All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

Special All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit
Saudi influencers including Aram Kabbani, left, and Nada Al-Nahdi, right, use social media platforms to promote fashion and lifestyle brands. (SocialMedia)
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Updated 11 August 2022

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit
  • Kingdom’s media regulator says new law to take effect from October, with all social media influencers affected

LONDON: As more Saudis connect through their social media profiles and even begin to profit from these platforms, the Kingdom has launched a new licensing system to properly monitor the influencer industry.

From early October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator in the Kingdom who earns revenue through advertising on social media must first apply for an official permit from the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM).

For a fee of SR15,000 (roughly $4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, during which time they can work with as many private entities as they wish and promote any product or service, as long as it does not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.
 

The incoming influencer license “is not a permit to censor or to block,” Esra Assery, CEO at GCAM, told Arab News. “It’s more of a permit to enable the maturity of the sector. We want to help those individuals grow, but grow in a professional way so they can make a career out of (social media revenue).”

The new regulations are being touted as legal protections, both for influencers and businesses wishing to advertise with them, so that rates and contractual obligations are standardized across the industry.

“The market is so unregulated,” said Assery. “We’re not against influencers or those individuals. Actually, we want to enable them. If you check out the new bylaw, it protects them also, because the bylaw regulates their relationship with the advertisers.”
 




Esra Assery, CEO at Saudi Arabia's General Commission for Audiovisual Media. (Supplied)

Currently, anyone in Saudi Arabia is able to advertise on social media and earn money from deals with private entities — with payments per post climbing into the thousands of riyals, depending on the number of followers an influencer can reach.

Concern has been expressed that introducing permits and regulations will undermine how much money influencers can make and might even constitute censorship. However, GCAM insists the permits are designed to ensure transparency between influencers and their clients.

Saudi influencers, whether based in the Kingdom or abroad, must apply for the permit if they wish to work with a brand — local or international. However, non-Saudi residents in the country must follow a different track.

After applying to the Ministry of Investment for a permit to work in the country, they can then apply for an influencer permit through GCAM. However, non-Saudi residents must be represented by specific advertising agencies.

“While some influencers may focus on the short-term loss of paying the license fee, there is a huge benefit to licensing coming in as it legitimizes the sector on a national level,” Jamal Al-Mawed, founder and managing director of Gambit Communications, told Arab News.

“This is crucial in the influencer industry as it has been a bit of a wild west for marketing in the past, with no clear benchmarking for rates or contracts.”

Al-Mawed said that the new measures can protect brands that are susceptible to fraud “when they pay huge budgets to influencers who are buying fake followers and fake engagements. This creates a vicious circle, as hard-working content creators are undermined by the bad apples.”

Although the new license is unlikely to solve every issue overnight, “it does create a foundation for more professionalism and accountability,” Al-Mawed added.

In June, non-Saudi residents and visitors to the Kingdom were prohibited from posting ads on social media without a license. Those who ignore the ruling face a possible five-year prison sentence and fines of up to SR5 million.

GCAM announced the ban after finding “violations by numerous non-Saudi advertisers, both residents and visitors, on social media platforms.”

“After checking their data, it was found that they had committed systemic violations, including lack of commercial registrations and legal licenses, and they are not working under any commercial entity or foreign investment license,” the commission said at the time.

Now, with a regulated license, such violations will be easier to monitor and the sector will be better regulated to ensure full transparency.
 




Businesses such as bakeries or hair salons that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services are not covered by the prohibition. (Shutterstock image)

Although Saudi influencers will be able to hold full-time jobs while earning on the side through promotional campaigns on their social media profiles, the law states that non-Saudis can work only in one specific role while residing in the Kingdom.

However, the system does not apply to businesses and entities — such as bakeries or hair salons — that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services on these platforms. Only individuals are affected by the new law.

There are certain exceptions, however, such as individuals who have been invited to the country by a ministry or government entity in order to perform, including musicians and entertainers.

With the rise of social media over the past decade, content creators and so-called influencers with thousands of followers on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and other platforms have drawn audiences away from traditional outlets, such as television, newspapers and magazines, to new and largely unregulated media.
 

Sensing the shift in content consumption, advertisers have followed the herd. Crystal-blue waters caressing white, sandy beaches at luxury resorts and scrumptious feasts at the finest restaurants are now commonplace on influencer profiles as businesses rush to take advantage of more “natural-feeling” product placement.

However, regulators have struggled to keep up with this rapid transformation, leaving the process open to legal disputes, exploitation and abuse. That is why authorities elsewhere in the world have also been exploring influencer permits.

Dubai, widely seen as the influencer hub of the Middle East, is among them.

In 2018, the UAE’s National Media Council launched a new electronic media regulation system, which required social media influencers to obtain a license to operate in the country.

