For years, marketing in the Middle East has been slow to develop. Even in 2015, well into the digital age, the majority of advertising revenue in the Middle East and North Africa came from television – but recently, the region has seen rapid advancements in their advertising methods and reach. This growth is due, in no small part, to an intense focus on adopting digital marketing trends that are already prominent in the West.
Today, a marketing agency in Dubai could certainly keep up with the creative output of any digital agency in London – so how long will it be before Middle Eastern countries overtake the West when it comes to marketing? Here, we explore the momentum of digital marketing in the Middle East, and why the region is poised for success.
Advertising trends taking hold in the Middle East
The marketing industry is growing across the board in the Middle East: by 2020, ad spending in the Middle East and Africa is expected to rise to $6.51 billion, compared to the $3.8 billion predicted for this year. This upturn stems from a number of marketing trends becoming increasingly popular.
One area that’s experiencing particularly impressive growth is native advertising, a marketing strategy that places paid content in the context of a platform or publication, creating a seamless experience for the user. Brands are finding that native advertising gives them substantial returns – as long as they’re able to strike a balance between content that’s tailored for a platform and content that’s scalable.
Another trend that’s expanding the power of marketing in the region? The movement toward mobile marketing. Data demonstrates that 80% of smartphone users in the UAE will take action immediately if their interest in an item or brand is sparked, so it’s no surprise that many agencies are looking to mobile apps for marketing purposes.
Marketing roadblocks on the path to growth
Marketing is undoubtedly reaching new levels of influence in the Middle East – but with this increased impact comes a few challenges, as well. A 2016 study at the University of Texas in Austin found that the Middle East and North Africa are experiencing high rates of ethical infractions – misleading claims, copyright violations and inappropriate ads targeting children – in their advertising messages and practices.
Why is advertising success accompanied by ethical concerns? According to the study, marketing agencies in these countries often hire expatriate workers who have little commitment to the region. In addition, agencies sometimes give up effectiveness and quality to meet deliverables and make profits. Finally, many agencies focus on pleasing clients, ignoring ethical standards in the process.
The study noted that these ethical infractions are improving as consumer expectations change. Indeed, such issues seem to be the result of the advertising industry’s growing pains. In terms of technology and advertising, the Middle East is making great progress, so it’s likely that improvements in content will follow.
Though the creation of digital content at a marketing agency in London is nothing new, the digital realm has opened up a whole new range of possibilities for agencies in the Middle East – and with it, the potential for innovation. As this region’s grasp on digital develops and comes into its own, it’s sure to become a powerful force in the marketing world.