Saudi Report 2021: Innovate or deteriorate, by Starcom’s Jad Saab

Developing data – and a business model built on that data – is essential for fast-evolving Saudi marketers to grow in the modern media landscape, says Starcom’s general manager Jad Saab.

The world is dramatically changing, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. Countries have had to change, migrate and incorporate different economic strategies and technological integrations to ensure they move with the reality of the times. Even though the kingdom’s vision withstands the crisis, Saudi Arabia has experienced the new world dynamics with a rapid shift to remote working, increased online education, remote health services and the drastic rise in e-commerce. All those factors drove not only multinational brands but also local brands to digitally transform and cope with the new reality.

Today, more than ever, media agencies play a critical role in bringing marcoms strategies to life. The biggest challenge for agencies is to make each dollar invested in media work harder for their clients, and they can only make this happen if they ensure a great synergy between people, practices and products.

To put some context into how this transformation is happening, the winning models are those that can grasp and analyse an organisation’s diverse requirements from product inception to customer retention through data – and the work being done with data by marketing agencies falls at the heart of this model.

It starts with the right setup for processing omnichannel sources with a ready-defined technology and synchronisation process, followed by capturing and analysing real-time interactions of users with touchpoints, identifying audience clusters across these touchpoints and being able to make predictions using predictive analytics – all to support the goal of facilitating the decision-making process.

The work, however, does not stop here, because interests and habits change with time, although they remain related. Therefore, the need for a solid data-driven business model that is able to capture these changes is a critical success factor.

The breadth of reach has lost its essence as a success factor, as consumers get spoiled with choices; and creating value is becoming harder by the day, as it can vary across effective personalised content, better targeting, optimised scheduling or churn prediction and prevention. An intelligent approach to data and analytics that can capitalise on audience insights with an unprecedented level of granularity is what will separate pioneer agencies from the rest. In addition, they will efficiently and fully leverage the fact that analytics have made it possible to monitor the swinging dynamics of ROI to utilise every penny spent on paid media.

Meanwhile, the emerging conversation about data privacy and compliance is worrying some brands and advertisers. Some of them have their own doubts about the grounding of a cookieless world, and with very low user prompt-ins, the new iOS 14 security feature is raising the pressure to find alternatives, especially small to medium ones who today rely mostly on third-party data for precise and efficient campaigns. This notion by itself puts more responsibility on media agencies to keep transforming at a faster pace and become fully rounded data consultants. While not all advertisers realise the importance of first-party data or even their potential to collect and own such data, our key role is to help them through this transformation, advise them on (and implement) the technologies they need, build their data infrastructure, integrate their CRM, etc.
We should help them establish and fully leverage owned data and become less dependent on third parties.

Lastly, amid this dramatic change and the continuous Saudi evolution, agencies must continue to innovate. The media world’s challenges are beyond ‘post-Covid’. We have to anticipate how the media world will look post-Covid, post-cookies and pro-privacy in all forms. We have to ask ourselves all the right questions: How can we ensure the readiness of all parties? Are we building sustainable business models? How do we define success in the coming period?

Vision 2030 provides a wider spectrum of growth and agencies will only be able to win if they properly define their role within this growth and keep innovating for human-driven solutions powered by data.

Read Campaign’s complete Saudi Report 2021 here.