Ramadan Advertising spending down in 2011

13September2011 DooH Insights Ramadan is one of the busiest advertising periods in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Some advertisers choose to spend half their annual budget in this month alone, and it’s a period which many media owners and network operators rely on to boost their overall trading figures for the year.

For those who may not live or be familiar with the region, The Holy Month of Ramadan marks a time when those living in MENA typically spend a significant amount of time at home with their family and friends, on the phone to those living overseas, as well as outside of their homes. As such, their lifestyle during this period marks an attractive and highly effective time to advertise to consumers.

Whilst official figures are still to be released, initial data and industry & media commentators are pretty much in agreement that ad spend is well and truly down in this period, with many companies choosing to cut their marketing budgets this year. Whilst positively spending levels on advertising during Ramadan are up against the rest of 2011 to date in the MENA countries, overall spending is expected to be lower than last year.

In recent months at DOOH Insights, we’d shared with you research and figures already showing a decline in overall ad spend in the region in 2011 to date. The same reasons for the decline across the whole of 2011, as well as at Ramadan, are being given; the political unrest sweeping many parts of the region and continued economic struggles globally, including the credit downgrade in the US and debt crisis in Europe.

Shaharyar Umar, marketing director at the Pan Arab Research Centre (PARC), told Gulf News, that one of the primary reasons local ad revenue during this period suffered is because three of the biggest spenders in the region are multinational companies, Procter and Gamble, Unilever and PepsiCo. “Furthermore, this Ramadan coincides with the peak of the holiday period,” Umar continued. August marks the peak summer break in the region, with nearly 4.7% of the population in the Gulf going on holiday in this period according to research.

So, what have we witnessed in the new and growing DOOH industry during this period?

Shopping malls and supermarkets have long provided some of the most premium DOOH environments, because of footfall volumes, long visit times and the perfect consumer mindset for advertisers. The climate and culture of the MENA region, makes the many sprawling shopping malls across the countries busy on a normal week day, but increasingly so during Ramadan, when footfall figures can increase by up to a third. As such, they are a venue of choice for many advertisers in the region, providing a large audience with significant spending power.

In the UAE, some of the strongest DOOH networks are in malls, including those of Majid Al Futtaim Properties (MAF), the UAE’s most prominent property and shopping mall developer and owner of some of the largest mall advertising networks, including Mall of Emirates, Mirdiff City Centre and Deira City Centre; Abu Dhabi Media owned Al Barq Digital and Dubai Mall operated by Hypermedia.

DOOH Insights carries out a weekly screen campaign audit across DOOH networks the UAE and whilst we can’t comment on likely revenues secured by operators, we definitely did witness a busier period over Ramadan, with more paid for content going out across the mall networks. As typically seen in this period, media companies and the TV networks were heavy advertisers, with Sharjah TV and ADTV both running long term campaigns. Other key advertisers during this period included Landmark Group, Etisilat, Du and Ferrari World (who pretty much ran on every DOOH network for the past 2 months).

Away from the malls, JCDecaux’s screens in Dubai International airport were on the whole booked up and busy and many of the screen networks in office towers across the city were filled with store sales, bank ads and gym & diet plan campaigns.

We’re in the process of talking to a number of the key operators and industry spokespeople in the region to get their thoughts on the Ramadan just gone and how it was for them and we’ll be sharing their insights and commentary very soon.

Whilst the ad spend figures may be down across the region, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been bucking the trend in recent analysis, so let’s hope it’s not all doom and gloom once the official figures are released. There are many who still feel Q4 could see a pick up across the board and we hear that whilst it may not be as quick as we’d like, DOOH is increasingly making it on to media plans and that at the end of the day is good to see.