Blogs & Comment

Old deal makers die hard

Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer at JWT MEA

“One day, some nerdy archaeologist with a fixation on trivia will write a thesis on advertising awards. You’d have to love the guy’s travel request. It would read like a novice copywriter’s script: “Pristine beach/ski slopes/gorgeous city etc.” And you couldn’t blame him: advertising festivals happen in glorious locations. New York, Cannes, Prague, Singapore… oh, and Mzaar-Kfardebian, Lebanon.  And Dubai.

Until the Dubai Lynx happened, the business of award shows had been pretty straightforward: a bunch of people judge and reward their competitors’ work, based on how jealous they would have been if it were someone else’s. Around here, however, it was different: in pure Oriental tradition, our bunch didn’t judge and reward. They made deals. Wink-wink, scratch my back, nudge-nudge etc, it was a family affair, made in that other great Oriental tradition: keeping the money in the family.

One thing would have become clear to our archeologist: Dubai Lynx was a watershed. The regional festivals it came to replace had been nothing but blatantly delusional shows of misplaced grandeur, handcrafted to reward the already rewarded and, in the image of the people who ran them, as meritocratic as Lebanese politics.

Dubai Lynx changed all that. It brought credibility, authority and, perhaps, the kind of ever-so-slightly hazy rules that transformed agencies into the equivalent of OJ Simpson’s legal defence team. The intention, however, was admirable: to change prehistoric habits by rewarding talent and creativity instead of deal-making, and celebrate the innovative mind rather than the Donald Trump.

The trouble is old habits – and deal makers – die hard. When our archaeologist reaches the year 2013, the stagnation would baffle him. Dubai Lynx can’t help but still act today mostly as a barrier to those same deal makers, so much so that it has became forced to continue to rely solely on foreign judgement when celebrating local culture, and, as such, remains in danger of being not so much Dubai Lynx, but Dubai Ostrich.”