The Drive For Digital

While it’s a world away from our backyard, the UAE has a good thing going. I’ll say it again… for those advertisers who embrace digital’s creative power and flexibility, tie it into social media efforts, and push the envelope creatively – these are the companies that will blaze the way! We’ve only scratched the surface my digital billboard (and static billboard) enthusiast friends! 

-Clinton

by Brooke Sever on Jun 13, 2011

The rise of digital advertising means an increased focus on digital content, a factor that the newly formed Middle East chapter of OVAB hopes to raise awareness of.

Mall culture in the Middle East, and perhaps most notably in the UAE, is a flourishing hallmark of life in Arabia.

Perhaps it’s the heat that drives us in droves to take refuge in the air-conditioned halls of retail-dom, perhaps it’s the convergence of leisure facilities like restaurants, cinemas and even indoor ski-slopes; but a trip to one of the many malls is a regular activity for most.

It’s no surprise then, that the growth of digital signage – termed digital out of home advertising, or DOOH, by those in the industry – has taken flight in this part of the world, particular in locations such as malls, as management and advertisers look for new ways to bring a message to an audience.

“DOOH is the second fastest growing media behind mobile marketing,” says Florian Rotberg a spokesperson for OVAB Europe, a neutral and independent association for the European DOOH industry.

“The global projected spend on digital advertising is expected to reach $10 million by 2012, and is forecasted at a growth rate of 14.5 per cent.
There are so many names for it – digital signage, DOOH, corporate TV, face to face media, narrow casting, digital media networks. There are many names but they all mean the same thing. Screens linked together screening dynamic content,” he adds.

A recent survey of the Middle East market revealed that 39 percent of respondents deemed the health of the DOOH sector as “good”, 46 per cent said “satisfactory”, with only 15 per cent said deeming it “poor”.

A huge 75 per cent predicted the situation to be more favourable next year.

As a result, OVAB has launched a local Middle East chapter, and hopes to educate technology and creative agencies on the ins and outs of the sector.

“Our mission is to make DOOH media a major player in the marketing industry, and so our mission is to raise awareness. And we can share all the knowledge we’ve learnt in Europe with this part of the world,” explains Rotberg.

Part of this knowledge is key findings the association has observed in regards to actual screen content.

“What we’ve seen that has worked really well in Western Europe is digital screen networks that have scrolling content that is a mix of content and advertising,” he explains.

“We want to reach out to the public and give them something in return for seeing the advertising. So they have a four to five minute loop, and maybe 80 per cent of that is entertainment, or information content.
Weather for example, sports results, news content, especially local news, we’ve found people really love.”

Another key factor is the style of content, which Rotberg is adamant is entirely different to television or internet advertising.

“Most of the content is without audio – and we have to educate creative agencies that’s DOOH has nothing to do with TV. It’s completely different and the content still has to engage and inform without sound and within a short space of time,” he explains.

At a launch event held in April in Dubai, Rotberg encouraged locally based firms within the digital sector to sign on as members of the association.

Leading the way is Abu Dhabi Media Digital Out of Home (AD Media DOOH), which operates under the media brand Al Barq Digital and launched in July 2010 with the remit to champion standardisation, measurement and regulation across the sector.

As an OVAB member, Al Barq will work closely with the OVAB Board and team as their “on-the-ground” partner, according to GM Andrew Wood. “We’re advising on current market trends, scoping local and regional opportunities, assisting with marketing and communications, helping to organise local events and talking to potential new members.

Establishing a regulatory body in MENA is something we believe in whole-heartedly and we’re taking a very hands on pro-active role, to ensure its support and long term success,” he says.

For Al Barq, this development will be on the back of an already established business platform in the MENA region. “We provide Digital Out of Home solutions in three main areas: indoor, outdoor and mobile.

We launched our indoor solutions first in 2010, with interactive digital mall networks and a number of private media networks. Launching indoors made good business sense for us, given the constant high temperatures in the UAE, and the fact people spend more time in malls in this region than anywhere else in the world,” says Wood.

He says that 2011 will be a crucial year for the firm, which will see it unveil solutions it has developed based on extensive research.

“We have made good progress with our outdoor solutions behind the scenes, and we’re exploring new format screens, architectural building wraps and plenty of innovative solutions in this area,” he explains.

And a local flavour is vital in ensuring the continued success of the sector, with a focus not only on locally relevant content, but utilising local expertise, according to Wood.

“Creating our own IP and delivering class-leading solutions is one of the core principles we work to and something we’re really proud of is that all of our products and solutions have been conceived, designed, developed and produced in the UAE.

Whilst we may source services and components internationally, and our team work with some of the leading Digital Signage technology companies globally to build bespoke software and functionality, our solutions come together in their final form in our lab and factory in the UAE, ensuring that they are totally fit for the purposes for which we need them.”

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