• Transform magazine
  • September 27, 2021


Live from Dubai Lynx 2017


From eleventh year to eleventh hour, the annual Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity gets underway today, showcasing a maelstrom of creative influence. Bringing together distinguished professionals from a host of industry backgrounds, the festival promises an in-depth exploration into the language of creativity, punctuated by an awards programme that celebrates the budding progressions within the MENA region. Hassan Butt reports from Dubai

Day 1:

Five stages, over 90 sponsors and a city centre venue that is as majestic as the charms of its namesake, Dubai Lynx 2017 opened its doors today, at the heart of Madinat Jumeirah, to a multitude of wide-eyed, creative professionals. Diving straight into the heart of innovation, the day began with the freneticism of social media and ended with how its uses, from Instagram Stories to VR, continue to shape the digital landscape. From social influencers to tech-savvy students, this year’s Dubai Lynx began as it hopes to go on, with creativity at its core.


Hacking the veils

From trailblazers to trendsetters, creative hacking has its seeds in innovation. Yet global creators often transcend the demarcations of cosmopolitan living and urban success stories. Tahaab Rais and Naila Fattouh of FP7 host an interactive and entertaining session that explores the diverse, and at times unusual, origins of creativity.

16:30 Using necessity as the mother of innovation: from the literal Trojan horse to the church's PR problems, Rais and Fattouh take a closer look at modern digital creativity, with throwback solutions.

16:40 Innovating globally, from Pope to pauper, creative hackers mix both classic and conventional solutions to bridge a range of societal gaps. From design inputs that aid water control in rural India to challenging the status quo in the Middle East, global impact is at the heart of creativity, with effective results. 


16:45 Fattouh talks cultivating creativity in challenging conditions, through revolution and poverty, dynamic shifts in culture open up the possibility of grass-root solutions. Speaking to a room full of creative directors, MD's and students, Rais and Fattouh showcase that innovation is cultural, contingent and entirely conscious.


16:50 From innovator to influencer, the example of Egyptian public figure, Sonic, traversing the style-conscious youth of Egypt through Facebook highlights that creative, cost-effective and fast methodology can result in a snowball of digitally-focused success.

16:55 "One man's trash in another child's toy," Rais exposes the seeds of inventiveness through creative hacking. Young children pick up the remains of the day's degradation and, through a process of transformation, create a process of manufacturing toys to stimulate and cultivate further ideas. Wrapping things up, Rais and Fattouh explain that creativity is timely, accessible and ready for the taking.


Engagement artistry and entertainment: Odience Media in conversation with Balqees


How does a successful artist cultivate a unified engagement with brands, fans and global audiences? Balqees, one of the Middle East's most exciting soprano singers, sits down with Shaimaa Badra of Odience Media and Rehab AlMehiri of Dubai TV to discuss the differing means of engagement in the region. 


17:05 Engaging a social media following is a key tool for influencers to engage with the audiences that receive them. From sharing personal experiences through Instagram stories, to leading generations through a Snapchat post, Balqees opens up about the growing development of social media platforms.



17:10 "What message are you trying to convey when you're reaching out to your followers?" Discussing social media analytics and the sensitivities of privacy, both through the regional culture and personal experience, Balqees breaks down the necessity of "remembering who's following you."

17:15 Creating a brand name: Balqees has a masters degree in marketing, and in leveraging her own name as intellectual property, the ROI manifests itself through interaction, whether it be with brands, through advertising or via social media means.

17:20 Taking control of her own PR, Balqees manages her own press releases and has a key role in marketing her own name. Cutting her own path through an industry that challenges her as an individual, and more importantly as a woman, becoming a brand ambassador has to be done, for Balqees, "on your own terms." 


17:25 As a UN ambassador, Balqees talks about equality through branding. Beyond money, tag lines and campaigns, achieving the dream is about brands acknowledging sincerity, sensitivity and realising that social influencers are not static.

17:30 Finally, advising upcoming influencers, Balqees begins her answer in Arabic before translating to English, "Don't fatigue yourself with 100 campaigns to prove your authenticity, although it's tempting."

Day 2:

"It's like that" - an agency and client's hip-hop odyssey: Coca-Cola Middle East

The relationship between agencies and clients is crucial to organisational growth and development, yet despite their close bond, the challenges that arise when both parties collaborate in projects beyond their knowledge-base require a coherent process. Reaffirming the necessity of trust, honesty and balancing equality, Islam ElDessouky and Ramzi Moutran from Coca-Cola Middle East talk about how brands, when unifying their goals, can succeed through collaboration. 


