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Are your designers ready for the MENA media content boom?

Are your designers ready for the MENA media content boom?

The demand for locally generated, Arabic content across the GCC and MENA region as a whole, is greatly outstripping supply.  Regional advertising spend is set for a major adjustment as it catches up with the considerably higher global levels.  Is your company and graphic design team ready to catch the wave?

The trends, culture and demographics of the MENA region pose an entirely unique case study, with statistics that differ greatly from global norms. Improved regional economics and an emerging talent pool are drawing intense attention and investment to an advertising sector that has long suffered from limited revenue opportunities and high costs.  The media market in the region is expected to show a 7 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from $15.5 billion in 2014 to $21.5billion in 2019.  Advertising spend is also expected to enjoy a 6 percent rise compared to a global 4.4 percent which is continuing to decline.

International media will rarely portray a clear picture of the unique and rapidly evolving MENA landscape, but a critical understanding of the underlying facts will prepare regional brands for stratospheric success in the upcoming boom.  The UAE is a driving force in this evolution with a number of innovative technological initiatives, such as the creation of fully interactive smart cities and a pledge that 25 percent of Dubai’s buildings will be 3D printed by 2030.

The Brand Lounge team are immersed in the daily realities of the industry, gaining great knowledge and insight from working with our regional clients.  Our ‘in-the-field’ experiences paint a very different picture from what we perceive by consuming generally circulated articles and reviews.

Most dramatic of these gaps is the untapped demand for local, Arabic content across digital media and audio-visual segments, in particular social media, TV, gaming and e-commerce.  The region’s traditional print players are finally starting to feel the pressure their International counterparts have felt for the last decade, as the shift to digital media begins to erode their 40 percent share of GCC advertising spend.  As news transfers to online channels, the print companies not only face competition from their traditional competitors, but also TV broadcasters, social media platforms and the entire cross-section of Internet players.

We suspect that print will never fully die in this region, especially with their love of business cards!  However, this is the ideal time for companies to realign their business models, ensuring their media buying and graphic design teams are well prepared to take advantage of the rising tide.

A recent white paper by PWC’s Strategy &, formerly Booz & Co, entitled, ‘How Young Arabs are Fuelling the MENA Media Market’ highlighted some informative statistics that offer a powerful insight for business who are looking to reposition their companies for future advantage.  This article explores those statistics and proposes strategies that design departments in particular can learn from.

MENA Region Media Stats:

  • The overall population in MENA is expected to grow from 317 million in 2014 to 349 million in 2019, with 68 percent being below the age of 34 years old.
  • The young population have a higher literacy rate (82-100 percent) than the existing adult population (66-98 percent) which facilitates greater media consumption.
  • The ‘Arab Digital Generation’, of 15 – 35 year olds are defining a new set of cultural values. Traditionally a population who identified with the attributes of, ‘hospitality’, ‘generosity’ and ‘dignity’ are now more individualistic and more concerned with self-expression.  This changes the way the new generation are consuming media and when they can’t find what they are looking for, they are simply creating their own.
  • The Middle East and North Africa region ranks second in the world for YouTube video views per day at over 310 million, only just behind the United States (albawaba business, 2015). In Saudi Arabia alone, the average Internet user watches three times as many videos per day compared to the US average, 50 percent of which originate from mobile devices.  Two hours of YouTube videos are uploaded in the MENA region per minute.  Interestingly though, whilst Arabic speakers account for 5 percent of Internet users worldwide, less than 1 percent of websites are in Arabic.
  • MENA consumer expenditure is set to grow by 10.6 percent, from US$1.2 trillion to nearly $2trillion. Growth per capita far exceeds the global average of 5.9 percent.
  • Digital is expected to account for one-fifth of the MENA advertising market by 2019. The will be a rebalance of spend to reflect consumer usage.  Currently newspapers account for 32 percent of advertising spend, but only 9 percent of time is spent by consumers on the media.  In contrast digital media accounts for 27 percent of time spent by consumers, but only 9 percent of advertising spend.
  • Online and mobile gaming is the fastest-growing media segment in the Middle East, expected to nearly triple in size in the coming years, from $1.6 billion in 2014 to $4.4 billion in 2022.
  • Regional investors are recognising the demand for e-commerce and the sector’s worth is expected to grow by 13 percent per year from $2.3 billion in sales in 2014.

Surviving Technological Changes from a Branding Perspective


The youth-skewed population and Arab Digital Generation are largely skilling themselves, but universities also need to start formerly preparing design students well for a fast changing industry without falling into the trap of perpetually chasing trends that hold little sustainable value.  The new streams of technologies offer huge opportunities for designers to develop creative solutions that work across a range of media, including integrated campaigns, web design, motion graphics, ‘app’ design and interactive design.

Responding Quickly to Demand

With the rise of digital media and e-commerce, businesses are facing an increasingly live and interactive marketplace.  Designers must respond to the demand from audiences with more real-time, interactive and visually appealing content such as ads, memes, banners and other imagery. Designs need to be on trend but also anchored in solid foundations to ensure ever green content that can be repackaged for maximum value.

Invest Wisely

Regional investors are already drawing a line in the sand by shifting investment away from a slowing commodities market to blooming tech start-ups and digital advertising will be further supported by the funding of high-quality ad platforms and capabilities in the region.   However, organisations also need to invest wisely internally, providing their design teams with the right talent, infrastructure and tools to create award winning media for their clients that pushes boundaries and the industry forward.

International companies are already recognising the size of the opportunity and seizing it, are you?  Global entertainment company Ubisoft and Fox International Channels Middle East are just two of the companies already tapping the power of local content.  What will be your point of differentiation?

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