Think you have a marketing challenge? Consider then the task of marketing lingerie in Saudi Arabia. Not only is it strictest state in the Middle East when it comes to ‘morality’ laws, you have the odd situation of only men being allowed to sell underwear to women – something that has prompted a boycott campaign.
As reported in the latest edition of Middle East marketing trade magazine Communicate, the solution for brands has been to publish their ads online and have them forwarded virally.
For example, one creative put forward last year by Ogilvy on behalf of Danish lingerie and swimwear brand Change
poked fun at the censorship laws in the region, which results in
Western magazines arriving with black felt tip marks over images
considered too revealing.
Using taglines such as ‘censor anything but the bikini’ and ‘edit
anything but the bra’, the whole body of a model was covered up with
marker pens except the hands and face.
The campaign was deemed too close to the bone to run as an above the
line campaign, but it did appear as in-store POS material, and went
According to Mazen Hassan, creative director of Ogilvy Jeddah, “We submitted it to several local and international blogs,
and it was a huge success. Ladies used to e-mail me telling me they
really liked it and that they thought it was really smart, because it
bends the rules in an acceptable way.”
Essentially the digital arena is one of the few areas where women can get up close to brands with relative freedom.
According to Milos Illic of TBWA / Raad Dubai, which also covers the
Saudi market and handles rival lingerie brand Nayomi, digital is a “fantastic
opportunity…customers could interact with the brand, immerse
themselves in it. They could do wonders in Saudi with digital.”
Working in the Saudi market as a marketing creative is obviously
challenging especially if you come from a Western ‘anything goes’
environment, but I imagine it’s one that forces you to think harder of
ways to get around the various barriers, with online being key to that.
As the Communicate article says: “With
the Internet allowing for more creative freedom, digital could prove a
highly effective bypass route for the Saudi advertising market”, and slowly push the boundaries.