14:30 Walk this way: a story of collaboration between rock band Aerosmith and hip hop maestros Run DMC set the stage for a chart topping single. But in this unorthodox partnership, who's the client and who is the agency?



14:35 "Collaboration is as much a science as it is an art, it's all based on trust, like zone defence. Joint interest and a joint belief really aligns the purpose between client and agency," says Moutran. Through nurturing trust and honesty, Coca-Cola explain that agencies will not exist without clients. 



14:40 Breaking down the roles of agency and client, the existing dynamic of this relationship is, according to Coca-Cola, not without its challenges. From master and slave to conscious peace-keeping, treading the ground of collaborative work is a hard task, but when done right, can produce outstanding work.

14:45 Focusing on the Middle East, communication has been key. "We're really bad at communicating, but it's something we need to do," says ElDessouky. With 7 rules of briefing, Coca-Cola break down the importance of unified awareness in pitching brand purpose and communicating a desired message.


14:50 Taking risks: through Coca-Cola's perception-changing examples, risk has to be implemented across a range of organisational processes. Aligning creative executions and stakeholder executions, with a desired audience in mind, can aid brand engagement.

14:55 "Always think of the brand first," asserts Moutran, not every brief is meant to end up on stage. Through contacting social problems and tapping into geographical trends, understanding an audience translates not to budgets and shelf-life, it's about awareness, research and insight.

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15:00 Breaking down further pillars of success, craft, leadership and bravery can contribute to a discovery of a wider audience. Ending with the hip-hop example, breaking down barriers are crucial to cultivating success.


An agency, a brand and a big whale called Sid

Creating one of Dubai's most innovative luxury shopping experiences, global retail and brand consultancy, Fitch, used the psychology of children to allow consumers to reengage with brands in a dynamic way. With a team comprised of 28 engineers, 18 designers, 16 glassblowers and a whale called Sid, the project brought to life a new shopping experience. Using unparalleled creative design techniques, dominated by art-focused implementation and eye-catching visuals, the display rejuvenates the consumer experience. John Regan, creative director at Fitch, spoke on the Regional Stage in the heart of Festival Village about how the process was undertaken. 


15:00 The power of interaction: Transporting us to the world of children, Regan discusses the importance of being aware of the element of discovery.


15:10 Our role as adults is to create ideation that can appeal to kids. Implementing this into design strategy harnesses discovery at the heart of creativity. Using natural elements such as water, land and air, Regan underpins the importance of conceptualising common, universal surroundings.

15:20 For Fitch, art as an ethereal experience can be felt from a very young age, highlighting this, Regan affirms that strategy has to incorporate emotions. Using a varied and dynamic method, aligning the aforementioned themes of creativity is a challenge when brand are trying to tell their own stories. Using brand gateways that jump out not by overt and loud means, but by leveraging a sense of 'magic' that can be understood by kids, the experience remains one of authenticity.


15:25 Using advanced digital means, Fitch created content that comes alive, developing ideas that marry burgeoning technology with cultural creativity. Characters such as Walter the whale and a family of jellyfish bring art to life via CGI and wider digital design while simultaneously understanding that visuals have to be playful, engaging and approachable. 

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15:35 With the goal of enchanting a mixture of minds, taking art and conceptual design beyond the canvas was a challenge Fitch had to act upon fast. Regan showcases the design processes, using commonplace tools such as drills as papier-mâché, the display was built using imagination. 


15:40 Bridging the gap between luxury and imagination, Fitch built up rooms that sought to go beyond the traditional dimensions of interior design. Using projectors, parasols and a colour palette that mixes vibrancy with energy, the designs establish a dreamlike atmosphere that incorporates detail, design and spatial intelligence to open up the inquisitive minds of children. A measure of success that, according to Regan, can't be faked if seen through the faces of children. 

Five minutes with John Regan


How did you go about getting into the minds of kids to leverage the core aspect of this display? 

John Regan: There’s nothing better than having a child present, that’s the best research. You watch them look at something so simple, like taking a door off its hinges and putting it back on with a new finish, something ordinarily mundane to you and I, but to them opens up a sense of wonderment. It’s good to dive into books about psychology, but fundamentally, it’s about the blank canvas that every child brings.  

Is that interactive element something that Fitch implements across all its work, including the projects with Hamleys and Harrods? 

Getting kids involved through focus groups and other interactive methods is, for us, interacting with the actual customer in this case, which in turn, inspires the story. But also away from kids, we try to implement this across our work, for example we’ve held DIY workshops, or tagged along with a builder on a job to build a wall.

How did you get to understand the audience here in the UAE, and especially in this case, both the kids and the parents?

