Samer Abboud on Memac Ogilvy’s role in shaping the future of advertising in Saudi Arabia
Posted on 2023 Dec,29

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As the advertising landscape in Saudi Arabia undergoes a dramatic transformation, we delve into an insightful interview with Samer Abboud, the regional chief growth officer & regional managing director at Memac Ogilvy MENA. The bullish market, fueled by local and foreign investments, paints a promising picture for the industry's growth.

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

Advertising in Saudi Arabia is currently undergoing a transformative phase. The market is bullish, with strong growth forecasts, marking a period of significant optimism fueled by both local and foreign investments.

Network agencies have recently started or increased their presence in this burgeoning market, benefiting downstream players like production houses. This growth is in tandem with the broader market and social liberalization in Saudi Arabia, creating a dynamic and promising landscape for the ad industry.


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

The influx of foreign and local companies is pushing agencies to be more agile and creative. This is influencing recruitment strategies, driving up salaries, particularly for local talent, and demanding more innovative approaches to talent acquisition and retention.

The competitive environment, coupled with Saudization rates, also nurtures the freelancing market: young Saudi advertisers will be more easily and quickly exposed to different ways of working across many agencies.


“There’s still a legacy of outdated mindsets that require an urgent shift.”


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

Saudi Arabia's rapid technological advancement can be clearly noticed with new forms of media being leveraged across the industry. As for the quality of content being deployed across sectors, the gap has yet to be bridged.

Even with past struggles diminishing, there’s still a legacy of outdated mindsets that require an urgent shift. Agencies must shed their old creative habits and adapt to the evolving expectations spurred by new market entrants. The interesting aspect lies in this dynamic shift, pushing agencies to elevate their creative standards.


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

Success in Saudi Arabia's market hinges on attracting and engaging a young, demanding generation of talent. For this to happen, agencies need a diverse client portfolio, allowing for varied tasks and learning environments.

This diversity is crucial for stimulating creativity, fostering innovation, and retaining top talent in a competitive landscape.


What in your opinion Saudi advertising is still lacking? 

I believe there is a significant opportunity for better integration with the education system. By establishing strong connections with educational institutions, we can create a seamless transition for graduates into the advertising world.

This approach will not only enrich the industry with fresh perspectives but also ensure a steady influx of talent attuned to the latest trends and techniques. It's about creating an ecosystem where academia and industry collaborate, fostering an environment where innovative ideas can flourish, and students are prepared for real-world challenges from day one.


“The influx of foreign and local companies is pushing agencies to be more agile and creative.”


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

For many years, Memac Ogilvy has shown itself to be a key creative partner for the Kingdom’s social, cultural, and economic growth.

We understand that Saudi Arabia is a diverse nation undergoing significant transformation.

Our expertise in behavioral change is a powerful tool that can be harnessed to influence and reshape societal attitudes towards critical themes such as sustainability, social change, economic diversification, health, and lifestyle in Saudi Arabia. This is about driving meaningful change by altering perceptions and behaviors to align with the ambitious goals of Vision 2030.