Saudi projects of future breathe new life into advertising sector

Visitors watch a 3-D presentation during an exhibition on ‘Neom,’ a new business and industrial city set to be built in Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
Updated 14 November 2017
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Saudi projects of future breathe new life into advertising sector

DUBAI: The impact of the Red Sea Project and the futuristic city of Neom on Saudi Arabia’s ailing advertising industry has been immediate and could be far-reaching, industry commentators told Arab News.
Boosts to advertising spend, increased investment and an emphasis on improved communication are all likely to materialize over the course of the next few years as the projects begin to be realized.
“We have already seen the positive impact of these projects and others on overall media investments in Saudi Arabia,” said Faisal Shams, managing director of media agency OMD Arabia.
“We expect this trend to be even more pronounced in 2018. The 2020 transformation plan includes a lot of initiatives and projects that have yet to be announced to the public.
“It is important to note that a lot of the big projects are being advertised on a international scale, specifically in the GCC, the US, the UK, France, Germany, China and Japan. In other words, the Saudi media market isn’t the only beneficiary of these developments.”
The Red Sea project aims to turn 50 Saudi Arabian islands into luxury tourism destinations, while Neom will be a $500 billion sci-fi city on the Kingdom’s Red Sea coast, replete with robots, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing. Both are part of a national push to diversify the country’s economy and reduce dependence on oil.
“The launch of such huge initiatives will help to free the Kingdom of dependence on oil exports and regain the trust of global and local investors,” said Assaad Kassis, general manager of UM Saudi Arabia. “Along with a clear message of modernizing the Kingdom, this change will impact the economy positively, which will lead to an increase in advertising spend.”
Any increase in advertising spend will be warmly welcomed. A faltering economy combined with budget cuts, particularly within governmental sectors, has affected advertising spend and led to a severe downturn in the advertising ­market.
In September, media agency Zenith predicted that total advertising spend in the Kingdom would drop by 35.7 percent this year, with further falls expected in 2018 and 2019. These figures are not universally accepted, but the decline in advertising spend has nevertheless been severe.
“This comes on top of the 30 percent drop between 2015 and 2017,” said Shams. “But we’re seeing more public spending on key projects at the end of this year, so the expectation is that we’ve bottomed out.
“Next year should be flat or possibly marginally positive. Projects like Neom will help boost investments but we will also need private-sector businesses to add their weight to the momentum and stimulate demand as the economy recovers.”
The biggest beneficiaries are likely to be out-of-home (OOH) and digital media, which is to be expected given Saudi Arabia’s position as one of the most digitally engaged societies in the world.
“So far, we have witnessed a stronger focus on OOH and digital (particularly social media), followed by TV, radio and print,” said Shams. “The announcement of these projects is often driven by the need to create an impact and alter public perception, hence the reliance on OOH for impact and digital for precision targeting and engagement.”
This will be good news for firms such as JCDecaux, one of the largest OOH operators in the country. It has been operating in partnership with the General Authority for Civil Aviation to handle advertising at the Kingdom’s 26 airports since October 2010.
“Innovative projects such as Neom offer an opportunity for early planning with regulators as they are at the initiation phase,” said Bassam Alaujan, managing director of JCDecaux Saudi Arabia.
“Development of business models at such a phase will allow companies like JCDecaux to introduce global best practices and the best products. Compared to what is available today, such developments will create a completely new advertising experience for advertisers and the audience.
“There is no doubt about the potential impact of initiatives such as Neom and the Red Sea Tourism Project. They challenge the norm.”
Alaujan believes, however, that any benefits from Neom and the Red Sea Project will be shared across the board.
“Impact may vary but the winners will be the most innovative solution providers,” he said. “As developments take place, there will be greater demand for qualitative and innovative modes of communication.
“In order to remain pertinent, media channels must be forward-thinking. Those that remain agile will definitely reap the rewards of the Kingdom’s initiatives.” It is hoped that the projects will positively affect the quality of the Kingdom’s advertising, as well as the economy, with the country full of young talent wanting to be part of the transformation of their country.
“They (the projects) will definitely turn things around from an economical point of view as they will attract talent and investments to the region,” said Kassis.
“It is a clear message that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is changing.”


Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

Updated 21 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

  • Broadcast of political messages in coverage forbidden, analyst confirms.
  • Saudi football federation urges FIFA to sanction the Doha-owned channel.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has a justified case in complaining to FIFA over the “politicization” of the World Cup by the Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports, a prominent TV analyst has said.
A flurry of comments by hosts and pundits aired on BeIN’s Arabic station prompted the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to complain to FIFA this week, saying the broadcaster was using the football tournament to spread political messages aimed at insulting Saudi Arabia and its leaders.
In its complaint, the federation called on FIFA to take severe sanctions against the Qatari channel and to abolish the rights granted to the network.
One BeIN commentator accused Saudi Arabia of “selling out the Palestinian cause,” while a Doha-based international footballer invited on the channel was allowed to call for an end to the year-long boycott of Qatar by neighbors Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.
Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, principal TV research analyst at IHS Markit Technology, said that politicized coverage was expressly forbidden by world football’s governing body as well as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
“FIFA and UEFA forbid the transmission of political messages during football matches for which they control the rights. It’s not only comments by the broadcasters — but even banners; everything (political) is forbidden,” the analyst told Arab News.
“So messages about Palestine, about political things, are not allowed.”
Papavassilopoulos said that if there is evidence of such cases, authorities in the Kingdom would be justified in taking the matter to FIFA.
“If there are video clips that show BeIN media personnel speaking against Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia has a case,” he said.
But whether FIFA will take any action against BeIN is another matter. Papavassilopoulos pointed to the fact that BeIN is a valued client of FIFA — it bought the rights to host the World Cup across the Middle East and North Africa — and that Qatar plans to host the tournament in 2022.
“BeIN media is a very good client for FIFA. And don’t forget that Qatar is the country that will host the 2022 World Cup,” he said. “It’s going to be very very hard for FIFA to impose penalties on BeIN media knowing that Qatar will hold the next World Cup.”
Some of the biggest names in Arab sport have signed a petition to protest against BeIN’s politicization of World Cup coverage, urging FIFA President Gianni Infantino to investigate the coverage.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.