Online Marketing: Key to Global Ambitions for Muslim World based Corporations

By Rafi-uddin Shikoh,
Posted, Apr 11, 2007
It used to be that attracting audiences regionally or globally was always a major investment adventure – ad-hoc trade show trips, local partnerships, local talent recruitment, distribution arrangements, physical offices, and local marketing agencies – the list goes on.

Today, the internet – considered the great equalizer – is providing an extremely cost effective option to businesses, giving them access to over a billion people world wide just a few clicks away! (global internet users in 2007 estimated at 1.1 billion, according to InternetWorldStats, of which 100 million+ are from OIC member countries).

However, marketers have quickly learned that simply having a website does not draw, engage and convert this global audience into customers. Increasingly, savvy marketers are finding success by utilizing a variety of measurable and creative online marketing tools – from banner advertising, search engine listings and email marketing, to more creative viral, mobile, affiliate marketing tools and more recently leveraging the web 2.0 phenomenon (social networks, blogs, Wiki’s etc.) to reach their audiences.

Case in point – Google’s advertising services. A company that just started eight years ago now has over $10 billion in annual revenues (45% internationally). Most of this revenue is from businesses – both small and large which place keyword search advertisements on the Google search engine and network websites to attract targeted audiences to their own websites. For marketers, they get targeted audiences and only pay for visitors that Google sends to their websites – hence they only pay-for-performance.

So how about marketers from OIC economies with major online presences – the GCC, Turkey , Indonesia , Malaysia , Iran , Pakistan and others? Are they leveraging this great competitive equalizer to their advantage?

eMarketer, a global digital media research company, estimates the total advertising spend in 2006 across the GCC countries to be a mere $10 million where the online population is estimated to be 5.5 million. Madar Research, an e-business market research firm covering the GCC-Levant countries, stated that online advertising spending accounted for less than 0.43% of total ad spend in 2005. This trend is fairly representative of other major OIC online marketing practices. The good news, according to Madar Research, is that growth in online ad spending in the GCC was 51% in 2005 which was twice the global growth rate.

AlClick, a Dubai based firm, is the most prominent online advertising agency serving the MENA (Middle East and North Africa ) region through its publisher network of over 100+ websites. CEO Mr. Naveed Anwar says, ” We’ve witnessed positive developments in the region and we foresee an increase of 60% in online advertising spending in the next 24 months. The biggest growth has been in SMS and Email Marketing but this is still a developing industry and there is a very real need for education to build greater awareness in the full potential of going online.”

As with Mr. Anwar, many others in the region feel that a basic lack of awareness about online marketing strategies and potential is why marketers have not wholeheartedly embraced this media. Given this need, the following analysis presents a basic overview of the benefits of online marketing, major OIC country based online audiences, the global online markets and a basket of creative online marketing tools and techniques.

(e-marketing, online marketing, web marketing, internet marketing all refer to marketing tools and techniques)

Benefits of Online Marketing Strategy

In today’s competitive business world, businesses both large and small, consumer based or business-to-business, manufacturing or services based are using online marketing to build brands, acquire new customers, foster loyal, long term relationships, cut costs and expand globally.

Already, according to media research and consultancy ZenithOptimedia, global Internet advertising revenue will near US$20bill in 2007 which will surpass global outdoor advertising spend. It will also be growing at a rate of 28.2% in 2007, while advertising spend in other media will grow by only 3.9%.

The reason for this growth is the number of advantages online marketing has over traditional radio, television, print, direct-marketing, PR, and trade show marketing avenues. Some of these advantages are:

  • Increased cost effectiveness and flexibility over offline advertising (due to pay-for-performance capabilities and immediate response tracking)
  • 24×7 presence
  • Deeper customer engagement (two way communication with live help, chats, feedback mechanisms, customer inputs)
  • Global reach to create and manage one voice and dispel myths/rumors
  • Less expensive market research
  • Opportunity for creative and innovative marketing tools and techniques to help standout amidst an advertising barrage of competitive offerings
  • Free access to global audiences (for small to mid-sized businesses various zero or shoe-string budget tactics to reach audience – see Tools & Techniques section below)

The above advantages are indeed enormous, yet the best marketing programs still involve a mix of both traditional and online mediums as well as identifying which media your target audience uses.

