What is Marketing Consulting Services: Methods and Top Benefits

Marketing consulting is considered as professional services provided by experienced and qualified experts in the field of marketing. While marketing teams and agencies are usually focused on implementation and execution, the marketing consultants are specialized in strategy, auditing, and analytics.

Eventually, there are many myths and misunderstandings about marketing consulting services and the real value of it for companies. In the USA and UK markets, marketing consulting is a well-established term and commonly hired to consult internal teams on marketing strategies and expansions to new markets. Yet, in other parts of the world, the role of marketing consultation is still not clear. The most common myths about consulting services are that it is highly advanced or mainly technical.

In order to understand what marketing consultancy can offer, we need first to outline the module.

Understanding Marketing Consulting Model

Fundamentally, the consulting model is interconnected with the business plan on several levels. Firstly, the market research is a key stage for understanding the marketplace and the consumer. Setting the right prospectives and collecting useful insights is the corner stone in launching the brand and designing the business strategy. Contributions of marketing to the organizational structure and infrastructure are crucial in a digital-first world. Furthermore, the businesses are moving to customer-centric models which requires building an effective customer analysis and connect the online journey of the customer with the customer relationship data.

Marketing Consulting Service

As a result, the consulting model has effective contributions to the business model. Using advanced consulting methods and marketing tactics is a cornerstone for building effective KPIs and a roadmap. In recent years, marketing consultants are becoming a highly reliable approach that can work with any business module, from startups to medium size and big brands.

The Main Benefits of Marketing Consulting Services

Marketing consulting as a service enables businesses to access highly advanced marketing knowledge on reliable terms. Businesses hire marketing consulting professionals usually based on urgent needs and short time notice.

It is drastically different than researching for an agency or marketing executive since the commitment here is considered a long-term one. The type of commitment with consultants allows a considerably easy process of shortlisting and selection due to the type of agreement and results-driven conditions. The top benefits of marketing consulting services can be summarized in the following key features.

Specific knowledge

Businesses are always searching for highly specialized opinions and expert assistance to not just accomplish the task but also to provide a competitive edge in the market. Consulting services are always required to add value to the brand and marketing activities and not just to compliment it. The main benefit of marketing consultants is their ability to provide an expert vision and prevent marketing mistakes.  

The expansion of the marketing consultancy role has been subject to different prospective and offerings. Agencies provided the services based on their calibers and customized the services based on the client’s needs. However, the complexity of digital marketing created a major demand for advisors in all the digital channels as well as platforms. Gradually, a new generation of marketing consultants started to join the force as freelance experts or sub-contractors. As a result, marketing consulting has been a specialized role conducted by highly experienced experts in certain marketing channel such as social media, or even technically specialized consultants in a platform such as HubSpot, MailChimp or Google Search Ads.

Third-party advisor

Marketing consulting is an external resource that brings new opinions to the table of stakeholders. The third-party intervention can provide new interpretations of the situation and the marketing problems. An experienced consultant has the ability to demonstrate accurate researches and provide an extensive hypothesis. Basically, being an external resource allows the marketing consultant to investigate more and to expand the analysis.


Eventually, the role of marketing consulting services has become an approach to boost a certain strategic tactic. In some cases, the consultancy can be a project-based or retainer or even straightforward to profit and KPIs. This flexibility in hiring and managing the collaboration has changed the marketing departments to tab into more bold approaches and new verticals of technology and channels. Furthermore, it is easier to evaluate consultants by reviewing their work history as well as conducting test drives to explore their abilities in solving current problems.

Unlike full-time marketers, consultants are engaged on a temporary basis to carry out specific projects. This provides a higher level of flexibility and advances to consulting services. There are different models of commitments which the business can choose from such as the hourly rate or on a project basis. In some cases, it can value-based model which allows companies to have efficient budget control. In addition, consultants are more experienced than others and their contributions are highly concentrated which can save the cost of overheads. Finally, consulting service is a plug and play solution which can be hired on short notice and according to very specific contract conditions.


While hiring a marketing agency or marketing professional requires setting specific responsibilities and budget in advance, consultants are more like strategic partners and their key role is to investigate ongoing challenges. Traditionally, the marketing department requires new hires to catch up with new technologies and to fulfill different tasks. Consultants provide more capabilities in testing marketing technology and defining the accurate direction without the need for experiential journeys. As a result, marketing consulting allows a customizable approach without the need to sign a full commitment or spending budget on uncertain tracks.

The customized scale is another major benefit of marketing consulting services for all types of companies. While medium size companies have an established brand and marketing approach, startups are looking for experts to help in setting up the strategy and the brand. Marketing consulting services can engage with different types of companies and brands based on their scale, budget, and market size. However, well-known consulting firms are more into big accounts but independent and freelancer marketing consultants are usually flexible and able to provide customized services.

Marketing spend control

Marketing ROI and Return on Ad Spend ROAS are definitely a crucial factor to assess marketing performance. There are always complicated challenges in turning every aspect of marketing activity into straightforward ROI calculations. The marketing consultants are commonly involved to design accurate and reliable metrics to track performance across all the marketing channels. The main benefit of hiring a marketing consultant to design the reports and dashboards is that they are external resources with a set of solid standards in tracking and analysis. Accordingly, the consultants can help in solving the common conflict between marketing departments and senior management. Additionally, a key role of the marketing consulting is to audit the paid channels and provide recommendations on the channels mix as well as the optimization process of digital advertising platforms such as Google Search Ads, Facebook Ads, Display, Programmatic, and other paid social media channels.

Consulting and Marketing Transformation

Transforming the marketing role in business is the core value behind the consultation process. Primarily, the concept of marketing transformation is commonly connected to the process of digital transformation in business. Yet, it is very important to take into perspective the role of marketing transformation in revamping the marketing department. Marketing consulting is one of the most effective approaches in evaluating and planning a marketing transformation. Eventually, the consulting here could include several tasks such as marketing automation plan, marketing structure, marketing tech stack assessment, data analysis framework and most importantly coaching and training.

