I’m not sure who had the bright idea to send me, the palest man on the planet, to Dubai to judge the Dubai Lynx but I was honored they did. Fortunately I spent most of my time out of the desert sun and locked in a dark hotel room with five creative legends looking at some of the freshest creative I’ve seen in an age.
Here’s the thing, if you work in advertising it doesn’t really matter what department you sit in, your job is essentially to be a creative problem solver. Creative problem solving is what attracted us all to the job in the first place. Well in the Middle East they have some very, very, big problems to solve…
‘Give mom back her name’
Despite being a 3000 year old civilization there exists a peculiar taboo in Egypt where men never disclose their Mother’s name in public fearing they could be shamed or ridiculed. So much so that the mother’s name is forgotten over time and they are only referred to as ‘the mother of her oldest son’. The ‘Give mom her name back’ campaign started a conversation in Egypt that suggested that maybe, just maybe, mothers deserve to be known for more than just producing children..
So before Mother’s Day, UN Women went down the streets of Cairo and asked men one simple question – ‘What is your mother’s name?’. They used the footage to launch a film on social media, and began the initiative for the men of Egypt starting Mother’s Day to ‘Give mom back her name’. This campaign for UN Women has created a ripple effect of awareness across the Middle East region and beyond.
Another campaign I really admired was for EDZ. The problem this time – power cuts. It featured real citizens of Zahle. Recently Zahle became the only city in Lebanon with no power cuts thanks to EDZ. Which was tempting for the star of the campaign Samira’s Beiuti relative to invite herself over and indulge in all the electricity based goodies. Now I’m sure when the agency or director suggested they street cast non-actors for this campaign everyone took a deep breath but they struck gold with the characters they found. They are all superstars.
Sometimes the simple ideas are the best ideas. That’s certainly the case for ‘the Good note’. Lebanon has recently absorbed more than 2 million Syrian refugees and more than half are children, drastically increasing the number of children begging on the streets. Some are exploited by gangs who used the money handed to the children to buy guns, knives and drugs. Unsure of where their money was going, the Lebanese public stopped giving, leaving the majority of street children who are unaffiliated with gangs without basic necessities. So Bou Khalil supermarket created its own currency. The Good Note costs 1000 Lebanese pound (about $1) and is worth the same amount, but can only be spent at Bou Khalil supermarket branches and its affiliated pharmacy (with restrictions on alcohol and tobacco). Simple and yet genius.
I also loved the latest installments of Du’s ‘two movie tickets for the price of one’ campaign. They took a bold decision to move away from showing movie scenes with big production values and instead created films that showcase the ‘behind the scene’ and ‘making of’ aspect of movies. The campaign sees the director of a hideously boring movie describing at length their vision for the film. If you haven’t seen them you’re in for a treat as you are taken through a stunningly beautiful slide show of stills from the movie in question. The performances are great too. Ali Ali co-directed these spots and its just one example of the amazing directional talent coming out of this region.
I also need to give a special mention to Molto’s campaign from Egypt. The premise is so simple – a man on the street asks someone to describe the taste of a ‘Strawberry and cream’ and ‘chocolate and cream’ ice cream but how they bring these spots to life is so charming and effortless that they really stand out . I can imagine if these spots were produced on this side of the world they would have spent 6 months in post and the simple strategy of ‘describe the taste’ would have been replaced by ‘lick happiness’.
Now here’s a weird one for you. In some parts of the world you can actually buy the metal bit of a seatbelt that clicks into the seatbelt buckle. As in, you can buy it separately. Why? Because it stops the annoying ‘beep’ reminder that you’re not wearing your seatbelt. With that in mind the star of the show in this year’s print section was a seatbelt campaign from Qatar Islamic bank. Whoever had the idea of making art with seatbelts is an absolute genius. Whilst a lot of the print entries looked familiar using tried and tested visual techniques- this seatbelt campaign stood out by a mile thanks to its brilliant unique art direction.
The judging experience in Dubai was unforgettable with some world-class work on display and a real sense of creative ambition coming from the region. That ambition is best illustrated by my experience judging the Young Print competition. After I helped hand out the prizes to the winners, about 10 of the non winning students came up to me to ask why their work hadn’t won. ‘We need to get better!’. ‘I need to learn!’, ‘Why didn’t I win!’ Watch out for these guys and gals. We’ll all be working for them soon.
You can find all the winners mentioned in this blog at www.Dubailynx.com.
Alan Kelly is Executive Creative Director of Rothco.