Northwestern research finds total MENA ad market at $5.5 billion

The global advertising market is undergoing fundamental changes due to changing dynamics and the increased use of digital media. A recent study by Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) reports that the transition is also causing a slow expansion of ad revenue in the MENA region.

The study, Media Industries in the Middle East, 2016, which was conducted by NU-Q in cooperation with the Doha Film Institute (DFI), reports that during the past five years, the industry has shown a weak but stable growth in the MENA region. In 2015, the total ad market in the region was worth an estimated $5.5 billion (USD) in net advertising revenues.

Northwestern University has conducted research related to the increasingly complex media landscape in the Middle East during the past several years.

”Disruption across the media industries largely driven by new, digital developments and the displacement of traditional media outlets, is the nature of advertising revenue globally and in the region,” said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of Northwestern University in Qatar. “This report provides decision-makers with insights, based on hard data, that suggest how technological developments have – and will – influence the trajectory of media related industries, including advertising.”

The report found that digital still represents only 10 percent of ad spend, compared to 30–35 percent spend on print. Collectively, MENA countries trail other regions in innovation and adoption of new technologies (e.g., limited digital measurement, programmatic buying, and non-advertising forms of marketing). As a result, many of the opportunities of digital advertising have yet to be realized, despite high levels of digital consumption in the region.

Several key dynamics are changing the industry, such as the convergence of advertising platforms (traditional vs. digital) and services (strategy-only vs. execution). The market structure of advertising buyers and agencies in MENA is highly fragmented, with the strong presence and influence of international players. A number of acquisitions are taking place, mainly by international players seeking to break into or expand their presence in the region.

Ilhem Allagui, associate professor at NU-Q noted that the transition from traditional to digital is having an impact on the region. “Understanding how agencies buy media today is not simple. It is certainly not as simple as it was before the rise of digital advertising.  Agencies have challenges when considering media choices, as measurement is increasingly difficult to trust,” said Allagui. “The Arab Region is no exception.”