For years, the advertising, communications, and marketing sectors were primarily dominated by non-Saudis. Today, the pendulum has shifted and opportunities for Saudi nationals are more abundant than any other time to date. The question is, are nationals ready for it?
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On April 26, 2016, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced a vision that transformed the country. We are 14 years into the economic strategy of Vision 2030 that is stirring us away from oil dependency, and we are beginning to see it coming to life. Not merely through the tangible effects on the entertainment industry, but also by economic legislation such as the changes announced in October 2021 demanding that multinational companies move their headquarters to Riyadh or lose out on government contracts. Indeed, it’s clear why veteran ad man Martin Sorrel named Riyadh as the new hub of advertising in the Middle East, shifting from Beirut and Dubai. With giga projects like the Red Sea Development Project and Six Flags Qiddiya planning to open as near as the end of 2023, and the countless influx of fully owned or partially owned companies through the Public Investment Fund, the opportunities to build these brands and advertise, market and promote them are enormous. The halo effect this will induce on the private sector will bring the entire quality perception of ‘made in Saudi’ to a new standard. Couple that with a further boost by the government to nationalise marketing positions that will come into effect this May.
With the economic, social and legislative forces all playing into Saudi nationals’ favour, the only card that is left is skill. Entry-level positions will be an easy win but senior, executive or even founder roles will not be rewarded based on these external boosting factors alone. Qualifications and years of experience are the timeless currency that will always cash out in a free-market economy. Whether it’s in the creative department by building a superior portfolio of work, media buying by staying up to date on new tools and trends, strategy by leveraging data analytics to tell a story that guides business decisions, client servicing by learning to negotiate deals and satisfy customers, or marketing by leading with consistent brand performance in the short and long term and not just traditional quick-win solutions, Saudis will need to build these skills to earn the seats on the top.
In the meantime, nationals can stay inspired to build their careers, as Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar told Harper’s Bazaar magazine, addressing women in particular: “Don’t be afraid, we are all here to support you”.
This is true for all nationals who are working hard to build their skills first.