This is an update to my last post titled Saudi is standing up
A case for Stand Up Comedy as a communication platform in Saudi:
Good timing, strong insight, creative expression! Hard to tell if I am talking about a good ad campaign or a comedy show, right? Hope you see the connection.
Who doesn’t like funny ads! But how serious ‘funny’ can be in the communication world was never as evident as it is now.
Just Google ‘most watched ad campaigns of 2011’ and you will agree.
A few campaigns that made my favorite list (and of millions others’) are below
A fun fact in these campaigns is that none of these categories are inherently ‘funny’ driven. I mean, call me crazy but aren’t car and after shave commercials supposed to have beautiful girls and what we marketers love to call ‘Aspiration’? And a ‘utility product’ like a typo-fixer and a bear? C’mon!
Saudi is standing up
What do you do? Someone asked,
‘I work in advertising in Saudi’ I replied
Advertising! (short pause)
So…what do you do? They asked again!
When you say Saudi, people think of a closed society where women can’t drive and men don’t know the difference between a PC and a Mac. The list goes on!
The truth is, in the last 4 years I have been here, it is one of the fastest changing people I have seen.
Without boring you with statistics on mobile & broadband penetration, number of facebook and twitter users etc (that I would’ve Googled, so can you), I would like to shed light on Saudi’s ‘Funny’ side, and I am serious when I say that!
Below are some of the most popular ‘Saudi Stand-up Comedians’
- Fahad al butairi
- Ibrahim Khairullah
- Omer Hussain
- Badr Saleh
- Yasin Kamil
Not surprisingly so, their content is fresh, local, relevant to the youth and revolves around media & social issues. All of them have gained fame almost overnight. They are doing numerous shows in Saudi and other GCC countries regularly.
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Another surprising fact! Their humor is not mostly rebellious or anti establishment (as one would be reasonable in expecting from a ‘closed society’)
It is actually, exactly what it should be, a mirror to society. From making parodies of ‘typical TV ads’ to breaking stereotypes, a new video pops up from one of the above comedians pretty often.
No wonder then, that their partners in crime are the usual suspects: blogs, facebook, twitter, youtube etc. I might be stretching it a bit, but I am pretty sure that these guys account for most of the Arabic digital content.
Fine, so why should we (read marketers) care? Maybe it’s another fad that’ll pass by. Like everything else, Saudi’s will get bored with it and move on.
I think not!
From a strategist’s point of view, please consider the following
- The unquenchable thirst for self expression and the richness of Arabic language
- Unique modern metro culture (Strong local tribal/family culture + expats from around the world)
- A large youth population who, though highly westernized, wants to maintain the Saudi heritage. (Case in point – Lomar’s Techno Thobe)
Stand up is here to stay. It exists in pockets right now, but has wide and deep reach already. Many brands, (telecom and others) have used it for branding purposes, but that is it!
It is waiting for the local ‘Virgin’ (i.e. the brand) a brand, brave enough, to take this up as a platform.
Until then, stand up comedy is virgin territory, pun intended!
Reposted from PDDB Blog
I call them the accountants, the artists and the leaders!
Those who have their minds in this world – The Accountants.
Those who have worlds inside their mind – The Artists.
And the visionaries – The Leaders!
Skeptical! read on, I have scientific evidence!
The 1st kind are those with a great grip over reality. The rational minds driven by the frontal lobes! They know the rules, they know where the rules can be bent and where they can be stretched. They think laterally to solve new problems with old tactics. They come up with clever solutions, often misunderstood as ‘Ideas’. The end justifies the means type!
Methodical thinkers, in contrast, are more focused and, therefore, not as easily distracted as creative thinkers. Therefore, methodical thinkers tend to solve problems most effectively when the strategy for a solution is already known to them… (as explained in Science Daily)
The 2nd kind, The Artists. Most actual artists (painters, sculptors, even creative directors etc) fall in this category in my opinion. (Most not all) Those who have worlds inside their minds. Those with the over active Parietal & Temporal lobes who live not only in the physical reality but also in the realities inside their minds where they spend a lot of time. Places where dreams and reality often overlap. These are people who can often break away from the norms and restrictions of the real world. The creative process is an end to them, not just the means!
While playing Jazz Improv, large portion of brain’s Prefrontal Region goes inactive to let Creativity Flow. The Prefrontal region is responsible for monitoring one’s performance, shuts down completely during improvisation, while the much smaller, centrally located region at the foremost part of the brain (medial prefrontal cortex) increases in activity. The medial prefrontal cortex is involved in self-initiated thoughts and behaviors, and is very active when a person describes an event that has happened to him or makes up a story
Then there are the ‘Visionaries’. The ones who have the ability to do a bit of both, actually a lot of both, grasp reality and break away from it. What sets them apart is how they can make connections. Connections that change the course of history. Connections between a crazy thought and a human truth, otherwise called ‘Ideas’. From the internal combustion engine to the lunar shuttle and from the Old Spice Guy to ‘Nike Write the future’, all of these, in my opinion are visions. A crazy thought connected to a deep rooted human insight, led the visionary to believe in its power and pursue it endlessly until it was achieved.
