Dubai Lynx 2015: MENA’s annual celebration of creativity arrives

Team Memac Ogilvy at Dubai Lynx Awards 2014

Team Memac Ogilvy at Dubai Lynx Awards 2014

The regional festival brings with it different expectations from stakeholders, and has a whole lot in store besides the jewel in the crown – its awards show.

The Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity 2015 kicks off today, 8 March, with close to a record 2,500 entries in the race for awards – up from 2,279 last year. Even as the awards continue to grow in scale and stature, the festival that hosts the awards has grown on other fronts too. There’s much more to Lynx than the awards today as one will see in the ensuing pages, but they remain the main attraction as do awards at ad festivals across the world.

“Regional awards perform the role of guiding the industry to be able to go to the next level of ideas, innovation and engagement. What they do is give us an opportunity to be able to reinvent ourselves, to be at par with the best at the global level. They help us raise the bar regularly at the regional level. Whether you are an ad agency, PR agency, digital agency or media agency, we all talk about being more innova-tive, and this is a platform to recognise that innovation.  Lots of people therefore want to be a part of this,” said Bechara Mouzannar, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett MENA Group.

The industry is unanimous in its recognition of the importance of a regional awards show. Asked about the role of such awards in fostering great creative work in a region, Ramzi Moutran, executive creative director, UAE, Memac Ogilvy & Mather, pointed to one more reason why Dubai Lynx is significant.

He said, “It’s essential to have a great local show to help grow the creative quality in the region. Having world class juries coming to our market to see our work is always nice. It sets the creative benchmark for the year.”

There are others who highlight another very important purpose of regional awards like the Dubai Lynx.

Kalpesh Patankar, executive creative director, Y&R Advertising Dubai, noted, “There are often local/regional insights that build big ideas, and global shows may not always be able to recognise their full worth. And that’s where local shows play a key role; in giving locally relevant advertising its value.”

He explained, “Many markets like Thailand, Japan or India have profited from regional shows like Spikes Asia and got the world to take notice of their work. Now Dubai, or the UAE, is an expat-dominant market, and the work often needs to be very international. But of course, when we talk about the region, a locally significant work deserves its due credit. And shows like Dubai Lynx become crucial.”

The awards 

So what are last year’s ‘Agency of the Year’ Memac Ogilvy & Mather’s expectations from Dubai Lynx Awards in 2015? The agency certainly has the work to defend the title. But Moutran settled for cautious optimism, when asked.

“It’s very hard to tell this year. So it is going to be exciting and very close I think with many great agencies doing lots of good work. Let’s see on the night,” he said.

Leo Burnett MENA has a few campaigns in the race for metal, from its offices in Beirut, Dubai, Doha and Amman, revealed its creative head. But predicting is something the agency’s CCO is admittedly ‘not a big fan of’. One of the reasons for which is that even an industry insider cannot claim to have knowledge of all the campaigns in the race.

“I feel the most important thing on regional awards, is that they should help celebrate the ideal campaigns – by that I mean campaigns that people see before the judges at awards do, campaigns that have been seen by audiences through the year. So for me the good thing about Lynx this year, would be to see where we stand on campaigns that people have seen in the market place,” noted Mouzannar.

He emphasised that while festivals should have 10 (or 20) per cent campaigns that one gets to see only during the awards or after they win, the rest should be work audiences are familiar with.

Y&R Advertising, meanwhile, is making its come-back to the festival – one that it dominated as ‘Agency of the Year’ in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Patankar said of his expectations from the festival, “My expectations from Dubai Lynx 2015 are no lesser than those from Cannes 2015. Last year, the UAE was among the most awarded countries in the world (Gunn Report), and there is no reason why we should stop going further.

“As a delegate, this is the show that brings all the creatives of the region together, so it’s exciting. As an agency, I’m looking forward to all the stimulating seminars and an intense Young Creatives competition, which is an awesome initiative by Dubai Lynx. And waiting to see inspiring work.”

The work, the work, the work

It is not just proactive awards work – the ones DDB’s global chief creative officer Amir Kassaei calls ‘prototypes’ – that surprise the industry at the Dubai Lynx. Unlike other markets, the MENA region is one where not all campaigns that air on TV or are paid for in print, get published in the trade media or even websites like Adsoftheworld. This lends an element of surprise to the work that gets noticed for the first time at the March festival. Delegates are looking forward to seeing the best work.

Moutran said of his expectations as a delegate at this year’s Dubai Lynx: “I am hoping to see an overall improvement on the home grown work. Let’s see if we have kept raising the bar on our creative quality in MENA.”

Mouzannar surmised, “Regional festivals are not only about recognition in the region but also credibility that the region as a whole gets. Irrespective of which agency it is coming from, I hope at the end it will be a better year for ideas and that all the good ideas will win.”

(This article appears in the issue of Campaign Middle East dated 8 March 2015.)

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