Independent magic: Fullstop
Posted on 2021 Sep,12  | By Iain Akerman

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Omar Alabdali, the chief executive of Fullstop Creatives, talks Saudi talent, events and the need to deliver value


“There is a lot of demand for local insights now,” says Omar Alabdali, the chief executive of Fullstop Creatives. “If you looked at the advertising scene 10 years ago, you’d find a lot of global agencies employing non-Saudis and I don’t think the percentage of Saudis would have exceeded two to three per cent. But today the scene is changing. Youre finding more locals are getting into advertising, whether through global or local agencies, and the opportunities provided by the countrys transformation are opening eyes towards independent and local agencies.”

   As Saudi Arabia booms, independents are finding themselves in demand like never before. None more so than Fullstop, with its 18 years of market experience and an enviable client list that includes the likes of Mobily, Misk, Jabal Omar and the kingdom’s Ministry of Health. And with all eyes on Saudi as it traverses a period of unprecedented economic, social and cultural transformation, the need for local knowledge is greater than ever, believes Alabdali. “It’s giving us a lot of chances to show what we’re made of and to show our understanding of our culture, our heritage, and how we can use this to shine creatively.” 

   The agency, which has offices in Jeddah and Riyadh, has a tradition of employing fresh Saudi talent rather than seasoned expatriates. This has paid huge dividends, with local talent viewing advertising as a viable and rewarding career as the need for marketing and communications in the country intensifies. “We love that our environment is focussed on teaching and training,” says Alabdali. “It’s a piece of culture that I’d like to maintain and grow as an agency.”

   “I’m very optimistic about what’s happening,” adds Alabdali. “As an agency we’re positioned very well in-between industries and have a great balance between government accounts and private accounts, so we feel we’re in a very good spot in terms of leveraging our relationship with the government to get more and more exposure. Technology and government events and entertainment are the two areas that we want to focus on, and having a telecom and working with an entity such as the General Entertainment Authority gives us a very good position to be on the rise with both industries. There’s going to be more to come – a lot of government spending, a lot of government projects, a lot of excitement.”

   The whole entertainment industry is growing in Saudi and sporting events in particular are a big opportunity. The Spanish Super Cup is to be played in Saudi Arabia until 2029 after the kingdom agreed a multi-year extension of its partnership with the Spanish Football Federation. The Ministry of Sports is also adding to its sporting calendar, with the inaugural Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to take place in December. This is in addition to the Dakar Rally, which has been held in the kingdom since 2020; Formula E, which takes the form of the Diriyah ePrix; and The Saudi Cup, the world’s most valuable horse race. All of these events are going to create a lot of exposure, a lot of content, a lot of opportunities for agencies to compete,” says Alabdali. And I think the market is vast because everyone can get a piece and be happy with it.”

 

 

“We love that our environment is focussed on teaching and training. It’s a piece of culture that I’d like to maintain and grow as an agency.”

 

   Citing work for Riyadh Season and The Saudi Cup, Alabdali says the agency worked closely with the Ministry of Culture for the latter, producing a documentary series in addition to all other aspects of the campaign. With the Saudi Cup we wanted to export culture and we successfully created that with the campaign that we did. And it was fun to go to the race day and find all the women and men dressed up in heritage costumes. It was super fun for us as an agency to be part of this experience.”

   Despite the challenges posed by a country and industry in flux, Alabdali is excited about the future. “We’re weighing the opportunities that we’re seeing in front of us, which is allowing us to grow as an agency both horizontally and vertically,” he says. “And I think horizontally today is actually the way to go, by adding more services as we go.

   “We’re noticing more and more demand for value, which is making us comfortable, because we know as an agency we always deliver that value,” he adds. “For me, as an agency, I believe that I should focus on value and nothing else, and everything else will follow. And this is what we’ve done since we began. We’ve had difficult runs, we’ve had booms, and I’m very thankful and very blessed to be part of the current boom that the agency is going through. Maintaining it is not an easy task, but definitely the opportunities are out there.”