Measuring the distance between ‘just okay’ and ‘great’ work at the Lynx

Ted Royer is partner and executive creative director at Droga5 New York. He was president of the film, film craft, radio, print, print craft, outdoor and integrated juries at this year’s Dubai Lynx

“The thing that struck me the most when descending into Dubai airport was the way the desert stretches out to the horizon. In fact, sky and earth meet and completely blend together, becoming indistinguishable. That’s how far the land extends.

At the time I landed, I didn’t realise that those vast distances would provide a somewhat creaky metaphor for what was to come. I had the pleasure of being one of the jury presidents this year for the 2012 Dubai Lynx International Advertising Festival – specifically for the film, film craft, radio, print, print craft, outdoor/ambient and integrated juries. It was a great experience and I was fortunate enough to have some great people judging with me.

The judging took about four days in total. And with a few exceptions, the outcomes were unanimous and very clear. As with any awards show, most entries were unremarkable. Some were noteworthy, but a few were excellent. The fact that a few stood so far above the pack made our job as judges much easier.

In outdoor, the Ben Ali poster and the Sprite immigrant worker cricket league were huge favourites. Simple, strong ideas. One was a great stunt, the other a project I hope Sprite has the toughness and fortitude to keep going for years. It’s not as if the lonely existence of those workers is now magically made better for the rest of time; something like that league needs to happen again and again.

In print, Batelco was really the standout. Was it great? Yes, in that ‘all-visual-small-logo’ kind of way. Was it groundbreaking? Nah, probably not. But impeccable craftsmanship.

TV had some strong contenders. Lots of talk about how Cono tried for greatness more than actually achieving it, how the Lebanese road safety campaign was wonderfully sarcastic, and how the jury wished that Kalbaz would make more entries in their campaign.

But far behind these winners was a pretty flat field. It seemed like only a few agencies really get and believe in great creative ideas and serious craftsmanship. And as far as the integrated category went, too many believed that using social media acted as a substitute for an idea. One entry went as far as making a smile out of potato chips.  They didn’t progress the actual idea any further; they just pushed it through as many social channels as they could. That’s not an idea – that’s media.

In the integrated category, only Ben Ali and one other public service campaign really stood out. Thus, no grand prix.

So, a handful of great entries among a sea of average thinking. Why so far apart? People in advertising like to talk about the distance between ‘good’ and ‘great’. And here’s where my desert metaphor comes in. We saw the vast distances between ‘great’ and ‘just okay’. There are clearly small pockets in the Middle East of dedicated agency people who want to do (and are doing) world-class work. The question is, if it’s possible for some, can’t the rest go above and beyond as well?

I would say to the region, there are clear creative leaders in your field. Support them, let them do the work they are capable of, and follow their lead. At the show we saw a ridiculous amount of cheering and celebration, indicating a huge desire to be great and to produce great work. To clients, creatives and agency management I say, get on with it.”



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