History makers or history watchers?

History makers or history watchers?

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The stand-out campaigns inspired by women taking the driver’s seat in the Middle East

In June 2018 women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive. The significance of this truly historic moment for Saudi women and Saudi society overall is hard to underestimate. And of course, everyone wants to be part of history. Many brands saw a commercial opportunity to show their solidarity and support for Saudi women, and quickly rolled up their sleeves to work on new campaigns.

From the advertising point of view, this is a one of a kind event since the beginning of the 21st century. I cannot think of any other positive news this unique that caused so many brands to jump on the bandwagon. What an opportunity to observe, listen, compare, and learn!

I can imagine that when the announcement came in September 2017 many brand teams rushed into research and uncovered similar truths that Saudi women were excited yet worried and that not all men in the families supported the idea of women driving. However, only a few of them rolled out marketing activities that helped make history while others just showed up for the ride.

The obvious challenges for marketers and their agencies were to find a role for the brand in this situation and to come up with communication ideas that would create a strong link between the event and brand equity. As a result, female empowerment messages and campaigns started pouring in.

What many brands overlooked though was that modern consumers don’t want pep talks. They want brands to ‘walk the talk’ and provide real-life solutions to existing tensions.

With three months still to go before women will be able to take the driver’s seat we already have enough creative content to get inspired by the best campaigns and learn from those that did not impress us.

Here are several pieces of content and activities from brands that stood out:

‘Change Has Taste’ by Coca-Cola Middle East

Let’s be honest, it takes much more than a Coke to find confidence and determination which, by the way, a lot of Saudi women already have.

This film does not get my vote.

In fact, it works more as a product placement in the nostalgic style of the 80s. Although it ticks the box of dramatizing ‘Taste the Feeling’ campaign idea, the ad stands out as superficial compared to the scale and importance of the event.

‘#UpToMe’ by Chevrolet Arabia

The film does not create any value, it only states the obvious. I really don’t see the point in it.

There is neither tension nor the brand’s point of view.

I believe such a strong automotive brand like Chevrolet that inspires people to ‘find new roads’ could have done more.

‘#SheDrives’ by Nissan Middle East

This is a longer film but keeps a viewer’s interest and attention because it has two key components: The real-life tension of women wanting to drive but some male family members resisting the change, and the solution that the brand found – inviting male family members to give the first driving lesson to their daughters, wives and sisters. One might argue that the film lacks authenticity. However, I feel that this is where the ‘social experiment’ format serves as a nice tool to give a more genuine feel to the content that had to be staged. A nice touch is the featuring of the ‘2018GRL’ number plate that was created and tweeted back in September as the first reaction of Nissan to the big news.

Well done - No wonder this campaign has already won several awards at Dubai Lynx 2018.

And finally, Ford. So far, they have not released a campaign but instead they brought their global ‘Ford Driving Skills for Life’ initiative to Saudi Arabia. In the times when everyone was cheering, they took action. They partnered with selected universities to start preparing female students to become responsible, safe drivers.

Actions do speak louder than words and this approach will earn them loyalty.

Modern consumers are very selective which brands they allow to be part of their culture and reward with their loyalty. People like brands that channel their creativity and investment into making a big positive impact. Out of the four examples above I believe Nissan and Ford scored the most. 


By Olga Kudryashova, Planning Director, Y&R Middle East and North Africa

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Author: The Marketing Society
Posted: 05 Apr 2018
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