All eyes on Dubai

23rd February 2017

It’s nearly time for Dubai Lynx. We chatted to our MENA CEO Ziad Hasbani and Festival Director Thea Skelton about what they’re expecting from the Middle East’s leading festival of creativity this year.

Q: Why is Dubai Lynx such an important event now?

Thea: We’re now in our 11th year and we’ve seen the festival grow enormously – last year more than 2,300 people attended. As well as being a benchmark for creativity, innovation and best practice in the Middle East, we’re also seeing a lot more visitors from overseas because the work has evolved so much and they are interested in what’s going on in the region at the moment.

Ziad: We’re seeing more impactful and impressive campaigns that embody what the MENA region does so well. Dubai Lynx is a celebration of creativity and innovation that really shows the quality of our work and how far our industry has come over the last decade.

Thea: Over the past few years Dubai has become a real hub of innovation in this industry. Dubai Lynx stands out from the other big festivals around the world because this culture of embracing innovation in the MENA region is so strong.

Ziad: There’s another important element of Dubai Lynx: the development of talent in the region through the Young Lynx PR competition. I think this is a great experience for young teams in the industry to see what it takes to produce holistic, creative, impactful campaigns and to network with industry leaders from international markets. Attending a global platform with international thinking, like Dubai Lynx, brings out the best in our people.

Q: How is creativity evolving in the region?

Thea: There’s a huge focus on innovation and technology being used to develop creative solutions to clients’ problems. We’re also seeing a lot more emphasis on developing young talent: training and competitions for young communications practitioners in the region have gone from strength to strength in recent years.

Ziad: One example of how creativity is evolving is the growth in the production of digital content such as video and animation: in 2016 our video production doubled and this trend will continue. Clients are looking for new ways to develop and package messages and engage with audiences across multiple platforms. Creativity and innovation are the real buzzwords here, and it’s what we do best across MENA. Even traditionally conservative clients, such as those in the government sector, are more and more open and demanding creative ideas. They are seeing that creativity is not restricted to one specific discipline, the demarcation between disciplines and agencies has gone: creativity today is at the heart of any marcomms solution, whether it comes from the communications, digital, brand experience or media agency.

Q: How inspiring will the event be for attendees from the Middle East and beyond?

Thea: All the feedback we get is that the event is hugely inspiring, with a fantastic programme of regional and international speakers who really dig into industry issues and trends in MENA and across the world. From the Regional Stage, which hosts content in Arabic and looks at challenges and hot topics for the industry in the region, to the Inspiration Stage and the Data x Tech x Innovation stage, this year’s programme is stellar. And we evolve every year – we’re launching our innovation award, where the teams behind the shortlisted campaigns will be presenting live to the jury, and anyone can come along and watch; that’s going to be hugely inspiring.

Ziad: I think the event overall and specifically the Regional Stage will provide invaluable insights into some of the challenging sensitivities associated with working with this sometimes misunderstood region. It will also provide local perspectives on fresh creative thinking from within the region and this is very different to the learnings from other creativity festivals. Every speaker brings their own story and there are some bold themes. I’m really looking forward to our own session on creative culture in the Middle East and Europe, A Creative Hustle. Our presence at the festival is an important part of our ongoing dialogue with clients about creativity.

Q: What do you expect to be the main themes of the award-winning campaigns this year?

Ziad: I think campaigns that use technology and innovation in the right way to deliver a message, or a brand experience, from animation to VR, will be among the winners, as will campaigns with a strong sense of purpose or that are able to move audiences and trigger strong emotions, and work that celebrates and reinforces the unique values and traditions of the MENA region.

Thea: Every jury has their own viewpoint on what should win a Grand Prix, Gold, Silver or Bronze, but creativity is at the heart of the festival and will be at the heart of every winning campaign, as well as whether it achieved what it set out to achieve, pushed boundaries, and touched the audience.

Dubai Lynx runs from 5-8 March 2017