x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Advertising with a digital focus

One of the MENA region's largest advertisers expects consumer goods companies to boost their digital marketing activities.

Multinational consumer goods makers are planning to boost their use of digital media regionally, according to one of the Mena region's largest advertisers.

"In the Middle East and surrounding areas I think you'll see FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] brands who may have spent 1, 2 or 3 per cent of their total advertising budgets on digital media over the last few years, grow closer to 10 per cent in the near future," said David Porter, the media director for Unilever in the Mena region.

"Digital is high on the agenda for all the brands, and so it should be. Having a digital element to the campaign is really a no-brainer."

Uptake of digital media by advertisers has been relatively slow in the Mena region, with newsprint and television still dominating in terms of advertising spending.

Boosting digital advertising will take a "huge effort", said Mr Porter. Barriers to growth included a skills gap and the relative lack of Arabic content online, he said.

Unilever is behind products such as Lipton, Dove, Sunsilk and Lux - all of which rank among the top 20 brands in terms of regional advertising spending.

Mr Porter expected most of Unilever's brands to engage in some kind of digital marketing within the Mena market. But the form such campaigns take could vary.

"I'd be disappointed if the vast majority of our brands don't have a strong first move into digital by the end of the year," he said. "It's not about an absolute, quantum amount of money spent … It will not be 'one size fits all'."

In January, Unilever launched a campaign it said was its most digitally focused promotion to date in the Arab world.

To promote its toothpaste brand Close-Up, the company created a campaign involving Karl Wolf, the Lebanese musician. Music lovers were invited to upload a vocal recording to a website, and were given the chance for the samples to feature in one of Wolf's tracks in what has been described as the "world's largest collaborative music video".

Mr Porter forecast the growth in total advertising spending across the Mena region would be sluggish this year, although he said there would be "pockets of growth". "[There was a] fairly bland performance last year in terms of growth," he said, referring to the market as a whole.

"It's quite hard to envisage serious year-on-year growth in the advertising industry this year … A lot of spending, from a lot of advertisers, would have been curtailed during the unrest."

bflanagan@thenational.ae