Hisham Maksoudian: 'Saudi Arabia set to become the most attractive destination for business and leisure'
Posted on 2021 Oct,11

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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 Hisham Maksoudian, CEO The Ad Council, 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.

The pulse of the Saudi ad industry

Saudi Arabia is witnessing a lot of changes affecting the Saudi economy, social and technological environments. Many of the more recent reforms can be considered part of the Vision 2030, a wide-ranging set of socio-economic reforms first proposed in 2016 in an effort to make the Kingdom more modern, business and tourism friendly.

Other significant changes since 2016 have involved allowing women to drive, lifting a decade long ban on cinemas and letting women travel alone, as well as the ongoing, gradual relaxation of gender segregation rules. One of the things that has dramatically changed in the past few years is the general relaxation of social life.

Since the announcement of the Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program (NTP), all ministries were asked to develop “SMART” objectives and realistic/achievable initiatives. Also, ministries were invited to establish a two-ways communication system to keep inform and engage citizens and business owners within the Kingdom. The high internet and smartphone penetration rate in the Kingdom, coupled with the high usage of social media, encourage the public sector to use such online communication channels to reach and engage with citizen across the Kingdom.

As far as the advertising industry shifting, social media still gaining momentum as a prime communication vehicle. Also, telecoms providers, FMCGs, dairy products marketers, delivery applications, Quick Services Restaurants (QSR), continue to invest on online and offline advertising, and above all, the internal tourism. However, public sector Ministries & Authorities are becoming more marketing communication driven and they use more integrated marketing communication activities (Event, social media, SMS campaigns, Email campaigns, etc.) to reach citizens and business community within the Kingdom.


Biggest transformations happening in the KSA ad business

Advertising industry in Saudi Arabia is also witnessing a change from traditional advertising campaigns creation driven to integrated marketing communication consultancy services provider.

The biggest transformation the advertising business in the Kingdom witnessed during the past years is the increase of usage of “Saudi Slang” content in all advertising campaigns aiming to reach Saudi consumers across the Kingdom. There is an increase demand of “Saudi” creative and content developers as compared to early years.

Also, the advertising business in the Kingdom witness the increase of public sector ministries & authorities of investment in communication (mainly online & social media) to communicate with citizens and business communities within the Kingdom.

Let’s not forget the Covid-19 impact on the whole Saudi advertising industry. Thanks to the effective management by the Saudi authorities of the Covid-19 crisis, we are currently witnessing an almost return to normal life.


Biggest challenge

AdCouncil is proud to brand itself as a total Saudi/local integrated marketing communication consulting agency. We succeeded during the past 3 years to develop a respectable and professional relationship with many ministries by offering our support to plan, manage and execute successful events & exhibitions and also to offer strategic communication consulting to Vision Realization Office (VRO) in various ministries.

Our biggest upcoming challenge is to maintain our current momentum in terms of human resources management process, without jeopardizing our professional and continuous services to our existing clients, and to manage efficiently our finance in order to ensure that we will navigate through the current crisis (mainly due to Covid-19) safe and stronger in order to continue thriving for growth.


Saudi ad market: key highlights

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the biggest consumer market within the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region with a relatively high per capita income level that leads to high purchasing power of consumers.

Also, there are 13 regions across the Kingdom and the Saudi government is determined to develop each region, which will open doors for new projects development and investments from both public and private sectors.

It is extremely important to mention that many International Companies are moving their regional offices within MENA to Saudi Arabia. It is the biggest market in terms of population and purchase power.

During the recent years, Saudi government issued new rules to grant visit visa to businessmen and tourists, to introduce Ministry of Tourism, and to form General Entertainment Authority; the Saudi government is determined to promote Saudi Arabia as an entertaining place for local, regional and international tourists and visitors. Global events such as the Paris-Dakar and the Formula one that is due in December this year are a breakthrough in the Saudi activities.

Al Ula, the Red Sea Project, the cultural sites and many other touristic destinations announced by the government are paving the way towards tourism in Saudi Arabia. Al lot of festivals are launched to promote this city worldwide. Neom (Located in the north of the Red Sea) is a new vision of what the future could be.  Neom will not only be a destination, but a home for people who dream big and who want to be part of building a new model for sustainable living. It is planned to incorporate smart city technologies and also function as a tourist destination.

In the near future, Saudi Arabia will become the most attractive destination for business and leisure.