The Annual 2022: Top 20 news stories


1 In 2019, the last time the Cannes Lions was held in person, Impact BBDO brought home the region’s first Grand Prix, awarded in Print to The Blank Edition for AnNahar newspaper. This year the Lions were back in person, and the Impact-AnNahar partnership did it again, winning in the same category for The Election Edition. This year, however, another Grand Prix also returned on the plane to Dubai, to sit on the trophy shelf of Havas Middle East for its Liquid Billboard for Adidas.

UAE telco Etisalat rebranded as ‘etisalat by e&’ in June. It is perhaps the most high-profile regional company that has rebranded this year. Others with new names, or at least new looks, include Mashreq, Nakheel, Abu Dhabi Airports, Al Hilal and Oman Insurance. E& later handed its creative brief to Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi.

Campaign hosted its first edition of the Agency of the Year Middle East awards to celebrate the best companies and people in advertising, marketing and media. The winners were announced during an awards ceremony in Dubai. You can find out who they were here.

Eight marketing executives founded Tough Love Advisors. Specialising in improving business performance for underserved companies in the region, Tough Love consists of Khaled Ismail, Kamal Dimachkie, Mohamed Al Tajer, Mohammed Ismael Hameedalin, Namrata Balwani, Nurcin Edrogan Loffler, Tim Burnell and Eddie Malouf. In November, former chief marketing officer of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment and Cinemas Maria Gedeon, announced her new consultancy Gedeon Mohr & Partners.

In April, US-based marketing group Stagwell, acquired commerce company Brand New Galaxy (BNG). BNG had served as a partner of Stagwell via its Global Affiliate Programme since 2021 and was the first acquisition Stagwell had made of one of its affiliates. 

In April, Accenture rebranded its marketing unit Accenture Interactive as Accenture Song. The firm said its new name “reflects the company’s post-pandemic world-class services that reinvent customer connections, sales, commerce and marketing and business innovation to meet clients’ accelerated demand for business growth through sustained customer relevance at the ever-changing speed of life”. 

DUBAI, 18 MAY 2021. Evening aerial view of Al Wasl, Expo 2020 Dubai. (Photo by Dany Eid/Expo 2020 Dubai)

7 On March 31, Expo 2020 Dubai closed its doors to the public. More than 17 million visitors had attended its pavilions, and the site was later reopened as Expo City, “a clean, green, innovation-driven, human-centric city of the future”.

This year the creative industry gathered once more in March to celebrate the best work at the Dubai Lynx Awards 2022. The celebration took place at the Dubai Opera.

UAE shops won in several categories in the Campaign Global Agency of the Year Awards 2021, announced across two virtual ceremonies in May. The Middle East and Africa Best Network was BBDO MEA, with Havas Middle East taking Silver, PHD MEA winning Bronze and both Weber Shandwick MENAT and TBWA shortlisted. Dubai-based Lightblue was shortlisted as Brand Experience Agency Of The Year.

10 On 20 November, the Fifa World Cup 2022 Qatar kicked off, sparking a frenzy of football-related advertising and marketing by sponsors and non-sponsors alike.

11 In April Group M announced it would merge MediaCom and Essence, amidst a raft of changes at WPP’s media division. EssenceMediacom would launch with 10,000 employees in 125 offices, handling close to $25bn in billings.

12 MENA digital advertising spend reached $4.58bn in 2021, nearly a full $1bn increase on the previous year according to the IAB GCC who released the results of the study in June. This reflects an increase of 25.9 per cent over the 2020 investments for the region.

13 In June Regional integrated communications agency, ASDA’A BCW, released results of an environment, sustainability and governance (ESG) survey conducted in UAE and KSA, to mark the launch of OnePoint5, its ESG advisory. Asda’a was just one of several regional agencies to launch ESG divisions or make major ESG hires this year.

14 In July it was announced that WPP agencies VMLY&R, VMLY&R Commerce, GTB and The Classic Partnership were to combine in the region, with VMLY&R Commerce CEO Nick Walsh becoming CEO of VMLY&R MENA. Walsh says the move is part of a “one-brand strategy”, which brings the structure of other global markets to the region.

15 At a spectacular location on the Cape Town Waterfront, the 2022 Loeries award show in October
saw an even more spectacular performance by UAE agencies. The biggest awards of the night, Network of the Year and Agency of the Year, were both won by Impact BBDO – the agency had an impressive haul of a record-setting three Grands Prix, six Golds, four Silvers or Craft Certificates, and five Bronzes. A total of eight Grands Prix were given at the show this year, and the UAE took home six of them: three to Impact BBDO, and one each to Saatchi & Saatchi MEA, M&C Saatchi and Serviceplan ME.

16 In July, WPP’s Group M announced it will begin sharing the carbon footprint of the different media channels advertisers choose in their media plans to encourage the industry to decarbonise its media supply chain by 2030.

17 In August, The World Media Group announced that Khaled AlShehhi, executive director of marketing and communication for the UAE Government Media Office, was the winner of the World Media Award (WMA) for Content Leadership & Innovation for 2022. The honour was among many awarded this year to AlShehhi and his colleagues at the UAE Government Media Office. 

18 In August, UK-based creative agency The Romans expanded into the region with its Dubai office opening. The expansion marks the agency’s third global office, preceded by Brooklyn, with further international expansion slated for late 2022 and 2023. 

19 In September, Sowt Media  announced the acquisition of Finyal Media, a Dubai-based podcast production company, marking its aim to push forward for more content, audience and commercial opportunities. The acquisition was financed by Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) and Sowt Media. MDIF invests in independent media around the world.

20 M&C Saatchi was set to remain independent when, in October, M&C Saatchi shareholders voted overwhelmingly against UK media group Next 15’s takeover offer. It was a decision that marks the end of an M&A saga, which had lasted since January.