We recently laid our hands on a piece of fascinating research by Omnicom Media Group, called Dare to Dream. We have summarized some of the most interesting findings below. 

General Demographics

Women represent 45% of the population of Saudi Arabia.

Nearly a third of Saudi women are aged under 15, a ratio slightly higher than for males.

Despite high levels of education, with 39% of Saudi females enrolled in tertiary education against 35% of males, women’s labor participation ratio is one of the world’s lowest at 17%.

A 2006 survey by Integral-OMG found that 38% of females claimed to be the main decision-maker on what brands to buy across a range of products and services. In 2012, Integral-OMG’s Dare to Dream survey found this ratio had jumped to 60% on average, with variations across product categories.

Saudi Women’s Media Consumption

46% of media advertising targets females specifically.

10 of the top 20 categories in Saudi and pan-Arab media are female-driven and a further eight focus on both genders. This is even more pronounced in FMCG categories, where females are the clear target group in six in the top 10 in investment terms

While men tend to gravitate towards newspapers specifically; women show a stronger preference for weekly and monthly magazines in terms of print media.

Women spent 24 minutes more watching TV in 2012 than they did in 2010, to 6 hours and 34 minutes daily, or an increase of 7%. On radio, listenership dropped by 20% in two years, down to 2 hours and 45 minutes.

30% of Saudi females are Facebook users; almost half a million of 20-25 year old females are Facebook users. 61% of women own a smartphone in the Kingdom.

Women tend to go online every day of the week and heavy users can spend up to four hours a day using the internet.

Hawaaworld, the largest female website, is one of the 10 most visited websites in Saudi Arabia.

Although shopping remains a largely physical activity, it is increasingly going virtual – 20% of female Internet users have shopped online.
Digital is also a source of entertainment, 31% of them watch videos on YouTube.

Leisure and Happiness

77% of respondents regarded family as more important than a career. Yet, 59% believe there is more to them than home-making. In fact, three-quarters of respondents declared an interest in working for a reputable company. Only 14% were openly opposed to the concept of working.
Studying receives a similar endorsement, as two-thirds of the respondents said they would like to study and increase their knowledge.

Happiness comes from leisure activities, usually when they are shared with others. Media based leisure activities such as watching TV, surfing the net or speaking on the mobile rank highly too. Faith-based activities, such as praying and charity, also feature as a source of happiness

Individuality and independence would prevail in a world of their own making, women would drive, travel alone or even live alone. Close to one in five dreams of running a business.

When asked to imagine a trip or holiday, they would travel with family and friends.

Precious posessions – Breaking stereotypes

46% of Saudi female respondents cannot live with their mobile phone.

A laptop is seen as both essential and desirable, confirming their love for technology and connectivity. The car, completed with a driver, is a recurring theme, making both the essential and desirable lists.

Saudi women overwhelmingly choose products and brands they believe match their personality, with 82% agreeing with this statement. The appeal of new is strong, particularly in terms of fashion, but they also research their acquisitions before they physically shop.

Over 75% of respondents know what they want to buy, they are also loyal to the brands they like.

Desires and projected image not in line

Saudi women don’t recognize themselves in advertising. In other words, they believe the image advertising paints of the Saudi woman isn’t what they see in the mirror.

What Saudi women see in today’s advertising is a series of stereotypes, based on partial and old truths. Because of the modesty required from women in the Kingdom, advertisers are treading very cautiously on the inclusion of women in advertising, sometimes too much. E.g., women appear veiled in advertising, even in situations when they wouldn’t necessarily wear the hijab.

What is particularly riling for Saudi women is that few, if any, of the females depicted in advertising are a teacher, a businesswoman or a doctor, in other words something else than a housewife.

As one respondent put it, “what we see on TV isn’t a reflection of us, it is a picture of our grandmothers”.

Saudi women take great pride in caring for their family and raising their children, often taking all major decisions in their households as well as the smaller ones. Instead of reflecting the many dimensions in a woman’s life, however, communications often reduces this down to a stereotype.

The tone and content of advertising also ignore the fact that most Saudi women would like to work for a reputed company and don’t see their role as being limited to house-making. Close to half of the respondents think that advertising should show women in a work environment or in an outdoor setting, playing sports for example.