Putting the region on the global ad map


A year ago, the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, together with its regional partner Motivate Publishing, launched a new awards night for the region’s advertising creatives.


The Dubai Lynx Awards joined a crowded circuit that included the Mena Cristals, the Pikasso Awards, the Gulf Marketing Review Effectiveness in Marketing Awards and the now defunct Campaign Awards.


But the organisers of Dubai Lynx, which is supported by Dubai Media City and held in association with the UAE Chapter of the International Advertising Association, were confident that their international pedigree, integrity and impartiality would make all other awards in the region irrelevant.


Twelve months later, it would appear that their confidence was well placed. Dubai Lynx are now the awards to be won and the number of entries was well up on last year’s 1,700. Importantly, the awards have also morphed into a fully fledged festival, with the Lynx now part of the First Dubai International Advertising Festival, which takes place from March 31 to April 2 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Lynx Awards will be held on the final day and will honour creative excellence in TV/cinema, print, outdoor, radio, direct marketing, media and interactive advertising.


As advertising events go, the region’s adland is now involved in a major league ball game rather than a kick about in the local park.


That is why Till Hohmann, Executive Creative Director of Memac Ogilvy Dubai, believes the festival and awards ceremony are important, stressing the difference that “neutral” judges from some of the great global agencies make.


“These judges will focus on the ideas,” says Hohmann, who is a two-time Gold Cannes Gold winner. “They will benchmark our regional product on an international level. This is very much needed.


“We cannot ignore the fact that most other regions of the world do better at global awards shows. This festival will help all of us see where we stand today. It will tell us which part of the regional work stands any chance at all in our globalised world; which work is at least of international standard.


“This is an important indicator for a region that wants to be a global hub for anything. In that sense, I believe the advertising and communication industry still has got a giant leap to make. The festival will help us in defining the starting point for our collective effort to improve and put the region on the global advertising map.”


Hohmann is by no means alone in his assessment. Nirmal Diwadkar, Regional Creative Director (Mena) at TBWA\Raad, says: “I hope that with the affiliation with the Cannes Lions and a jury of stature, these awards will bring credibility to Dubai’s creativity and hopefully set the right benchmark in the industry.”


Martin Diessner, CEO of interactive agency Flip Media, which did not enter the inaugural awards last year, says: “The Lynx awards are very important to us – we are entering for the first time and hope to win after all of those de-motivating and degrading awards of the past.”


Jury selection has turned out to be of paramount importance. Fed up with a lack of impartiality and accusations of bias at other awards ceremonies in the Middle East, the industry as a whole insisted on all the judges being international.


“When we initially announced the launch of Dubai Lynx we said we would bring the best jurors and presidents available in the world today,” said Philip Thomas, CEO of Cannes Lions, organisers of Dubai Lynx, recently.


He has followed through on his promise and this year the judges include Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman and National Creative Director of Ogilvy India and South Asia, who is the president of the TV/cinema, print, outdoor and radio jury; and Wolfgang Haf, CEO of Wunderman Central Europe, who is president of the interactive and direct jury.


While the Lynx Awards are designed to be a celebration of great advertising, the festival as a whole is looking to offer inspiration and the opportunity to learn to young creatives. A series of seminars, workshops, exhibitions and screenings aimed at providing creative inspiration, learning and networking opportunities to the advertising and allied industries have been organised, while great ads from around the world will be on display.


But at the end of the day all those who have entered the awards are there to win. But why is it so important to win and does anybody really need another creative award?


“Yes,” says Hohmann. “The creatives in the region do. The client servicing people in the region do. The clients do. We all do. Because creative awards go to those pieces of communication that shine, stand out, turn heads, move, make people stop, listen, think, react. Because of these qualities the jury picks them. It is not coincidental that the very same qualities are the ones any brief basically asks for.


“In that sense creative awards are important indicators for true communication excellence. They are indicators we need in a region that still seems to believe that you either do creative work or effective work. This division does not exist. It never has. In fact, it has been proven intensively around the world by many different studies that creative, award-winning campaigns are more often than not also much more effective. Creative is the spearhead needed to breach the barriers the audience puts up.”




Trying to predict who is going to win at this year’s Dubai Lynx Awards is probably a fool’s game, but here are the top-five agencies to look out for.


Saatchi & Saatchi


Consistently good and producers of some excellent work throughout the year, they are the current holders of the Advertising Agency of the Year gong, having pipped JWT to the title at the inaugural event last year. The agency’s best work has been for Sony, Crest and Olay. A campaign for Sony Ericsson’s hands-free mobile phone devices is a possible big winner.


Leo Burnett


The biggest winning agency at the Mena Cristal Awards held in Lebanon, Leo Burnett has quality in depth, with its offices in Beirut, Cairo and Dubai producing great work for a roster of big name clients, including du, Procter and Gamble and Egyptian media owner Melody. Do not be surprised if you see a commercial for Melody walking away with a grand prix like last year.




Another big winner at the Mena Cristal Awards and a persistent presence on awards podiums around the world, JWT is pretty much guaranteed to win a gold or two. Ramsey Naja, the agency’s Chief Creative Officer for Mena, lives and breathes creativity, while in Nestlé and HSBC the agency has clients that are willing to take big risks.




It may be a small independent agency based in Dubai, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in the quality of its product. The first agency from the region to win a Gold Cannes Lion, it has been a winner at awards ceremonies over the years. It came away with two TV golds at last year’s Dubai Lynx and a print gold for its ad for Wonderbra. Its ad for Bafco stands a great chance of striking gold.


Impact BBDO


If Impact BBDO’s ‘Don’t Stop’ TV commercial for Snickers does not win gold then you will probably have to pinch yourself. The TVC represents the kind of work that the region is capable of when it puts its mind to it. Impact BBDO Middle East helped it top the Gunn Report in 2007.