The divergences are very clear in the UAE’s markets and media. In the retail market, the expat population has influenced the products on offer at many establishments.

Media channels follow same pattern, so you can find radio and TV channels that are non-Arabic nor English and dedicated to one or the other of the expat communities.

The UAE is also different in media penetration modules. In Egypt, for example, 97 per cent of the population watch TV while only 39 per cent are internet users. In UAE it’s totally different as 97 per cent watch TV and 94 per cent use the internet. And 51 per cent connect to the internet while watching TV! 
UAE also has the highest smartphone ownership ratio in the region, representing 61 per cent of the population. Google has also stated that consumers in the UAE live online; 89 per cent of mobile users go online daily.

The country has the second highest social media penetration in the region of 51 per cent — outranked — but not outnumbered — by Qatar (56 per cent) which has a fifth of UAE’s population. For example, a LinkedIn user in the UAE is 78 per cent more connected than the average global user.

From an advertiser’s perspective, you will stumble across diverse segments of the audience from the different cultures in the UAE. Going through online search trends, you will see shopping habits spike in conjunction with different holidays coming from different nationalities.

The shopping trends triple during Islamic holidays (Ramadan and Eid) and are as big as that before Christmas and Diwali and so on. That means that you need to be aware of almost every market trend and plan ahead to capture its momentum.

You should also consider world events and related digital consumption. In sports, you will find large audiences for almost every notable global tournament

And don’t forget about other GCC nationals within the UAE, whether residents or visitors. This is another valuable segment to keep in mind — individuals from some of the top purchasing power economies in the world.

Among GCC countries, UAE’s financial buffers will still support non-oil growth as authorities prioritise economic diversification, according to the EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit).

Still questioning whether if it’s an economy worth spending advertising money on? At 108, UAE had the highest Consumer Confidence Index in the region, beating the 96 that is the global average. The index measures the pulse of consumer trends toward their local economic climate in terms of job prospects, personal finances and spending and saving intentions.

Keep in mind that numbers above 100 indicate consumer optimism. What would be a better market to advertise than in one where consumers are optimistic about their economic future and willing to spend on goods without being worried?

Moreover, 71 per cent of UAE workforce are optimistic about future business conditions.

UAE consumers continue to spend up on luxury living, gadget buying, and living the good life, going by what Euromonitor has to say. Google is describing UAE as the ‘Biggest Luxury Market in MENA’ with Dubai alone commanding around 20 per cent. The country is leading the region as the largest trading partner with the world’s top 10 global economies.

The obvious conclusion is you need a market-customised plan before you start a marketing campaign in this country. Consider all the factors mentioned above and others that need deeper research.

Don’t ignore cultural diversity, consumer behaviour and technology usage and media consumption. The only thing worse than not advertising to your customers is advertising to the wrong ones.

— The writer is Senior Executive — Bid Media at MediaCom.