CTV advertising in MENA: how regional actors are building future-proof ad offers

This December, the first CTV Ad Days event in MENA took place in Dubai, covering the potential of streaming and TV advertising in Arabic markets. 2023 was marked by a peaking interest in premium video ad propositions in the region, with regional streamers successively launching new inventories and brands increasingly turning towards CTV as a new medium to reach consumers on the big screen while enriching their marketing models with a whole new set of data points. But to better understand these new opportunities, it’s important to understand the specific challenges that the MENA ad industry is facing. TV is a compelling medium for brands but has been largely underserved by advertisers in the Middle East and in North Africa. Commercial TV arrived rather late in the region, and digital advertising spaces opened on global giants’ platforms about the same time, capturing the vast majority of the local ad spend. This led to the current situation: broadcast TV has some of the largest reaches globally, with among the highest viewers’ consumption (standing at 4 to 5 hours a day), and touching audiences in markets with significant GDP per capita if considering Gulf countries; but TV ad spots are still sold at an extremely low price. Thus TV represented less than one-quarter of the media mix in 2021 across the region according to Ipsos’ estimates, with this ratio dropping well under 10% in some markets like the Gulf countries, while digital is overrepresented in the media mix. Transition to OTT streaming advertising has thus been more difficult in the last few years and to some extent still lags in the region. That being said, the industry’s attention is now gravitating around premium streaming inventories, which are establishing a strong presence on big screens thanks to the rapid adoption of smart TVs. This segment of the industry is thriving, as video overtook display in the digital ad spend for the first time this year, according to insights shared by Mazen Mansour, Digital Director - Unilever at Omnicom’s PHD agency. This is partly due to the expansion of the ad supply: premium streaming platforms in Arabic markets are launching revamped ad-funded propositions, opening inventories for advertisers to promote their products in brand-safe environments, among local and premium content. At the beginning of the year, MBC Group’s Shahid operated a strategic shift to strengthen its AVOD offer, capitalizing on free ad-supported content to reach larger audiences and monetize these assets through ads. Starzplay introduced ads on its SVOD platform over sports content as a first step into the ad market. Local telcos are also heading in the same direction with eVision announcing the launch of STARZ ON last November, a free ad-supported VOD and...

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