Marketing Consulting at Early Stage

While some companies would be only seeking a marketing consulting service when they are facing crucial problems with their marketing performance, consulting is more important during the early stage of establishing marketing activities. Traditionally, the consultants can offer critical contributions such as extensive market research and analysis to help in setting the business objectives. In addition, the great value of a marketing consultant relies on setting up the strategic approach for digital channels and branding. These consulting implementations in the early stage can help in providing the initial business strategy. As a result, the marketing consulting module is a built-in component of the business foundation.

Apparently, businesses tend to start building marketing teams from scratch and depend on hiring a marketing director or a digital agency that can run all these tasks. The main drawback of this approach remains in the control of results. The in-house marketing department is usually integrated within the organization which adds multiple layers of bureaucracy and prevents marketing in some cases from providing radical changes. Another drawback of this model is the slow process of hiring full-time talents or tapping into new areas and prospective outside the business model.

While the digital marketing agency model might seem to be more flexible and easier to integrate, the agency is still considered to work based on quantity, not quality. The agency model is highly concerned about execution and reporting rather than investigation and generating knowledge back to the business model. There is always a gap in the learning and problem-solving methods due to the conflict of interest. The commercial methods of the agency are generating profit based on the size of the account and service fees not based on future opportunities. Therefore, the majority of marketing know-how and technical experience will remain in the hands of the agency, and only some of the strategic knowledge with be revealed in monthly meetings and reports.

This leads us back to the early stage where marketing consulting can assist businesses in acquiring not just solid insights but also to design the marketing blueprint. The major benefit provided by marketing consulting is alignment.  As marketing consultants work independently, they are able to investigate properly in their research and find the best tactics which can serve the business objectives.   

Marketing Consulting: A Problem-Solving Method

While marketing consulting service is highly valuable in setting up the marketing foundation, typically senior management tends to involve consulting when they are facing a major problem or need. Eventually, this is the most common case of the requests I receive as a marketing consultant. However, in this case, the needs are more focused on a specific channel, technical or related to a specific regional market. In order to provide an overview, we will go over some of the most common issues:

  • Underperforming marketing: One of the regular problems that could involve several aspects. Initially, the most popular factor is the decline in leads and ineffective conversion rate. In other cases, the problem relies on generating quality traffic for the website and across digital media channels.
  • Establishing a new market: The problem of expanding to a new market requires a local expert. It is associated with competitive analysis and gaining an understanding of the target consumer.
  • High cost per acquisition: A common problem that usually facing senior management and the marketing directors. The paid channels’ efficiency and campaign planning are among the top factors that affect the marketing dollar and ROI. It crucial issues for companies who are heavily spending on Google Ads and other paid channels such as Display and Facebook Ads. Therefore, the issue for management is to audit the marketing channels effectively and enhance the lower-funnel metrics such as CPC, CPA, ROAS, and CLV.
  • Social Media Marketing: It is commonly known that social media is a highly competitive marketing channel. Businesses tend to investigate the performance of their social media channels. This problem is usually associated with the need to increase the reach and improve brand communication.
  • SEO and Organic Traffic: The need for a higher rank in organic results brought SEO into one of the top priorities in marketing activities. Companies are always facing high competition in the organic rank and looking for experienced SEO consulting to achieve the most optimal results.
  • Technical: Commonly, technical problems can vary from simple troubleshooting and installing a tracking pixel to complex marketing technology integrations. Technical consulting is not necessarily conducted by technology partners. In some cases, a marketing consultant is required for a massive audit or setting up a marketing automation plan. One of the major needs is conducting research of the marketing tech stack and providing effective recommendations of tools that fit with the marketing needs.
  • Marketing Analytics: Collecting and analyzing marketing data is one of the most critical problems for companies. Senior managers are always having issues with monitoring marketing performance and tracking data. As companies moving towards data-driven marketing, the main concern is not only in collecting reports but also to hire consulting services who can provide them with sleek and highly reliable dashboards. While it seems like a straightforward GA type of tracking but yet combining all channels and running sophisticated analysis requires a professional marketing consultant. Read more about this topic: The Foundation of Marketing Analytics.

After reviewing the most common issue that requires marketing consulting service, it is important to draw a line between focusing on the problem and evaluating the strategy of marketing. The main issue in approaching very specific issues such as SEO or social media is that marketing is about building strategic practices and not divided actions or channels.

Fundamentally, consulting requires a customized investigation which includes not just improving social media for instance, but also questions the short-term and long-term impact on the business objectives and brand image. The marketing consulting model enables companies to investigate not just the results but to also review the strategic approach and set the right direction. Furthermore, unlike regular freelancers who are hired to complete a task, the consulting in some cases can override the request by providing new insights.

Establishing a collaborative relationship with consulting services requires some understanding of the consultancy working methods and environment. Essentially, the characterization of consultants is different from marketing teams in terms of commitment and tasks. Unlike the marketing team, consultants are hired to provide an edge and major leap in marketing efficiency. Therefore, marketing consultancy services are not always luxury or highly strategic services. Marketing consulting services are an essential stage in setting up the business model.

The Rise of Digital Marketing Consultant

Digital marketing consultant is commonly considered as a vague term for businesses. There have been several misconceptions about the marketing consultant as a profession as well as a consultancy role in the marketing world.

For decades, the consultancy has been outlined as business services with a traditional focus on organizational management. However, consulting firms had to evolve to catch up with the changing business world, and that led to advancing their sales and marketing consultancy services. Additionally, marketing and advertising agencies have been advancing their consultancy services and adding new areas such as digital transformation, automation, data analytics along with branding consultancy services.

