Ikoo delves into realm of mobile ads

Smartphone market seen as fertile area for expanding revenue.

The online advertising network Ikoo hopes to tap into the burgeoning market for smartphones by offering advertising tailored to the devices. The Arabic online advertising network, owned by Jabbar Internet Group, expects to launch a service geared to mobile handsets in the next few months, said Isam Bayazidi, its chief executive.

Sales of smartphones are expected to increase 39 per cent annually in the Middle East, according to a recent report by Pyramid Research. The growth will be buoyed by the overall expansion in the region's online advertising market, which Mr Bayazidi expected to increase by as much as 80 per cent this year from US$65 million (Dh238.7m) last year. "We think that mobile is going to take a huge leap in the region over the next 18 months," Mr Bayazidi said. "Consumption of content using mobile devices is increasing. We're seeing it in some of the sites that we manage where people check the sites even if it is not optimised for mobile devices."

During the FIFA World Cup tournament this summer, some sports sites that Ikoo counts among its clients saw 12 per cent of online traffic coming from mobile devices. Growth will be hindered, however, by the lack of available Arabic-language content on the internet, which has prevented the region's online market from maturing. While Ikoo is moving into developing mobile advertising, its core business remains Arabic-language discussion websites.

Ikoo manages advertising for about 100 websites, including a number of Saudi newspaper portals, and car and sports websites, Mr Bayazidi said. Ads placed by the agency have appeared 1.38 billion times on web pages over the past year, a figure that was "flat" compared with the year before, Mr Bayazidi said. Despite the lack of growth, Ikoo has increased revenue by fine-tuning its advertising. "Being selective helps make better quality ad placements and winds up improving overall sales," he said.