Pepsi joins transparency push

Another major advertiser has joined the clamour for greater transparency in the Middle East media market.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  September 25, 2005

Another major advertiser has joined the clamour for greater transparency in the Middle East media market. Richard Evans, PepsiCo’s commercial vice president for the Middle East and Africa, warned that present arrangements are preventing the growth of advertising spend. Speaking in Dubai on Wednesday at a round table session on branding organised by The Economist, he urged greater transparency, saying: “For me the biggest gap as a marketer is media. “The media in this region — words fail me for the right description, since I might get into trouble.” Unlike in most of the world, Pepsi has a massive market lead over Coca-Cola in the Middle East, ensuring agencies and media owners will listen to Evans’ words seriously. Although Evans did not refer to any organisation by name, he was clearly referring to the Choueiri Group when he said: “If you do try to buy media in the region you have to go through one guy.” The Choueiri Group, headed by Antoine Choueiri, made several deals last year that gave it a hold as the dominant sales house, particularly in buying television advertising, where it runs the ad sales for virtually every single major TV channel. Evans said: “What happened last year with the concentration of media did not help at all.” The Choueiri Group’s dominant position has already been questioned by the GCC Advertisers Association, which is in its first few months. Advertisers are unhappy that, as every effort to introduce media currencies into the market — and particularly TV audience measurement — has been thwarted, they have no way of benchmarking decisions by their media agencies about where to place their advertising. Last week, Campaign reported the latest efforts by the GCCAA to introduce people metering into Saudi Arabia next year. The initiative is being led by Unilever, whose media boss Mike Gillam has been outspoken about corruption within the market. Similar debates are going on over the slow move towards the auditing of print titles within the region. But Evans said he was not optimistic about media currencies arriving any time soon. He told the conference: “I first attended a Middle East conference where we talked about this in 1990. I guess I’m a bit cynical, but I’ve seen the market and I don’t think it’s going to happen in a reasonable time period.” He stressed that while media owners and agencies allow the situation to continue, advertisers are being put off from investing in the region’s media. He said: “At present you cannot plan your media – it is just not there. That’s the one single biggest thing that can be done to change the market, then everyone would be a lot more happy and would spend a lot more money.”

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