The ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try in Syria: Ris­ing from the ashes of war

KHALED CHAL­LAH, THE MAN­AG­ING DI­REC­TOR OF DA­M­AS­CUS-BASED IBTIKAR TALKS ABOUT THE PAS­SION AND RE­SILIENCE THAT HELPED SUR­VIV­ING YEARS OF WAR AND ECO­NOMIC CHAL­LENGES.

ArabAd - - CONTENTS - By Khaled Chal­lah, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Ibtikar, Syria

Imag­ine a brain­storm­ing ses­sion with a team who was ex­hausted, af­ter sev­eral sleep­less nights un­der shelling, with no run­ning wa­ter or elec­tric­ity at home. But the team proved re­silient, and so did the in­dus­try.

When we first es­tab­lished our ad­ver­tis­ing agency in Syria back in 2009, the in­dus­try was boom­ing. Lo­cal clients were seek­ing the ser­vices of multi­na­tional agen­cies who en­riched ad­ver­tis­ing in Syria with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional ex­per­tise, re­flected on a high qual­ity work. Pos­i­tive competition in­duced cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion, as the in­dus­try con­tin­ued to grow.

Then came seven years of a vi­o­lent con­flict, tak­ing a huge toll on the in­dus­try. Ev­ery day, eco­nomic chal­lenges were push­ing clients to re­duce their ad­ver­tis­ing bud­gets if not shut down busi­ness al­to­gether. Brain drain se­verely im­pacted tal­ent pools, with the young and cre­ative flee­ing out of the coun­try for their lives. Me­dia out­lets also suf­fered, min­i­miz­ing channels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Gen­eral stan­dards and best prac­tices of the in­dus­try be­came vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent with most com­peti­tors shut­ting down op­er­a­tions and leav­ing no bench­mark in the mar­ket. Even the au­di­ences we worked for no longer no­ticed empty bill­boards; eco­nomic pres­sures, loss of liveli­hoods, in­fla­tion and cur­rency de­pre­ci­a­tion left peo­ple seek­ing to merely sur­vive.

Fi­nally, and most im­por­tantly, some days, the choice of go­ing to work was one of life or death, while on oth­ers, we strug­gled to main­tain the agency’s cul­ture and keep high morale. Imag­ine a brain­storm­ing ses­sion with a team who was ex­hausted, af­ter sev­eral sleep­less nights un­der shelling, with no run­ning wa­ter or elec­tric­ity at home. But the team proved re­silient, and so did the in­dus­try.

With the be­gin­ning of a new year ap­proach­ing, I can con­fi­dently say that the mar­ket is slowly re­cov­er­ing. Qual­i­fied Syr­ian ex­pats are re­turn­ing, ex­pand­ing the work­force and of­fer­ing new in­sights. With sanc­tions still in force and the re­sult­ing lack of in­ter­na­tional brands in the Syr­ian mar­ket, lo­cal brands are tak­ing the front seat, rec­og­niz­ing the value of ad­ver­tis­ing and tak­ing ad­van­tage of cur­rency de­val­u­a­tion. A full-fledged ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign now costs less than half what it used to be­fore the war, al­low­ing clients to pay less for more and mak­ing it chal­leng­ing to find one empty bill­board.

This is not to say that we are not fac­ing chal­lenges. Syria is still tak­ing baby steps into the so­cial and dig­i­tal worlds de­spite the high on­line pen­e­tra­tion of lo­cal me­dia out­lets. Lack of avail­able data from re­cent re­search un­der­tak­ings on con­sumer be­hav­ior and me­dia trends is an­other chal­lenge, forc­ing us to put so much time and ef­fort ahead of ev­ery big cam­paign to con­duct our own re­search.

De­spite ev­ery­thing the in­dus­try has been through, our hope and en­ergy have proved stronger than years of war. New busi­nesses in Syria are boom­ing and they need qual­i­fied ad­ver­tis­ing part­ners to help them grow.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bahrain

© PressReader. All rights reserved.