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Athar CMO roundtable: collaboration and transformation

Bloomberg Media brought leading marketers in Saudi Arabia at Athar Festival together to talk about how the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 is impacting their marketing strategies

The recent Athar Saudi Festival of Creativity provided the perfect platform for the creative industry to show how far it has come as the Kingdom rapidly expands.

It was also a great opportunity for Saudi Arabia’s most experienced marketers to talk about their own strategies and how these are being woven into the country’s grand Vision 2030.

Bloomberg Media hosted an intimate roundtable including marketing heads and Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) at some of Saudi Arabia’s biggest companies and organisations. Amit Nayak, Managing Director, Middle East & Africa at Bloomberg Media, called them a “unique group of individuals who are really changing the game”.

Andy Rodgers, Head of Client Marketing & Business Development Middle East & Africa at Bloomberg Media, introduced the topic of Vision 2030 and how it was proving to be transformational.

The master plan for the Kingdom is already having an impact, helping to turn Saudi Arabia into a global powerhouse through tourism, sport, liveable cities and by building an industrial base.

Asmaa Quorrich, Chief Marketing Officer at Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), talked about how Vision 2030 provides a clear roadmap for marketing leaders. “We are blessed in Saudi Arabia to have that defined for us.

But how do we arrive at that? It’s not just about putting an ad and getting a return. It’s about brand awareness, brand reputation, changing the narrative,” she said.

Khaled Tash, Group CMO of SAUDIA, agreed. “It’s important we get that narrative out there. We are proxy brands for the country, driven by the perception of Saudi Arabia.”

The CMO roundtable discussion focused heavily on how Vision 2030 is allowing more organisations to work closely together as they face the same challenges and opportunities.

“In reality, we are all part of Saudi Arabia. I know we are all different brands but we are all helping each other,” added STA’s Quorrich.

Silver lining

Samir Siddiqi, VP Experience at King Abdullah Financial District, welcomed the greater cooperation across different sectors.

“Each one of us might have our own internal conversation and visions of what we want to do but there’s a silver lining of the vision which connects us all together.”

This new way of working together was described as transformational, as previously marketers worked in silos
on projects, focused solely on their own goals and objectives.

“It’s very exciting and puts you around a table with a lot of people you thought you never would be,” said Omar Alabdali, CMO at Jeddah Development Authority.

The group of top marketers are enjoying the new opportunities to collaborate with one another, share ideas and work towards a common goal. The Bloomberg Media roundtable helped continue this momentum. 

With so much positivity surrounding the direction Saudi Arabia is headed in, the consensus was that Vision 2030 also creates big responsibility for all those involved to deliver. 

Marketers felt that anyone working for a Saudi Arabian organisation must now view themselves as global ambassadors for the Vision.

“Saudis are on every table, on every conversation when you go abroad and you are the centre of attention. That’s the fantastic part of the vision,” added Jeddah Development Authority’s Alabdali.

While Vision 2030 is helping to promote Saudi Arabia internationally, Lynn Al Khatib, VP Communications at the Chalhoub Group, a luxury goods retailer and distributor, said it has also helped encourage global brands and businesses to venture into Saudi.

Dreams and deadlines

The consensus is that Vision 2030 has moved from one of intention to execution, with tangible examples of how it is taking shape.

Anas Alhumaid, Deputy Minister Assistant for Communication at the Ministry of Health, said: “After seven years we can all see the dream and are now working to 2040.”

“What the vision did was set a deadline. If you give people a task without a deadline they will not deliver. With a clear deadline everyone is racing, and finding more efficient ways to do things,” added Faisal Abusaq, CMO at Sawani. 

With Vision 2030, it’s an exciting time to be a marketer in Saudi Arabia, but it means roles are changing. This challenge is bringing marketers closer together.

Turky Kari, Executive Director, Marketing at Cruise Saudi, said: “We need to elevate each other. Everything
is happening at the same time, so we need to see how we can build this ecosystem to the next level.”