Predictions2020: The Year Ahead for Saudi Arabia

By Sami AlRasheed, CEO Saudi Arabia of Smaat Co

Over the past few years, the Saudi market has witnessed large-scale change in terms of the tremendous growth in digital media at the expense of other, traditional media, and also in terms of the government sector’s investment pumped into the market. This spend is now surpassing the private sector for media buying and creative services in the region. This has given rise to immense changes.

My opinion of the market trends during the coming year is as follows:

  • Expenditure growth by government bodies will continue, as it has not yet reached the inflection point at which expenditure will be doubled, especially with the giga-projects – and the ‘Saudi seasons’  that are taking place in the region.
  • Contrary to many expectations, billboard ads will flourish. The opportunities for their growth in Saudi Arabia are now greater than ever, due to the opening of the tourist gateways to visitors from outside the kingdom and to the huge operations and events that are currently taking place. These will attract more traffic, so higher exposure rates will be achieved. In addition to converting most of them to digital electronic screens, which has facilitated the process of sale and spread, billboards have become a more attractive option for customers.
  • The performance marketing trend will continue to attract more attention. This is very common in  advanced markets such as Dubai, while in our Saudi market performance marketing practices are still very limited. This trend is reinforced by the large expenditure in the publicity and advertising sector from companies that will definitely be served by performance marketing, such as e-commerce  companies and mobile applications.
  • Many creative agencies are keen to engage heavily in digital and to establish specialised digital  departments. The share of digital compared with other services in creative and traditional media  buying was insignificant in earlier times, but now it represents the largest share. That is what urges  agencies to enter into the digital sector to ensure its durability and sustainability in the market.
  • Many companies and government institutions are keen to establish an operations team for their social media channels instead of running them through outsourcing agencies.Social media channels were treated earlier as complementary communications channels rather than major ones, whereas  now digital communications channels are the basis and others are the complementary.

Moustafa Ismail, CEO Dubai, SMAAT Co. talks on Saudi of the Future at Campaign’s Marcomms360 conference on Predictions2020.

  • Influencer marketing in Saudi Arabia has witnessed very remarkable growth during the past two years. Despite the widespread criticism of influencers, it is expected to continue and grow on a global  and local level as well. Especially since influencer marketing is a very important factor of some marketing practices, such as performance marketing and e-commerce.
  • The programmatic advertising market is expected to prosper in the coming year, for several reasons:
  1. Many ads that target the Saudi market come from China, Europe and countries outside the Kingdom, and this urges them to use programmatic to reach their target segment easily.
  2. Programmatic advertising solutions have evolved and improved dramatically recently, with many  coming from Arab companies.
  3. Many media buyers have aimed to reduce the number of publishers they work with and focus on specific publishers who can achieve high exposure for them.

In the US, Emarketers has found that programmatic advertising accounted for 86.2 per cent of display ads.

  • There will be more focus on visual and interactive ads, as all content platforms have become more  concerned with video, allow it to be shared, displayed and used because it meets the requests of  media buyers and enables them to enhance their advertising messages and achieve the desired effect. Currently, many Publishers are more interested in interactivity, such as Snapchat, Instagram and Tiktok, and the interactive style comes in several forms, including: 360-degree videos; augmented reality; lenses and ‘shop the look’. This type of ad has paved the way for new revenue opportunities for many publishers.
  • The share of small and medium-sized companies in the advertising sector will increase, as major publishers have worked on ways to reach them for everyone who has an advertising budget, even if simple. The long tail will grow, along with the empowerment of publishers for the SME segment.