Babar Khan Javed
Jun 7, 2018

Bangladesh increases digital spend 1000% over 3 years

The CEO of a Dentsu Aegis Network affiliate agency in Bangladesh details the factors that have led advertisers to experiment more and more with digital formats.


In the last three years, digital, social and search advertising in Bangladesh has risen from a 1% share of marketing budgets to a 10% share. The shift has its roots in the emerging population, internet usage growth, and the proven effectiveness of digital, social, and search as tactics for commercial success, According to Rabeth Khan, CEO of MediaAxis, an affiliate of Carat in Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh population is 166 million, and 40% of it is below the age of 30, said Khan. "Of the 166 million people, 83 million people use the internet," he added. "Of the 83 million people, 77 million use the internet from mobile phones."

Online and social media consumption behaviours show 31 million users on Facebook, 45 million monthly users on Google sites, 17 million users on Yahoo, and 18 million on YouTube. And Khan added that nearly 70% of the visitors of these platforms and sites fall in the 16- to 30-year-old age bracket.

Advertiser research has been showing that emerging customers do not engage with ATL mediums such as TV, radio and print, at the rate they used to, which Khan said laid the foundation that has normalised digital as a considered format in integrated marketing communications plan.

"The search dough of the entire pie is still low but now it's picking up," said Khan.

The path by which advertisers in Bangladesh experimented with digital is reminiscent of neighbouring countries, with Khan saying that marketers had to become comfortable with one format before adding a new one.

"So initially it was foraying into display only, then it was page likes and engagements on Facebook, and that has evolved into in-stream ads," said Khan, adding that demand has been pushed by agencies, publishers and broadcasters.

Rabeth Khan

Data collected from Eid 2017 in Bangladesh found that publishers and broadcasters had migrated significant content online to local sites and YouTube, which resulted in content consumption rivalling that of ATL counterparts.

"Now the [digital music] consumption in South Asian terms are crossing 30 million views," said Khan. "That gives clear indication that entertainment is being consumed in a very significant manner on YouTube, parallel to television."

Short supply

The factors stated above have resulted in a situation where demand exceeds supply in Bangladesh, with advertisers convinced that they need to re-evaluate segmentation, targeting, and positioning for this new reality. On the supply side, Khan said that not enough talent exists in the market to help advertisers make the transition online at the scale at which MediaAxis and large network affiliate agencies operate.

"The digital agency ecosystem in Dhaka is still quite low in terms of knowledge," said Khan. "Everybody has the basic knowledge, but it's time to embrace the advancements. Whoever does that faster will go ahead."

Advertisers have come to expect measurable returns on investment for online spend, although they are realistic about core competencies around direct distribution and possible channel conflicts.

Khan expects digital expenditure to rise as international competitors enter the market, prompting local established advertisers to double down on their reach and affinity.

As the fourth largest investor in Bangladesh, with nearly $1.2 billion invested thus far, Singapore funding facilitates the entry of F&B brands such as Fish & Co., Sushi Tei, and TransferTo into Bangladesh, all of which intend to capture a growing middle class.

By 2025, Khan says that up to 40 million people in Bangladesh will make the leap from poverty to the entry rungs of earning $5,000 or more per year, which would re-classify them as middle-class.

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