However, the freelance forces in the digital marketing world started to change the term by providing highly specialized consultancy in channels like SEO, social media, content marketing, and PPC.

What Is the Definition of Digital Marketing Consultants?

The term “Digital marketing consultant” identified as highly experienced marketers with advanced skills in digital technologies. Strategic thinker with avid analytical skills and several years of experience in managing marketing channels and setting branding and acquisition campaigns. Consultants are hired by businesses on a contract basis or as freelancers to solve marketing problems or to conduct research and audit tasks.

\Mainly, independent consultants are cost-effective and fast accelerators for digital marketing initiatives. In addition, consultants help in advancing digital marketing channels, marketing technology, and paid media.  According to stats from Report Linker Marketing Consulting Services Industry in the United States of America is estimated to reach $46.1 billion by 2021.

digital marketing consultants

The definition of marketing consultancy has been evolving over the years. One of the main reasons behind this change is the vast expansion in technology and social networks. As a result, the marketing methodology and applications were impacted, and digital channels started to emerge and to replace the traditional media channels.

This shift brought a new generation of native digital marketers who reshaped the marketing in order to catch up with the social media revolution. Moreover, the online experience and purchasing habits have been in the center of the change and consumer behavior is shifting sand.   

Research vs Enabling

In the last few years, startups were ahead of the game and moved quickly with revolutionized ideas in digital marketing and customer-centric approaches. Therefore, the concept of marketing consultancy had new roles in the business environment.

Startups’ culture has been impacted by the mentorship idea and its benefits. That’s what did happen in marketing consultancy and consultants started to function as external advisors for businesses. However, the consulting firms and agencies still playing the traditional role of consultant with more extensive researches over enabling.

Gradually, the digital marketing consultant role is changing, and agencies are moving towards technology transformations and hiring highly specialized digital marketers to help businesses on execution and technology level.   

Startups had different spheres and terms as mentorship started to shape the idea of consultancy as a business need. With all these trends, marketing consultancy has been not explicitly stated or identified. However, the need for a professional digital marketing consultant has increased rapidly, and businesses started to get more of a clear understanding.

What Digital Marketing Consultants Do?

Part of the dilemma is having goals without a knowledge of how to do it or why? The key to understanding the digital marketing consultants relies on four factors:

  • Consultants help with uncertainty: The major role of consultants is to identify the problem. The definition of a consultant role is described by the term itself. Business owners and marketing departments tend to reach out to professional consultants when they need to find effective solutions for their marketing problems.
    In summary, it is not critical if the business was not able to identify the problem clearly. That’s the consultant job to investigate, identify, and provide the ideas.
  • Consultants transform the marketing: Hiring a digital marketing consultant is different than hiring an agency or full-time marketer. The consultants’ highest value is to provide the change the business is looking for. It is not about doing the job, it is all about investigating marketing objectives, process, and monitoring.
    The digital marketing consultant’s greatest value is bringing the change to the marketing department from restructuring and recruiting to setting new strategic objectives and optimization plan of the digital marketing channels.
  • Consultants are partners: Unlike hiring an agency, consultants are free of conflicts, bureaucracy, overheads, corporate policies. They serve as advisors and align to the business objectives by being results-oriented. The partnership with consultants allows the business managers to have an external expert to analyze the marketing performance and strategic approaches. The big benefit of this partner that it is outside of all the circles of conflict.
  • Consultants enhance the knowledge: Brining a digital marketing expert onboard is the main aim for business owners. Acquiring advanced know-how and technical hands-on experience is the main reason why companies need a professional consultant. Consultant serves in critical and highly advanced areas such as paid channels optimization, programmatic advertising, social media strategy, marketing automation, and lead generation campaigns.
    The benefit is massive for companies who either use an in-house marketing team or agency due to the extensive experience of the consultant. In other words, it is a plug and plays a role in the ability to train and educate internal skills.

Fundamentally, these core values of what marketing consultant can do to revamp the digital marketing department and provide advanced knowledge, are triggered by need the scale the business and most importantly to monitor the marketing dollar.

Why the Role of Digital Marketing Consultant is Becoming Important for Businesses?

1) The Competition is Getting Harder

In the online world, everything is getting highly competitive. Everyone is competing over social media and Google search. According to Facebook, there are over 80 million small businesses using Facebook’s free business tools. The new generations of digital consumers are changing all the purchasing habits theories.

Competing in this environment requires getting ahead of the game and hiring the best brains out there to win the competition. However, acquiring full-time digital marketing professionals with advanced skills can be expensive and problematic.

2) Digital Marketing is Changing… Fast

Digital marketing is not the same as it used to be. Social networks are constantly changing their algorithm and the party of organic reach is almost over. Digital marketing platforms are getting more sophisticated and complex when it comes to management and paid ads.

Fast-growing technology is moving towards AI and Machine Learning. Even consumers on each channel are changing quickly and Facebook users are not the same it used to be 3 years ago. The more of Generation Z, the more the change in behavior, content, creative and even mediums.

The change in social media apps, algorithms, and personalized timelines is triggering a more complex targeting. Companies need to move faster or otherwise, their campaign tactics will be outdated and ineffective.

3) Lack of Strategic Approaches

The most common mistake business fall for is conducting marketing without a strategy. Strangely, I’ve been interviewing hundreds of companies from all sizes and in most cases, the biggest issues to spot is the lack of strategic approaches. While some companies had the team and agencies on board for years, yet there was hardly any solid strategy.

Departments and divisions have been working in separate islands and control has been inefficient. It is true that having an effective marketing strategy is no easy task for companies due to several reasons. Some of these reasons are related to business management and the high turnover in marketing positions.