That research came as a descriptive briefing from our client, they had customer profiles that talked about the type of kids that we’ve got here, and the type of parents. It was split between the two, what a mother might want as well as what the kid actually wants. It turned out not to be one or the other, but instead a mixture of both. With regards to retail, although the kids haven’t got the wallets, they certainly have the inspiration.

Learning and working through the mind of a child is something that is often overlooked, or left behind, in the branding space, how was it for you? 

You get lost with so many other things to worry about, the more you condition yourself to not respond emotionally to things – that gets worse as you grow older. It’s nice to go back and let it all go, like a refresh for yourself. It’s also interesting when talking about digital, as we’re starting to talk about stirring emotions, and when you begin to think about that and wonder what it is, you’ll always go back to the fundamental, basic emotions of a human being, which we develop from a very early age. 

Finally, how was the creative process for you? 

There’s an inherent natural wonderment in children, as you’re born you start to live the world. We looked at nature, or why a child might like a zebra or a chameleon for example, and we found that things that had never been seen before strike up authentic, addictive expressions. Aligning this with the luxury element, there’s a luxury in nature. As we’re constantly trying to build over nature, tapping into honest, untainted versions of nature held a creative relevance.

Day 3:

As the final curtain call looms over the Madinat Arena, the last day of Dubai Lynx 2017 offered innovation in abundance. Brimming with creative quality from a wide array of industries, today's topics tackled disability, disruption and discovery. Yet for brands within the region, the show must go on. With a cornucopia of insights swaying in the cradle of the Middle East, the horizon of brand purpose is alight with rich innovation. Recognising this, the festival's encore is manifested in a celebratory awards ceremony, bringing together the region's success stories, but before the bowties and boots follow suit, today's conference breakdown showcased another collection of noteworthy projects. 

Superhumans: A creative journey

12:00 The superhuman spirit: winning the Grand Prix at the 2013 Cannes Lions Awards, Blink Productions illustrated the true capacity of human capabilities. Following an engaging programme on the UK's Channel 4, connecting disabilities and overcoming perceived limitations resulted in a successful celebration of disability during the coverage of the 2012 London Paralympics.

12:05 "Forget all you know about disability," says James Bland, managing partner at Blink Productions. Breaking down the definition of a superhuman, Bland takes the audience through the brief, proposition, tone and results. Empowering individuals by crossing out the 'dis' in a collection of descriptive words, Blink's discovery opened up the possibilities of going beyond the human condition. 


12:15 The campaign opened up the notion of redefining creativity, supported by brands and creative artists, evolving perceptions that "transform disability from a cul-de-sac into a straight road."

12:25 Using a range of examples that highlight the can-do approach internalised by a community of superhumans, Blink harnessed this within film, transporting a national audience into a world of equality, achievement and passion that all grow out of creativity and perseverance.


Achieving the impossible

14:15 Building brand trust has never been harder, according to Lucy Aitken, case study editor at Warc. Trust can be elusive, and for brands it poses the hardest challenge in recent times. Highlighting 16 years of the Edelman Trust Barometer, Aitken asserts that "trust is in crisis."

14:20 Business has an opportunity to address trust in crises, by highlighting brands in 'hard to trust' sectors, such as FP7/Emirates NBD and Uber's collaboration during Ramadan, gaining trust while harbouring sensitivities and cultural factors is a crucial step to winning customer trust and augmented activity during challenging climates.

14:25 "Being user-first in the sharing economy must drive trials as a key component of brand strategy," says Aitken. An example best shown though Uber. With the landscape and economy changing before our eyes, trust patches up the chasm in winning a mainstream audience.


14:30 Aitken highlights the example of Airbnb, traversing stereotypical societal tendencies and reframing brand awareness, winning silver in last year's Warc media awards. But trust for Aitken, referencing the trust barometer once again, can be achieved through the coexistence of increasing profit and improving society's conditions.

14:35 The example of MasterCard's work in the region, aiding displaced families and counteracting wide scale poverty through food packs and innovative, interactive campaigns. Transforming the way people donate, Aitken points out the effects of MasterCard's game changing effort to transform the way ideas can win trust and impact brand purpose.

14:40 "Finance brands have had a hard time winning trust in the last ten years," says Aitken. For MasterCard, going outside the core business remit resulted in widespread positive results that bolstered reputation and won back trust in a sector that continues to struggle in society's perception. 


14:45 Similarly, Vodafone in Turkey sought to combat domestic violence through digital, using an app that subverts the widespread problem of reporting spousal and domestic violence, Vodafone not only won the trust as the nations most favourable phone network, but did it by combatting problems through accessible, current and innovative means.

