Three years ago, one of my papers at Uni for my « Transnational Media in Context » class was about the adaptation of Western advertisment in the Middle East with a focus on women : To what extent has globalisation changed the features of advertising in Saudi Arabia? Saudi Arabia provides an example of a nation state that seeks to resist. In spite of the rise of modernity in the Middle East and Saudi society, women are still showed as weak, docile, and inferior. As a consequence, communicating in Saudi Arabia imposes a complete readaptation of international advertising campaigns where naked parts of women will be covered and provocative poses will be remplaced by a focus on the promoting product.
Regarding globalisation and modernity, in 2004 Saudi Arabia start tolerating some naked parts of the body such as bare arms and legs like the advertisement for the perfume “Touch of Pink” from Lacoste points out. Wheareas a young blond haired woman is portrayed with a very short pink dress on the international advertisement, Saudi Arabia has required slightly lengthen it a little bit above the knee. This very light readjustment demonstrates that Saudi Arabia is opening up to the world.
However, for some brands, as changes on a current campaign can be too complicated, expensive or even a senseless message, they simply prefer to exclude the model. The atmosphere and the spirit are kept, but the advertiser communicate only and directly on the product highlighting it in the center of the advertisement. In 2007, when Marc Jacobs launched the fragrance Daisy, he prefered removing the sexual side of the advertisement where the model was hiring her chest with the fragrance by a direct emphasis on the fragrance. (The Marc Jacobs adaption is from Ahlan Wasahlan magazine 2008)
Here is an example with the promotion of a Dior watch by Sharon Stone in 2005. (The Saudi Dior adaption is from Ahlan Wasahlan magazine 2007)
Sometimes, it is not only the sexy aspect of fashion advertisements that make Saudi people uncomfortable but also the name of the products. In 2007, the French designer Givenchy launched the perfume “Ange ou Démon” (Angel or Devil).
According to Sharia Law, no element can be referred to a supernatural force other than God, this is why the brand had to change “Devil” (judged intolerable in Saudi Arabia) by a new appellation for the perfume: “Ange ou Etrange” (Angel or strange). In addition, the back of the young woman was recovered as well. (Givenchy 2007)
Communicating in Saudi Arabia about underwear and lingerie is a real challenge for international brands! “Lingerie is lingerie and women are women. That may be true, but Saudi Arabia is also Saudi Arabia…The really huge problem is how to market lingerie in a country where you cannot show photographs of women” explains Margo Chase (executive director of Chase design group consulting) (O’Guinn, Allen et al. 2008). In 2008, the British brand of lingerie: Change managed through creativity and daring to overcome the barriers of restrictions. It practised self-censorship in the announcing campaign to launch the brand in Saudi Arabia. Behind this inspiring concept, Change transformed censorship into creative art.
Other examples here below :
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