Aamir Allibhoy: 'if you’re not digital you’re basically dead'
Posted on 2021 Oct,13  | By Ghada Azzi

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In order to gain a greater perspective into the pulse of the KSA’s ad industry, we addressed a set of questions to Aamir Alliboy, GM, Impact BBDO KSA to poll his views on the rate and pace of change in the kingdom, on the biggest transformations the ad business is witnessing, and on the biggest challenges they will be facing this year.

ASKED & ANSWERED: Aamir Alliboy, GM, Impact BBDO KSA 


It is believed that the rate and pace of change in the kingdom is currently so high and better than yesterday. How true is that? How would you assess the overall pulse of the Saudi ad industry? 

The rate at which change is happening, be it social, cultural as well as infrastructural, has truly been unprecedented, be it within Saudi or the region as a whole. The Saudi ad industry was already mirroring global trends of clear media spends shift from offline to online. And as a result of the pandemic, due to the scarcity of budgets for expensive mediums such as TV and OOH, this drive towards online was propelled further, especially that it is also measurable and easier to target, evaluate and optimize.


What are the biggest transformations that the ad business in the KSA is witnessing?

In line with the above answer, the Saudi ad business is catching up with the global transformation, namely a big migration from offline to online advertising, mandated by:

  • The advances in tech that encouraged a major switch from TV screens to phone screens among global consumers. Nowadays the main screen is the mobile one.
  • The accessibility, efficiency and affordability of online advertising when compared to traditional advertising, and the fact that it is highly measurable at relatively low cost, and most importantly it can be optimized practically in real time
  • The Covid crisis and the resulting lockdowns/social distancing further accelerated the shift to digital (meetings, e-learning, work/school from home, e-commerce, e-events/conferences etc), which in turns impacted the lives of Saudis and expats in the country in ways that could never have been imagined: cautious spending, mental health issues, home schooling, uncertainty over future, boredom, revenge spending etc. It was very difficult to predict how could brands communicate in such hard times without incurring the risk of a backlash due to the unpredictability of consumer reactions…

As a direct result of the above, the way we used to think of film production also witnessed a major change, with quick and cost effective content nowadays priming over big, well-crafted TV commercials that used to prime in the old days, given that consumers are now seeing our ad content on their mobiles. Moreover, the way we tell stories have also been heavily affected, with the 30” spot slowly disappearing and being replaced by all kinds of content creation/generation…

Another key trend on the Saudi scene (also stemming from the new storytelling/content trend) concerns OOH, whereby technology is taking over static signs, with very high definition screens replacing plain/static billboards, allowing for better/more creative content on this medium as well.

“Having a very strong Saudi talent base in every aspect of our business has never been so important, if not vital.”

This unprecedented transformation is affecting every aspect of Saudi life and businesses with a heightened competition that is pushing agencies to significantly increase investment in their Saudi operations. What do you think will be your biggest challenge this year?

With the pace of the change and the incidence it has on Saudi consumers’ behavior, maintaining relevance in every aspect of our communication activities is a major challenge: we need to assess the new emerging trends resulting from the rapid evolution of the market (and the country as a whole), taking into account all social/societal/cultural changes, all the while adapting our strategies to maintain the connection and resonance with our audiences. So, we are basically facing the challenge of understanding and strategizing at an unprecedented pace, sometimes without the luxury of thorough research/data. Having a very strong Saudi talent base in every aspect of our business has never been so important, if not vital.

On top of that, it goes without saying that today, every employee of an ad agency has to be highly wired and proficient on everything digital, because if you’re not digital you’re basically dead.

So at BBDO we have been heavily investing on developing our people’s digital capabilities in the past two years, and will continue to do so in line with the global trends and tech advancements.