Saudi Bans Energy Drinks Advertising – What Now Happens To Social Media

The Kingdom’s Government took the drastic step yesterday of introducing a raft of measures aimed at restricting the sale, promotion and consumption of energy drinks. The move, which was not expected, will mean that as of now energy drinks companies will no longer be able to advertise or carry out promotion campaigns through ‘electronic or print media or any other means’.

It doesn’t end there. The Saudi Cabinet banned the free distribution of energy drinks to consumers belonging to all age groups. Energy drinks have also been banned in restaurants and canteens at government establishments, as well as educational and health institutions, public and private sports clubs and halls.

To quote from the report on the Al-Arabiya news-site, the full list of measures includes:

1 – To prohibit advertising of any energy drink or do advertising or promotional campaigns for any energy drink via any readable, audible or visible media organ, or by any other means.”

2 – To prohibit energy drinks companies, their agents, distributors and marketing associations from sponsoring any sporting, social or cultural event, or taking any procedure leading to promotion.

3 – To prohibit the free distribution of energy drinks to consumers of all age groups.

4 – To prohibit the sale of energy drinks in restaurants and canteens in government facilities; education and health facilities; halls and public and private sports clubs.

5 – Upon the decision, factory owners and importers of energy drinks shall be committing to writing a text on the tin of any energy drink in Arabic and English languages – warning of the harmful effects of energy drinks.”

In a market that has been constantly growing for the energy drinks sector (you can find Red Bull, Bison, Power Horse and other popular energy drinks brands everywhere), this is going to be a major blow for the business. Red Bull has already put out statements defending its position, including its availability in 165 countries worldwide and a lack of evidence to show that it is harmful (you can read the statement in full here). Red Bull and other brands are major event sponsors, and it’s uncertain where the shortfall in funding will come from.

However, the one area which has yet to be clarified is social media. Red Bull has its Saudi Twitter feed (@RedBullSaudi) and Facebook pages for its events. Red Bull did put out a tweet today from its Saudi feed. How is social media classified? Is it advertising or is social media more subtle? And how do the authorities class social media? It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, both in the real world as well as on social media.

Five tips on how to survive and thrive during Gitex

It’s here, the region’s most manic event. Gitex, the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition, is to public relations and media people what Christmas is to parents of little children who believe in Father Christmas; a ruthless, insane, once-in-a-year event where everyone wants what’s on their wish list and you have to deliver.

From someone who’s done his fair share of Gitex exhibitions both as a journo, a PR person and as one of the organizers, here’s my five top tips on how not just to survive Gitex but thrive despite all of the noise, confusion, and occasional tantrums (you know whom these executives and organizers are). So here we go!

1) A phone with an endless battery

At Gitex your phone will be ringing incessantly. No one has died, there’s no new births to report, and the world is not coming to an end. But if you’re a journalist you’ll be every PR person’s best friend for five days (especially if you work for the official publisher ITP). And if you’re a PR person the pressure to deliver interviews will quickly build to a crescendo. Every single journalist within a four-hour flight will be on your quick dial list. Just don’t let the phone die.

Make sure your phone battery never, ever dies during Gitex. Or else you’ll never be forgiven. (image source: Daily Mail)

2) Lots and lots and lots of caffeine

You will not eat or sleep during Gitex. What you will live on is caffeine and taurine. You will drink coffee, tea, and Red Bull like its water. Gitex veterans will normally lug around with them a couple of cans of energy drinks. And for those new to Gitex, bring lots of small change. The venue doesn’t sell cheap beverages (there is however a supermarket around the corner in the DWTC residences, besides the metro station and opposite Pizza Express).

The above is one way to carry your Red Bull during Gitex, though it’s not recommended. (image source: wikimedia)

3) Ear Plugs

Gitex is noisy. Actually that’s wrong. Gitex is deafening. Exhibitors assume that the higher the wattage from their surround sound system, the more people will stop and watch the models… ahem, executives talking about their business. Gitex is the exhibition equivalent of a Tuesday night club which is hosting a drum and bass session combined with a ladies free-entry policy. If you want to ensure that you leave with your hearing intact then take ear plugs with you. Just don’t forget to take them out when you’re interviewing/arranging for interviews.

Pillows won’t help with the noise pollution at Gitex. Get some ear plugs. (image source:

4) Panadol, Ibuprofen, Vicodin…

You get the point. At some time during Gitex, you’re going to be hit by the mother of all headaches. Be prepared, take lots of meds with you. And if you don’t have any and the dreaded throbbing and pain strikes then head on down to the pharmacy on the concourse to grab your pain killer of choice.

Bring drugs, lots of drugs! You will need them. (image source: The Guardian)

5) The Patience of a Saint

At some point you’re going to be surrounded by screaming, nagging executives who are behaving like a bunch of toddlers/prima donnaa. There’s really thing that you can do, apart from swallow your pride, paint a smile on your face, and remain calm. Gitex would test the patience of the Dalai Lama, so remember you’re not alone in your frustrations. For the week however, you will have to suffer in silence. Remember that patience is a virtue so stay calm!

Keep calm, take a deep breath. Gitex will soon be over. (image source:

What’s your top tips for Gitex? Share and share alike. Remember, we’re in this together!

Red Bull and a crisis in Kuwait that hasn’t hit the headlines

Surprisingly, Red Bull has not hit the headlines for what appears to be a number of major events in Kuwait. The company, best known worldwide for popularizing the energy drink concept, has apparently been embroiled in a crisis in Kuwait after a young Kuwaiti passed away after drinking too many cans of Red Bull. I’m going to continually use the word apparently as there’s no information out there in English and the only information in Arabic can be found on chat rooms.

According to Kuwait’s social media scene the Kuwaiti Ministry of Commerce has of the end of March banned all sales of Red Bull to those under 16 years of age. The below are a news piece from Kuwait’s news agency Kuna and an image shared over twitter of a Red Bull fridge with a sign in Arabic saying that Red Bull is not for sale to those under 16 years of age. Here is the same info on a discussion forum.

The article from Kuna on Kuwait’s decision to ban Red Bull sales to those under the age of 16. There’s no publishing date on this however (credit: Downtimes)

And a sign on top of a fridge which states that no sales of Red Bull are allowed to those under 16, which is supposedly from a Kuwaiti grocery store (credit: UAEwomen forum)

Kuwait’s Twitter community has also been focusing on the news, but surprisingly the topic hasn’t been trending outside of the country.

Whether this is all true or not, as it always the case with the internet the story is spreading especially in Arabic. The news can now be found on sites across the Gulf in Arabic. The fear may be that other GCC countries will follow Kuwait’s lead (such an action wouldn’t be unusual). However, it’d be fascinating to know what Red Bull has done to tackle this issue. There have been suggestions that Red Bull has upped its ad spending to tackle the issue, and that may explain why there’s little news of this in Kuwait’s vibrant media scene.

However, Red Bull has avoided the spotlight before. If you do read Arabic have a look at this piece on Red Bull apparently employing women to hand out cans in Riyadh back in December. Some would say brave, others would say silly.

Women walking outside of Riyadh’s Kingdom center apparently handing out Red Bull to passing motorists (credit: Murmur website)