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As we step into 2018, Elie Khouri shares his thoughts on what the next 12 months will bring and promises quite a ride

As we near the end of January, grappling with keeping those well-intended resolutions, now seems an appropriate time to look ahead to what the rest of the year may hold. There is comfort in respecting traditions and even more in the certainty of what awaits us. When times are tough, as they have been of late for our industry, we certainly can do with some comfort. Can we expect 2018 to be kind?

Early signs aren’t too positive. If you’re in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the year has started with the introduction of VAT. It is an ill-timed burden for businesses and consumers alike. Granted, we’ll soon get used to it, as other countries, including Lebanon, have before us. Governments certainly will need the extra income if they are to meet their ambitions and budget commitments to major projects and initiatives. The country’s reform agenda is promising though and will go a long way in making the Kingdom the regional powerhouse once again.

The same can’t be said for Egypt though, which has suffered since its currency devaluation over a year ago. The mood in our industry, following the indirect nationalisation of media outlets, the closure of research companies and the banning of hundreds of sites, is turning gloomy. The concerns are deep enough to push many professionals to emigrate.

Tensions in Iran, the rift between Qatar and its neighbours, and the continuing conflicts in Syria and Yemen do very little to inspire confidence and positivity among advertisers.

The tax reforms in the US, on the other hand, provide major brands’ owners with a boost and cash to invest. It is also a FIFA World Cup year and Russia’s time zones will help beIN Sports, the official broadcaster for the competition, garner strong audiences. The participation of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Iran will certainly contribute further to the excitement.

All in all, we expect the year to be less bad than 2017, in terms of investments, maybe to the point of stagnating. This doesn’t mean there is much cause for celebrations for most media. Digital will continue to grow and eventually overtake TV in scale. While the way the media pie gets cut will continue to favour Facebook and Google, there is also a growing reliance on programmatic as advertisers are moving budgets lower down the purchase funnel. Broadcast TV is no longer on the pedestal it once was and as media habits evolve, so do brands’ investment priorities. Other media will continue to struggle, which may lead to mergers in the sector.

Our Omnicom Media Group MENA CEO, Elie Khouri, considers what lays ahead for this year in his Arab Ad article, highlighting macro trends and their impact, regional conflicts, new advertising models and why, more than ever, we must continue to put our clients at the heart of everything we do.

Read the full article, Can we expect 2018 to be kind

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