Dubai’s outdoor media basks in the sun

With Dubai’s off-plan property launches recording a strong revival since the start of the year, developers should have been out there pressing their claims on all possible outdoor surfaces in the city. But, so far, they have been keeping a relatively low profile when it comes to billboards and building facades.

More likely, you are bound to see project branding on the fences put up to mark the project site. And if the boundary runs parallel to a busy highway, as is the case on Business Bay Crossing, the developers have a captive audience out on the roads.

“But, across the board, there’s still limited exposure on outdoor media by Dubai’s developers, except for Dubai Properties, Nakheel or Damac,” said Rehan Merchant of Emirates Neon Group. “It could be that most developers are still biding time for their off-plan launches to reach a certain maturity before they reach out to their target audiences on outdoor. They could start getting busy from 2015 onwards”

Real estate related messaging was the primary driver of outdoor advertising until late into 2008. At times, it was felt that as soon as a surface opened up for advertising, it would be picked up by one or the other developer to pitch their projects. Then followed four years when the local property market just soured on anything related to outdoor.

“Even with the increased exposure so far this year, the current exposure of real estate to outdoor is still 30 per cent off what they were in 2008,” said Merchant. 

But other sectors sure are interested. Fashion, consumer technology and the broader retail sector definitely are putting their markers up outdoor, and so are automotive brands and dealerships. Plus banks have been quite visible with their credit card and loan offers. “The preference for outdoor as an advertising medium has increased among the clients and this in turn has led to an increase in rates,” said Sunil Roy at the ad agency Publilink. “The increases vary from 40-70 per cent depending on location and the month in which the display is scheduled.”

According to the Pan Arab Research Centre (Parc) estimates for the first quarter, outdoor accounted for $59 million of the overall $398 million media spend in the UAE. Themes related to the Dubai Shopping Festival spend the most at $6 million plus, based on Parc data, followed by McDonald’s and KFC. Etisalat and du also figured in the Top 10, as did Pizza Hut and HSBC.

“There has been an explosion of outdoor media locations in Dubai over the last two years, many of them government owned properties such as the Metro and the RTA buses as well as taxi fleets,” said Merchant. “Location-specific rates have been firming up, but a lot depends on how desperate an advertiser needs a particular location and for how long.

“There have been a few occasions of late when an outdoor media company has bought prime location at a super-premium and not been able to find advertisers. There’s a lot of caution out there in the market — it’s certainly not the crazy money situation of 2007-08. Cost escalations of 5-10 per cent a year would be in the best interests of everyone in the industry.”

By Manoj Nair Associate Editor

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