Surprising Advertising Trends in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is one of those countries, which is still listed as an emerging market. But is it really so “emerging” when it comes to the advertising industry? Learning from the Worldwide Partners Inc. agency in Saudi Arabia, Focusadvertising, we can understand more about the opportunities in the marketing communications sector as well as what challenges still exist that slow down the progress.

These days, a lot of renewals are happening in Saudi Arabia. And many of them appear to have a direct impact on the advertising industry.

“Younger” clients and talents

In 2005, King Abdullah realized a government scholarship program to send young people from Saudi to get their degrees in Western universities. Now, seven years later, more local Saudis are returning back after studying overseas. They have obtained more than just degrees. They’ve received new ways of life, new ideas – and they want to see a change in the advertising industry from both perspectives.

Some are now making these changes and bringing in their fresh ideas, while others now realize the possibilities and diversity of the ad industry and are willing to try these ideas out on their businesses.

So, as the clients recognize the younger demographics of the country, they want to see more of this local talent working with them. And as it all evolves, boutique consultancies and ad agencies are setting up shops and seeing more clients walk in. Now the clients of the ad agencies more than ever before are ready to take risks and use gimmicks.

Tweens and their phablets
“They are addicted and the addiction is catching up.”

Modern technologies and their main users, local youngsters, are creating the number one opportunity in the advertising industry. Facts are speaking for themselves.

According to Arab Advisors Group 2012, Smartphones constitute 54.6% of total cellular handsets.

Parties, gatherings, hook-ups, sports events, everything is coordinated on Facebook, Twitter, BB Messenger – sometimes by invitation only.

Brands want to be at the forefront by making use of App development. So App developers are popping up – even via overseas contracts.

Social media
“Social Media is the buzzword in the Saudi advertising industry today.”

According to TNS 2011, Saudi Arabia has the highest online engagement rate and YouTube viewership in the world, which represents an incredible potential for the ad industry.

A key benchmark for social media effectiveness can be seen through an increase in web traffic.

Expectations are over-inflated – everyone wants an “Arab Spring” coverage for their brand.

Local agencies

On par with other global markets, pure ad agencies no longer exist in Saudi – everyone wants to offer everything and anything instead of focusing.

More and more non-Arabic speakers (non-Saudis) are leading marketing teams, bringing in their own accent.

Women are finally adding a much needed “feminine” touch.

Cultural taboos
“The blurry line is in between of what’s allowed and what’s not.”

Being in the very heart of the Islamic world, the motherland of every Muslim, Saudi Arabia is often perceived purely as a country of strict laws that seem to be the main braking element in the process of modernization. Although time passes and things change, not everyone remembers to update their views.

Nowadays, the government’s abuse on any right is immediately attacked on social sites.

Clients are pushing the boundaries with less fear of punishment.

Market conditions

Current market conditions in Saudi Arabia are also on the advertisers’ side. Several factors must be highlighted:

An increase in cross-platform promotions.

Municipalities are clamping down on misrepresentation in communications and putting greater emphasis on consumer protection.

Budget surpluses and dramatic investments in infrastructure projects are also creating opportunities, especially for the ad industry.

However, not everything speaks well for the marketing communications industry in Saudi. The biggest challenge is that some clients still fear global economic conditions. They hesitate to move forward and want to continue to observe trends before making any investments in new media.

In all, the trends mentioned above are helping set Saudi Arabia on a high level when it comes to advertising and makes it a serious player on the world’s advertising stage. Sometimes strict regulations can become a motivating factor to bend the simple creativity and go even beyond it. If you still have doubts, just check out some visuals originated in Saudi Arabia and evaluate their creativity for yourself.

A subtle way to reflect a feminine touch.

Launching the Change Lingerie brand in Saudi Arabia by utilizing the concept behind censorship.