In 2008, I spent a year living and working in Dubai. It was my first time working in a non-European market and I remember everything feeling different and new and basically a bunch of ‘firsts’ day after day.
My mind was totally blown.
Fifteen years later, I returned as jury president of the Dubai Lynx Creative Strategy and Creative Effectiveness Awards. And even though I was anticipating a sense of familiarity and deja vu, Dubai felt completely different and yet new again.
This time, it wasn’t just the city and local culture, but cultures and customs from all over the MENA region flooding into the jury room. From social injustices we were unaware existed, to cutting-edge tech saving nature, to petitioning for changes in laws and language. It simultaneously makes you appreciate what you have and mourn what you are lacking.
So, as I return from this strategic pilgrimage, what am I taking back with me?
Bravery on steroids /
When we talk to our clients about bravery, we encourage them to buck a category trend, to lead through more emotional connections. To challenge stereotypes and embrace a purpose.
But what do you do when the convention you are fighting is corruption? When you call out an authoritarian government not just so your business can survive but for democracy to prevail? Or, face honour killings for revealing and talking about being a victim of rape?
The bravery displayed was quite literally heart stopping and no doubt came with great personal risks for those involved.
Culturally self-aware /
If bravery made us all think very hard, the astute self-awareness of local customs and habits made us smile. Nothing feels more satisfying than a very specific quirk or custom connected to a brand truth – especially from big global brands, making them feel more authentic in local markets.
We often try and find the common ground or truth that connects as many markets as possible. Yet sometimes we forget to celebrate our own countries’ or communities’ unique ways of thinking and behaving. There is always enormous creative power in showing this level of insight. And it’s effective.
Changing the law /
Strategy and creativity are often credited with changing behaviour. When they change the law, we’re talking whole new levels of impact.
There was a lot of work that challenged long-held beliefs and legislation. From changing words like menopause, to changing the law on adoption. Time and time again we saw how creativity can serve a higher purpose and work for societal change. But how do we measure this?
Check out: Despair No More (Tena), The Homecoming (Home Centre)
Is all success equal? /
All this wonderful work left us with a bit of a conundrum when it came to judging impact. How do you compare an increase in market share to preserving democracy?
We are used to judging both in combination, when a for-profit brand does good business by doing good. But what if you have to make a choice?
I came out of the judging session thinking there is a big opportunity for us to put our heads together and define benchmarks and metrics that can start to quantify social value in a way that stands shoulder to shoulder with commercial value. And also, to compare one social impact campaign against the other without having to make it a moral choice.
We shouldn’t have to choose between causes or profits and causes. We need a better way to compare both. Because both are important.
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