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.”


Twitter warns global users their tweets violate Pakistani law

Updated 11 December 2018
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Twitter warns global users their tweets violate Pakistani law

  • Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content its government found offensive
  • Pakistan banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots

WASHINGTON: When Canadian columnist Anthony Furey received an email said to be from Twitter’s legal team telling him he may have broken a slew of Pakistani laws, his first instinct was to dismiss it as spam.
But after Googling the relevant sections of Pakistan’s penal code, the Toronto Sun op-ed editor was startled to learn he stood accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad — a crime punishable by death in the Islamic republic — and Twitter later confirmed the correspondence was genuine.
His perceived offense was to post cartoons of the prophet several years ago.
Furey and two prominent critics of extremism in Islam say they are “shocked” to have received notices by the social media giant this past week over alleged violations of Islamabad’s laws, despite having no apparent connection to the South Asian country.
They say the notices amount to an effort to stifle their voices — a charge Twitter denies, arguing the notices came about as a result of “valid requests from an authorized entity,” understood to mean Pakistan, helped users “to take measures to protect their interests,” and the process is not unique to any one country.
But Furey is the third prominent user in the space of days to publicly complain about receiving a message linked to Pakistan.
The other two are Saudi-Canadian activist Ensaf Haidar and Imam Mohammad Tawhidi, a progressive Muslim scholar from Australia who was born in Iran.
Both are outspoken critics of religious extremism and have accused the social media giant of helping to silence progressive ideas within Islam.
Furey, who detailed his experience in a column for his newspaper on Saturday, told AFP: “I’m somewhat alarmed that Twitter would even allow a country to make a complaint like this, as it almost validates their absurd blasphemy laws.”
The tweet in question was a collage of cartoons of Mohammad that he posted four years ago.
“Looking back, I remember I did it right after there had been an Daesh-inspired attack in retaliation over the cartoons,” Furey wrote in his column, adding he had not posted similar material before or since.
Tawhidi meanwhile was sent a similar notice flagging a tweet that called on Australian police to investigate extremism in mosques following a deadly knife attack in Melbourne in November.
The scholar attached the legal notice sent to him by Twitter informing him of possible violations of Pakistani law, and tweeted: “I am not from Pakistan nor am I a Pakistani citizen.
“Pakistan has no authority over what I say. Get out of here.”
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Twitter told AFP: “In our continuing effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we receive a valid requests from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.”
The spokesperson added: “We notify users so that they have the opportunity to review the legal request, and the option to take measures to protect their interests.”
Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content its government found offensive.
It banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots.
Furey told AFP that although he was taken aback by the notice, “I’m at least glad they brought it to my attention that the Pakistan government has their eye on me.”
But he added: “One troubling consequence to all of this is that even people in countries without these blasphemy laws may start to self-censor for fear of the reach foreign governments will have over them in the online world.”