Maha Adnan | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2019

Maha Adnan

Marketing Manager

Saudi Arabia

“For MENA, developing relevant Arabic content should be a priority, as it continues to lag behind the upsurge of users.”

Maha Adnan is an outstanding young communicator who, in the words of one industry insider, “has given all the brands she’s worked with a huge shove up the backside to ensure they're more relevant to younger audiences.” Less than a year after joining Saudi Arabia’s new low-cost airline, Flyadeal, as marketing manager, Adnan and her team challenged the status quo for airline comms by launching a countrywide prank, “Flyadeal Cargo Class,” which garnered worldwide media attention. With 10 years of marcomms experience under her belt, Adnan’s achievements include rebuilding the marketing department of food manufacturer Sunbulah Group into an integrated marcomms model. She has worked for P&G on projects and brands such as Pampers UNICEF, the Olympics, Ariel 3D Deep Clean and Tide White Hearts, and is an advocate for the role marcomms can play in creating preference and shortening the sales cycle, especially when technology is used well to help communicators innovate and take risks.

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
Measurement: metrics that can calculate financial ROI and growth generation. Relevant content: for MENA, developing relevant Arabic content should be a priority as it continues to lag behind the upsurge of users.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
In today’s digital world, the lines between comms and marketing have blurred. As a standalone, PR lags behind others and needs to innovate digitally in order to survive merging with other marketing disciplines.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Content creation.

How do you define innovation?
Finding better solutions to tackle current requirements or needs.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Not to blow our own horn... Flyadeal’s Cargo Class campaign.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Dubai transport network Careem.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
When we launched Ariel Pods at P&G, we needed to find a way to make a detergent an interesting enough topic. We launched a fashion show with upcoming fashion designers. To get the media, influencers and customers talking about the key benefit of stain removal, we had a set of models walk down the runway, staining each other’s white dresses with makeup. They then walked into a cylindrical pod on stage, and when it revolved seconds later, the same set of models appeared to be wearing stain-free dresses. This baffled the audience until we explained that we used twin models. It was the first time in the GCC where a detergent earned over 50 million impressions.

Most underrated trait in a PR person?
A hustle mindset.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I brainstorm with children.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Innovation is, in my humble opinion, a posh word for change. The reality is, change is inevitable. Your audience changes, their needs, interests and requirements change. If the industry does not innovate and find solutions for its current challenges, business will start shifting budget to areas which show tangible and lucrative results.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
How marcomms can help to convert current and future prospects to loyal customers.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend to rent, read or stream tonight?
The book “Who moved my cheese?” by Dr Spencer Johnson.