x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Viewing figures key to Middle East advertisers

The lack of an accurate TV audience measurement system is one of the biggest barriers to transparency in the Middle East advertising industry, say media executives.

The lack of an accurate TV audience measurement system is one of the biggest barriers to transparency in the Middle East advertising industry, say media executives. Analysts say the introduction of a long-awaited "people-meters" viewer measurement system would allow advertisers to better gauge returns on investment and help to boost overall revenues. In the Arab world US$7 (Dh25.71) a head is spent on TV advertising, compared with $71 in Germany and $229 in the US.

But the introduction of an audience measurement system would boost spending in regional advertising by $2 billion within five years, said a report issued in June by the consultancy AT Kearney. "Auditing is very important. It would definitely boost [total ad spending] because clients would see some more accountability," said Satish Mayya, the chief operating officer of the media buying agency BPG Maxus.

Lance de Masi, the president of the UAE chapter of the International Advertising Association and the American University in Dubai, said measurement was crucial. "When are we going to learn that the whole business model needs re-engineering based on measurement of audience delivery and pricing commensurate with that?" said Mr de Masi. "We will get to true transparency when pricing is determined by accurate audience measurement … when media is priced according to delivery and when agencies are remunerated commensurate with the value they add. For all of that to happen, the long-term view of industry welfare must prevail and we must all be willing to suffer, in the short-term, the effects of tearing down the status quo."

Jayant Bhargava, a principal at the consultancy Booz & Company, said the lack of a measurement system was one of the reasons broadcasters outsourced sales operations. "Selling in the Middle East is not as simple as selling in the US: there are no people-meters here and that's why people don't do [sales] in-house," said Mr Bhargava. The experts say that along with a lack of TV measurement, most of the region's print publications are also not professionally audited. But the growth of digital media in the region will bring with it an inherent transparency.

"Everything in digital media is measured in real time," said Patou Nuytemans, the chief digital officer for Ogilvy Group in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. "As an industry, we're not necessarily ready to deal with that." bflanagan@thenational.ae