The story of creativity in the Middle East is shifting gears – from western influences to the singular tones seen in the wake of the Arab Spring to a new found optimism and call for change. Much of this ‘change’ has taken place in the last year, led by two clear drivers –– rise of reforms in markets such as Saudi Arabia and embracing technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI) and its subsets like machine learning (ML).
Countries in the Middle East are more conscious today of how they are perceived across the world. People respond to national brand images in the same way as they do to consumer brands, and within the region, the changes have created positive shifts.
In markets such as Saudi Arabia, the largest and most influential ad market in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, reforms and changes have translated to a host of new conversation points for marketers and agencies. The royal decree allowing women in drive and the opening of cinemas in Saudi Arabia were positive boosters for the growth of the economic landscape of the country.
Brands in the Middle East are not shying away from taking up issues concerning the region. Women equality, challenging conventions and social taboos are making their way in mainstream conversation with creative agencies creating fresh and culturally relevant work.
At the same time, brands are also looking at playing a larger role in consumer’s lives. Unilever’s global purpose-driven approach is seen more aggressively in MENA, led by brands such as Omo in campaigns like #KidToday. Another example borne from the region itself is du’s #PostWisely campaign. In its second phase, du has looked at research to understand the message it should communicate.
Marketers may well be speaking the language of data, technology-led insights and ML even, but if they have one area that would need attention soon it is in AI. Especially in the Middle East, AI has taken a position of prominence. Saudi Arabia’s citizenship to humanoid Sophia or UAE’s appointment of an AI Minister are not just stunts but reflective of the investment that the markets are doing in leveraging AI.
While there are instances seen where marketers are using ML to connect with consumers at the right time with the right message, AI is still an area where creative professionals continue to be challenged on the right approach and how to make it work for marketers.
As the search for solutions continue, much is still keeping them occupied with the new, positive spirit that is taking over the Arab world.