Programmatic in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain

Researches & Insights
April 26, 2022 / Author: Elizaweta Zhuk

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar are rich modern countries from the GCC that combine a multifaceted culture and a perspective base for the foundation and development of digital marketing, and Programmatic Advertising has not been left behind.

Digital ads market

In the world of digital technologies, the most effective way to promote any business is through digital advertising. And the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar are not an exception. That’s why brands from these countries more and more focus their budgets on digital ads. As reported by Statista, in 2022, ad spending will reach $884.80m in UAE, $471.10m in Qatar, $440.20m in Kuwait, and $147.70m in Bahrain.  

Programmatic ad is continuing its growth. By 2026, the lion’s share of digital advertising revenue is forecasted to generate through programmatic. Bahrain will lead.

Source: Statista

Available audience

As with almost all countries in the world, the internet step by step is becoming a central part of daily life in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE. These countries’ internet penetration rate stood at 99.0% of the total population in January of 2022.

Source: DataReportal

With a young, tech-savvy population, mobile users have increased across these countries. DataReportal’s numbers indicate that mobile connections at the beginning of 2022 reached 169% in the UAE, 151.8% in Qatar, 149.5% in Kuwait, and 101.0% in Bahrain. As a result, brands have focused on developing an online ad experience for mobile more than for other devices in recent years.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, users have more reasons to use social networks more than ever. The share of the audience that brands can reach through advertising on social media has been maintained at a high level.

Source: DataReportal

Facebook and YouTube are the most popular social networks in the region, followed by Instagram.

Ad formats

Among all ad formats, Banner Advertising is the largest segment in the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait. The market’s largest segment in Bahrain is Search Advertising with a market volume of $53.66m in 2022.

Source: Statista

In line with users’ trends for the regions to rise in social media usage, brands increase their ad spending on advertising on social networks. For instance, Ad spending on these ads in the UAE is expected to grow annually by 14.23%, as a result, Social Media Advertising is projected to reach a market volume of $609.10m by 2026. It’s not a surprise. Social networks have grown into more than just platforms for users to share photos, it’s integrated more than ever into people’s daily lives. They are accessing social media as their primary channel for brand research and as a search engine. That’s why social media advertising is growing.


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The top Ad Networks in these countries

Facebook, Google Ads, IronSource, Applovin, Adcolony, AdFalcon, InTarget, AdZouk, and Ampush

E-commerce market

As consumers move online, brands usually follow suit, launching a progressive development of e-commerce. GCC countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE aren’t exceptions. The high level of internet proliferation and consumers’ tendency to spend more of their time online has proved a catalyst for the e-commerce market in these countries.

Source: Statista

Moreover, it’s continuing to grow. Based on the Statista report, revenue is expected to grow:

Source: Statista

The Internet plays a significant role in users’ path to purchase — discovery, research and actual buy. Regardless of whether they make a purchase (online or offline), consumers in these countries are heavily influenced by their online activities. Firstly, consumers of these countries are mobile-first, with smartphones being the preferred device for online research and shopping. In the UAE, the mobile share of shopping-related search queries has reached 70%. Most online shoppers (90%) in the UAE prefer to use mobile to make purchases online.

Secondly, the role of social media and video in the consumers’ path to purchase in these countries is important as well. For instance, 20% of users watch online videos when researching products and services in the UAE. So it’s a good opportunity for brands to influence the target audiences with video advertising.

Source: DataReportal

Not all product categories in the countries are at the same popularity level of e-commerce purchases. While electronics and beauty and personal care products are more favorite categories for online shopping, fashion and grocery are still gaining popularity among online shoppers.

Consumers in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE are digitally savvy, with the majority of their purchasing journey spent online, regardless where they buy. So brands have an opportunity to interact with their audience online in these countries.

Market peculiarities

It is important to note that in the UAE and Dubai, there are two languages: English and Arabic. What language brands should choose to use for business communication depends on the target audiences. For instance, brands which target audiences in the majority is foreign people, should consider that the target users search for products and services in English more. 

However, there are some cases where both Arabic search volume and high English search volume are used together for specific keywords. Depending on the specific product or service brands are promoting in the region, it is important to thoroughly do keyword research to utilize online marketing budget and efforts most effectively.

Also, as a result of mobile-first users and the rise in influence of social media on them, a lot of brands prioritize their social networks presence to interact with their audience and promote products, and mobile-first ad strategy in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE.

In the end, programmatic ads in these countries have a huge potential to become one of the most competitive industries across the MENA region.