Major OIC Country Online Markets

In order to entertain an online marketing strategy, the first question to address is if your target audience is online. This not only includes determining the online user base, but the demographics (age groups, income levels, male/female etc.) as well as the maturity of that audience to do business research or conduct purchases/transactions online.

The largest online userbase from OIC countries in 2007, according to InternetWorldStats, are Indonesia (18 mill), Turkey (16 mill), Malaysia (13 mill), and Pakistan (12 mill). Meanwhile, the highest concentration of the online population is in Malaysia (47%), UAE (35%), Brunei (33%) and Qatar (26%). Usually a high penetration of internet users as a percentage of the population signals higher maturity in e-business readiness as well as a variety in demographics. In another report, eMarketer rates the UAE as the highest ranked OIC member country in its global list of leading E-Business ready countries, followed by Malaysia, Turkey and then Saudi Arabia.


Internet Users 2007

User Growth
Top local sites visitied
Top global sites visited
Indonesia 18,000,000 800% Detiksport, detiknews, kaskus, kompas Yahoo, Friendster, MSN, Google, YouTube, MySpace, Baidu
Turkey 16,000,000 700% Mynet,, Hurriyet, Yonja , Yahoo, Google, MSN, YouTube , Live , Rapidshare
Malaysia 13,528,200 265% Jobstreet,,,, Yahoo, Friendster, Google, MSN, Blogger, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube
Pakistan 12,000,000 8861% Apniisp, Cricinfo,, funmaza, geotv, dawn, tradekey, alibaba Yahoo, Friendster, Google, MSN, Blogger, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube
Iran 7,500,000 2900% blogfa, mihanblog, persianblog, niksalehi Yahoo, Friendster, Google, MSN, Blogger, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube
GCC* 5,296,200 325% maktoob, hawaaworld,, koora, alfrasha,, dubaimoon, ma7room, alamuae,,, sh3bwah Yahoo, Friendster, Google, MSN, Blogger, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube
Egypt 5,000,000 1011% 6rbtop, masrawy, dvd4arab,, filbalad Yahoo, Friendster, Google, MSN, Blogger, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube
Nigeria 5,000,000 2400% N/A N/A
Morocco 4,600,000 4500% startimes2, koora,, maroczik Yahoo, Friendster, Google, MSN, Blogger, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube
Sudan 2,800,000 9233% maktoob, sudaneseonline,, koora, 6rb, Yahoo, Friendster, Google, MSN, Blogger, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube

*Saudi Arabia (2.5 mill), UAE (1.4 mill), Kuwait (700 k), Oman (285 k), Qatar (219 k), Bahrain (155 k)

Source: Internet Stat World, Top Websites –

Once the country demographics are determined, it is important to determine which online destinations the target audience most uses. The table below shows some of the leading local and global online properties where OIC online users spend their time.

The above tables list some major properties, but ultimately the marketers would have to identify which region and its websites has the highest concentration of their target audiences.

alClick: How an Online Advertising Agency Can Help

Online advertising agencies help manage the challenge of marketing through a variety of channels and websites — helping to identify the right online properties, distribute budgets and track performance. Such agencies usually represent a large portfolio of websites and help their clients in targeting and managing their campaigns through these websites while allocating the budget across a variety of techniques.

One such agency is alClick, which serves the MENA region and was introduced earlier in this article. The company says it can reach 73% of all online users in GCC countries through its publisher network of over 100 websites which include regional titles such as: MSN Arabia, Al Arabiya, Kuwait Times, Gulf News,,,, Aljazeera Magazine, Times of, and the site as well.

alClick helps its clients reach the growing and highly affluent Middle East online demographic

alClick’s technology provides the advertiser with live statistics and control on their campaigns enabling them to decide which countries to include or exclude from their target reach. It also works with Google, Yahoo and and offers a Search Engine positioning service (high ranking in search results) as well as text based advertising similar to Google Adwords.

One client that has benefited from alClick’s services is Tejoori, the world’s first independent, Sharia-compliant Investment Company to list on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange. In 2006, alClick led a highly targeted online campaign for the launch of successfully targeting investment communities and driving over 35,000 potential investors towards Tejoori’s newly launched website over a 60 day period.

