Rami Hmadeh: ‘The pace of change in Saudi Arabia is nothing short of exhilarating’
Posted on 2023 Dec,21

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Rami Hmadeh, CEO Serviceplan Arabia delves into the opportunities lying at the heart of Saudi Arabia's transformation, emphasizing the need for a workforce seeded with local talent and the importance of understanding the evolving national culture.

How would you describe the current general ad business mood in Saudi Arabia?

In general, the advertising industry is experiencing a continuous upswing, with predictions indicating a steady rise in the coming years, mirroring the trend observed since 2021. While we may not anticipate a surge similar to the one witnessed from 2020 to 2021, brands are eager to invest in advertising, consumers are enthusiastic about their purchases, and target audiences are actively engaging with their preferred media channels and platforms.

We recognize that the business climate remains susceptible to a variety of factors, including economic conditions, market trends, government policies, and global events. Many significant developments are unfolding within the realm of commerce, all of which are propelling the advertising industry toward a promising future.


How do you see the flood of rival companies affecting your business?

Not acknowledging the presence of competitors in the market would be dismissing reality. Numerous agencies are recognizing the immense potential and venturing. As for us, we remain steadfast in our authenticity: we bring with us a wealth of global knowledge and an extensive international network, underscored by our significant successes in the UAE. We understand the Middle East region, where we have been servicing our clients and partners for over a decade since we launched our regional offices in 2009. Now, we are channeling all our expertise to create a robust hub in the kingdom.


How do you maintain a competitive edge in such a dynamic market?

Communication and innovation are at the heart of what we do. Our passionate team has been at the forefront of cutting-edge developments, delving into hot topics like AI and gaming for years. Equally vital is our incredibly dynamic and hyperlocal team already established in KSA.

By collaborating closely with the brands in the market, we achieve remarkable results, both in the short term and the long run.


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

Challenges in the KSA advertising sector include difficulties in talent acquisition, cultural sensitivity in a conservative environment, the need to diversify campaigns for a varied audience, and intense competition from both local and international agencies. However, the sector's most interesting aspects lie in the rich cultural context, the youth demographic's potential for innovative campaigns, alignment with government initiatives like Vision 2030, the growth of digital and social media, and opportunities presented by hosting global events and festivals.

The Saudi market is experiencing unprecedented growth, unlike any other. Its audience is incredibly diverse and remarkably adaptive, displaying an unmatched agility in their responses. The pace of change here is nothing short of cexhilarating!


“Navigating a marketplace characterized by 'giga' projects necessitates agencies to evolve and collaborate assertively with global counterparts.”


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

Success for advertising agencies in Saudi Arabia hinges on a strategic synthesis of global standards and local context comprehension. Navigating a marketplace characterized by 'giga' projects necessitates agencies to evolve and collaborate assertively with global counterparts. The key lies in finding a delicate balance – local agencies adopting global standards while global entities delve into the cultural intricacies of the Kingdom.

Amidst this, the narrative transforms into a partnership, fostering powerful collaborations that resonate with both local and expanding global audiences. A crucial element in this success story is talent. Identifying and empowering the right local talents become paramount, ensuring to not only understand cultural nuances but also leverage them creatively. As Saudi Arabia envisions a significant demographic shift, advertising agencies must anticipate this change, emphasizing the need to harness and empower local talents to cater to a growing international audience as success is not just about campaigns; it's about nurturing and empowering the right talents.


What in your opinion Saudi advertising is still lacking? 

It's not so much a deficiency as it is an opportunity for further progress: showcasing the creativity of the Kingdom on the global award stage. Cannes Lions 2023 showed that it works: Saudi won its first ever Grand Prix!

One aspect that could further enhance the Saudi advertising industry is a greater emphasis on fostering creativity and pushing boundaries in storytelling. While the industry has made notable strides, there's room for even more innovation and risk-taking in creative expressions. Encouraging a culture of experimentation and allowing creatives to explore unconventional ideas could lead to campaigns that not only capture attention but also contribute to shaping new narratives. This shift towards more daring and innovative approaches could elevate the Saudi advertising landscape to new heights, offering audiences fresh perspectives and experiences.
We are confident that numerous agencies in the market share our enthusiasm for showcasing the creative brilliance of the Kingdom.


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

With over a decade of active participation in the regional advertising scene and offices in UAE, along with the recent expansions in Jeddah and Riyadh, we at Serviceplan are fully committed to the kingdom and its vision for 2030 and beyond. We see ourselves as partners in driving the transformation of the Saudi economy by crafting impactful narratives and communication strategies that strengthen brands associated with Vision 2030. Leveraging our expertise in digital transformation and innovation, we aim to propel the Kingdom forward in these crucial areas, with cultural sensitivity at the core of our approach

As a global agency, we aspire to facilitate international collaborations that align with Vision 2030's goal of fostering connections on a global scale. Recognizing the significance of youth engagement and skill development, we contribute to demographic objectives outlined in Vision 2030. Serviceplan in Saudi Arabia is more than an agency; we are committed partners in the journey towards a vibrant, diversified, and globally influential Saudi Arabia by 2030.