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‘Vision 2030 has set a blueprint for the future of the Kingdom,’ says TBWA\RAAD’s Saudi MD

DUBAI: Advertising agency TBWA\RAAD appointed Dan Leach as its managing director for operations in Saudi Arabia following the establishment of a new office in Riyadh earlier this year. It is now bidding to cement its presence in the Kingdom.

The agency has been working with clients such as KFC, NEOM, and Nissan in the Kingdom for 20 years and now, with its new office, it aims to strengthen and serve as “a central hub for local, regional, and global brands looking to make their mark in the country,” Leach said.

He told Arab News: “The Middle East is renowned for its leadership and bold ambition, and Saudi Arabia exemplifies these qualities. But what I believe makes the Kingdom stand out further is its single-minded approach to disrupting the status quo … of everything.

“From building the largest vertical city in the world in NEOM; redefining luxury in the Red Sea; bringing the world’s sporting events to the country and more, there is no blueprint for what Saudi Arabia is doing.”

Staffing the new office is a “critical aspect of our expansion strategy” and the company is currently focusing on making “strategic hires,” including a new local senior management team, with the objective of ensuring “we have the right talent in place to meet the dynamic needs of our clients, driving our success not only in Riyadh, but across Saudi as a whole,” Leach said.

Saudi’s Vision 2030 has accelerated the growth of multiple industries, as well as technology and innovation, presenting new opportunities for advertising agencies like TBWA\RAAD.

Leach added: “Saudi’s story now belongs on the world stage, which implies that storytelling must be characterized by award-winning strategic and creative thinking.”

The country’s ambition to be at the forefront of technology such as artificial intelligence aligns with the agency’s vision.

Leach said: “We need to keep pace with the ambition of the Kingdom in this area and ensure our clients are benefiting from transformative innovation that can reach new customers.”

This ambition is evident in the growth of the creative and media industry, which is already seeing an “influx of bold award-winning campaigns fueling the emergence of incredible, young creative talent that will see the sector thrive for years to come,” he added.

Contrary to the common belief that Saudi lacks creative talent, Leach’s experience has been quite the opposite.

He said: “I have had a number of discussions with young creatives, and there is a genuine passion and hunger from this next generation to be at the forefront of the industry.”

He believes it is important for the industry to foster this talent in order to bolster the growth of the industry. The agency is therefore working with local universities to implement a graduate and internship program to help identify and support creative talent in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s growth and vision have attracted global attention and investment, with brands stepping up their game in the Kingdom. Leach, however, cautions brands against entering the market with a copy-and-paste approach.

He said: “We’re seeing a lot of brands come into the Kingdom with the approach of simply localizing copy and thinking that is enough to win; it’s not.”

He explained that Saudi consumers are savvy and can distinguish between brands that are being opportunistic and those truly embracing local culture.

Brands can also find success in aligning their story with that of the Kingdom and its leadership, Leach said.

He added: “Brands are entering a country that has near unlimited ambition — they need to match that energy.”

They do so by embracing new technology and aiming big, he said, and this also means brands should experiment and do things differently.

He said: “The Kingdom is an incredibly exciting place where there is room and opportunity to challenge the status quo.”

TBWA\RAAD, for example, has made significant advances in adopting AI — such as partnering with Core42 last year to harness the potential of Arabic large-language model Jais in the creative sector and launching its own ChatGPT-based tool Co-Pirate — to support clients. 

The agency is also working on bringing new products to the Kingdom, including dedicated social media programs, retail initiatives and internal communications platforms.

Leach said: “Our ambition is not to be the largest agency in the Kingdom but creatively the most exciting, and Saudi Arabia presents the perfect canvas upon which we can deliver that ambition.”

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