14:50 For IKEA, increasing sales through building trust is core to the brand identity. By placing IKEA items next to everyday items, winning trust was done in casual, dynamic and commonplace ways that, without going too far, achieved cut through in a market region that it was fairly inexperienced in.

14:55 Aitken ends with the example of Aldi, who's journey to success peaked through the swap and save initiative, contributing to 15% to UK sales and winning trust through delivering what customers need and want, yet also redefining their market reputation as a cheaper alternative to more established supermarkets.



Lessons learned en route

16:30 The future of food, from Uber Fresh to Uber Eats, Jambu Palaniappan, regional general manager of Uber Eats EMEA, takes us through Uber's disruptive journey in the technology space, transcending brand diversity and extension. Focusing on Uber Eats, from local favourites, empowering small business owners and flexible work, Palaniappan breaks down Uber's brand purpose.


16:40 The evolution of Uber: Palaniappan enjoys spending time with restaurant owners, from understanding business goals to promoting a successful unification of presentation, health conscious marketing and reputation, Uber's focus on logistics aims to take the culinary world to new heights. 


16:50 Driving brand ambitions and goals, Palaniappan confirms Uber's identity as the "first real global foray into this space," promising it won't be the last. "Food is an emotional and tangible part of people's lives, we understand that." 

Five minutes with Lucy Aitken


Are brands becoming more aware of the need for advocacy, reputation and societal awareness in building brand trust?

Lucy Aitken: I think businesses are under huge amounts of pressure to be a lot more responsible now. That responsibility takes many different forms, including an internal responsibility to staff, and a responsibility that also takes place further afield with supply chains, making sure that they run ethically. That’s only going to increase as regulation tightens up.

Beyond that, there’s more pressure on businesses to be more socially responsible, not just by looking after things to do with their business or even their customers, but by actually looking at bigger problems in the world and addressing them in a way that is relevant to their business, brand and customers.

Do you think this message is being internalised across the board?

There’s a lot more work that needs to be done. What I really love about a company like Unilever for example, is that since around 2012, they’ve completely reconstructed their business around sustainable impact. That’s been great in terms of transparency, and it’s not just a report that goes out to shareholders every quarter, it’s something that everyone can access. When you see a company like that working with NGOs and addressing big issues like climate change, deforestation, gender equality within the workplace and sanitation, the knock on effects are positive in building brand trust.

Where do you see brand trust going in the next five to 10 years?

I’d say it’s top of the business agenda. It might not be called trust, it might be called meaning, or purpose, it might be to do with regulation. We at Warc think it’s going to be a very pressing issue for the next few years, and I think there’s a real opportunity for businesses to step up and use the knowledge that they have about their consumers to achieve something of value and meaning to people.  

How does Warc build an understanding of the importance of trust within brands?

We keep up to date with what’s going on with client companies. We talk to our clients a huge amount and attend events like Dubai Lynx all around the world and report on them. We’re genuinely interested and fascinated in knowing what is and isn’t working, Warc is all about effectiveness. The examples I used in my talk are from our database of over 11,000 case studies, in which you can search by various topics which can point you towards successful work that has impacted building trust and solving wider problems.

Dubai Lynx Awards 2017


Rounding off a week of creative collaboration, the growth of brand development in the MENA region has soared to new heights in recent years. Recognising this, the Dubai Lynx Awards 2017 captures the standout examples of creative communications across varied platforms, from social media to digital solutions, creativity remains a key pillar of strengths for brands within the region.

With 2,632 entries across 17 categories, the awards celebrated a 4.5% growth in participation this year. Yet beyond statistics, this year’s Dubai Lynx saw several countries across the diverse region thriving in developing areas, from design to innovation. Topping this off, a host of special awards such as the ‘Lynx Palm Award’ and ‘Media Agency of the Year’ celebrated the cultivation of creativity within the professional space.

Terry Savage, chairman of Dubai Lynx, says, “The Dubai Lynx awards exist to celebrate and champion creativity, while reflecting the ever shifting branded communications landscape. This year saw submissions from 22 countries, including a first from Sudan and an increase in some of the more traditional categories such as Print and Outdoor. The evening brings to a close the three-day Festival, which was attended by over 2,300 creative communications professionals this year and the work that was awarded really demonstrates the essence of creativity in the region,”

This year’s winners are as follows:


Branded Content & Entertainment
Grand Prix: Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai, UAE, “Tummyfish”, Nestlé Middle East
Other awards: 2 gold, 7 silver, 7 bronze

Creative Effectiveness
Grand Prix: J. Walter Thompson Beirut, Lebanon, “The Good Note”, Bou Khalil Supermarché
Other awards: 3 Creative Effectiveness Lynx

