Interview : "Dubai has become a very cluttered market for advertisers."

George Chehwane is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Group Plus, one of the largest media groups in the Middle East.1992 marked the first emergence of Group Plus, and in less than 15 years, the company has become one of the major players in the Middle East.

Group Plus employs over 375 people in over 9 offices with an annual turnover of over $40 million. Expanding into the Middle East market, Group Plus branched out into Syria, followed by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and lately KSA.

Q. How is outdoor perceived as an advertising tool compared to television or print media? How effective is this medium?

A. Advertising has become a full fledged scientific branch in the market these days, considering the new monitoring and research engines providing the advertiser with all the necessary data, facts and figures that would help them optimize their budgets and get the right ROI. Thus here comes the media agency into the scene and starts assessing and calculating the choice of the media. It is obvious and well known that outdoor advertising is used heavily during the first phase of any advertising campaign (product launch). Outdoor can also be a convenient vehicle to sustain the awareness created when a product is launched.

Q. How do you measure the effectiveness of outdoor advertising? What are the factors that come into play?

A. Outdoor spend is well into double figures and enjoys growth rates ahead of the current trends and has a low cost per thousand therefore its mostly used by all advertisers. For instance, the cost of a billboard for a month is as much as a handful of TV spots on a free to air channel, even though the billboard is viewed by thousands of people daily. A lot of factors come into play in the evaluation of outdoor advertising such as location, cost, size, visibility etc.

Q. Of late, billboards of all shapes and sizes have started dotting Dubai’s landscape. Cynics are pointing toward this advertising clutter and warning that this medium could soon turn into a ‘blind spot’ for consumers. What are your views on this?

A. The outdoor industry has to be regulated further. This will help any supplier including Group Plus to offer better services and opportunities in compliance with any local authority’s rules and regulations. Dubai has become a very cluttered market for advertisers. Although major cities throughout the world such as Tokyo and New York are cluttered, they are still organized. Attempts to form a body or a steering committee should aim at bringing order to the clutter.

Q. Why is outdoor such an expensive medium? And considering its difficult to cut through the clutter, does it really offer clients good value for money?

A. Usually outdoor is considered as the most expensive medium, but unfortunately, nowadays the situation in Dubai specifically does not support the above. Outdoor advertising on Sheikh Zayed Road for example, or on any main highway in Dubai, proves this theory.

Advertisers (especially property developers) are spending considerable amounts on giant signs without changing the visuals frequently. When an outdoor sign maintains the same visual for a long period of time, it ends up being part of the scenery. On the other hand, lampposts and mupis are much more cost effective as they create impact and awareness in a short period of time and cost far less. And let’s not forget that they are well organized and well located.

Q. Many a times the creative we see on the outdoor media is ill suited to the media. Agencies slap their press advertising on the billboards or lamp posts. Your comments…

A. Outdoor creativity is the key to unlocking the full potential of the medium. In many cases, the effectiveness of billboards could be improved greatly with subtle changes to the creative treatment. For example, expanding the size of text, and using strong contrasting colors works hard towards building legibility. The image should attract the viewer's attention and help them remember the ad. The copy line is used to describe the product, service or message being advertised. It is very important that the ad contains only one message or idea. As a result, great creative concepts can be transformed into head turning outdoor campaigns.Q. Outdoor media has grown because of the limited press options in the fragmented audience in the country. Any studies done to show the effectiveness of outdoor?

A. Unfortunately no correct monitoring tool has been made available yet, that can reveal the extent of effectiveness of outdoor use. There has been an attempt in the UK to monitor the effectiveness of outdoor, but no concrete facts or figures exist so far. Again, location, visibility, angle, size and cost are the factors that are usually used to evaluate any outdoor opportunity.

Q. Outdoor industry professionals say that outdoor advertising’s ability to sustain awareness over a period of time is greater than that of other media. How do you support this claim?

A. In a way outdoor advertising can sustain awareness longer than other media because it’s eye-catching and unavoidable. But as I mentioned above, when the sign maintains it’s visual for a long period of time, it ends up being part of the scenery.

Q. What are the different types of outdoor advertising solutions that you offer?A. What we offer depends on the markets, the solutions we offer vary. For instance:- In the U.A.E (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah & Ajman) we have lampposts and giant signs/backlit billboards- In KSA we have Unipoles, backlit megacoms and lampposts- In Bahrain we have Unipoles- In Beirut we offer megacoms, mupis, Unipoles and rooftops- In Syria we have megacoms

Via [Maktoob Business]