The Arab world has had some remarkable advertising work come out of the region in the last decade or so, competing at international standards and winning consistently at award shows globally. This is work that has been built on genuine local insights, has reflected national mindsets or commented on society, and spoken the universal language of the effectiveness of a good, big idea.
Here are some choice examples through the years.
Wonderbra ‘Censored’ by Tonic UAE
To launch Wonderbra in the UAE, Tonic International made brilliant use of the local nuance of a censor’s marker; literally a big idea. Tonic has been always regarded as the creative pioneer in the region, picking up the Middle East’s first Gold Cannes Lion for Sony Wega.
Honda/Alghanim Motors ‘Confusing Arab’ by BBDO Impact & Echo Kuwait
To communicate Honda’s Navigation with voice recognition feature, the agency picked on the universal insight of asking random people for directions and getting confusing responses. In a region which speaks in many different languages, this was especially pertinent. And deservedly picked up a Gold at Cannes 2015, and a Grand Prix at Cresta.
Vodafone ‘Fakka’ by JWT Cairo
In Egypt, it is common practise to substitute small change with low-value items (much like in Pakistan where you would sometimes be given candy instead of a coin). Vodafone capitalised on this by introducing micro-recharge cards and positioning them as small change, which they then made available in small shops. This fantastic way of launching micro-cards won a Grand Prix at the 4As for strategic excellence.
UN Women ‘Autocomplete Truth’ by Memac Ogilvy Dubai
The first Cannes Titanium for the Middle East, ‘Autocomplete Truth’ used Google’s autocomplete function to expose the hidden truth on gender bias that still exists today. Incredibly well integrated between several media channels, the campaign became the most shared ad of 2013 as defined by Adweek and generated more than 224 million Twitter impressions.
‘Abla Fahita’ by JWT Entertainment Cairo
Egypt’s first Titanium Lion was won by a female puppet. This entertaining character, who turned into a pop star and chat show host, was described as an “entertainment brand that has created an entirely new business model in advertising.” The puppet began live advertising for brands but has since become an entertainment brand in her own right. Magical piece of work.
Harvey Nichols ‘Pelicans’ by Y&R Dubai
Y&R Dubai has a remarkably consistent run at winning awards, especially for Harvey Nichols and Land Rover. Print has been their muscle, such as this beautiful example for the HN Sale. At their peak, the office was among the top five most creative places to work at in the world, testament to how tall UAE stood in the global ranks.
Batelco ‘Hospital’ by FP7 Doha
Strong, conceptual visual work that transcends oral languages is something the region sees a lot of. This brilliant execution out of Qatar communicates the simple action of turning a directory page to find a location. The Cannes Lions this work won were well deserved.
Johnnie Walker ‘Keep The Flame Alive’ by H&C Leo Burnett Beirut
Launched with a beautiful film and in perfect harmony with the spirit of Johnnie Walker’s ‘Keep Walking’ campaign, this amazing campaign by Leo Burnett Beirut sparked nationalistic fervour. A brilliant social engagement component invited people to write their message, which would be recreated in flames. A flame that like Lebanon, would never die out.
Panda Cheese ‘Never Say No To Panda’ by Elephant Cairo
This is how you do viral. Smartly deciding not to show expected slow motion food shots worked out well for Elephant agency in Cairo, where Ali Ali and Maged Nassar wrote a series of commercials that broke through everything in the region. The violent giant panda and Buddy Holly’s voice make for unforgettable viewing. Ali Ali went on to produce another brilliant series for Du, which picked up Gold at Cannes.
Coca-Cola ‘No labels’ by FP7 DXB and Memac Ogilvy Dubai
For the month of Ramazan, Coca-Cola did something remarkably brave: to encourage people not to judge one another, they removed the labels from their cans. Their statement said it well: “In a time when equality and abolishing prejudices is a hot topic for discussion around the world, how does one of the leading brands like Coca-Cola join in the conversation? In the Middle East, during the month of Ramazan, one of the world’s most well known labels has removed its own label off its cans, in an effort to promote a world without labels and prejudices.”
Ali Rez is a Creative Director who has won at Cannes, Clios, Spikes and Effies, currently at FP7 DXB McCann. firstname.lastname@example.org