Can Saatchi & Saatchi revive its fortunes?

March 24, 2009

Saatchi & Saatchi must be letting out a huge sigh of relief. The once prominent creative agency had almost disappeared off the Middle East’s agency map, but now it’s been given the chance to revive its fortunes thanks to its first major account win in ages – the Dubai Metro.

The securing of the brief follows months of turbulence and an internal restructure that has seen a string of newcomers walk through its doors and regional creative director Ed Jones depart. The changes have been implemented for obvious reasons. It needs to improve.

Saatchi & Saatchi remains a shadow of its former self. The heady days of 2007, when it was named the inaugural Dubai Lynx advertising agency of the year, are hard to recollect.

Is Dubai Metro the boost needed to turn the agency around?

Why can’t adland play nicely?

March 24, 2009

As the bluster of last week’s Dubai Lynx dies down (or heats up depending on your opinion) one lasting impression from the night itself was of certain attendees choosing to leave the event rather than cheer on their peers/rivals. Of course no one likes to lose, and one of the inevitable aspects of awards is that work that didn’t get recognised took as much time, effort and determination as work that did. But that, as they say, is just the way the cookie crumbles.

Even taking into account the natural competitiveness that such occasions throw up, was it too much to expect that on one of the few nights the region’s industry gets together to celebrate as one, people might have been able to grin and bear it?

The nature of the Lynx awards ceremony itself might be partly to blame. At other awards nights elsewhere in the world, after the prize giving is over the party kicks in until the wee hours with agencies, win or lose, thrown together on a dancefloor at the actual awards’ venue. So what can we do to remedy the situation? Will an awards night that goes on to gather everyone together afterwards be the solution, or would that just end in more tears before bedtime?

Are we going silly over social networks?

March 23, 2009

twitterbird2Are we going silly over social networks? That’s the question we ask in the latest edition of Campaign Middle East.

The exploding popularity of sites such as Twitter and Facebook have generated a massive amount of interest.

On the plus side, these social networking sites offer immediate sharing of information, news and opinions. Abha Malpani, a former professional blogger and now a new media consultant at  Asda’a PR, is a keen advocate. “What I get out of Twitter is the instant connectivity with people that you wouldn’t get otherwise,” she says.

But there fears that sites such as Twitter, with its limit of 140 characters per post, are dumbing us down by encouraging shallow thinking, short attention spans, selfishness and gossip. In situations such as the vastly exaggerated Melbourne aeroplane incident, rumours on Twitter take flight and are accepted as reality when there’s no substance. This introduces more serious concerns about the spread of misinformation and the possibility of stolen identity.

Francis Matthew, editor at large of Gulf News, says: “There is a disturbing trend that you get a lot of personal impressions.  It’s very ‘me, me, me’ and there is not enough fact and authoritative third-party reporting. That’s a real danger.”

Then you throw brands into the mix. Marketers are getting involved in social networking – either reactively, to defend their reputations and answer complaints online, or proactively, by using these sites as a new way of  engaging with consumers.

But this is a difficult path to tread, says Mohamed Elzubeir of analysis agency Mediastow, as many web users react against what they see as corporate intrusion. “Very few brands have spokespeople who can connect with the public at such an intimate level,” he says.

So what do you think? Are sites like a Twitter a useful tool or are they turning us into dribbling, ignorant dummies?

Is digital as attractive as it appears?

March 22, 2009

Digital seems to be the new black. It’s the trend everyone is talking about. Advertising budgets might shrink, say ‘those in the know’, but online platforms will attract a bigger share of those budgets than ever before.

The global CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group, Laura Desmond, told the Dubai Lynx festival last week that worldwide digital spending will see double-digit growth this year. And here in the Middle East, research company Real Opinions says its survey of almost 450 business people in the region showed more than a third were increasingly interested in the internet as a communications channel.

Why is this? Well, apparently its reach is more measurable. It’s also more flexible – ads can be continually adjusted and targeted more accurately. Crucially, it is also cheaper. One recent estimate puts digital ad rates at around a fifth of their print counterparts.

But questions remain. Firstly, are websites and internet services in the Middle East sufficiently well-developed to offer advertisers and agencies an effective platform?

Secondly, is there any good evidence for the success of online ads? It’s all very well telling us how many people viewed the page where the ad appeared but we don’t always know whether this led the consumer to make a purchase.

