Pete Lysak: ‘Saudi Arabia, a market open to the new and the brave’
Posted on 2024 Jan,16

Listen to the article

At the center of Saudi Arabia's dynamic landscape of vision-led growth, Pete Lysak, the regional executive director for FP7 McCann KSA, shares profound insights in an interview with Arab Ad. As global agencies increasingly view Saudi Arabia as a pivotal arena for their endeavors, Lysak scrutinizes the strategic choices made by these entities, questioning the sustainability of a non-committal approach to the local market. Amid the spirited embrace of competition, he envisions a future where world-class creativity becomes a driving force, turning Saudi Arabia into a talent magnet.


How would you describe the current general ad business mood in Saudi Arabia with so many agencies expanding their footprint to the kingdom, ready and hungry to seize every opportunity presented by Saudi Arabia’s booming economy? 

The pace of Saudi Arabia’s vision-led growth is nothing short of extraordinary. No wonder that some of the best global agencies are becoming increasingly active here, seeing our market as their primary hunting ground. An interesting fact: many of these agencies, be it creative, brand consultancies or other, have not really committed to the local presence. I believe that mid-term this approach will become untenable. I also believe that this shows a very mercenary approach, and I would question why these organizations are not making a true commitment to this market.


Any fears/apprehensions with regard to the Saudi increasingly crowded agency landscape? How do you see the flood of rival companies affecting your business? 

Absolutely no fear! Having the best of the best in our market raises the bar, which is great for the overall growth, of course. We welcome true competition, and I hope that the creative standards are going to be challenged. I can’t wait for a steady stream of world-class creative work to finally start coming out from our market. This will become a huge talent magnet and stimulate more growth. A great opportunity for us all, the clients and the creative industry.

One of my ambitions is to help establish the Saudi chapter of IAA with a triple mandate: local Ad festival, the talent academy, and the guidance on the best practice on agency selection process. IAA members consist of clients, media, creative agencies, and research agencies working together.  The overall goal would be to instill progressive industry standards, benefiting the entire ecosystem.


“I can’t wait for a steady stream of world-class creative work to finally start coming out from our market. This will become a huge talent magnet and stimulate more growth.” 


Where do you see the biggest opportunities laying for Saudi-based ad agencies? Is it within the tourism sector, is it throughout award-winning creative campaigns, or is it in understanding new tech and helping brands navigate culture…

Empathetically yes, on all of the above.  All sectors are growing – my personal favorite is a vibrant startup ecosystem, the core of future innovation. The number of SMEs has doubled since the Vision has been announced and this is driving the long-term competitive strength of this market. Award-winning campaigns are still nascent, surprisingly so in a market that is so open to the new and the brave. I see our agencies still not grabbing fully the opportunities presented by new tech and true cultural insight, the two powerful engines of creativity and key focus areas for us, at FP7 McCann.


What about diversity, equity and inclusion? Isn’t there still much work to do on that front?

I love the fact that you have asked about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Just the other week we have devoted a full Day for Meaning across all our offices globally. Our Saudi office brainstormed structural solutions that will reduce unconscious bias against disadvantaged minorities.  We have a plan!


What specific struggles or challenges are unique to KSA ad market? And what is its most interesting aspect?

What I have found intriguing is that writing a good, crafted copy in Najdi is a challenge for most agencies. I have struggled with it as a client, and I am happy to say that our office is one of the few that stood up to the challenge. We even have our tribal FP7 McCann poet onboard. I am Polish myself, so that I can relate to the challenge of finding the right word and the right flow to reflect the beauty and the complexity of the language. And getting it right is definitely a reward in itself.


What do you think agencies need the most to succeed in a market like Saudi Arabia?

I would say that being able to consistently come up with fresh ideas rooted in a genuine cultural insight and beautifully brought to life through crafted execution is a recipe of success, no matter which market you work in.


Do you see Saudi Arabia stealing the show in the region mainly over Dubai throughout the next 10 years? And how would you picture the kingdom in 10 years from now?

Why limit ourselves to the region? And why this “Dubai envy”? We are better than that. Our ambition and our potential are global. This is what we are targeting, and this is where we will be. In much less then 10 years from now.


What role do you see your agency playing in the overall Saudi Vision 2030?

At our agency we exist to create, so that we unlock growth. The growth of each of us as an individual, the growth of our agency, of our clients, our industry and, ultimately, the growth of the Kingdom. This is a very special time, and we are all very privileged to be impacted by the extraordinary Vision and an incredible journey it set off!