As campaigning for Saturday's FNC elections ended yesterday, an analysis by The National revealed that candidates took out almost twice as much newspaper advertising space in the second week compared with the first seven days.
Between September 11 and 17, they took out 54 pages of adverts in the four Arabic newspapers studied - Al Ittihad, Al Bayan, Emarat Al Youm and Al Khaleej - up from 30 in the week to September 10.
Sound & Vision: FNC election coverage
And far more candidates entered the advertising race in the second week. The 316 separate spots represented 126 candidates, up from 159 adverts for 71 candidates in the first week.
That represents a significant investment. A source at one newspaper said more than Dh1.5 million had been spent on election adverts in its pages alone.
By the end of the week, almost all advertising space in the newspapers studied was fully booked, prompting candidates to take to the road to erect temporary billboards. That triggered a warning from Al Ain Municipality, which threatened to remove any unauthorised posters.
Moza Al Otaiba, from Abu Dhabi, bought the most advertising space in both the first and second weeks. In the first week, she bought two full pages in Al Ittihad (published by Abu Dhabi Media, owner of The National), accounting for more than 3,300 square centimetres. In the second, she took out four adverts that totalled almost 6,000sq cms.
At a discounted price, Al Ittihad charges Dh43,194 for a full inside page, and Dh21,200 for a half-page, suggesting that Miss Al Otaiba alone could have spent almost Dh200,000.
But not every candidate upped the ante. Otaiba bin Khalaf Al Otaiba, who took six front page adverts in the first week, chose to scale back in the second week to half that.
Abu Dhabi continued to dominate the advertising, with seven of the top 10 advertisers. Two, Khaled Ali Al Oor and Abdulrazak Al Hashemi, were from Dubai and one, Faisal Abdullah Al Taneji, was from Ras Al Khaimah.
Maryam Al Falasi, a candidate from Dubai, said Abu Dhabi candidates' focus on print adverts could "possibly" be a sign that Dubai candidates preferred social media. "But it is hard to tell," she added. "The only thing I have noticed is that a lot more people are advertising this week, in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi."
Candidates from Umm Al Qaiwain and Ajman were less forthcoming, with only two from each emirate buying advertising space, while those from Fujairah bought none.
Women ramped up their campaigns more than men. Six advertised in the first week, 16 in the second, but they remained poorly represented.
Although some female candidateswere criticised by the public for publishing their pictures, candidates said they had nothing to be ashamed of.
Muthia Salem Al Minhali, a candidate in Abu Dhabi, said adverts were only intended to let voters know about their programmes.
"This is different - there is no problem in this step," she said. "We are advertising as FNC candidates."
Some candidates also chose to update their adverts with new goals and different head shots. Most, however, kept their adverts the same.
Dr Ali Mohamed, the head of the mass communication department at UAE University, said it would be interesting to see the impact of the advertisements after election day.
He suggested men might be more influenced by adverts than women.
"In the US, even educated women read less. I don't know here, maybe women here are different than in the West. But generally, better educated, older men are the heaviest consumers of newspapers. Women consume TV a little more than men - I think it might be the same here."
* Additional reporting by Zaineb Al Hassani