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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Arab Spring slows down ad spend

Despite the flat growth rate, the UAE remained the top regional market for ad spend
  • Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News
  • Despite the flat growth rate, the UAE remained the top regional market for ad spend in the first six months on 2011.
Dubai: With the exception of Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent the UAE, the combination of the Arab Spring, struggling regional economies and tight advertiser budgets have put the brakes on advertising spend in the first six months of the year.
According to data from Pan Arab Research Centre (Parc), advertisers spent $5.2 billion (Dh19.08 billion) during this period against the $5.08 billion last year. (The data is based on the official media rate cards for ad placements.)
It could have been worse had not Saudi Arabia come through with an 8 per cent increase in ad spending to total $643 million. Another saving grace was provided by the UAE, which just about managed to hold its own by creating $696 million worth of advertising opportunities against the $688 million in the first-half of 2010.
Despite the flat growth rate, the UAE remained the top regional market for ad spend in the first six months. Egypt — which held the top position in 2010, was hit by a 50 per cent drop in spending to total $355 million, according to the Parc data.
"As far as growth markets are concerned, the government of Saudi Arabia is opening its markets and has ambitious growth plans having invested approximately $900 billion in developing its social and economic structures," said Michael Nederlof, CEO of Aegis Media Mena, the marketing communications group which operates the Carat and Isobar media agencies.
Favourable trajectory
Across the board, advertisers are confident that advertising spend will continue its favourable trajectory in Saudi Arabia during the second-half as well. Of immediate interest is the expected Eid related spike in spending during late August and early September.
The same is what advertisers and agencies are looking for in the UAE as well. "Yes, the expected pick up in ad spending did not happen during the first-half; this was mainly due to the Arab Spring," said Satish Mayya, Chief Operating Officer of BPG Maxus, the media buying firm.
"But considering the positive reports on visitor influx into Dubai and the UAE, retail spend will go up during Eid and towards the last quarter."
It was not just Egypt that recorded a precipitous drop; in Bahrain spending was down 22 per cent to $52 million, Jordan's was $56 million after seeing a 19 per cent decline, and Kuwait's was lower by 3 per cent to $451 million.
But, there's still hope yet. Egypt, despite recent demonstrations on the streets, is putting together campaigns that would win back its favoured status among regional and overseas tourists.
"Oil and tourism, the two key components of the regional economy, are strong," said Shaharyar Umar, marketing director at Parc.
"Hence, the region is likely to overcome these hurdles even as early as by the second-half of the year."
Nederlof provides a perspective for the grudging sense of optimism. "Unlike any other continent there is a huge Pan-Arab media industry that allows advertisers to cross borders with ease," he said.
"This has meant an influx of brands coming into the region, especially from countries such as Turkey that have cultural similarities.
"It also means that there is not one dominant sector, and whilst public utilities and government media spend top the list, the recession forced a correction and allowed FMCG (fast moving consumer goods), financial, retail and telecom brands to enter the market and advertise with more prominence and in places that were previously beyond budget.
"Speaking specifically about the UAE, you only need drive down Shaikh Zayed Road to see the multiple banks, retailers, FMCG and luxury brands on show." That, as advertisers and agencies will tell you, is a good a place to start a full-fledged revival.
Biggest spenders
Telecom operators, consumer goods brands and government agencies led the way in ad spending across the region during the first six months of the year.
However, government agencies spent 12 per cent less than what they did last year, according to Parc data.
Spending in the food sector was up 16 per cent during the first-half of 2011, as competing brands tried to cajole consumers to buy against the backdrop of higher prices for food essentials.
The retail sector had a lot if play with malls and individual storing combining to push their combined spending up by 10 per cent, according to Parc.
Among individual advertisers, the Top Three positions were taken by the multinational giants P&G, Unilever and Pepsico.