According to Science Daily, the study revealed that there is “a distinct pattern of brain activity — even while an individual is at rest — in people who tend to solve problems with a sudden creative insight. These creative individuals experience an “Aha! Moment,” – a method that’s different from the method utilized by individuals who tend to solve problems more methodically.”
Think of it like this.
An accountant sees a balloon and goes, ‘Nice, maybe I can take out the air, fill it with water and entertain people by throwing it at someone. The Artist will say, look how it defies gravity, maybe we can one day fly too! The leader says, lets make one big enough, tie a basket to it and go touch the sky!
Now you see why these ‘Aha moments’ are called ‘visions’!
My theory is, few people are born to be one of these, like maybe ‘da Vinci’ and ‘Hitler’. All the rest of us, can choose to be what we want to be, or rather, have already chosen what to settle with. But I’ll leave that for another post!
Life must be hard being a consumer these days.
There is just too much happening around you. It is actually hard to spend money on something and stay convinced that you made the right decision.
Wouldn’t it be great if for a few days only, there was no advertising!
Brands would only say something when they really need to. Instead of packaging and repackaging messages to sound better than the competition, they show faith in themselves and in all their consumers.
Instead of trying to surround you, they would speak the truth and speak it well.
This could actually be a great way to look at a marketing strategy.
Strip it down to the bare minimum, the absolutely critical stuff and focus on doing it really well.
Watch the clip below and you might agree. This video is the trailer of the famous movie Logorama made by H5 with more than 2,500 logos in it.
It won the best short movie award at the 2010 Oscars
Calling all marketers, social media experts, friends, foes everyone!
If you are reading this, you have already become part of the experiment.
Below is an idea, with the potential to bring about a positive change in the world.
How big the change will be, depends entirely on how much you contribute to perfect it.
The next 5 minutes can decide whether you help change the world, or will this idea die on paper.
Here is what you have to do:
1) Go through the short presentation below
2) Think about it with an open mind
3) Identify the flaws and let me know through twitter, facebook, email, linked in or comments
4) Spread it. The more people comment on it, the more our chances of success
Ideas are an infinite resource and the more restrictions you are faced with, the better the ideas get. I saw these beliefs in action even before getting to work in the Middle East. But having come here, I have literally been living by it!
Especially the Saudi market. From purely a commercial communication view point, it presents an amazing mix of pros and cons.
- A very high acceptable cost per consumer contact – gives you room to truly create brand experiences. Honestly, how do you think I felt when suddenly, I could spend $40 per consumer in Saudi vs $0.4 in Pakistan (these are rough annual per capita ad spends as per my calculations, indicative if not conclusive)
- Amazing modern trade network. Focus on the top 3 cities with the top 50 outlets and you have just covered a lions share of your total market
- Ever increasing internet/social media/mobile phone penetration
- Ever increasing access to plethora of satellite TV channels. HD content beamed without ads for SR200 a month (yes this is a good thing for me, I am an activation strategist)
- Busy outdoor venues to capture the consumers with tremendous opportunities (Huge Malls, Markets, Resorts, Universities – Male and Female both, Superstore Chains…)
- No sex appeal can be used. This is a good thing because it levels the playing field. You have to play fair now!
- Very strong and well defined cultural norms and insights
- Best of all, clients who will not settle for anything but world class ideas
- Strict policies on directly engaging women in public places
- High inertia of authorities when getting permissions for creative ideas (read crazy ideas)
- Very young population (around 50% under 18 years old)
A common myth I have seen amongst marketers, both outside and inside the Kingdom, is that Saudi women are an unreachable segment. You can show them all the ads on TV since they watch all the soaps, but you cannot create holistic brand experiences for them! I seriously disagree and I intend to prove it wrong with some examples, so here goes:
Lipton Clear Green – Go Silly Zones
Green tea makes us all feel good from the inside. Lipton Clear Green goes a step ahead, it says that if you feel good from the inside, it shows on the outside. Thats why they did these go silly zones inside malls across Saudi. Believe it or not, women were actually doing stuff like hula hooping inside, made simple thanks to technology (Wii to be specific)
Sadafco’s Creative Kitchen
As authentic a Saudi Brand as it gets, Sadafco inspired women to be creative by doing live cooking demonstrations. Women came in group after group to attend. Surprisingly, the husbands were cooperative enough to take care of the kids and the shopping carts while the women participate in the activation for upto half an hour at times!