The cost of the annual license is 15,000 AED (roughly $4,000). Those who fail to obtain or renew the license can face penalties including a fine of up to 5,000 AED, a verbal or official warning, and even closure of their social media accounts.

The rules apply to influencers visiting the UAE as well. They must either have a license or be signed up with an NMC-registered influencer agency to operate in the country.

With Saudi Arabia progressing in the entertainment and creative industries, the introduction of the license is viewed as a step in the right direction.

“It’s great news for the industry,” said Al-Mawed. “When someone is licensed by the government to offer their services, that gives them a level of safety and trust and can help filter out the scammers who prefer to fly under the radar.”

 

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Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 
Updated 5 sec ago

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 
  • Leo Burnett Riyadh picks up 10 prizes for its work for client Ikea
  • Middle East region collects 36 awards at event to celebrate creativity in advertising and marketing

DUBAI: Leo Burnett Riyadh was the big winner at this year’s Cresta Awards ceremony, an annual event held to recognize creativity in advertising and marketing.

The agency collected five silver and five bronze awards in various categories — including Print Craft, Print and Out-of-Home, and The Media Magic Award — for its campaigns for client Ikea.

The Middle East region as a whole won 36 awards in the competition, which saw entries from more than 70 countries.

A total of 347 entries were shortlisted, of which 58 were from the Middle East.

The UAE was also a big winner thanks to its push toward digitization and innovation.

The UAE Government Media Office picked up two silver and seven bronze awards for its three campaigns: “The Donation Plate,” which promotes the “100 Million Meals” scheme, “The Warm Winter Livestream” tourism campaign and “The Visitor from the Future” for the Dubai Museum of the Future.

Advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi MEA won one gold, one silver and four bronze awards for its “Empty Plates” campaign for the UAE Government Media Office.

Horizon FCB Dubai picked up four gold, two silver and two bronze awards for its “Breakchains with Blockchain” campaign for the Children of Female Prisoners’ Association.

In Egypt, thousands of women are sent to prison every year for being unable to repay loans often worth only a few hundred dollars.

Working with global artists, Horizon FCB and the association created non-fungible tokens, each designed to tell the story of a woman sent to prison and priced at the amount it would cost to free her.

Among the other winners were Impact BBDO Dubai, which picked up a Grand Prix in the Print and OOH category and a gold award in the Ambient and Experiential category for its “The Elections Edition” campaign for Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar.

The Film House Doha won a bronze award in the Brand Content category for its “Unparalleled” campaign.
 


Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 

Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 
Updated 59 min 53 sec ago

Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 

Saudi GCAM lists new Mawthooq advertising license rules 

LONDON: The Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM) on Thursday released new guidelines for obtaining “Mawthooq” (trustworthy) licenses to advertise in Saudi Arabia. 

Under the campaign name “Your ad is #Mawthooq,” GCAM revealed on its website a list of questions and answers to simplify the process of identifying which businesses need to obtain the license. 

For example, an individual promoting work on a personal social media account does not require a Mawthooq license, but working as a marketer in a bank and promoting personal loans as well as banking services on social media requires a license.

Working as a designer and promoting designs on personal social media accounts does not require a Mawthooq license. Similarly, those operating gift wrapping, non-commercial photography and workshop business and using personal social media accounts do not require a license. 

The news comes following an announcement by GCAM last August stating that from early October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator in the Kingdom who earns revenue through advertising on social media must first apply for an official permit. 

For a fee of SR15,000 ($4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, during which time they can work with as many private entities as they wish and promote any product or service, as long as it does not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.

The new regulations are being touted as legal protections, both for influencers and businesses wishing to advertise with them, so that rates and contractual obligations are standardized across the industry.

Saudi influencers, whether based in the Kingdom or abroad, must apply for the permit if they wish to work with a brand — local or international. However, non-Saudi residents in the country must follow a different track.

After applying to the Ministry of Investment for a permit to work in the country, they can then apply for an influencer permit through GCAM. However, non-Saudi residents must be represented by specific advertising agencies.


Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral

Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral
Updated 06 October 2022

Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral

Female Arab influencers star in new reality show from Warner Bros. Discovery and Intigral
  • ‘Dare to take Risks,’ featuring Amy Roko, Hadeel Marei and Maha Jaafar, will begin streaming on Jawwy TV on Oct. 17
  • It will follow them as they travel across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt participating in activities such as mountain climbing and diving

DUBAI: Warner Bros. Discovery has partnered with the Saudi Telecommunication Company’s TV service Intigral to launch a new reality show, “Dare to take Risks,” starring Arab influencers Amy Roko, Hadeel Marei and Maha Jaafar.

The six-episode series will follow the three friends as they embark on a journey across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, participating along the way in activities such as mountain climbing and diving.

“This unique project is a landmark moment within our long-standing partnership with Intigral,” said Francesco Perta, vice-president of business development and distribution for MENA and Turkey at Warner Bros. Discovery.

