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30 November 2023

Advertising sector in Arab world should stop ‘importing campaigns’

By Eman Al Baik


Advertising in the Arab world must develop its own voice and not depend on imported campaigns that are “Arabised” and fail to reflect cultural realities or communicate with the region’s audiences, says a expert.

Shadi Al Hassan, Managing Director of Dubai-based Flagship Projects Marketing, said Arab companies were losing millions of dollars annually through massive advertising campaigns that failed to achieve business objectives because they were not tailored to the local market.

He said the advertising industry should stop using storyboards, art layouts, advertising copy and indeed entire campaigns brought into the region that were produced in other countries for other cultures.

“In such a vibrant economic climate, analysing the underlying dynamics driving global trends has never been more challenging,” he said. “Consistent branding, targeted communications and diversity of messages across multiple audiences are key challenges in 2008, with the proliferation of brands crossing the 40,000-mark in the Middle East alone.

“Customised, one-size-fits-all marketing strategies cannot cater to the needs of our contemporary market.”

Advertising in the Middle East was passing through a stage where messages were not proving relevant to regional markets, he said.

“A major share of income for ad agencies in the Arab world, especially the Gulf Co-operation Council, comes from government departments and a few large private companies. But the challenge is to apply a high level of creativity and innovation to the messages that keep up with the region’s ongoing market revolution.

“International advertising campaigns Arabised for the region are playing a big role in killing Arab culture and supplanting it with a false Western homogeneity.

“In most cases the creative teams assigned to adapt artwork and copy ignore the emotional, behavioural and informational intelligence of consumers and fail to convince the target audience.”

He called on the advertising community in the Arab world to regulate the relationship among agencies, clients, the media and research companies.

Arab countries provided a huge and diverse market with a varied spread of demographics, education, purchasing power and economic strength, he said.

As product differences continued to narrow, meaningful and effective communication strategies played an increasingly important role in business success.

When planning the market communications for a product the emphasis should be on using a variety of channels aimed at providing clarity, consistency and maximum impact.

“Understanding the overall marketing process, consumer behaviour and communication theories will facilitate better communication and interaction with the target audience.

“The future of marketing lies in relationship marketing, which involves creating, maintaining and enhancing long-term relationships with stakeholders. Companies in the region recognise that consumers have become demanding and want high-class, personalised products and services tailored to specific needs and wants high- quality, competitive pricing and the best customer service. These factors make it imperative for the Middle East’s marketing companies to commence providing integrated solutions directly tailored to match their clients’ requirements.”

The latest market studies reveal that Arab brands are lagging behind their international rivals.

Al Hassan said it was regrettable that the total size of the Arab market and the economic boom in many countries notwithstanding, very few Arab names were included in lists of the world’s top brands.