Athar Festival catalyses Saudi creativity during one of its most transformative eras 

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2023 will go down as the year Saudi Arabia truly came into its own as a regional creative hotspot. From fine arts and fashion to entertainment and e-sports, the Kingdom’s achievements can be attributed to not only government sector support but a desire to shape the predominant national narrative. The architects of this movement are, unsurprisingly, a generation of Saudis working alongside both regional and international peers to produce award-winning work.

This creative groundswell has inevitably entered the public consciousness through the marketing realm, culminating in Saudi Arabia’s first Grand Prix at the 2023 Cannes Lions Awards. Wunderman Thompson KSA’s winning campaign for Saudi food delivery giant Hunger Station, The Subconscious Order, perfectly illustrated how the application’s AI-powered restaurant curation feature helped cut customer scrolling time and overcome the frustration of decision fatigue.

For Rayyan Aoun, Wunderman Thompson KSA’s Executive Creative Director, this achievement is only the tip of the iceberg. “We have always held high hopes for the creative industry in Saudi Arabia. We believed in its potential, invested in its talent, and played a role in putting Saudi Arabia on the creative map, both regionally and internationally. However, I believe we have only just begun tapping into the incredible capabilities this country holds, with its vibrant culture, ambitious vision, diverse talents, and fearless marketers,” he said.

One of the Athar Festival’s most anticipated speakers, Fernando Machado, Chief Marketing Officer at the game-changing food tech leader NotCo., is no stranger to the creative festival circuit. Machado is the former CMO of Burger King and known for pushing the creative boundaries to drive business growth. He led campaigns such as Proud Whopper, McWhopper and Google Home of the Whopper during almost six years at the fast food giant. Prior to joining Burger King, Machado worked for 18 years at Unilever. Machado was recognised by Adweek as Grand Brand Genius (2013 and 2018) – the only person to ever win it twice. Fernando is currently the Global Chief Marketing Officer for the NotCompany (NotCo), a fast-growing plant-based food company. He is also a board member at customer engagement platform Braze.

Athar Festival, the largest gathering of the creative marketing industry in the Kingdom that recognises and celebrates local creativity, is set to take place from 13–16 November 2023 at the Hotel Crowne Plaza Riyadh RDC.

The festival has just opened its doors to early-bird delegate and awards gala dinner registration. Delegates will have the opportunity to connect with visionary leaders, explore trailblazing ideas, and gain insights into Saudi’s transformative giga projects and other exciting business prospects within the Kingdom at Athar – Saudi Festival of Creativity, where new perspectives, opportunities, and global connections await. The festival will culminate with the Athar Awards Gala Dinner which will feature the Creative Legacy Awards, adjudicated jointly by the organisers of Cannes Lions and Dubai Lynx – and will be presented to the agencies, network, and brand of the decade. The awards will also feature the winners of a 24-hour hack competition part of the young talent academy that will run in parallel with the festival.

Athar Festival will be able to accommodate around 1,500 delegates and will feature 12 academies for young professionals, along with CMOs and executive women. The festival will host 80+ national, international and celebrity speakers who will deliver thought provoking insights across six content themes. These include – Technology as a creative driver; Strategies that help grow brands; Inspiration and idea generation; Work culture and talent; Bringing a positive change to society; and Saudi Arabia – a thriving market for the creative community.

The festival is organised by Motivate Media Group, the region’s leading multi-platform content producer and co-presenter the Dubai Lynx Festival since 2007, together with TRACCS, the largest independent and homegrown regional communications consultancy headquartered in Saudi Arabia.




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