Provocations: Is the industry on its death bed?

The industry is on its death bed. Award shows are ruining the industry. The best talent is leaving the industry. We’ve all heard cynical naysayers make these claims. 

The truth isn’t as bleak. 

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There has never been a more exciting time to be in this industry and it is one of the best industries in the world. We get to make ideas and solutions that influence people’s lives in one way or another. We fuel brands and their growth, as well as that of their employees. With that growth, we hire people and fuel their livelihoods, their futures and those of their families. We also try and do some good while we are at it. Yes, we’ve failed at times. And that failure has been important – we shouldn’t be ostracized for it but encouraged through it. 

You see, Evan Schwartz, in the book, Finding Oz, tells the story about L. Frank Baum – about how, prior to becoming an impresario of children’s adventure tales that began with The Wizard of Oz, he failed. 

He failed at a series of careers, nearly losing his soul, before setting out on a journey of discovery, that led him to the Land of Oz.

That journey, riddled with troughs, sounds a lot like the history of MENA’s marketing and creative industry. A series of failed attempts punctured our steps on the international stage. And as we tried to ‘play the game’ to be recognised on that international stage, we nearly lost our soul too. We started to lose what makes us, our intricacies and our anxieties special. 

In the book, we read that the Land of Oz resides in one’s imagination. Oz was an idea — a fantastic one at that. An abstract kingdom that rose above the biosphere of the ordinary. Much like MENA has been rising, through the power of its ideas. We’re looking at creating ideas that make people here question that which was previously unanswered. Ideas that move people, changing perspectives. Ideas that dissolve boundaries between the world and us, between generations, and between genders, that remind us of what is possible, and that encourage us to think differently, to probe at the adjacent possible. 

When a mind is stretched by a new idea, it never returns to its original position. Today, we are like Dorothy Gale from Kansas who is finding Oz, craving a cyclone of ideas that will raise our minds, and of people across our region out of their cognitive Kansas, transforming us from within and transporting us to our own Oz — a reimagined land where everything is possible and awesome.

Becoming broadcasters and programmers of our cultures, of our lives and of what makes us so unique, we don’t just passively take in. We produce and publish. And so, it is our responsibility, as co-authors of this new web of ideas, to tell great stories, to enliven imagination, to stretch brains beyond the cognitive Kansas.

While some sceptically ring the death knell, we are seeing more clients seek what we do when we do it well. We are seeing even more talent from consultancies, technology and platform companies wanting to join the industry. AI  isn’t going to be a replacement for what we do — it’ll augment us and make us even stronger. Here’s to it. The new MENA. A new hope.

Tahaab Rais is the Chief Strategy Officer at Publicis Groupe,  MENAT