As the global economy undergoes a significant shift towards the Middle East, the Arab Gulf states are particularly emerging as formidable economic centres connecting the East and the West. Among these countries, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has taken centre stage as the driving force behind the region’s economic ascent.
With the introduction of Vision 2030 in 2016, Saudi Arabia has witnessed a revolutionary transformation that has impacted every aspect of the country, reshaping the way businesses and the government operate.
Vision 2030 has served as a catalyst for change, elevating the advertising sector from a relatively neglected industry to a vital component of the cultural, economic, and social renaissance orchestrated through a unique partnership between public and private investments and agencies.
Consequently, there has been an exponential rise in growth and demand within the advertising sector in Saudi Arabia, prompting both local and global agencies to converge and invest in expanding their capacity. This surge has also led to the emergence of numerous independent agencies.
The unprecedented reforms introduced under Vision 2030 aim to diversify the Saudi economy, reducing its over-dependence onoil as the main economic driver. The results of these reforms are already evident, with Saudi Arabia boasting the highest annual growth rate among the world’s top 20 economies in 2020. As the largest economy in the MENA region, Saudi Arabia has cemented its position as an economic and commercial powerhouse.
With approximately 67 per cent of its population under the age of 35, the country possesses a young demographic with a strong appetite for consumer goods, digital technology, and social media. This presents the advertising sector with seemingly limitless opportunities and potential for growth.
In 2022, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Commerce issued 314,500 commercial registrations for firms and establishments, representing a 6 per cent increase compared to the previous year. During the first quarter of 2023, Riyadh, the capital city, took the lead with the highest number of commercial registrations, reaching 18,800.
This makes Riyadh the city with the most emerging entrepreneurs in the business landscape, with 1,500 of them operating within the advertising sector.
Within this thriving environment, a growing indigenous advertising sector has flourished, often led by young Saudi creatives who bring international experience and a palpable sense of the nation’s spirit.
Local talent is now winning contracts to showcase Saudi Arabia’s emerging tourism and growing investment products to the world, providing stiff competition to the increasing number of international agencies making their way to Riyadh. The collaboration between local and global talent is pushing boundaries, raising the bar in both the in-Kingdom advertising landscape and on the international stage.
For many advertising agencies, the ‘giga’ projects envisioned under Vision 2030 represent the ultimate prize. The unparalleled support and ambition behind these transformative projects provide a canvas on which potentially award-winning global campaigns can be executed by some of the best agencies in the industry.
Saudi Arabia’s role as a powerhouse in the Middle East and the wider region is increasingly solidifying, serving as an intrinsic bridge between the East and the West. It offers an environment of economic freedom, a thriving investment ecosystem, and a pool of highly educated and ambitious young entrepreneurs who are taking full advantage of the dynamic opportunities available.
When it comes to advertising practices, Saudi Arabia is a marketplace that cannot be ignored. It is a marketplace where the sheer scale and boldness of the many ‘giga’ projects offers the exceptionally talented a supercharged environment where they can reach new heights and be rewarded for doing so.
It is also an increasingly competitive space where local agencies are adapting, enhancing and collaborating with global entities on their own terms.
While global companies investing in Saudi Arabia pose a certain challenge for local and independent agencies, the latter must adopt more global standards, and the former should be knowledgeable about local context for them to truly understand and communicate the country’s cultural essence.
In this context, the likelihood of forging powerful collaborations and partnerships between international and local agencies grows exponentially, as their mutual attributes fuse to create even more compelling narratives. This holds particularly true as Saudi Arabia ambitiously targets a population increase from 35 million to nearly 60 million by 2030, envisioning a balanced split between citizens and residents.
Therefore, it is crucial for local advertising agencies to be prepared to cater to this growing international audience. The decade ahead offers so much potential and opportunity for agencies in Saudi Arabia.
The breadth and diversity of economic activity, the global brands active in-Kingdom, the unstoppable advance of digital and the pipeline of major projects that are all about to reach their prime and engage their global markets and audiences, including tourism, innovation, sports, cultural destinations and the media and creative sectors, all point to Saudi Arabia being a powerhouse and global hub for the advertising industry up to and beyond the year 2030.
By Abeer Alessa, Co-founder and CEO of The Bold Group