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‘DOOH revenue growth will outpace all other media’

By Rajiv Raghunath - November 19, 2018

Bill Fordyce, CEO of Dubai-based BackLite Media, talks about the shape of things to come in the Gulf market, especially on the DOOH front

You have recently joined BackLite Media as CEO. What excites you most about your new role?
 
Since coming to Dubai over a decade ago, I have always held BackLite Media in high regard and considered the company the best outdoor operator in the Middle East. I have always been impressed with their focus on quality in terms of printing, lighting and, of course, the best locations in the country. So, when I had the chance to move to BackLite, I jumped on it. Over my career, I have worked in around 35 markets in out-of-home advertising, and BackLite’s demand of quality is greater than I have ever witnessed.
 
Looking forward to the next decade, we will certainly continue to provide our advertisers the most advanced signs in the market. No doubt that that will include digitalisation of some key locations on Sheikh Zayed Road, as well as growing our current portfolio to ensure that our clients always have the best locations to drive their sales.

You have held key positions in the UAE OOH industry over the years. What are the new growth patterns that you see in the UAE OOH market, and in particular Dubai?
 
For a city and country that typically demands the best, the quality of outdoor advertising is not great. We see the continual installation of signage that relies on antiquated, old-fashioned front-projection for lighting systems -- lighting systems that are the same as when I started in the business 15 years ago -- as opposed to advanced and energy efficient systems that BackLite is installing.
 
This lack of investment in signage is being partially driven by the short-term nature of landlord contracts and the continual over-supply of signs. We estimate that the number of advertising ‘faces’ in Dubai has increased by over 150% over the past six years whereas the OOH market growth has been generally flat.
 
The good news is that we see that the top advertisers in the country still demand high-quality media like BackLite Media and are willing to pay for quality, whether it is LED lighting systems or double-sided printing. We have been pleased to see that advertisers continue to prefer high-quality signs in key locations, as opposed to a shot-gun approach of just taking random signs across the city.
 
FEPE International will be organising its 2019 Congress in Dubai. Is that a recognition of the growing importance of the Dubai market, internationally?
 
Certainly, Dubai punches above its weights in many ways. And as a country where the whole world comes together, it is only logical that FEPE comes to Dubai. Dubai is a world leader innovation, and this is happening in OOH with the installation of world-class signage networks by the likes of Meraas.
 
On a personal note, I am excited about showcasing the hard work of my BackLite colleagues to the world leaders in OOH advertising.
 
How would you assess the DOOH media business in Dubai and rest of UAE?
 
Like the rest of the world, digital out-of-home revenue growth will continue to outpace all other media (print, tv, traditional outdoor). We will see that trend continue, in particular with the installation of world-class digital networks like our partner, Meraas, has installed at City Walk. The next step in the evolution of digital signage will be more customised content based on viewership and other parameters. The Meraas/ BackLite Media networks will be adding these services in the near future.
 
Do you see any scope for overseas OOH players, especially from India, to invest or do business in Dubai market? Is there any scope for cross-border collaborations?
 
Being an international city, Dubai is certainly open for business for people from around the world. There have been several entrances to the UAE market by Indian companies over the past decade, and market watchers are certainly aware of the results. Any company that enters the UAE market needs to be aware that clients, agencies and landlords are increasingly sophisticated and will require more transparency and quality. I want to believe that BackLite Media is leading this revolution towards quality and openness.

 

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