Largest Global Online Markets

Currently, the greatest opportunity for marketers from OIC member countries in leveraging online media is for global expansion. Many of these markets have high internet penetration and have high levels of e-business activity.

The US leads the world in terms of the highest numbers of online users according to InternetWorldStats (211 mill), followed by China (137 million), and Japan (86 mill). In the US this equates to 70% of the population (essentially all aspects of its demographic are actively engaged online). Iceland (86%), New Zealand (75%) and Sweden (75%) have the highest internet penetration rates. These audiences also demonstrate the highest level of e-business readiness. e-Marketer ranks Denmark , the US , Sweden and the UK as the leading e-business markets in the world.

Like alClick, global online advertising agencies such as DoubleClick, ValueClick, Google Advertising and Yahoo Performance Search provide marketers with tools to manage their targeted marketing campaigns utilizing these global properties.

Basket of Online Marketing Tools & Techniques

Hotmail, the popular free email service was purchased by Microsoft due to its large user base in 1998 for $300+ million. Its user base went from zero to 12 million users in 18 months, more rapidly than any company in any media in the history of the world. It did so mostly relying on its no cost ‘viral marketing’ technique whereby every email that was sent through its service had an invitation to others to also signup for its service. Non-viral competitors like Juno spent $20 million on traditional marketing in the same time period with less effect.

Tool/ Technique Description
Banner Advertiesement The most familiar form of online advertising. Various standard formats used as laid out by the Internet Advertising Agency (
Broadband video advertsising With tremendous growth in broadband access marketers are utilzing video advertsising online
Rich Media Advertising More interactive and dynamic ads using technologies such as Flash
Email Marketing Second most effective format, specially on opt-in lists
Search Keyword Advertising The most popular and efective online advertising as evidenced by Google’s success
Search Optimization Techniques to get your website high on search results with target words
Affiliate Marketing A highly measureable ‘online reselling’ model popularized by is a major provider of affiliate management technology.
Sponsorship Following traditional sponsorship models – of key website content, sections with target audiences
Viral Marketing Creative online ‘word-of-mouth’ campaigns. Usually promoted through email/ SMS
Mobile Marketing Growth of Cell phone and Internet driving SMS marketing
Press Releases Online Press release services – PRNewswire, Businesswire, e-newswire , etc
Social Networking YouTube was purchased recently by Google for $1.6 billion attributing a key contributor of their success to free user driven resuse on social networking site Many cmpanies are setting up pages on such sites as well.
Blogs, Wiki’s, YouTube Another set of Web 2.0 user content driven websites provide creative marketers to reach out to a large userbase, with very little investment
Widgets Online Kiosks with content feeds ready to used by others sending traffic to originating sites
Guerilla Online Marketing A technique popularized by Jay Levinson, now has online techniques such as promoting the sites through discussion forums etc.
Email Newsletters Major driver of building a loyal base of repeat customers
Directory listings Business listing directories or trading platform listings serve as a targeted way to gain exposure for business to business marketers. Eg.,


More recently, YouTube, the wildly popular global video sharing website which was recently bought by Google for US $1.67 billion, attributes its exponential user growth to its popularity on the largest social networking site MySpace, where MySpace users were encouraged to link YouTube videos onto their pages to share their favorites hence resulting in free promotion for YouTube. Such creative techniques are not limited to technology services, but are being utilized by all industries from automotive, financial, and retail to media.

For online marketers, there is indeed a rich set of creative options to help them stand out and attract online audiences. Some of these tools and techniques are relatively more established such as banner advertisements, search keyword advertising, and email marketing which provide a more consistent and stable online marketing platform. In fact, most of today’s global online advertising dollars are being spent on Search engine keyword advertising.

At the same time the more creative and inventive techniques such as viral marketing, using new social media such as MySpace, YouTube Blogs, and Wiki’s etc. and ‘online guerilla marketing’ techniques, also provide a major return for minimal marketing investment.

The table above lists various online marketing tools & techniques being utilized. Marketers have to decide on the marketing mix based on target audience profiles, marketing objectives, and their budgets.

The facts and trends covered in this article show how online media is indeed the great equalizer and offers many in the developing economies of the OIC a tremendous opportunity to raise their ability in global and regional marketing, because if they don’t their competitors will.

The question for marketers is not whether they can afford to utilize this media, the real question is can they afford not to?


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