Therefore, marketing consultancy plays the main role for companies to determine the best strategic approach and use an expert vision to analyze data and insights to build a strategy.

consultancy process

4) Gaps Between Marketing & Business Objectives

The gaps between marketing and business objectives are the biggest pain points for senior management. The common issues vary based on the business type. The most common issue in B2B is an inconsistency between Sales and Marketing operations. In big corporates, the gaps could be due to process and isolated marketing division.

Aligning marketing with the organizational objectives is not a decision as it might seem. Usually, it takes a lot of investigation, resources, and data analysis to reach an ultimate situation. Here comes the consultant job as an external resource who has the strategic view and experience in marketing. While internal teams can have a solid process and framework, the digital marketing consultant can help in providing extensive experiences.

5) The Incompatible Marketing and Sales

Marketing and Sales relationship is always described as ‘mission impossible’. Startups try to solve this problem by combining it into growth division. Eventually, the greatest challenge relies on the conflict between the two departments.

There are huge investments now in technology to organize the process which allows us to track the customer journey and set up the contribution. CRMs and marketing clouds have been trying to solve these issues by implementing sophisticated tracking and automation. Salesforce, HubSpot and Marketo have been the key player in the field and they managed to provide effective solutions for tracking leads and customers.

Apparently, to organize the tasks and build consistency in the process not limited to technology, it is about choosing the right Tech Stack and setting up the process effectively. An experienced consultant can help in making planning and executing transformation. Therefore, marketing cloud providers tend to hire consultancy teams to help corporate with transformation and training.

6) Inability to Assess Marketing Performance

Part of the biggest shift in the digital marketing world is data. Trackability changed the industry and performance is converted into charts and tables with very specific numbers and metrics.  

However, it is commonly known for most marketers that marketing in some cases such as organic leads and building brand requires long term tactics. The problem is hard to describe but marketing teams tend to spend all their efforts in reporting than creating creative ideas. Assessing performance is a problem that can be solved by integrating consultancy with the marketing strategy and operation.

Setting up KPIs and automated real-time dashboards can solve the issues of time-consuming reporting. In order to implement the consistent dashboard and KPIs, the process should involve a marketing analytic strategy in order to assess the data and design the marketing dashboards.

7) Underdeveloped Marketing Process and Technology

Technology is a major challenge for all marketers, and it is reflected in managing the process. Getting in-depth with technology can have endless layers and there are over 5000 marketing tools over there in the market.  The challenge for marketing relies on how to find the best approach to shortlist the technology that works and connect the dots by building an effective process.

The process takes more than empowering people with technology, it is about people first place. Here it comes the role of consultant to review the situation and determine the technology based on the most important which is human. Providing customized training according to the company’s needs is one of the greatest benefits of having a marketing consultant on board. It is a fast track, direct to the point, and live examples from the heart of the marketing department.  

8) Expensive Marketing Resources

Headhunting is the most important step to build successful marketing. Acquiring the right digital marketing skills is what makes a difference in every brand we see online. According to Steve Jobs, the right people don’t need to be managed because they know what to do. However, in a competing world, it is not an easy task to afford the best talents in the market.

Initially, hiring a consultant has several cost-effective benefits such as negotiation and remote part-time contracts.  The contract is usually associated with results and specific assigned tasks. According to a survey by Credo, the average hourly rate for digital marketing consultants worldwide is $140.29 per hour, while 41.25% of worldwide consultants charge less than $100 per hour.

9) Lack of local market knowledge

While some companies might have a country-specific marketing team, it is hard to hire in-house local marketers for each market. Companies who want to scale and expand into new markets are searching for local experts who have deep insights into the market and the consumer.

Marketing consultants are essentially experts in a region or local market and have years of experience in this market. They can consult the company about potential opportunities and threats. In the case of cultural barriers and different languages, the digital marketing consultant is an effective solution for companies during the early phase of building a local marketing strategy and understanding the consumer persona.

Area of expertise

In the digital world, the full stack consultant is considerably rare. However, there are always consultants who are strong in specific areas based on their demonstrable experiences and skills. Consequently, it is important for businesses to select a consultant based on their priorities and strategic objectives.

Digital marketing consultancy combines a long list of fields due to the complexity of the digital world. Therefore, it is important to define here some of the most important categories to consider.

  • Market Research: Conduct market research to identify the opportunities, competitive analysis, customer persona analysis, and digital media trends
  • Brand Consulting: Provide guidelines for the branding strategy, positioning, brand image, and marketing message
  • Marketing Strategy Consulting: Develop and implement a marketing strategy based on the objectives and allocated budget and resources
  • Marketing Management Consulting: Study the marketing process and provide recommendations for the structure, recruitment, roles, and process
  • UX Design and CRO analysis: Run website analysis in order to study the customer online journey and develop an optimization plan
  • SEO Consulting: Provide SEO Audit, SEO analysis, keyword research, and optimization plan
  • Social Media Consulting: Define the social media strategy, optimize the channels, setup paid social strategy, and campaign plan
  • Google Ads Consulting: Conduct PPC audit, performance analysis, technical integration, and optimization plan
  • Content Marketing Strategist: Provide content strategy and implement the content calendar, inbound marketing, Email workflows
  • Marketing Technology Consulting: Analyze the marketing technology needs and give direction to configure automation tools and AdTech
  • Marketing Analytics Consulting: Develop the marketing analytics strategy, integrate the marketing data, provide data analysis framework and design marketing dashboards

Companies with established in-house digital teams may be too deep in the weeds to realize where their weakness lies. It might be the lack of improving marketing technology or moving around the strategy gaps instead of taking intensive actions and rebuilding their approach.

Consequently, businesses are aware of the risky situation that might occur by losing opportunities in market share or losing the brand positioning due to the lack of effective marketing reach or inefficient performance control. Therefore, searching for professional digital marketing consultant is an addition to the in-house teams and digital agencies.

