Ciaran Bonass on the pulse of the Saudi ad industry
Posted on 2023 Feb,08

Listen to the article

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 Ciaran Bonass, Executive Director – AMEA at Virtue had to say:

'You only have to be at DXB Airport for a few minutes, any morning of the week, to see the active commute of recognizable agency folks flooding into Saudi Arabia. But I question how many are truly extending their brick-and-mortar footprint – or rather commuting every day. The physical absence of network agencies in Saudi Arabia is visible, but this gives way to the independent agencies that are clear and rooted in the local culture.

My concern would be the influx of regional agencies to the detriment of the smaller, locally established ones. We need to support and respect this, and not come charging in chasing shiny new briefs. 

Our physical presence is cemented in Riyadh’s JAX, the up-and-coming creative district, as a flagship brand/agency sitting in the heart of the creative community, and our ambition is to help grow and nurture talent, not take from it. Value and investment are a two-way stream for us. 

From a competitive landscape, we tend to operate in different fields and make work in different shapes and sizes. Our type of work also constitutes supporting change in the region. We haven't stepped into the private sector too much, but are predominantly working with larger entities to help broadcast globally the excellence and opportunity that Saudi Arabia provides.'