The Rise of MENA’s Creative Voice


As the Arabian consumer reclaims pride in local culture and nuances, the Arabian Marketer puts a lens on what is defining MENA’s creative fabric.

As communication goes beyond technology ‘newness’, Arabian consumer’s aspirations are coming forth. The highlight of MENA’s creative journey is the evolution from being highly influenced by the western ways to embracing local culture and finding its own unique voice. The advertising industry is playing a crucial role in shaping up that voice. There is a visible shift in consumers looking for more from brands they engage with, while expecting global standards. A society that was otherwise considered conservative is slowing opening up, challenging the old order, adopting new ways without losing traditional values.

“With the government’s investments in a ‘smart city’ in the Middle East, we expect to see significant growth in digital. More brands are realizing the potential of digital advertising and integrating this with an all round bought, earned and owned approach. Brands and advertisers are increasing their ecommerce presence. More international brands are keen to launch their ecommerce services in the region despite the fact that some consumers are reluctant to use these services, but brands are working on breaking these barriers,” points out Anouk Bondroit, General Manager, Vizeum, MENA, reflecting on the changing consumer.

Beyond Selling

Some of the biggest corporates are crafting strategies to better connect with the MENA consumer. If there was one underlying thread across most advertising messages seen in the year, it was the attempt from brands to own higher ground in a consumer’s life.  What stands out is not just a reflection of behavioral change of the MENA consumer but more importantly, making a connection that was not just based on selling a product or service. Brands that fulfilled the consumer’s needs to be inspired stood out.


An example was seen in Leo Burnett’s Johnnie Walker ‘Keep the Flame Alive’ campaign that aimed to motivate Lebanese citizens to keep their inner flame alive. While the sector faces some strict advertising regulations in the region, the campaign saw some of the best consumer resonation in the year, attracting both consumer and media attention. Lebanon also saw influencing political decisions in its advertising. Conceptualised and executed by Leo Burnett again, the ‘Vote for Us, Vote for You’ campaign from Kafa tried to convince MPs to pass a law against domestic violence in return for votes.


Another campaign that attracted local and global attention was Memac Ogilvy’s AutoComplete Truth that addressed the issue of gender inequality. The campaign, that was launched through Press and Outdoor revealing for the first time the shocking mindset and similar problems that women face, invited people to join a global discussion on gender equality through the campaign hashtag #WomenShould.

J. Walter Thompson Riyadh had the region talking when it executed ‘The Biggest Art Gallery Around The World’ for Al Arabia. It was not just the idea but playing it in a market like Saudi Arabia, in the scale and manner that it was done that worked in favor of the campaign. The campaign saw Saudis waking up to the country’s first ever public art show, by several unknown artists splashed across the streets opening up the Kingdom to a new creative state. Breaking conventional shackles, MENA is gearing up to dazzle.

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