Saudi car advertisers accelerate drive to target women motorists

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Car manufacturers (from top clockwise) including Ford, Nissan and Jaguar are jostling for position in the race to winthe attention of Saudi female drivers. (Photos courtesy of Ford, Jaguar and Nissan)
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Updated 03 October 2017
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Saudi car advertisers accelerate drive to target women motorists

LONDON: Car makers have been quick to target the new market of female motorists in Saudi Arabia as women are allowed to drive in the Kingdom for the first time.
Within hours of the news becoming public last week, car manufacturers from Ford to Jaguar were jostling for position in the race to win the attention of the lucrative new market.
By 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Jaguar MENA had released an advert on Twitter featuring car keys being added to the contents of a women’s handbag captioned: “The road is yours.”
“Show them what it means to drive the world forward” tweeted Cadillac Arabia alongside a picture of a woman looking out from the drivers’ seat window while Volkswagen Middle East told women “It’s your turn, take over the driver’s seat.” The scramble to court female drivers comes as no surprise with car companies looking to gain a foothold in a potentially lucrative new market of wealthy Saudi women.
“You’re talking about 2 or 3 million women and that’s a huge segment just created overnight,” said Hala Kudwah, financial services consulting leader at PwC in Saudi Arabia.
Manufacturers may also be hoping that women buyers will help to alleviate a 28-percent drop in car sales during the first seven months of 2017.
Analysts at IHS Markit told Bloomberg that the decision was likely to boost the automotive sector in the short to long term.
Rebecca Mahony, chief marketing officer at Media iQ, pointed to obvious revenue benefits for car brands in seizing the moment. “For them it’s about reaching an untapped market while it’s still fresh,” she said. “They are certainly treating this as a new opportunity and seizing the moment.”
Nissan Middle East was one of the first to join the conversation, publishing a KSA number plate dated 2018 with the letters “GRL” and “bint” (Arabic for girl).
“This was a historic moment for the women of Saudi Arabia and a historic moment for the country itself, so it was only natural that a progressive brand such as Nissan would want to be involved in some way,” said Fadi Ghosn CMO Nissan Middle East.
“It wasn’t planned and it wasn’t contrived. It was an instantaneous reaction to a historic event.
“Who wouldn’t want to congratulate them,” he added.
The adverts tapped into the celebratory spirit on Twitter, where an Arabic hashtag asking women which car they wanted to drive generated more than 20,000 responses by Thursday afternoon.
“My dream is to get the new version of Nissan Z” tweeted one woman in response to Nissan’s advert. Others shared images of luxury SUVs while a few posted pictures of cars encrusted with crystals.
But some felt the adverts overlooked the real significance of the decision and accused the car companies of perpetuating stereotypes associated with Saudi women.
Saima Zahidi, who lives in Jeddah, told Arab News: “These ads are bypassing the serious-minded and professional Saudi woman that is the real market base of the future automobile industry.
“It’s the career woman who has both the need and purchasing power for the cars. This is exactly the segment these ads are missing out on.” she said.
Gordon Young, editor of marketing magazine The Drum, said that many of the adverts seemed to have been created in haste and lacked subtlety.
“The ads I have seem so far seem to be dealing with Saudi women as a group rather than individuals. They seem very much focused on the stereotypes of Saudi culture as opposed to what makes the benefits of their products unique.
“It is almost as though these ads have been created by Western men, who perhaps do not have deep insights or real empathy with the market,” he said.
“Given the sensitivity of the topic and the arguments around how Saudi women are profiled, it will be interesting to see what other types of ads and commercials they come up with,” Mahony said.
“I think it is clear that these ads are all meant to be empowering women but of course fail when it comes to stereotyping them, which I’m not sure can be avoided,” she added.
Twitter users were quick to comment, with many taking the opportunity to share their support. Karen van Drie tweeted to say “What a great ad!”
Ford Middle East raised questions with its image featuring a woman’s eyes in the driving mirror against a black backdrop captioned “Welcome to the driver’s seat.” Some praised the design while others tweeted to point out the picture’s close resemblance to an award-winning image published on the website Rafeef22.
From a practical perspective, Young said, the adverts fail to differentiate between car brands. “These ads could have featured any car logo. The creative treatment is interchangeable.
“I suspect as the dust settles ads will emerge that balance the unique characteristic of the car brands with the specific demands of the market. But I do think the ad strategy needs to be driven with people who have a far deeper understanding of the target audience,” he added.
Describing the adverts as “funny and cheesy” but also playing on stereotypes, Saudi writer Maha Akeel said: “I would advise car companies not to rush into releasing ads that might backfire.
“They’ll be surprised to know that Saudi women already know a lot about cars and driving so they don’t need to be so patronizing,” she told Arab News.


