Mid-East adland held back by ‘intellectual laziness’

“What really makes a campaign from the Middle East?” asks Farid Chehab, Leo Burnett’s chairman for the Middle East and North Africa and chief creative officer for Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in the latest edition of Campaign.

farid“Most of the work could come from anywhere. It’s ridiculous. Look at the work that won in Cannes recently for India, Thailand and for all these other regions. They won because they had something original to offer with local flavour. The day our agencies can go to Cannes with strong insights based on local flavours, local behaviour and fresh ideas that are executed in a way that juries can see an expression that is different from what has been seen before – a new expression in art, in visuals – then we have a good chance to win.”

Why hasn’t this ‘new expression’ already been found and developed? Well, says Chehab: “Because our economy has always been built on oil, so it was not built from within. It was not built by the efforts of people – to work, to create. When you look at the West, they invented the communication business, cinemas etc, and this work is self-education. But when you look at the Middle East, we were granted wealth without being educated. We don’t have the creative urge to improve our welfare because it just came to us.”

For Chehab, the environment in Europe helps you, whereas the environment in the Middle East doesn’t. “What you need to do is carry on building a set of benchmarks around you to just keep on self-educating yourself. And that’s not easy. You need to have the drive, the passion to self educate. You need to have curiosity. I always tell my people, ‘be curious’, because the environment doesn’t help you. Why doesn’t the environment help you? Because of intellectual laziness that is due to the fact that we’ve never had to fight.”

Read the full interview in the latest issue of Campaign.

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