While in-house teams and agencies can help businesses to execute and track the digital marketing plan, the consultants can always provide the best help in building an effective strategy and provide enhanced researches on the gaps and provide marketing technology consulting. While the hourly fee could be higher than a regular agency, professional consultants create more value than they charge. In addition, companies can only retain them for a few hours each week or month, they reduce the overhead cost.

According to the feedback from several recruiters and freelance websites, the majority of business owners are relying on digital marketing to grow their business profitability and market share. While there are plenty of digital marketers who can create and manage their SEO and social media, the results are usually disappointing and the competition is growing harder.

Business owners are actively searching for solution providers who are experts in the market to advise on strategy and conversion metrics. Counterintuitively, even an expensive freelance marketing consultant can save money and decrease the costs of ineffective campaigns and paid advertising.

The Stats of Digital Advertising in the MENA Region

Digital Advertising in the MENA region is one of the most competitive industries with potential growth in Ad Spend according to predictions. The region includes several markets including the GCC countries, Egypt, and several other key markets. Basically, the common factor about the MENA market is the Arabic language. However, for global businesses, Turkey and Iran usually considered as part of the region.

The biggest challenge with understanding the stats of digital advertising in the MENA region, is the lack of data and statistics. The figures are usually not up to date and numbers are inconsistent. Furthermore, there is some data is hard to reach due to shadow economy, personal businesses and lack of research institutes. In my research, I have tried my best to gather and compare data from different resources in order to provide reliable statistics.

Overview: Advertising in the MENA Region

Internet users in the Arabic Language countries are estimated at 183 million in 2020, which is considered as 70.2% of the population (Internet World Stats). According to statistics, Facebook is one of the highest influential platforms with over 133 million users, 51% penetration rate in Feb 2020. Egypt is considered as the top market for Facebook with 40 million monthly users, while Saudi Arabia is the biggest market for Twitter with 38% of the population followed by Turkey with over 13% of the population.

The Market Size

Stats from NT, estimated the advertising reach of cookies at 61.72 million and impression at 916 million. Another indication of the market size and growth is E-commerce. Based on PayFort report, the Middle East e-commerce market would grow to reach US$69 billion by 2020. The top share of E-commerce is in the GCC and Egypt. Both account for 80% of the regional e-commerce market.

Media Channels in the MENA

Source: Statista

The Advertising market continues to witness a major shift toward digital advertising. According to figures from Statista, the Internet is taking over in 2020 with 44.2% of the total Ad expenditure, while TV is decreasing to 30%. Notably, traditional channels are dramatically decreasing with Newspapers going down to 1.9%. Experts predicting more changes in the coming years due to the increase in online streaming and Youtube. TV will continue to decline while budgets will move to digital video channels.

The Stats of Digital Advertising [Infographic]

Infographic mena region - digital advertising

Digital advertising in the MENA region had a massive increase between 2010 to 2015. According to statistics from Statista, Digital advertising increased by almost 600%. The digital Ad Spend reached over 1 billion in 2017 and afterward, the growth started to stabilize. The predictions show a decrease in 2020 due to Covid-19 which impacted several industries such as tourism, exhibitions, retail, and automotive.

Digital Advertising in the MENA
Source: Statista

The 1 Billion Market

The figures release an average of 1 Billion U.S. dollars market of digital expenditure in the MENA. However, if we dig deep in the figures, I certainly believe the MENA region has a limitation in figuring out the accurate amount of digital Ad Spend. The region is home to a massive amount of shadow business and unofficial online business. In addition, Google and Facebook do not release their regional revenue data.

Source: Ipsos

Another estimate by Ipsos, values the digital advertising market in the Middle East at 1.2 billion in 2019.

Apparently, experts are predicting an increase in the coming years. However, there are several factors that can highly impact the digital budget including the price of oil, political events, economic recovery after the pandemic, and many more.

Social Media and Video Advertising are leading the growth

According to Ipsos estimation, 70% to 75% of the digital advertising in the MENA goes to Facebook and Google. The rest of the digital advertising dollar is divided among Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Tiktok, and other Ad networks.

However, the trend in the Middle East is going into two main directions:

  • Facebook Advertising Network (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp)
  • Google (YouTube Video Advertising)

The Search Ads and Display is declining due to the higher penetration rate of Social Media. Moreover, A report of PwC shows that 78% of shoppers in the Middle East use social media to find inspirations for purchases. This is much higher than the global average of 37%. As a result, Social Media Advertising is leading digital advertising for advertisers.

The most remarkable fact about the region is Social Media Advertising which is the largest segment in comparison with search ads and display. According to Statista reports, Paid Social is the largest share of digital advertising expenditure in the MENA region.

However, YouTube is gaining a major demand lately as it was able to attract big share of traditional TV Ads. The Google’s platform is one of the top platforms in the region and source for news and entertainment. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are leading the region in terms of the YouTube number of users and hours spent.

Performance Marketing In The MENA

Ad expenditure in the GCC region is moving towards ‘performance-based’ with a strategic shift into learning budgets. This shift is putting more pressure on the market to change its advertising culture. According to a survey in 2020 by Interactive Agency Bureau(IAB), 59% of advertising agencies are significantly shifting into performance-based campaigns.

Facebook Advertising

The Facebook policy doesn’t allow to break the revenue by regions. As a result, there are no figures about how big is Facebook Advertising in the MENA. However, the statistics show 133 million Facebook users in the region, and over 63 million Instagram users.

Facebook launched Shop feature to business owners by late 2020 in order to boost the Ad revenue. With regional headquarter and a vast network of Facebook partners, the tech giant is focusing to increase its advertiser base and competing directly with Google.

Google Ads and Paid Search

Google Revenue is facing several difficulties this year. According to recent reports in Q1 2020, the median CTR for ads on Google Search decreased from 2.5% to 1.55%. CTR remains lower than we observed in 2019, down 44% year over year.

