For decades, women in Saudi Arabia weren’t allowed to drive. But when the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman overturned this ruling last year, he ushered in a new era of modernity and tolerance in the kingdom. The Japanese car brand Nissan instantly took note and jumped at the opportunity to market its vehicles to women in Saudi. Months later, their campaign #SheDrives is in full gear, and the women of Saudi are a few weeks away from driving into the sunset.
The problem: On September 26, Saudi Arabia officially announced it would allow women to drive, lifting a decades-long ban that has become synonymous with female oppression and discrimination in the kingdom. Effective in June, the reform underscores Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s pledge to upend a deeply conservative society and overhaul the country’s economy by increasing women’s participation in the workplace. According to the World Bank, women in Saudi currently make up almost half of the entire population, and yet the only account for about 16.2 percent of the total labor force.
The approach: Nissan first showed its support to Saudi women on September 26, when they celebrated the reform with a tweet of a license plate that read “2018 GRL” in English and Arabic. Two weeks later, they launched #SheDrives as a way to encourage women to apply for their license and get behind the wheel.
The campaign includes a video testimonial of Saudi women sharing their thoughts on what driving means to them. In the clip, Shahad Khan says “I think that driving can make a girl independent and more self-reliant.” Another woman, Rahaf Shafi, explains that her husband feels reluctant because “we got so used to women not driving.”
While the women are thrilled by the prospect, they have experienced reluctance from some of their family members. To boost their confidence, Nissan took them for a special driving lesson, which you can see in the video as well. As they waited for their instructors to arrive, they were surprised when their husbands, brothers or fathers showed up instead.
In an attempt to unite all aspects of the campaign, Hussein Dajani, the company’s general manager for digital marketing and customer experience, told Digiday that “Saudi women are no longer secondary audiences,” adding “They’re equally important to males, and if not, then they are more important than them.” Moving forward, the brand will direct more of its marketing efforts to women, starting with adjusting the tone of its contents. Until recently, Dajani explained, Nissan in Saudi Arabia mostly used Arabic masculine words in their ads.
The feel good: The campaign beautifully captures this rite of passage — your first driving lesson — in a video that is as emotional as it is empowering. #SheDrives is also a great example of a brand leveraging the power of social media to raise awareness about an issue. Over the years, women who protested or defied the driving ban were jailed and prosecuted. But as one father says in the video: “One day this whole thing is going to be part of history.”