x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Playing the changing game of advertising

How to get ahead in advertising? The Life meets a man who knows - with video.

Merwyn Martins gets the message across. Lee Hoagland / The National
Merwyn Martins gets the message across. Lee Hoagland / The National

Merwyn Martins made a splash by producing a US$450,000 (Dh1.65 million) commercial for Dubai Shopping Festival that was shot in six countries. As head of Different Angles, a Dubai company that creates TV advertisements and corporate videos, he talks about how the ad game is changing in the digital era.

More consumers are bypassing traditional commercials by watching shows online with fewer ads or skipping ads entirely through digital video recorders. How effective are commercials these days?

Conventional TV advertising is losing lustre. Television now has such a huge spectrum. You put on the TV here and you've got 400 channels. Let's say you filter them down to 40 channels of your choice. What are the chances you'll be watching a particular ad? If you're talking to a local audience in the UAE, it's senseless to go on television. But if you're talking to a trans-GCC audience then, yes, have a larger broadcast footprint - it makes sense to go on television.

How should business owners try to market their message to consumers locally?

What you need is a good media planner who'll get you more bang for the buck. It's like a combination of everything: you have television, online, digital, social media, press, outdoor and radio advertising. You go out there - bang, bang, bang - and hope you hit home.

But most small and medium-sized businesses don't have half a million dollars to invest in a commercial. What is the cost to advertise today?

The Dubai Shopping Festival wanted to reach the world, so you cannot have a small-time ad. Everything had to be done on a grand scale. Budgets can range from something as small as $10,000 to $450,000.

What's the key ingredient to make a successful commercial?

You have to understand your market. There's a lot of clutter out there, so don't expect to get home on the first shot. You need to see the gap … then position your product so at least you will get a hearing, a look into what the product is all about.

Do you advertise your own business through TV ads?

No. No way. For a long time it was word of mouth. Unless a client knows you, it's very difficult to ask him to put [thousands of dollars] behind you.

Why don't you use commercials?

You're not selling a tangible product. You're selling a creative product, you see? That is very difficult to translate to someone. You cannot hold it, you cannot see it, you cannot feel it. In my business, as an advertising and film-maker, my clients are agencies. My clients are the marketing guys who provide the entire marketing mix.

How has your own business been as of late?

Since 2008, it's been slow. [During a downturn,] advertising is the first thing to go. I joke that I should have got into the food or taxi business. They get cash up front.

* Neil Parmar