend is always relatively higher in the first half because our biggest campaigns of a calendar year are in the period preceding the peak travel season of July–August.

“We are in the process of finalising our advertising plans for the fourth quarter — our advertising initiatives will not be tactical. They would continue to be strategic investments behind our brands with mainly long-term objectives. This approach has worked well for us so far and we intend on staying with this.”

Agencies and media buying houses are just as keenly watching the space. Apart from perennials such as Gitex and Cityscape, “the big excitement around the Expo 2020 announcement will definitely add to the spend level,” said Jatar.