“We are excited for viewers to be inspired by this new generation of Arab women, with their extraordinary creativity, zest and humor.”

The show was filmed in some of the region’s most historic and distinctive locations, including the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Hegra in Saudi and Aswan in Egypt, as well as at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in Dubai.

Peter Mrkic, Intigral’s chief commercial officer, said the partnership “marks a new milestone for digital entertainment in the region as it engages a group of talents from the Kingdom and the region, and the best production and broadcast technologies.

“It will also enhance the Kingdom’s position as a production powerhouse and a hub for the latest digital entertainment productions.”

The first episode of “Dare to take Risks” will be available to stream on Jawwy TV on Oct. 17, with new episodes released each week.


More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds

More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds
Updated 06 October 2022

More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds

More or Less? Facebook gives users greater control over their feeds
  • New buttons will allow people to customize what they see, company says
  • Move is part of wider effort to improve AI systems

LONDON: Facebook has introduced a new set of features to give users more control over what appears on their feeds.

The changes mean that on all posts from individuals and communities that a user is linked to, including recommended posts, there will be buttons offering the options to “Show more” or “Show less.”

“Today, we’re announcing new ways to customize what you see in your Facebook Feed so you can discover what’s most relevant to you,” the company said in a blog post.

Depending on which button is pressed, the algorithm will temporarily increase or decrease related content, it said.

Facebook said the move was part of its ongoing efforts to improve its artificial intelligence systems.

“By offering more ways to incorporate direct feedback into feed ranking, we’re making our artificial intelligence systems smarter and more responsive”, it said.

According to Tom Alison, the head of Facebook’s core app, the algorithm will record the preference for 30 to 60 days, a time frame decided after a study of users’ preferences.

“We are looking at it as a signal you are giving us that is a little more time-bound than liking a post,” Alison said.

Currently, users of Facebook and Instagram — both of which are owned by Meta Platforms Inc. — can hide posts from people they follow or have been suggested, but the new feature will encompass Facebook posts from friends and recommendations.

The company said also it was trialing new ways to help users customize how much content they see in their feeds from the friends and family, groups and other pages to which they are connected.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the changes were part of the company’s efforts to compete with the surge in popularity of Chinese rival TikTok, whose recommendation-based algorithm has proven a hit for the video-sharing app.

“Features like these can help you discover more of the content that’s valuable to you, so you can see more of what you want and less of what you don’t,” the company said.

“As with every product change we make, we’ll use direct feedback to continually refine our approach.”


Prince Harry launches legal action against UK media group

Prince Harry launches legal action against UK media group
Updated 06 October 2022

Prince Harry launches legal action against UK media group

Prince Harry launches legal action against UK media group
  • ANL, also the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, said on Thursday it "utterly and unambiguously" rejected the allegations
  • There have been a number of damages claims over unlawful activity at newspapers in the wake of Britain's phone-hacking scandal

LONDON: Britain’s Prince Harry and singer Elton John are among six public figures suing the publisher of the Daily Mail over alleged unlawful information-gathering at its titles.
The others taking part in the legal action are actresses Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost, John’s husband David Furnish and Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murder victim Stephen Lawrence, the domestic PA news agency said in a report.
The six had “become aware of compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy” by Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), a statement by law firm Hamlins acting for the group said.
ANL, also the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, said on Thursday it “utterly and unambiguously” rejected the allegations.
Lawrence, whose son was killed in a racially-motivated attack in south London in 1993, had also lodged a claim against Rupert Murdoch-owned News Group Newspapers, publisher of various titles including The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World.
The details of that claim are not known, but it is understood also to relate to misuse of private information.
The statement about the legal action against ANL released by Hamlins claimed that the unlawful acts alleged to have taken place included the hiring of private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside cars and homes and the recording of private phone conversations.
It also alleged that payments were made to police “with corrupt links to private investigators” for sensitive information, that medical information was “obtained by deception” and that bank accounts and financial information was accessed “through illicit means and manipulation.”
Hamlins is representing Harry and Frost, while the other claimants are represented by law firm Gunnercooke.
There have been a number of damages claims over unlawful activity at newspapers in the wake of Britain’s phone-hacking scandal.
That resulted in the closure of the Murdoch-owned News of the World.
While most of those claims have now been settled, this is the first claim to be brought against ANL.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) settled claims relating to the News Of The World, while never admitting any liability over claims made in relation to The Sun.
Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) has settled claims relating to its titles, including The People and The Sunday Mirror.
Both publishers are currently facing further claims, and have recently made attempts to bring the long-running litigation to an end.
A spokesman for Associated Newspapers said it “utterly and unambiguously” refuted “these preposterous smears which appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone hacking scandal concerning articles up to 30 years old.
“These unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims, based on no credible evidence, appear to be simply a fishing expedition by claimants and their lawyers, some of whom have already pursued cases elsewhere.”