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Communicate Online | Regional Edition | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Communicate Online | Regional Edition | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Saudi independent agencies… Short-term pain, long-term gain

Mohammad Baalbaki, BOLD Saudi


Saudi independent agencies… Short-term pain, long-term gain

It is not new. It started more than 10 years ago when Saudi Arabia came in second place after the UAE with $911 million in annual advertising spend in measured media allowing independent creative agencies to pave their way into a competitive ad-land dominated by multinational networks.

Today, putting the numbers in perspective, the most obvious reason for the declining ad spends by nearly 30 percent in measured media is the economic and political climate in the region.

Clients are becoming more demanding, budgets are less and the approach to doing things has changed. The demand for local talents also increased due to the past experiences of clients dealing with multinationals. Top talents were coming from Beirut, Dubai, or Egypt offices with less cultural knowledge, which created a confused advertising scene across the Kingdom. Big agencies had to adapt to the change and hire more local talents without really looking at the actual value added to the business. Local talents within multinational firms were perceived as the “trans creators”, or so to say “Google translate” for the Saudi market. Moreover, it wasn’t easy for them to keep up with the process.

The multinational agencies ended up with a mixed and divided internal cultural following a traditional process of work, where ideas are killed within the corridor connecting the disconnected creative and CS departments.

Think of it as input – output

There was a dire need to reinvent the way agencies were doing things to serve ambitious brands with less budgets. There was a need to adjust to an efficient model where the local agencies have developed. Today, local agencies rely on local talents where transferring knowledge comes at the essence of the relation.

That being said, the process had to change

Working flat make things fast. At Bold, for instance, we don’t have a creative department or account management department, which means everyone is creative and everyone is accountable. The more diverse, unusual, restless and unexpected the people are, the more unexpected ideas the client gets. The more the people work closely, the more ideas become solid and meaningful.

This model led to regaining clients’ trust, by delivering a more realistic approach that eliminates jargon and drives better results.

What about new technologies?

Today, watching TV isn’t as mainstream as it used to be, and I bet people barely notice outdoor communication anymore. People are always on the go, with their heads glued to their mobile phones. We are dealing with a generation that was born with an iPad in its hands.

Therefore, traditional advertising isn’t as efficient as it used to be. People are looking for experiences. They need to get the message across embedded with a form of entertainment. They need to be involved for them to believe.

AI, AR, VR, Face ID, and many other technologies yet to be discovered are all part of the game. No matter how you put it in its context, it is now a necessity to integrate these technologies within campaigns. It has become an essential part of the digital production ecosystem.

Today at Bold, we work in an agile environment making the process more flexible and accessible to everyone. This environment adds 20 percent more usage to the space and affects our efficiency at work. It also gives more freedom to the team to interconnect. We started developing our own internal workflow software that will be soon applied and tested. This will allow us to transfer the same culture into other offices outside the Kingdom, following the same values applied within our Riyadh and Beirut offices.


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