Biopic tribute to slain war reporter Marie Colvin as journalism comes ‘under attack’

Updated 22 October 2018
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Biopic tribute to slain war reporter Marie Colvin as journalism comes ‘under attack’

  • The movie, which got its world premiere in Toronto last month, hits screens as reporters face ever more threats
  • American war correspondent Marie Colvin died in an alleged government bombardment of a media center in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Homs

LONDON: A biopic of war correspondent Marie Colvin, who died in Syria in 2012, is a celebration of journalism as it increasingly comes “under attack,” according to the film-makers.
“A Private War,” released in US cinemas next month, chronicles the harrowing career of Colvin — played by “Gone Girl” star Rosamund Pike — who was an award-winning journalist for Britain’s The Sunday Times.
The feature film debut of director Matthew Heineman — an Oscar nominee in 2016 for his documentary “Cartel Land” — shows the reporter’s struggles to cope with the impact of reporting from the world’s conflict zones.
For Heineman, whose mother was a journalist, it is a “homage” to both Colvin and an increasingly besieged profession.
“It’s so important right now in this world of fake news and soundbites, where journalists are under attack, to celebrate journalism and to celebrate people like Marie,” he said at a London Film Festival screening Saturday.
The movie, which got its world premiere in Toronto last month, hits screens as reporters face ever more threats.
Actor Jamie Dornan — of the “Fifty Shades” franchise — who plays freelance photographer and longtime Colvin colleague Paul Conroy, said the work felt “timely.”
“This is a film about telling the truth,” he said on the red carpet. “Anything that can try to show true journalism in its finest light — the people who will go to these places to risk everything to tell us the truth — that’s a good thing.”
American Colvin died aged 56, alongside French photographer Remi Ochlik, in an alleged government bombardment of a media center in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Homs.
“A Private War,” adapted from a Vanity Fair article following her death, depicts her decades-spanning career and the psychological and physical toll it took on her.
It captures Colvin losing the sight of one eye — leading to her wearing a signature eyepatch — while covering Sri Lanka’s civil war, and interviewing former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi shortly before his death in 2011.
The film also shows her retreating into heavy drinking and battling likely post-traumatic stress disorder in between assignments.
Oscar-nominated Pike said she was attracted to the part by Colvin’s complexity.
“I wanted to put a woman out there on the screen who is admirable but not every quality she has is admirable,” she said.
“There was something about... the fierceness of passion in what she did that I related to.”
Photographer Conroy, who was injured by the bombing that killed Colvin but made a full recovery, said he was eager to advise on the film in part because of Heineman’s background in documentaries.
“His idea of the truth carried through from that — it wasn’t just ‘let’s make this frothy Hollywood film’,” he said at the screening. “The attention to detail is extraordinary.”
Heineman said he spent months researching the story, including watching practically every war film ever made.
He also enlisted locals rather than actors to play the parts of extras in the war zones portrayed.
“Those are real Syrian women shedding real tears and telling real stories,” he explained of scenes showing Colvin interviewing civilians in Syria.
“That was really important to me to try to bring an authenticity to this experience.”
The director said making “City of Ghosts,” a 2017 non-fiction film about a Syrian media activist group in Raqqa, and other conflict-driven documentaries helped him empathize with Colvin.
“I just felt enormous kinship with her, and also her desire to put a human face to poor innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfire of these geo-political conflicts,” he added.