Advertising in the Middle East – which grew by 13 per cent to become a $5.6 billion (Dh20.5bn) industry in 2007 – is hindered by skills shortages in key areas, said a regional expert.
Shadi Al Hasan, managing director of Flagship Projects Marketing, a marketing solutions provider based in the region, told Emirates Business the Middle East market will grow to $6bn (Dh22bn) in 2008.
The highest rate of growth, he said, was witnessed in the UAE, which saw its advertising industry increase from $1bn in 2006 to $1.3bn in 2007.
However, the managing director predicted the lack of specialised human resources would continue to plague the industry, which is increasing vertically and horizontally, most significantly in roles that specialise in creative artwork and strategic planning.
“As the region sees unprecedented growth across various sectors, there will be a further boost in demand for creative specialists who really understand the nitty-gritty of the market. Currently, major shortage continues to be in the fields of strategic planning, creative conceptualising and development,” he said.
“As an emerging market, the region still has significant challenges to meet, such as [finding a] growing pool of available advertising talent. The Arab world shares the same culture, language and understanding among its states. From an agency’s perspective, this homogeneity should boost the advertising industry and reduce the people shortage as markets with high advertising demand could recruit people from less demanding markets who still have a strong grasp of the region as a whole.
“In a cut-throat competitive marketplace such as the Middle East, it is a well known fact the people who work for any agency are the driving forces behind its success regardless of its history or international network. Little wonder there is a fierce war for talent – especially for bilingual professionals.”
Thus far, the supply of professionals with experience in the region has not kept pace with demand and agencies are recruiting from overseas. Al Hasan said it will take years of training to fill the gap. “We forecast it will take about three years to prepare enough talent to fill junior and senior positions. We are largely short of Arab talent for more senior positions, especially candidates with strong English skills and a wealth of international experience.”
The Gulf market, he said, is offering an ideal opportunity for Arab professionals to gain knowledge and experience from their foreign counterparts as the diverse societies bring international expertise into the local marketplace. “We should develop our domestic talent fast, and this is something that will only improve with time,” he said.
To address the shortage of talent, Al Hasan recommended advertising associations should take responsibility for enhancing the Arab advertising industry, taking it to a new level of professionalism. This approach, he added, should include attracting the finest minds in the industry and nurturing new local capabilities.
Region’s advertising sector affected by skills shortages