What does the Saudi boom mean for the industry?

The flow of benefits from Saudi’s strengths will be long-lasting, says Nielsen Media’s Managing Director Sarah Messer

Credits: Nielsen Media

Saudi Arabia’s economic outlook is fuelling international interest.

While the rest of the world struggles with rising interest rates, high inflation, and a steadily increasing cost of living crisis that is seriously hitting people’s pockets and spending power, KSA GDP in 2023 is forecast to grow 3.3 per cent to reach $950 Billion. 

These are the kind of numbers that capture the attention of business leaders around the world.  

With so much attention focused in this direction, and on the strength of the Saudi economy, what does this mean for us in the region’s media industry?

The flow of benefits from Saudi’s strengths will be long-lasting. I see several ongoing developments that are having a lasting and positive impact, and bode well for the MENA media landscape.  

Talent was a hot topic when I first moved to the region in 2015, and it continues to be a priority. There are two key elements within talent – firstly, attracting the best people into the market, and secondly, developing the skills of the people we already have. 

In years gone by it was incredibly challenging to attract people to live in KSA; Dubai, with its glitz and glamour lifestyle, was a preferred destination to reside in.  

‘‘Riyadh today is comparable to any modern, cosmopolitan, international city, bustling with life and activities”

However, this is fast changing. When you walk around Riyadh today, it is comparable to any modern, cosmopolitan, international city, bustling with life and activities, and attracting high-profile celebrities and influencers.

With job opportunities aplenty as the media landscape shapes itself and grows, it is no longer a challenge to find the best people for the job – either within or outside of the region – and locate them in the Kingdom.

This means we are able to attract the right media skills and knowledge to capitalise on the burgeoning sector, which will continue to be a catalyst for change. 

In terms of talent development, ‘upskilling’ our people becomes a lot easier when the industry itself is developing.

I have witnessed the skills development in the broadcast industry since the KSA MRC (Media Rating Company) fully launched its Television Audience Measurement (TAM) service at the end of last year, delivered by Nielsen Media. 

The positive ramifications of this cannot be underestimated for the individuals themselves; the new TAM service is the first of its kind in the region and is an advanced system in terms of technology and scope of measurement.

Anyone now successfully applying this data to their media decision-making processes automatically becomes attractive internationally, where TAM systems are a part of everyday life.  People-competition is set to increase.   

With such interest in KSA from overseas, we in MENA have become the experts. Most of us would acknowledge that KSA is unique in many ways. 

What has worked in other markets is not necessarily a plug-and-play in Saudi Arabia.  The culture is different, people think and behave differently.  The subtleties of daily life and lifestyles have to be worked with and planned for to ensure advertising and business success.

As global businesses (including our own organisations) look to launch and grow in KSA, they need access to people who are knowledgeable about these nuances; people who can help them maximise their return on investment. 

Advertising with the wrong message to the wrong audience, can do serious damage to any brand.  

In the race for the Saudi consumer’s mind and pocket, no advertiser – whether new, old, local, regional, global, traditional, or digital – wants to be left behind, wondering what they missed out on. 

This is driving an explosion of new product lines, new services, expanding ranges, extensive branding, and increasing price competition.

All of which leads to more business for the media industry; every brand or product development push needs an advertising campaign to drive it. Our creative industries and agencies are flourishing along with the Saudi lifestyle.    

For Nielsen Media, building the Saudi TAM service has been an enormous learning curve.  Nielsen recognised the growth potential of Saudi, and committed to building a local team of 70 people to support the service.

We continue to develop those people, and they’ve been pivotal to helping us understand how to effectively apply our international experience in the Saudi context, as has been the ongoing communication with MRC and the wider media industry.  

As a key partner to the MRC’s KSA TAM service, it is testament to the changes we are witnessing within KSA that we have a 2,000 household daily reporting panel across Saudi delivering overnight TV viewing data.

With the wider industry now becoming increasingly comfortable with their first licensed trading currency, we’re listening to the market’s priorities on further audience measurement needs.