Dubai creatives join forces for good of industry

April 30, 2009

A group of Dubai creatives have come together to establish a club designed to break down agency barriers and represent the community with a single voice.

The new ‘Creative Club’ had its inaugural meeting last night and included creative directors and executive creative directors from Y&R, FP7, Tonic, JWT, Lowe, TBWA\Raad and Brandcom.

lineveldtThe group, which has found a home courtesy of Sam Ahmed at Studio Central, will be meeting monthly. It will also be forming an executive committee and has elected Marc Lineveldt (pictured), executive creative director of FP7 Dubai, as the inaugural chairman.

The aim is for the forum to become a focal point for senior creatives, all of whom are being encouraged to join the club and help combine the opinions of Dubai’s creative community into a single voice.

The Creative Club follows on from the defunct Creative Directors Forum, which was formed in 2005 by many of the creative directors present last night, including Lineveldt, Vincent Raffray from Tonic, and Manoj Ammanath from Brandcom.

“This is very much what Marc and I wanted to do in the first place,” said Raffray. “What’s different is that in Studio Central we have a great place to meet and a real commitment. It’s a better environment and with all the issues that have been happening recently it’s a good time to get together for the benefit of the community. The goal is to give a voice to the region’s creatives and to raise creative standards.”

Disappointment at D&AD, optimism at Clios

April 30, 2009

Middle East ad agencies have failed to gain any nominations at this year’s D&AD Awards despite D&AD nominating a record 165 entries.

bird A2DDB London and BBDO Proximity Malaysia are the two most shortlisted agencies, with 10 and five respectively.

Of the 20,000 pieces of work judged, 717 entries have gone In-Book and will be included in the D&AD Annual as a record of the best work in advertising and design this year. The annual will be published in September and the only Middle East entry will be The Classic Partnership Advertising in the graphic design/stationery category for Tearproof for Prasad Karmarkar.

There was more positive news from the Clios earlier this week, however, where six pieces of regional work are shortlisted. Y&R is shortlisted three times for its ‘Cause & Effect’ work for Harvey Nichols and its ‘Graves’ ads for Eye Bank Association of India; while TBWA\Raad Dubai has two shortlisted pieces of work and Grey Dubai one. TBWA\Raad Saudi Arabia also picked up the country’s first shorlisted entry for its ‘Miniature magazines’ work for Masa Pest Control.

Abha Malpani on brands and social media…

April 28, 2009

Abha Malpani, a senior consultant new media at Asda’a Burson-Marsteller and former professional blogger, believes that authenticity and credibility are key to a brand’s involvement in social media. Here is an excerpt from an essay by Malpani, which is published in the latest issue of Campaign:

“If social media can do wonders for people, why can’t corporations and brands get a piece of the action? They can, but there are issues for brands, just like there are for individuals. Firstly, keeping up with conversations online is never-ending. Too many blogs to read, too many people to connect with, where do you draw the line? How do you keep up?

abha2Then there’s the privacy issue. Not much is left private when you are searchable across multiple platforms. If a brand enters this space, is it prepared to be sufficiently transparent and honest? Will it allow for a two-way dialogue? Will it confront criticism? Will it stay involved or disappear after its purpose is served, like a fair-weather friend?

Much is at stake when active online, and returns are unpredictable. So, how much should you invest? Will it give you tangible returns? My return was a move to Madrid and a job as a blogger. Meanwhile, the Doritos Super Bowl user-generated commercial competition offered a $1 million cash prize and national exposure to the winners; only about 2,000 entries were received. Was it worth it?

If you are a company willing to take the plunge, here are a few things to ponder. Are you part of the networks you want your brand to engage in? Why do they work for you? Will they work for your brand? Put yourself in the shoes of the audience. Would you like to talk with your brand online? Are you prepared to have conversations in these spaces as though you are talking to a friend, not necessarily a potential customer or client?

Authenticity and credibility are key. Never before has a marketer been able to target an audience so narrowly. The benefits, in terms of awareness and word-of-mouth, are significant, but so are the consequences if the ‘conversation’ turns sour. But companies are increasingly coming round to the view that it is better to be involved in the dialogue than to remain outside.

So as a brand, where do you begin with social media? At Asda’a we start by doing a digital check-up. How does your brand rank on search engines? What are people saying about your brand on Facebook? Are bloggers defining opinions of your target audience? How will engaging online complement your communications strategy? As in the ‘real’ world, participating online on a personal level or as a business requires an understanding of the surrounding culture and a commitment to build lasting relationships. But as in our everyday lives, sincere involvement in the online community can be both gratifying and rewarding.”

