DUBAI: Advertising expenditure in the Middle East will increase by 20% this year despite the impact of the economic downturn, with the satellite TV market set to be among the main beneficiaries, the Pan Arab Research Center predicts.

As previously reported, Middle Eastern adspend rose by 11% in the first quarter of this year on an annual basis, but this included a 14% drop off in the United Arab Emirates, the region's biggest market.

However, pan-Arab spending, which is driven by satellite TV, saw an upturn of 28% year-on-year over the same period, and is set to continue to expand during 2009.

Sami Raffoul, PARC's general manager, argued that while the overall picture is mixed, at the moment "one market is compensating for another."

Indeed, even the UAE could see an upturn of 10% this year, although Raffoul added that "we will know only in quarter three" whether this estimate is realistic.

Pan-Arab expenditure is likely to benefit as it offers marketers the opportunity to "sell one ad to all the markets together," meaning the medium is “more powerful" than localised campaigns.

However, Mazen Hayek, group director of marketing, PR and commercial for MBC, the satellite broadcaster, also argued the amount spent on advertising per capita in the Arab needed to increase to help boost the quality of the area's media.

The current per capita expenditure level stands at between $40 (€29; £26) and $50, compared with hundreds of dollars in the US.

As such, Hayek posited that "we will never raise the level of content for our own readers and viewers unless we have that level of investment."

Data sourced from The National; additional content by WARC staff