Signs that ad scene looks healthy

The GCC advertising industry is seeing a recovery - and, thankfully, it is not showing any of the untempered exuberance of the property boom.

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The billboards of Sheikh Zayed Road look a little shabby. Newspapers are not crammed with advertisements promoting off-plan property developments.

And UAE companies are no longer shouting at each other through the loud, expensive medium of advertising. All of this is a good thing. Five years ago, the UAE's advertising industry, driven by the property boom, was defined by a mood of untempered exuberance and unsustainable growth.

Competitive spirit was rife. Property companies tried to outdo each other with ever-larger ads, vying for the attention of consumers in a frenzied market. In 2007, the Dubai developer Sorouh Real Estate even entered the annals of Guinness World Records for producing the largest advertising poster in the world.

When the recession struck, advertising spending, along with property prices, went into free-fall.

But now it seems recovery is on the horizon. As The National reports today, the advertising giant Publicis Groupe enjoyed 7 per cent growth in the UAE market in the first quarter of the year compared with the same period last year.

And according to figures released this week by the Pan Arab Research Center (Parc), total advertising spending in the UAE was up by 3 per cent in the first quarter, to US$349 million (Dh1.28 billion).

Parc's estimates are based on published rate card figures. Executives say the true spending figure is about half of that.

That compares with an overall 3 per cent decline in UAE advertising spending last year, according to Parc. And so the latest figures suggests the UAE advertising market is recovering. But crucially, this growth is more sustainable than that seen during the property boom.

"The state of the advertising industry is currently looking at a solid growth, but not a growth that is adventurous," says Sami Raffoul, the general manager of Parc.

Adventurous growth is not the most healthy course of action. It is to be hoped the exuberance of the past will make way for a more sustainable advertising industry.