How Dice, a Saudi-born marketing agency, is changing the game for multinationals in the region

March 4, 2023
by

Amid the global distress in today’s markets and the lingering financial threats caused by the economic shifts in the world, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is leading its way. Under the progressive leadership of Saudi Arabia, the international monetary fund reported in 2022 that the new Kingdom is now considered to be one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Reports are forecasting a rise in the country’s GDP by 7.6 percent, the fastest growth in almost a decade, according to the IMF Article IV consultation report.

From investing billions of dollars in healthcare, hospitality, digital economy and other sectors, the authorities are evidently committed to implement Saudi’s Vision 2030. Heading towards this direction, the country is diversifying and liberalizing the economy and thus is paving the way to more stable growth, improving the business environment, attracting foreign investments, and reforming the private sector scene for endless opportunities of development across all sectors.

In line with the massive expansion of the Kingdom’s economy, Saudi startups, small-sized businesses, and marketing agencies are also leading their way. With the colossal amount of registered Saudi businesses, one cannot overlook the series of successes that Dice, a Saudi-born fully fledged marketing agency, has achieved in almost a decade.

Founded in 2013, Dice has shifted the game for agencies and businesses in the Saudi market. The agency kicked off its business journey from a small office in Riyadh with a team of four, and despite its initial size, Dice won its pitch to a renowned multinational IT company, Hewlett Packard (HP).

Today, heading towards its 10th anniversary, the agency has a team of almost 60 profound creative professionals, executed projects beyond the Saudi borders, and opened two other offices in Lebanon and Egypt. Notably, the agency has witnessed a peak in its growth odyssey during the pandemic as it now works with above 50 large Saudi corporations, governmental entities, and multinationals to prepare brands for the new Saudi Arabia’s market standards and support their alignment with the upcoming scene of the country’s economy.

Setting the Benchmark 

For a good measure, corporations and multinationals in Saudi are increasingly realizing the importance of working with local agencies. The strategic demand is rooted from the local agencies’ awareness of Saudi’s consumer behavior, the Kingdom’s culture and traditions, and the diversity of the 13.5 million expats living in the country. Consequently, the market competition in this industry is high and there is pressure on local agencies to abide by the highest standards of service.

“Our goal from the get-go was to set a benchmark to the quality of work we provide. In 2013, we faced some hesitancy from multinational and large corporations to hire local small agencies. They worked with international agencies for years so trusting the capacity of startup agencies in promptly delivering large projects was on the horns of a dilemma. At the time, the digital age was emerging, and marketing strategies were shifting. We had to take a leap of faith and hustle to compete with other agencies in the quality and practicality of services we provide,” explained Sari Kazma, Managing Director of Dice.

Mr. Kazma added that Dice identified a market gap in Saudi’s marketing industry. The agency realized that there was a very limited number of 360, fully fledged marketing agencies in the country. Accordingly, Dice established a comprehensive set of services to corporations through a unified interconnected team including: creative and strategy, experimental experiences, social and digital, and content creation.

“We realized the hassle that companies go through when working with different agencies on a marketing campaign. The lack of communication between agencies, confusion in deliverables, and the set of problems that companies face when they are trying to execute one project through different entities. Quickly responding to the evident market need, we designed a fully-fledged set of services that could make our clients’ marketing odyssey easier. So, we started off on low-cap projects and focused all our efforts to not only deliver the projects in the highest form of quality but to set a unique benchmark for the agency’s name in the market,” stated Mr. Kazma.       

Market Positioning

“Our first project was our very first branding opportunity to uniquely position Dice in the market. At that point, our goal was to create a brand identity for Dice through its quality of service and impact of work,” stated Mr. Kazma.

Two business values shaped Dice in the Saudi market: quality and impact. Dice’s branding happened through a result-driven approach that led the agency to reportedly close off its first year wining a pitch to a multinational company for a project worth USD 1.3 Million (SAR 4.8 Million), notably after starting off the same year executing a project worth USD 10,000 (SAR 37,500).

In the span of soon-to-be ten years, Dice has worked on key projects in the Saudi market that provided room for the agency to not only grow in the market and get more clients but to also be selective on the types of projects the agency works on. Explicitly, it all started with branding Dice through its results and positioning the agency in the market for its quality and impact.

Dice worked with international tech companies such as Motorola, Cisco, Schneider Electric, and Xiaomi and established a diverse pool of clients in other fields. Notably, the agency was the kitchen behind various large campaigns and projects that happened in Saudi Arabia. The agency was recently selected by Marafiq to work on its brand revamp. Another key project that Dice managed was the inauguration of Deloitte Digital Academy in Saudi Arabia in 2019, which was attended by the c-suites of Deloitte Global and Saudi’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), His Excellency Eng. Abdullah Bin Amer Al Swaha.

“One of the other factors that contributed to the agency’s success is that we are not financially driven. We have a huge appetite for interesting and meaningful projects and our agency culture thrives to unleash the maximum potential of our team members to come up with a completely new form of success. For example, the campaign we’ve executed for HPI to promote its sprocket printer in 2017. The campaign didn’t only promote the printer in an unusual manner but it also led the company to make a Guinness World Record for the HP product. And, that’s the type of marketing we do. Completely out of the box, high-quality, and impactful,” added Mr. Kazma. (HP Campaign link)

As the agency positioned itself strongly in the market, Dice gradually changed the game for multinationals in the country. Companies started to witness the impact of Dice’s glocalized campaigns that can be easily received by the locals.

