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Video Marketing on Medium-to-Large Corporations in Saudi Arabia Post COVID-19

The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted not only lives and livelihoods globally but also customer experiences and business models. It was the worst global recession since World War II, with the world economy contracting by 3.5% in 2020 (International Monetary Fund, 2021). Available economic data illustrate that the severe restrictions introduced to contain the virus caused massive shocks in most economic sectors. In Saudi Arabia, the GDP shrunk by between -4.8 to -9.8% from the baseline despite targeted fiscal countermeasures (Havrlant et al., 2020). Businesses were hurt by strict responses, such as border closures, domestic movement restrictions, and supply chain disruptions.

For companies, resilience during these turbulent times demands building capabilities suited to a different context. This applies to all companies, not just corporations. Brand marketers have to decide whether to invest in in-house teams or external agencies, considering a consumer shift to e-commerce and pandemic-related cutbacks. The World Federation of Advertisers [WFA] (2020) report found that 57% of brands have in-house advertising agencies that help generate digital content and implement creative media. Marketers have increasingly adopted in-house teams over ad agencies in pandemic times for obvious reasons, including cost savings, better integration, and brand familiarity.

Brands have to be more agile to overcome the pandemic challenges and exploit new opportunities. New business models have been adopted that may outlive the immediate crisis. A notable global trend is a significant shift to e-commerce as consumers embrace online shopping. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest online populations globally, with online shoppers projected to reach 19.3 million by 2022 (Statista, 2020). Thus, the country has moved to being almost completely digital, providing opportunities for internal marketing operations to cut costs and gain more flexibility and agility that are necessary to survive the pandemic effects. Globally, 74% of in-house agencies have been created since 2015, with companies such as Nestlé joining this trend in 2020 (WFA, 2020). The airline industry is headed towards turbulent times and will most likely try to save costs by adopting in-house marketing rather than contracting external advertising agencies. Thus, this paper will investigate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the acceleration of a shift towards corporate digital marketing and communication in Saudi Arabia, focusing on the Saudi Airlines Catering Company. Consumers research brands on different online media channels and marketers target these touch points to promote their products. At this level, corporate digital marketing is the delivery of ads or relevant content to customers through platforms such as brand websites, social media, email, and Internet-based applications (Kingsnorth, 2019). The specific issues to be addressed and justifications are discussed below.

In-house Operations vs. Ad Agencies in COVID-19 Period

One aspect of corporate digital marketing and communication in Saudi Arabia that will be examined through this study is the extent to which Saudi enterprises have embraced a digital strategy in marketing and communication to survive the pandemic. While statistics suggest a decline in the use of ad agencies, some corporations still outsource some branding operations or rely on their input. The WFA (2020) report shows that 40% of companies with in-house operations, including Vodafone, source ideas for new branding projects externally. This blended or hybrid model suggests that in-house marketing has not completely replaced agencies. New forms of relationships and dynamics have emerged related to roles in planning, execution, ownership of commercials, and insourcing and automation of work (Deloitte, 2021a). Thus, it will be interesting to compare the type and amount of marketing services reserved for in-house talent against those outsourced before and during the pandemic to understand how COVID-19 has exacerbated this trend.

Impact of In-House Marketing and Communication

COVID-19-related effects have no doubt accelerated the shift to in-house marketing. Agile teams have been established and many advertising projects moved in-house. One effect of this trend is creating a highly creative but possibly narrowly focused marketing team that may not be ideal for future growth (Vincent & Hlongwa, 2021). An agency has cutting-edge knowledge and expertise that may be lacking in in-house departments. For this reason, in-house marketing and communications that do not involve external resources at critical points in the branding process are likely to suffer. On the other hand, corporations that have adopted in-house marketing report savings of 6-20% in marketing costs (WFA, 2020). Thus, an in-house agency may positively impact the organizational cost structure. However, it may also affect workflow and productivity when assembling the team, which may force some companies to abandon the approach. In this regard, it will be critical to study how in-house marketing and communication have impacted Saudi Airlines Catering Company.

Advantages and Disadvantages

In-house marketing is definitely a useful alternative to ad agencies, especially since the pandemic demands austerity measures for companies to survive. Focusing inward will also help build the resiliency and internal capabilities needed to realize growth targets. Thus, in-house marketing comes with some key benefits for organizations. The WFA (2020) report that surveyed 53 marketers in major corporations revealed “cost efficiencies, better integration, and brand knowledge” as the main advantages of in-house agency (p. 7). Thus, the approach is a cost-cutting strategy for business survival through the pandemic.

In addition, highly efficient in-house teams are more skilled and aligned with the brand strategy than advertising agencies are. However, such operations may be narrowly focused and thus cannot respond to market changes swiftly. Additionally, ad agencies deal with a variety of clients, are exposed to diverse marketing strategies, and constantly up-skill, which make them well-positioned to handle branding challenges (Sinclair, 2020). These advantages may not always apply to in-house teams or departments. Thus, it would be useful to investigate the benefits and challenges to the in-house agency side for Saudi Airlines Catering Company in the pre-COVID-19 versus pandemic period.