Levi’s seeks to tap Arab Spring to sell jeans

Berlin: Levi Strauss will attempt to tap into the revolutionary spirit of the “Arab Spring” with a “Go Forth” global marketing campaign aimed at attracting youthful customers back to a jeans brand that was once one of the most coveted in the world.
Fed up with high unemployment, rising food prices and repression, popular uprisings led mainly by young people overthrew governments in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year. Libyan rebels are attempting to overthrow ruler Moammer Gadhafi, while protests and demonstrations have rocked governments in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and swept across other parts of North Africa and the Middle East.
“We’ve always been about embodying the energy and events of our times and this campaign is about returning to the pioneering spirit of the brand,” Robert Hanson, Global president of the Levi’s brand told Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday.
He said change in the Middle East has been enabled by borderless communication and the kind of young people that the Levi’s brand would like to be embraced by.
“You’ve got young people showing up saying let’s galvanise the power of our collective force, work hard to make the world a better place,” Hanson said. “And what better brand than Levi’s? We’re doing a lot of innovative things in our products and stores to have them choose Levi’s as the uniform of progress.”
In the retail world, younger customers, particularly in countries such as the United States have become an important target market, with companies such as Adidas making a big push to gain high-school age customers who have a lot of money to spend on clothing.
“We’re obviously interested in those in their late teens and twenties,” Hanson said. “They buy a lot more jeans, are more into fashion and spend a lot more.”
Privately held Levi Strauss & Co, which also owns the Dockers brand, has turnover of $4.4 billion and its clothing is sold in more than 110 countries.
Once able to propel unknown artists to the top of the charts by using their songs in its adverts, the Levi’s brand now battles for market share with Wrangler and Lee, owned by VF Corp, and Guess along with a new wave of brands such as J Brand, Seven for all Mankind and Superfine.
“We’ve been working on transforming the brand over the last couple of years,” Hanson said, saying the aim was to firmly position Levi’s as an American classic brand.
Added to the increased competition is the rising cost of cotton, leaving the company in a dilemma over how to pass on increased material costs without putting off customers.
Hanson said the Levi’s brand had implemented price rises but declined to comment on the possibility of more later in the year.
While excited by the growth opportunities offered by emerging markets such as Brazil, India, China, Mexico, Turkey and Russia, Hanson said Levi’s was not pulling back from its traditional markets of the US and Europe.
“We see opportunities to grow both emerging and developed markets,” he said.

Social Media and Arab Revolution

The online journal Arab Media & Society has published its new issue that covers the role of media in the Arab Spring events. Twelve articles, two of them peer reviewed, are available online or in the PDF format for download. Arab Media & Society, formerly TBS Journal, is a joint project of The Center for Electronic Journalism at the American University in Cairo and the Centre for Middle East Studies at St. Antony’s College, Oxford.
The Spring 2011 issue of Arab Media and Society takes a preliminary look at the role of the media in the unrest that has swept the Middle East and North Africa over the past six months, starting in Tunisia in December 2010 and then spreading to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Syria and elsewhere. Protests soon led to the overthrow of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but other leaders have survived for the time being by using brutal force against protesters. Many media commentators initially called the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions Facebook or Twitter revolutions because the social networking applications helped the revolutionaries organize and publicize their activities. Other analysts have been more cautious, saying that social networking and the Internet was useful tools that accelerated political change, but personal contacts, old-fashioned canvasing and conventional media were also crucial.
Dr Sahar Khamis gives a comprehensive overview of the role of new media in the overthrow of Mubarak and wonders whether the same tools will enable activists to keep up the pressure for change during what could a lengthy transitional period.
Dr Mark Allen Peterson contrasts the Egyptian mediascape in 2011 with its Iranian counterpart in 1979 and concludes that, unlike Iran, Egypt is unlikely to revert to a pre-revolutionary status quo which included state domination of the media.
Dr Ramy Aly argues that Egypt's revolutionary moment is a golden opportunity to abandon old media practices which deprived many sectors of society of a media voice and privileged a narrow and elitist concept of what it means to be Egyptian.
El Mustapha Lahlali takes a close look at the rhetorical devices by which both Ben Ali and Mubarak tried to retain power when they addressed their nations at critical junctures during the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings.
Magdalena Maria Karolak looks at the output of Bahraini bloggers and concludes that although the bloggers initially contributed to civil society activism, the polarization of Bahrain society has since penetrated the blogosphere itself.
Anne Hagood looks at the political narratives adopted by Iraqi Shi'ites sympathetic to the cause of their fellow Shi'ites in Bahrain and specifically at the parallels Iraqis have drawn between the conflict in Bahrain and their own conflict against the Baathist regime overthrown in 2003.
Alice Hlidkova reports on the state of the media in Iraqi Kurdistan, where the reality does not always live up to the ideals promulgated by those who run the autonomous region.
Leah Caldwell looks at the symbolism of attacks on statues and posters of the Asad family during the recent protests in Syria – attacks which would have been unthinkable before the unrest began.
Dr Lara N. Dotson-Renta examines the activities of cross-cultural hip-hoppers and rappers inspired by the Arab uprisings and how they have strengthened the ties between diaspora Arabs and those who continue to live in the region.
Courtney C. Radsch discusses the interplay between the economic benefits of good communications, the willingness of Arab regimes to close down the Internet and mobile phone networks when they think their survival is at stake, and the role of multinational companies in the region.
Michael Oghia and Helen Indelicato research Internet ownership in key Arab countries, noting the differences in the extent of state control and in the levels of private and foreign investment in the infrastructure.
William Youmans analyzes the debate in Burlington, Vermont, over whether the local cable TV company should or should not carry Al Jazeera English. He concludes that Burlington was a special case, rather than the harbinger of a breakthrough into the US market for AJE.
The latest issue of the Arab Media & Society is available online.

