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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 March 2019

Big advertising billboards make a comeback in Dubai

While the increase in outdoor advertising is evident, marketing across other media platforms has still to benefit from the fillip of recovery.
A huge three-dimensional billboard promotes Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Antonie Robertson / The National
A huge three-dimensional billboard promotes Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Antonie Robertson / The National

Dubai’s big billboards are making a comeback as the outdoor advertising sector returns to growth.

Emirates Neon Group, one of the biggest outdoor advertising companies in Dubai, is benefiting from the industry revival.

“In the past six months we have been showing 14 per cent growth,” said Rehan Merchant, the chief executive of Emirates Neon. “Before this we were seeing single-digit growth. Until 2013 we were struggling to keep clients. I think Dubai recovered two years ago but people haven’t had the confidence to spend as brands or individuals. I think [Expo] 2020 helped that motivation – I don’t think 2020 is a reason to spend blindly but it is a target for structured development.”

Vast roadside hoardings advertising massive real estate projects became a hallmark of Dubai’s property boom years, which rapidly unravelled in 2008. The empty boards defined the years that followed when development activity disappeared and property prices fell.

Now the developers are back, advertising megaprojects such as Damac’s Akoya just off Umm Suqeim Road. Banks and finance companies are also heading outdoors to advertise credit cards and loan deals.

The 96-metre-long, 1.5-metre-high digital ticker outside the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is in demand from companies looking to attract the eyes of the 16,000 DIFC employees and its visitors.

“We now get calls weekly, if not daily, to advertise on it,” said Niall Sallam, the chief executive of Elevision Media. “The uptake has been significant and we will hit full inventory by October.”

Elevision also manages 65 other screens at the DIFC – in lifts, the lobby and the food court. “These are at about 75 per cent occupancy which is double the size from last year. Revenue is on target for 110 per cent growth this year and we anticipate the same growth for 2015,” Mr Sallam added.

While the increase in outdoor advertising is evident, marketing across other media platforms has still to benefit from the fillip of recovery.

“The level of pitching and requests for proposals has risen sharply compared with the past few years,” said Kamal Dimachkie, the executive regional managing director at Leo Burnett, a full service advertising agency. “This is not necessarily an indication of industry health inasmuch as it is driven by a rise in media costs, and specifically driven by the spend on outdoor.”

Digital and social media are perceived as the key growth areas in Middle East advertising as electronic commerce and mobile commerce become more common channels. Industry trends suggest digital media investments for this year in the UAE run between US$150 million and $200m, growing at 25 to 30 per cent over the past three years.

“The UAE market remains a primarily traditional market, with analogue media commanding the larger part of the spending,” said Mr Dimachkie. “From a creative development and communication point of view, and judging by changes in brand behaviour, it is clear that digital and social media are commanding a larger portion of the conversation, client activities and spending compared with previous years. This trend continues to grow and seems to be far from abating, at least for the foreseeable future.”

Despite the rapid rise of digital advertising, Dubai’s giant roadside billboards still have a future, according to Mr Merchant.

“Outdoor ads are cheaper than other advertising,” he insists. “If you see an ad on a board on Sheikh Zayed Road it may cost Dh365,000 for a month. So you divide by 30 days – that is Dh12,166. Divide that by 200,000 cars that drive on that road daily, and if you take one car as 1.5 people, 300,000 people see that daily – which is very effective for Dh12,166. Outdoor is the cheapest per eyeball, but it is not the cheapest to buy.”

ascott@thenational.ae

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Updated: September 15, 2014 04:00 AM

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