Ad firms explore new online marketing trends

Husni Khuffash, second left, and Rakan Brahedni, second right, at the agency day in Dubai yesterday. (ASHOK VERMA)

Capitalising on the recent growth in digital advertising worldwide and in the region, Google held a day-long interactive event with advertising agencies and clients in Dubai.

The agency day for advertising firms, an annual forum being held for the third consecutive year, aimed at exploring new features of the next phase of digital marketing.

Google said that users in the Mena region are consistently re-shaping their habits online, which affect how each interacts and deals with the internet and consumers.

This comes at a time when online advertising is becoming a viable option, with agencies starting to build their resources to be geared towards the digital world in 2010, according to leaders across various marketing and communications practices in the region.

Commenting on the event, Husni Khuffash, Google Country Business Development Manager in the UAE and Levant, said: "The agency day is a little bit altered this year compared to the previous editions.

"The main difference is that in the previous years our main focus was on training clients. This year, however, we chose to focus on Google innovations and introduce the advertising industry to the success story of the online world."

The event hosted Rakan Brahedni, New Media Relationship Specialist, Nestle Middle East. Brahedni talked about the impact online marketing has had on Nestle's business in the Middle East, and its use of Google tools.

Brahedni said: "Our focus is mainly on pan-Arab markets, and we have seen a significant growth in our online marketing spend, although I cannot disclose the figures. However, I can say this growth has been in line with the industry standards. We expect further growth in the next few years."

Khuffash said: "In our previous editions of the agency day we were keen on inviting an agency representative to talk about their views, experiences and challenges. This year, however, we sought to introduce a real case study of an advertiser, and we hosted Nestle."

The agency day explored how companies in the UAE and Middle East were addressing the need to take their business online, and how the new wave of online marketing would assist their business development.

He said: "Nestle talked about ways they have utilised digital marketing in their advertising plan and underlying challenges and opportunities in their online experience."

Khuffash said: "Our main focus is in three areas, DoubleClick, YouTube as part of the social media network, and the observation of the Arab users and their habits – in other words exploring what those users are doing right now."

The day saw more than 100 digital media specialists attend to participate, engage and discuss new trends in online marketing.


Population and Internet Penetration

- Out of the 337million people in Mena there are only 56 million internet users who search in Arabic, equivalent to 17 per cent. Google had announced last year it will be focusing on developing Arabic services 

- Less than one per cent of the world's content is in Arabic, which means access is very limited because the Arabic speaker represents about five per cent of world's population

- Mena has seen the fastest growth in internet users in the world between 2000 and 2007 at a rate of 1,000 per cent

- Online Ad preference: Banner ads still accounted for the majority of online ad format (52%) in GCC and Levant countries, followed by search (25%) Source: Madar Research


Agency day

The Google agency day answered the question: What are users in the Arab World doing, relying on the Google Zeitgeist tool.

Announcing its 2009 report at the beginning of this year, the Google Zeitgeist UAE-specific report showed that YouTube.com was the most popular site in 2009, followed by Facebook.

The fastest rising and most searched items, according to the report, included gaming sites, social networking sites such as Twitter, budget airlines such as flydubai and Air Arabia as well as new phone launches (BlackBerry).

Results showed that in the Mena region the top sites requests included: 

- Entertainment (25%) – videos, music, movies

- Communications (20%) – e-mail, chat, forums

- Other (18 per cent)

- Social networks (13% )

- Online gaming (8%)

- Sports (5%)

 

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