Twitter Finally Expands Ad Products To The Arab World. Is It Preparing for an IPO?

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Startups in the Middle East now have a new ad channel on the world’s favorite micro-blogging platform. In an event in Dubai yesterday, Twitter announced the debut of “Promoted Products” in the Middle East in partnership with Cairo firm Connect Ads.

Promoted Products, which have previously only been available in the U.S., U.K., Japan, and Latin America, will allow clients to buy Twitter’s three ad products- Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts, and Promoted Trends- in the Arab region.

“MENA is one of Twitter’s fastest-growing regions, and we are seeing significant interest from marketers there who want to use our Promoted Products to build their businesses and connect with consumers,” said Shailesh Rao, Twitter’s vice president of international revenue.

Digital advertising is the fastest growing media platform in the Arab region. Last year, digital ad spend exceeded $200 million, and will grow 35% a year to reach $580 million by 2015, according to Deloitte.

Connect Ads, the digital agency subsidiary of OTVentures, was chosen as Twitter’s sales representative in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia this past November. Since the agency launched in 2002, it has open offices in regional markets, including Morocco, Pakistan, and Qatar.

Not only will the agency handle sales of Twitter’s products with a dedicated team; it will also launch a range of education and training programs for agencies and large advertisers to help them understand the products, The Next Web reported in November.

Already, Pepsi, Saudi telecom company Mobily, Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel, and Dubai Calendar have signed on as clients.

A Mobile Boost for Startups?

For startups in the Middle East, the launch offers another opportunity for building revenues via mobile ads, as Promoted Products also work on mobile and tablets platforms (and any device that runs a Twitter client).

Twitter users exposed to retail tweets are more likely to make a purchase or visit online retailers on desktop clients, Twitter revealed in a report released last November in partnership with Boston market research firm Compete. Its mobile ad presence, however, often outperforms its ad revenue on desktops, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said in June.

Last year, Twitter also released a feature that allows clients to send promotional tweets directly to iPhone and Android users, which comprise over 60% of its near 200 million users worldwide.

In the Arab world, Rao expects the number to be higher, The National reports. This makes sense, as the UAE and Saudi Arabia boast the world’s highest smartphone penetration rates, at 62% and 60% respectively, according to Google.

Mobile ads are likely to be effective in the region as well. In the UAE, mobile ads are noticed by 93% of smartphone users and 39% of users have made a purchase on their phones, says Google. In Egypt, the number of smartphone users buying online reaches 41%, compared to 35% of Americans.

Preparing for an IPO?

For Twitter, the Arab world is a logical next step in its quest to prove it can effectively monetize the platform.

Arabic was also its fastest growing language in 2011 and is now its sixth most tweeted. Saudi Arabia will surely be a large target, as it holds most (38%) of the Arab world’s 2 million Twitter users,  according to a report released by the Masdar Research and Development Center. Kuwait is the next largest market at 10%.

The announcement also may be part of the social media company’s preparation for an IPO. Two days ago, Twitter was valued $9 billion after early employees sold $80 million in shares to a fund managed by BlackRock. The move may have been designed to demonstrate the value of Twitter’s assets to early shareholders while allowing select investors to secure equity, Bloomberg speculated.

In the meantime, entrepreneurs are focusing on the opportunities. “I hope those promoted products Twitter is introducing today helps them sustain their presence and expand—creatively,” @meetsamer tweeted yesterday.

Photo originally from The Inquisitr.

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