The MENA Power List 2021: Full Speed Ahead, by MMS’ Ahmed Al Sahhaf

By Ahmed Al Sahhaf, CEO of MMS.

Years in role: 1 (since the company’s inception)

When it comes to the market in the region, it’s essential to truly get intimate and genuine with your audience.

Always keep their language, culture and values at the heart of all marketing and content strategies, and leverage local content for more authenticity and transparency in your message delivery. 

Our region is witnessing continuous growth through new projects and initiatives that present new opportunities in the market. For those who want to invest in these expanding home-grown economies, producing and distributing content that is specifically made for them is crucial.

Talk local

Leveraging local content for more authenticity, and transparency impacts every brand message delivery ,and brands are increasingly adapting their communication to encompass the values and culture of the people they’re targeting.

They are steering away from using international campaigns to target the local market and are instead opting to create campaigns that cater specifically to their targeted audiences — building on their local insights rather than ‘global truths’.

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This is especially the case when it comes to the Saudi market. It can most likely be attributed to the national sense of pride amongst the people of Saudi Arabia towards the extraordinary transformation the country is undergoing. The sense of change, and the feeling that greater things are yet to come, are contagious, and brands want to be a part of that.

Brands and clients want to be strategically tied to Vision 2030. They are launching initiatives and campaigns that are in line with its objectives. They are trying to do their part in supporting Saudi Arabia’s goals and vision and are reaching out to MMS to do so.   

One of the projects we’ve recently launched is Irbak, a reality entrepreneurship competition series, open to youth across the Arab World in partnership with the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming
and Drones.

The show, which aims to showcase some of the Arab World’s rising and most promising entrepreneurs and start-up owners, is in line with the directives of HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, to achieve the goals of the kingdom’s vision to seize the opportunities of the digital economy.

We are also working with the Saudi Tourism Authority to launch the second season of Kiram, a show that highlights inspiring tourism experiences by embracing young talent. This also supports the country’s goal of growing its tourism sector.

We are proud of being the exclusive advertising representatives for the brand-new Saudi Sports Company network of TV and digital channels, allowing us to provide brands with the opportunity to leverage the football craze taking over the kingdom this season.

Leverage locally produced content

Audiences relate to local productions; the core approach to achieving authenticity and relatability. 

Following a year of slowed production due to Covid-19 restrictions, TV networks and streaming platforms are now operating at full force to produce a strong content line-up that attracts audiences and that brands will want to be associated with.

At the centre of this effort are streaming and video-on-demand platforms, including Shahid, which are investing in producing high quality local content that audiences can connect to.

One of Shahid’s latest productions, Rashash, notably the biggest Arabic production by a streaming company to date, has proven to be a success; it was watched around 40 million times (and watched in every country in the world at least once). It remained the number one title in the GCC throughout the show’s eight-week duration, making it by far the most successful Shahid Original to date.

Not only have originals proven to be highly successful in terms of viewership, they also present brands with unique integration opportunities that are not available in internationally acquired shows.

Leveraging a local production means your brand can be present within a show that targets and represents its own audience.

Shahid and MBC GROUP have launched various originals, as well as localised shows representing different countries in the region such as Egypt and Iraq, and MMS has already set up its activities to provide them with premium solutions.

We believe in the power of branded content, which is why we’ve been providing our clients with integrated branded content solutions to deliver their desired messages in an unobtrusive way and without interruption.

We have also introduced – for the first time in MENA – native formats on Shahid that look and feel seamless to the browsing experience using Pause Ads, which are digital static ads that appears when a user pauses the show, without interrupting his or her viewing experience.

Build relations with local brands

As more home-grown brands continue to grow exponentially, advertising and media solutions companies should realise the opportunities that lie in these specific nuances for these local newcomers.   

In Saudi Arabia, for example, we are witnessing notable growth amongst local brands, which are increasing – and in many cases surpassing – their international counterparts in media investments.

Companies should build relations with up-and-coming businesses early on, as these local businesses and SMEs will eventually grow across all parameters, including their marketing efforts.

We have witnessed this first-hand at MMS this
past Ramadan. The top investors in the past years
were international brands, but last year they were replaced by local brands with the ambition to become category leaders.

The team at MMS is adopting an inclusive approach that encompasses all businesses, be they SMEs or large multinationals, by creating customised offerings that address their specific challenges to help them successfully implement TV, radio and digital solution investments that maximise their return on media investment.

Professional highlight of the year

Being an integral part of building MMS, creating a great team that already feels like a family and working with clients and agencies to grow their businesses.

Rapid fire

What are you working on?
Unlocking future opportunities.

What are you worrying about?
Time, as we need to catch up and leap ahead.

What are you smiling at?
Funny jokes.

What are you reading?
Mostly business and social media articles.

What are you watching?
The football league and the short series When They See Us.

What are you eating?
Home-cooked meals with close friends and family.

What are you listening to?
Thmanyah podcast.

What are you playing?
Chess with my sons.

What’s your hobby?

What’s your good habit?
Enjoying any challenge that comes
my way.

What’s your bad habit?
Not exercising enough.

Who are you learning from?
I try to learn from every person I meet.