1 In April, a quiet revolution began in Lebanon as the volunteer-led Beirut Madinati fielded 24 “qualified, politically unaffiliated individuals” for 24 seats in the Beirut Municipal Council elections. The movement was boosted by its powerful, eye-catching design and branding created by a team of volunteers including creative directors, art directors, designers, animators, illustrators and photographers. Though the campaign failed to win any of the seats, it fostered a renewed spirit of collaboration and unity within Lebanon’s increasingly disillusioned electorate.
2 This year’s Dubai Lynx marked the official launch of Good People, a directors’ collective aimed at combatting what it perceived as mediocrity within the industry. Founded by directors Ali Ali and Michel Abou Zeid, the eight-person-strong team has already worked on major campaigns including Impact BBDO’s ‘Sabotage’ for Centrepoint and Souq’s ‘It’s yours’.
3 J. Walter Thompson and Saudi Telecom Company helped create an image of Saudi Arabia few had ever imagined, complete with forest-tipped mountains, majestic coastlines and not a single oil rig in sight. The project, entitled ‘Unveil Saudi, ’invited local bloggers, social media influencers and photographers to journey with STC through the Kingdom’s less well-known villages, towns and small cities to document a side of the country beyond oil and barren desert.
4 A collaboration between Beirut club night Smirnoff Sound Collective and magazine Audio Kultur was one of the few International Women’s Day campaigns to have a strong tangible impact this year. The #Recognize campaign consisted of artwork, a GIF and a documentary, alongside a club night with an entirely female setlist at Hamra’s Uberhaus – all aimed at tackling the marginalisation of female DJs on the city’s nightlife scene.
5 In a year that gave us Kevin Roberts’ enlightening thoughts on gender equality, the arrival of women’s empowerment movement SheSays to the Middle East came as something of a relief. Since launching in September, the network has already organised portfolio nights for young creatives and plans to launch a mentorship scheme between junior employees and their senior counterparts in a bid to push young women up the agency ladder.
6 At the height of Kuwait’s recent parliamentary election, one unorthodox ‘candidate’ called Bu Salem appeared on social media. Coming from the (non-existent) Sixth District of Kuwait and boasting credentials including the prize of a ‘Golden Tea Cup’, his ‘campaign’ video sent social media into a frenzy as users tried to deduce whether his candidacy was real. As it turns out, it was all part of a campaign to launch Almunayes Tea new teabag range, but by the time this was revealed the hashtag #LongLiveBuSalem was already born.
7 “Being a man is a great privilege, but it’s also tremendous pressure,” said the Egyptian-British author Shereen el-Feki discussing her latest book in the works, which looks at a crisis of masculinity in the Middle East. “What I could call it is ‘The Thin Red Line’, actually, because it can be that in this region, and globally, men walk along a very tight line of what it means to be a man,” she said. “For men, if you don’t conform to this really, really narrow line of masculinity, you can fall off and there’s virtually no tolerance. It’s like a tightrope.”
8 In February, something incredible took place in Lebanon when a 38-year-old play by Ziad Rahbani broke Lebanon’s box office records, beating even Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The play Bennesbeh Labokra, Chou? (What About Tomorrow?) had been unknowingly recorded during its initial 1978 run, and thanks to Beirut-based digital start-up M Media, the footage was transformed into a cinematic spectacle and has become Lebanon’s highest grossing film of all time.
9 Around September, a video of a man being catapulted out of a slingshot across Dubai Marina went viral on social media. Many clocked on that the stunt was a hoax, but others were concerned enough to even call the police on behalf of the apparent ‘victim’ in question. Then, at the height of the momentum, out stepped Careem. With the help of content creators The Misfits, the taxi-booking app had made the video for their re-brand campaign.
10 Oreo brought together a rapper, singer and multi-national choir to perform three different versions of the same Arabic jingle for its ‘Wonderfilled’ campaign. The videos were produced by The Chamber’s Daneesh Surkari and Adeniyi Adetokunboh, who posed the question on Facebook: “What would you do if you gave an Oreo to a dragon, vampire or an alien.” The responses gave way to the songs’ lyrics, which conveyed innocence through a nursery rhyme melody.