The growth and reach of digital media over the past decade, and especially after the pandemic, fundamentally shifted how brands engage with their customers and promote their business. What are the challenges brands face with this constant change?
Carol Matta: Today, content marketing has become a crucial investment for brands, as the need to be constantly present and stay top of mind increases. The main challenge is the fierce competition inside a saturated industry; brands are competing not only with their competitors for consumer attention but also with every individual content creator out there.
The consumer decision-making process is not just a simple funnel, it is way more complex. For this reason, brands must continuously find ways to get into consumers’ consideration early on and continue to stay with them until their next decision journey. This task becomes impossible to achieve if magnetic and original content, fueled by technology and data, is not at the centre of their thought process.
How do you see the Saudi Arabian market changing?
Ali Al Hazmi: The KSA market sees content marketing as a necessity. The Saudi Vision 2030 is a good indicator of how prioritised digital transformation really is across the kingdom. It’s a big snowball that you could either benefit from or get sidelined and damaged by, should you not keep up with it.
We believe in mutually beneficial relationships with leading brands. But it’s important to note that what sets apart content marketing in partnership with publishers is that publishers create value. Their content educates target audiences while adhering to stringent standards and guidelines. This takes place in the presence of smart, digital content, which attracts audiences to achieve results that go beyond purchase or profit.
Digital content must be authentic, smart and inspiring and take users on a journey. By following this approach, brands can gain wider audiences.
From your experience what type of content are Saudi users most receptive to?
Ali Al Hazmi: At Sabq, we strive to offer the best-in-class experience to our millions of readers, bringing them the latest events as if they were part of the action. We do so through varied, highly engaging content formats.
Nearly 96 per cent of our users consume our content through smartphones. We distribute many content formats (infographics, videos, text) and leverage our verified social media platforms as well. These often feature customised content not published on our website. We have over 12 million followers on Twitter (where you can find the largest audience of Saudis in particular) and millions of daily views on Snapchat. In addition, our users can customise their experience by signing up to the website and enjoying many special features. It also goes without saying that our smart device apps rank among the most downloaded media apps.
Carol Matta: Adding to Ali’s point, leading publishers play an essential role in the halo of trust, which also affects users’ receptivity. Today, professionally produced news sources have an advantage over other sources, as they are creating among the greatest perceived added value for brands. According to a recent study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), advertising with trusted news sources can improve a brand’s image in the eyes of consumers. “Research found that 84 per cent of consumers feel advertising within the news increases or maintains brand trust and improves brand image”. At the heart of branded content is great storytelling, and publishers have a great deal of experience in ensuring that impactful pieces of content are created for the brand. In a recent study conducted by CG-Data, Arabic was revealed to be the preferred language when consuming content. 84 per cent of locals preferred content that was in their native language.
Why do you think native advertising is on the rise in the kingdom?
Carol Matta: The degree of positive value a brand capitalises on by advertising in a given environment underlines the importance of local market knowledge and context. This is one of the main reasons native advertising has proven to be so effective in achieving higher engagement from users. It ensures brands cut through the digital noise by merging the strengths of publishers’ credibility and editorial skills with the right technologies and targeting capabilities. This makes readers feel like paid pieces of content were specifically written for them. Our native advertising solution has proven to leverage brand favourability and long-term brand recall as it places users at the centre. It not only ensures that meaningful content (which adds value) is produced, but also that it is seen in a brand-safe environment – from both a contextual and sentimental perspective.
Ali Al Hazmi: In these ever-changing times, we must continue to work hard to stay ahead and we only accomplish this if our readers are satisfied. This is why advertising solutions that do not disrupt our users’ online experience are key, and native advertising stands out as a very engaging solution.