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Advertising and Marketing Firms in MENA Region Adjust to Post-Coronavirus Reality
An image from an ad by Israeli mobile marketing agency Moburst. (Courtesy)

Advertising and Marketing Firms in MENA Region Adjust to Post-Coronavirus Reality

Latest COVID-19 information and statistics for the Middle East and North Africa

The advertising and marketing industry has not been immune from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the World Economic Forum, the coronavirus crisis caused a considerable drop in ad spending. In 2019, the global ad market was around $646 billion. Estimates for the first half of fiscal year 2020 show a decline in ad spend across all channels compared to the first half of fiscal year 2019, except for digital video, which is projected to increase by 4%.

Bashar Obaly, owner of Abu Dhabi-based Etqan Advertising & Publicity LLC, told The Media Line that during the peak of the coronavirus there were very few deals and he lost some clients. However, the situation is improving as restrictions are eased.

“Currently we can say kind of, sort of, yes, we are picking up again. As time passes, the economy is opening and improving little by little,” Obaly said.

As an example of the type of advertising that clients are seeking, Obaly said that they shot a video for a medical center showing steps to sterilize against the coronavirus and that the video would be distributed via social media.

Out-of-home, cinema and print advertising fell as measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus were put into place, according to the World Economic Forum.

Awad Rafidi, manager at Rafidi Advertising & Printing in Ramallah, told The Media Line that his business focused on print and that paper advertising was down. There were no customers while coronavirus restrictions were in force.

“We’ve started again but it’s not as good as it’s supposed to be in this season. In the summer, our work becomes better,” Rafidi said.

“Advertising in general has dropped 100%. All companies are looking to cut costs and they therefore cut advertising and marketing,” said Fuad Jarrar, marketing manager of V & V, the largest advertising company in the Palestinian territories, which at its peak was servicing 35 large clients.

“There are no activities in Palestine this summer,” Jarrar told The Media Line. “And people cannot come together around events.”

Small paid social media campaigns are the only advertising seen at the moment.

“Now we are looking for other lines during the coronavirus like producing sanitizers and masks, everything related to safety issues, when there is no ad money. We have a workshop and factory and are coming up with samples for the private sector as well as schools and restaurants.”

V & V is even making “sanitizing gates” and leasing them out to companies.

V & V represents some of the largest businesses in the PA, from Coca Cola to Cairo Amman Bank, and there are hundreds of small to medium-sized advertising and marketing companies in the market.

According to a survey carried out in late March by Influencer Marketing Hub, 69% of brands expect to decrease ad spend in 2020.

Israeli startup Moburst promotes mobile apps for high-profile clients. The company’s founder and CEO, Gilad Bechar, told The Media Line that COVID-19 was a “crazy roller coaster” for the agency and its clients.

Consumer habits during the coronavirus pandemic are impacting the bottom line for many Moburst clients, according to Bechar. With stay-at-home orders and canceled flights, travel apps were hard hit.

“We have clients from the travel industry that are just shutting down everything, shutting down the companies, 100% of their marketing budget,” Bechar said. “They understand that people aren’t going to look for places to travel nowadays.”

But Bechar said that other clients were scaling up, citing the gaming industry as an example because of increased retention of users who are playing longer as they are stuck at home.

Ads that focus on saving costs on electricity and home appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners are doing well, Bechar said.

The coronavirus is accelerating long-term trends such as e-commerce with more people working remotely, Bechar continued.

“Most of the companies – it caught them off guard. It caught them without the proper website, without e-commerce experience, without any kind of delivery service that was and is scalable, without any solutions that even take a mobile order,” said Bechar. “Now they kind of have to.”

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 7 am UTC on Friday.

CountryConfirmed casesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Palestinian Territories487341074
Saudi Arabia116,02185780,01935,145
United Arab Emirates40,98628625,23415,466


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