According to WordStream Data, while the US average CPC average is between $1 and $2 on the Search network, The United Arab Emirates is the only country in the region higher with 8% than average. The rest of the countries fall bellow average with 60% Saudi Arabia, 65% Egypt, 64% Kuwait, 61% Oman, 81% Qatar, and 74% Tunisia. In conclusion, the region is providing an area for growth and less competitive rates to the global average.

Google in 2019 launched Google Shopping Ads in the region. Now it is available for the GCC countries after it was limited to the United Arab Emirates. This move was able to attract E-commerce Advertising from top providers such as Souq, Noon, Jumia, and several other online stores. However, the main challenge in the region is the lack of qualified talents and agencies who can provide cost-effective results of paid search and display. While there is a vast amount of Google Ads Agencies in Dubai and the Middle East, the quality is not always efficient and the region is still under development when it comes to advanced Google Ads audit and performance.

Digital advertising agencies in the Middle East

Digital Marketing in the MENA region is a growing market with increasing potential due to economic growth in the GCC, Egypt, and Morocco. According to mideastmedia.org, the region has more than 500 advertising agencies that have a large number of employees. However, Clutch.co listed approximately 270 digital agencies listed in the United Arab Emirates. The numbers of agencies can exceed these figures since the Middle East is an emerging market for digital marketing startups.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia is fueling the region with small and medium-size agencies while the UAE is home to the big advertising firms. Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan represent the majority of digital marketing talents and creative resources. However, the highly qualified talents in digital advertising and performance are always moving outside the region to join companies in the European market. There is a gap in talents in several areas such as programmatic, paid search, audit, and digital marketing consultancy.

Programmatic Advertising in the Middle East

Programmatic advertising is not anymore an option due to the changes in Ad Tech. The slow transition from traditional to digital media is one of the key reasons that programmatic is struggling to dominate the region. Collectively, the MENA trail other regions in innovation and adoption of Ad Tech and marketing technologies (e.g., limited digital measurement, programmatic buying, and non-advertising forms of marketing).

The top Ad Networks in the MENA region include Facebook, Google Ads, IronSource, Applovin, Adcolony, AdFalcon, InTarget, AdZouk, and Ampush.

The United Arab Emirates is leading the growth in programmatic advertising due to the technology partners and the pressures from clients and brands to automate the process and use AI. However, the region is still outsourcing campaign management to agencies based in London. According to “Status of Programmatic Trading” survey, digital skills shortage at 39% and deeper understanding at 33%. These figures outline the main obstacles that are facing the adoption of programmatic advertising in the Middle East.

The Use of Arabic Language in Advertising

While the majority of the regional consumer are native Arabic speakers, the Gulf region and Dubai are home to expats from all over the world. English is commonly used as a business language in several industries such as Fintech, Technology, Business Services, Education, and Management. Moreover, English is widely used for luxury products and real estate development.

The Arabic language is dominating the region when it comes to retail, entertainment, and B2C. The statistics show that the use of Arabic varies based on the country. 96% of the consumer in Saudi Arabia prefer Arabic and 82% in Egypt, while in the UAE, 60% of consumers prefer to post in English. Marketers are using in usually a bilingual approach for their marketing message and Ads to increase the reach.

Digital Advertising by Sector

According to Ipsos research, the top ten sectors in region is dominated by beauty care, Foods, Telecommunication and Entertainment. While the top categories are Telecommunications companies followed by Real Estate and Banking.

Source: Ipsos

The MENA digital markets

To get deeper insights into the region, it is important to look into the top countries.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE is considered as the top market in the region due to its leading role in digital media. According to TBWA, the United Arab Emirates is accounted for 46% of the total advertising spend. Dubai is a business hub and home to advertising firms as well as the headquarters of Multinational companies. The financial benefits of the banking systems in Dubai allow international firms to manage their advertising budgets from the city. Moreover, there is a percentage of the budget spent on other regions.


Despite the firewalls, political conflicts, economic difficulties, digital advertising is growing in Turkey. According to IAB, in 2019 Turkey was one of the top five largest growth markets in the CCE region.

  • Ad spending in the Digital Advertising market is projected to reach US$709m in 2020.
  • The market’s largest segment is Search Advertising with a projected market volume of US$285m in 2020.

Digital Advertising in Iran

Despite the limits and lack of Google Ads and Facebook in the country, Iranians are fast adopters of new technologies. Eventually, Digital advertising in Iran is dominated mainly by local Ad Networks. According to Adro estimation, in 2020 Digital Advertising will account for over 20% of the overall advertising share with 426 million U.S. dollars. However, the corona virus and currency inflation will decrease the figures dramatically.

Iran Digital Ad Sepnd

Markets with difficulties: Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq are markets that are deeply impacted by political conflicts and war. There is no enough data about these markets and advertising via Facebook and Google is not allowed in some markets such as Syria.

In conclusion, the most promising trend in regional advertising is Video advertising. YouTube is replacing traditional TV advertising gradually. The Video Ad Spend will continue to grow in 2020 with a huge opportunity for a massive increase in the upcoming years. Performance marketing s another important trend to watch. Brands are demanding payment by results (ROI & Return on ad spend ROAS) as well as enhanced consumer insights and analytics. Agencies are required to implement advanced technology and improve their performance marketing skills.

In-House vs Agency Marketing: A Comparison of Benefits and Cost

In-house vs agency marketing is a critical decision for business owners and stakeholders. While marketing revolves around theoretical and practical ideas, the role of marketing within the organization is becoming the most striking trend about marketing in the present time.

According to research published by MarketingWeek, only 8% of brands are ‘very satisfied’ with their agency partners and more brands are considering taking activities in-house. Eventually, stats from Harvard Business Review, shows that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) have the shortest lifespan in the C-Suite. In addition, the issue with in-house marketing is not limited to senior marketing managers, stats from the LinkedIn analysis shows that marketing roles had the highest turnover rate with 17% comparing other functions.