Physical versus Virtual Meetings

COVID-19 has disrupted the traditional workplace, especially its physical aspect, accelerating the transition to remote working. Virtual work has become a new normal, helping overcome geographical disadvantages and enhancing flexibility because in pre-pandemic meetings, attendees had to appear in person (Alexander et al., 2020). Now, with the videoconferencing applications, people can engage in discussions virtually. However, organizations have deployed communication and ecommerce technologies to a variable extent, limiting their ability to exploit the new opportunities and ensure meaningful interactions (Deloitte, 2021b). It would be important to investigate the trends in physical versus virtual meetings to understand how Saudi Airlines Catering Company has leveraged communication technologies to enable staff to be heard during the pandemic.

Top-down Communication of Executive Decisions

Multimedia materials, including animated video reports, represent an innovative and engaging way of sharing ideas. In an organizational context, executive decisions that do not require a response from lower-level employees use a top-down communication approach. It ensures that recipients understand or interpret the information in order to take the expected action. Thus, it is useful for communicating corporate and business-level strategies adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Executive decisions can be simulated in animated videos to help elicit specific emotions in employees, ensure they understand the context for the resolutions, avoid misinterpretations, and understand the ideas in a memorable way (Dyer et al., 2020). Therefore, this study will assess the impact of executive decisions translated into animated videos on the effectiveness of downward communication in Saudi Airlines Catering Company.

C-level Executive Meetings

The COVID-19 era has seen organizations embrace a hybrid model of work. This working arrangement means that employees can work part-time in a physical office before transitioning to a virtual setup. Considerations for desirable outcomes (productivity and access to talent) and costs are critical in choosing an optimal hybrid model, as board members may be required to travel or perform their C-suite responsibilities virtually (Alexander et al., 2020). The post-pandemic outcome is unclear: which proportion of the board should be in the office and why? Comparing the characteristics of C-level meetings that require members to travel and digital conferencing will help answer this question.

Adaptations to Corporate Marketing and Communications

The post-COVID-19 period will require a redesign of the marketing and communications strategy to capture emerging consumer experiences. Online shoppers globally are projected to increase, reaching 19.3 million in Saudi Arabia by the year 2022 (Statista, 2020). Thus, consumer behavior and experiences have shifted due to the crisis. Marketing professionals will need to create a caring brand for customers, employees, and the community. Opening informal channels or digital options for connecting with people can help reach new audiences with adequate cybersecurity measures (McKinsey & Company, 2020). Thus, it would be interesting to study the adaptations made to corporate marketing and communications that are likely to continue to the post-COVID-19 period.

Internet Infrastructure

The shift to e-commerce by both customers and businesses due to the pandemic has been unprecedented. For Saudi Arabia, the number of online shoppers is projected to grow even after the COVID-19 crisis ends. Among the key drivers of this trend is that online shops and sites are key to business continuity during disruptions. It is likely that customers currently using digital services will continue doing so in the post-COVID-19 period, which means that the post-pandemic recovery will be digital (McKinsey & Company, 2020). Thus, firms delivering superior experiences online will gain market share due to increased adoption. For this reason, it would be critical to assess the capability of the internet infrastructure in Saudi Arabia to support the digital transformation after the crisis.


Based on the issues identified for investigation, the study objectives include:

  • Investigate the pandemic-related marketing and communication trends of medium-to-large enterprises in pre- and post-COVID-19 (specifically, in-house versus outsourced marketing services).
  • Investigate the cost and output impact of medium-to-large enterprises moving marketing and communication in-house in Saudi Arabia.
  • Evaluate the benefits and challenges of moving corporate marketing and communications in-house versus outsourcing in pre-COVID-19 period and during the crisis.
  • Investigate the trends in physical meetings versus virtual C-level executive meetings in the post-COVID-19 period.

Key Information or Facts to Be Gathered

Information and data will be collected through a case study of the Saudi Airlines Catering Company. The research will also employ key strategic analysis models, including competitor analysis and SWOT. Primary data will be obtained through surveys targeting directors and executive position holders at Saudi Airlines. Company publications and independent reports will provide secondary data for the study.


Alexander, A., De Smet, A., &. Mysore, M. (2020). Reimagining the postpandemic workforce. McKinsey Quarterly, 1-5.

Deloitte. (2021a). 2021 Global marketing trends: Find your focus. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

Deloitte. (2021b). Growth in turbulent times. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

Dyer, J. H., Godfrey, P., Jensen, R., & Bryce, D. (2020). Strategic management: Concepts and cases (3rd ed.). Wiley.

Havrlant, D., Darandary, A., & Muhsen, A. (2020). Early estimates of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on GDP: A case study of Saudi Arabia. Applied Economics, 53(12), 1317-1325. Web.

International Monetary Fund. (2020). World economic outlook: The great lockdown. Web.

Kingsnorth, S. (2019). Digital marketing strategy: An integrated approach to online marketing (2nd ed.). Kogan Page.

McKinsey & Company. (2020). The next normal: The recovery will be digital. Web.

Sinclair, J. (2020). Cracking under pressure: Current trends in the global advertising industry. Media International Australia, 174(1), 3-16. Web.

Statista. (2020). Number of online shoppers in Saudi Arabia from 2016 to 2022. Web.

World Federation of Advertisers. (2020). Creative in-housing hits 57% among multinationals. Web.

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