The Middle Eastern mobile advertising sector is "underperforming" and presents a prime opportunity for regional marketers looking for an innovative way to reach customers, says a senior executive with Google.
Mobile advertising represents a fraction of the overall online market, with campaigns targeting smartphone users only now being built. The region's online advertising industry is expected to grow by 4 per cent over the next three years, reaching an estimated Dh977 million (US$265.9m) by 2013, according to Arab Media Outlook.
But there is a surprising amount of available inventory for mobile advertising in the region that is being ignored by marketers, says Russell Buckley, the Admob executive for Google.
Admob is one of the world's largest mobile advertising networks and was purchased by Google last November for $750m in company stock. Mr Buckley said the company tracked about 1 billion ad impressions each month in the Middle East out of 22 billion impressions around the world.
"This region has very respectable inventory but the prices are quite low, so the opportunities are huge," said Mr Buckley on the sidelines of a media summit in Dubai this week. "Consumers are hanging out and advertisers aren't talking to them. That's a big opportunity. Consumers have already voted with their feet on how they want to spend their time so advertisers should be following them, and they are currently not."
As online advertising has evolved into a multibillion-dollar business, with revenues in the US topping $12.1 billion in the first half of the year, according to data from Interactive Advertising Bureau, the potential of mobile devices is not lost on the industry's main players.
Along with Google's purchase of Admob, Apple acquired Quattro Wireless this year for a reported $275m to help develop its "iAd" advertising model for the iPhone. "Mobile advertising is still, on its own, rather cost-effective as you get higher engagement rates and results than using any traditional media," said Mr Buckley.