In nutshell, whether the marketing is in-house or outsourced the issue remains the same. Decision-makers are considering marketing as the most unstable department in most organizations.

Analyzing the Problem

In the 15 years, I’ve spent in the marketing industry between full-time jobs and marketing consultancy, business owners are always questioning: “Should I hire an in-house marketing team or agency or marketing consultancy?”. In-house marketing vs agency is not just a regular business decision; it is an existential question for business owners.

In one gloomy day at the office in Singapore, the CEO finished a long meeting with our marketing team by shooting the question: “Who can we trust?”. At this moment we had reached the point that he doesn’t believe in the in-house team. At that time, he was afraid that agencies wouldn’t give him what he is looking for. I voluntarily answered him: “trust no one”. Yeah, he got it and a few months later he fired the marketing team and a few months later he stepped down as CEO.

Either way, we agreed that the trust level in marketers is falling down. The marketing and Ad technology didn’t provide a spike at the trust level. In fact, it made everything worse for senior marketing managers. The more the C-Suite are able to see the flood of numbers arriving from MarTech tools, the more they expand their abilities in spotting issues. Therefore, managing marketing remains a myth in most businesses. The question is getting extremely complex.

My aim here is not to convince you what works better. Remember that my motto is “Trust no one”. Let’s start by elaborating on some key pain points. I receive three types of business inquiries as a marketing consultant which can help us in analyzing the case.

1) Companies that are disappointed by their agency or tried several agencies with no effective results.

2) Companies that have an issue with their in-house marketing capabilities or willing to expand their in-house team.

3) Startups who have limited resources to hire an agency or in-house team and wondering what to do.

Attending several meetings and workshops with business managers and senior marketing management, made me realize that in-house marketing vs agency discussion is brutal. On the table there are few ideas:

  1. What is the best option that fits with our business model, budget, and resources?
  2. Which solution is cost-effective and easy to integrate?
  3. What is the best effective approach for the short-term and long-term?

It is all business decisions, but it is not fully accurate when it comes to marketing playground as there are few tricks and bumps along the way. Marketing is very dynamic due to the ongoing changes in consumer behavior, competition, and technology. What fits your business now might be problematic when you try to scale your business or open new markets. What is costly now can be cheaper with ongoing updates in MarTech and marketing automation. Marketing consultancy plays the main role in setting up the cost-effective automation plan for organizations.

The First Rule of the Selection Process

Based on many years in marketing consultancy, I had to listen carefully and analyze the requirement with one objective strategy in my mind. The only rule you need to keep in mind is what I learned from my conversion with my ex CEO, there is no perfect choice or fully trustworthy.

In-house vs Agency Comparison

After setting the main rule of establishing marketing, we come to an important part about the comparison of in-house marketing vs agency. After a constructive discussion with my fellow marketing expert JK Baseer, we concluded the main factors you will need in the comparison and what is the pros and cons of each option.

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AccessibilityAccessing the market is relatively slow with the in-house team. Building a team requires time to hire a team and to acquire marketing experiences in the target market.Faster access to the market due to the availability of local market and knowledge, tactics and consumer habits. The agency’s expertise allows faster access to the market and target consumers.
AdaptabilityThe in-house team is internal which allows a high level of adaptability and ability to rearrange tasks priorities, higher control and faster implementation of strategic adjustment and marketing budget allocation.   Agencies can be much slower to adopt depending on their workload, priorities and internal process. Additionally, the agency is interested in increasing marketing spend. However, the agency can have a valuable perspective of the strategy optimization.
ReliabilityReliability in managing the team, monitoring the quality, and controlling the projects from start to finish.Limited control in terms of process and difficulty in tracking and monitoring the quality.
ConnectivityThe In-house team is able to communicate with all stakeholders within the organization and have a major ability to access data, analyze, and align responsively.Tasks and projects coordination could be complex due to communication barriers. In addition, the agency is required to do extra efforts to reach different stakeholders and to access data.
FlexibilityThe In-house marketing team can adjust their skills to manage the required tasks and manage pressures. The team can expand or scale down based on the company’s needs and financial situation.The agency is handling several clients and you may have to wait for your turn. In some cases, the agency can provide flexibility in terms of fees and resources reallocation.
Pool of TalentsIt is rare to find talents who are experienced with all aspects and tools of digital marketing to cover all the marketing needs. Acquiring a successful marketing team requires experienced marketing recruiters and most importantly time.   Agencies work with several clients and they have more skilled individuals on hand. Their talents are diversified and covers wide areas of marketing channels, technology and as well as external resources.
OrientationIn-house marketers are paid to live and breathe your brand, product, and industry.The agencies have their own business objectives, technology partners, structure and profitability targets.
InvestmentThe in-house team is relatively considered as a long-term investment.In some cases, sustainability in the long-term could be one of the top issues.

This comparison of in-house vs marketing agencies illustrates the main differences. In contrast, it is important to explore the third path which consists of in-house marketing and digital agencies together.

Hybrid Marketing Team

The hybrid marketing team is considered a highly effective solution. Eventually, this solution is inherited by most of the top brands and big business firms. The main advantage of hybrid marketing is the ability to organize the workflow more effectively and control the results efficiently. Moreover, the in-house marketing team is given the ability to focus on the big picture or tasks they do best while you extract specific channels and researchers to specialized digital agencies.

The main disadvantage of the hybrid marketing team in some cases it is highly expensive which is suitable for big firms. In addition, you are still not protected from all the issues of the agency’s reliability and adaptability. While the hybrid solution could be customized based on the business objectives and budget in some cases, there is substantial heavy work to sustain it.

After exploring the different solutions, it is critical to understand more in-depth the dynamics and science behind managing the marketing outcomes.

