Last week I was invited to the Middle East Media Forum put on by Adnative. The briefing brought together an interesting mix of stakeholders from the Middle East who spoke about the opportunities in the region for advertisers and squashed some possible misguided assumptions about the population in the region.
HSBC’s global head of media Suresh Balaji spoke about how to target the business elite in the Middle East and why marketers shouldn’t ignore the region. Online media owner Zawya and mobile specialists InMobi peddled their wares and banged the drum for digital in the Middle East – both talking a good game except for the fact that it was proudly announced at the beginning of the session that the Middle East is probably one of the few regions where print rules the roost. And, this is where the Middle East’s media problems lie.
Attracting international advertisers to the Middle East is by no means a hard sell; the population in this region is educated, wealthy, have cash to splash and are receptive to advertising. Keeping the advertisers is where the issues begin. Why? Measurement.
Despite the apparent love affair with print, a long-term relationship with audits and verified circulation numbers is yet to bloom. Which brings up that question which is well established in mature ad markets: ‘What is the return-on-investment?’ From what I heard; it is hard to find. To be fair, there are the EMS Middle East measurement numbers – but with a current frequency of every two years this is hardly anything to celebrate when it comes to delivering accountability.
One Middle East media owner sitting in the audience, said by his own admission, that the region “needs to get better” when it comes to measurement and at offering clear ROI to potential advertisers. When he launched his magazine, he said, he put audit measures in place from day one – which drew criticism and scepticism from others in the region.
In order to attract the international ad dollars they desire Middle East media owners need to communicate in the same language that international brands understand – the language of irrefutable numbers.