x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Ad spend trackers find their niche

Services that help media companies track who is advertising with their competitors have begun to enter the market.

As the shrinking pool of advertising spend intensifies competition among publishers in the UAE, services that help media companies track who is advertising with their competitors have begun to enter the market. Ad monitoring services have long been a fixture of advertising sales departments in Europe, North America and Asia, but have only arrived in the UAE since the start of the global recession. Inquiry Management Systems (IMS), a Toronto-based advertising monitoring company, had never considered entering the Middle East market until this year. Now, after signing six magazine clients during its first few months of meetings, it planned to become "firmly planted" in the UAE, according to Greg Harrison, the company's managing director of European operations. "We found there was a gap in the marketplace," Mr Harrison said. "So we set up appointments in February and ended up writing a reasonable amount of business, which was completely unexpected, because we hadn't looked to Dubai as a revenue stream. "We are doing that in a virtual way at the moment, but what we would look to do is, when we have enough business, open an office in the UAE." IMS, which was founded in ­Toronto in 1979, now monitors ads for some 1,700 publications from its offices in Canada, the US, ­Europe and Asia. It sells software that allows advertising sales teams to access digital scans of the ads that appear in competing publications. The majority of its coverage is in print magazines, although about 7 per cent of its business is monitoring digital publications. Out-n-out Online Xperts (OOX), a specialist online advertising monitoring company, which was founded only last September, has decided to focus on the UAE first before expanding to Saudi Arabia in the fourth quarter of this year. So far, the company has signed up clients including OMD Digital, Universal Media Online, ­MediaCom, Choueiri Group, BBC World, Jeeran.com, Dubizzle.com and, most recently, Abu Dhabi ­Media Company, the publisher of The National. Fouad Bedran, the co-founder and managing director of OOX, said: "We record 250 online campaigns per month in the UAE, and we monitor more than 75 websites and newspapers. It creates time savings, it provides leads and most important of all, it allows­ ­clients to create a competitive media plan." With online audience measurement still in its nascent stages in the region, Mr Bedran believes monitoring tools such as the ones his company provides can help remove some of the mystery from online advertising, and therefore increase online's share of the overall advertising market, which for the moment remains at about 2 per cent. But while OOX hopes to help pull the region's online advertising market into the 21st century, Mr Harrison is more focused on pulling print advertising sales strategies into the second half of the 20th century. "The way that they are doing it is the way that people stopped doing it in the 1950s in the US," he said. "They are basically ­using post-it notes." khagey@thenational.ae