Qatar's media and advertising landscape goes digital

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Like Qatar’s media sector, the advertising market is evolving quickly. While newspapers continue to take the lion’s share of advertising spend, new media are on the rise, and competition is growing between agencies. In the first three quarters of 2014, total ad spending in Qatar amounted to $461m, down 1% from $466m in the same period in 2013, according to the Pan Arab Research Centre. Newspapers were, by a large margin, the dominant medium on the advertising market, accounting for $353m, or 77% of overall spend. Magazines accounted for $11m, or 2%, and television for $10m, while other media (including radio) saw $86m of advertising spend, 19% of the total. The share of “others” – including radio, outdoor, and cinema – grew rapidly, more than doubling from $41m in 2013.

DIGITAL DRIVE: “The media landscape has changed. It was a very traditional market rather limited to print, but it is moving to digital and outdoor,” Karim Zarka, managing director of GREY Doha, told OBG. The development of a sophisticated advertising market has drawn international advertising firms to Qatar, as their expertise is increasingly in demand. “The digital medium is booming, accounting for around 10% of advertising budgets,” Zarka said. “A lot of digital agencies are now opening in Doha following this trend. Social media is becoming increasingly very important. It is a new tool of delivering a message, in a cheaper way, while the results so far are great. While many are convinced that digital is the future, print and outdoor are still very important media, and I do not think that there will be drastic changes immediately – it is happening slowly.”

“Though sizeable, the newspaper advertising market offers lower margins and fewer added values than other media, but international agencies usually include it as part of their portfolio since clients demand it,” Zarka noted. The state’s demographics lead advertisers to choose media based on their intended audiences. Advertisers looking to target Qatari nationals will often turn to domestic television stations, while to reach a mixed audience, international channels or outdoor spots are preferred. Advertising costs vary widely. Overall, advertisers in newspapers allocated $49m to front-page ads in the third quarter of 2014, with $295m on inside pages and $9m on supplements. Television spend rises for spots later in the day, up 28% in the early evening, 21% around the evening news and 20% in the afternoon, compared to 12% at evening prime-time, 9% in the morning, 4% around midday and 6% overnight.

MAIN ADVERTISERS: The government is the single biggest spender on advertising by sector, investing $173m in January-September 2014, 38% of the total, and up 7% on the same period of 2013. Shopping malls and retailers ranked second, with $44m (10%), followed by professional services ($39m, 8%); vehicle accessories and supply ($29m, 6%); entertainment ($22m, 5%); hotel, travel and tourism (also $22m, 5%); and financial services ($21m, 5%).

Qatar was not as affected by the global economic crisis as other nations, so the local advertising market was not as shaken. Advertising spend by the real estate sector was higher prior to 2008-09, when the market slowed and spending fell, but it is on the rise again and Zarka expects it to return to its former dynamism. The banking sector was largely unaffected and continues to invest heavily in advertising. Zarka expects banking and the government to remain mainstays of the sector in the foreseeable future.

The single biggest spender was the telecoms firm Ooredoo, which spent $7.8m on advertising in the third quarter of 2014. Other major advertisers included Qatar National Bank (QNB, $5.1m in the third quarter of 2014), the Sheikh Thani bin Abdullah Foundation for Humanitarian Services ($4.4m), Kahramaa ($4.1m) and Vodafone Qatar ($4m). A breakdown by medium indicated how advertisers focused their resources. QNB allocated 80% of its ad spend to newspapers, compared to 33% for Ooredoo. In the television segment, the biggest spender was Kahramaa’s Tarsheed initiative, a programme for conservation and efficient water and electricity use, which spent $1m, followed by Vodafone.

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