Marc Lawandos on the Saudi ad industry: 'this is a market for the brave'
Posted on 2023 Feb,02

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A vibrant advertising market that is witnessing tremendous growth, the scene in the Saudi Arabia looks geared toward progress and meaningful change as the Kingdom embraces all manner of new technologies, innovation and creativity to cement its pioneering spirit and leadership.

ArabAd sought insight from a selection of advertising professionals to get a true feel of the pulse of the Saudi ad business, and to delve deeper into the challenges and opportunities facing the local ad industry, by asking them the following:

Saudi Arabia looks like the new “El Dorado” for the regional communication industry to such an extent that numerous foreign ad agencies are extending their footprints into the kingdom. How do you view the mushrooming of agencies and the increased competition this creates? Do you think the market can accommodate all these new arrivals, and can these agencies thrive easily in this new open environment that seems to promise so many opportunities? What are you doing to sharpen your agency’s edge? Can we talk about a new era for the Saudi ad industry?

Here is what Marc Lawandos, Executive Director, MCN MENA had to say:

'It is a new era for the Saudi ad industry, in which a global brand agency such as FP7McCann will be as relevant for its international standard as for its local depth. We have had a presence in the Kingdom since 1983. We have evolved with the community and helped shape our industry in Saudi Arabia. We’ve hired, groomed and nurtured a Saudi workforce to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape. In fact, we like to think of ourselves as the Voice of Saudi Arabia (at least when it comes to communications).

The Saudi market is on a path of exponential growth and there is enough room for all players, so long as those players are able to add value to their clients’ business goals. Saudi Arabia is a dynamic market, evolving at lightning speed in every aspect – socially, economically and culturally. It’s on hyperdrive toward the future of every industry and across every business sector. 

This is a market for the brave, for those who can perform best practices and keep up with the pace. While we welcome all new entrants, we also know that “making it here,” is different than making it anywhere else. We can only hope that new entrants embrace the Kingdom’s distinctiveness and help to elevate the entire industry.

The agencies who want to thrive in the new-era Saudi adland will need to think culture first. Our youth perform best in a dynamic and adaptable work atmosphere. While they appreciate being nurtured, they also demand to be heard. Culture is at the core of everything we do; it is like the nervous system.

Moreover, it is very important to make creativity and collaboration the central doctrines around which you build the ecosystem, especially with the growing need for AdTech (advertising technology) and MarTech (marketing technology) in the Saudi ad industry.


“This is a market for the brave, for those who can perform best practices and keep up with the pace”


While clients remain reliant on the creativity of ad agencies to differentiate their brands, it will need to be creativity based on data-driven truths and steeped in local culture. Throw a bit of tech into your creative solutions, create experiences around your brand, and you’ll be off to a good start.

However, a good start is just that, because you’ll still be very delivering at the very top of the funnel. Now you have to move product by identifying the right influencer strategy, the right path to purchase, the right e-commerce strategy and execution, the right placement, the right reputation and crisis management, and the list goes on. If you’re fortunate to be a part of a consolidated communications group that integrates seamlessly, the good start will become a very strong proposition and offering. Thankfully, we’re part of MCN, the region’s largest truly integrated group of communications companies!'