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The IAB wants your data – by Starcom’s Racha Makarem

In an interview, Racha Makarem, CEO of Starcom MENA and an IAB GCC board member, explains an ongoing GCC digital market-sizing survey, why it matters and how you can help

Q. The IAB GCC commissioned a study to size the digital industry in the GCC. Why is this the IAB’s first initiative in the region?
A. Over the last two decades we have witnessed a huge growth in digital investments in the region, yet today’s estimates of digital ad spend in the GCC vary considerably and the methodologies behind existing estimates are not always transparent. These shortcomings limit the ability of market participants to make data-driven decisions, develop long-term strategies and plan investments. Accurate data is particularly important for digital advertisers, who operate in a fast-growing and fast-changing market.

Our industry struggled for a long time with lack of measurement. This is an opportunity to change that and start injecting more transparency. This is a great moment for industry stakeholders to collaborate for the good of everyone.

Q. How will the IAB GCC achieve this?
A. We created a measurement committee with representatives from tech/research, agencies and publishers. Its first decision was to seek the assistance of an independent expert who would help design and implement the process. The committee created a briefing document and selection criteria, and initiated the bidding process. After evaluating submissions, the committee unanimously voted to award this research initiative to MTM.

MTM is a leading strategy consultancy specialising in media and advertising, with extensive experience running a similar exercise for the IAB in Europe. They have over the last decade established a robust modelling technique to accurately size the digital advertising market. MTM’s experience will allow for learnings and best-practices from other countries to also be incorporated.

The process starts with industry participants answering questions and sharing data anonymously through a submission portal. MTM will adopt a multi-method approach to arrive at a comprehensive picture of total digital ad spend in the region. It involves data triangulation and relies on the results of the survey, modelling and qualitative interviews, to maximise input and fill data gaps in a robust manner.

Q. What information is being collected? What methodology will MTM use?
A. The submission portal asks for gross numbers, which we believe will have the most value for participants across the ecosystem. We are aiming to report the data by region, by format, by transaction type, by ad placement and industry verticals, not by company.

Given its sensitivity, the security and confidentiality of the data is of the utmost importance to the IAB and MTM – as well as participants, of course. To protect organisations’ data with complete anonymity, participants upload their information into MTM’s submission portal. The names, addresses, companies and IP addresses of participants are not collected, and participants can’t view other companies’ submissions. The portal is completely secure, with the data stored on secure servers rather than on a public cloud.

Q. How does this exercise benefit the market?
A. At its core, the exercise aims to create and foster a trusted environment for market investment, whether you are an advertiser, agency, publisher or tech provider. The aim is also to unify markets into a single trading region. From a strategic stance, this exercise will allow for data-driven decisions to strategically inform and grow the market. For example, we will understand the growth drivers between formats, business models and demand sources. We will also be able to compare our region with other markets and hopefully increase the flow of budgets into the GCC region.

Q. Who can or must participate in the survey? Is it only open to IAB GCC members?
A. IAB membership is not required to take part in the survey. In fact, the wider the participation from publishers and agencies, the more accurate the results will be. However, membership is required to get full access to the findings and insights. The IAB GCC is a growing community and all digital stakeholders and practitioners are welcome to join us. Our ambition is to elevate, standardise and grow the digital ecosystem in our region. Anyone wishing to know more can visit the IAB GCC website.

Q. How do you get involved in the survey?
A. To get clarifications surrounding the study, the data submission form, or any other part of the process, or to take part, you can contact MTM directly at [email protected] Alternatively, you can also reach out to the IAB GCC at [email protected]

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