Time for the power hungry to step aside

April 27, 2009

A nostalgic smile swept across my face the other day. It wasn’t triggered by thoughts of childhood innocence, of musical moments, or of women I once knew. No, it was triggered by a threat. The kind we used to get all the time. Do this, do as I say, or face the consequences. That’s basically what it amounted to.

It was my second such threat from an adman in as many months. What made me smile was not the threat itself, but the fact that people like this still exist. The arrogance of it beggars belief. They are, unfortunately, stragglers from an older world – a world where individual power (or perceived influence) was what mattered, not the industry as a whole. These people still believe that intimidation, jobs for the boys and the pursuit of personal gain are acceptable business practices.

But as Louis Hakim, chairman of the Advertisers’ Business Group, and Philipp Vogeler of Al Jisr Company, say, it’s time for individual power to be well and truly replaced by the power of institutions. As Hakim remarks: “The time has come to leave legacies behind by institutionalising the advertising and media industry.” If this happens, the theory goes that people leading these institutions will work for the good of the industry, rather than for the good of themselves.

However, what advertising institutions do exist are either weak, little respected, or cater only to a small close-knit community of people. In the absence of strong institutions, individuals have filled the gap. Therefore, just as a creative directors’ forum or an art directors’ club is needed in the UAE to help raise creative standards and encourage community interaction, so a regional equivalent of the UK’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) is a prerequisite for industry advancement. The IPA’s goal is to promote the value of agencies and it is a hugely respected and influential professional body. It offers globally recognised training, constantly carries out research, organises industry-wide events, and has its own effectiveness awards.

If the Middle East’s adland is to distance itself from a scenario where “the region is governed by a few people in whose hands the fate of the industry lies”, as Vogeler points out, then a strong, respected, influential and world-class institution such as the IPA must be established as soon as possible. Recent events have only reinforced this view.

Full Stop’s anti-speeding push in Saudi Arabia

April 26, 2009

Jeddah’s Full Stop Advertising is to launch a three-phased anti-speeding campaign in a bid to help correct Saudi Arabia’s horrendous road safety record.

Filming of a new TVC took place on Al-Malik Road in Jeddah last week and the finished commercial will be broadcast on networks such as MBC, Saudi TV and Rotana.

fullstop2The TVC marks the beginning of a campaign for the Saudi Traffic Authority, which is introducing a new electronic traffic monitoring system called Sahir that will document speeding and other violations.

The second phase, which will roll out later this year, will feature stars such as Saudi footballer Yasser Al-Qahtani. The third will focus on Sahir and is designed to shock Saudi citizens into action.

Malák Maghrabi, TV production officer at Full Stop, said: “The campaign targets drivers off all ages and carries a message of anti-speeding. Saudi Arabia ranks third in measures of death, injuries and financial loss due to traffic violations, the worst being speeding and cutting red lights.”

He added: “The TVCs are emotional and action packed, with stunts and visually captivating crashes. They are based on true accidents that have taken place, showing the tragedy of lives lost.”

The marketing push will also utilise press and radio, with shooting also taking place in Riyadh.

Mobily calls review of its advertising account

April 26, 2009

Saudi mobile phone operator Mobily has launched a review of its advertising business.

The company, which is headquartered in Riyadh, is understood to have called an extensive pitch, which has been entered by an estimated 10 agencies, including incumbent Impact BBDO. Although Mobily denies the review is taking place, the pitch deadline was 25 April.

Microsoft Word - Mobily_Screenshots.docxMobily is the official brand name of Etihad Etisalat, the second mobile service provider in Saudi Arabia. It was established by royal decree in 2004 and is owned by multiple stakeholders, including the UAE’s Etisalat, which owns 35 per cent of the company.

Shady Janzeir, internal communications officer, corporate communications at Mobily, would not admit that a pitch was taking place, stating only that: “Mobily is a very dynamic company that is always looking for new and fresh ideas. Mobily does not comment on any ongoing projects before they are launched and publicised.”

In the first quarter of 2009, Mobily’s adspend was $14.8 million, according to the Pan Arab Research Centre. Its main rival is Saudi Telecom.

Arabic pop station to be launched by ADMC

April 26, 2009

A new addition to the UAE radio scene will go on air next month when the Abu Dhabi Media Company launches an Arabic pop station.

The station will be aimed at the UAE’s young Arabic-speaking population, Karim Sarkis, executive director of broadcast at ADMC, tells the latest edition of Campaign Middle East.

martin-newlandwAlso on the drawing board are plans to launch a radio station based on ADMC’s English-language daily newspaper, The National.

It would be the second broadcast spin-off from the broadsheet, following the introduction of the 30-minute TV news show, Inside The National, on ADMC’s Emarat Al Youm channel earlier this year.

