Advertising needs to represent empowering image of Saudi women: Ingram


Saudi Gazette

AN advertisement for school supplies by Jarir Bookstores painted a negative picture in a back-to-school campaign at the beginning of this year. However, it went viral capturing millions of views and made a buzz in WhatsApp groups. The ad provoked influencers from writers and public figures to discuss a bigger issue of questioning the education system and students’ attitudes towards school.

Commenting on one of the bold advertising campaigns in Saudi Arabia this year, the head of one of the leading advertising companies globally, says it has become increasingly challenging for advertisers to stand out.

Communicating messages, according to Tamara Ingram, CEO of J. Walter Thompson, needs to have human insight. “It’s no longer about throwing out messages. There needs to be some reason for people to come back to it whether it’s a deep emotional reason or purely entertainment reason,” she said in an interview with Saudi Gazette during a recent visit to Riyadh.

An ad like the satirical Jarir campaign is “very true and insightful”.

Moreover, the disruption that digital media has caused is changing the nature of what advertising agencies have to deliver. With regards to social media, Ingram said, advertisers need to be “true to the context you’re in but not to the extent that you don’t stand out and add value to it. It also needs to be true to the people who’s going to view you but do it in a way that creates impact.

Asked whether JWT executes ad campaigns differently in the Middle East than in the US, she said, “No, there aren’t differences. In essence, it’s finding that human feeling and engagement that resonate.”

“The work’s approach in Saudi Arabia is more modern and liberated than I’ve seen in other countries”, said Ingram, who views the work for 16 core clients in the Kingdom, as inspiring. “I’ve been really thrilled with the creativity shown here.”

Working with STC’s campaigns has been described by JWT as exciting and edgy. “The Laywagif campaign has been incredibly modern in the way we’ve approached marketing and YouTube,” said Ingram, referring to the ads on Saudis’ habits of Internet usage and digital media.

Asked about the Kingdom’s social and economic reforms, Ingram stated advertising has a key role to play. “On women driving, we looked at how important role models are and how we portray them in changing expectation and how women are treated,” she said.

“Marketing campaign needs to make sure women don’t need to be represented as just housewives but as successful career women.”

“It’s how you represent women but also enabling humor,” she said, referencing the comical Laywagif ad of Um Ali causing a stir in Saudi social spheres. The video on YouTube attracted more than 8 million views.

Connecting the culture is the secret to good work in order to resonate with the people, she added.