Darine El Kaissi: ‘Understanding Saudi Arabia is crucial for success’
Posted on 2024 Jan,14

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Darine El Kaissi, Managing Director, Mindshare KSA dissects the Saudi media landscape and shares its distinct features, challenges, and exciting aspects.

How would you describe the current general ad business mood in Saudi Arabia? 

As a rapidly developing economy, Saudi Arabia has been experiencing significant growth in the marketing and advertising industries over the past few years. There are numerous growth opportunities; the country has a young, tech-savvy population, making it an attractive market for brands across various sectors. Vision 2030 initiative aims to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil, which presents opportunities for advertisers to support this vision by promoting non-oil sectors, such as tourism, entertainment, and technology.

Furthermore, the increasing digitalization of Saudi society opens avenues for innovative marketing strategies. Brands can leverage data analytics, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality to create personalized, immersive consumer experiences.

In conclusion, the advertising and marketing industry in Saudi Arabia is evolving rapidly, driven by regulatory frameworks, key players, emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities.


What specific challenges are unique to what is believed to be a complex Saudi media landscape?

The Saudi market is the largest and fastest-growing market in the Middle East and is considered one of the most developed markets globally. Understanding the Saudi media landscape requires examining its distinct features, challenges, and exciting aspects. The challenges faced by Saudi Arabia's media landscape are also unique.

The most exciting challenge is preserving cultural and religious values while embracing modernization and globalization. We increasingly recognize the importance of localizing their campaigns to resonate with the Saudi audience. This involves incorporating Arabic language, cultural references, and local traditions into advertisements. Also, the cultural shift plays a vital role. The Saudi government has started allowing entertainment events such as music concerts and comic cons, as well as lifting the ban on cinemas, influencing a shift in the country's cultural landscape. This has created a new entertainment and media content market in the Kingdom that we are also catering to.


What are the emerging trends that are punctuating Saudi Arabia’s media space ?

The digital transformation, shift towards innovation, government initiatives, increased usage of social media, growth of streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Shahid, the demand for local and regional content, emphasis on youth-oriented Voice Search Optimization and the rise of e-commerce have all played a significant role in shaping the industry. We are adapting to these trends to effectively reach and engage with the Saudi audience in a culturally relevant and impactful manner.


What are the best practices for brands to prosper and grow in a market like Saudi Arabia?

To prosper and grow in a market like Saudi Arabia, media and creative agencies need to adopt specific strategies and best practices that align with the country's cultural, economic, and regulatory landscape. Saudi Arabia is a unique market with its own set of opportunities and challenges, and understanding these factors is crucial for success; therefore, investing in market research is critical to understanding consumer preferences, market trends, competition, and pricing dynamics that will enable informed decisions and provide valuable insights into consumer behaviour and help tailor products and services accordingly.


Saudi client is believed to be a media planner and buyer’s dream because of big budgets. Would you agree with that? And do you do business in the KSA like in any other regional market or do the challenges vary? 

I agree that the Saudi client can be a dream for agencies due to the potential for larger budgets, but it is not always the case. While Saudi Arabia has a large and growing economy with a significant portion of its GDP dedicated to advertising and media spending, the market also presents several challenges for creatives and businesses.

It is important for advertisers to understand and adapt to the unique cultural nuances and challenges of each market in order to be successful.

As for doing business, Saudi is different from any other market in the region. With a population of over 34 million people, including a large expatriate community, there is a diverse consumer base with varying needs and preferences. Saudi Arabia is also rooted in its culture, therefore it is imperative to embrace the cultural and understand the differences and nuances in order to succeed.


Do you see any changing patterns on how Saudis have been spending?

According to our agency data, there have been changing patterns in how Saudis have been spending in recent years. The local market in Saudi Arabia has witnessed significant shifts in consumer behavior and preferences, driven by various factors such as economic conditions, technological advancements, and changing cultural norms. One notable trend is the increasing adoption of e-commerce and online shopping among Saudi consumers. With the rapid growth of internet penetration and smartphone usage in the country, more and more people are turning to online platforms for their shopping needs. This shift is evident in the rising number of online retailers and the expansion of existing e-commerce platforms. Saudis are now more inclined to make purchases online, ranging from everyday items to luxury goods.

Another changing pattern is the growing demand for personalized and experiential services. Saudis are increasingly seeking unique experiences and tailored solutions that cater to their individual needs and preferences. This trend can be observed across various industries, including travel and tourism, hospitality, and retail. Brands that can offer personalized experiences or customize their products/services to meet specific customer requirements are likely to gain a competitive edge in the Saudi market.

Furthermore, there has been a noticeable shift towards sustainability and social responsibility among Saudis. As environmental concerns become more prominent globally, consumers in Saudi Arabia are also becoming more conscious of their impact on the environment. Brands that prioritize sustainability and incorporate eco-friendly practices into their operations are gaining favor among Saudi clients. This includes initiatives such as reducing carbon footprint, using renewable energy sources, and promoting ethical sourcing.


“The most exciting challenge is preserving cultural and religious values while embracing modernization and globalization.”


What services are brands seeking the most lately according to your agency data?

Brands are also seeking services related to data analytics and market research. As the Saudi market becomes more competitive, brands are recognizing the importance of data-driven decision-making and understanding consumer behavior. They are looking for agencies that can provide insights and analysis to help them make informed business decisions and stay ahead of the competition.


There are a tremendous number of media agencies out there for brands to partner with and setting yourselves apart is another challenge. How is Mindshare placed to win in such a competitive market like Saudi Arabia?

In a market as competitive as Saudi Arabia, it can be challenging for any media agency to stand out and achieve success. However, Mindshare, with its strong history, global reach, and innovative approach, is well-positioned to thrive in this environment.

Firstly, Mindshare has a solid reputation as a global media agency with a presence in over 80 countries. This extensive network allows the company to offer a wide range of services and expertise to clients, ensuring that they receive the most comprehensive and effective media solutions possible. Additionally, Mindshare’s global footprint enables the agency to tap into the vast resources and talent pool of its parent company, WPP, which is one of the largest marketing communications groups in the world.

Secondly, Mindshare has been at the forefront of innovation in the media industry, with a strong focus on digital media and technology. The agency has developed cutting-edge tools and techniques, such as its proprietary technology platform, M1, which enables clients to access data-driven insights and optimize their media investments. This innovative approach has helped Mindshare to stay ahead of the competition and deliver better results for its clients.

Thirdly, Mindshare has a proven track record of success in Saudi Arabia, having worked with some of the country’s top brands and organizations. The agency has a deep understanding of the local market and culture, which enables it to tailor its services to meet the unique needs of its clients. Additionally, Mindshare’s strong relationships with local media owners and partners allow the agency to secure exclusive deals and access to premium inventory, further enhancing its ability to deliver effective media campaigns. Lastly, Mindshare’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is a key component of its success. The agency believes that a diverse and inclusive workplace is essential to delivering the best possible results for clients, and it has implemented a range of initiatives to foster a culture of equality and respect. This commitment to diversity and inclusion has helped Mindshare to attract and retain top talent, which is essential in a highly competitive market like Saudi Arabia.