Marketers chasing Saudi Arabia’s elusive Gen Z

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Melissa Moubarak, strategy manager at UM MENA. (Dubai Lynx)
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Raha Moharrak (center) was the first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest. (Photo by writer)
Updated 13 March 2017

Marketers chasing Saudi Arabia’s elusive Gen Z

DUBAI: Understanding the Saudi consumer is a key goal for many marketers in the Arabian Gulf. You only needed to glance at the program for this year’s Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity — the annual advertising show and awards — to realize this.
Yet of those consumers, it is those born after 1995 — otherwise known as Generation Z, or post-Millennials — that are of particular interest to brands. Why? Because they are reshaping the face of consumerism.
On a global level Generation Z tends to be socially conscious, rebellious and ethical. In 2015 the economist, author and professor, Noreena Hertz released the findings of a research project into the attitudes of 13 to 20-year-olds — a group she nicknamed “Generation Katniss” after the star of “The Hunger Games.”
Hertz found that only 6 percent of this generation trust big corporations to “do the right thing.” For 20 to 30-year-olds, it was 12 percent. She also revealed that the generation’s wider concerns focus on data privacy and inequality, while traditional institutions were distrusted.

Efforts to reach Gen Z
Drawing on research conducted across eight markets in the region, media agency UM MENA has studied the behavior and purchasing decisions of Generation Z regionally. It has done this via the use of both “big” and “small” data. For Saudi Arabia, this meant a survey of 440 teenagers in the Kingdom, the use of ethnographic focus groups and social listening exercises.
“Many international brands faltered when trying to communicate with teens in the region,” said Melissa Moubarak, strategy manager at UM MENA, during a talk on Generation Z at the Dubai Lynx.
“Some, particularly the edgier ones, have come in with a very Western brand of edginess, one of complete rebellion and dissent. Others, in an effort to be culturally conscious, have tried to communicate along a very conservative line. Both got nowhere fast. The majority of today’s Arab teens cannot be considered subversive the way Western teens are. But at the same time, their exposure to globalized ways of thinking have made them a lot more liberal than most of the societies they live in.”
Flashes of rebellion
In Saudi Arabia, UM’s research has found that 87 percent of those who fall within the Generation Z bracket believe it is important to be accepted by society, while 56 percent said it was important to stand out and be noticed. The result is flashes of rebellion. This rebellion takes shape via little streaks of “uncommon” behavior that breaks day-to-day conformism.
“These happen more frequently in the virtual world, but also extend into the real world — a dash of purple lipstick here, a hidden tattoo, crazy hair color under a hijab,” said Moubarak. “This is how we are seeing the rise of unusual hybrids among Arab teens.”
She points to trends such as “Hijabi Lolitas” (in which head coverings are added to the Japanese fashion look) and Mipsterz (Muslim hipsters) as an example, both of which try to combine the best of both worlds. A further indication of this is that 53 percent of teenagers in Saudi Arabia said they prefer to overlay the traditional with the unusual.

Virtual versus real world
Their preferred means of communication is the smartphone and various forms of social media and messaging apps. It is here that the lines between the virtual and the real become blurred, with 18 percent of the Saudi teens admitting they would prefer to have no face-to-face communication whatsoever, against a national average of 3 percent.
Virtual communication also means a tendency toward visual communication, such as the use of emoji, with almost three quarters of those polled in Saudi Arabia saying it is important to seem active on social media.
“What we have noticed, however, is the natural talent this generation has at crafting beautiful visual stories around their personal brands,” said Moubarak.
“Growing up under the digital spotlight has made teens today acutely aware of their personal brand and how they portray themselves online.”
Teens live in an “ego-system” where their personal tastes and preferences reign supreme, driven by deep impulses toward convenience, said UM’s research.

Social media climbers
Generation Z is also less likely to use Facebook and has an affinity for Snapchat. It is always on and broadcasts live to the world. If you add this to the fact that Saudi Arabia has the highest YouTube watch-time per capita globally, you end up with a picture of youth that is changing the rules of influence and engagement.
“The implications for brands? Harness their talents as self-promoters,” said Moubarak. “Over two-thirds said they wanted to be famous online, more and more of them are entrepreneurial, self-taught, making use of the masses of applications freely available to them to voice who they are online. Interestingly, this has become more than just play for them. The desire to become famous online, coupled with success stories of ‘influencers like them’ has made their communication a lot less about play and a lot more serious.”
Among those on stage with Moubarak was Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest. A social media influencer as well as a climber, she offered her advice to those seeking to stand out and be noticed.
“If you ask me what advice I give to any generation, it is this,” said Moharrak. “First be honest with yourself about what you want and if you were born in the Arab world, sit down with your family and tell them ‘this is my dream’. Because that is the first step to getting there. Have that conversation. Give your parents a chance to talk to you. Don’t just hide.”


