Abeer Alessa on being bold in the new era for the Saudi ad industry
Posted on 2022 Dec,29

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Abeer Alessa, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Bold Group, KSA believes it is an exciting time for the ad industry in Saudi Arabia, one that is ripe with lucrative growth opportunities. In the following, Alessa elaborates on those opportunities and explains what makes the Saudi market so vibrant today.

The Saudi ad industry has been experiencing an evolution over the past decade, as part of the Kingdom-wide transformation agenda driven by Vision 2030. This is an exciting time that is reshaping the industry’s scale as well as scope and presenting businesses in the marketing communication sector with lucrative growth opportunities. However, to be able to reap the rewards and remain sustainable in the long run, business owners must be guided by a strategic vision that allows them to grow their businesses profitably by remaining focused and in tune with the constantly evolving market trends.

The Kingdom’s transformation under Vision 2030 has energised economic growth and created many opportunities, especially for the ad industry. On the one hand, the launch of Vision 2030 created a new market for government-led communication, targeting both local and international audiences, to promote this Vision, its programs, and the Saudi image and brand at large. The aim is to position our beloved Kingdom as a vibrant, thriving and ambitious young nation and a “pioneering and successful global model of excellence, on all fronts” to quote HRH King Salman.

On the other hand, the economic growth coupled with the support for local businesses and talent and the empowering of women to become active participants in the labor market, has increased the disposable income of Saudi youth. This resulted in a surge in consumerism, and boosted demand for retail, services, and entertainment sectors. Concurrently, Vision 2030’s focus on quality of life, culture and entertainment, and tourism was in tune with that demand and opened fresh business opportunities in these sectors, which necessitated communicating and promoting all new ventures in these areas, creating new media and advertising opportunities, especially for local players.

The newly created seasons and occasions, products and services, experiences and channels that originated from this new focus generated a lot of advertising spend in these sectors, which reflected positively on the Saudi ad market. Previously, seasons like Ramadan, Hajj, and back-to-school drew in large ad spends across all media channels, with heavy focus on traditional media, and marked the ‘traditional’ key seasons for the Saudi ad market, with increasing consumer spend in retail, FMCGs, and so on. However, now, there is a continuous – almost uninterrupted – calendar of occasions and seasons all year round like Riyadh, Jeddah, and Shargiyah Seasons among others that provide additional opportunities for brands in retail, FMCGs, as well as services and entertainment to target and connect with Saudi consumers.

As a result, the adspend in the KSA market grew by almost 100% from 2020 to 2021 to exceed $1.5Bn. Most of this spend went to outdoor, TV and most importantly digital media, which saw spending growth by more than 80%!


I am very optimistic about the future of the Saudi ad industry, which can accommodate all market players, local and otherwise, but only if they are able to adapt and differentiate their offering.”


However, it is not only the sheer growth in ad market size that is important. One needs to understand the direction the ad market has been taking and the new trends it has been presenting to unlock the potential of the endless opportunities it presents. These trends are best characterised as an increasing focus on localisation as opposed to globalisation, and a move towards personalised, targeted content and experiences through innovative digital media at the expense of more mass and traditional media and content. First, the focus on localisation emerged from the drive towards promoting the cultural diversity of Saudi Arabia beyond the main cities or regions. This has been happening through the promotion of local tourism, as well as occasions like National Day or Founding Day, which celebrate the diverse and unique heritage of the Kingdom’s 13 regions, and the collective sense of pride everyone across Saudi feels for our beloved Kingdom.

It is interesting to note that while these occasions previously were formal and congratulatory occasions from an ad industry perspective, with the recent drive towards entertainment, experience, and consumerism, they have evolved into interactive experience-driven and commerce-driven occasions, where the retail and entertainment sectors invest heavily in month-long communication and promotion activities which drive the Saudi ad industry. They combine consumerism through opportunities to shop, experience and interact, with the occasion to celebrate national pride, explore the diverse and rich culture of our nation, and connect with peers and brands on more personal and customizable levels. This is something Bold successfully harnessed in pioneering the first celebration for the 92nd Saudi National Day on the Metaverse, creating an immersive Saudi cultural experience within this interactive virtual world.

However, to effectively connect with Saudis from all these diverse regions, an understanding and appreciation of the local cultural nuances and dialects is necessary; something local ad agencies would be uniquely capable of delivering. The current landscape has been very nurturing for the developing local creative talent and agencies market, something Bold managed to capitalise on to grow – having been one of the first local agencies to enter the market a decade ago. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of social media content consumption and generation globally. This is mostly due to its large, predominantly young population, who is highly educated and connected, and enabled with a strong digital infrastructure as well as an entrepreneur-friendly and supportive business environment. This resulted in the democratization of creativity which attracted new local entrants to the Saudi advertising and media markets to compete with the international and regional players in meeting the needs of the local, regional, and international brands for creative, locally relevant campaigns to connect with their Saudi consumers.

Considering everything we’ve been witnessing, and these trends I’ve outlined, I am very optimistic about the future of the Saudi ad industry, which can accommodate all market players, local and otherwise, but only if they are able to adapt and differentiate their offering and excel in a specialisation that would give them a competitive edge. Given the high competitiveness of the market, sustainable growth and profitability in the long run will be best achieved through a clear strategic vision, and consistent delivery that is rooted in innovation and excellence. This is a new era for the Saudi ad industry, one that is ripe with opportunities. We just need to be bold enough to seize them.