Connected to the market: Popular internet platforms are the targets for sector growth

As elsewhere, a long-term trend in Turkish advertising has been the relentless rise of digital and internet-based platforms increasing the pressure for new ad spend. These platforms are ever more mobile, as smartphones and tablets replace desktops and laptops.

STRONG SOCIAL ROLE: Central to this phenomenon is the growth of social networking sites, with promising prospects for advertising. In Turkey, the top social-networking sites are Facebook and Twitter. “Turkey is among the top Facebook markets in terms of user base,” said Güray Mert, the general manager of 41?29!, a digital marketing company. “As such, in the last years, companies have emerged calling themselves social media agencies.” Facebook counted over 30m Turkish users in February 2012, making it the sixth most-represented in the world on the site. Some 63.3% of Facebook users were male, and the predominant age group was the 18- to 24-year-old bracket.

Twitter, another key social media player, launched Turkish-language services in April 2011, although the platform’s usage was already high with a 16.6% national penetration rate. With such high user bases for Facebook and Twitter, there is relatively little space for niche or local players in the social media segment. This is partially explained by pricing plans of mobile providers. Turkcell, for example, charges subscribers a flat fee for Facebook usage, but not for other similar applications.

Digital media benefitted from the 2008-09 downturn, when companies turned to digital formats as a cheaper alternative to TV in a bid to slash advertising budgets. Consequently, the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Turkish website figures are as keenly followed as print circulation and broadcast data.

TOP HITS: According to IAB figures, the top three sites in terms of active users as of January 2012 were Google, with 23.5m users and 6.6bn page views, followed by Facebook, with 22.6m users and 15.9bn page views. Third was YouTube, with 15.26m users and 1.5bn page views, and Twitter was eighth, with 7.755m real users and 409m views. The website belonging to the Ministry of National Education ranked sixth, with 9.8m active users and 670.7m page views, perhaps indicative of the school and college age profile of many Turkish internet users.

There are, however, limits to growth. Among these are staffing. Digital media advertising suffers from intense competition for a limited pool of talent, while the rising global standing of Turkey’s advertising professionals makes it easier for local talent to pursue opportunities abroad. Another constraint is monetisation; while 30m Turks have Facebook accounts, few spend money on content on the site. Yet digital advertising can offer areas of potential that other mediums cannot. According to Tümay Asena, the CEO of Nokta Medya, a locally based digital media company, “Targeting users is the Holy Grail. More tailored ads will bring much more advertising revenue.”

E-COMMERCE: E-commerce sites also offer ad potential. Markafoni, a private shopping site, announced at the 2011 Webrazzi Summit and Retail Days in Ankara that the company spends $1m a month on online marketing tools, and is aiming for a $1bn valuation by 2014.

According to Doğan Online, which has e-business, tourism, news portals and digital media in its portfolio, e-commerce grew 56% between 2010 and 2011, with roughly 25% of internet users shopping online.

This represents a market with major potential, which has already been acknowledged by several foreign investors. South Africa’s Naspers, a digital media company, bought a 70% share in Markafoni, while California’s Kleiner Perkins and Tiger Global invested $26m in fashion e-commerce site trendyol.com in August 2011.

Intel has also taken an interest, investing in Nokta Medya and Grupanya, a company offering daily discount deals.

The shift to digital media will further develop as more comprehensive and sophisticated techniques like behavioural targeting – still relatively new in Turkey – take off. “It is important to offer niche services,” said Yenal Gökyıldırım, the CEO of Doğan Online, “so that product developers can reach a wide range of customers with targeted products. Personalisation is everything.”

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