Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat-Television is the medium of choice for Emiratis and expatriate Arabs in the UAE, with newspapers and the Internet more frequently used by Asians and Westerners, according to a new cross-cultural media usage and attitude survey undertaken by Zayed University and the UAE chapter of the International Advertising Association.
Initial survey findings, announced during the ongoing 40th IAA World Congress and Exhibition in Dubai, also suggest television advertising has similarly high currency with Arabs, very little currency among native English speakers and mixed response from Asians – a discovery that could have significant implications for the advertising industry and clients in the UAE and throughout the region.
The study, conducted by the Pan Arab Research Center throughout the seven emirates in September and October 2005, recorded the attitudes and habits of 1,115 respondents, a statistically significant sample.
“What our initial findings show is that the UAE is not a melting pot of different cultures,” said Bob Gulovsen, Associate Professor at the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University. “The cultural sub-groups are maintaining their own cultural identity through their media usage and their attitudes.”
Some of the findings came as a complete surprise, Gulovsen added, while others were largely expected. For example, Emiratis and expat Arabs turn to Al Jazeera as a preferred source of breaking news, while Indians, other Asians and native English speakers rated BBC World first and CNN second.
Gulovsen joined the PARC and IAA UAE representatives in stressing that the complete analysis of survey findings will not be available for some time. The comprehensive results will be made available to IAA members.
Marwan Rizk, IAA Vice President and Area Director for Middle East and Africa, said the study would cause many in the industry to question their strategies and business models.
“The initial research findings are certainly an eye-opener and at the very least require further investigation,” Rizk said. “The insights it provides and questions it raises form a new blue book on which we can base the fundamental practice of advertising in the region, and begin an interactive dialogue between the IAA and its members.”
In another dramatic finding, only a third of Native English speakers and Asians living here consider it extremely important to have a good command of Arabic in order to communicate in the UAE, with an average of 28 percent saying it was not at all important. Close to 98 percent of Arabs, on the other hand, consider it extremely important. Conversely, only 40 percent of Emiratis and 57 percent of expatriate Arabs consider it extremely important to have a good command of English.
The survey combined Zayed University science, PARC analysis, and funding from the IAA UAE chapter and Zayed University.