Pakistan internet ad spend: 2009-2012 analysis

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Source: Aurora Magazine 2012 year-ender
Source: Aurora Magazine 2012 year-ender

It’s a tiny part of the market. A mini-playing field taking baby steps.

It’s small, small, small but the fact that Aurora Magazine’s year-ender for 2012 titled “The Great Digital Debate” had the following excerpt on its cover should perhaps get those involved in the online space to sit up and take notice:

“The evidence is conclusive: get digital or pack up and go home.”

If ad agencies and their clients are finally going digital, those companies (and individuals) who have invested in their online presence can breathe a sigh of relief and hope to earn back some of that hard earned cash that was spent in setting up their ventures on the web.

The added hope here is that with a growing monetary incentive, Pakistan’s online space will mature in terms of content, function, design and overall value for the estimated 20-29 million locals online.

Let’s take a look at some stats (all figures in Rs billions).

2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Total ad spend 24.63 27 31.98 38.38
Internet ad spend 0.38 (1.5%) 0.418 (1.3%) 0.566 (2%) 1.01 (3%)

According to the chart above (all stats from Aurora’s own data in Aurora Magazine) total ad spend in Pakistan has been growing steadily, increasing by 20% in 2011-2012, and by 18% in 2010-2011. In comparison, internet ad spend grew by a whopping 79% in 2011-2012, a big jump from growth of only 15% in 2010-2011.

Let’s look at the breakdown of earnings by the top websites in Pakistan. I’ve only included local websites to indicate what local content is attracting advertising. The only exception I’ve left in is Google because it is still the largest earner in our online space  (all figures in Rs billions).

2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Google 0.2 (53%) 0.2 (48%) 0.2 (35%) 0.25 (25%)
Jang 0.033 (9%) 0.030 (7%) 0.035 (6%) 0.080 (8%)
Geo 0.017 (4%) 0.020 (5%) 0.042 (7%) 0.050 (5%)
Dawn 0.015 (4%) 0.015 (4%) 0.031 (6%) 0.040 (4%)
Business Recorder 0.008 (1%) 0.020 (2%)
Express Tribune 0.008 (1%) 0.018 (2%)
Daily Express 0.022 (2%)
Hamariweb 0.015 (1%) 0.010 (1%)

Yes, news is number one. It is hard to speculate whether this is because Pakistanis are news-obsessed, or because large media groups were the only players willing to strategize and invest (without monetary gain) in the fledgling online space. The answer is probably a bit of both.

Jang, Geo and Dawn dominated for a number of years, but as new online entities emerge, the share of the overall internet ad spend for the big three is at best staying at status quo (though bear in mind, overall earnings have gone up). The good news (for local portals) is that Google’s share of local ad spend has tapered off significantly from more than half of overall earnings in 2008-2009 to just 25% of total internet spend in 2011-2012.

Some other points of interest brought up in Aurora Magazine’s 2012 year-ender:

The share of classified advertising has improved slightly from 16% in 2010-2011 to 17% in 2011-2012. This is after seeing a year of stagnation, before which it declined 4% every year for three years. The increase in classified advertising is interesting considering several free online classified sites have entered the market in 2011-2012. This will be an important category to watch over the next few years.

If you look at the top sites in Pakistan (Alexa) the number one local website is no longer Jang, but free online classifieds site OLX Pakistan. Yes, buying and selling online is going to be huge in Pakistan over the coming years thanks to some breakthroughs in terms of payment options (pay cash on delivery) and sites that allow peer-to-peer transactions and exchanges.

The share of mobile/telecommunications declined from 7% in 2010-2011 to 4% in 2011-2012. One of the reasons for this decline could be that many telcos are shifting budgets from print advertising to digital and especially social media.

Take a look at Pakistan’s top Facebook pages (SocialBakers). Nokia, Ufone, Zong, OLX and the odd one out – the US Embassy in Pakistan – all dominate, with Telenor and Mobilink coming up strong as well. That is not organic growth. That is paid growth in terms of buying engagement, running Facebook ad campaigns and investing in social media teams.

And it’s not just the telcos.

Local media and a swathe of other brands are not far behind on the Facebook/Twitter front either.

Given the success of these pages, and the hard stats that prove that success, expect the media mix to tilt further and further towards social media and away from print, and yes, TV too.

This growing change should be exciting, as old ideas give way for new ways of thinking, working and conducting business – and best of all, when it comes to the internet, it will all be measurable and genuinely consumer driven!


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