J. Walter Thompson creates an unusual comic heroine whose browsing turns her into an icon
A Saudi woman obliviously walks the length of the country in this new film from J. Walter Thompson Riyadh for the Saudi Telecom Company (STC).
The spot is the latest episode from its Laywagif platform – aimed at promoting the brand’s reliable broadband service. STC introduces Um Ali, a Saudi matriarch who lets nothing come between her and her browsing.
Absorbed by her fast and reliable internet connection, Um Ali unintentionally roams the length and breadth of Saudi Arabia, as she continues to browse on her mobile. As she does so she inadvertently catches the attention and imagination of those she passes. For one thing, the sight of a woman walking the streets unaccompanied is still relatively unusual in Saudi Arabia – but the kingdom has recently seen a number of social changes including lifting the ban on women driving and allowing women to work and study without the permission of a male guardian. So smartphone-addicted Um Ali is an accidental and gently comic sign of progress.
The humorous video of an unaccompanied Um Ali walking across Saudi, went viral in just one week, garnering over 2 million views, turning Um Ali into a social media and sports icon, who even sparked a national marathon: the “Race Um Ali”, organized by The Riyadh Women’s Walking Group.
The film was created for Laywagif, the MENA region’s first online branded content hub which gave Saudi youth the freedom to ‘not let anything stop them’. Indeed that’s where the name of the platform “LaYawgif” comes from.
The wide variety of shows created for the Hub allowed STC to host a number of competitions designed to cast more actors and hunt for new directors. Winners have starred in the shows, others have directed episodes or even been sent to study filmmaking abroad.
In under a year, STC became the market leader in broadband with a 22% increase in revenue and market share and LaYwagif became the most visited YouTube channel in the Kingdom and the world’s number one telco YouTube channel. Many of its stars are now on demand by other brands and shows. As a result, STC has now an immense database of Saudi talent and an ability to spot future celebrities.
STC has stopped being just a telecom operator and has demarcated itself from the category. In doing so, it has become a broadcaster in itself.