Is Trump’s love affair with Fox News fading?

Updated 19 August 2019

Is Trump’s love affair with Fox News fading?

  • Trump appears to be tilting his media gaze toward a more right-wing rival, cable outfit OANN
  • Since March Trump has tweeted links to OANN stories or shared his appreciation of the network 13 times

WASHINGTON: Last month after Donald Trump watched Fox News lob what he called “softball questions” at a Democratic lawmaker, the US president delivered a crisp smackdown of his favorite network: “Fox sure ain’t what it used to be.”
After years of often fawning coverage by Fox, particularly from its pro-Trump anchors like Sean Hannity, the commander in chief appears to be tilting his media gaze toward a younger, more right-wing rival, cable outfit One America News Network (OANN).
The small upstart broadcaster was launched only recently, in 2013, by technology millionaire Robert Herring, who sought a more conservative alternative to mainstream media behemoths like CNN.
Today it seeks to outfox Fox by drawing extra attention from Trump, who has been voicing his displeasure with the ratings leader over everything from presidential polling to its hosting of Democratic candidate town halls.
Last week in a tweet to his 63 million followers, the president managed to disparage Fox and his mainstream news foil CNN, while heaping praise on the new object of his media affection.
“Watching Fake News CNN is better than watching Shepard Smith, the lowest rated show on @FoxNews. Actually, whenever possible, I turn to @OANN!” Trump posted.
Since March he has tweeted links to OANN stories or shared his appreciation of the network 13 times.
The relationship has been years in the making. In 2015 Trump was interviewed by Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008, when she guest-hosted OANN’s show “On Point.”
At his first press conference as president-elect, in January 2017, Trump took a question from an OANN reporter. OANN was then called on dozens of times at the daily briefings in Trump’s first 100 days in office.
During his June 2018 press conference in Singapore, following the summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Trump took a question from OANN White House correspondent Emerald Robinson, but not before gushing about her network.
“Thank you for the nice way you treat us. We appreciate it,” he said. “Really, it’s very good. It’s really beautiful what you do.”
The San Diego-based operation describes itself as “straight news, no opinion.” But the pro-Trump agenda is crystal clear, more than a dozen current and former employees told The Washington Post in 2017.
Herring himself, in his pinned tweet, describes OANN as “the president’s favorite new outlet.”
When Fox cut away from broadcasting a Trump rally in New Hampshire on Thursday, Herring tweeted, “We will never cut away!“

Purveyor of conspiracy theories
OANN has faced accusations of promoting conspiracy theories and peddling Kremlin propaganda.
“Yeah, we like Russia here,” a staffer assigned to brief new OANN producer Ernest Champell told him, according to The Daily Beast. Champell left, disillusioned, four months later.
“The network has a history of race-baiting and presenting anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-abortion reporting,” according to Media Matters, a progressive nonprofit group that says its mission is “analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation.”
While OANN’s influence in the White House may far outweigh its position in the news media landscape, Trump clearly retains an affinity for several people in the Fox organization.
The show “Fox & Friends” remains his go-to morning program; Trump has phoned in on numerous occasions as president.
Perhaps that is why Democratic longshot contender Julian Castro purchased ad time during “Fox & Friends” this week, airing a spot in which he directly addresses Trump and blames him for inspiring the El Paso shooter who massacred 22 people early this month.

Trump jealous
Sean Hannity, the network’s popular anchor, appeared alongside Trump at a campaign rally ahead of the 2018 mid-terms.
But friction emerged this week when Hannity expressed support for CNN anchor Chris Cuomo after a video of Cuomo in a heated argument at a New York bar went viral.
It was a sharp contrast to Trump, who tweeted that Cuomo — the brother of New York’s Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo — was “nuts” and showed a “total loss of control” in the incident.
The president expressed frustration when Fox aired multiple town halls in recent months featuring Democrats who are trying to unseat him in 2020, including South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, currently fifth in major polling.
“Hard to believe that @FoxNews is wasting airtime on Mayor Pete,” Trump tweeted in May. “Fox is moving more and more to the losing (wrong) side in covering the Dems.”
Fox News presidential polling is also a concern for Trump, whose job approval rating in the network’s mid-August poll dipped substantially, to 43 percent, while his disapproval rating spiked to 56 percent, its highest since October 2017.
In head-to-head matchups, the poll shows Trump losing to major Democratic candidates, including to frontrunner Joe Biden by 12 percentage points and to liberal Bernie Sanders by nine.
Fox polls “have always been terrible to me,” he tweeted in late July.