Related to that point is the argument that many consumers are irritated by the intrusion of uninvited ads flashing up on their screens. From banners to pop-ups and search to screensavers, nobody has properly solved the conundrum of how ads should appear on the internet.

Furthermore, is there a lingering mistrust of online ads? Brands that are already well established and well trusted are probably safe from such suspicion, but what about a new brand?

All of which makes us wonder (returning to our slightly awkward fashion metaphor) whether digital is the latest little black dress – appears to be dazzling but cleverly covers up one or two embarrassing flaws underneath?

du seeks to overcome ‘teething problems’

March 19, 2009

duIt’s not often that a company, least of all a telecommunications organisation, admits that its customer service isn’t up to scratch. So fair play to du for putting its hands up and stating that it “stumbled” when Campaign rang up recently for its ‘We’ll Call You’ column. When asked to explain its ‘Add Life To Life’ slogan, the call handler had simply stated: “I’m sorry I don’t have this information.”

Most companies blame the staff for failures on the phone or in the store, when in fact it is the company that is to blame for often incoherent answers that stray off brand message.

More impressively, du is currently putting into place new procedures to ensure that its “teething problems” can be overcome. It will be interesting to see whether it improves.

All over bar the shouting

March 18, 2009

khedeThe judges are on their way home, the winners are nursing hangovers, and it’s as you were for the region’s advertising community, but was the Dubai Lynx a success?

Outspoken international judges and a dodgy speech by Bob Isherwood, the former worldwide creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, certainly spiced up the three-day jamboree, but when the dust has settled questions are sure to be asked. It certainly wasn’t a vintage year by any stretch of the imagination, with only Leo Burnett Beirut’s ‘Khede Kasra’ (pictured) standing out as a truly world-class campaign. Indeed, as jury president Tham Khai Meng, worldwide creative director of Ogilvy & Mather, said, if it weren’t for the fact that the campaign was for a charity, it would have won two grand prixs.

FP7 Doha are to be congratulated for their consistency and for their dogged commitment to pushing the region’s creativity onwards, but Fadi Yaish, the agency’s creative director, was the first to admit that the region hadn’t taken a step forward at this year’s Lynx.

It was also disappointing to see some agencies walk out en masse during the Lynx ceremony when they realised things weren’t going their way, revealing yet again that the industry is more divided than united.

FP7 Doha win Lynx agency of the year

March 17, 2009

fp7dohapartyIt’s late, we’ve just got back from celebrating with FP7 Doha, Lowe and the rest of MCN at the C Bar, but in case you didn’t already know, FP7 Doha won agency of the year, Starcom media agency of the year, and Leo Burnett Cairo walked away with the print grand prix.

More tomorrow…

Update: Some highlights. Only the grand prixs and golds here, for everything else check the Dubai Lynx website.
Agency of the year: 1st FP7 Doha; 2nd FP7 Dubai; 3rd Team Y&R Dubai

Grand prix – FP7 Cairo for Coca-Cola
Golds – Leo Burnett Beirut’s ‘Stop the suffering’ for P&G; FP7 Doha for Samsung; Lowe’s ‘Staying alive’ for MTV;
Grand prix – Leo Burnett Cairo’s ‘Egyptian hotdog’ for Heinz
Golds – FP7 Doha’s ‘Ink, oil and mud’ for Samsung; FP7 Doha’s work for Aramex; FP7 Dubai’s ‘Gummi bears’ for the Brainobrain Education Program.
dscn0616Grand prix – FP7 Dubai’s ‘Gummi bears’
Golds – The Tribe’s ‘U2 3D’; FP7 Doha’s work for Aramex
Gold – Leo Burnett Beirut’s ‘Khede Kasra’ campaign for the Hariri Foundation.
Media agency of the year
1st Starcom; 2nd OMD Dubai; 3rd Leo Burnett Beirut
Grand prix – Starcom’s ‘Galaxy fallen in love again’
Golds – Leo Burnett Beirut’s ‘Khede Kasra’; Starcom’s ‘Galaxy fallen in love again’; Starcom’s ‘New day, new dawn’; Impact BBDO Kuwait’s ‘Crashed mobile’ for Wataniya; Starcom’s ‘Your path, our car, let’s pl@y’; Memac Ogilvy’s ‘One breasted mannequin’;