Creative Director’s Choice gives creative directors a chance to highlight the current work they think is the best out in the ad world – the ads and campaigns they believe are making a difference.
This week, Richard Hol, executive creative director at Nomads Dubai, asked two Saudi women about Nissan’s #SheDrives campaign, and their answers are positively intriguing.
“If you think that Nazi Germany and North Korea are sexy, then you should really try and visit Saudi Arabia.” This is what one of my new colleagues told me in 2012 after I swapped Amsterdam for Dubai to become a creative director at J. Walter Thompson.
At first, I didn’t understand. Wasn’t this country a US ally? Surely, it couldn’t be that bad. But then another friend told me how the ‘religious police’ had interrogated him for two days just because he had driven a female colleague to the airport; he wasn’t allowed to share a car with a woman he wasn’t married or related to. I heard how cinemas and music were banned and women not being allowed to drive. It sounded like a scary totalitarian desert regime. But then last year in June, there was news about Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, a man determined to bring freedom and new prosperity to the country. At least, that’s what I read in the papers.
The #SheDrives campaign, developed by TBWA/Raad for Nissan, is one of many examples of brands looking to jump on the Saudi Perestroika bandwagon. To a Western creative, the idea feels insightful and meaningful; it goes beyond just a gratuitous celebration of a newly acquired freedom. But would a Saudi woman feel the same? Or does it feel exploitative, like the Coca-Cola film with a female Saudi driver finding confidence in a bottle of soda? I decided to ask two Saudi women: Shahla Amen, a driving instructor in Riyadh, and her friend Rana Elmatboly.
After watching the video, Shahla jumped straight in: “First of all, I like to say that the image you have of Saudi Arabia doesn’t do justice to the country. We have a rich culture. Our people are warm and welcoming, and Saudi has a beautiful variety in landscapes.”
Rana continued: “I agree. I love my country and it’s defined by more than what you describe. Having said that, the changes are positive and visible. On the streets now, you can see women not just showing their faces, which was always possible, but also showing their hair. Their black ‘abayas’ are open, showing the outfits underneath. You can go to concerts, watch a movie, and visit mixed gender cafes. Over 50% of the population is younger than 25 and many of them are incredibly energized by the changes and are keen to help progress the country.”
Stated Shahla: “This Nissan campaign taps into a real sentiment and it does it in an authentic way. I find it emotional and uplifting.”
Added Rana: “The fact that women are allowed to drive doesn’t mean all of them will, by the way. A lot of them will wait to see what the public response will be to the first female drivers on the road. Or just stick to the comfort of their own family driver.”
Clearly, this ad gets the thumbs up of both these women. The campaign won a Lynx Grand Prix in the interactive category and I’m relieved to see it could do so without resorting to transparent scam tactics. I also hope that making tourist visas more accessible is next on Mohammed bin Salman’s list of changes, because I can’t wait to experience the Kingdom first-hand.
Richard Hol is executive creative director at innovation agency Nomads Dubai.
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