Amnesty: Arab freedom struggle 'on knife edge'

Amnesty: Arab freedom struggle 'on knife edge'

Syrian security forces pictured on a mobile phone in Damascus, 24 April 2011Syrian authorities are among those to have cracked down on protesters

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A fightback by repressive governments is putting at risk a historic struggle for freedom and justice in the Arab world, Amnesty International says.
Publishing its annual report, the rights group highlights the fight for control over communications technology.
It criticises Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen for targeting peaceful protesters to stay in power.
And it says repressive regimes in China, Iran and Azerbaijan have tried to pre-empt uprisings.
The campaign group released its report on human rights around the world following months of mass demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa.
Long-serving presidents in Tunisia and Egypt have been toppled, but leaders in other states have tried to face down protests with a combination of political concessions and the use of force.
'Governments scrambling'
Amnesty said the outcome of the uprisings was "on a knife-edge".


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Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, paid tribute to youthful protesters who were "standing up and speaking out in the face of bullets, beatings, tear gas and tanks".
"This bravery - combined with new technology that is helping activists to outflank and expose government suppression of free speech and peaceful protest - is sending a signal to repressive governments that their days are numbered," he said.
"But there is a serious fightback from the forces of repression. The international community must seize the opportunity for change and ensure that 2011 is not a false dawn for human rights."
Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, which have resisted anti-government movements, "have shown a willingness to beat, maim or kill peaceful protesters to stay in power", Amnesty said in a statement.
And it pointed to a "critical battle" for control of access to information, means of communications and networking technology.
"Governments are scrambling to regain the initiative or to use this technology against activists," the group said.
It called on companies that provide internet access, mobile communications and social networking sites to respect human rights and not become accomplices to repressive governments.
European deportations
Amnesty's main report documents the state of human rights in 157 countries and territories worldwide during 2010. The group also published a special update on the Middle East and North Africa in the first four months of this year.

Amnesty campaigns, 2010

  • Prisoners of conscience in 48 countries
  • Unfair trials in 54 countries
  • Torture or ill treatment in 98 countries
  • Freedom of expression curtailed in 89 countries
In its report Amnesty raises concern over:
  • conflict wreaking havoc in a number of sub-Saharan African states, including the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia
  • a deteriorating situation for activists in Ukraine, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan
  • a growing willingness by European countries to send people back to states where they risk persecution
  • increasing threats to indigenous peoples in the Americas
Amnesty also pointed to gains, including the release of political prisoners and the dissolution of internal security forces blamed for repression in Tunisia and Egypt.
The main report noted the steady retreat of the death penalty, improvements to maternal health care in countries including Indonesia and Sierra Leone, and progress in bringing to justice those responsible for abuses under Latin American military regimes.

WikiLeaks Hailed by Amnesty International as Arab Spring 'Catalyst'

WikiLeaks Hailed by Amnesty International as Arab Spring 'Catalyst'

By Peter Walker, Guardian UK
14 May 11

The human rights group predicts a serious fightback from the forces of repression as it releases its annual report.

