Five years in Dubai have challenged the BBDO MENA CCO’s natural tendencies towards doom and gloom and he’s seen local creativity bloom
Right in front of your nose.
Amazing what happens when the sun shines every day.
This is the MENA region.
Where supersonic change happens (if you let it) every day.
I’ve been working in Dubai now for five years and the difference in these few years is mind-blowing.
It’s a place where things happen… just because they can.
The biggest buildings, fastest driverless train and even the first mission to Mars.
Scary stuff, the unknown.
Trying something new.
But someone has to try it.
Advertising is no different.
That’s because the belief is here.
We believed we could win the regions first ever GP at Cannes.
We believed we could win D&AD yellow pencils and we did.
Best of show at the One show an even 2 shortlists in the LBB Immortal awards.
So why is it changing so quickly?
Speaking for myself, at BBDO we changed our culture.
We used to be a flood of expat talent.
Brazil, UK, US, Australia.
This was great for building a solid level of creative.
But this never got the agency to the dizzy heights of GP at Cannes and all the above.
It was short term fixing.
Now we are letting Arabic creatives lead our thinking.
Encouraging them to shape the culture.
Giving them the chance to succeed or fail.
The agency is finding its Arabic soul. Its Arabic character and confidence.
It was simple.
Look at what’s right in front of you and empower them.
And you know what it’s also scary.
The unknown again.
But so far so good.
We have competed against the best and held our own.
This year the One Club announced the next 10 Creative Leaders from around the globe and we had two in the top 10.
One in Dubai office and the other in our Pakistan office.
Home grown now best in the world.
We are in the top creative league tables in every creative discipline.
Breaking records in creativity and effectiveness.
More importantly we now expect rather than hope.
Our Arabic creatives continue to grow and believe.
Making us feel more like a family than an agency.
I’ve always believed that creativity is organic.
It can grow with success and can be nurtured from home grown talent in any environment.
I am not saying this is a new thing.
Arabic talent has always been here.
But I think we are now seeing that in a bigger scale.
Across more disciplines.
And not just in creative.
Some of best planning and account management are Arabic.
Some may say I am being ideologist.
Yes, it’s true.
It takes a lot of failing to get to where we are today.
We have just as many bad days as good.
And of course, it’s just as easy to go back as well as forward.
Creativity It is still extremely fragile in this region.
But we are progressing in the right direction.
Because we are surrounded by progress and need to remind ourselves of this.
All I know is the sun shines here 350 days a year for a reason.
Yes, our industry is still developing and a long way from being complete.
But we have energy and a sense of belief.
My job is to keep focused on the positives.
And never pour cold water on some else’s dreams.
I would love to take credit for that quote.
Before I get an avalanche of sarcastic messages.
I am personally no great positive thinker.
In fact, I am more at home in the doom and gloom world.
But I have learned to keep on the bright side over the years.
And that what you have in front of you. Is all you need.