“We glocalize the ideas, visions, and language of multinationals in a way that would influence the behavior of the Saudi customer. For example, we executed a campaign for Novo Nordisk on the International Women Day in 2020. The produced multimedia content for the campaign had the Saudi ingredient in many ways, yet it was also appealing for the global audience. The campaign was so successful that the brand published it on its international page,” explained Mr. Kazma. (Campaign link)

Market Adaptability

“There is no doubt that the role of agencies today is shifting, and agencies need to therefore be very flexible to cope with the volatility of the digital market and its demands. There are no theories and a set of strategies anymore. Customers, market trends, and interests of the audience change so fast. Saudi’s culture and market is also changing very fast. Agencies therefore need to establish a dynamic business model that would swiftly adapt to those changes while offering creative, practical, and cost-effective solutions. A hard formula but doable,” said Mr. Kazma.

In the golden age of marketing, agencies were the brains of the most powerful brands in the pre-pandemic era. However, it has been depicted that the concept of marketing itself is changing and brand building has become a vexing challenge.

Numerous business articles highlighted the matter and the Marketing Week, a forty years old prominent marketing weekly journal, also tackled the apparent issue. After surveying 50 agency CEOs and 50 brand CMOs about the changing role of agencies, it was found that ‘agency structures, processes and pace of delivery’ are not developing at the same rate of the emerging markets, new media, and brands given the old-school management and market approach.

Given that Dice is owned and operated by millennials, there is no doubt that the agency’s higher management are able to understand the untraditional shifts of the emerging market. Accordingly, the higher management anticipated the digital era ahead of time and established a cost-effective business model to rapidly grow while maintaining its top-notch quality of service.

To cut operational costs, Dice inaugurated its first office outside the Saudi borders in 2017. The small office was established in Lebanon and has a team of ten digital marketing gurus and tech savvy professionals supporting clients based in Saudi Arabia remotely. Gradually, Dice Lebanon became a standalone agency serving clients in Beirut, Kuwait, London, and Africa in addition to its back-office support to Dice KSA, specifically to Saudi clients who are on a limited budget.

“During the pandemic, our portfolio of clients has widely increased given Dice’s signature work in the digital sphere throughout the past years. The pandemic happened as we were organizing a crucial event for Saudi’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. Luckily, our team was able to find effective solutions and organized the ministry’s virtual closing ceremony and award ceremony, which were viewed by more than 7,000 users and gathered Saudi’s tech champs,” reported Mr. Kazma.

He added that the agency launched its third office in Egypt to increase the team capacity, expand its presence in the region, and quickly adapt to the market demands. Mr. Kazma underscored that the new office came as part of Dice’s commitment towards expanding a Saudi-born agency in different markets to align with the Kingdom’s economic vision (Saudi Vision 2030) and foster economic and foreign investments in the local market. He explained that the agency enjoys a diverse culture bringing together a team of different nationalities, age groups and backgrounds, while maintaining a fair percentage of Saudi personnel to integrate the Kingdom’s culture in the work developed and executed in the market. Mr. Sari also stressed on the importance of exposing all team members to markets beyond Saudi Arabia in order to enrich their expertise and support their professional growth.

Though the industry of advertising and marketing agencies has significantly transformed in the past few years due to numerous factors, Dice has demonstrated a leading example of strategically capitalizing on challenging situations and turning them into opportunities of growth and evolution. Setting the benchmark for its work in the market, positioning itself through a result-oriented approach, and swiftly adapting to the volatile market conditions has played a huge role in Dice’s successful business journey.

About Dice:

Founded in 2013, Dice is a Saudi-born agency that provides fully fledged marketing services through its offices in Riyadh, Lebanon, and Egypt. The agency is part of Mothmerat Group, a group of seven different companies led by a prominent Saudi entrepreneur, Mr. Mohammed Al Assaf.

Dice has a team of 60 profound creative professionals who work with a wide range of Saudi corporations, governmental entities, and multinationals. Dice Lebanon alone has clients based in Beirut, London, and Africa. The agency recently inaugurated its office in Egypt.

About Sari Kazma:

Sari Kazma is a seasoned executive leader and marketing strategist with over a decade of working experience in the MENA region. He is currently leading Dice, a prominent Saudi-born pan-Arab agency that has offices in Riyadh, Beirut, and Egypt.

As the Managing Director of Dice, Sari mentors a team of 60 creative professionals and ushers all the services offered at the agency in all offices, working both at the top and bottom of the pyramid to ensure the agency’s growth goals are assessed and well met.

Founded in 2013, Sari led Dice to become one of the fastest growing fully-fledged marketing agencies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He managed to successfully sustain the agency’s market growth and green zone since year one of its inception. Through the agency, he consulted a diverse range of multinationals, government entities, and startups on marketing, advertising, and multi-media digital projects.

He worked with mid to large-cap companies and demonstrated a successful track-record of supporting blue chips and rising stars in executing offline and online strategic marketing and branding initiatives to meet the client’s financial and business objectives.

Prior to Dice, Sari kicked off his entrepreneurial journey in 2012 when he founded BB Luxury, a brand catered towards a luxurious lifestyle through its uniquely tailored and personalized gold plated mobiles.

His previous roles included driving marketing initiatives, product development, advertisements, and digital campaigns across various industries such as the IT field, FMCG, and the public sector. He was a Marketing Specialist at NAPCO, Account Manager at Link Communications Agency, and handled other positions related to marketing and advertising in Saudi companies.

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