Speaking on the first anniversary of The National, editor Martin Newland (pictured) highlighted the need for his newspaper to exploit the full resources and capabilities of ADMC in order to broaden its output across a variety of multimedia channels.

He said: “We’ve produced an operation that just at this moment happens to be incarnated in newsprint. I think we have a few years of grace when we can rely on press capacity and display advertising but it’s going to end. So you have to start thinking now, while your operation is still strong, about where you are going to go and put those things in place.”

FP7 punishes Doha office over Lynx scam scandal

April 23, 2009

Several creative staff are parting company with FP7 Doha and the office is handing back all of its Dubai Lynx awards, it was announced today in the wake of the scam ads scandal.

Parent group Fortune Promoseven has issued a statement following the conclusion of its internal investigation into the affair.

The action has been welcomed by the organisers of last month’s Dubai Lynx, who are overhauling their entry regulations in light of the recent issues.

The names of the staff leaving FP7 Doha have not been disclosed – and nor whether they have resigned or been fired. However, it appears likely that creative director Fadi Yaish will be among those moving on.

Fortune Promoseven’s full statement is as follows:

“Fortune Promoseven had committed to thoroughly investigate FP7 Doha’s entries into Dubai Lynx 2009. This internal investigation has now been concluded.

“It seems our strict policies and procedures for awards entries were circumvented. This is clearly unacceptable to our company.

“As a strong demonstration of the seriousness with which we view such behaviour, it has been decided that FP7 Doha will hand back all of its awards from the Dubai Lynx festival, and FP7 Doha has also been instructed not to submit any entries to Cannes Lions 2009.

“Corrective actions are being taken and several staff responsible will part ways with the company. In addition, FP7 Doha is strengthening its policies and procedures to ensure compliance for all future awards entries.”

Philip Thomas, CEO of Lynx organisers Cannes Lions, said: “Promoseven’s decision to have FP7 Doha return all awards – including bona-fide winners – shows real intent.

“Dubai Lynx is about lifting creativity for clients in the region and this action sends a signal to the market that this is what the focus of Lynx will be in the future.

“We will announce changes to the 2010 entry critera shortly.”

The outcome of a separate investigation by Lynx organisers into entries from other agencies is yet to be published.

See earlier posts for the background to this story.

UAE ad spend falls 14 per cent in first quarter

April 22, 2009

The UAE has seen the biggest fall in ad spend in the Middle East region, according to first-quarter figures revealed today by the Pan-Arab Research Centre.

Ad spend in the emirates dropped by 14 per cent from $416 million to $356 million, said PARC. It is the first time the UAE has suffered a decline, after several years of successive growth.

It comes as no big surprise that the sharpest cuts were in the real estate sector, which fell 60 per cent, and the financial services sector, which fell  46 per cent.

Other countries that witnessed cutbacks were Egypt and Bahrain, with 10 per cent and 9 per cent drops respectively.

However, the region as a whole  saw an 11 per cent rise, buoyed by significant increases in Lebanon and Qatar.

Across the region as a whole, the biggest advertiser was Saudi Telecom, whose spending rose from $21 million to $24.6 million. Completing the top five were Etisalat, Head & Shoulders, Toyota and Dabur.
Some of the biggest rises on last year were in the telecoms sector, with Du, Vodafone, Q-tel and Mobily all spending significantly more than last year.

Awards on a budget? Yes you Cannes!

April 20, 2009

cannes1Oh, how times have changed. Where once Cannes Lions held the promise of endless cocktails, flamboyant parties and untold glamour, the ad world is being enticed with the prospect of discount flights, bargain bus fares, free wi-fi and the chance to have a local supermarket deliver basic supplies to the door of your self-catering apartment.

Money is so tight in adland that the organisers of festival have resorted to sending out  missives advising potential attendees how to do Cannes without splashing a boat load of cash.

One piece of advice is: “Get a discounted flight with British Airways.” It’s a good idea, particularly with a special promotional discount available to Cannes Lions delegates. Not great for those in the Middle East, however, who would face an epic journey via Heathrow.

Two more tips are to “get a local SIM card and avoid roaming charges” and “share a serviced apartment and self-cater – supermarkets such as Monoprix and Casino  have a home delivery service”.

It’s all very laudable and at least proves that Cannes organisers are reacting to the financial issues which will deter many from attending. But it’s not quite the week of yacht trips, pool parties, luxury living and fine dining that most people in the industry have become accustomed to.

In the end, it’s a sign of the times, with some observers in the UK’s Campaign magazine openly questioning whether this traditionally flamboyant festival should be, well, canned.

It might be more about tinned beans than tiaras but one thing is for sure. Those long nights spent dancing on tables in the infamous ‘Gutter Bar’ will take on a whole new meaning. Gazing at the stars and all that.