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The weak impact of advertising is increasingly evident

Saudi citizens and residents have opened up to the world, said Mazen Nahawi, Founder and Group CEO, Carma.

Industry Snapshot

How have consumers changed in Saudi Arabia in recent years?

Saudi citizens and residents have opened up to the world: they now understand global best practice, they know what ‘good looks like’ and they are increasingly demanding of the best quality of service.

The challenge of course is the number of quality providers across all industries is limited, and that is creating a pricing environment where most products and services are being delivered at much higher cost that in other places, say Dubai, for example.

The market is changing again however, and to pay normal prices for quality service, Saudis are putting an enormous focus on home grown talent and local industry.

I expect the KSA of the future to have media, tech, service, banking and industrial talent which rivals global economic hubs, but maintains a price point which is more sustainable than the current over-priced ecosystem in the market.

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

We find clients increasingly focused on how local social media and international mainstream media impact the reputation of organizations which are key to the Kingdom’s progress.

Most local news is naturally supportive of mega projects such as Neom, Al Ula etc. but international coverage can be mixed, as can local and international social media dialogue – much of which is poorly informed and hype-driven.
The need to manage reputation, push back against false stories and fake news, while promoting the benefits and value of these new projects, is a major new development and becoming stronger as we head into a weakening global economy which may depress oil prices.

Have the Saudi agency model/offerings changed over the years?

Yes and no. There remain many agencies which are focused on analogue-services such as outdoor advertising, print-based PR and classic TV outreach. On the flip side, there is a wave of new generation agencies focused on integrated media models, purpose-driven campaigns and measurable impact. They are poised to win the market long term. 

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

Reputation management. The weak impact of advertising is increasingly evident, and reputation which is made or broken through third-party endorsement and earned communications is top of mind with decision makers across the public and private sector.

What are the biggest challenges you face in the Kingdom?

The divide between older decision makers whose ideas and policies are for a bygone era, and the new generation of leaders whose vision and ambition is world-class. You will often find both in a single entity, including the same department. That can lead to friction, mixed messages and non-alignment.

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

Since starting our media monitoring operations there many years ago, we have grown into a broad range of digital and social monitoring solutions, as well integrated reputation analysis models which tell clients the truth of where they stand in the mind of their public. This depends on the complex capture, curation and analysis of everything from TikTok posts and TV, to online newspapers and NGO publications.

Mazen Nahawi, Founder and Group CEO, Carma