The year ahead for… Creativity

Increased pop cultural relevance, endlines entering the vernacular, and the increased importance of branded content all await the ad industry in 2014

William Goldman, the genius who wrote such classics as Butch Cassidy, Heat and A Few Good Men, once famously said: “No-one knows anything.” He was referring to Hollywood, but this could equally apply to advertising. Especially when doing some thing as unpredictable as predicting the future.

So with that in mind I am going to confidently tell you what will happen in 2104 with the caveat that I personally struggle to predict what will happen tomorrow. Life is full of surprises.

My guesstimate is that a rapidly maturing region will begin to see advertising having more and more of a cultural relevance and influence. And by that I mean a pop cultural influence. We will start to see in the coming years more locally created advertising icons. The region’s Tony the Tigers and Michelin Man. We will see music used on commercials gain popular traction and endlines enter the vernacular.

I think we will see the emergence of longer running campaigns and bigger ideas and bigger productions. This may not be what troubles or tickles awards juries but it’s what makes advertising and the brands we communicate for break through into popular and public consciousness.

Most of what I’m talking about here is already true in Egypt and I think globally the work from Egypt will start getting the recognition it deserves. If some of the same work I see coming out of Egypt was done by the Brazilians or Argentinians everyone would be applauding the coolness and craziness of their communications culture. Egypt has been hiding its light under a bushel and hopefully the international success of Vodafone’s ‘Fakka’ campaign following on from a whole raft of funny commercials from Elephant Cairo will awaken the wider world to the hidden gems of Egyptian advertising.

I think we will see more international advertising agencies, digital companies, and production and post-production houses start to look at opening shop in the region. Some of the world’s biggest players creatively are not here yet and the days of them being attractive to clients whilst based in London or New York feel numbered. I think we are also due to see some time in the near future a new wave of local start-ups.

Conversely, I feel we will start to see more local and regional brands start taking steps to go international. To test out the water in Asia or Europe and to start projecting a different view of the Middle East on to the wider world.

You don’t need my crystal ball to tell you that digital will continue to be the area of growth and focus. In the old days great ideas still needed media dollars to really fly. But it now feels like any great idea has the opportunity to explode due to our invisible friend the internet. So what excites me going forward is not banners and skyscrapers (I’ll be honest they have never excited me) but the ability of digital media to amplify. From ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ to Jean Claude doing the splits for Volvo Trucks we’ve truly entered the era where work for any client from absolutely anywhere can have a global impact. Especially in our region, the ability of digital to amplify activations, events and stunts (‘The Return of Ben Ali’ being a wonderful example) provides us with so many ways of creating energy and momentum for brands.

I’m also guessing that branded content will be king, Facebook’s new rules of engagement will lead to a leap in what creatively is executed on that particular platform and mobile will be talked about a lot but still probably not cracked. I also think some other platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn are due their day in the sun. Twitter seems to be the creative medium of choice in many smaller markets in Europe, yet it’s creative potential hasn’t yet been really exploited in our region. I love it as a medium and think 2014 could be it’s year.

On the other hand, I’ve already seen some great branded content being produced in the region from Beirut and Cairo especially. But it’s when you see some of the work being produced in the States that you really start seeing the full potential. Content for brands that can compete with all other forms of content. It’s my feeling that it’s the future of our industry. It has to be. If not in 2014, it’s my prediction for the big thing in 2015.

Seyoan Vela is executive creative director at JWT Dubai