DUBAI: Television adspend in the Middle East could rise by 50% if issues related to accurate audience measurement can be resolved, with brand owners like Unilever and Ford keen for new solutions to be found.

Advertisers in the region have complained that viewer figures are unreliable, and that there is no correlation between the price paid for an ad and the audience reached.

"The problem we have here is that one of the most important influences is knowing the audience and the truth is we do not know the audience," David Porter, media director for the Middle East, North Africa, Russia and Turkey at Unilever, the consumer-products giant, told the Wall Street Journal.

"But data will attract more advertising dollars to the region because, at the moment, the money that could flow here doesn't."

Paul Anderson, marketing director for Ford in the Middle East, concurred, saying the ad budget "does not reflect the target audience".

Per capita spending on TV advertising in the Middle East and North Africa is three and half times lower than that in Western markets such as the US, and two and a half times less than that in Asian markets such as China.

As a first step to addressing these current measurement issues, people meters to provide real-time audience measurement data have been rolled out in 850 homes in the United Arab Emirates, with Saudi Arabia due to follow suit.

The system has been set up by Tview, a not-for-profit company backed by several local broadcasters, Emirates Telecommunications and a major advertiser, which is now seeking to sign up ad firms and other broadcasters to use its data.

Current TV adspend in a region of 300m people is estimated to be between $1.5bn and $2bn, but has the potential to rise by half again if a widespread uptake of people meters provides better data on the viewing habits of affluent audiences.

Claims that media-buying firms in the Middle East charge high fees compared to the rest of the world were rejected by a spokesman for VivaKi MENA.

Data sourced from the Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff