Creativity transcends borders


July 8, 2013

The Middle East has often been given a fairly tough time, from a creative point of view. The work has often been formulaic; copied or simply cringeworthy. Some of the criticism is justified, but the majority of agencies would love to be able to be a little more bold. However, things seem to be changing, with a new crop of talented creatives populating a lot of Dubai’s best shops.

Certain cultural sensitivities have often been cited as ‘restrictive’, however this is an easy and lazy excuse. The truth is that sub-standard creative had been forced upon, uninspired clients.

Thankfully this trend seems to be changing for the better. However challenges still exist with the approval process, and the vision of certain clients. Many clients would love to experiment with more interesting and creative communications solutions. However the key decision makers seem reluctant to move away from the tried and tested – ‘same, same, but not different’.

Another interesting feature of the region was the prevalence and acceptance of ‘award teams’ within agencies. Creating designs and campaigns that never saw the light of day, and then submitting these to awards panels. However a series of bold ‘name and shame’ campaigns exposed certain agencies who were collecting numerous awards despite not actually having any work exposed to anyone but the creative director and the awards judges.

Dubai’s growth as a genuine cultural and commerce entrepot has led to an inevitable convergence of talent. This talent and the diverse backgrounds of the regional creative have led to the whole industry pulling itself up by the bootstraps. Allowing the region to begin competing with global agencies.

This was highlighted recently with at this years Cannes Lions, with an incredible haul of ‘lions’ for regional agencies. In total 31 Lions were awarded to regional agencies, with Y&R Dubai front and center with 4 golds (amongst a total of 14 Lions), beating Memac Ogilvy’s 3 big cats last year.

These successes and the successes of other regional markets (awards were won by agencies in Tunisia, Egypt, UAE) has raised the bar for the industry and shown that creative work can be rewarding for the agency and effective for the client.

Despite these successes we must temper our euphoria somewhat, this growth and development in certain sectors of the industry, some areas still trail, such as media agencies. Plus if we look a little closer at the categories in which Middle East agencies succeeded it shows a reliance on very traditional channels such as print and outdoor. Still, Cannes wasn’t built in a day.

But it seems traditional mindsets are being changed, which is a fantastic development for the industry. Clients are becoming more willing to have an open mind on their creative execution in the region. There seems to be a convergence between art and design to some extent. We’re all exposed to new, international things everyday, this new attitude is slowly moving us away from the traditional ways of doing things. The industry and the region needs to keep moving forward, and we have a responsibility to help export the great international ideas and see how these can be incorporated into the region and effective for our regional clients.

One way the industry is changing is that human experiences are being placed at the heart of communications. Telling powerful human stories has a hugely profound effect on people; a connection is formed.

Afterall isn’t this industry essentially about leaving a lasting impression?

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