Dubai: Like any big region, the Middle East and North Africa is diverse and the trends that exist within are the tip in terms of the rich cultural heritages that exist within the countries. It is important to recognise that while seen as a region, the quality and type of creativity that emerges is more likely to be culturally reflective of the country and not the region.
You can see this in the TV work from Egypt in particular — the ads reflect the culture of the country and probably could not be replicated elsewhere.
I am often asked: “Is the conservative nature of the region an inhibitor to great creativity?” The first thing I will say is that the level of conservatism is not constant; there are things you see in Egypt and Lebanon that you will not see in the UAE.
Does that restrict great creativity? I say not. Does it means you have to work harder with the ideas and clients to achieve that great creativity? The response is yes. But great ideas and creative communication can emerge in the face of all sorts of challenges, economic and social being two of them.
There is no question that the region are winning more awards and that is an important fact if you view awards, as I do, as a measure of increased creativity.
Dubai Lynx (jointly owned by Cannes Lions and Motivate Publishing) has played an important role in highlighting the importance of creativity and responsible for lifting the creative excellence of the region. This has not been without some pain, by way of us having to remove some Lynx awards for work that was shown not to be paid for and invested in by the client.
But the upshot has been better work, more of it, more legitimate work for big clients that has not just ended up winning at Dubai Lynx but at Cannes and other international events.
Dubai and Lebanon has always done well at Lynx, awards are now starting to be more universal across the region with Egypt and Tunisia doing well and most other countries winning something. The real test of how countries in the region are progressing can best be seen at their performance at Cannes Lions .
Let us be clear about one thing — a Cannes Lion is very hard to win. The volume is huge and the judging hard; so to win any metal or indeed merely to be shortlisted is placing you in very elite company.
In 2012, across the Mena region 21 Lions were awarded. And there were some real highlights: The UAE were the 23rd most awarded country (by way of comparison China was 22nd and India 21st, but both enter a lot more work and are just a bit more populous).
While UAE and Lebanon did well, it was Tunisia who surprised the world winning three golds for ‘The Return of Dictator Ben Ali’.
Add to that, a team from UAE (FP7 Dubai) was placed second in the Young Creative Print competition and Young and Rubicam Dubai was the 12th most creative agency in Europe, Middle East and Africa and you begin to see the picture. The rest of the world is starting to take notice.
— The writer is Chairman of Lions Festivals, which organises Dubai Lynx. This year, The Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity takes place from March 10 to 13 at Madinat Jumeirah.