Is Content Marketing a great opportunity in the Middle East?

Written by Romy SASSINE

What is content Marketing?

We see different definitions of content marketing and thousands of explanations on Google and the Net in general. Being part of the Millennial (and even Centennial) generation, we are exposed to thousands of bit of content every day, bombarded with articles, blogs and other general information through different Owned, Earned and Paid channels.

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. It focuses on owning media and not renting it compared to paid advertising forms. Consumers care about brands that have a clear social purpose, values and beliefs, make a positive contribution to their communities and helps them feed their passion and uniqueness.

Content needs to be entertaining, valuable, build a connection with users and give them the desirability to engage with the content. There must be a purpose behind of all it. We also need to define the audience that we are speaking to and targeting. Then comes the next step, which is creating an adaptive content that is co-branded, personalized and provide one on one experience to the user while using the right platforms where you know you can reach out to your audience. Content needs to provide value and deepens the relationship with the consumer.

On another note keeping consistency in the tone of voice and meeting expectations of your audience is key. Also, the content can’t be uninspiring and need creativity to stimulate your audience. Taking for example the Ice Bucket Challenge to promote the awareness of the disease the Amyotrophic lateral Sclerosis disease, this is an indicator of a great content marketing which led to more than 2.4 Million tagged videos circulating on Facebook.

Content marketing is becoming the new global trend. Why? Many reasons contributed to be the global growth and the major cause is “ad blocking” which made the only way to reach audience is through content marketing and other forms of native advertising. In other words, we need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and meaningfully be part of what people are interested in.

So, did content marketing prove to be the actual solution to our ad blocking problem?


Beyond that, is content marketing a good an opportunity for the ME region? Let’s look at the opportunities and challenges of content marketing in the Middle East:


  1. Middle East has always loved content

It is well known in the Middle Eastern culture that Arabs love content. For example, free to Air TV remains the biggest consumed content across Middle Eastern people which can get up to 90 Million viewers of a TV show, this is especially during occasional periods such as Ramadan, Christmas etc…

Saudi Arabia is the most populous of all the GCC territories and is the market that is seeing the most spectacular results in terms of content consumption. Saudi Arabia has the highest YouTube consumption per capita in the world with 90 M views per day. In addition, Saudi Arabia has the most active users of Twitter and Snapchat consumption per capita than anywhere else in the world. Saudis are constantly on the lookout for entertainment. As we all know, Saudi Arabia faces lots of restrictions in the country that varies from religious reasons to other cultural restrictions which leave their people bored and only way of entertainment and pass their time is through social media channels.

In general, Middle Eastern people love social channels and social content, which has become the primary channel for communication and the leading way to seek out to advertisers and relate to brands.


  1. Digital penetration in the Middle East

It is no secret that internet penetration has increased dramatically in the Middle East in the past years. More than 135 Million users are using the internet in the Arab countries. Total users have been growing at 20% annually. So what does this mean? This is a great time for investing in new businesses, new start-ups and new content. The fact that the internet users are growing YOY and mobile penetration is also increasing, this is an indicator of an opportunity. Lots of brands in the region have been capturing the opportunity here for example the UN Women Campaign “Give Mom Back her Name”. This is a campaign encouraging Egyptian men to say their mother’s name which has helped to fight gender equality in the country. The campaign was in the form of a video which was shared on YouTube. It was the second most shared film on Facebook worldwide. Here is the video link:


  1. Impact of influencers

A new trend has emerged the last decade, which is brand endorsement through bloggers and influencers. The existing influencers in the Middle East have shown recently a great impact to drive business leads and conversion rates for brands through their published content on their social media platforms. Big influencers in the Middle East have a great impact on their audience. They have so much credibility among their followers and they can influence purchasing decisions. This is an example of one of the biggest beauty department stores in the Middle East called “Wojooh” that produces YouTube content videos to promote their latest products through influencers. Check it here on this link:


  1. Opportunity for Arabic content

As per Europe Business review statistics, all figures point towards the Arab world as the next Center of internet Boom. As per the statistics: “The past decade has seen a monumental rise in the numbers of Arabic-speaking people getting online, with as many as 413 million expected to be attuned to the World Wide Web by 2015. Set against the two million of 2000, this represents a rise of 20,650 percent.”


With all that being said, only 2% of digital content is found in Arabic language. This gives a great opportunity to bring content marketing to the most economically powerful side of the world.


Global content adjusted for Arabic might not relate as there are many varieties of Arabic dialects. Every country has its own dialect and sub dialect for its internal cities. Also, not only the dialectical differences but also the pronunciation whereas a word can mean something completely different and irrelevant.


Marketing spend is still very traditional, over 80% is non-digital. Where the clear majority of ad spend is mainly television followed by Newspapers advertising which accounts to 32% of the Middle East market.


It’s clear that the Middle East recognized that content is important, but there are some barriers such as the Geo Political Situation, total marketing spend on content marketing and seeing it as a relevant strategy to grow and develop the brand. In Addition to that, if content had its own Arab Spring, or its Gangnam Style moment, that would be the explosion that could ignore more consumption, and more brands would invest if they saw a great example. It almost needs a pioneer, a local brand that invests in content marketing and gets real results.

As a summary, creating content with lots of quantity and high frequency is important, but also quality is important and being relevant and communicating to the right audience by defining the right objectives is even more important. Marketers must give purpose to their content marketing with clear objectives that can be easily tracked and evaluated.

With all the listed challenges, brands must work harder to get noticed and promote themselves in an increasingly competitive ‘share of entertainment’ market. The opportunity for success in applying these principles is even more apparent in the Middle East, with an insatiable appetite for social media and to read, watch and listen to Arabic content, and here relies the great opportunity of content marketing in the Middle East.

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