Middle East ready for online advertising bids

Stockmarket-style trading platforms for online advertising are set to become the norm in the Arab world, say industry executives.

From left: Dimitri Metaxas , the regional executive director of digital for Ominicom Media Group MENA; Nick Hugh, the senior director - Direct Response, Yahoo; Mohamad Mourad, Google's Gulf regional manager; and Shadi Kandil, the chief executive of OMD MENA. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Stockmarket-style trading platforms for online advertising are set to become the norm in the Arab world, say industry executives.

Some argue electronic trading platforms, where bids for online advertisements would be made in real time, could lower the cost of marketing campaigns in the region.

Omnicom Media Group (OMG), which controls 15 to 20 per cent of advertising spending in the Middle East and North Africa region, launched its Accuen automated advertisement trading platform in the UAE this year.

Dimitri Metaxas, the regional executive director for digital at OMG, said the Accuen system represented the "ultimate democratisation" of the media market.

The system allows the purchase of advertising on global and regional websites to be done electronically.

"That will make it much more exposed to a true market supply and demand," he said.

Accuen is currently used by OMG internally on behalf of its clients, but Mr Metaxas did not rule out clients using such tools directly in the future.

He likened the system to automatic trading on stock markets. "On the Nasdaq, it used to be traders on the floor, buying and selling at particular prices, based on their knowledge," he said.

"Now the Nasdaq is almost exclusively traded via software. So it takes the emotion out of the equation, and it takes the human error out of the equation.

"It's the same thing that we're going to have here."

Accuen was launched more than two years ago in other markets, but only recently in the UAE, the hub of the Middle East's media industry.

"We have been doing a number of test campaigns," said Mr Metaxas. "As a region, we're a little bit later in the game in this space. But we're catching up."

Only a minority of OMG's clients are currently using Accuen, but Mr Metaxas expects such systems to become the norm for buying online advertising. "Eventually, all of it will be bought through real-time bidding, other than sponsorship packages or premium content," he said.

Mohamad Mourad, the regional manager of Google Gulf, agreed advertising trading platforms would become more widespread.

"In the long term, we really believe that real-time bidding will become the predominate model, because of its flexibility," he said.

Mr Metaxas added he expected such systems to drive down the cost of online advertising.

However, Nick Hugh, a senior director at Yahoo's direct response division in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said this was not the case in markets such as the United Kingdom.

"This isn't about making advertisers pay less, and therefore squeezing the publishers," he said.

"I fundamentally disagree with the notion that this is about lower cost.

"It's about being able to create more efficiency."

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