he world faces a watershed moment in human rights with tyrants and despots coming under increasing pressure from the internet, social networking sites and the activities of WikiLeaks, Amnesty International says in its annual roundup.
The rights group singles out WikiLeaks and the newspapers that pored over its previously confidential government files, among them the Guardian, as a catalyst in a series of uprisings against repressive regimes, notably the overthrow of Tunisia's long-serving president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
"The year 2010 may well be remembered as a watershed year when activists and journalists used new technology to speak truth to power and, in so doing, pushed for greater respect for human rights," Amnesty's secretary general, Salil Shetty, says in an introduction to the document. "It is also the year when repressive governments faced the real possibility that their days were numbered."
But, Shetty adds, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, and elsewhere, remains unpredictable: "There is a serious fightback from the forces of repression. The international community must seize the opportunity for change and ensure that 2011 is not a false dawn for human rights."
The 432-page report reviews 156 countries and territories, of which at least 89 were found to restrict free speech, 98 carried out torture or other ill-treatment and 48 had documented prisoners of conscience.
The report covers only to the end of 2010, and thus only the very beginnings of the so-called Arab spring - Ben Ali was not deposed until mid-January. However, subsequent uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, many spread via mobile phones and social networking, reinforce Amnesty's message about the importance of technology and communication.
A key element had been the work of WikiLeaks in first publishing information about the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then a massive trove of US diplomatic papers, disclosures carried out with newspapers worldwide.
"It took old-fashioned newspaper reporters and political analysts to trawl through the raw data, analyse it, and identify evidence of crimes and violations contained in those documents," Shetty said.
"Leveraging this information, political activists used other new communications tools now easily available on mobile phones and on social networking sites to bring people to the streets to demand accountability."
One example highlighted by Shetty was Tunisia, where WikiLeaks revelations about Ben Ali's corrupt regime combined with rapidly-spreading news of the self-immolation of a disillusioned young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, to spark major protests.
The report also highlights the importance of new technology elsewhere, for example China, where "My father is Li Gang" - the cry of a senior policeman's son after he killed a young woman while drunk driving - became a euphemism on China's tightly controlled internet space for rife nepotism. Similarly, "empty chair" took the place of Liu Xiaobo's name on Chinese web forums aftersuch a chair took the place of the jailed rights activist at the Nobel peace prize ceremony.
Shetty said: "Not since the end of the Cold War have so many repressive governments faced such a challenge to their stranglehold on power. The demand for political and economic rights spreading across the Middle East and North Africa is dramatic proof that all rights are equally important and a universal demand.
"In the 50 years since Amnesty International was born to protect the rights of people detained for their peaceful opinions, there has been a human rights revolution. The call for justice, freedom and dignity has evolved into a global demand that grows stronger every day. The genie is out of the bottle and the forces of repression cannot put it back."

U.S. Deploying "Shadow" Networks to Aid Arab Spring

U.S. Deploying "Shadow" Networks to Aid Arab Spring

U.S. Deploying "Shadow" Networks to Aid Arab Spring

he U.S. government is coordinating a number of initiatives to create "shadow" Internet and cell phone networks in authoritarian countries, supporting dissidents' proven ability to undermine oppressive regimes with strong communications.

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The New York Times reported on several efforts to ensure that authoritarian regimes can't stifle electronic protest or organization.
State Department reportedly granted $2 million to develop an "Internet in a suitcase" solution that can be easily smuggled into countries and deployed with minimal technical know-how. Each suitcase is a wireless access point that links to others, forming a mesh network that relays data even if authorities shut down the real Internet.
There are also reportedly efforts to create independent cellular networks inside countries ruled by repressive regimes, including IranSyria and Libya. In Afghanistan, where the Taliban can reportedly disable the national cell network at will (and routinely does at night, to prevent reporting of their movements), the U.S. has spent at least $50 million on a separate network with base stations located in military compounds.
"We're going to build a separate infrastructure where the technology is nearly impossible to shut down, to control, to surveil," said Sascha Meinrath, a researcher who leads the "Internet in a suitcase" project, to the New York Times. "The implication is that this disempowers central authorities from infringing on people's fundamental human right to communicate."
The news comes as political opposition to authoritarian regimes rocks the Arab world. The Internet is often cited as a key method of coordinating protest and communicating the sometimes violent results to the rest of the world, and U.S. efforts to deploy alternate networks could help foster revolutions.
Authorities have disrupted data and voice networks in efforts to quell unrest. Egypt, Libya and Syria have all manipulated communications networks, in some cases knocking the entire country off the Internet.
The U.S. efforts are designed to work around such attempts to mute dissent, as well as to provide a back channel that protesters can use without being monitored by authorities.
Ironically, such technologies could also fuel unrest in countries where the U.S. is heavily invested in the status quo, such as Saudi Arabia.
The UN recently declared that disconnecting people from the Internet is aviolation of basic human rights.
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