Colgate Pro Relief – 1 minute challenge
When you’ve got a good product, flaunt it! Colgate’s new pro-relief guarantees major relief from sensitivity in 1 minute. The live demonstration in malls was doing just that, challenging people with sensitivities to try it then and there, at the mall food court and see the difference for themselves. The fact that the activation is still going on is evidence enough that it works, or else they would have a lot of angry ‘Sensitive’ consumers shutting it down!
(Title image source: arabianEye via Getty Images)
In the Google way of doing things, Youtube’s Life in a day activation is the biggest attempt at activating a global audience, all at once!
For those of my readers who might not be familiar with the idea, Youtube invited the entire 6 billion ppl of the planet (atleast those with a camera and internet access) to help them document one day on earth – 24th of July 2010.
People are to send in any and all videos that they wish. The most compelling and distinct footage will be edited into an experimental documentary film produced by Sir Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin Macdonald.
At the time of writing this post, there is still a day left for uploading contributions.
The finished documentary is to be premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Jan 2011. LG seems to be the only commercial sponsor for it. Honestly, I was expecting more hype to be built around it, but i guess they are saving it for the premiere.
Coming to the topic of this post, what is the insight that makes this idea a great one?
I believe the insight is Foreverism.
I borrow this term, boldly, from trendwatching. According to them:
FOREVERISM encompasses the many ways that consumers and businesses are embracing conversations, relationships, and products that are never done. Driving its popularity is technology that allows them to find, follow, interact and collaborate forever with anyone & anything.
I believe there is more to it. Foreverism also encompasses the need of every individual to stand out, leave a mark, make a difference, do something great and so on! I believe that this insight is so strong and universal that it holds true regardless of age, gender, financial standing and even education. I believe it has its roots in ‘HOPE’, one of the core attributes that differentiates humans from all other beings.
Social technology empowerment has given everyone of us an individual voice and the ability to reach out to the world. But since it has done this for everyone, there is so much social clutter that it is very hard for one person to satisfy this core need.
But I don’t mean to say that it is a bad thing. The real world has always been like this.
Infact, social technology presents opportunities for collaboration where a lot of people can collectively stand out, make a difference, be part of something epic and be forever.
I might not be excited about working with my neighbor to fix the street fence, but I will definitely work with anyone in my 6 degrees in spreading info on the Islamabad plane crash, Haiti quake or Youtube’s Life in a day.
I want to be Forever!
It is probably going to be very hard for me to count the number of times I have heard things like, our consumer is not ready for this yet. And I have heard this within the agency as much as from clients. In an attempt to play safe, we usually look at the least common denominator in a population, when that is not a good sample at all!
This inertia is maximum when we are talking about ideas that require contribution from consumers. Generally the consensus is that people are busy living their lives and they will not be bothered with creating anything for our brand. What we are actually saying is, we dont think we’ll be able to create an exciting enough campaign to motivate the consumers to do this.
The 100million facebook daily logins, the 3million twitter daily updates, the 900,000 daily blog posts, the 18,000hours of Youtube daily uploads tell me that there is a huge number of consumers out there who are willing to create content for us. No matter how hard we try, brands can never match the originality and quantity of content that a few active consumers will create once motivated right with a great insightful idea! Plus the kind of advocacy value and consumer trust that goes with these contributions is simply awesome.
One thing is for sure, probably less than 10% of any audience will generally participate in content creation (generally). But this created content gives the brand tremendous mileage for the rest of the 90%.
And we don’t just have to look at the west to see this in action. I will quote 2 really cool examples from my region, the middle east, whose consumers are considered to be the least reactive to such campaigns:
Galaxy Poetry Competition that won the Media Grand Prix at the Dubai Lynx last year
Quaker Oats ‘Worlds Largest Oats Recipe Book‘ that attracted almost 3,000 winning recipes this year. I say this with pride that this idea was given by yours truly. Hats off to the brand team for going ahead with it. And they were not disappointed, besides the entries, the campaign has resulted in sales increase of 10 folds while it was active
Let’s have more faith in our consumers!
“A worldwide initiative to transform grey spaces with colorful paint”
This is the main headline on the Akzonobel website. As daunting a task as it may sound, it is one of the best global crowdsourced activations I have come across.
There is lots of information on their website Lets Colour Project , some snippets below
They have already reached out to slums and other grey areas in 4 countries
- France and
It is refreshing to see a mix of rich and poor countries, proving that everyone can use a little more color.
You can follow the campaign here
Some pictures below
I recently came across this brilliant video on ADVERBLOG. It puts across a critical point in a very interesting manner, which is:
The communication game is changing! Conventional media led thinking has it’s days numbered. It is about time advertising agencies stop thinking advertising ideas and start thinking communication ideas. Call it Media Neutral, 360 Degrees, Integrated or anything else.
One thing in the video I disagree with is that it downplays the importance of TV commercials. I don’t think we can totally scrap that as a touch point. Any touch point, for that matter is not good or bad inherently, it’s what we do with it that decides!