Can Saudi reinvent marketing?

Saudi Arabia has already reinvented tourism, culture and the economy, argues UM KSA’s Mohammad Mannaa

We have identified just how quickly the country can lead the reinvention of the marketing world due to the fast-evolving landscape heavily backed by three components. Starting with the government, who are committed to changing the perception of KSA, creating a global brand out of Saudi, and achieving its 2030 vision. 

Second is the private sector’s ability to harness and develop local brands at speed and turn them into big global brands. And lastly, and most importantly, at the heart, are the people who are not only ready for change but who play an eager and active part in the Kingdom’s energetic leap towards transformative acceleration.

However, for Saudi to reimagine marketing and ensure their human capital is well-equipped for the country’s vision, the government, universities, agencies and advertisers need to upskill their talent, tech and tools. 

We have identified the top areas Saudi Arabia can tap into, to begin turning the wheel and cross that 2030 finishing line.  


Saudi Arabia is a digital powerhouse. Life, car, home insurance, and the buying and selling are all possible online in the Kingdom. They can automate at speed and with efficiency. In just a year, Riyadh has succeeded in expediting digital practices in alignment with the Vision 2030 commitment. The government has put unparalleled effort and excellence into streamlining platforms and apps to complete official documents and services in record time. The platform Nafath is a perfect example of this which has achieved millions of transactions in just a few months.  To take this to the marketing sphere, investment is needed in developing digital talent and adopting the latest tech developments, particularly in data analysis, social media management, augmented and virtual reality, DOOH and digital marketing. 


The AI and web3 hype are unavoidable, but the best use cases Saudi can adopt now are linking offsite and online experiences and honing in on user experience. Personalisation, communication, and emotion are the three areas of AI we believe marketers should base their focus on to achieve scalable impact. Humanisation and intimacy with consumers are a no-brainer when it comes to advertising. As for investing in the metaverse, we must protect brands and Saudi from the hype echo chamber and only tap into meaningful conversations where commerce can occur,
such as gaming.


Sports marketing needs to come front and centre for marketers and their media plans in the years to come, with the Kingdom looking to become a sports hub with sporting events such as the Olympics, World Cup and F1. As Prince Faisal bin Bandar, President of the Saudi Esports Federation, stated in Arab News in October last year, “This young community and population are striving to take their place on the global stage. The ultimate goal is to have Saudi Arabia move on a natural path on the global pathway for games and e-sports.” In a report by Newzoo in 2021, there are an estimated 25.5 million gamers in Saudi Arabia, representing around 75 per cent of the country’s population. This makes KSA one of the world’s fastest-growing gaming markets, with endless advertising opportunities.


Saudi is already making big waves in this space with unbelievable, ahead-of-its-time projects such as the Red Sea Project, Riyadh Green Project, Neom and Amala. We also see educational efforts through social media and daily TV shows informing the nation on the importance of a sustainable culture. At UM, we are educating our clients on low carbon footprint advertising. We have recently launched our carbon calculator for our Saudi Arabian clients, which calculates the carbon emissions associated with a media plan based on the media mix. This would be a great starting place and foundational educational point for advertisers based in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia has a unique opportunity to lead the region in sustainability and become a global leader in this field, which can further enhance its reputation and attractiveness for foreign investment. 


We know when women are in business, economic growth soars. We are proud that more than 50 per cent of our UM KSA office are women, many of whom are Saudi nationals. How to attract talent and also retain it is key. It is up to the government, universities and agencies to nurture their education and encourage more women into Saudi’s marketing and advertising space to achieve further rapid growth.

When pulling these five levers together, the media agency, the government, the private sector, and the population can educate and upskill the landscape and bring regional-wide marketing excellence to the Kingdom. We know the population is craving it. We simply need to serve their appetite and nurture their constantly evolving needs to reimagine marketing for the whole world to see.

By Mohammad Mannaa, MD at UM KSA.