The search for honest and authentic content - Interview with PHD MENA's Nawal Nasreddine
Posted on 2021 Sep,14  | By Iain Akerman

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Nawal Nasreddine, head of creative services at PHD MENA, discusses the increasingly important role of content creators in Saudi Arabia

How important are content creators to Saudi in terms of the countrys overall media market?

The Saudi market has over 27 million social media users and they have the highest per capita globally in YouTube watch time. In addition, platforms like TikTok and Snapchat in Saudi are placed at the top of users worldwide. With such a sophisticated and well-versed social media user base, content creators are key for brands who would like to stand apart from the crowd and successfully communicate and engage with their customers. The role of a successful content creator is to understand the brand, know the local trigger points and actively listen to the market differentiators to make sure objectives are met. Due to the rising number of content creators delivering fresh content and the appetite from the customers, there is no question that content creators are a vital part of the overall media landscape in Saudi.


Why have they taken off in such a big way in Saudi?

Saudis have always valued word of mouth recommendations. Nowadays this translates to influencers/content creators who are seen as credible experts in the field, so the rise of content creators does not really come as a major surprise. That said, the popularity of content creators intensified during Covid-19 due to the rise in time spent on content creator social platforms such as TikTok and Twitch. They’ve gained traction with the Gen Z audience, who binge-watch gamer streams for hours.     


What is their value to brands?

In this cluttered promotional market, getting the brand experience right is key to the success of any brand. Content creators share their brand experiences and allow people to connect with the brand through them; the creator is seen as the certifier of the experience’s worth. When used correctly, content marketing campaigns have proven to be an effective tool for brands to engage and convert users, which is why it’s important to work with content creators who understand the platforms, what’s trending, and how best to amplify the different features of that platform to ensure the brand is at the forefront of its category. 


“Due to the rising number of content creators delivering fresh content and the appetite from the customers, there is no question that content creators are a vital part of the overall media landscape in Saudi.”


Is an even bigger percentage of marketing spend being sent their way? If yes, is this likely to continue and why?

The role of the influencer and content creators has been questioned since they first rolled out back in 2010, and while a lot of marketers were skeptical, they have proven they are here to stay. A survey conducted by Influencer Marketing Hub in February of this year showed that 90 per cent of marketers believe that influencer campaigns are successful and effective. It also demonstrated that total spends on influencer marketing is doubling every two years; with global market spends expected to reach $13.8 billion in 2021. While we don’t have regional market data to quantify the same, we’ve seen a rise in influencer management agencies and platforms, whether through local startups or international agencies expanding footprint into this market. 


How do you see the content market developing in Saudi in the coming year?

It’s an exciting time in Saudi with their Vision 2030 rollout, the plans to invest in new sectors, new industries emerging and the rise in tourism will bring increased innovation to the content world. Saudi Tourism’s ‘Welcome To Arabia’ was a market-first campaign that ran across 18 markets and 14 languages using local Saudi content, driving viral reach of over 45 million, unparalleled engagement, and follower activation with a clear invite to visit the country’s unique destinations. The campaign’s focus was to invite the whole world to see the many wonders, beauty and magic of Saudi through TikTok stories. Brands like Dakar Rally Saudi also partnered with local and international creators to provide viewers with a taste of the rally that ran across multiple locations and terrains in the kingdom. 

As more brands continue to invest in content creators, we will see a development in the way they work with them. There will be more focus on long-term partnerships that will feed into the growth of social commerce, honest and authentic content will be desired, and regulations will be introduced with creators declaring paid partnerships, and finally, we may potentially see the first Saudi CGI influencers.