Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer at JWT MENA
“I was in Cannes and I started thinking of crabs. You might say this had something to do with the menu or, worse, personal hygiene, but no: the crabs I was thinking about are the ones that fishermen throw, alive, in a basket. A basket with no lid. Why no lid? Because the moment one of those crabs decides that his ambition in life goes beyond salads and makes a run for it, the other crabs grab him and pull him down. Such is the sad world of crabs… and of Middle East advertising.
Whichever way you look at it, and regardless of what gloss our many associations, award shows and festivals put over it, the industry in our part of the world has, throughout its existence, exhibited the self-defeating, hypocritical and destructive traits of an armed suicidal maniac whose gun will always fire a round in his foot, regardless of where it is pointed. It is almost as if we derive more pleasure from preventing the success of others than celebrating our own.
There is no doubt in my mind that our region has the talent to match any other. Indeed it has, at its helm, a broad, multi-ethnic, widely travelled, well-educated elite that has got all the ingredients for success. And it would be considerably more successful if it weren’t so fundamentalist in its thinking, if it didn’t bicker endlessly over trivial matters, if it didn’t bend over backwards and undercut others for the sake of winning even abusive pitches and, most infuriatingly, for resolutely sticking to political divisiveness and eschewing any notion of collaboration.
In Cannes, jury members from the same region often help each other by favouring each others’ work. Ethical or not, such behaviour shows at least the spirit we could learn a few lessons from. It is the attitude that is formed in creative clubs, in cross-industry forums aimed at maintaining students’ interest in advertising and in initiatives genuinely keen on progress – initiatives that end where the final competition starts, but which, in our pathetic case, never go beyond making sure the crab stays where he belongs.”
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