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Saudi Industry Snapshot: Mazen Nahawi, CARMA

Mazen Nahawi, founder & group CEO, CARMA

How have consumers changed in Saudi Arabia in recent years?

The Saudi market has changed dramatically during the past few years. A strong economic recovery meant better budgets and improved payment terms against a backdrop of elevated strategic thinking and a completely different level of ambition, which inspires the entire Kingdom and its partners around the world.

From a media intelligence point of view, the first major change is the demand from senior government and corporate leaders for genuine insights that combine technology and human intelligence – and not automated data, vanity metrics and poor commentary.

The second major change is the growth in TikTok and Snapchat as the two main platforms that need to be monitored and analysed within the marketing communications ecosystem. Other platforms are important, but these two platforms are driving most meaningful engagement among young audiences and future leaders.

What are clients asking for in Saudi that’s new?

Saudi clients no longer want superficial top-line service; this means vanity metrics such as AVEs in PR or impressions numbers on social have now largely been discredited by the elite of the marcoms and PR industry in the kingdom.

Serious leadership is demanding a far more integrated set of data across traditional, digital, social and search and then combining this with human intelligence to ascertain real meaning and deep insights.

Where do you see the biggest potential for growth in Saudi?

Taking the Kingdom’s message to the world. This has started, but there is a lot more to go. Too many people globally do not understand the country, its values or its future – and that is a missed opportunity for all.

What are the biggest challenges you face in the Kingdom?

Operationally, there remain some pockets of management that are stuck in the past and try to force agencies to work in a way that is not helpful to anyone. This includes micromanagement, driving teams too hard and not focusing on real value. Luckily, this is diminishing rapidly and a new generation of leadership understands the basic concepts of mutual interest and getting the best out of your partner through motivation and support, not vice versa.

There also remain significant challenges around the collection of dues. This problem has also diminished but much more needs to be done. Without organisations being paid on time, their ability to serve the market will always be hamstrung, no matter how much goodwill there is on all sides.

How have you changed your offerings to reflect changes in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, we are focused on integrating media monitoring and analysis with opinion research, and using all forms of data from traditional, digital, social and search, to provide our clients with strategic insights that make a difference.