CREATIVITY & MIDDLE EAST ADVERTISING
When the advertising gurus proclaim that the “advertising in the region is at par with the international advertising standards”, I say “take a walk down the streets of New York, London and Tokyo and then compare to Dubai”. With a very few exceptions, the streets of Dubai do not reflect the sort of advertising that you experience in other metropolis. It doesn’t just exist in their books, but is seen on the streets and ideas reflected in all forms of media from contextual to experiential advertising.
The overall creativity of any region is not determined by the most creative ad but in my opinion the general level of creativity including the worst ad that you have ever come across (and I have seen some of the worst advertising in this region for example a horse almost as large as the building staring at it Eg1.Taken in Ajman. 05. 06). The standard of advertising should be determined from the bottom to the mid level, because the amount of great creative advertising is far and few anywhere in the world.
The big players pay little or no heed to anything other than “above” and “below the line”, words which are considered almost extinct in contemporary advertising. There is still, not a single agency that produces media neutral ideas because below the line activities (as they like to call it) are given a back seat in the structure of the agency, better known as the side kicks of the larger agencies. They are also the half hearted attempt of such companies to call themselves a “full service agency”. An example is the latest Campaign Middle East Awards for direct mail and interactive communication, while there was no winner for the interactive award; all three awards for the direct mail went to a single agency not to mention that the same agency also won Gold at this year’s Cannes Lions. It is not surprising that this “below the line” arm of a bigger agency is doing well (perhaps because it takes creativity to other mediums?). The direct mail for the adobe by the same agency is far the most effective piece of advertising seen in the region and all the awards going to a single agency made me Wunder, “how many agencies in the region can come up with an idea like that when they still don’t consider it as mainstream advertising?”
It might be about time for the big wigs of the region to start thinking laterally and re-think the traditional agency structure and how it approaches the problem. Or else the trend conscious market of the region would soon be shifting projects and full-scale brand building assignments to smaller, nimbler, and less-30 second centric agencies and the bigger agencies would be left hanging on to their box trying to think out of it.
Very soon the marketers and brand managers will begin to realise the advantages of hiring smaller unconventional agencies where the organizational structure is almost flat and the turn around time much faster. As media becomes more and more fragmented larger companies in the west are already turning towards the hip and trendy agencies like Mother, Strawberry Frog, and Amalgamted.
Mother, a London based advertising agency has enjoyed a roaring success with clients like Orange and Coca Cola who were looking for unconventional direct approach to advertising. The success of the agency lies, not only in its people, but the way the agency deals with its clients. The agency has done away with a department known as the “client servicing”. So when you ring up the agency as a client, you talk directly to the creative department. The client doesn't just have one relationship with one person called an account man or whatever - they have a relationship with everybody and everyone works from the same open-plan office which was a former fire station in east London.
In the near future, the rise of the next generation agencies, with names like “tonic” and “face to face” in the region may pose a stiff competition while the number of Hot Shops and Specialist Boutiques who really understand the value of planning and research is still negligible. The result might still be “advertising placement” ideas rather than holistic and integrated campaigns that deliver an experience. To be fair there are a lot of clients who still want placement ideas rather than explore newer and unfamiliar territories of contemporary marketing; the clients who get sold to a 30 second centric media plan.
In all fairness this market has still to evolve and reach that saturated point for clients to demand more from their respective agencies. But then why are agencies the last ones to adapt to the demands and lifestyles of the market when there is an opportunity for agencies to reinvent their thinking and not just think out of the box but consider this for a change, that there is no box.
Contributor: Nadia Aamer
MA Design Studies
Central Saint Martins
University of the Arts London