A recent report on Arab media and advertising revealed that spending on advertising fell by more than 10% across the region in 2011 during the height of the Arab Spring.
The Dubai Press Club report, titled "Arab Media Outlook 2011-2015", said advertising expenditure, the backbone of the media sector, dropped by 30% in Egypt, 45% in Bahrain and 45% in Libya.
The report, however, predicted that spending on advertising will reverse course and continue to grow by an average annual rate of 5.9% until 2015 as a result of an anticipated economic recovery in Egypt and the growth of advertising over digital and mobile platforms.
"The relationship between the media and advertising is eternal and will never end regardless of the shape or size of the medium because capital is the primary engine of the media," said Dr. Hammad Zaki, a media professor at Cairo University.
He told Al-Shorfa the decline in spending on advertising is not a by-product of the preference for digital media over print media. Zaki said political tensions that swept the region had a significant impact on local economies.
Zaki said traditional media such as television, radio and print still dominate the landscape in comparison to new and online media.
"Many of the followers [of social networking media] are aware that much of the news and reports that are published in these media formats are tainted with a lot of exaggeration and distortion, which foretells a reverse migration back to basic media in both electronic and print forms," he said.
"The [online] media have made considerable progress since their inception but are still fragile because traditional media still dominates the landscape, and print media such as magazines and newspapers have created websites of their own to increase circulation while attempting to attract readers to their print version by withholding certain reports and details for publication in the print version only," Zaki said.
Galal Yasser, director of the Yasser Publicity and Advertising Company, said the report reflected the reality of advertising in the Arab region during the past year as being "probably one of the worst years ever for the advertising sector".
"The past period was exceptional because of the events that occurred in more than one Arab country and the interdependence of interests between investment companies in multiple countries," he said, adding that he expects a breakthrough during the second half of 2012.
This breakthrough has begun to some extent with the presidential election advertising campaigns, which injected significant revenues into the Egyptian market, Yasser said.
"The advertiser in the Arab region is still quite removed from the online advertising culture and advertising on social networking sites. Even though he is educated and aware of high traffic on those sites, he still prefers to advertise in print media and television over other media," he said.
New print publications are appearing in the Egyptian market despite existing saturation, notably the newspaper Al-Watan, which attracted a large number of both journalists and advertisers, Yasser said.
Saudi journalist Mohammad al-Dosary, who holds a doctorate in modern media, said he believes the Arab region still trails the West in terms of acceptance of new media and websites.
"The reality on the ground proves that in Saudi Arabia people still place blind trust in print media in contrast to [online or new] media, which were heavily criticised for their content in addition to the demands made by regional princes that some electronic news sites be closed or penalised," he said.
Advertising in the kingdom remains strong thanks to the economic climate.
"The situation in Saudi Arabia may be better than the rest of the Arab countries because of the country's political and economic stability," al-Dosary said.
He said traditional advertising and promotions such as newspaper advertising, billboards, prizes and incentive contests that "have been around for over two decades and were thoroughly exhausted in the West" remain popular in the country.