Grand Prix: Grey MENA Dubai, UAE, “Veils of Pride”, Tathqeef
Other awards: 3 gold, 5 silver, 5 bronze

Grand Prix: The Classic Partnership Advertising Dubai, UAE, “Footnote for the Breast”, Medcare Women & Children Hospital
Other awards: 3 gold, 8 silver, 9 bronze

Grand Prix: Blue Barracuda Dubai, UAE, “Can you get home before your Zespri Kiwifruit?”, “Zespri Kiwi and the Master of Spoons”, “When a Zespri Kiwi meets a Fan”, Zespri Kiwifruit
Other awards: 1 gold, 5 silver, 8 bronze

Film Craft
Grand Prix: J. Walter Thompson Dubai, UAE, “Suzy’s Beauty Salon”, “Under-14 Handball”, Mada Masr
Other awards: 4 gold, 7 silver, 10 bronze

Grand Prix for Good
Grand Prix: Leo Burnett Beirut, Lebanon, “Legally Bride”, KAFA (Enough) Violence & Exploitation

Grand Prix: Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai, UAE, “Spuble”, Spuble
Other awards: 2 Innovation Lynx

Grand Prix: Leo Burnett Dubai, UAE, “#PostWisely”, du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company)
Other awards: 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze

Grand Prix: Leo Burnett Dubai, UAE, “#PostWisely”, du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company)
Other awards: 3 gold, 5 silver, 8 bronze

Grand Prix: J. Walter Thompson Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, “The Campaign that never saw the light”, Saudi Telecom Company
Other awards: 4 gold, 10 silver, 14 bronze

Grand Prix: FP7/TUN Tunis, Tunisia, “The Hammam Fighter”, Orange
Other awards: 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze

Grand Prix: Y&R Dubai, UAE, “Sunglasses”, “Bag”, “Make Up”, “Shoes”, The Cartel
Other awards: 3 gold, 4 silver, 8 bronze

Grand Prix: Memac Ogilvy Advize, Amman, Jordan, “Trump”, Royal Jordanian
Other awards: 2 gold, 7 silver, 7 bronze

Print & Publishing
Grand Prix: Y&R Dubai, UAE, “Shoes”, The Cartel
Other awards: 1 gold, 4 silver, 7 bronze

Print & Outdoor Craft
Grand Prix: Y&R Dubai, UAE, “Make Up”, “Shoes”, The Cartel
Other awards: 1 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze

Promo & Activation
Grand Prix: TBWA\RAAD Dubai, UAE, “One-Drop Bottle”, Pril
Other awards: 5 gold, 4 silver, 7 bronze

Grand Prix: J. Walter Thompson Dubai, UAE, “Anna Politkovskaya”, “Bertolt Brecht”, “Liao Yiwu”, “Marquis De Sade” Kinokuniya
Other awards: 0 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze


Network of the Year
1st place: BBDO Worldwide
2nd place: Ogilvy & Mather
3rd place: TBWA Worldwide

Agency of the Year
1st place: Impact BBDO, Dubai
2nd place: Memac Ogilvy & Mather, Dubai
3rd place: TBWA\RAAD, Dubai

Independent Agency of the Year
1st place – Kairo, Cairo
2nd place – Rèpublique, Beirut
3rd place – Beattie + Dane, Kuwait City

Media Agency of the Year
1st place – OMD, Dubai
2nd place – Starcom, Riyadh
3rd place – MediaCom MENA, Dubai

Lynx Palm Award
1st place – Good People, Lebanon
2nd place – Stink, UK
3rd place – Déjàvu, UAE

Dubai Lynx Advertising Person of the Year
Pierre Choueiri, Chairman and CEO, Choueiri Group

Dubai Lynx Advertiser of the Year
Coca-Cola Middle East


Young Lynx Integrated Competition
Carine Howayek, J. Walter Thompson
Anirudh Shiva, J. Walter Thompson
Garen Yebremian, HSBC

Young Lynx Print Competition
Marc Baakliny, J. Walter Thompson, Riyadh
Toni Tannous, J. Walter Thompson, Riyadh

Young Lynx PR Competition
Yar Berjawi, FP7/DXB
Sasha El Jurdi, FP7/DXB

Twitter Live Young Lynx Competition
Amir Daou, SOCIALEYEZ Dubai
Roshni Dsouza, SOCIALEYEZ Dubai
Waqas Maqsood SOCIALEYEZ Dubai
Heena Makhijani, SOCIALEYEZ Dubai


Masar Student Creative Award for Print
Hanin Hassan, American University in Dubai

STC Integrated Student Award
Asma Al-Aloosi, American University in Dubai

University of the Year
American University in Dubai