How to Measure the Outcomes?

When it comes to the learning outcomes, in-house marketing and hybrid are certainly the best option to inherit. The organization must acquire the knowledge of how to communicate with the consumer. The core function of marketing knowledge is bigger than just data, market insights, and marketing academic disciplines. Marketing knowledge is about gaining accumulated information and increasing overall business performance.

Basically, the fatal mistake for some businesses is that they limited themselves and isolated the marketing knowledge inside the in-house marketing department or digital agencies. Marketing knowledge has a direct impact on all the business functions from improving the product to opening new markets at a lower cost to increasing awareness which has a direct impact on customer support. Building business decisions cannot be extracted just from campaign data and monthly reports of marketing ROI.

Over the years, I developed a high sense of how the company integrates its marketing within the organization. Successful companies tend to create highly effective communications and integrations between departments. I also tend to measure the success of the companies with how much information they have about the customer. Eventually, everyone overuses the term “customer-centric”, yet only so few companies are ahead of the game and managed to get closer to their customers.

Therefore, the management of marketing extremely complex and more intense than monitoring the performance. Fundamentally, I believe there are four major areas to measure the marketing outcomes beyond just the term “marketing performance”.

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Marketing CapabilitiesThe marketing contribution to the organizationImpact percentage on Product development, Operation, IT, Customer support, HR, R&D
Marketing ProcessThe efficiency of marketing as a functionInternal marketing process (Marketing cost, Productivity, Technology, KPIs)
Marketing PerformanceThe marketing output comparing marketing strategy objectivesMeasuring the cost per Channel, Leads, Sales, Acquisition, Retention and CLV
Marketing InvestmentThe marketing status comparing investment objectiveThe overall impact on Business Finance and ROI

Take a moment and start to reconsider the whole picture and measure the advantages and disadvantages of in-house marketing vs agency comparison. Marketing has different sides and you cannot limit it to one dashboard of the marketing department which visualizes the cost per acquisition. It is important to measure marketing outcomes as part of the organization’s picture. Now, back to our question: Which can deliver a better impact on the organization? Agency vs In-House?

Rebuild your objectives and expectations based on the four key areas before you make the decision. You will need an internal marketing expert of marketing consultation that can help in setting the measurement in place. 

How to Calculate the Cost?

Some would consider that a growing in-house marketing team is more expensive than hiring an agency. You would need to pay full-time salaries, buy the tools, pay for training, and the risk of a long-time process. While an agency contract is a negotiable and less headache in terms of skillset and tools. That’s a mistake since agencies are not generous by any meaning. The agency will give you as much as you pay. They can put heavy pressure on their teams to deliver but at the end of the day, they are looking for more profit out of your account. However, finding a good agency or establishing a hybrid is considered a painful process and costly.

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Agency cost formula: Cost of agency recruiting process + Time spent + Agency fees + Ad and media spending commission + Marketing tools + Communication and project management 
In-House cost formula: Cost of recruiting process + In-House costs (spaces and equipment) + Time spent + Full time salaries + Marketing tools + Training

In-house teams are certainly expensive the same as agencies. Several agencies argue that they are saving the cost of marketing ad tech tools, but this is not true. Top platforms and AdTech require new licenses that you are going to pay for. Most importantly, the top marketing agencies are already partners with the technology providers, and they are highly interested in selling you to their technology providers at a good rate. Keep in mind that the price difference can be massive sometimes for some platforms such as Google 360, Adobe Marketing Cloud, etc.

Fundamentally, the solution is not to conduct a basic comparison of prices but to measure the ROI of each investment. For instance, investing in a marketing platform is better with an in-house team because you are able to embrace this technology and dominate the knowledge of your marketing automation process.

Marketing Consultancy vs. Agency or In-house

The marketing function is not limited to generating leads and revenue. At a fundamental level, marketing has a great role in learning customer behavior and the market. If you don’t have an internal marketing professional or marketing consultancy services, you are potentially exposed to several blind spots in the decision-making process.

Hiring an independent marketing expert is a common option for many Tech and SaaS firms during transformation and strategic evaluation. A marketing consultant role exceeds the auditing and transformation tasks and enables businesses to have an extensive outside perspective.

  • The marketing consultant enables the decision-makers to have a trusted advisor who is able to provide unique perspectives, increase the senior management ability of analysis, and continuously train and educate the internal marketing team.
  • Professional digital marketing consultancy that worked with several agencies in the past can help effectively in the process of shortlisting and hiring an agency and more importantly in developing the framework and managing the expectations.
  • Marketing consultants work according to the decision-makers’ agenda and helps in connecting the dots and analyzing the gaps in the performance.
  • Working directly with a marketing consultant is a more reliable and cost-effective solution than hiring relying on the agency to do all the consulting work.
  • A consultant can effectively help in analyzing the marketing strategy and develop the required reporting system and KPIs in order to control the outcomes of internal teams or digital agencies according to business objectives.
  • Marketing consultancy has the freedom to analyze independently, they are expected to align with the organization structure and follow the same workflow such as internal employees.
  • A marketing consultant has comprehensive experience than marketing generalists in the job market. Consultants have dominated the experience of the market and work with multiple companies and projects. They are exposed to different marketing strategies, MarTech tools, budgeting methods.
  • The marketing consultancy model is more flexible to negotiate and contract, unlike hiring multiple internal and external resources.

In summary, the debates about in-house marketing vs agency could be justified to the basic rule of how you can manage the options on short and long-terms. Eventually, marketing consultancy professionals can provide a major assist in controlling the marketing spend and help in selecting the right approach. The consultant key expertise is not limited to setting up the marketing strategy only, but it is essential in analyzing the company’s needs, budget and monitoring the performance of the agency or in-house team. The main value of consulting is having an advisor on your side of the table who can answer business questions and help with the investment allocation.