News & Insights

Advertising in Saudi Arabia: Embracing Change and Sparking Creativity

21 May 2024

Jamie Sergeant

Global CEO

Saudi Arabia, a nation once known for its conservative stance, has undergone profound changes in recent years. Under the visionary leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the ambitious Vision 2030 initiative, the Kingdom is rapidly transforming its social, economic, and cultural landscape. This shift has opened up new opportunities for global brands eager to tap into a burgeoning market with a young, digitally savvy population.

With reforms such as the lifting of the cinema ban, the easing of restrictions on women, and the promotion of entertainment and tourism, Saudi Arabia has become a magnet for international brands. These changes have not only attracted investment but have also unleashed a wave of creativity in the advertising industry.

One of the most notable campaigns was by Coca-Cola, with their "Change has a taste" campaign. Launched right after the new law allowing women to drive (June 2018), the campaign celebrated Saudi women and their aspirations. The creative use of the coke bottle as a vehicle to democratise driving has deeply resonated with the local audience, showcasing a blend of respect for tradition and excitement for the future.

Another groundbreaking campaign was Nike's "Victory Swim" and “What if you can”, which highlighted the inclusion and empowerment of Saudi women in sports. Featuring Saudi female athletes, the campaign emphasised the breaking of barriers and the pursuit of dreams, aligning perfectly with the Kingdom's broader goals of female empowerment. This campaign not only enhanced Nike's brand image but also contributed positively to the global perception of Saudi Arabia as a country embracing change.

These campaigns have significantly impacted the advertising landscape in Saudi Arabia. Global brands have brought with them a wealth of creative expertise, raising the bar for local advertising standards. The influx of diverse, high-quality content has fostered a competitive and innovative environment where creativity is flourishing.

Inspired by the success of global brands, local Saudi brands are now stepping up their game, embracing bold and innovative advertising strategies. This newfound confidence and creativity are reflective of a broader shift in the Saudi mindset, one that is increasingly open, dynamic, and forward-thinking.

Visit Saudi launched a highly successful campaign titled "Go beyond what you think" with the football player Leo Messi.The campaign focused on breaking away from the stereotypes known of Saudi Arabia, addressing common pain points and showcasing unexpected cultural facets of the country. The creative storytelling helped Visit Saudi to significantly increase its audience and brand loyalty.

These campaigns have not only driven commercial success but have also played a crucial role in evolving the cultural narrative within Saudi Arabia. The success stories of local brands adopting innovative advertising strategies reflect a shift towards a more progressive and open society. These brands are not just selling products; they are telling stories that resonate with the aspirations and values of the new Saudi Arabia.

For instance, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture launched the "Saudi Seasons" campaign to promote local tourism and culture. The campaign showcased various cultural festivals across the country, celebrating Saudi heritage and modernity. This initiative not only boosted domestic tourism but also helped reshape the global image of Saudi Arabia as a vibrant and diverse destination.

A case study worth mentioning is the last Al Nassr FC campaign, which promoted Saudi Football with “we dream and achieve”. The campaign used Cristiano Ronaldo to create a compelling narrative to inspire the youth to achieve their dreams. This celebrity approach has attracted an international audience but also instilled a sense of pride among Saudis about their cultural heritage.

The advertising landscape in Saudi Arabia is undergoing a remarkable transformation, driven by the country's ambitious reforms and the influx of global brands. These changes have spurred a wave of creativity and innovation, elevating the standards of advertising in the Kingdom. Government brands in tourism and travel, are rising to the occasion, inspired by the success of their international counterparts, and are crafting compelling campaigns that resonate deeply with the evolving mindset of Saudi while attracting a new wave of global consumers.

As Saudi Arabia continues on its path of transformation, the advertising industry will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the narrative, both locally and globally. The blend of traditional values with modern aspirations, as reflected in these creative campaigns, will continue to redefine the image of Saudi Arabia for years to come.

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