The evolution of film craft in Middle Eastern advertising

Brands are investing in online campaigns to reach tech-savvy consumers, writes Accenture Song's Heba Shaaban and Stuart Higton

In the dynamic world of advertising, the Middle East serves as a vibrant hub where tradition intersects with innovation. We’ve navigated the transformative currents reshaping the region’s advertising landscape, and aim to explore the evolving role of film craft in Middle Eastern advertising, while also acknowledging the transformative strides made by countries like Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, in particular, has emerged as a trailblazer in recent years, embracing modernisation while preserving its cultural heritage. From granting women the right to drive to fostering a burgeoning art and entertainment scene, Saudi Arabia epitomises the delicate balance between tradition and progress.

At the heart of effective advertising lies the art of storytelling. It’s the thread that weaves through campaigns, captivating audiences and compelling action. Film craft, with its arsenal of cinematic techniques, serves as the cornerstone of storytelling in advertising, transforming concepts into captivating narratives.

One exemplary showcase of film craft in Middle Eastern advertising is our award-winning film ‘Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou: Battle of the Baddest’.

This film, which garnered accolades and recognition, exemplifies the power of storytelling to captivate and engage audiences.

In the film, we embark on a cinematic journey, leveraging film craft to bring the epic clash between two heavyweight champions to life. The OOH promotions and press conferences portrayed the combatants as fighting royalty, adorned in robes and crowns.

Weeks later as I stood ringside, enveloped in the palpable energy of the arena, I witnessed the culmination of months of anticipation and excitement. The theatre of the promotion unfolded before my eyes, each moment meticulously crafted to captivate and enthrall audiences.

The two fighters came out in their fine robes and entered the arena. Following the epic showdown, the story continued to unfold in a Netflix film titled “Battle of the Baddest”, offering viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the build-up to the fight.

As filmmakers, our task is to create a world that viewers can enter and expand with their own imagination. It’s the authentic hooks we weave into our narratives that make these worlds believable and leave viewers craving more.

Boxing is not for everyone, but stories are, and they are the key to being seen, heard and understood. Saudi Arabia’s dynamic economic and cultural changes are visible in every aspect of society. In the world of advertising campaigns and marketing communications, the leaps have been significant due to expanding budgets and growing opportunities.

Advertising witnessed a swift shift towards digital platforms, with brands investing in online campaigns to reach the tech-savvy consumers, especially the younger generation under 35 years old who make around 60 percent of the population.

Digital platforms have played a pivotal role in reshaping advertising in Saudi Arabia. Brands are investing heavily in online campaigns to reach tech-savvy consumers, particularly the younger demographic, who wield significant influence.

This shift has elevated the importance of film craft, as advertisers seek to create compelling content that stands out in the digital landscape.

Yet, amidst the digital revolution, traditional storytelling remains as relevant as ever. In Saudi Arabia, where culture and tradition are deeply ingrained, advertisers must strike a delicate balance between modernity and heritage.

Film craft provides a means of bridging these two worlds, allowing brands to tell stories that resonate with Saudi audiences while embracing contemporary trends.

Humour has long been a staple of advertising in Saudi Arabia. Campaigns that employ lighthearted storytelling often resonate deeply with audiences, tapping into their affinity for wit and comedy.

Film craft enables advertisers to bring these stories to life, leveraging visual and narrative techniques to create memorable and engaging content.

The resurgence of the cinema market in Saudi Arabia presents new opportunities for advertisers to leverage film craft. By 2024, the kingdom’s cinema market is projected to surpass that of other MENA countries, signaling a renaissance in the entertainment industry.

This shift opens doors for brands to explore innovative storytelling techniques, from immersive cinematic experiences to interactive campaigns.

As Creatives, Heba and I, collaborating across cultural boundaries, must harness the power of film craft to redefine storytelling in the Middle East. Our campaigns should embody the dynamic spirit of modernity in the region while honouring its rich cultural heritage.

By crafting narratives that resonate with audiences on a personal level, we can forge meaningful connections that endure beyond the confines of the screen.

By Heba Shaaban, Arabic Content Creator | Communications, and Stuart Higton, Executive Creative Director at Accenture Song