Brands want ‘Arabic-first’ campaigns

By Jalaja Ramanunni

There is a noticeable shift in the world of marketing towards an Arabic-first approach where campaigns are created after considering local insights and cultural relevance. This change has been driven by the increasing awareness among clients and marketing teams about the importance of authenticity in connecting with consumers in the Arab region.

This emphasis on cultural authenticity has become a key consideration for marketing teams in the region. Arabic copywriters are now involved from the briefing stage to ensure the content is created with a genuine Arabic voice.

Rani Amayri, Creative Director at IMPACT BBDO shares, “International brands such as Pepsi have recognised the power of local insights and cultural relevance in their campaigns. Based on my observation, around 80 per cent of clients nowadays are requesting Arabic first campaigns”. Amayri was named ‘Arabic Copywriter of the Year’ at Campaign Middle East’s first Agency of the Year awards held last year.

As someone who has been in the industry for over 17 years, Amayri mentions that he has witnessed this evolution firsthand. He comments, “When I first started my career as an Arabic copywriter, there were very few of us in the industry. Arabic copywriters were often treated as translators, where the campaign concept was created in English and then translated into Arabic by a copywriter. The concept earlier was cracked in English and the Arabic copywriter was brought on board later. They would revise or translate the copy using the terminology that the market got used to. However, over the years, there has been a growing recognition of the need for Arabic copywriters to bring their own creative insights and ideas to the table, rather than just translating English content.”

One of the key drivers of this change is the increasing focus on the Saudi market, as the region has opened up to more international brands and agencies. While there are still some cases where clients may opt for translated content due to budget constraints or pre-existing assets, the priority now is increasingly towards culturally relevant campaigns that resonate with the local market. As a hub for the region, Dubai is often the focal point for these campaigns that aim to connect with consumers across various Arab countries. Both local and global clients have embraced this shift towards an Arabic-first approach.

One of the driving factors behind this shift has been the realisation that some lines or concepts that are effective in English may not necessarily resonate with Arab audiences when translated directly. “There is a growing appreciation for the importance of creating content that sounds authentic and original in Arabic, rather than just being a literal translation of English copy. This has led to an increased demand for Arabic themes and concepts from clients, with the expectation that the Arabic copywriters will not just translate, but also revise and create content that ‘feels’ truly Arabic,” Amari shares.