The year ahead for creativity, by Impact BBDO’s Ali Rez

The thing about predictions is there is always something that can knock them for six, says Impact BBDO’s regional ECD, Ali Rez. But he'll have a go anyway.

Clearly, this is going to be impossible to write without mentioning the metaverse. So let’s just get that one out of the way before anything else.

Suffice to say that every presentation deck in 2022 will have a metaverse idea within it – extra points to the team that develops the first “Thank You” end slide in the metaverse.

But really, what fun: an alternate universe to play with and expand on. I think we are going to see a fantastic exploration of this new world and how it merges with the everyday. It might become a bit too much at times, though, just like Nima Zeighami pointed out in his brilliantly long Twitter thread documenting every ridiculous use of the term “metaverse” at CES 2022. My personal favourite: “the real metaverse”.

I’m keen to see where the experiential space heads to beyond just the entertainment and gaming industries. How does it affect finance, real estate investment, marriage proposals, even work meetings? How amusing would the irony be of getting an idea based on the metaverse to be rejected in the metaverse? Are there tears in the metaverse? So many questions.

But let’s zoom out now a bit though and look at all of creativity.

The match ahead

I always enjoy watching cricket commentators and experts before a matchmaking a prediction on how the cricket pitch is going to behave. For instance, a pitch with more grass on it, accompanied with moisture in the air, will most likely be better for the fast bowlers to extract bounce, swing and pace on, whereas a drier pitch with cracks in it will probably assist the slow bowlers and spinners who can turn the ball. While the experts are often correct in their assessment, they also get it horribly wrong sometimes, because they fail to predict what is absolutely unpredictable: a player’s form, sheer luck, an injury, a bird flying in the way of a shot (this actually happened – you can see the stuffed bird at the Lord’s stadium museum in London).

And it is with that spirit that we venture out here: taking a look at the creativity pitch while keeping at the back of our minds that there is always the unpredictable.

Uncertainty is certain

I’m quite thankful that I didn’t get to write The Year Ahead for Creativity in 2020. We were all ambling along making long-term plans when the boardroom carpet was pulled from under our feet. Of course, we know better now. And that “knowing better” will become more and more entrenched in the way we work. Being prepared will be the way forward, prepared for the next Greek letter, prepared for the next jab announcement, prepared for the cancelled travel plans.

Better off will be the captain who will have contingency plans for their team while putting up a poster on their office wall that has one large word on it: “Agility”.


2022 will be the year when inclusivity is going to be accelerated. More emphasis will be given to making sure that not only campaigns, but also products, innovations and most certainly work-places, cater to the spirit of inclusivity. The echo chamber will become a thing of the past, and we will have even more diverse viewpoints contributing to ideation. Briefs will demand a special focus on marginalised communities and people.

It’s creativity, OK?

I’m glad this article is called The Year Ahead for Creativity and not The Year Ahead for Advertising and Marketing, because these latter terms now seem restrictive and reductive. We have moved quite far beyond just marketing, and are now firmly in the growth business, and in 2022 this will become even more important a road to build on. Beyond just campaigns, there will be a lot more product development, innovation, solutions for world problems, and business growth ideas generated from the creative department.

Authentic connections

The consumer’s BS-detection meter continues to get stronger and stronger, and with recently implemented privacy options and the death of cookies, it’s going to be a year of finding more meaningful connections. TikTok will keep expanding to bring in many opportunities to engage, entertain and influence, ones that the consumer might just welcome. As the famous meme says, “Data can point, but it can’t touch.” Creativity can, however.

New media solutions will come into play where we will increasingly find innovative approaches to connect directly, both online and offline. For instance, last year we introduced a message on prayer mats to convince Muslims praying in mosques to socially distance. This hadn’t been done in the almost 1000 years of the prayer mat’s history. This year, we have plans to disrupt the gaming world greatly.

Purposely choosing a purpose

Given the kind of two years we have had, everybody has had enough time to manage a long, hard look at everything around them. There has been a clear reset of realigning priorities and what matters to the people in our industry. The purpose is a front-runner.

As the famous story goes (which happened to either Christopher Wren or Mikhail Gorbachev, depending on who is telling it), you could be a simple bricklayer, or you could be building a magnificent cathedral that will last centuries. Agencies that provide that perspective to their people will benefit greatly in the returns they get in creativity. 2022 is going to see a lot more value put on a personal sense of purpose and importance given to what we are building. It will be the year of “A happier creative will give you better creative.”

Heavy metal

Three things in life are certain: death, taxes and additional new categories at Cannes Lions. But with tightening budgets all around, and a renewed sense of what is important, agencies will get more discerning about which shows to choose. Already there seems to be too many (there should be an award show to judge which award show is the best), and I foresee the smaller ones dropping off the radar for a number of agencies. It will be interesting to see show categories branch off into more technology-based and more detailed innovation themes.

In 2020 and 2021, there were two distinct camps when it came to award show celebration: (a) the “Don’t celebrate while people are suffering,” and (b) the “Let’s celebrate whatever little chance we get.” 2022 will be the year of “I miss all that celebration, so let’s celebrate a lot.” People will yearn to get back to what felt normal, despite most shows adopting a hybrid platform. If you were at the MENA Effies this year, you would have felt the seismic sense of relief from everybody attending.

Award programmes will also, at least I hope, make their shows more purposeful and start to give back more than they previously have to causes. D&AD Impact, for instance, has already promised a generous winners’ prize for their Future Impact track and has evolved into a very strong platform to make ideas come true. I foresee Cannes Lions extending its awesome learning platforms and tools to make them even more accessible to all.

The pitch report

I’m excited for 2022 (as is my travel agent). I envision an explosion of creativity taking place – a lot of it will be catharsis for what we have experienced last year. But it will be glorious. I foresee agencies in the UAE aligning with the country’s mission of building a better future for all people, for pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and for dreaming big.

And I’ll be hoping we all keep an eye out for that bird that can get in the way of the shot.