Outdoor spending now accounts for a third of all advertising done in the UAE, a survey by a media buying agency shows. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News Archives


Those billboards — digital or otherwise — across Dubai are serving their purpose, with advertisers more than willing to have an exposure on them while cutting down on others.

Radio stations in the UAE are also hearing the jingle of higher ad spends, despite the intense competition generated by the 30 odd players up in the air.

“While there are no premium rates for advertising on digital out-of-home (OOH) platforms, there has been an overall increase in such spending in the UAE and providing advertisers with multi-message communication options,” said Satish Mayya, CEO of BPG Max, the media buying agency. “Outdoor is now emerging the leader in local media in the Gulf and upstaging print. Advertisers are seeing the benefit of raising a quick awareness when using the medium.”

Outdoor spending now accounts for a third of all advertising done in the UAE. Based on number crunching by the agency, overall ad spend in the UAE is down 7 per cent for the first six months compared with a year ago, with print — down 23 per cent — and TV — lower by 15 per cent — feeling the brunt of it. In comparison, outdoor put in a growth of 5 per cent in the first half of 2018.

“Until May, it did seem that the rate of decline in spending this year was lower than last year,” Mayya said. “However, Ramadan 2018 spends spanning May and June has been lower than 2017’s and that brought down the rate of decline further.”

Saudi Arabia saw the worst of it, down 24 per cent, as marketers adjust to the fast-track changes happening in the kingdom. It does seem that allowing women to drive didn’t set off a spike in automotive ad campaigns, or at least it wasn’t enough to compensate for a weak first five months.

Across the Gulf, ad numbers for the first half of 2018 are down 3 per cent, says BPG Max.

As for online advertising, there was a dip by 8 per cent from a year ago. But market sources suggest this could be because some of the ad dollars finding their way into “non-monitored media”.

Among advertisers, the big names seem to be holding steady on their digital spending exposures, but smaller names are raising their budgets significantly. There are no surprises on where most of that money is headed — Google and Facebook continue to rake in the majority.

But “niche or premium websites that meet communication KPIs (key performance indicators) — including retargeting and remarketing along with programmatic advertising — will see an increase in share of spends,” said Mayya.

As for radio, “it has always shown a steady year-on-year growth in share of ads. Today, radio spot buys are based on the percentage of spends with a station to meet a brand’s communication needs. We optimise and negotiate based on this.” (The average for a 30 second jingle at leading radio stations in the UAE would be around Dh450. But the big names can command and Dh1,000.)